Monday, May 14, 2018

The ham radio learning curve!

It's true with Amateur radio there is a learning curve, depending on the background that you bring to the hobby the curve can be shallow or a very deep one. I don't shy away from the "curve" as it makes the hobby very interesting and a challenge. Because amateur radio is very deep no matter what there is always a learning curve for us all. This is a great  because with most things once the interest and challenge is gone one tends to move on to something else. Funny thing about ham radio is your interest and challenge in the hobby can hit a downward swing BUT within the same hobby there are new challenges and interests.....such as the low solar cycle some may loose interest in certain HF activity but then gain a huge interest in something like FT8!
Here is a personal learning curve for me regarding this hobby....many times I have looked at the shack and said "there are some items here that I seem to be not using and are collecting dust" My thought is to convert those items into ham bucks by selling. Having said that here is my learning curve, there have been way to many times  I have sold an item or two or three and then a short time later was in dyer need of said sold item. In some cases I have had to purchase once again the same item I sold. My learning curve or my take away is just hold onto it for a little bit longer as you may end up needing it again!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Kit building time.

When the bands are slow it's time to build a kit! I have had this RF probe kit from  Pacific Antenna that has been gathering dust and just this past weekend I decided to put it together. It's a very simple and easy kit to build and can prove to be a useful tool as well. The circuit board was simply a cap, diode and resistor. It sure was nice to get the soldering iron out and again! This mini kit is nothing
Almost done
compared to the Elecraft k2's I have built in the past. It did get me thinking that when I retire in a year and a half and if the kits are still available another K2 kit would be a nice way to pass the time in retirement. This kit went very fast but I did take my time with it as I really enjoyed getting back into the kit building again. I did find with this kit the provided jacks that are used to plug into your multimeter were not a solder type but held the test leads in via a screw. In the past I have had issues with these loosening off. I went to my trusty "this and that" pile and found two solder type and subbed those in. I have yet to use the RF probe but it was a fun little project.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring tuneup on the MFJ 1788 Loop antenna

Oliver was going to watch over the operation
Each year around this time I bring the MFJ 1788 Mag loop in to take the covers off and have a look around to see how it has faired over the past year. This antenna has been great for me with my very restricted condo situation. I have been able to get all around the world on CW with most of the time 5 watts QRP. I am about 60 feet in the air, it's on the balcony and we do have other condo's all around us but having said that I have been very pleased with the performance of the loop. At first tuning the
Cleaned covers

loop took some time but now I really have the hang of things and am able to tune it in no time. Most of the time the SWR is flat or very close to flat on all bands it's designed for. Now as for band width on 15m it's very nice but as you move closer to 40m it gets very narrow but it is what it is. When reading the reviews of this antenna on Eham many have mentioned how the antenna when new from MFJ had an issue or two. My antenna also out of the box had an issue with the tuning box with a switch that had to be replaced. I purchased the antenna through DX engineering and they were very fast to have MFJ send me a replacement switch.
Now back to my yearly maintenance, the antenna is covered with a patio table cover to help it look like balcony furniture and funny thing is it does not affect the SWR at all so the cover is kept on all the time. This year I picked up a new cover as the old one was 4 years old no longer water proof and showing it's age. I removed the plastic covers  and cleaned the inside out which were really not all that dirty. I found as I do each year some loose nuts and bolts that require
Keep track of parts 
snugging up but this year I noticed one of the nut/bolt combination seemed to have some burning on it. This was one of two nut/ bolts that help secure the loop to the tuning cap. All other nut/bolt combinations were fine it was just this one that I ended up replacing with close substitution from my nut/bolt collection.  I have posted a picture of the nut/bolt that was removed, any suggestions as to what may had happened? The nut/bolt was not at all loose and it was only this nut/bolt that had an issue. One other thing I like to do is run the tuning cap full turn in both directions looking for smooth operation, spacing moving fins against the stationary fins and the function of the micro switches that stop the tuning cap at the end of each end.  Overall the antenna was in great shape and just to make sure once it was all back together and covered with new cover I tuned it through each band to make double sure all was well.
New cover and ready to go
Nut/bolt that was replaced
New nut/bolt installed

Checking fin alignment 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A nice Friday afternoon on the radio

It been some time since I posted on the blog but it's the same old same old reason......very busy these days at work. I had Friday off and got on the radio in the afternoon to see what was happening. The band scope showed just few signals on 20m but I tuned up the Mag loop with plans of netting some contacts. I was pleasantly surprised that in just over a leisurely  hour  I contacted Jamaica 6Y5WJ, Italy IQ3MW, IF9A from the island of Favignana EU-54 it's near Trapani Sicily Italy and Slovenia S52F and S51DX. A great afternoon on CW and low power to boot.