Thursday, January 31, 2013

80 Meter Fox hunt fun

We had two very good QRP ops serving Fox duty tonight. Dave N1IX in New Hampshire and another Dave, AB9CA in Alabama. Double barrel Daves!

As the hunt began, my gut instinct was to listen for N1IX first. I mean, go figure, right? New Jersey to New Hampshire --- 80 Meters --- in the Winter and at night. No brainer, right?

Right!  But even though Dave N1IX was a relatively easy catch, he wasn't as loud as I thought he would be. I was expecting 599 or better. He ended up being 569/579 at best. But I did get his pelt in my bag, so it was off to hunt for Alabama Dave.

I found him, rather easily, also. However, his signal swung wildly. He was either 559 at best, or was completely in the mud. I ended up having to turn the K3's AGC off so I could hear him decently. The static crashes did wonders for my bleeding ears!

Even though I was able to hear Dave AB9CA throughout, it seemed he just wasn't hearing me.  I kept switching between the HF9V, the W3EDP and the EDZ, but no matter which antenna, nothing seemed to be working. I was considering lighting a signal flare, but that would not have been Kosher.

And Dave must have been having receiving problems also. He went back to several stations, only to have them fade away on him, and forcing him to send them a "nil". And he was also changing his listening frequency often, probably to get away from local QRM and QRN on his end. In all, it made for an interesting time.

But luck was on my side, and with about 15 minutes left in the hunt, Dave finally picked me out of the muck. Conditions were bad enough that I had to repeat my half of the exchange for him once. But in the end, I got a "TU", so all's well that ends well.

QRP - patience and perseverance DO pay off!

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


A hearty thanks to Randy K7AGE and Ken KK4EIR for their comments on regarding my shack clean up.  Each of them mentioned how the metal folding chair that I use must be uncomfortable.

Indeed, they nailed it right on the head.  This thing (on which I am now sitting) is very uncomfortable.  And if I sit too long, my lower back and hips start to complain. So for long operating and building stints, I have to get up and move around, or I will pay for it later.But until they brought that to my attention, I just lived with it and didn't give it too much thought.

So I went to the site and looked at office chairs, and I found this one.

It was available at a very decent price (on special).  I know it's not a super cushy leather job like a Fortune 500 Company CEO would use; but I can't afford one of those.  This is a budget office chair, and I'm on a budget -  I guess it's a match made in Heaven.

I placed an order and am having it delivered to the local Staples here in South Plainfield.  It should be available for pickup on Monday. So I guess I'll just have to tough it out for a few days more.

I put a piece of remnant carpet down where the chair will be so that the casters don't get all mucked up from the concrete floor.  This is turning out better than I thought and I am really starting to enjoy coming down here a lot more than I had before - and I've always enjoyed my shack a lot, even when it was a pig sty.

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rem K6BBQ flashes us

Well, not really!

But as a reminder that this Saturday is Freeze Your Buns Off, he treats us to a flashback of the Flight of the Bumblebees from 2012.

Hey Rem ...... how about a video of the Skeeter Hunt for 2013? (Hint, hint, hint, HINT!!!!!)

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

You call THIS clean ?!?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.

Compared to what it was before, the W2LJ basement shack is now pretty organized.  About a dozen large green garbage bags went out to the trash.  Some was mine; but a lot was some ceramic pieces that I had been storing for my Mom for the last nine years after she moved out of our house and into her apartment.  This shelf was totally filled with boxes of paints and ceramics - now it has radio and electronic items on it.

Those empty firelog boxes come in handy.  One is holding various empty enclosures that I have collected over the years.  The other has my collection of unfinished kits.  I have to sort through those and see if there's any that I want to sell.  But parts tins, egg crates, rolls of wire and cable, cable ties, various parts and pieces all have a neat home now.

I have a relatively uncluttered operating space now; and my little tray table that I use for building is now uncluttered and very usable.  The World Map is new (and slightly smaller than the ARRL one that I had) as is the MFJ LED clock hanging on the wall.  My old Radio Shack one, which was about 20 years old was starting to lose some segments.

Down on the leg of the table is where I placed the new antenna switch.  The old one was on the wall; and I always had to lean forward to make an antenna selection change.  This is much better location now.

I would say that I am about 90% complete.  I need to go to Harbor Freight this weekend and purchase another 40 drawer storage cabinet like you can see in the lower left of the very top picture.  I have a lot of resistors, capacitors, transistors, etc that I have to sort, label and store.  That will take a while; but at least I have a functional uncluttered shack in which to do it now.

Before I left the shack for the evening, I disconnected the antennas from the switch. It reached 65F here today; but tonight we are expecting thunderstorms, 2 inches of rain and very gusty winds (maybe up to 60 MPH).  I don't want to take the chance of either radio getting damaged.

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happy Anniversary !!!

I took the test for my Novice license in November of 1978.  I received my ticket in the mail at the very end of December 1978.  I remember that I was sitting, taking a break from my job at the camera store where I was working.  We were having a post-Christmas sale and it had been a frantic day. My Mom had called to tell me that I had received the vaunted envelope from the FCC and that my call was KA2DOH. Between that time and my very first QSO, I was occupied with putting my station together.

