Monday, July 25, 2016

This stuff still works!

I doubt anyone gets like me, but ............

Last week was pretty dismal as far as lunchtime QSOs go. Looking back in HamLog, the only QSO that I had all week was the one with Special Event Station K2CAM last Wednesday.  Add to that, the fact that the bands were not the greatest over the weekend (at least for me) and even at the home station, the pickings were slim.  I get to wondering if perhaps it's just me ..... did I break something?  Did my antennas all choose to fail at the same time?

Silly, right?  Yeah, I know.

Then comes a day like I had today.  I went out at lunch time, and threw the 40 Meter Hamstick on the Jeep to see if I could hear any NPOTA stations. I saw one listed on the Cluster for 40 Meters, but I wasn't hearing anything. So I switched on over to 20 Meters and heard WD7I at MN25 on the frequency the VFO just happened to be on.  Dave was calling CQ without a lot of takers, so even though I have MN25 confirmed, I worked him so that he could reach the minimum goal of 10 QSOs.  Afterward, I spotted him on DX Summit and lets just say I don't think he had any trouble reaching the minimum and beyond!

After working Dave, I went down to the QRP Watering Hole of 14.060 MHz and "QRL?'ed" a couple of times. Not hearing anything, I cast out a CQ to be answered by Marty W4LYH, operating QRP Portable out of New Market, VA.  Marty was visiting relatives, and decided to bring the QRP gear along. Much to my benefit, we had a rag chew just shy of a half hour.  Had the Rag Chewer's Club still existed, another few minutes would have qualified both of us for a certificate.

Marty was only running 5 Watts to a half wave end fed; but he had a VERY solid 579 signal. The times when QSB kicked in, Marty was at worst a 559. So the next time some "expert" tells you that QRP signals are always weak, go tell him/her to go take a flying leap.

After I signed with Marty (I had to make it back inside the office!) I got a quick call from Terry WA0ITP.  Terry is a good friend, a QRPer of reknown, and a main stay of the 4SQRP Group. How could I not at least say "Hi!" to Terry?  Lo and behold, that's about all it was - a quick Hi and Good-Bye and then it was take everything apart and hustle back inside.

All in all, a very delightful lunch time QRP session ........ for a change! My faith in my equipment is restored ...... for now. LOL!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

More magnetic loop antenna work

On Thursday the plastic enclosures from Poly Case arrived via the friendy neighborhood UPS Man. I mowed the lawn Thursday after dinner in anticipation of the simmering, sweltering weekend heat, so I didn't begin work until Friday evening.  All I did Friday evening was cut the main hole for the capacitor shaft to stick though.


Saturday was way too busy with house chores and nabbing a few NPOTA stations, so the rest of the "hard" work was left to today.  I was listening for NPOTA stations, which were either:

A) Ones I could hear; but have worked in the past, or
B) Ones I have not worked in the past, but could not hear.

Sigh.

In between bouts of dial twiddling, I mounted the reduction drive:


And mounted the super expensive 25 cent knob I bought at the SCARC Hamfest last Sunday.


Then I drilled holes for and mounted the two SO-239 connectors:


I haven't mounted the capacitor permanently yet, as I want to make up the "wiring" beforehand. This is how it will all come together, though:


For me, the scariest part was trmming down the length of the capacitor shaft with my Dremel, as it was about 1/4 " (6 mm) too long.  Last night, talking with Bob W3BBO, he reminded me to "measure twice, cut once."  I ended up meauring about four times and holding my breath while cutting!

Not the biggest homebrew project in the world, aside form the shaft modification it was mostly just simple hole cutting and drilling. A simple task for most, but somehow it seems whenever I try something like this, I screw something up. Royally. It hasn't spontaneously combusted, so I guess I'm doing OK.

In the end, this is going to look SO much better than this:


And it will be much beefier and sturdier, too.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Friday, July 22, 2016

CRUD! It happened again!

A few weeks ago, I was using the KX3 in the Jeep - and I wasn't careful.  At the end of my lunchtime session, I unplugged the antenna, paddles and ear buds, but not the battery.  I put the Lexan SideKX cover on and picked up the KX3 to put it in its protective pouch ...... only to find out it had grown a tail.

