Welcome To The K9RUF QRZ Page
"They call me Ruffers"
Like many amateur radio operators my interest in the hobby started in citizen band radio. In 1976 I was up on my mom's roof pushing up my 40 foot push up mast for what felt like the 50th time that day making SWR adjustments to my HyGain Super Penetrator. Out of nowhere a guy drove up in our driveway and introduced himself as Spero and asked what I was up to. After I told him he asked, "How would you like to talk to people around the world instead of just around the block?" I said sure and with my mom's permission he invited me over to his house and down into his basement. He opened the door to his ham shack and all I saw was wall to wall radios. It was the coolest thing for a CB crazed 15 year old to see. He lent me a radio from the MARS program he participated in order for me to receive the W1AW broadcasts to practice morse code. Within a few months of our initial meeting and after many electronic and morse code tutoring sessions I earned my Novice ticket. Looking back now I could tell he was proud of me. Spero J. Spiro was his full name and at the time, but I didn't know it, he was my elmer. Spero was not only very smart but very understanding teaching me all the basics getting me started in amateur radio and sparking my life long interest in electronics. In 1982 Spero died of cancer while I was in college. I credit my career and interest in electronics to this man. He embodied the spirit of what it means to be an amateur radio operator stepping out of your comfort zone from behind the mike and elmering a new ham. Growing up without a dad when he died in an auto accident when I was 4 years old, Spero took a personal interest in my life checking on me from time to time. The reason I'm writing all this is to honor his memory. Spero, I miss you!
Recently I met up with Spero's son John who ironically lives nearby me in Chicagoland. We got together and he shared some photos and stories about his dad. We had a great time talking about Spero so thanks John for the visit.
When I moved to Chicagoland almost 30 years ago I spoke with local hams and mentioned his name as an elmer, not only did they know him since he lived in Chicagoland as W9GW but he elmered many of them too. Kindness, generosity and elmering was in his blood well before I knew him. He is probably responsible for getting scores of hams into the hobby with his winning ways, deep Greek chuckling laugh and an intelligence greater than anyone I have yet to meet. He could have been a stand-in for Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek, somewhat similar physically, but the deep hearty voice and laughter were almost identical. While Spero had a few different ham calls throughout his time as an amateur radio operator this is his last W0EF and a picture of him at a ham event shortly before his death. His call lives on in Minnesota as the call sign of the Twin City FM club where he was a very active member. Recently I visited Minnesota and joined their weekly net on 16/76. I asked if anyone knew how the club got their call sign. No one could answer me but to their defense it had been over 30 years since he had passed away. I then told the group on the net about Spero and how much he meant to me. They promised me they would make a written record of this part of their club's history for future club members to know that this call was not just randomly assigned to them by the FCC but rather belonged to a very special person. I really feel it's important to honor those who take the time to make a difference in other people's lives.
Here's my philosophy about amateur radio. Amateur radio is a hobby not a sport. Sometimes sports can bring out the worst in people with poor sportsmanship leading to some pretty obnoxious behaviors. If you don't believe me join a DX pile up and listen to the foul language and rude attitudes of some of the radio amateurs. Ironically the DX code of conduct was recently developed to teach hams how to behave. Years ago something like this wouldn't be necessary when amateur radio was more of hobby and less of a sport. For that reason I don't waste too much time chasing DX or participating in contests. Everyday life is way too competitive so when I sit down to use my radios I want to have a relaxing, engaging complete conversation with a fellow ham and maybe learn something in the process. Hit and run QSO's exchanging calls signs and that automatic 59 signal report is not my idea of ham radio. While I use a computer for logging I still believe in the paper QSL. There's something special about holding a QSL card sent to you by somebody who took the time to write a note and complete the card and usually the card is as unique as the conversation you had with them. Therefore I will gladly send out my paper QSL card to you but don't expect any flavor of electronic QSL. Maybe I'm nostalgic but I still get a kick out of looking at old QSL cards I've received over the past 40 years, many from hams who are now silent keys. I believe in the quality and not the quantity of contacts, so take a deep breath, slow down and enjoy the hobby called amateur radio!