For some reason, in my mind, I always remember my first QSO as having taken place on January 29th, 1979.  But a look in Logbook Number One reveals the date as January 28th, 1979 - so the 34th anniversary of my very first QSO was yesterday!

As I recall, that was a Sunday afternoon and it was 2110 UTC, so that would have been 4:10 PM local time - yep, that's just about right.  And my victim ....... er, QSO partner was Adam KA9CIH.

As far as I can tell, Adam is no longer active or even licensed. KA9CIH doesn't come up at, nor does it come up at N4MC's Vanity Headquarters. A search on his name returns nothing, either.

From my log, I can see that was the only contact I made that day.  I guess I was so petrified from that initial 20 minute QSO, that I didn't go near the radio for the rest of the day!

The station in my bedroom at my parent's house consisted of a Drake 2NT transmitter attached to a Globe VFO (by 1978, Novices were no longer constricted to being crystal controlled.)  This used VFO had a cable coming out of it that had a crystal base soldered to it.  So not knowing any better, I just plugged that into the 2NT's crystal socket.  I didn't blow myself up and it worked!  The Drake 2NT was my parent's Christmas gift to me that year.  They purchased it (under my direction, as a result of several well placed hints) from the used equipment list from Burghardt Amateur Supply.

My receiver was a Heathkit HR-1680, which I had bought and built myself. My camera store salary was allowing me to make "OK" money at the time.  I wasn't getting rich; but I was able to afford a few hobby items here and there. (Still ain't rich to this day!) The purchase and construction of the HR-1680 was the reason for the month's delay between receiving my ticket and actually getting on the air.

My antenna was a wire that stretched from my bedroom window to our unattached garage, ran through an insulator there, bent at a sharp angle and was anchored at another second story window on a different side of the house (imagine a slightly sloping horizontal "V").  I soldered a piece of coax to the end of the wire - center conductor to the "long wire" and the shield I connected to the cast iron radiator in my room.  The radio end of the coax went to an MFJ tuner.  I switched between the transmitter and receiver using a double throw knife switch.  That this "Rube Goldberg" mash up worked was a miracle; and the fact that I made contacts at all was an even bigger miracle.

I worked all the Novice subbands available to me on 80, 40, 15 and 10 Meters.  There were times that the old MFJ tuner would spark and hiss at me on 80; but I had a ball, anyway.  To this day, I have the feeling that if I went back in time and saw that set up, knowing what I know now, I would probably shake my head and tell my younger self how crazy I was.

I look at my log and see how I logged EVERYTHING - unanswered CQs and all.  But that was good because looking at it now brings back so many vivid memories.  I upgraded from the 2NT a few months later to a Kenwood T599D after my Globe VFO crapped out.  I had the Heathkit and Kenwood setup until I ordered and built my Heathkit SB-104A. I distinctly remember soldering SB-104A boards while watching the 1980 Winter Olympics on TV.

I upgraded to General on June 2nd of 1979.  I'll never forget THAT day.  Somehow, the Morristown, NJ Club had gotten the FCC to come to their hamfest to give exams.  I wasn't about to miss the grand opportunity of taking my General test without having to travel to Manhattan, even though I was sick as a dog that day with about a 102 fever.  And it was sweltering outside that day to boot, and to make matters worse, the hamfest and exams took place in the UN-air conditioned Morristown Armory. I was in no condition to drive; and somehow I wangled my sister into driving me, waiting for me and driving me back home.  But in a strange way, I think being sick was a help, as I was feeling so lousy that I didn't have the normal pre-test "jitters". They graded the tests right then and there, and I was told I passed and was given the AG designator so that I could use my new privileges immediately.

I don't have a copy of my Novice license; but I still have my General license.

Looking further at my log, I see that I made very few A3 QSOs after upgrading.  I discovered the hard way, by the ire of my family, that SSB screwed up the TV - royally!  I pretty much stayed with CW with only occasional "very late hours" phone QSOs.  And I couldn't stay up too late as I was a working man - so the overwhelming majority of my QSOs (roughly 95 -97%) have been CW since that original one back on January 28th, 1979.

Ahh ..... the sweet, sweet memories!

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

Friday, January 25, 2013

Waxing nostalgaic

I posted the other day about the Novice sub bands and how a lot of us got our feet wet there and paid our dues there.  There is a really great Website about the history of the Novice license. You can find it at the Novice Historical Society.

The Novice Class license was issued for a period of almost 50 years, from 1951 until 2000. There are a lot of good stories and photographs in there, and I'm sure if you entered the ranks as a Novice, you will enjoy what you see there. It will bring back a lot of memories, perhaps summed up the best by the following line (not sure right now which Ham said it):

"We didn't know any better and we were having the time of our lives!"

A lot of names and calls of some prominent QRPers show up in the list there.

If you didn't become a Ham as a Novice, you should go take a look see and read some really good stories to get a feel of what it was like.

On the other hand, if you WERE a Novice and you haven't posted your Novice story - please consider doing so!  The stories make for great reading and this truly was an era of Amateur Radio which will never be duplicated.  It deserves to be preserved for posterity.

Oh, and while I'm talking about nostalgia, I got a link through K6MM's Website - television commercials from the 1950s and 1960s.  Take a look and see how many you can remember - I was able to recall quite a few!