The battery was hanging, dangling by its connector from the power socket.

ARGH!

I thought I dodged a bullet as everything seemed OK.  I breathed a sigh of relief and carried on, until yesterday.  When I was in the Jeep again yesterday, and this time it just so happened that things were arranged in a way so that the cable from the battery was actually curling "up" as it made its way to the KX3 instead of laying relatively flat in relation to the transceiver.  The stiffness of the power cable was enough to lift the contacts of the power socket away from the circuit board, and cause the power issue - same as last time.


So it was back to the operating room and once again, I re-soldered the power socket back to the circuit board.  I spent more time with it this time; and instead of just using my regular vision, I donned my magnifying headset to make sure that the solder had flowed freely (and liberally - but not too much!) from the socket component (4 pads) to the circuit board.

This is not a well-known or much reported design issue.  This is a clumsiness issue on W2LJ's part - pure and simple.  I do have to wonder though, if it would have been better to use a through-hole socket in this instance.  But since it's not a a wide spread issue (if it were, you'd certainly see a lot of pee'ing and moaning about it on the Elecraft reflector), it is what it is.

W2LJ has to learn to be even less hasty in the future and to be more careful, as I know this socket was never intended to bear the weight of about a 1/2 pound of battery, literally hanging from it.

I might re-open it over the weekend and may spread a tiny bead of electronics approved RTV along the bottom edge of the jack where it rests against the circuit board, to act as a strain relief, in a manner of speaking.

Looking on the bright side, I didn't have to consult the construction manual, in order to read the steps for taking the top circuit board out of the housing.  I guess my short term memory is OK for now.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

FOBB 2016 - a week from Sunday

And as always, I am excited and looking forward to it.  This year I am Bee #17, and I am planning to set up and operate from Washington Rock State Park in Greenbrook, NJ.  Washington Rock State Park is a great venue to operate from as there are plenty of tall trees and picnic tables.

I know it's 10 days away; and that things can change drastically, but so far, both WeatherUnderground and Accu-Weather are calling for clear skies with high temperatures in the 93-95F range (35C).  So a good amount of sunblock will be the rule for the day (hopefully).

The PAR ENDFEDZ 40/20/10 will most likely be my antenna choice for the day, although I might bring the W3EDP.  The EDP takes up more real estate, and takes a bit more effort to get set up, but it's a proven performer from both home and our last two SPARC Field Day efforts.

Speaking of Field Day, I saw a few of the guys from SPARC at a CERT training session last night, and our entry has been compiled and is being filed with the ARRL, maybe even as we speak.  We qualified for a bunch of bonus points and we had way more QSOs than we had in previous years, so we have our fingers crossed and we are hopeful that we did well.

Again, not so much that Field Day is a contest, as we actually try to compete - but with ourselves by upping our score from the previous year. However, if we do well in our category, that looks and sounds good to our benefactors in town who aid us in acquiring the park and proclaiming the week as "Amateur Radio Week" in town.  It also puts a good light on Amateur Radio in general, and allows us to  "brag" in the local town paper that South Plainfield did well.  So for SPARC, it's not so much the reward of a good final score as it is the chance to put Amateur Radio and emergency preparedness in a good light, as well as the opportunity to build a better rapport with the community. 

That indeed seems to be happening, as we have seen an increase of visitors to the Field Day site over the last three years.  A few the first year, more last year, and even more this year - with a few who actually searched us out using the ARRL's Field Day Locator, and a few who came as a result of advance publicity in the town's two local news outlets.

72 de LarryW2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

We came in peace for all Mankind

It was 47 years ago today, that Neil Armstrong read the writing on this plaque as he was preparing to ascend the Lunar Module (LM-5) ladder at the end of that famous "moon walk".

Plaque left on the Moon on the Sea of Tranquility

What a day that was!

I was 12 and I was glued to the TV set all day, along with the rest of my family. It was a heady time, watching something unfold that you knew would never happen again - the first time a human being would land and stand on a celestial body other than the Earth.