When I received my Novice license in 1977 I was assigned the call sign WD0EOA. I kept that call until 2008 when I got the itch to get that vanity call. I have 6 dogs (and no I don't live in a house of squalor). Lesson to parents out there. If your son or daughter wants a dog, let them have one or this story will repeat itself. When I asked my mom if I could get a dog she turned me down numerous times saying when you get your own house you can have as many as you want...and so began my canie quest. With my love of dogs I thought it would be fun to get a call reflecting my interest in canines so what better call than K9DOG, darn taken. How about K9PUP taken too. Or K9ARF.... Well this went on for a while until one day I came up with K9RUF. Great the call is available. Sounds like a dog bark, right? Meet the maniacs 4 chihuahua's Cricket, Lulu, Libby, Cutie, Choo Choo our wire-haired dachshund and the matriarch Kiki our Schipperke. My son Ben wanted a cat so we went to "Save a Pet" a local animal shelter to just "look" well that didn't turn out so well. So much for the "looking"... Meet Nina the initial shack kitty. Since Nina worked out so well we rescued two more cats a year later, Frieda and Havana.
Our newest and FINAL, Final, Final dog Choo Choo like the train. She's an adorable wire-haired dachshund and in this picture very wet having come in from a rainstorm.
And last but not least Kiki
After watching my mom lose her battle with cancer I came to the realization that this isn't the dress rehearsal, it's life and you need to live it to be happy while you're still here. So I thought if I'm ever going to get that tower there's no time like the present.
Actually this isn't my first tower. When I was 18 I put together all my money I'd saved from bagging groceries, my paper route, making buttons, selling seeds, and greeting cards to buy my first tower. I found a used Rohn HDBX 48' tower that I installed a TH6DXX and 14 element 2 meter beam on and thought I was good to go for a mighty long time. Fate would not be that kind to me as it turns out giving me only 8 months of joy. You know the old phrase if it didn't come down last winter it wasn't a big enough tower, well mine was. Actually the fateful day was in June when a micro burst did my tower in. Comedy is tragedy plus time because when it happened I was really bummed. Looking back now on the fiasco I can laugh because the good part about it was that of the three ways the tower could have fallen it fell the best way possible into my neighbor's driveway. He happened to be an inactive ham who was very understanding. The elements of the TH6DXX fell perpendicular to his driveway landing on either side of his new car without creating a single scratch. The second way it could have fallen would have been on our house and the third was on our power lines. Wow, was I ever lucky. Later in Rohn's literature I read that the boom length shouldn't exceed 12 feet. The TH6DXX was way more than that. I think the micro burst twisted the tower due to the oversized beam and that's what lead to the tower's demise. So while I didn't exceed the wind loading of the tower I exceeded the maximum boom length. Needless to say mom wasn't too keen about me reviving the idea of replacing the tower so it was low dipoles while I lived with mom. As it turned out I needed the money from the insurance for my upcoming college expenses so the disaster was a mixed blessing of sorts.
Fast forward 32 years later, and a whole bunch of living in between, I now wanted that tower again. This time I was going to make damn sure not to repeat my last debacle. After EXTENSIVE ad nauseam tower research I decided to get the Universal Aluminum Tower. I love the idea of aluminum and so did my wife (I think as much as understanding wives can) so that it will keep looking like new year after year instead of an ugly rusty tower. I looked at their 50' heavy duty version and after what I went through previously I wanted it to be "even more heavy duty". I talked to Bill the owner at Universal and asked if I could use 30" base sections all the way up instead of the smaller graduated sections to the top and he said sure. He suggested going with a 30 taper at the top to make the thrust bearing plate a bit thinner so he could go with a 3/8" aluminum plate instead of a 1/2" to keep the weight down at the top. I also ordered an extra rotor plate that I installed between the bottom rotor plate and the top thrust bearing plate to hold the mast in place for that time in the future when I might need to change out the rotor. I found an awesome aluminum thrust bearing from Tarheel antennas at a hamfest so I shipped it to Bill at Universal for him to install on the top plate. Since I had read when others had their Universal towers shipped that they experienced shipping damage I decided to drive a couple states away from home and pick it up. Since they can't be nested this is the way I looked going down the road. Yip I got some looks from other drivers. Since Bill knew I was driving out to pick it up he waited for me to get there to go over the final custom manufacturing details. While I waited they made it just the way I had planned. I think it's pretty cool that Americans can still manufacture something and I mean start to finish without any of it coming from China. I watched my tower come together in the factory being built by American workers.