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

Thursday, January 24, 2013

160 Meter fun

Instead of chasing 80 Meter Foxes, I decided to make an effort in the NAQCC 160 Meter Sprint that was held tonight.  Boy, am I glad I did!

Up until now, I really haven't had anything that loaded up well on 160 Meters.  When I had my G5RV, it would load on 160 Meters; but barely and you could sure tell the radio wasn't happy about it.

The 88' EDZ is about the same. It will load up on 160 Meters; but the autotuner in the K3 takes a painfully long time to achieve a match. And then, if you decide to change frequency - even just a hair, the autotuner begs to be re-tuned.

The W3EDP, however?  I hit the autotune button and within what seems to be about a second and a half, I get a tiny little "BRRRRP" and a 1.1:1 match.  And I can tune around quite a bit without the radio complaining.  I know it's not the ideal solution for 160 Meters; but it has allowed me to make more 160 Meter contacts in one night than I have in all my 34 years of operating combined.  Seriously, before tonight, I think my total QSO count on 160 Meters was maybe 3 .... 4 - maybe 5 at most?

I made 17 contacts tonight, my best DX being North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Ontario.  Not bad for 5 Watts to a compromise antenna, eh? OK, so the W3EDP won't earn me WAS or DXCC on 160 Meters, but at least now I have another band I can go to when other bands seem dead.

And my good friend Charles W2SH sent me an e-mail the other day, informing me about a book soon to come out from the ARRL on 160 Meter antennas, specifically for those of us who are real estate challenged.  That is a must buy for me once the NJ Hamfest season starts back up again in March.

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning things

I have heard it said that everyone learns differently.  That is most likely true; but I am living proof that even one single person can learn things in different ways - namely the easy way and the hard way.

The weather today in NJ has been really cold.  When I woke up this morning, it was 15F (-9C) outside.  As I returned home from work tonight, it was 16F (-8C).  It's a very clear night with the Moon and Jupiter shining brightly in the sky. I will not be surprised if we get down into the single digits tonight.

Why do I bring this up?  Because of a lesson learned the hard way.

When I was a kid, I spent my summers at the grocery store that my Dad and my uncle owned.  It was a small, family owned "Mom and Pop" kind of place.  The entire width of our store probably wouldn't amount to more than three aisles in a supermarket of today.

We sold groceries and meats.  My Dad and my uncles were butchers as well as grocers.  From the age of 7 and up, I worked most of my summer vacation time at our store, stocking shelves.  When I got to be a teenager, I wanted to graduate from shelf stocking to butchering.  My Dad was reluctant and was never thrilled with the idea; but I bugged him until he taught me.  My last several summers of working at the store involved stocking shelves; but I also got to cut cold cuts, make chopped meat, bone out cuts of beef, pork and veal for kielbasa stuffing, among other things.  But perhaps the toughest job of all was when chickens came in.  We were a dealer for Perdue chickens - fresh chickens that were packed in ice - never frozen.  When the whole chickens came in, I was given the delightful job of removing the livers and necks.  They came packed in wax paper inside the chickens, exactly the same way that giblets and necks come delivered inside your Thanksgiving turkey.  But imagine if you will, removing the livers and necks from many dozens of ice cold chickens, all in one sitting. After a while, I couldn't even feel my hands as they were numbed by the ice cold chicken flesh.  And of course, it had to be done this way, because you couldn't let the chickens warm up.

My point?  I had to learn the hard way, what my Dad tried to tell me.  Stick your hands in cold meat for a long enough time and you're going to develop arthritis in your hands.  By the time my Dad retired, his hands were pretty disfigured.  He never removed his wedding band, but even if had wanted to, his knuckles were so permanently swollen and his fingers were so crooked, that it would have been an impossibility.  And now, when it get this cold, MY hands feel like two giant toothaches, even with Thinsulate gloves on.  I didn't butcher meat for anywhere near as long as he did; but those 5 - 7 summers were enough. Now I will suffer with "mildly" arthritic hands for the rest of my life - a lesson learned the hard way.

But, I'm not hopeless!  I can learn things the easy way, too.  And I was reminded of that when I read Jim W1PID’s post on this afternoon – “Around The World for Morning Tea” and I was transported back to my youth.  It was stories similar to this that reinforced my desire to become an Amateur Radio operator as a kid.

Travelling the world from a room (in my case, my bedroom) had an appeal that did not fade with time.  A seed was planted that grew to fruition in my very early 20s, when I earned my Novice ticket back in 1978.

I am very glad for that Novice ticket, because it turned out to be learning "the easy way" (relatively speaking).  My intention from “the get-go” was to get on the HF bands.  The Technician class existed back then, too; but held no appeal to me.  For me, Amateur Radio meant getting on the air with the possibility of communicating anywhere around the world.  Whether what actually occurred was communicating down the street or around the state didn't matter, as long as that possibility also included talking to far away places on the globe remained.  The Novice ticket filled the bill, and thanks to good Elmers who taught me, I was able to procure my license with the least amount of frustration.

I am very grateful for the Novice sub bands that existed at the time.  There were very small slices of 80, 40, 15 and 10 Meters where we were allowed to prowl.  Of course, it was CW only but that and the frequency limitations were our only limitations!  There was plenty of DX to be had and I got my share.