Today, in commemoration of that event, I was able to work Special Event Station K2CAM during lunch time at work, from the Jeep.

LM-13 on display

As I walked out to the parking lot, I turned on the smart phone (more about that in a bit) to see what NPOTA stations might be on.  I saw K2CAM spotted on 40 Meter SSB at 7.240 MHz.  Being a true child of the Space Age, I was not about to let this opportunity to go by!  How could I pass up anything Project Apollo related?

I held my breath, more than half expecting to be greeted by a massive pile up, wondering how my 5 Watts on phone would manage to break through. To my surprise and delight, the competition was not DXpedition or even NPOTA heavy.  I managed to make contact with K2CAM on my first call, and I even got a 59 report in the process. Yes, I know, 5 Watts from Central New Jersey to Long Island isn't a big deal - but this was a big deal to me.

K2CAM was being operated by members of LIMARC, the Long Island Mobile Amateur Radio Club from the "Cradle of Aviation Museum" in Uniondale, Long Island. The museum is a very short distance away from Bethpage, which is the home of Grumman Aircraft (now Northrop Grumman), the designers and builders of the Lunar Module.  There's lot of civil and space aviation history on Long Island, that's for sure!

LM-5 "Eagle" on the lunar surface - Buzz Aldrin with the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP).

The Lunar Module shown above, which is on display at the Museum is LM-13, which was originally intended to be the Lunar Module that would have landed on the Moon, had Apollo 18 not been scrubbed. LM-14, which was never 100% completed, and which was supposed to land on the Moon for Apollo 19, is now on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. LM-15 was scrapped and supposedly, parts of it were used to manufacture the Apollo Telescope Mount which was part of Sky Lab.

Getting back to my smart phone reference ..... the average smart phone, which we take so much for granted these days, is a computing behemoth compared to the Apollo Guidance Computer, which NASA relied upon to control both the Lunar Module and Command/Service Module vehicles of Project Apollo.

Apollo Guidance Computer interface - the DSKY

The entire Apollo Guidance Program was only about 36K in size. So even though the AGC is a dwarf compared to computers of today, it was more than capable of getting the job done.

Thank you, J.J and the other members of LIMARC who put K2CAM on the air today. That is one QSL card that will be a prized part of my QSL collection.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Who wudda thunk it?

During our Lake George vacation last week, and since coming home, I have been searching for a plastic box to serve as the permanent enclosure for the magnetic loop tuning capacitor.  Ideally, the box needs to be 6" x 3.5" X 3.5" (15cm X 9cm X 9cm).  Shouldn't be all that hard, right?

It has turned out to be not as easy as I had thought. Years ago, I used to have a plastic index card box that probably would have been perfect.  Of course, now that I need it and want it, I can't find it anywhere.  I either got rid of it, or I'll find it someday after the project is completed. It seems that's always how it goes.

There are various kitchen food containers at the supermarket that would serve the purpose; but I'm looking for something a little more "elegant" and professional looking.  I went to Staples to look at new version of index card file boxes, and didn't like anything I saw.  The plastic, while rigid, is kind of on the thin side.  I can imagine it shattering as soon as I try to cut holes into it. The more I searched for an off-the-shelf solution, the more disappointed I became.

Going on the premise that "Google is your friend', I started searching for "plastic boxes" and subsequently found out that "plastic enclosures" is more of what I had in mind.  I must have gone through about a half dozen Websites before I finally hit upon www.polycase.com.

I decided upon their WP-33F enclosure, which is pictured here:


This is just a tiny bit larger than I had intended, as it's 6" X 4" X 4" (15cm x 10cm X 10cm), but that's OK as it will allow for more room for my meaty fingers as I wire up the capacitor to the two SO-239 connectors. It's made of LEXAN 143R Resin and comes with a weatherproof gasket to make sure the contents stay nice and dry under outdoor conditions. The cost was a bit higher than anticipated, but I purchased two ....... because I'll probably screw up on my first attempt at cutting and drilling (I always do).

Hopefully, they will arrive later this week or early next week.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Psssst! ..... Hey Buddy, wanna key?