Next came the massive hole that I needed. 5' x 5' x 6' deep. I thought well this might be a good work out and can't take too long, thinking of the old phrase, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, right? The first few feet were not that bad filling up many wheel barrel fulls dumping it in the front yard creating 6 yards of fill (below). Toward the end when I was filling up 5 gallon pails with heavy clay and carting it up a ladder to get it out of the hole I was thinking this is crazy! I'm nuts! After a whole day of digging, starting in the morning ending with lights at night, I finished. Putting down heavy landscaping plastic first on the grass was a great idea to preserve the lawn. I looked for a guy with a Bobcat that had tracks vs the standard wheels to pick it up to dump in the dump truck. Tracks minimized the lawn damage. When I picked up the plastic you could hardly tell all the heavy clay was even there.
Here's how the hole looked after the dig before the concrete pour. Make sure to buy three levels and tape them to the tower legs. It's a lot easier than using one. I used the landscaping blocks in the little holes to provide a firm surface so that I could shim up the tower. This worked great for the minor level adjustments vs trying to shim against the clay. The wood structure I assembled locked the tower in place after getting it level so the concrete pour wouldn't change the level position.
Now it was time for the concrete. In an attempt to save my lawn from the cement truck wheel ruts going any further into my backyard than necessary I rented a 20' concrete shoot. When the concrete truck driver arrived he advised against using it because of the thickness of the mix and boy was he right. It was a real chore getting the concrete to go in all the corners of the hole even after pouring the concrete directly in the hole from the back of the truck. I mean it was a workout. I thought the stuff would just ooze in to all the gaps all by itself. Later he said the company sent me a tower mix they use of big cell towers. I thought that was pretty cool knowing I got the good stuff. If their concrete is good enough for a cell tower it should work for me and my little ol' tower!
Two weeks of curing time later I was ready to put it up. But first I had to decide if I was going to build it on the ground or in the air with a gin pole. Because of the size of the sections I thought I should try building it on the ground. I was very glad I did that because even with the gray conductive grease, assembling the sections required two of us wrestling with the tower to line up the three holes, something that would not have worked in the air. With help from my tower expert friend Ken KB9I we assembled it all and this is the way it looked. Note the black heavy duty pulley on the mast. It really came in handy for pulling things up to the top including antennas.
Universal Towers advertises walking these babies up in place on the hinged base. I don't think so Tim, or not at least with my heavier duty hybrid being all base sections. To be completely safe, RENT THE CRANE! Don't be cheap and stupid.
Originally I had 2 of the 3 base legs attached thinking I could attach the third one once it was hinged in place. It's always good to heed the advice of the crane operator. He said to unhook those 2 bolts and let him lower the tower in place and then hook up all three at once. He was right because as soon as he started lifting the tower it twisted unexpectedly before going airborne. Had that happened with the 2 legs attached it would have snapped off the base mounts and I'd have to start all over. Good Call Mr. crane operator!
Guy in the blue coat, me. Guy in the green coat, Ken. Guy in the brown coat, smart crane operator.
OK time to talk about HF beams. Originally I was going to get the SteppIR based on the glowing reviews. About that time I was offered to buy a used rotor and a Mosley TA-53 for $500. Since I was way over budget on the project and didn't feel like shelling out the big bucks for that SteppIR it was a great option. My decision was further validated by talking with owners of SteppIR's when they shared their stories of stepper motor failures and routine required maintenance of the fiberglass spreaders to protect them from the UV rays. With my Mosley the SWR is great on all 5 bands, it handes the full legal limit, has a short boom, has no moving parts to fail and most of all pulls in signals like crazy. To this day I have no regrets about buying that used Mosley. As is the case with my purchase, the only time you take down a Mosley antenna is when you retire. I had planned on dragging the Mosley TA-53 Beam up with a pully and a rope. Humm I paid the crane operator $420.00 for their 3 hour minimum and still had more time on the clock, so let's put him to work.