I worked Hams of just about every license class that visited our Novice sections in those days. But of course the majority of other stations worked were other Novices.  We “grew up” together, we learned together, we made the same mistakes together, we honed our skills together.  For most of us, upgrading was our reason for being. And, most importantly, when we upgraded and discovered that VHF/UHF wasn't the end all and be all of Amateur Radio, we had our HF skills to fall back on.  We were literally eased in to the operating habits and skills required by the higher class licencees.

I often wonder how the loss of that introductory Novice class has affected Amateur Radio in the United States.  I suppose I could research trends and numbers that have occurred since.  But in my heart, I think the impact has not beneficial.  Thankfully, we have a lot of good Elmers out there who are willing to pass on what they have learned, whether by teaching classes, or producing learning materials and software, it is still possible to learn how to be a Ham "the easy way" - not stumbling around by yourself in the dark.

But I still wonder if having the Novice ticket and the Novice sub bands (or something like it) might be an effective tool to avoid the problem of new Hams who find themselves in that "VHF/UHF rut", and get tired and disenchanted, only to never bother to further explore the varied possibilities of this wonderful hobby.

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

What a difference a day makes

As we go from Spring back to Winter.  Yesterday we had a high temperature in the low 50s. Today's high was in the low 30s. There's a chance for a light dusting of snow tonight. High temperatures for the next three or four days are not supposed to even make the freezing mark.

I started the big shack clean up this weekend and got maybe a third of the way done - well, maybe a little less.  Step one is tossing out all the junk that's useless and has no value. Step two will involve reorganizing what I keep. Step three will be to take care of whatever odds and ends are needed.

As expected, I have found a few items that I had looked for in the past, but was never able to find. "Oh, so THAT'S where that was!" I said that a couple times.

Hopefully, if I get a little bit done each night, I should be able to finish this next weekend. Going forward, I really have to avoid the hoarder mindset where I think that I will use every scrap that I save. If it's not of really useful value, from here on out, it gets tossed.

I had a modicum of success on last night's Run For The Bacon. The bands were pretty dead. Not sure if that was due to bad propagation, or if everyone was tuckered out from the NFC playoffs. I managed 7 QSOs - two on 40 Meters and five on 80 Meters. As usual, that puts me solidly in the middle of the pack.

Oh, I took a closer look at that "no-name" antenna switch that I had been using, and now I know why the Butternut performed so badly when it was connected to it. It turns out the SO239 connector was not soldered well and only "partial" contact was being made. I guess there is some mighty fine junk out there that is not MFJ!

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

Boy Scouts and Amateur Radio

From the ARRL Website:

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has approved an Amateur Radio Operator rating strip for Scouts and Scouters to wear on their uniforms. According to BSA Communication Services Director Jim Wilson, K5ND, the strip recognizes the Scout or Scouter’s availability as an Amateur Radio operator for communication services for events and activities, as well as emergencies. All registered youth members and adult leaders who also hold a valid FCC-issued Amateur Radio license of any class are eligible to wear the rating strip.

“Last year, the BSA Awards and Insignia Committee introduced the Morse Code Interpreter Strip upon the recommendation of the BSA’s National Radio Scouting Committee,” Wilson told the ARRL. “We are always looking for ways to promote Amateur Radio, both within Scouting and to the world. The National Radio Scouting Committee thought this new Amateur Radio rating strip was a wonderful way to do exactly that, as it readily identifies to everyone that the wearer is a licensed radio amateur, prepared to be useful and to help others.”

Wilson, who heads up the National Radio Scouting Committee, said that the Amateur Radio Operator rating strip is similar to the Amateur Radio Operator badge offered as a proficiency badge by Scouts Australia, as well as the badge recently introduced by Scouting Netherlands. It follows in the footsteps of the Scout Radioman personal interest badge for Senior Scouts and Explorer Scouts that was offered by the Boy Scouts of America in the 1940s. The strip is worn on the right sleeve.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Antenna switch

I played in the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunt tonight and was quite successful. I ended up bagging both pelts, but it was a close call.

Jim N0UR in MN was first in the bag and was pretty easy. He was using the "standard" 1 kHz "up" split and it was just a matter of working him.

Ray K9XE in IL was another matter. Ray was loud, but was buried under some even louder local QRN. I wasn't getting a feel for hearing Ray, no matter how I adjusted the K3. With time running out, I decided to switch on over to the KX3. Both radios are new to me, but over the past few months I have acquainted myself with the KX3 just a bit more.

In a matter of minutes, using the Dual Watch feature, and by adjusting the passband tuning, I was able to isolate Ray's signal. I was also able to determine his split via Dual Watch, as mentioned before, and nabbed his fur with six minutes to go.

There are various reasons that I prefer the K3 as my main station rig. One of the best features, for me, is the built in antenna switch. I can switch between the vertical and the wires in an instant, and use whichever antenna is best suited for the job.

The KX3 only has the single antenna input. To switch between all my antennas, I will have to acquire a better antenna switch than what I currently have. I am thinking of perhaps a Daiwa or a Diamond. In the past, I had been using a no name, bargain brand switch with my K2. Quite by accident, I had found out that when I removed my Butternut from the antenna switch, and connected the vertical directly, the difference was like night and day. Due to the poor quality of that particular switch, it was as if I had an attenuator in line. Needless to say, that switch got tossed. The remaining one that I am using now, is better quality but only has two positions - I need at least three.