Yesterday, I spent part of the morning at the Sussex County Amateur Radio Club Hamfest, in Augusta NJ, at the Sussex County Fairgrounds.  The weather was superb and that was probably the main reason for the huge turnout of vendors.  This year's iteration of the SCARC Hamfest was the biggest I've seen in years. There was so much to take in!  I was not able to spend as much time there as I would have liked, as I had to be home in order to make 11:30 AM Church services.  In the 90 minutes that I was there, I was able to make two complete trips of all the tables, inside and out.

The first trip was a cursory glance, the second more in depth.  I really could have made at least two more circuits easily.  Yes, there was a lot of non-Ham related junk; but there were also plenty of treasures if you had the time to really look. As it was, I purchased a few knobs for future models of my magnetic loop antenna experiments, and I also purchased some silver and Teflon SO-239 chassis mount connectors.  I was the big spender of the day, parting with $10.25 of my hard earned cash-ola.

I was kind of surprised to see a good Ham buddy, Bill Koeth W2WK at a selling table.  I've known Bill since he was President of the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club, when I was Secretary and then, eventually Vice-President.  Bill is a master machinist and mechanic, who worked for over 20 years repairing road surfacing equipment.  Bill is so good with all things mechanical that he restored a Model A Ford, fabricating most of the unavailable parts that he required, himself.

Luckily, Bill is also a CW aficionado and as of late, has turned his skills and talents towards making beautiful straight keys.  I was honored to test one of his prototypes and liked what I saw (and used), very much! He listened to my suggestions and those that others have made and now has a finished product that he offers for sale:





So.... if you're in the market for a high quality straight key, dtrop me a line and I'll send you Bill's e-mail address and you and him can discuss "particulars".

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Some days it feels like everything is Radiosport

Don't get me wrong. I love Field Day, I love the QRP Sprints (FOBB, FYBO, QRPTTF, etc) but some days, just some days ....... it feels like everything else has devolved to Radiosport. Everything has become a competition.

I've stated this plenty of times before.  When was the last time that you've had a DX QSO that wasn't "TU UR 599 QRZ?" I know DX ragchews still happen as I get involved in one myself from time to time, but it seems the majority now are to see how many stations can be worked in a given period of time.

NPOTA, which I dearly love, is not much better in that regard.  Every now and then, you'll hear a few words go back and forth, but for the majority, it has become brief, contest style exchanges and activation reports of, "I was able to work XXX amount of stations in X hours." People have become obsessed with their standings on the Leader Board, and how many NPS units they have worked. To be honest with you, I haven't checked where I stand in about a month or so.  And at this point, I couldn't care less.  I work new ones to work new ones, to see if I can figure out how propagation is working to where and to possibly come up with new antenna schemes. And my purpose for doing activations is just an excuse to get out and operate in the fresh air and sunshine, which I dearly love.

Even my beloved QRP Fox Hunts seem to now be focused on Teams, who worked both Foxes for a two-fer and who worked the Foxes the earliest in the least amount of time. It's driven me to the point where I've decided not to participate in the Summer 20 Meter season and I'm highly doubtful at this point that I will participate in the Winter season coming up this November.

I guess I'm just in a funk, maybe I'm just burnt out a bit; but I tire of ONLY the competition aspect of Amateur Radio - I guess I'm what you'd call a limited contester.  Maybe it's just not being able to endure long hours sitting, any more. Amateur Radiosport has it's place - just not everywhere!

There has to be more to Amateur Radio than "TU 599 NJ 5W". And yet, like a moth to a flame, I inexorably get drawn back into it.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Saratoga National Historical Park - a success!

My outing to Saratoga National Historical Park was an all around success.  I didn't make anywhere near the nunber of QSOs that I wanted to, but it was still a successful day.

The park wasn't as close to our Lake George location as I had thought.  Yes, it was a 1/2 hour down Interstate 87, but once you get off the highway, it's roughly another 1/2 hour to the park.  It was nice to drive through the scenery of upstate New York, seeing farms, horse breeding farms, small towns, etc.  You never get to see the "good stuff" from the major highway.

