Thursday, 16 October 2014

Just an update

During the summer months my radio activity has been less than usual with so many other things to be done! As winter approaches I hope to be a little more active on the bands. I have however been having some fun on 10 metres. Over the past week or so my 25 Watts of PSK31 has resulted in contacts with the U.S, Canada, Chile, Argentina and today, South Africa. On ten I have been using the Antron 99 vertical which generally appears to be (slightly) superior to my horizontal doublet on 28 Mhz.

Today's contact with ZS4GB, Gert, resulted in me receiving this QSL card by Email moments later!


Sunday, 20 July 2014

10 metre conditions

There was an opening  on 10 metres FM this evening. Here in South Wales I could here a number of stations in the North of Scotland with good signals
I worked GM0EKL located north of Aberdeen. Switching between my vertical and my doublet I found very little difference on received signal strength which often seems to be the case on this band. TX signal did however seem stronger on the doublet.

I only became aware of the opening as I have a new piece of equipment in the shack that was scanning, pictured below.



This rig is in fact a multimode CB rig an Albrecht AE5890EU. It is still in its original configuration in which it covers 80 CB channels with multimode facilities on the lower 40 channels (legal in the UK since 27th June) and FM only on the higher "UK" channels. Changing an internal jumper converts the rig to higher powered 10 metre coverage  with repeater shift facilities. The rig can also be configured to cover the 12 metre band.

First impressions of this rig are pretty good. The CB bands in this area are pretty quiet but there has been a little activity on SSB since its legalisation. I operated CB for a short while in the 1980s as a youngster, but was a shortwave listener before that. In those days the band was crowded. Even though my parents lived in a poor radio location at the bottom of a valley it was difficult sometimes to find a clear channel. It is a very different story today. Unless band conditions are good the entire 80 channels are usually quiet!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Weatherproof

I did a little research before weatherproofing the Pro-Whip Balun. To be honest I had nothing to lose. I have a spare 9:1 balun and if the original balun failed I would replace it. I looked into purchasing the purpose made compounds for "potting" electronic components but they were expensive and sold in larger quantities than I needed. In the end I settled on "neutral" silicon sealant, the type used to seal around external window frames. Since this contains no Acetic acid (which is corrosive and is found in the many of the bathroom type sealants) it should not attack the solder joints. The balun is now waterproof as  the box is filled with sealant, it doesn't look pretty (although the picture is of course with the cover off) but it should do the job.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Water

Taking down the pro whip antenna after it had been up for a couple of days in the rain I noticed that the balun  appeared to be full of water! After undoing the screws on the casing  and prising off the "superglued" lid,sure enough it was wet inside. To be fair the maker does not claim the antenna is waterproof and it certainly isn't! I need to find a way of sealing it up. I think the only solution is to fill the casing with something waterproof. Maybe silicon sealant. For now I have emptied out the water and used the YL's hairdryer to dry it out!


Monday, 19 May 2014

6 metres

I have read several reports of the Es season opening on 6 metres and people making some contacts. But until today, each time I tried the band it  was dead. However this evening I made a couple of contacts on 6m ssb into Italy. It was a welcome chance to try my Icom IC7000 and tri band vertical on 6 for the first time!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Antenna Repairs

After my antenna problems on the weekend I was keen to drop my wire doublet and see if I could sort things out.
The Western HF 10 commercial doublet I use is extremely well made and hasn't had any problems in the 18 months or so that it has been up. Although I installed a small a small centre support to anchor the balun that is at the end of the 450ohm ladder line the ladder line itself is still under some strain, particularly in high winds. I suspected therefore that the problem was either the ladder line or the balun itself. The designer does suggest the antenna is fully supported in the centre but this isn't really possible at my QTH.

Using my trusty multimeter I checked the antenna for continuity and sure enough the "earth" leg of the doublet was not connected the to "earth" side of the ladder line. I then disconnected the bottom of the ladderline  but one part broke off in my hand!



OK so this was the problem, I stripped back the offending piece of wire and reattached to the balun.


However, back in the shack and testing the antenna showed all was still not well. I dropped the antenna again and did what i should have done after the repair, used the multimeter again and could then see the "earth " of the antenna was still not connected. In fact there was another break in the same wire a few centimeters up. More stripping and re-attaching to the balun and things were back to normal. One side of the ladder line is now slightly shorter than the other but this doesnt seem to cause any noticeable problems. Still I think i will have to replace the whole section sooner or later.


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Murphy's Law




Back at the home QTH this morning with an unexpected couple of hours free to play radio, mainly due to the wet weather.
Switched on the rig and linear, tuned up for 40 metres and worked a couple of special event stations taking part in the "mills on the air" weekend. Then I noticed the linear "flashing over" and an erratic SWR reading on my doublet.  On  receive it was like a rapid QSB effect.
So I had to close down and investigate. I checked all the patch leads, they were fine, then went out to the antenna and put my dummy load at the antenna end to check my coax feed, again all ok. So the problem is the antenna itself- not surprising with the high winds and heavy rain we have had over the last few days. It was too wet and windy to drop the antenna today so I am hoping to get some fine weather and time in the evenings this week to investigate. In the meantime I can operate 15 metres and above on the vertical.