I think a Diamond or Daiwa will do a better job and will allow me to use the KX3 more often from the shack. It's a great rig for Fox hunting!

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Out of practice

I had a meeting that I had to attend this evening, but it concluded quite a bit earlier than I had anticipated. I was home by 8:00 PM, so I took the opportunity to participate in the monthly NAQCC sprint tonight. Something I haven't done in probably over a year.

I am way out of practice!!!  In the past, I would sit down for this contest and I would routinely bang out anywhere from 25 - 40 contacts. Tonight, I feel fortunate to have made 17. That's way down from my old normal.

And it just goes to show that if you want to succeed in a QRP sprint, or any other radio contest, for that matter, that it takes practice. Radio Sport, as our European friends call it, is not just something that you can sit down and "do".

It takes practice and a plan. In the old days, I would stake out a clear frequency and run stations. Tonight, I pretty much just searched and pounced. Not the most efficient for running up a score. I never got into a rhythm and the results show.

I will have to get back into the habit of participating in the "Big Three" each month - the ARS Spartan Sprint, the Run for the Bacon, and the NAQCC Sprint. Now that's the way to seriously fill up your logbook!

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

The Buddies DXpedition to the Caribbean

From Steve WGØAT on Facebook:

It's that time of year again! Members of the Buddies in the Caribbean 2013 (Team #1) will mount a mini-DXpedition to Barbados (8P6) 29 Jan 2013 thru 6 Feb 2013.

The Buddipole teamwhich specializes in 100 watt or less low power radios and the Buddipole portable antenna systems will have fixed operations from a ocean villa and portable operations from various points on the island using CW, SSB, and digital modes on 160-10m.

The team consists of the following operators: Chris (W6HFP), Budd (W3FF), Danny (WZ1P), Steve (wG0AT), Mike (KC4VG), Guy (N7UN), Paul (KB9AVO),and Wey-Bob (K8EAB). We all have received our 8P9 callsigns.

QSL via LoTW, eQSL, or mail to operator's home call (SASE required). See QRZ for individual's specific QSL instructions.

Sure would like to be able to join 'em!

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Not to be tonight

Pepe' le Pew was my companion in the 40 Meter QRP Fox hunt tonight.  I was not successful in working either Fox - WA4ILO or K4AXF.

Conditions on 40 Meters were very long. I was able to hear Hounds from WY, TX, NM, OK and CO quite well. While I did not hear K4AXF in Virginia at all, I was able to hear WA4ILO in Georgia for about 15 minute's worth of the 90 minute hunt. Jim went from ESP to 229, to about 339 at best and then quickly back down to ESP for the balance of the hunt.

I have been batting .500 or better so far this season. This is going to set my average back. Hope I don't go into a slump!

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

Well deserved

Reading the January 2013 edition of WorldRadio Online, I was happy to see that Rich Fisher KI6SN, featured Jim Cluett W1PID in his “Trail-Friendly Radio” Column (WorldRadio Online, January 2013, pp 23-25).  In his column, Rich recalls one of Jim’s many hikes to Knox Mountain, this one occurring in the Winter months of 2011.  Jim and his neighbor Hans, W1JSB cross country skied to the mountain and back; and did their usual QRP operating while they were at their cabin refuge.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I enjoy QRP.  For me, it is the hallmark of my Amateur Radio experience.  Every QSO, whether it be with a Ham across town, or with a Ham across the world is a unique and enjoyable experience.  I am constantly and consistently amazed at the ability of a few Watts of RF energy and how it can travel the world. Fortunately, I never take the phenomena for granted and QRP continues to be a delight, even after all these years.

However, when you operate QRP from the outdoors, you take that enjoyment and multiply it many fold. Indeed, as if the experience can’t become even better – it can.  In my most humble opinion, there is nothing finer and more rewarding than taking a radio, a piece of wire and a battery to someplace “remote” and making contact with someone, somewhere – all the time enjoying the beauty of nature that surrounds you.

And while that may mean going to a mountain top ala’ Jim W1PID, Hans W1JSB, Steve WG0AT, Guy N7UN, Martin VA3SIE or a host of others, it doesn't need to be so “grand” a proposition.  While your ideal QRP portable dream may be to operate from the rim of the Grand Canyon, or while overlooking the majesty of the Smokey Mountains or the Grand Tetons, it can be also be as simple as going to a local park, or even your own back yard.  The sun on your arms and the breeze in your face, while simultaneously wearing a set of ear buds and pounding out Morse, or talking into a microphone isn't as incongruous as the uninitiated might first suppose.  For some the “minimalist approach” doesn't  necessarily mean using the simplest of transmitters and receivers, so much as it means enjoying the challenge of setting up an effective station in the most simple of settings.

Perhaps this is the reason that QRPers have so many outdoor events to choose from during the year.  Whether it be FYBO, QRP to the Field, QRP Afield, The Flight of the Bumblebees, the Skeeter hunt, or whatever your favorite QRP outdoor operating event happens to be – it seems the QRP community has “gotten it” and as a whole, enjoys the experience of getting out of the shack and communing with nature, if even for just a bit.