I arrived at the park a bit later than I had intended, and went to the Visitor's Center, which was very busy.  The Park Rangers were occupied, talking with the many visitors.  When I walked through the doors with my ARRL NPOTA shirt on, I was greeted with a big smile and a "Are you activating today?"  I answered in the affirmative, that I would situate myself in the picnic area by the Visitor's Center and I got a quick nod of approval.

I started out just operating from the Jeep using the Hamstick on 40 Meters and the Buddistick on 20 Meters.  After a while (and a bathroom break) I decided to deploy the PAR END FEDZ using my drive on mast support and the Jackite pole. There were tall trees that would have served the purpose, but that's really a no-no unless you ask for permission ahead of time.  The PAR seemed to perform just as well as the sticks on the Jeep.  I didn't notice any increase in activity after switching over.

I worked up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest. There was one QSO with W6MYN in California.  I tried listening for other NPOTA stations that I saw spotted on the Cluster, but had no luck there.

At the end, before packing up, I even tried 17 Meters for a bit - no joy there, either.


In hindsight, yesterday would have been the better day to go, as solar conditions were much, much better - but it is what it is.

Thanks to all the chasers who stuck with me and allowed me to activate HP42.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 11, 2016

NPOTA Tomorrow

If all goes well, I hope to activate Saratoga National Historical Park (HP42) sometime tomorrow - hopefully beginning around 1500 UTC.  Plans are for the operation to be mostly QRP CW on 40 and 20 Meters, on or around 7.034 and 14.061 MHz respectively.  If activity peters out, I may switch to 17 Meters or perhaps even switch over to SSB.


Hope to hear you on the air!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

FOBB 2016 is a go!

Thanks to Roger AG4P for letting me know - The Flight of the Bumblebees for 2016 is a go!  To see the details, you can go to: http://arsqrp.blogspot.com/

There, you can get the rules and find out how to apply for a Bumblebee number.  The roster can be seen at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1eBbYvcKoUp9dVsoOMaQl7YJII8AvuE8bfc-5eAZ4Jj0/edit#gid=0

The Flight of the Bumblebees is THE Summertime QRP Classic - the Grandaddy of them all!  This QRP Sprint is a ton of fun and is the one that all the rest would hope to emulate.  What makes it so great is that it gets a ton of participation, and that makes for a lot of QSOs and a lot of happy QRP campers!

Much thanks to Rich Fisher KI6SN for putting this on the air, once again!


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Holy Crow!

Amateur Electronic Supply is going out of business!  Hot off the press from the CQ Newsroom.


http://cqnewsroom.blogspot.com/2016/07/amateur-electronic-supply-aes-going-out.html?spref=tw&m=1

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

As Summer is upon us ......

One of several popular Summer QRP Sprints is happening this coming Sunday.

SYBO - Scorch Your Butt Off - the Summer answer to Freeze Your Butt Off.



This is always fun and is yet another good reason to get you and your QRP gear out into the Great outdoors!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Magnetic Loop Antenna Resources

Some folks have been asking me what resources I used to build my magnetic loop. There are many - but these are the principle ones I used:

http://www.g4ilo.com/wonder-loop.html

http://www.aa5tb.com/loop.html

https://amrron.com/2015/07/24/home-made-high-power-magnetic-loop-antennas/

There's a veritable ton of information out there and if I had more time, I probably would have done even more research. The above listed links got me going in the right direction.

There was also a good article in a recent issue of "QRP Quarterly" in the "Idea Exchange" column that was a big help. I'll update this post tonight when I get a chance to see exactly which issue it was, as I don't have it with me right now.  That article and the G4ILO link above were my two primary resources.

Truth be told, building the antenna itself was the easy part - in fact a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Finding a suitable capacitor, enclosure and learning how to put PL-259s on LMR-400 was the hardest part.

