4 State QSO parties will keep the bands humming this weekend as Nebraska, New Mexico, Georgia, and North Dakota all vie for your attention. You can check here at After The Net any time as we always have the deets on what is coming your way in radio sport over on the left margin. Or you can also check yourself at ContestCalendar.com
I finally took some time to straighten out the social media plugins and made some changes on the Facebook accounts. The interaction systems are kind of convoluted. For instance, you cannot just syndicate to Facebook groups. There are “steps” and they typically are not free. But you can syndicate to a page. So the After the Net Facebook group is being retired. And there is now an After the Net page instead. So be sure to stop by and hit the “Liked” button so you get updates in your feed. Articles written and published here will also automatically now be posted to the FB page. So we can use this format for longer how-to’s, reviews, and other technical discussions, but still promote to a wider audience on Facebook.
I will try to keep things here more up to date, and also to take advantage of the scheduling capabilities to space things out a bit. But If you would like to contribute to our local amateur radio community and write articles or share other information, please contact me. We can get you set up with authoring access!
Ray – N6DZK
A couple years ago now, our local craft person, Jonathon, W6BID put together a club build for a tripod for the Wolf River Coils SB1000. The WRC TIA (Take It Along) kit t is an excellent, economical, portable, base loaded, vertical for pretty much any band. The community around this antenna has spawned all manner of modifications, whip options, radial options, and in this case a DIY tripod. The “out of the box” tripod, while mostly adequate, was tippy in windy conditions. Several of us have also adopted either the MFJ-1979 or Chameleon SS-17 stainless steel whips for better performance on the lower bands. The problem being with the longer, larger whip, the base needs more stability. Enter W6BID…
For a club meet, W6BID organized kits for us to assemble in a weekend garage project. Each of us taking turns drilling holes, and assembling our new WRC tripods. The original kit consisted of a piece of plate steel, a 3/8″ thru-hole, stainless steel antenna mount, 6 L brackets that Jonathon had welded to the plate ahead of time, 3 sections of 1/2″ steel square tubing, and some bolts here and there. All that and a quick coat of spray paint resulted in one stout tripod base. It has served us well!
But some issues crept in over time and after multiple uses. For starters, this thing is chonky! And secondarily, since the plate is steel, oxidation formed in between the plate and the stainless steel antenna mount creating resistance with the radials. This was finally identified as to why SWR readings were so out of whack from when the last time it was used.
So back in the shop it went for an update.
To address the chonk, I drilled holes down each of the 3 legs at 3/4″ intervals, and then turned the leg 90 degrees, and repeated at offset 3/4″ intervals. The end caps which had fallen off long ago, were replaced, but this time filled with hot glue before being re-attached. The base metal plate also had large holes drilled where I could safely remove material. This reduced the weight considerably, but still providing a solid stable base for the antenna.
To solve the oxidation issue I used a product called DeoxIT L260Cp that is a lithium grease that is infused with copper particles. Once the steel surface was cleaned back down to bare metal, a dap was applied to the surface and everything reassembled. Other changes made along the way…
- Much experimentation with radials
- Out of the box are 3 33′ radials made of black silicone coated wire.
- Pro – Fairly quick to roll out.
- Con – Performance was “Ok”.
- Doubled to 6 33′ radials
- Pro – Increased performance significantly
- Con – When out in the field, you are taking up a circle nearly 70′ across. When camping this is valuable site space. The black wire was hard to see in the grass. Gopher/ground hogs actually tried to drag radials down one of their holes one night at a camp site.
- Swapped out wire radials for 33′ tape measures
- Pro – Fast to deploy. Easy to change the length if you want to “tune” the length for the band. Super fast to roll back up. Bright yellow tape is easy to see when deployed so people are less likely to walk through your radials.
- Con – They rust. They are heavy. They are bulky.
- Swapped out tape measures for 9 8′ radials constructed from a bright yellow silicone wire, and added quick disconnects.
- Pro – Very fast to deploy. Bright yellow for visibility when camping or portable. Shorter length is way way less prone to tangling. Very lightweight. Compact. Works just as well as the 6 33′ radials.
- Con – Not quite as efficient on 40 or 80 meters, but is still below 2:1.
- Out of the box are 3 33′ radials made of black silicone coated wire.
Overall this has been a great project that has now gone through a couple iterations resulting in a very portable HF antenna solution that has performed exceptionally well. I just recently also picked up a padded tripod bag to store it in, and have a 50′ length of ABR Industies ABR240-UF (Ultra Flexible), with 5 ferrite beads shrink wrapped to the end. This entire solution can be in place in moments, is easy to tune, and with the larger SS17 whip is an efficient antenna system.
The axiom is that you can only ever pick one of 3 sides. Which means you can only achieve 2 of the 3 choices. I’m okay with that. But an interesting facet of amateur radio (and probably many hobbies) is the quality triangle does not apply. You can can spend a lot of money, on low quality hardware, over an extended period of time. You can also very quickly get quality hardware, on a decent budget, at swap meets, through club swaps, and sites like QRZ, Craigslist, and what seems to be the new king is Facebook Marketplace. Bend the quality triangle to your own will.
The Radioddity GA-510, dual band, 3 power level, handheld receiver, manufactured by Baofeng, was just reviewed in QST magazine. A Baofeng! In QST! I know! Hell hath truly frozen over.
The QST, December, 2020, review (ARRL logon required to view) gave details about performance, features, and price point, which were all given high marks. Listed as an 8 / 4 / 1.1 watt selectable HT, the radio reportedly has a solid front end, good sensitivity, and harmonic suppression apparently suitable to warrant a QST review! And at $65, it is very competitive with many of the other “lessor” models in the lower end of the amateur radio market. The programming is typical Baofeng, but it does come with the programming cable, in the box, as well as belt clip, wrist strap (Does anyone use these?), and an earpiece/mic combo unit. The radio is also bundled with 2 – 2,200 mAh batteries that should provide significant run time. The number of memory channels is still restricted to 128, per Baofeng tradition.
Overall, it was a solid review and worth taking a look?
In case you missed the virtual ham fest as is so common in these days of Covid-19, don’t fret! All the presentations from the virtual fair are available on-line for the next 30 days.
There were some really high quality presentations so Check them out! https://qsotoday.vfairs.com/
Our friends at Hack A Day will be sponsoring an online chat this Wednesday at Noon PST about keeping Ham radio relevant. Stop in, or just lurk, but it is sure to be interesting. Hack A Day also regularly has Ham Radio related projects and news items. So if it is not already a site you visit, you should add it to your browse list. Follow the link for more details…
Check out this cool Raspberry Pi build video on YouTube that will streamline setting up a Pi to run your digital amateur radio modes. Add a 7″ touch display for Pi and your own case, and you have a very capable portable digital mode station for your full power or QRP portable HF or VHF/UHF station.
Come join us January 25th for the 2020 Winter Field Day. We will be at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy all that way at the back of the park where we usually set up for the June Field Day. It will be a fairly relaxed day. – No towers, trailers, mostly go-boxes and portable HF antennas. Come as you are. Ask as many questions as you want. Stay as long as you like. Set-up begins around 9AM. Transmission begins at 11 AM PST. We will stay as long as we feel like it. See the link below for details and operating rules.
So how cool would this be? An opportunity to highlight our hobby, and its roots in making, in our own back yard! Be prepared to be peppered with suggestions of our local clubs getting a booth together. Maybe we can even do a balloon launch, some on-the-air demos, DMR, some remote control, how repeaters work, and even drum up some folks for a ham-cram.