Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Home Depot and antennas

 Home Depot is a home improvement store. What's that got to do with antennas - right?

Actually a lot. In fact, I'll be going there sometime in the next few days to buy some wire. I am going to futz around with an extended W3EDP over this coming weekend. This is how a standard W3EDP is built.

I am going to build one with the radiator wire that shoots off from the ladder line for 85 feet instead of 67 feet. This will load up on 160 Meters better than the one I am using now. I get decent results on 160 Meters with my "standard" W3EDP, but I am hoping to get better results with this new one. I recently ordered a 4:1 current balun from Gigaparts. Some wire from Home Depot is on my list. Hopefully, I'll get some decent weather to put it up over the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend.

Other things from Home Depot that you can use for antennas are things like electrical enclosures for balun boxes, PVC for various antenna supports and the like. But what do you think you can use one of these for?

A 5 gallon paint bucket? What can you possibly use these for anything to do with antennas? Something I never considered, but my good friend Dave KD2FSI had the vision to think of. Actually, it's not the bucket itself, but the lid. Dave used the lid to come up with these:

He looked at the lid and how he figured this out, I'll never know! He cut out a circular part of the lid and turned it into a "flower". He made cuts and the little circular punches in order to prevent the plastic from cracking. When you alternately bend the "petals" in opposite directions, you now have a storage device for your wire antennas. Dave made me two,  a smaller one for my PAR ENDFEDZ and a larger one for my MFJ-1982LP that I used for Field Day and will use for the Skeeter Hunt. Look how nicely that stores! And it will now fit into my portable ops backpack much more nicely.

I wish I had the vision to think of things like this. You could sit me in a room with one of these buckets for a hundred years, and I'd never envision what Dave saw in a couple of minutes. That's just one of the things that I admire about him. He sees and find solutions to Amateur Radio problems that I'd never even consider.

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

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Field Day - a mixed bag!

(Editor's Note - This post has been edited and supplemented. I have it on good authority that the author was half asleep while writing on Sunday afternoon. LOL!) 


I am starting to write this as I take a brief respite from Field Day. I've come home from our Field Day site to take a shower and go to 9:00 AM Mass this morning. I will head back after to finish out the day.

Yesterday was definitely a mixed bag. We fought the bands, but we also fought the elements. There was supposedly only a 20% chance of rain for yesterday, but I guess that 20% headed to the front of the line. We had intermittent downpours several times during the day. We had four 10 X 10 pop up canopies placed in a row to form a huge 10 X 40 foot tent, so gladly, the operators and equipment stayed dry. However, we lined the open sides of the pop ups with a huge tarp to form sides ..... which quickly became sails. Yesterday turned out to be one of the breeziest days in memory! So we alternated between radio duty and tarp management.  I have to say, now I think I know what Major League Baseball Groundskeepers feel like as they rush to get the tarp on the baseball diamond during inclement weather!

And of course, we had our share of computer problems, too. During a re-fill, the generator that powered our "logging network" was turned off and when it came back on, all the logging computers came back on line except for mine, of course! We discovered a disconnected Ethernet cable a little later and that resolved the problem.

After that, everything went rather smoothly, and when Field Day ended, most everyone was happy with our effort. Our antennas were two MFJ-1928s - one a high power model and one a low power model. We operated 3A Battery, so we were confined to running at 5 Watts. Both antennas performed like a charm, and basically we were able to work everyone that we tried. We ran the two end feds at right angles to each other. The CW antenna ran pretty much North-South, while the SSB antenna ran East-West. Interference was kept to a minimum by carefully making sure that we did not operate on the same band at the same time. There was no need for band pass filters this year.

Our new location was good, maybe a little less traffic than we were accustomed to, but in all we had plenty of visitors. We had a couple families come by with kids in tow - they loved seeing the radios and watching us in action. In fact, a few visitors early on Saturday returned later in the day, specifically bringing their children to show them what we were doing. We had some local Hams come and visit for a while and two in particular - Pete KD2ARB and Len WB2HKK came early on Saturday to help with set up. On Saturday evening, two members of the South Plainfield Town Council came by to visit, bearing gifts - pizza! We have a really good relationship with our Town Council and South Plainfield's Office of Emergency Management. It was nice of them to come by and visit - we really appreciate that! We also were visited by a member of the local Elks club, who asked us if we'd put on an Amateur Radio demo at the town wide block party celebration that is held after our annual Labor Day parade.

Nigh time crew

Marty WB2BEW on SSB, Bill W2AOF on CW

Marty reacquainting himself with a KX3

Dave KD2FSI and Hillary KC2HLA doing some digital.

SPARC with some South Plainfield Town Council members

The CW MFJ-1982LP center support - my 31 foot Jackite. The orange cones prevented people from driving where they shouldn't.

The CW station, pre-Field Day start.

The tarp covering for the pop up canopies

Added yellow caution tape so no one would walk into wire.

Dave KD2FSI's 20 Meter vertical.

