Category Archives: Field Day

Field Day Operations

Perfect CW / Morse Code Trainer

This program G4FON Koch CW Trainer has been a joy to play with and learn from.  I am wanting to increase my Morse Code speed skills and this is a perfect way to do that!  I am wanting to get back into CW but have gotten rusty from not practicing for years.  I seem to be stuck at copying  about 7 words per minute.  My goal is 20+ words per minute so I can help rack up more points at Field Day events!  The key, I have now found, is to HEAR letters at 25 words per minute… but at a longer spacing between them when received, and then begin shortening that spacing time over a period of practice sessions.

koch_display

I have it set to send the individual letters at 25 words per minute (wpm).  I am starting at the time between those letters at 10 wpm.  I started with two letters and would copy just those two for a few minutes in one minute drills.  Once I get to 90-100% copy, I add another letter!  I practice about 15 minutes each night, if I can.  I am halfway through the alphabet now and having a ball.  It is easy to download and configure… you’ll be instantly surprised at how much fun it is!

Morse Code: Straight Key and Others

I enjoy a niche of ham radio called Continuous Wave (CW) / Morse Code sending and receiving.  There are all sorts of hand keys out there to use.  Lots of CW Contests occur every month for all levels of CW enthusiasts… you don’t have to send fast, if you don’t want to!  It’s a very efficient system of communicating when traditional modes of messaging are out of service, too.  Some say since the advent of the telephone and then the cellphone, it is a dying art… I say it’s a BLAST to do!

Every ham ought to try a little CW every once in a while.  Find a key you like and use it periodically to stay proficient but also pick up a straight key and join the annual Straight Key Night Contest around New Years.  (It’s not really a contest; it’s more of an opportunity to pull out a straight key and try sending Morse Code the old fashioned way.

I love to scour the hamfest flea markets looking at all the old time keys available to buy for a variety of prices.  Some served in Post Offices, Telegraph Offices, military communications, in combat and in ham shacks!  My favorite straight key is a 1950’s era South African Special Forces straight key… super compact… light weight… and darned cute… that I picked up at the Dayton Hamvention in 2015!  It wasn’t cheap, but it’s unique and has a good story.  See some of the key configurations below…

Bencher Paddles and Memory Keyer UNITE!

As soon as I get my Yaesu System Fusion FTM100-DR online, I want to mate my Bencher paddles to the new MFJ-490X Menu Driven Memory Keyer that I picked up at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention last week (May 21, 2016).  I am itching to get these two toys working in some CW / More Code Contesting very soon!  5 programmable memories plus all sorts of keyer speed, weighting, side tone, hand key capability, serial number decrements, random code practice, iambic settings, etc.

(See video below!)

MFJ-490X Memory Keyer  Instruction Manual

 

 

Intro to Kit Building for Radio Amateurs by K7QO (Chuck Adams)

Chuck Adams (K7QO) makes a club presentation on Kit Building basics.  He highlights what every ham radio operator needs on his workbench to build kits or make repairs.

K7QO Chuck Adams website

Morse Code: Dual Lever Paddle Adjustment Tutorial

K7QO MFJ-564B Dual Lever Paddle Adjustment Tutorial

K7QO Chuck Adams website

This is an excellent explanation of the taxonomy of a dual lever paddle (i.e. Bencher and MFJ) and how to make the adjustments that are critical for efficient CW / Morse Code sending in your ham shack.

The alphabet in Morse Code / CW sent at 20 words per minute (wpm)…

 

Make your own Dipole Antenna

Randy does such a good job of explaining how to make your own 10 Meter Dipole.  Get on the air… 10 meters is a fun band when the sun cooperates!

Magnetic Loop Antenna

I always wondered if this type of magnetic loop antenna would “get out” to the world and how it worked.  This video shows both!

