DXCC: Low power and casual, with simple antennas -- 160 countries confirmed to date.
Hello, and thank you for looking me up. I originally became licensed as a teenager some 47 years ago and operate CW almost exclusively. I am currently retired after spending a lifetime enforcing public health, environmental, and consumer protection laws here in California.
The QTH is located in Placerville, approximately 40 miles east of Sacramento in California's gold country, where the discovery of gold here along the American River led to the 1849 gold rush. It is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains at an elevation of 2000 feet. The city used to be called "Old Hangtown" as a result of it's lawlessness and lynchings that occured here during the gold rush era. The area is rich with wild west history.
I have several older rigs that I enjoy using and rotate them in and out of service to keep things interesting. I never run more than 100 watts, and many times only 25 watts, using my old Ten-Tec Century 21 CW-only rig. I did go through a QRP phase many years ago running 1 to 2 watts into an end-fed longwire and did amazingly well. I've recently gone back to that QRP concept, having picked up a miniature 40M homebrew rig that puts out all of about 1.5 watts. It's just plain fun. I'm rockbound on 7.030 at this time, reminiscent of those novice days so long ago, so look for me there. You are DX!
I QSL 100%, either direct or via the buro on all cards received, and enjoy collecting real cards.
Here is my humble station. This rig is an old Ten-Tec Triton Digital, along with my beloved Begali paddle, ancient keyer, Astron 20A power supply, and Heathkit monitor scope. You'll probably notice the absence of a microphone. I do have several very nice ones, but they spend most of their time on the shelf collecting dust.
Paddle v. Bug
Having recently joined SKCC, I have had to dust off my old Vibroplex "Lightening Bug", which was handed down to me at the onset of my ham radio career by a local retired "Elmer" named "Woody", K6MYA (sk) who I used to enjoy ragchewing with on both CW and AM in those early days.
I have rebuilt the key and painted the base several times, never having been satisfied with it until now with it's krinkle gray finish. So if you hear a less-than-perfect fist, it will be because I'm using the bug instead of the keyer, and trying to regain my former skill.
It's this bug that actually got me to like CW in the first place. The leaf spring had been ground down from both top and bottom to about 1/3 it's original size to slow the key down to about 10 WPM. However, it still retained lightening-fast, uncontrollable speed with the weight slid back. Mid-range of the weight was about 20 WPM. Perfect!
The Monster in My Shack
My story would not be complete without discussing the most challenging rig I've ever had to deal with, my Yaesu FT-101. It's been the most frustrating and rewarding experience so far in my ham radio history.
The rig was given to me by a complete stranger who had it for sale. I saw the ad in a newspaper, drove to an agreed-upon parking lot, and met with this person who showed me the rig. It looked good, but he said it didn't work. There was no way to plug it in and test it and he really couldn't tell me what was wrong with it. After I asked him a few questions, he told me I could have it for free and wished me luck! I think he had pity on me, as I showed up in my old VW bus with my 2 small boys.
After ordering the complete service manual from Yaesu, I went to work on it. It was completely dead. After some cleanup and fooling around with it, I first got the receiver going. I was thrilled to hear signals coming through, and see the S-Meter bouncing! It sounded great, it was stable, and it was sensitive!
However, there was a problem stilI with the transmitting side. Further digging showed no HV from the power transformer. So, I bit the bullet and ordered a replacement from Yaesu, along with (in faith) a 600 Hz CW filter for the receiver section. The transformer cost $92 in 1989 dollars and the filter was another $45. I figured that no matter what, the receiver section was better than anything I had ever owned, and I would use it whether or not I ever got the transmitter section working.
Replacing the transformer took most of a day for me, taking everyting apart, carefully marking all the connections, drawing pictures, splicing and soldering. It was real intense surgery, but in the end, I got the voltages the tubes needed, and voilla!, I was able to get the transmitter section to work somewhat, but with very low power output. I replaced the 12BY7 driver tube and we were in business with a variety of brilliance on all bands, as I ran the output into my high tech 100 watt dummy load lightbulb. Some peaking of all the trimmers underneath, and the bulb went crazy-bright on all bands! Now we were really in business and I had the best rig I had ever owned!