I am so happy that this aspect of Amateur Radio is so closely associated with the QRP community.  While your average every day “Joe Ham” might get out into nature for Field Day or a DXpediton or perhaps a Special Event station, QRPers in general take delight (and pains) in making the uncommon a very commonplace event.  And that’s why, when I see articles like KI6SN’s series on Trail-Friendly Radio, or videos posted to YouTube like Steve WGØAT and Martin VA3SIE do, it really makes me smile – and gets my juices flowing.

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

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Something new

I did something new tonight. I had my first QSO on the 60 Meter band.

I saw an article on the ARRL's Website that gave the frequencies for the centers of each "channel", so I thought I would give it a go. Plus the fact that I wanted to do something other than take part in the NAQP.

So I called CQ on "channel 3", which is 5.3585 MHz. I was answered by Dick W3ORU who was 599 plus into NJ. He gave me a nice report, also. We had a nice chat until the dinner call came. Dick gave me the lowdown on what I can expect to see on the band.

Definitely not used to the " channel" concept, but I had a nice time, anyway. I am looking forward to more QSOs on 60 Meters.

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

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hobby Lobby and Home Depot

Will be two destinations on my agenda for the weekend.

On, where this blog is "re-posted", Ed AD7GR planted the seed about constructing my own single lever paddle.  Take a look at his work here.

I do not have the tools necessary to fabricate a key on the order of his.  What beautiful work and craftsmanship!

But maybe for a few bucks I can buy some items and come up with a simple (keyword, there) serviceable single lever paddle on my own.  It may not look the best and may not work as beautifully as something crafted by Ed or Rich, WB9LPU (whom I admire greatly) - but there is something to be said for the journey of starting and following through on the attempt.

Who knows, maybe I'll learn a thing or two or three or four in the process (undoubtedly).  I already have some ideas that I will incorporate from various home brew single lever paddles that I have investigated via Google on the Web.  Maybe I'll name my rendition the Franken-key or something like that.

I will keep you all posted with full descriptions and photos - be it a success or a failure.

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

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Recommendations, please!

Real short post tonight, but I am looking for some feedback.

I want to acquire a single lever paddle. Who do you think makes the best one?


Which model?

Thanks in advance and 72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Holy Backlog, Batman!

I must admit that I didn't pay too much attention to the recent and various comments on the e-mail reflectors about Log Of The World.  I use it, but I only upload a few times a year, so I don't really concern myself with it too much.

I uploaded a big batch of QSOs tonight and I see that my log will probably be processed in about 9 days. 9 days!  Wow!  It used to be a couple of minutes to an hour.  I'm glad I don't live by my seat of the pants for LOTW, like some guys do. That would be a real stomach acid producer.

Delving into another topic ....... comments on the blog.  All comments to this blog are moderated for spam, as you know.  Blogger used to be really good with filtering out spam comments.  For those of you who don't use Blogger, when moderation is used, comments go into one of two files - "Comments Awaiting Moderation" for legitimate comments, or "Spam" for spam (oddly enough).

It seems that lately more and more spammers are getting sophisticated enough to figure out how to get spam comments past Blogger's filters.  I am seeing a dramatic increase of spam comments in the "Awaiting Moderation" folder.  An easy way for me to manually filter the "Awaiting Moderation" folder is to look for comments with a name or call sign.  I will check those off and publish them. The one thing common to all spam comments is that they are left by "Anonymous".  So if you want to leave a comment, please attach your call or name. Otherwise it's going to be deleted.  There are literally close to 50 or 60 spam comments generated a day - and that's just what I find in the "Awaitng Moderation" folder.  There are lots more in the "Spam" folder and they are mostly for counterfeit knock off products from clothing to pharmaceuticals   They all get deleted and they are all left by that "Anonymous" guy.

My Pig Rig kit got delivered yesterday.  A small box - about the size of a 3 or 4 inch cube arrived from  Yeah, I know ...... I have a KX3 and a K3 - what do I need a Pig Rig for?  Why, to build, of course!  Accuweather is saying that the temps are supposed to drop like a stone next week and that for the East Coast, the cold Winter weather may start in earnest and hang around for a bit.  Looks like I'll just have to keep warm by the emanations of my soldering iron.

Oh, but first I have to clean out the shack!  8-)

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

Monday, January 07, 2013


I was playing around with my logging program tonight and updated the "QRP DXCC Tally" on my operating page.  The last entry I had put on there was the Isle of Man back in March of 2011.  I have worked about 15 new DXCC entities since then via QRP - bringing my total up to 125 worked with 5 Watts or less.

I am sure you guys could do way better than that!  I am just a dial twiddler and pretty much work DX when I come across it by chance, or during a DX contest.

If you're a dedicated DXer, who makes use of the PacketClusters and all that kind of thing, you could probably complete QRP DXCC and more in a calendar year.

But whether your an old fashioned dial turner like me; or use the latest and greatest technology to find DX, DXCC is very feasible using 5 Watts or less.

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

Sunday, January 06, 2013

I feel like the frog

who was in the pot of water, that little by little got warmer and warmer until it was boiling.

I was sitting in the shack having a QSO with Greg KD5EW on 15 Meters when I turned around and took a good look at my surroundings. How did it get this bad? How did this part of the basement become such a mess?

Beginning during the weeknights after work, and continuing next weekend, I am determined to clean this space up and make it more functional again.

It will be interesting to see how many things I find that I forgot about and didn't realize that I have.

