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Lookups: 2747


Straight Key Century Club (SKCC):  #10994

Quarter Century QRM Club (QCQC): #1 (Founder)

DXCC: Low power and casual, with simple antennas -- 167 countries confirmed


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.

His shack was a converted back yard garden shed, just big enough for the hefty radio gear and for two people to sit in front of it. He had a 4-element, 15M Yagi that he had built himself attached to the garage. We swung it to the west and heard his old friend Alan, ZL2UD, in New Zealand. So we gave him a call and got into a friendly armchair quality QSO--on A.M. nonetheless!

That sealed it! I had to get my novice license, which I did with his help and that of an older, retired ham who was kind enough to give me my exam after I had learned the code.

Saga of a 5/8 Wave, 15 Meter Vertical

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!

So I got a piece of PVC pipe and nested an extra piece of aluminum tubing into it, ran it up adjacent to the radiator, and secured it in place with plumber's tape.


Next, I painted the PVC silver to make it look more "antenna-like".

Very Finicky Tuning
So everything got perfectly tuned for 15M, and I also got a good match (1.4:1) on 30M as a bonus! I enclosed the tuner into a plastic box to weatherproof it and everything was fine until we had a small rainstorm come through which drastically altered my perfectly tuned system, dropping the resonance to somewhere around 19 MHz. So, I had to re-tune it again after the storm to get back the perfect match on 21 MHz. Everything later reverted back to the original values after things dried out.

The Result
The antenna has surprised me in that I have worked a number of DX-pedition stations through massive pileups and have also worked a number of  new countries. I have consistantly worked stations that I could barely copy on this end. I should also mention that it has a radial system of 16 underground wires, each 33 feet long, which was how I originally set up the antenna for 40/15M use. There does seem to be an improvement over using the 40M vertical on 15M.

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 an 80M Carolina Windom, which ended up strung through the pine trees here at about 50 feet in height.  It runs roughly NE by SW.

I've had particularly good success with it on the higher bands, even 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 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. It is also amazing at QRP power levels as a 5W signal allows me to work anybody I can hear, especially on 80M.  Additionally,  I always receive better signal reports than I give out.  I can heartilly recommend this as a good multi-band antenna. Getting it up to the current 50 foot elevation has made a noticeable difference. 

Here is an enhanced photo of the setup...

















Following is the HF plot of this system which ended up being 83 feet on the longer side and 50 feet on the shorter side.  On 40M , this antenna outperform the my full sized vertical in a side-by-side comparison on DX as well as stateside contacts,  It certainly makes for an interesting experimental antenna system if you like to tinker with things like this. 

Here you can see that most bands are around a 2:1 SWR with the best match being found on 80M.


















So, lets leave the antennas alone 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)

6194257 Last modified: 2015-07-16 00:23:17, 28956 bytes

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QRZ Logbook Summary for - WW6M
Latest Contacts for WW6M at QRZ.com
dedateband mode grid Country op
D44EE 2015-02-20 30m CW JJ00aa Cape Verde Henning Andresen
KE6ORO 2015-01-23 80m CW CM88nc United States JAMES T FINCH
AF5IU 2015-01-18 40m LSB EM10gc United States BRYAN W NOVAK
YC8UTI 2014-12-12 15m CW PJ34ia Indonesia Arfan M. Rauf S.Kom Iwan
KP4AW 2014-11-22 20m CW FM19fc Puerto Rico ARRL Puerto Rico Section Convention Inc
PY1IT 2014-10-13 20m CW GG87lb Brazil Angelo Gassi
JT1AA 2014-10-13 20m CW ON37kw Mongolia Gantulga Ts
N9WAS 2014-07-16 20m CW EN64al United States Dennis J Knutson
KB9GFX 2014-06-17 20m CW EN64al United States Dennis J Knutson
PY1IT 2014-06-01 20m CW GG87lb Brazil Angelo Gassi
WA5HRC 2014-05-20 20m CW EM34vu United States George Bailey
RI1ANT 2014-05-02 20m CW NC63mk Antarctica Mikhail N Fokin 59 th RAE 2014-15y.y.
OP4A 2013-11-28 15m CW JO21lh Belgium Cis (Francis) Bauweraerts
YB2EUZ 2013-11-22 40m CW OI52ee Indonesia Dadang Darwis
HL5FEI 2013-11-22 40m CW PM37nv South Korea YOUNG-WOO KIM

Book Totals: 39 qso's   26 confirmed Get a free logbook at QRZ.COM

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Granted: 2015-03-16 19:30:02

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