The almost constant breeze made the tarp covering "puffy" and act like a sail at times.
KD2FSI's Spider-beam mast is off in the distance. It supported his end fed in the middle.

Marv K2VHW setting up one of our solar panels, to keep batteries charged.

Our banner faced a very busy street, hoping to pique curiosity.

The PVC and CamJam mechanism that KD2FSI fashioned for holding up antenna masts worked very, very well. My End Fed supported by my Jackite pole required a few tweaks of the anchor ropes once or twice to eliminate some leaning induced by the hefty breezes. The whole arrangement was very stable after those were made and there was never a second thought given to the antenna system. I'll have to say again, just for emphasis, that in all the Field Days that we have done as a club since 2014 - this was by far the breeziest!.  According to my weather station at home, we were experiencing sustained gusts in the 11 to 15 MPH range, I know that doesn't sound like a much, but it sure kept that tarp flapping around! While we had a few downpours on Saturday, Field Day 2015 still takes 1st Prize for the "Wettest, Chilliest and Most Miserable" Field Day.

The rigs lived up to their expectations and we had a good productive Field Day.  Band conditions varied. 40 Meters was hopping through the entire event. 80 Meters was busy Saturday evening. I did not get a chance to check out 20 Meters on Saturday, as that was the province of the SSB station. When I had the chance to check it out on Sunday, it was disappointing. Signals were down in the mud and it seemed sparsely populated, considering that 20 Meters is usually "The Band". 15 Meters on Sunday morning was very nicely QUITE busy. I love 15 meters when the band is open and active! In all, we made close to 300 CW contacts, about 60 or so SSB contacts and a couple dozen digital contacts. Our best DX was the North American west coast, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. I never heard a peep from Hawaii this year. Something in the vicinity was creating 20 over 9 hash on 160 Meters - all across the band. This was one of the few years that we did not make at least one contact on 160 Meters.

This year, we intentionally decided to keep the antenna system simpler than in past Field Day efforts. Just wires and simple verticals. No Yagis with makeshift extension tower ladders, no Hex beams. The result was that in after 24 plus some hours of set up and operating, this weary bunch of Hams was able to tear down in 90+ degree weather in little over an hour. Only one man was needed to take apart and pack up each wire antenna. I don't know that it affected our QSO total, but when you're bone tired that is a very nice thing, indeed! 

Speaking of the wire antennas, Dave KD2FSI once again came up with an handy device for storing those. He gave me two and I'll take some pictures for a "Show and Tell" post for another day.

To any of you who worked NJ2SP, the membership of SPARC thanks you! We're already looking forward to Field Day 2022!

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ..............................

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

First Day of Summer!

 This coming Sunday, June 20th will officially be the First Day of Summer, and that means it's time to sign up for your official 2021 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt number. Join in on Sunday, August 15th for fun in one of the more popular QRP Operating Events of the Summer.

All you have to do is send an e-mail to w2ljqrp@gmail.com, and you'll receive an answer back with your very own Skeeter number. No, it's not necessary to have one to participate, but it sure adds to the fun! PLEASE NOTE THAT NUMBER REQUESTS WILL NOT BE HONORED BEFORE JUNE 20TH!

For all the details about the Sprint - please visit https://www.qsl.net/w2lj/

And to see the Roster for those who have signed up so far, please visit https://drive.google.com/file/d/1p12ygiXqoQuv0-akSSoPSSeMrzuGzVzG/view?usp=sharing

I'm sure you'll recognize a lot of the names and calls there. This year's bonus qualifier - there are two! Either post a photo OF your setup to social media on the day of the Hunt OR spell out the word "SKEETER" using letters from the call signs of people you have worked. You can claim one bonus or the other; but not both. See the Skeeter Hunt Webpage for full details.

See you all on the air on Sunday, August 15th!

72 de Larry W2LJ - Skeeter # 13

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Impossible? Or am I hearing what I want to hear?

 Maybe this should be part of "The Things I Never Noticed Before" department.

Someone posted about this on Facebook the other day and I had to take a listen. Lalo Schifrin was tasked back in the 1960's with coming up for the opening theme song for the TV show "Mission Impossible". So the story goes that given the premise of the show, he thought it would be good spycraft to incorporate some Morse Code. So... if you listen to that opening beat ......dah dah, di dit ........  dah dah, di dit ....... dah dah, di dit.

You get "M" and "I" for "Mission Impossible".  The timing is not perfect, but the discerning ear should be able to make it out. How many times I have heard that theme song and never noticed it before!

There you go. Tell me what you hear. Is it just me, could it possibly just another example of "urban myth"? Am I just hearing what I want to hear or is it there?

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Getting ready for Field Day

 I took a little time today to test out my Jackite support for Field Day. The plan is to use the MFJ-1982LP, which will work all bands 80 through 10 Meters. It will be installed in the recommended Inverted Vee configuration with the Jackite used as the apex support. There will be nothing in the field to actually lash the Jackite to, so I'll e using the field support as recommended by Dave KD2FSI. I set things up in the back yard, just to get a feel for ease of set up and to test stability.