2016 Dayton Hamvention Post-Mortem

Well… another Hamvention is in the books and it was the usual great time of fun and friendship.  WR8S  (Bill Shultz) and WV8TG  (Tom Graf) and I enjoyed three fun-filled days scouring the Flea Market and also inside Hara Arena for all sorts of treasures and trinkets.  Tom scored a pristine 1959 Hammerlund HQ-One Forty Five short-wave radio and several other vintage radios to restore.  (The Hammerlund was the first serious short-wave radio Tom bought and it eventually led him on the journey to get his Amateur Extra Class license!)  Bill and I invested in a couple Yaesu FTM100-DR System Fusion digital mobile radios so that we can explore the Monongalia Wireless Association’s new System Fusion repeaters here in the Morgantown, West Virginia area.  Below is a video recap of our annual trek to the Dayton Hamvention.  If you have never attended a Dayton Hamvention… GET THERE!  Enjoy!

Aluminum Soldering Demonstration at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention

I have seen this presentation several times over the years while attending the Dayton Hamvention.  Don Wilke does a great job demonstrating the process of bonding various metals at a low temperature using this special material.  I finally purchased a pack of these rods in May 2016.  As many things as I can mess up around the house and garden, I am sure it will come in handy soon.  I decided to film it for my blog and then sent the video to Don for him to use.

Complete Overview of MESH for Amateur Radio (2014) by VA3BCO

MESH communications in Ham Radio is another area where Amateur Radio pushes the edge of the envelope and  has put a tremendous amount of work into this slideshare that goes from A to Z on how to run a MESH!  (Click on his website for more!)

Originally published on Nov 6, 2014

This is a comprehensive introduction to MESH for amateur radio enthusiasts. It is particularly useful for anyone new to MESH but will also include some nuggets sure to be helpful to the experienced operator. Topics include:

1. HSMM MESH vs. traditional digital modes
2. Router review & comparison
3. Firmware selection & configuration
4. Antenna considerations
5. Application scenarios for ARES and experimentation
6. Updates on local efforts & recent software announcements

Visit VA3BCO.COM for more details.

Ham Radio… Do they still DO that?

This is a great slideshare from KB6NU Dan Romanchik,who unequivocally answers, “Oh HECK yes!”  After more than 45 years of having a blast using my ham radios and talking all over the world using all sorts of cool technologies, I echo Dan’s message here.  Thank you, Dan!  If you want to find a great hobby that you will enjoy for a lifetime… drop me a note… I’ll hook ya up!

Amateur Radio Go-Box and Go-Bags Examples

Ham Radio Operators need to be ready to roll out to a crisis quickly if it requires communication support.  Are you ready to “grab and go”?  How quickly could you have a functional ham radio station on-the-air ready to support an emergency situation?  Could you support your local authorities efforts, and for how long?  Can you personally sustain yourself with food and water for 3 days of support, without being a burden on the emergency relief efforts?  Constructing your own version of a “Ham Radio Go-Box” and a “Go-Bag” might be a great addition to your preparedness efforts.  Below are some pictures of potential Go-Boxes to stir your imagination and creativity.  You might even have some of the items laying around that could be put into the effort to BE PREPARED.

GO-BOX IDEAS

GO-BAG IDEAS

How Does a Crystal Radio Set Actually Work?

Here is an excellent YouTube video from RimstarOrg that breaks down the concept of how crystal radios actually DO their magic!  Yes, MAGIC.  Radio signals are all around us 24 hours a day.  Invisible!  You can’t really touch them.  You can’t smell them.  You can’t hear them without assistance.  We don’t really feel them bombarding us.  We don’t sense those signals without some mechanical help… but they strike us with many different frequencies constantly… so let’s explore the range of frequencies we can decipher with a homemade crystal radio set!

Crystal Radios. A blast from the past!

Many of us have looked at, or even built a crystal radio set at some point in our lives. Maybe it was in our Scouting days, youth group, science class, science fair… or just to DO IT!  The circuit itself is relatively simple to wire-up.  A long piece of wire acts like an antenna.  Some configuration of earphones or speaker will let you listen to signals.  And believe it or not, the signals are all around you!  The local AM radio station should be easy to hear.  You can even build a simple pre-amp (pre-amplifier) circuit to boost the incoming signal to add extra volume and signal strength to the fun.