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

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Never too early - less than a month away!

Happy Three Kings or Epiphany - and to our Orthodox brothers and sisters, Merry Christmas!

Now that the Christmas season is approaching its end (next weekend for Roman Catholics), it's not too early to start to think about the inaugural outdoor QRP event for 2013 ........

Freeze Your Buns (or Butt, if you prefer) Off - which should be held the first Saturday of February - the 2nd, which is also Groundhog Day.  So you can freeze your body parts off operating in the Arizona ScQRPions QRP sprint, while simultaneously keeping an eye peeled for groundhogs!

There hasn't been any official notice of any rule changes for 2013; so if you'd like a refresher on the rules that were used last year, click here.

Last year I made 11 contacts using my PFR3A and the Buddistick on top of the car, and the temperature when I started was 45F (7C).  Accuweather is predicting colder than normal temperatures for the second half of January and all of February.  That would be good for a better multipler; but not so great, comfort wise.

Let's hope that it's not like THIS, that day! Or worse yet .... like it was the day before!

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

Thursday, January 03, 2013

More portable QRP antenna thoughts

Harry K7ZOV left this comment on - thought I would re-post it here (for those of you who might not visit that fine site).

"I was in TX for the holidays. I brought 2 antennas. But used only one with both my TenTec Eagle and my KX3. No counterpoise. No Ground. 20 ft of coax. Worked 80-6 with the KX3 internal ATU. Worked Cuba, South America to Canada. The West coast from the far east side of Texas and lots of States.

Check out the link for more detail. Oh and the “wire” part was only a bit over 50 ft and hanging from a tree at about 30 ft at the highest point and 10 feet at the lowest point. My favorite antenna now.. LINK:

For a 40 meter and 20 meter only… Here is a second link:

Have fun and 73 one and all

Harry K7ZOV"

Thanks, Harry - great links to EFHW antennas that you can buy or build.

And here's another thought - although I have never used them, I do have friends who have had great success with small magnetic loop antennas.  Not only are they great for portable ops (WGØAT uses one) but they are also great for those of you who are antenna restricted.  A friend of mine here in NJ thought his Hamming days were over when he moved into an apartment that was constructed from materials that in essence, created a live-in Faraday shield.  He started using magnetic loops and was shortly working DX again at QRP power levels from inside the apartment!

You might also want to check out the Yo-Yo-tennas that Bill WA8MEA sells - they look pretty good for taking out to the field -, if you're not inclined to "roll your own".

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

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Antennas for portable QRP ops

I seem to get requests from time to time, to bring up this topic on the blog.  I can only speak for what has worked well for me.  There are as many number of solutions to this as there are QRPers who like to go out into the field, and I have only tried a relatively minor few.

The first thing to consider is what kind of portable operator are you?  Some of us are “Time is precious! Let’s get on the air and operate!”  If you’re one of these (like me!) then you are interested in ease and quickness of deployment.  The faster up, the faster I can get on the air.  Although antenna efficiency is important to you, it is not your primary concern.  You don’t want to be pumping RF into a string of wet pasta; but you want to spend your day outdoors operating – not finagling with antennas.

 For this type of operator (and I belong to this species) I have two recommendations:

 1 – EFHW antennas.  Basically, a piece of wire that is a half wavelength of the band you intend to operate.  A matching device or counterpoise is needed.  There are oodles of articles on EFHW antennas.  The best seem to be treatises by Steve Yates AA5TB and Joe Everhardt N2CX.  Google “EFHW” along with their call signs and you will get there.  If rolling your own doesn’t appeal to you, you can also purchase commercial versions. LNR Precision markets perhaps the best known models, the PAR ENDFEDZ series.

The name says it all - “End fed” – meaning needing only one support.  Basically, you throw a bottle (or some other weighted object) into a tree to get a hoist line over a branch, attach one end of the wire to the hoist line  and pull it up.  The other end connects to the matching device or your radio and you are good to go.  It’s simple, uncomplicated, and works well.  If you read any of Jim W1PID’s blog posts on, you will see the resounding success that this type of antenna can provide.

Personally, I use the PAR ENDFEDZ 10/20/40, which will allow me to operate on those three bands without changing radiators.  If you want to operate on a different band, you can change the radiator wire.  The PAR comes with a chart that tells you, for each band,  how long a piece of wire to use with their match box

2 – Compact verticals.  What do you do if there are no supports?  A Buddistick or a PAC12 antenna could be the solution for you.  Both of these are basically the same idea.  A compact vertical which uses a tapped coil to make up for the fact that you are not deploying a full sized vertical.  You will have to bring a ground spike or small tripod or some other self improvised arrangement to deploy one of these.  You will need to use either radials (as recommended for the PAC12) or a counterpoise wire (as provided with the Buddistick).  This is not a true counterpoise, per se, but is more the “other half” of the vertical dipole that you are using.

Set up is relatively quick; but not as quick as the EFHW, especially if you are good in tossing bottles over tree branches!  It takes time to deploy the radials in the case of the PAC12 and the amount of “counterpoise wire” used with the Buddistick is critical.  The length will affect the SWR of your installation.  For both of these, it is handy to bring along a small antenna analyzer along (such as one of the Auteks) to help you tune the antenna rather quickly.

