SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Monday, December 31, 2012

60 Meters is QRP Friendly

It took a while for me to try 60 meters. I needed to get my antenna working there and setup memories for the KX3. There are a few new twists for 60 meters. First is the channelization. See this ARRL link. There are five channels. For SSB you setup for 1.5 Khz below the channel center. For CW you setup on the channel center. So for the KX3, I setup five memories for SSB and five for CW. Note power is limited to 100 watts with a dipole. If your antenna has gain over a dipole you must reduce your power for equivalent ERP. That is no problem here as I run 10 watts SSB max.

For QRP SBB I had a mindset that it would be a challenge to make contacts. Well I found this not to be the case on 60 meters. I have had no problem and getting out and about half of my contacts have been QRP to QRP. Notable is Larry K5ZRK in Mississippi running 3 watts and being received well over S9 here. I also worked  Sonny WB4NKU in FT Valley GA and Bobby AK4JA in Newnan GA both running QRP. It seems Channel 2 is is a QRP gathering place.

Just an aside, I met Larry K5ZRK at a hamfest in Milton FL several years ago. He was enthusiastic about QRP and in particular 60 meters. So when I finally got on 60 meters I ran into him quickly. He has many accomplishments on 60 QRP including WAS and lots of DX. He also gets on 30 meters CW. Another small world story is that I discovered Bobby AK4JA was at Monte Sano QRP event back in August. It turns out he operated my KX3 in the event there. I also ran into NX4E Jim on 60 meters. He is in the Bear Creek community just North of Panama City. I had never run into to him before although he is a local ham. Checkout operated by Jim and his wife.

Due to the channelization, stations take a pause to check for others wanting to join in a round table. So courtesy prevails. Likewise, CW shares the same channels. We will see how that goes. I have heard some CW and look forward to working both modes. It will be interesting trying 60 meters QRP portable. Sonny WB4NKU says there are a number of stations operating 60 meters QRP portable.

Happy New Year!

Greg N4KGL

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Table Top QSOs

We had a good Christmas in Columbus, GA. On Wednesday it was too cold to operate in the backyard. So I setup the Alexloop on the coffee table. I had good luck on 30 meters working W4PKU in VĂ€ and AC4FZ in NC. I squeezed out a 40 meter QSO with WD5CNC in AR. The radio was my KX3 running 5 watts on internal batteries. I enjoyed the pets there including Duckie in the photo below.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday on the Radio

Sunday, December 16, was a nice opportunity for operating QRP CW at home in Panama City FL. There were several events including the ARRL CW Rookie Roundup, The ARCI Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint and the Flying Pigs Run For The Bacon RFTB Sprint. In the RR I worked several true rookies licensed in 2010 and 2011. It is good to know that rookies are taking up CW. The Homebrew sprint gave me an excuse to use two of my QRP kits, The Wilderness SST and Sierra. I am proud that I built these radios and they do a great job. I rounded out the day by working 10 Flying Pigs using the KX3. By the way Wayne K6KR now with Elecraft was the designer for the SST, Sierra and KX3. Note I almost scored KS4L Randy in Huntsville but he could not pull me out in the Homebrew Sprint. He was running his Elecraft K2 Kit.. The new wrinkle was

HAMjitsu helps you keep in touch with your fellow club members! Using Reverse Beacon Network, a sophisticated spotting system, HAMjitsu cross-references club databases and renders matching results. Great for working towards club awards or just ragchewing with club members.
I followed the Flying Pigs with it. I could see when they went from 40 to 80 so I could go chase them.

Sunday Afternoon QSOs:
20 Meters Wilderness SST 3 Watts
 5 Rookie Roundup
 6 Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint
 1 DX FG8AR Guadeloupe

40 Meters Wilderness Sierra 3 watts
 2 Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint

Sunday Evening QSOs:
40 Meters KX3 5 watts
 7 Flying Pigs

80 Meters KX3 5 watts
 3 Flying Pigs

Wildertness SST Kit Outdoors

Wilderness Sierra Kit Outdoors

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Straight Key Century Club Seventh Anniversary Celebration

The Straight Key Century Club Seventh Anniversary Celebration will start January 1st. There will be K3Y stations on from the ten call areas for the entire month of January. Note the call K3Y represents "Key".  I am signed up to be K3Y/4 during January 1st and 21st from 1400 to 1759 UTC. So I will be the chased and not the chaser. I will be operating my KX3 at 10 watts. You may want to see if you can get a sweep of all ten call areas during the month of January. If you are not a SKCC member consider it. It is free. See the SKCC website. My SKCC number is 5123T.

Greg N4KGL

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Something Old Something New Ragchew

Per the Urban Dictionary, a ragchew is a long QSO between two amateur radio operators. This is generally what amateur radio operators are doing on the radio when they're not contesting, testing equipment, bouncing signals off the moon or meteor showers, providing communications in national emergencies, sending still or moving pictures or text back and forth, connecting to packet radio networks, and partaking in nets.