With the Jackite fully collapsed, I slid the PVC pipe over the top of it. Using heavy duty aluminum tent spikes and the CamJams, I was able to get the Jackite off the horizontal plane. Once vertical, I extended a few sections in order to get everything as truly vertical as I was able to - relying on judgment by eye. That was accomplished by tensioning the CamJams until all looked good. Once satisfied, I extended the Jackite to full height.

It's kind of breezy here today and it was nice to see that the CamJams, ropes and tent spikes provided enough tension and support where the was no sway due to the (at times) stiff breeze. I think this will be a very viable alternative for deploying the MFJ-1982LP in a situation where there are no trees available for apex support.

And as I promised a few days ago - here are the details for the Flying Pigs 20 Meter Walk For The Bacon, as supplied by Brian KB9BVN:

The inaugural "20m Walk for the Bacon" event will be held every month, on the third Wednesday and Thursday of the month, beginning June 16th.

This is a slow speed CW sprint event that lasts one hour.

Part 1 is Wednesday EVENING from 8PM to 9PM Eastern Daylight Time (00:00z to 02:00z) and operating frequency range is 14.061-14.065 with 14.063 being the hotspot. Speed limit is 13 wpm.

Part 2 is Thursday EVENING from 10PM to 11PM Eastern Daylight Time (02:00z to 03:00z) and operating frequency range is also 14.061 to 14.065 with 14.063 being the hotspot.

All logs are submitted on https://qrpcontest.com

1. Work only CW stations

2. Keep speed at a max of 13 WPM

3. Work same stations both nights for double points.

4. Exchange: RST, SPC, NAME, FP#

 Get an FP# at https://fpqrp.org - they're free but only take one.

Just a reminder, as this Sunday marks one week away from the official start of Summer 2021. Requests for 2021 Skeeter Hunt numbers will be honored as of Midnight Sunday June 20th and NOT before! Please wait until then to send your requests for Skeeter numbers to w2ljqrp@gmail.com. Please include with your requests your name and the state you intend to operate from. All requests for numbers will be answered via an e-mail with your number. If you do not get a confirming e-mail, that means I did not receive you request. Please try again. Hopefully, all requests will be answered within 24 hours from when you sent your e-mail.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, June 06, 2021

The bands were not the greatest today

 I set up for the Cookie Crumble Contest in the backyard this afternoon. I lashed the Jackite pole to a support and used the PAR ENDFEDZ 10-20-40. I set the KX3, battery and Bulldog key on the patio table under the umbrella.

After filling a stainless steel travel tumbler with ice cold water, I got down to business.

The bands I chose to operate on, 40 and 20 Meters, were less than stellar. I called CQ to no effect, so the stations I did work were gotten via "hunt and pounce". In all, I worked four Cookie stations and four POTA stations. I spent a little under 4 hours behind the key with frequent indoor breaks to cool off. The loudest station I heard all day was Rick NK9G on 20 Meters. When I first heard him and worked him, he was 559. But wouldn't you know it? ...... about an hour later, he was 599 +++++ !

The bright side of the day was that I found out there's a POTA Spotter app for Android phones. I downloaded it and sure enough, it led me to the four POTA station that I worked. I also discovered that I can set up CW POTA stations as a trigger on the HamAlert app as well. So any time a CW POTA station is spotted on the DX Clusters, it will trigger an SMS message and let me know the Call and Frequency. Neat!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, June 04, 2021

A Couple of Things

 First - a reminder that the Cookie Crumble Contest is this Sunday and I am looking forward to it. Supposed to be a heat wave in process here in Central NJ. Sunny and in the 90s - perfect for sitting at the patio table with the umbrella up, the Jackite post in the backyard and the KX3 connected to the PAR ENDFEDZ.

Secondly, the Flying Pigs have started a new event. You're probably familiar with the Run For The Bacon, which occurs on the 3rd Sunday of every month. The new event is the Walk For The Bacon, which is designed with the newbie and slow speed CW Op in mind. The maximum code speed allowed is 13 WPM and even slower speeds are encouraged. The idea is to introduce the fun world of QRP Sprints to folks who are not comfortable with higher speed code.

It takes place each month on two separate nights. This month, it took place on the first Wednesday and Thursday of June. Wednesday evening was the "early" session, which started at 8 PM EDT and lasted an hour. The activity took place from 7.050 to 7.065 MHz with 7.060 MHz being the hot spot. Code speeds from 10-13 WPM and slower were encouraged.

The second "later" session was on Thursday night at 10:00 PM EDT. The frequency range was from 7.110 to 7.125 MHz with 7.123 MHz being the hot spot. Again, 10-13 WPM and slower speeds are encouraged.

There is talk of a 20 Meter session being added. I'll announce here when the July session will be announced. The inaugural session had over 30 participants and logs submitted. Hopefully. this will increase in the future. Stay tuned for news and details about upcoming Walks For The Bacon.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!