There is another way to deploy one of these compact verticals, which was brought to my attention by Bob W3BBO.  It worked well for him when he was living in an apartment for a while, and I used it and in turn, discovered that it worked well for me, too.  Instead of using a tripod, painter’s pole, ground spike, or whatever as a support for these compact verticals, you can instead attach the vertical to some kind of mount and attach it to your car.  I use one of those Lakeview tri-mag mounts.  Attach the vertical to that, pop it on the top of the car and go to town.  Yes, you have to find the best place to tap the coil, but the car acts as a great groundplane and there’s no need to fuss with counterpoises or radials.  It has worked well enough to garner DXCC and WAS for W3BBO while he was apartment living.  I have used this arrangement during outdoor QRP sprints and while on vacation and have had surprisingly good results.  This is NOT to be used while your vehicle is in motion however – strictly stationery mobile!

As a side note, I have used Hamsticks which are kind of related to this.  They are quicker to deploy than either a Buddistick or PAC12 plunked on your car.  However, you have to have a different radiator for each band that you intend to operate on. And my feeling (and I have no empirical proof to back this claim up, so take it with a grain of salt) is that Hamsticks are less efficient and even more of a compromise than a Buddistick or PAC12.

Now if you have a lot of time to operate, or if maximum efficiency is a concern to you, you have other solutions that you can pick from.   In instances like these, you might want to use a dipole or doublet, made from lighter weight materials.  Say you’re going camping for a week and there are plenty of tall trees available – why not?  Even if you decide to use one of these as a sloper, you’ll need to keep the low end roughly six feet off the ground for safety reasons.  You don’t want any unaware pedestrians walking into your wires! So you will need TWO supports - if you use heavier materials - then maybe even three.

I have made 44 and 88 foot versions of the Norcal Doublet.  I have made them both out of ribbon cable and speaker wire.  The ribbon cable is way lighter; but the speaker wire seems hardier. I have used the speaker wire just like the ribbon cable – that is, as feeder and radiator all-in-one.  What can I tell you?  They work well.  Not as efficient as a dipole fed by open line wire or coax; but well enough for temporary operations. The only thing is that you need two trees, ideally, and you need to get the wire up as high as you can.  Other than that, they will get you one the air.

There’s a good series on YouTube, by GB Hoyt  on deploying W3EDP antennas.  I have one of these as one of my permanent station antennas. There’s absolutely no reason that one can’t be made from light weight materials and taken out in the field.  It is a great multiband antenna and requires a balun and a tuner; but it is an option.

This is by no means an exhaustive or authoritative list. I am sure there are many, many more options available to you – limited perhaps, only by your imagination.  But what I have listed here is what I have tried and they have worked well for me.

Here is a good resource:

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

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Today was a lot of fun

Well, actually last night AND today were a lot of fun!  And there's more to go tonight as the 40 Meter QRP Fox hunts start up again tonight.

I ended up working only three stations last night. First, I had a quick 2X QRP QSO with Dave NE5DL down in Texas on 20 Meters to start SKN off.  That was followed by two rag chews. The first was on 40 Meters with N4LZY, Jerry in Tennessee and was followed by a chew with K3OWZ, John in PA.  John was  using a Heathkit Apache and a National NC303 receiver.  Good stuff!

I was on the air off and on for a good portion of today. I worked Dan SM5IMO in Sweden, and had a nice chat with John VE1BA in Nova Scotia.  John was running three Watts and had a killer signal into NJ.  That was followed up by a nice chat with another John - K4BAI in Georgia.  John and I meet up in the QRP sprints and the Fox hunts.  John is a "Ham's Ham" and a gentleman to boot.  It's always extremely nice hooking up with K4BAI.

I worked Dave K3Y/2 on 40 Meters.  LOUD signal into New Jersey from New York state.

The I had an experience that was unique.  I was working Stan AEØSL on 20 Meters when the band kicked out on us and we both faded away into the QSB.  From there, I jumped on up to 17 Meters and worked VP2MRV in Montserrat.  After finishing up with Nao, I began to tune around 17 Meters and whom should my wandering ears hear calling CQ?  None other than Stan AEØSL, who I had just worked only minutes before on 20 Meters.  He was much, much louder on 17 Meters and we were able to finish up our busted QSO.  Now how many times has that happened to you?  Dare I say - not many?

I then finished up my afternoon by busting a small pileup to work K1GI/VP9 in Bermuda.  A pileup for Bermuda you ask?  Well, yes.  There were hardly ANY signals on 17 Meters, so in this instance, even Bermuda was like chum to a shark.

Last night and today, the majority of my Morse was sent with my Vibroplex Original that I restored a few years back.  I was surprised how quickly I was able to send decent  presentable code.  It's like the old adage about riding a bicycle - that once you learn, you never forget.  I didn't sound atrocious to the point that I was embarrassed to be using it; because believe me, if I was that bad I would not have subjected anyone's ears to a bad cacophony of dits and dahs.  Also, the Reverse Beacon Network was picking up my CQs, so the skimmers were able to decode my sending.  And if the computers were able to figure it out, then a real live Ham should have had even less trouble.

It's been a long time since I've had the opportunity to spend so much of a day in the shack, behind the radio. I thoroughly enjoyed it and could get quite used to it, given the chance.

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

Happy New Year!

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