I know this may sound obvious but at the time it never crossed my mind. So now the tower is in place. Wait, who's gonna go unhook the crane hook attached to the tower? Fortunately Ken brought his climbing harness. He unhooked it and attached the HF Beam. Way to go Ken!
A couple days later I assembled an antenna raising party on a Saturday with perfect weather. Even though the tower was up I still needed to add the Cubix Scorpion 88 and a 160 meter Carolina Windom (both of which have since been replaced). We were all systems go except Ken my climber was busy with family obligations. One of my ham friends Erich KC9CUK brought over his climbing harness. Erich is not the ham hooking me up to the safety harness. The gentleman with the white hard hat is Dave N9YMW and was invaluable that day helping from the ground. His experience as a safety officer at a local organization was obvious since he was the only one who showed up with a hard hat! Thanks Dave. So by now you've probably figured out who ended up climbing the tower. Me. They say in life you need to do something every once in a while that scares you. Saturday was my day to be scared. After a thorough climbing harness briefing from Erich I began my ascent. Thanks Erich for the use of your harness. (Update: I liked Erich's harness so much I bought it from him) I hadn't climbed a tower before even at my mom's with my old tower because I hired a climber. Later I thought it was kind of like public speaking, it scares the crap out of you as you're climbing what feels like forever but once you're in front of everyone or at the top it's not so bad. My other ham friends Brian WB9MCW, Bob KC9JBA, Janaan his wife KC9JAZ and Aaron WL7CTA also gave me a hand that Saturday. Actually now that I think about it, Aaron just showed up for the food.... Kidding! You da man!
My neighborhood had a whole different view from 50 feet!
Going clockwise starting with "Big B" in orange Brian WB9MCW, Erich KC9CUK, Janaan KC9JAZ, "Safety Dave" N9YMW, and last but certainly not least "Baghdad Bob" KC9JBA. Oh and Kiki is between Erich and Janaan. Cutie and Libby are between are between Brian and Dave. Smile! Ok everyone you can stop straining you necks looking at me.
Back on the ground I wanted to make sure this puppy (little dog metaphor, (K9)RUF) was well grounded.
While it's nice to live in a well built brick house getting the cables inside required some extra work with a worker coring a hole through the brick for me.
I got this custom lightning arrestor box from Chris KF7P. Really well made. He has a web site too.
This is the lightning box with the ground rod attached tying the ground plate in the shack for all the radios and the outside lighning box together.
In the back of my lot is my shed well actually my wife calls it the "Taj ma shed". I just didn't like anything that Home Depot offered so I built my own. In the shed is my Echolink station K9RUF-L. It's currently connected to 146.415 our local simplex frequency where we assemble nightly to solve all the world's problems...
Here's some pictures of the finished tower. Really to me and other hams towers are a thing of beauty. I just wish the whole world shared our sentiments. Each summer I enjoy drinking a beer in my lawn chair, gazing in awe at my aluminum supermodel!
Ken KB9I "hamming" it up. Look mom no hands!
Do not install a carolina windom this way. The vertical radiating wire must be far away from anything. Mine in the picture below didn't work very well because I mounted it too close to the tower. Below this picture are my deadicated 40, 80 and 160 meter dipoles. Much, much, much better way to go for me!
The aluminium arms for these dipoles are not sold in stores. I them custom made at a fabricator shop, $200 each.
Below is the SSB (company name) remote antenna switch. Since I had only 1 feedline with the windom I replaced I needed a way to access the three new replacement antennas for 40, 80 and 160. The cool feature about this antenna switch is that it doesn't require a separate control cable, rather the coax serves as the control cable providing the necesary voltage to do the antenna switching. The down side is that this voltage wouldn't make it to the switch with my Polyphaser lighting arrestor in line so I was forced to install a coupler instead. And yes I will be unplugging the coax for the dipoles as well as the other antennas during those lightning storms.
On this picture you'll notice the anemometer (wind gauge) for my personal weather station. Check it out at the link below:
Or for weather trending information:
Back up VHF/UHF beam. Also HDTV antenna. While limited on channels, the best quality over U-Verse, Cable, or Dish.
Pictures with a backdrop that antenna manufactures can only dream about where the might of their antennas are only second to the might of mother nature.