If you've been hesitating ...... don't.  It's a super easy project that you can have a lot of fun with.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

0 sunspots

But, with only 5 Watts, I still managed to work 6Y7R and PJ2/K3NK at lunchtime today on 17 Meters. And I  also worked KI9W/2 on 40 Meters SSB for an ATNO NPOTA entity.  So even though the official prognosticator said this:


I was still able to get out and be heard, using only the Hamstick and the Buddistick on the top of the Jeep.

Kind of like how the Bumble Bee doesn't know it's not supposed to be able to fly, eh? (Yeah, that's a myth .... I know ..... just trying to make a point.)         ;-)

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

I told myself

"You're not gonna do this, this year. You have the certificate and QSLs from last year. You don't need to do this again!"

So much for listening to myself!

Maybe because it's the weekend after Field Day and the pileup juices are still flowing?  I don't know - but experimenting with my newly built magnetic loop on Sunday ....... I worked one. And after that, it was just all downhill. I found it to be just like that old Lay's Potato Chip commercial from the 1960s - "Bet you can't eat just one!"

After the first, I was committed. Probably my OCD, kicking in. Soon there was another in the log, then another and then another. Last night I was hunting for K2D for the last of the Colonies. I found him working LSB on 40 Meters.  I must have shouted into that darn microphone for over an hour. I was shaking my head thinking, "Oh Lord, what have I done to myself?"

Then the Cluster showed K2D on 80 Meter CW.  I figured that having been spotted there would be a gigantic pile up, but to my delight, there was only a medium sized pileup.  Being in "home turf'" felt oh, so good!  I threw out my call once - and I was answered with " W2LJ 599 CT".

Cool beans!

So I have all 13 Colonies and WM3PEN in the log. I suppose if I want a true "Clean Sweep" that I will have to work GB13COL in Britain.  Trouble is, I've only heard them 2 or 3 times on 20 Meters and each time they were so weak, I doubted that I'd hear my call were it to come back to me.

I believe the Special Event runs until Midnight Wednesday into Thursday, so I will listen.  But if I don't work them, my OCD will have to be satisfied with what we've gotten already.

And yes, "In for a penny, in for a pound." I will send away for the 2016 certificate, but I don't think I'm going to pop for postage for 14 individual QSL cards.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Happy Independence Day !!!

240 years ago, a dream was made a reality. Our Founders launched a new Nation in a skiff made of paper. Over the years, that dream has been a little battered and bloodied, but it still survives. The fires of Freedom and Liberty still burn brightly in the hearts of all Patriots. Happy 4th of July, and may God continue to bless America!


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

A good day for buildng

Even though we're several hundred miles apart, my good friend Bob W3BBO and I seem to find ourselves on the same frequency - and this time I don't mean the radio.  I spent the day working on my mag loop, he spent the day working on a regen receiver project.  Bob's handiwork is phenomenal. He just finished building, painting and drilling out the chassis for his latest receiver:




I wish I could make the stuff I build look this good.  If I built that chassis, I'm sure it would be more of a trapezoid than a rectangle!  

While my project came out looking more "hacked" than professional, I AM pleased to say that for once, something I built actually worked.

Behold the W2LJ Magnetic Loop antenna:

The frame is standard 1/2" Schedule 40 PVC purchased from Home Depot.


The main loop is 10 feet of LMR-400, which is different than any coax I've worked with before.  I tried putting on a PL259 in the way I am used to, and soon discovered, "This ain't gonna work!". So remembering that "Google can be your friend",  I found this tip from Steve WB2WIK on e-Ham:

"Any standard PL-259 fits LMR-400 exactly, and perfectly without any modification to the cable or the connectors.  I've installed hundreds of these on LMR-400s and use ordinary Amphenol 83-1SP PL-259s.

You *don't* peel back the braid of LMR-400 for this operation, where'd you hear that?  That won't work at all.  The correct procedure is the same as installing a PL-259 on regular RG-213/U.

The braid must remain in place exactly as it was originally, and the only thing you strip is the black vinyl jacket.  Leave the braid right where it was, under the jacket and tightly braided over the foil.  The best way to prepare the LMR-400 cable end is with a sharp (new) single-edged razor blade, cutting through the vinyl jacket, braid, foil and dielectric all in one single slice and leaving only the center conductor, stripping all else (with a single cut) back about 3/4" from the end of the cable.