The story doesn't end there with a "happily ever after". It has been a constant challange to keep it going, with periodic arcing, sparking, smoke, explosions, and a heap of blown fuses--not to mention the ongoing squirting of contact cleaner and futzing with adjustments to the variable potentiomenters under the top lid.
I got so frustrated recently when I again got it out of it's storage box and fired it up, that I decided to just ebay it as a "non-working, for parts or repair" item. Once again, it had started sparking, smoking and blowing fuses. I waited a day, calmed down, and took on the challenge to repair it once more, and found that the 12BY7 had shorted out, causing all the fireworks. A replacement tube did the trick and it's now working like a champ again.
I know that I can never sell this rig. It just doesn't feel right. We go back too far together. Plus, I don't think anyone else would ever know all the idiosyncrasies that I have discovered over 26 years with it. So, with all that said, meet the monster...
A Little History
15 meters is my favorite band. It is the one that hooked me into getting my ham radio license when I was a teenager living in Los Angeles. A friend in my high school electronics course (Dick, WB6HII) told me he was a ham and invited me over to his house one day to see his station. I didn't know at the time that kids could be licensed ham radio operators. I was a SWL with a 4-tube Knight Kit "Star Roamer" at home that I had built.
I have been using a full-sized, 40M homebrew vertical for a number of years now which I was also able to load on 15M. In order to better chase DX, I decided to abandon 40M for the time being and convert the antenna to a 5/8 wave for 15M. I have never had any experience with a 5/8 wave antenna, so this was something new.
First, the existing antenna was shortened by several feet and I had to install a tuning system at the base. I had a small tuner in my junkbox that I had picked up at a swapfest many years ago that I had never used, so maybe now was the time to try it out. The little L-network almost worked, but would not provide a good match when it's output was attached to the base of the antenna. So I tried to find a point up the antenna where the impedance and tuner would be happy together. Through trial and error, I found that point a couple of feet up from the bottom, but had to construct a mechanically rigid system to attach the feed point there, otherwise the SWR would vary any time the wind blew!
Next, I painted the PVC silver to make it look more "antenna-like".
Very Finicky Tuning
Here we have the final product as we look northeasterly - my pathway towards Europe.
A 4-Band Vertical?
Following is a graph of an SWR sweep from 0-30MHz showing the two resonant dips at 10 and 21 MHz. I have no explanation for why this is happening, but am grateful for it!
Note that the SWR only rises to a max of 2.7:1 between the 10 and 21 MHz points, thus allowing the antenna to actually function on 20M and 17M as well. Closer examination revealed it to be 2.5:1 on 20 M and 2.6:1 on 17M.
I don't usually use an antenna tuner in the shack as I always try to get the match correct at the feedpoint, but it appears in this situation that I have a 4-band vertical if I use a tuner at the rig to offer the 20 and 17M bands a little help. Having now used it for several months on 20 and 17M, as well as on 15 and 30M, I have again worked almost everyone I've called and have consistantly received better signal reports than I have given out.
Here I am with the vertical in the background. We are now looking southeasterly and downhill.
Now for a 20 Meter Version!
Having had such great success, it was time to try something else. I decided to enlargen and extend it to 42 feet and try it as a 5/8 wave vertical for 20M. That required a few extra sections of larger diameter tubing and a heftier mounting arrangement. I was able to find larger cyclone fence post clamps that would grip my 2 inch lowest section of tubing along with it's homebrew PVC sliced insulator which was slipped over the tubing. The extra bulk now required a high-tech brick at the base to support the extra weight. Also, the lower elements were all double-clamped to keep them from slipping due to the stacking weight.
A larger capacity M-network tuner was placed at the base this time which allowed me to feed the antenna directly at the bottom instead of having to fool around with a tuning stub. This system was installed in a much better, heavy duty and waterproof electrical box.