I enjoyed a ragchew QSO Sunday on 20 meters CW with Woody WD9F in Springfield IL. We had a combination of new and old rigs. He was using a Drake 2C receiver and 2NT transmitter combination. Woody was exercising the Drake pair since if you don't fire them up they will go bad. I started hamming with the Drake 2C in my novice days back in the late 60's and used it for many years. Indeed for this QSO, I was set up portable in my parent's yard where I grew up. There are lots of antenna spirits that dwell there including a vertical, quad and dipoles.

My rig was the new Elecraft KX3 running 5 watts on internal batteries The antenna was an end fed half wave wire inverted vee style using a SOTA tuner. I don't know if my end fed half wave was optimum but it sustained a 30 minute solid QSO with Woody. I did not use a counterpoise other than the short coax. I have set my half wave lengths using the method suggested by Steve Yates AA5TB.

Woody was interested in the antenna since he does QRP portable also. In fact he wrote an article about QRP portable for CQ magazine. He said he is trying not to buy a KX3 but I think I pushed him over the edge. Some day folks will say I remember the KX3. Well my bets are they will still be using the KX3s as the shelf life should be good with all the SMT parts.

These ragchew QSOs are really value added. Thanks for a great one Woody!

Woody WD9F's Drake Twins


Hendricks SOTA Tuner

My parent's backyard in Dothan, AL

Monday, November 19, 2012

KX3 Battery Ops

Saturday, I installed the Elecraft internal battery charger option in the KX3. I put in eight AA Eneloop XX NIMH cells. I waited for the charger for battery operation because with the internal charger I do not need to open the case to replace the batteries until they wear out. The charger is working well. It also provides a real time clock that I have set for GMT.

Of course battery operation and QRP go together. The KX3 has a high efficiency mode at 3 watts. So I wanted to try some 3 watt operation. I was in Dothan Sunday and I did some reverse beacon tests. My antenna there is a off center fed dipole. It did pretty good at 3 watts. See the spots below.

Then I wanted to try some QSOs. First was a QSO to Alaska with KL7IDA on 28.050. This is what I call Made My Day QSO! Then I worked KW7D in New Mexico on 17 meters. And last K3WWP John in PA on 14.061. John is a well known QRPer and he was using a KX3 to an attic dipole.

BTW, I don't see any problem charging the batteries via my solar panel. It looks like I can operate off the solar panel as well. If the panel dips the batteries take over. I have a DC to DC converter that will regulate the voltage. I also can use it to boost a source that is less than to 13.8 volts up to the 13.8 volts needed to charge the KX3 internal batteries.

NC7J N4KGL28061.9CW CQ15 dB13 wpm2045z 18 Nov
WA7LNW N4KGL28062.0CW CQ27 dB13 wpm2045z 18 Nov
N0TA N4KGL24906.1CW CQ18 dB13 wpm2044z 18 Nov
PJ2T N4KGL24906.0CW CQ14 dB13 wpm2043z 18 Nov
WA7LNW N4KGL24906.0CW CQ17 dB13 wpm2043z 18 Nov
PJ2T N4KGL21062.0CW CQ3 dB13 wpm2042z 18 Nov
KQ8M N4KGL18096.1CW CQ19 dB13 wpm2040z 18 Nov
W3LPL N4KGL18096.1CW CQ23 dB13 wpm2039z 18 Nov
KQ8M N4KGL18096.1CW CQ19 dB13 wpm2039z 18 Nov
AA4VV N4KGL14062.0CW CQ27 dB14 wpm2038z 18 Nov
N4ZR N4KGL14062.0CW CQ10 dB13 wpm2038z 18 Nov
VE2WU N4KGL14062.0CW CQ12 dB13 wpm2037z 18 Nov
KM3T N4KGL14062.0CW CQ17 dB13 wpm2037z 18 Nov
NY3A N4KGL14062.0CW CQ14 dB13 wpm2037z 18 Nov
W3LPL N4KGL10107.0CW CQ15 dB13 wpm2036z 18 Nov
AA4VV N4KGL10107.0CW CQ22 dB13 wpm2035z 18 Nov
AA4VV N4KGL7055.0CW CQ15 dB13 wpm2032z 18 Nov
W4KKN N4KGL7032.7CW CQ4 dB15 wpm1850z 17 Nov
NY3A N4KGL7032.7CW CQ5 dB15 wpm1850z 17 Nov

The tall pines come in handy for the OCF in Dothan. I use a Balun Desighns 4 to 1 the feed point.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dancing in the Tar Pit

It took a while but I am letting go of a misconception I had on what I called an end fed dipole. I am now going to call it an end fed half wave monopole. A big part of the misconception was since the current distribution on the end fed half wave monopole is similar to a dipole, I assumed that there was displacement current between the two quarter waves of the half wave. Well not the case. Rather there is displacement current required for an RF return to a ground plane to complete the circuit as in any other monopole. BTW,  I am still looking for a picture of displacement current for the end fed half wave monopole. Note the maximum current in the wire for the end fed half wave is at the center instead of the bottom as for the quarter wave monopole.