When will this ever end!!!!
Time to visit the shack on the K9RUF tour.
This is my philosophy of a ham shack's ergonomics and design. I'd rather spread my radios out wide rather than piling them up high, keeping the clutter to a minimum and the desktop wide open to use. I really don't like desks where you're "pigeon holed" to sit stuck between two file cabinets. I love the freedom of rolling my chair back and forth to get to the radio I want to use. Think of it like Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie style applied to an amateur radio desk.
I use the SS-505 Daiwa 50A power supply (not in the picture but under the desktop). While this is not the cheapest power supply I love it because even under a heavy load the fan is super quiet. My MFJ power supply fan drove me nuts and has since "left the building". Life's too short to buy MFJ. Don't believe the stuff written about the Daiwa power supplies either when they say they have "digital hash". Mine is extremely quiet and I love it! Finally the finishing touch, or at least as of now, my K9RUF lighted sign! When you see the gentleman who sells these signs at hamfests, buy one because he's a great guy and he makes a great sign.
As far as radios go I'm not stuck on one manufacture like some hams who must have had a bad experience with the radio they swear they will never buy again. Rather if I see a cool radio I'll try it out no matter who it is. Let's be real if one of the "big three" made bad radios they wouldn't be in business. What it comes down to is personal preferences. As you can see I don't play favorites. And about those $5,000 to $10,000 radios, really? I have had more fun buying and playing with 5 $1,000 radios than 1 $5,000 radio!
As I grow older with less time to waste in pile ups, QRP/100 watts has been replaced by QRO. Tokyo Hy-Power made great amps. Not sure why they went out of business. It definitely wasn't for a lack of quality. If you can find one used, buy it. They're great!
The secret ingredient to quality audio, a quality dyamic michrophone.
First off I should qualify I'm not a bandwidth hog nor am I an eSSB guy who is on the hunt for that older Kenwood that can be modified to really wide 6KHz TX bandwidths. That's not me. I've coined a new term, QSSB or quality single side band. I really want to sound as good as possible with an unmodified transceiver being as parsimonious with the frequency as possible.
I became interested in quality audio in a round about way because I wanted my desk mike, that seemed to always be in the way, off my desk. I saw pictures of other hams who had boom mikes and the result was an uncluttered, wide open desk top. This is what I wanted. I first bought the boom and was ready to take the plunge getting the holy grail of mikes in the ham community, the PR40 by Heil. Then after doing some internet searching I became aware of this eSSB phenomenon and thought I should learn more. My first attempt was not that good reusing an existing dynamic DJ mike and a Radio Shack mixer to save some money. Then I realized spending some money on a quality dynamic michrophone and other components makes all the difference. Below are my comments of what I've learned thus far. While this is a work in progress I think I've created a great sounding set up according to comments I've received.
Now that all the extra mikes have been removed I'm done right? Wait how do I transmit? Nope, not a foot switch. Nope, not VOX. Nope, not a "Clapper." How about those silver knobs on the desk.... yip.
I know some of you reading this next part may think I have way too much time on my hands. One day I thought: wouldn't it be cool to have my radios PTT switches be activated with a capacitive touch like the buttons on an elevator. So, that's what I built. I found a company that sells an 8 contact capacitive touch circuit board. www.xkitz.com.
So I fed all my mike inputs into the box below and tied them into the output of the mixer. Then I hooked up the individual PTT wires to the PCBA. Finally the output of the PCBA goes to each of the four silver knobs corresponding to that particular radio. The shielded/grounded aluminium box lives fastened to the underside of my desk. PTT can be a real fun creative process. Another idea I use is a reed switch from a burgular alarm door sensor taped to the underside of my desk. Then you know those really strong hard disk drive magnets that you see for sale at hamfests? Buy one, glue some felt to it to keep from scratching your desk. Then as you slide the magnet back and forth on the desk you activate the PTT. I'm sure you have you own ideas so let your imagination go wild. Remember, foot switches are boring!!!!!!
