Radio Sport for the Weekend of 5/1

This weekend will be nuts. So I hope you have using those contour and notch controls down pat. It sounds so simple when you say “New England QSO party”, or “7th Area Call QSO Party” until you realize that this super radio sport weekend encompasses 16 state QSO parties! Consider this essentially a warm up event for field day

7th Area QSO PartyArizona
Idaho
Montana
Nevada
Oregon
Utah
Washington
Wyoming
New England QSO PartyConnecticut
Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Vermont
Indiana QSO PartyIndiana
Delaware QSO PartyDelaware

As always, there are many other events taking place across the globe. Be sure to check out https://contestcalendar.com for all the Sprints, RTTY, CW, QRP, and many other events taking place on the bands.

The $50 Ham

I know what you are thinking. The $50 ham is that person in the group that buys a Baofeng for $30 and then 3 years later tries to sell it on Craigslist for $50. Or, thinks that 30 year old Kenwood, with the nice “patina” is worth original MSRP +30%. Nope. Not that guy.

The $50 ham is a series of articles by Dan Maloney over on Hackaday, one of my favorite sites on the interwebs for all things electronics and technology.

The series has several interesting pieces on WSPR, Digital modes, HF antenna building, dummy loads, and other topics for those ops on a budget, or just want to explore something new. Check it out!

Which Coax Did I Want Again?

How many ways is this question asked and answered? There are a gazillion articles on the topic. I have been reading. A lot. And here is what I have come to find…

Most of my coax has been RG8X, across the board. I didn’t really know much better, it is exceptionally cheap, and as far as I can tell, my signal is leaving my radio and exiting out through the antenna. So what have I learned…

For the average home amateur radio operator there are more options than just RG8x and LMR400. I know! Blasphemy! Like 90% of the conversations revolve around those 2, unless you are doing repeater work with the club and someone mentions Heliax or hardline. Well guess what. You should add a couple more.

RG-213 – Sort of the little brother of LMR-400 for HF. About 1/3 less loss than RG8X. But… if you are even remotely thinking about any kind of amplifier in the future, then RG-213 may be the cable you are looking for. Where RG8X is only good for around 400 watts in the HF bands, RG-213 can handle over 1,200 watts, easily. Is not as large and bulky as LMR-400, but is certainly larger than RG8X.

LMR-240 – Never heard of this before? If you are running portable, or insist on running RG8X, then you should also be considering LMR-240 and LMR240-UF. The “UF” is for ultra-flexible. With a 35% or better loss advantage over RG8X, in nearly the same diameter and flexibility, with almost 3 times the power handling, LMR-240 is a drop in, high quality replacement to RG8X. LMR-240 is also sort of in a sweet spot where for shorter runs, it also works well enough for UHF/VHF. For your Go-Kit cables, or field day setup, LMR-240 is a great option. I just used ABR Industries to order several LMR-240 cables and can’t wait to try them out. I will do a review in the near future.

Check out the stats here: https://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/cable/coaxperf.html

Spider Antenna – Circa 1985

On the heels of the Wolf River Coil DIY tripod rebuild, comes the Spider Antenna. Invented and patented at the time by Fred Smitka, K6AQI, out of California, the Spider Antenna was created and sold in the early 80’s. It is by design a mobile antenna designed to take advantage of the ground plane a vehicle can provide. But since I had just reworked my tripod for the WRC, I made a few adjustments so that I could also connect the Spider Antenna and take advantage of the radials I had already created for the WRC. And it works! Sort of. More on that in a moment…

Where the WRC is a bottom loaded vertical, the Spider Antenna is a top loaded vertical. This blast from the past was picked up in a Craigslist buy several years ago. I was looking to upgrade a dipole from my then G5RV Jr. When I arrived to purchase a DC-CC fan dipole I was greeted with a pile of various antennas. There were a couple of wire dipoles, a rigid Cushcraft D3 20-15-10 rotatable dipole, what looked like at least a pair of “chimney sweep” MFJ antennas with all manner of missing parts, and maybe one other antenna worth of parts I never did figure out. But, there was also a cardboard tube that contained this odd looking antenna system that is known as a Spider Antenna. The seller was more than happy to see the entire pile leave. Their trash became my treasure.

So what is this thing? In simple terms, the Spider antenna is a top loaded vertical. Unlike the coil antennas we are accustomed to seeing, where you have 1 coil, and then you tap the coil for the band you wish to operate on, the Spider Antenna has a 5′ metal mast, with a fitting at the top for up to 4 individual coils. There is a separate coil for each band. The coils come in bands 80-10. The one catch is that 80, and 40, can only go on top. So you cannot for instance have 40 and 80 on at the same time. But you could do 40, 20, 17, and 15 if you like, or whatever combo you wish. What was really cool about this find was that it was a complete set of coils for 80-10 meters. bands!

To tune the antenna, over each coil is a ferrite that you slide up or down the coil until it is resonant where you want it within the band. As the bandwidth can be a bit narrow on 40/80, you will have to adjust to which end of the band. What is also remarkable is that after 36 years, this antenna still seems just fine. The antenna is rated to easily be able to handle 200 watts. And I even found a review online from Gordan West that claims he ran a Magnus 800 watt amplifier through the Spider Antenna and it worked just fine.

The entire antenna is of quite high quality construction. Normally, as we have experienced, plastic coatings break down over time. The materials on the Spider Antenna have held up very well. Each coil is of rigid fiberglass construction.

Setting it up in the back yard and using my Nano VNA, I was able to bring adjust each coil in just a few minutes. I hooked up my KX3, but was only on battery so output power was quite low, but I was able to receive quite well. I will have to connect to the TS-440 and do an A/B test and post an update.

QRZ.COM New Logging!

Have you checked out QRZ.Com’s logging features lately? They have come a long way in the past year or so. Did you know you already have an account as an amateur radio licensee on QRZ.com? Well you do! You should check it out. Create your logon, and there are all kinds of goodies there from current news, forums for sharing tips, discussing new hardware, and even a swap meet for selling new and used equipment. There are always interesting things to read.

But what has truly improved over the past about 18 months is their logging feature. I now pretty much do all my logging directly into QRZ. Even with things like FT8, I have the software set up to directly send the log update into my QRZ log. I also have my LOTW set up so with 3 clicks of the mouse, I can upload all my current session QSO’s to LOTW, and then a couple days later, with 3 more mouse clicks, retrieve all my LOTW confirmed contacts. You should really check it out!

Look Ma! I’m on Facebook!

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!

Cheers,
Ray – N6DZK