However, the curious and controversial fact is to resonate the end fed half wave monopole there needs to be very little current at the feed point. The end of the antenna is a high impedance point. It must be voltage fed as opposed to current fed for a quarter wave monopole.. The return current (enough) can be satisfied with a short counterpoise per AA5TB and Moxon. Note, I am assuming a tuner similar to the one described by AA5TB. There are two sides of the output circuit one for the antenna and one for the counterpoise. The counterpoise could optionally be connected to the coax shield. This would mean that the short run of coax to the rig is the counterpoise in the QRP portable case. I have measured the outside shield current and it is indeed low for a short length of coax to the rig. I have also tried adding a longer counterpoise and it did not affect tuning or the current in the half wave antenna.

UPDATE: After exhaustive Google searching I found Verticals without Vertigo by W4RNL. Refer to section 5 and figures 10, 11 and 12. The models show that radials at the base of an end fed half wave vertical will have very little effect. The parallel resonant circuit in figure 10 requires a ground or a counterpoise. If you tap the coil the coax shield will be the common and act as a counterpoise. The short counterpoise (coax/ rig) provides enough of a return for displacement currents to satisfy the small current required. The rig is usually not grounded. This works fine for QRP.

W8JI discusses at length feed line currents and the possible downside for a home installation of an end fed  Note, that a long feed line is not part of the AA5TB discussion as it is oriented to QRP portable. It seems to me that the low current at the feed point could become part of a standing wave going back to the rig on the outside of the shield. The current would be high at various points and would become a radiator causing pattern distortion. Likewise, you could encounter a high voltage point and get coupling to yourself or other devices in the shack. If I was installing a home QRO antenna I would lean toward a balanced antenna if possible.

UPDATE: The W5ALT discussion on RF ground is also instructive. If you do not satisfy the imbalance of an antenna there will be a potential between the rig and ground. This will result in current in whatever ground you provide or if none is provided it may use your body as that path to ground.. Ouch!

I call this territory the tar pit. Just Google end fed half wave for discussion in the forums. Even the masters disagree. So we all have tar on our feet. The bottom line is that an end fed half wave monopole is a popular choice for QRP folks. It is easy to deploy and when you are making contacts at 5 watts it is a good enough antenna in my book. So I have stated my understanding at this point but I am open to further enlightenment in the future.

Note a nice end fed half wave monopole tuner is available from Hendricks QRP Kits.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

KX3 Pedestrian Mobile

Today, I used the Elecraft KX3 for pedestrian mobile. The outfitting included the KX3 in a LowePro bag with the lid cut off. I used the belt loops of the bag plus the strap over my shoulder. On my back was an alice pack frame. The frame had a 10 Ah  LiFePO4 battery tied to it which is very light. The frame also had a lap desk plastic sheet with the pillow removed strapped to it. Which in turn had a 13 foot crappie pole strapped to it.

My target band was 17 meters. The antenna was 13 foot of wire taped to the pole and a 9 to 1 balun with two foot of coax to the rig. I kind of knew better but I went with no drag wire. The rig tuned via internal tuner and the spots were good. However, a couple of times I had excessive tuning. It think I'll hang something off the counterpoise terminal next time. The rig and my body were most likely the other half of the antenna. However, the antenna performed better than a buddistick/drag wire arrangement I tested.

As you can see from the pictures it was a beautiful day and and I joined members of the Panama City ARC at a local park beside the bay for portable ops. I worked Pat F5MFO near Paris on CW and PJ2/DL5MFL Curacao on SSB. This was followed by another SSB contact with Bob K0WOJ in Missouri. Bob gave me an S8 and it was a good conversation.

Certainly the size, weight, internal tuner and multiple modes make the KX3 ideal for pedestrian mobile. Likewise for the LiFePO4 battery.

Post Outing Analysis: I found that hanging a 13 foot wire off the counterpoise terminal of the 9 to 1 balun is a good thing. There is about the same on the antenna side. The 9 to 1 balun tends to flatten SWR to a range the KX3 tuner can handle on 40 and up. So I will use that setup the next PM Outing..

WZ7I N4KGL18084.4CW CQ19 dB14 wpm1553z 10 Nov
N0TA N4KGL18084.4CW CQ14 dB15 wpm1553z 10 Nov
WA7LNW N4KGL18084.4CW CQ22 dB15 wpm1553z 10 Nov
W3LPL N4KGL18084.4CW CQ14 dB15 wpm1553z 10 Nov
N7TR N4KGL18084.4CW CQ9 dB15 wpm1553z 10 Nov
WA7LNW N4KGL18080.8CW CQ11 dB13 wpm1528z 10 Nov
PJ2T N4KGL18080.8CW CQ6 dB13 wpm1528z 10 Nov
KQ8M N4KGL18080.9CW CQ17 dB13 wpm1528z 10 Nov
WZ7I N4KGL18080.8CW CQ20 dB13 wpm1528z 10 Nov
KQ8M-98 N4KGL18080.9CW CQ9 dB13 wpm1528z 10 Nov
W3LPL N4KGL18080.9CW CQ19 dB13 wpm1528z 10 Nov