Following is the resultant SWR achieved over the entire band, never higher than 1.5/1!
So if you have heard me on 20M.,� this is what I have been using. Also, I have supplemented the original 16 underground radials with an 8 x10 foot grid of surplus garden wire fencing at the base.
The antenna has been most impressive in that I again have worked almost everyone I have called, even the faintest stations, and have always received better signal reports than I have given out.� Working DX has become all too easy!
Also, for what it's worth,� I obtained a second resonant dip as before, this one occuring at 20.5 MHz,� just a bit too low to use the antenna on 15M.� However a 42 foot vertical at that frequency would not have a very good radiation pattern anyway, so this antenna has remained a monobander in this configuration.
One More Trick -- A Couple of Dual Band Verticals!
Having become drunk on 20M DX, it was once again time to try something else. I missed 40M and enjoyed 17M, and came to the realization that 33 feet was both 1/4 wavelength for 40M and 5/8 wavelentgth for 17M. So, I decided to reset the vertical length back to the original 33 feet and use it on either band by simply dialing in the tuner whenever I wanted to change frequencies, while leaving the length alone.
When tuning it first as a 5/8 wave for 18MHz, I also realized a second resonant dip at 24.9 MHz which again gave me dual-band performance which I enjoyed for a while. However, when I re-dialed the tuner to resonate the antenna on 7 MHz., that opened up a completely new ballgame as the antenna also became resonant at 10.1MHz as well, making it a 30 and 40M dual-bander with a 3rd resonant dip showing up slightly above the 15M band at 22 MHz as shown in the diagram below. Again, I have no explanation for these anomolies but am trying to make the most of them and will continue to look for more. I also will see if I can somehow get that 3rd dip down into the 15M band so that I can use it as a 3/4 wave vertical on that band as I originally did when it was directly fed with coax for use on 40 and 15M without any tuning network whatsoever.
Here is the SWR plot that shows all the dips:
This has been a most interesting experiment because of all the unexpected outcomes, and even more surprises awaiting to emerge in the future! So, we'll now close the book now on the escapades with the vertical.
How About an 80M Carolina Windom?
In all my years as a ham, I've never really gotten on 80 or 160 meters. So I decided to homebrew a Carolina Windom, which ended up being 136 feet in length and strung through the pine trees here at about 35 to 40 feet in height. It has an angle at the feedpoint of maybe 150 degrees with the bisect of the angle pointing in a northwesterly direction. This again was something new and gave me an opportunity to operate on just about any band.
I've had particularly good success with it on the higher bands, working DX through pileups. My crowning achievement has been working Madagascar on multiple occasisons, which is just about as far away as you can get from here! I can even load it on 160 Meters and recently made a number of contacts during a 160 meter contest with my nominal power output.
I seem to have particularly good success working Central and South America, as well as the southern states and Caribbean which all happen to be in the "downhill" direction of the antenna which resides on a hillside. I would recommend this as a good multi-band antenna.
Following is the HF plot of this system which ended up being 83 feet on the longer side and 53 feet on the shorter side. Many variations were tried and tested, and this seemed to be the best overall arrangement for emphasising the CW portions of the bands. On 40M , this antenna actually seems to outperform the full-sized resonant vertical in a side-by-side comparison, even though it doesn't match up that well on 40M and has to be reigned in with a tuner. It certainly makes for an interesting experimental antenna system if you like to tinker with things like this.
Lets leave the antennas now and take a brief look at this part of California. Here we are looking east towards the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Lake Tahoe is on the other side.
These photos are taken in downtown Placerville. "Downtown" is only a few blocks in length.
All of the old gold rush towns along California Highway 49 become very festive for Christmas.
So for now, 73's and best wishes from Placerville, California, and I hope to see you on the air again soon!
"For we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Apostle Paul writing to the 1st Century Christians in Corinth. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
1735726 Last modified: 2015-02-27 02:40:13, 28695 bytes
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