Now, you have a copper plated aluminum center conductor sticking out and the rest of the cable fully intact.

Now, measure back 1/2" from the edge of the vinyl jacket and use much less pressure to strip only the jacket, and leave the braid, foil and dielectric intact.  This only takes gentle pressure, not the several pounds the first "strip" requires.

Pull off the jacket.

Push the PL-259 over the end of the cable so the center conductor protrudes through the end of the center pin and when you hit an obstruction, that will be the cable jacket hitting the internal threads in the PL-259 body.

Rotate the PL-259 body clockwise while applying gentle pressure to the connector, and it will screw itself on to the cable jacket.  About four full rotations are required to fully assemble the connector on to the cable, and when you're done, it won't twist on any more, and you'll see the braid showing through the PL-259 body solder holes."

I followed his instructions and had no problem putting PL259s on the LMR-400. One thing I found out is that when you make that initial scoring on the jacket to expose the center conductor - don't worry about getting the knife blade anywhere near as deep as the center conductor.  Just score all the way around and "break' the dielectric.  After that, just take some linesman's pliers and rotate the outer jacket and it will break cleanly off, leaving just the center conductor pristine and nick-free.

At this point, the capacitor box is more a prototype than anything else:


This is not the good capacitor that I purchased from RF Parts. This is a junk box cap that I purchased at the W2WQ Hamfest a couple of weekends ago for $2.  The box itself is an old lunch meat container. It's flimsy and fragile, but works well enough for the prototype. It's currently also held in place using a Velcro cable wrap.



The smaller coupling loop is a 2 foot piece of some 14 gauge wire I had hanging around.  I soldered it to a length of RG-8X, and it's held in place with some Velcro cable wraps. I also fastened the RG-8X to the frame with some Velcro cable wraps, as I read that some people were experiencing fluctuating SWRs if the feedline was able to move around, freely.


I had intended to run the coupling loop through the PVC, but the PL-259s are a tight fit and I can't feed the main loop through the PVC Tee piece with the coupling wire already in place, so I had to make a last minute design change.

Once the construction was finished, I brought the loop up to the dining room and set up my KX3 on the dining room table,  I tuned around 20 Meters and heard IQ2WJ calling CQ around 14.030 MHz.  I tuned the capacitor for max noise and then hit the "Tune" button on the KX3.  Much to my surprise, I had hit the sweet spot easily and the KX3 brought the SWR down to 1.1:1 from 1.3:1.  I hadn't been that far off!  I was impressed when IQ2WJ answered my call on the first shot!  I'm sure he probably has a monster antenna system; but I was surprised none-the-less that my RF made it all the way to Italy!

The antenna tuned pretty easily on all bands, 20 through 10 Meters.  On 40 Meters, I wasn't able to get a "max noise" setting.  I think the minimum capacitance of this junk box cap is too much.  The RF Parts capacitor has more range at both ends.  I think it will work better, when I finally get around to finding the proper enclosure for it.

I also found that tuning the capacitor was a bit touchy, but not THAT touchy once you get the hang of it.  There is a definite sweet spot of maximum receive noise and if you miss it, you'll get a higher SWR as a result.  The final capacitor box will not only have the good RF Parts capacitor with broader range, it will also have the 6:1 ball bearing reduction drive that I purchased.  The final box should be real nice, once I get it done. But even with the prototype enclosure and capacitor, I did not find hand capacitance to be a problem.

The question is, will the mag loop replace my Butternut HF9V and my W3EDP?  Definitely not! However, if I ever develop another case of tendinitis in my ankle that makes going down to the basement shack a pain filled nightmare - I'll have a useful alternative that I can set up and use in the living room. Plus, it can also be a useful alternative for portable ops.

The best part is that this will break apart pretty easily and will fit nicely in one of the old gym bags we have hanging around. So in the end, the W2LJ Mag Loop is nowhere near as elegant as the Alex Loop; but is sure was a heckuva a lot cheaper; and I got the satisfaction of building something from scratch that actually worked the fist time I tried it!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!