You'll notice in the picture below I have two mixers. My first mixer was for combining my radio mike inputs to 1 mike. This freed up desk space by removing the extra desk mikes. My next mission was to get rid of all those external speakers I connected to the back of all my radios to hear them better. I thought why not install a second mixer and collect the audio output from all the radios and feed them into this mixer. Then take the audio output from this mixer and feed it into a pair of self power-amplified speakers...and that's what I did. With the parametric EQ controls on the mixer you can tailor the sound going to the speakers to add emphasis in the midrange for example. Keep in mind each channel or radio input has it's own parametric EQ controls so you can make these changes or adjustments to each radio making up for any audio deficiencies that, that radio may have.
Can we all admit that as of 2017 the HF bands are pretty quiet with a bleak future as we head toward the bottom of this sunspot cycle. Knowing that, don't you miss talking to others around the country or around the world? Welcome to the rescue the various digital voice modes.
While I've used other digital modes including DMR and D-Star my favorite by far is Yaesu System Fusion. I have a coordinated System Fusion repeater K5TAR at my house on 440.81875 MHz with an approximate 5-10 mile radius covering the chain of lakes region in Northern Illinois. This is an internet connected repeater linked full-time to the MNWIS room #21493. While the room title would lead you to believe it's just hams from Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's not. It merely started there with a group of very smart hams who were early adopters of Yaesu System Fusion. Through their tenacious efforts supporting Fusion with a weekly Monday evening net at 7:30 they have gathered a crowd of like minded hams across America and over seas. Throw your call out on this room and I guarantee you'll have a very fun and engaging conversation.
While this is my default room if you wish to connect to another room feel free to do so to talk to other hams in the Yaesu universe. When your QSO is finished after a 10 minute delay it will automatically reconnect to the MNWIS room.
Recently I installed an official repeater antenna, an open-loop dipole Comscope DB-408 at the top of my tower in the picture below. This improved my coverage dramatically over the UHF Hustler fiber stick I had been using. I wish my repeater had better coverage but unfortunately I am suffering from low HAAT at around 750 ft.
So why is System Fusion my favorite:
Regarding my last point I really worry about the future of amateur radio. Take a look at the demographics of your local ham club and I think you'll find the average age is North of 50 years old. Young people are not interested in throwing a wire in a tree to talk to Bulgaria like we were when we were their age. They'll take out their iPhone to show you why. Magazines will take pictures of kids using a GOTA radio station at events like "field day" but how many of them really pursue amateur radio? Are these pictures simply optics to make hams feel good? How many people are willing to take on elmering a new ham with our busy lives?
Fusion and other digital modes could resonate with young people because it involves things they grew up with namely the internet and computers. These digital modes can act as a gateway to other ham activities once they get their foot in the door. We really need to take this seriously because with no hams there will be no ham bands as they are sold off to the highest bidders. Also when a young ham is interested in one of these communications modes, that uses the internet, lets be careful not to say what I usually hear "using the internet isn't radio." When they hear that they could throw in the towel killing their interest in ham radio entirely. If you are picking up a mike and talking, that's radio! Instead while we might have a strong opinion against something we should keep that to ourselves and instead refer the interested ham to someone else who could elmer them. There's enough options in ham radio to keep everyone interested.
There are many benefits of being a ham radio operator. It has been a great entree for my business relationships, opening doors and creating bonds with people who also share this great hobby. From a technical standpoint you have an advantage of knowing which end of the soldering iron to hold on to :) Lastly it's like belonging to toastmasters without the meetings. As I pick up the mike, I have a rough idea what I'm going to say but with years of extemporaneous practice I get better and better. Sometimes I even amaze myself.
Lastly, my desk. I am constantly amazed the number of unsolicited emails and letters I receive about my desk. I had a concept for a desk like this but no one made one, or at least that I could find. Since necessity is the mother of invention and I needed a desk for all my radios, I built one. If you can't find what you're looking for then you have to build it. It was a labor of love and I'm happy how it turned out. I do appreciate the many compliments that I have received over the years.
My original ham station picture. The only thing constant with my ham shack and my adventure in amateur radio...is change! As I grow older I don't want to be that old set-in-their-ways "curmudgeon ham" who won't try new things. Learning new things keeps you young!
This is what it's all about! Time to play radio...
Hope you enjoyed the tour.
7903165 Last modified: 2017-02-15 14:31:02, 46156 bytes
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