Let’s understand WHY a crystal radio set is sooooooo cool!  SIMPLE CIRCUIT DESIGN.  EVEN KIDS CAN DO IT!  EASY TO GET PARTS.  NO EXTERNAL POWER REQUIRED.  INTERCEPTING INVISIBLE RADIO WAVES THAT ARE ALL AROUND US.  Plus, it’s just a pile of fun!

Here is a YouTube video from WonderstruckHow who teaches us to build a very rudimentary crystal radio set with parts that are easy enough to scrounge up.

After you watch the video check out the picture gallery of all sorts of crystal radio sets that can be built in just a short time.  They are great for kids working on a science fair project (and sure beats out a terrarium!)  Some of us “Seasoned Citizens” might actually remember the paper towel tubes or Quaker Oat cardboard cans we wound the magnet wire around and even some of the commercial kits sitting under our Christmas tree!

Straight Key Night… FUN!

Every January 1st there is a fun filled evening of laid back, “no pressure” CW (Morse Code) operating using a simple “Straight Key” to key your transmitter without the aid of added electronics to perform the speed and spacing of your sent letters and numbers.  This isn’t a contest!  It is designed for fun sending CW the “old fashioned” way.  The object is to simply enjoy sending and reading Morse Code.  There are numerous configurations and sizes of straight keys and a jaunt down any ham radio flea market aisle will often give you quite a few options for a great purchase!

Here is a video example of the annual Straight Key Night experience. MIKROWAVE1 explains and actually makes CW contacts with other amateur radio operators enjoying the annual event. (Below the video, look for some pictures of several types of straight keys you might find as a bargain to add to your own ham radio station!

Here are some pictures of various CW (Morse Code) keyers.  You can grab several to use for contesting or just simple rag-chewing.  Some hams actually collect various types of keys!

 

 

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)

ml91_graph-779367

I love DX.  I love chatting to interesting people all over the world and making new friends.  For short range chatting I use our Monongalia Wireless Association W8MWA Repeater on the 144/440 frequencies.  Sometimes it’s more difficult to talk short distances than it is to talk half way around the world.  Let’s consider Near Vertical Incidence Skywave  (NVIS) antennas with our HF radios.

NVIS is something every Ham needs to learn about.  The antenna system is not difficult to construct and can serve an important function for shorter range communications, especially in time of an emergency when normal local / regional communication systems are down for some reason.  (i.e. cell towers, cellphones, landlines, etc.)  Hams may be called into service quickly.

Here is what Wikipedia says about NVIS communications…

Near vertical incidence skywave, or NVIS, is a skywave radio-wave propagation path that provides usable signals in the range between groundwave and conventional skywave distances—usually 30–400 miles (50–650 km). It is used for military and paramilitarycommunications, broadcasting,[1] especially in the tropics, and by radio amateurs. The radio waves travel near-vertically upwards into the ionosphere, where they are refracted back down and can be received within a circular region up to 650 km from the transmitter.[2] If the frequency is too high (that is, above the critical frequency of the ionospheric F layer), refraction fails to occur and if it is too low, absorption in the ionospheric D layer may reduce the signal strength.

The most reliable frequencies for NVIS communications are between 1.8 MHz and 8 MHz. Above 8 MHz, the probability of success begins to decrease, dropping to near zero at 30 MHz. Usable frequencies are dictated by local ionospheric conditions, which have a strong systematic dependence on geographical location. Common bands used in amateur radio at mid-latitudes are 3.5 MHz at night and 7 MHz during daylight, with experimental use of 5 MHz (60-meter) frequencies. Broadcasting uses the tropical broadcast bands between 2.3 and 5.06 MHz, and the international broadcast bands between 3.9 and 6.2 MHz, Military NVIS communications mostly take place on 2-4 MHz at night and on 5-7 MHz during daylight.

Optimum NVIS frequencies tend to be higher towards the tropics and lower towards the arctic regions. They are also higher during high sunspot activity years. The usable frequencies change from day to night, because sunlight causes the lowest layer of the ionosphere, called the D layer, to increase, causing attenuation of low frequencies during the day [3] while the maximum usable frequency (MUF) which is the critical frequency of the F layer rises with greater sunlight.

NVIS is most useful in mountainous areas where line-of-sight propagation at VHF or UHF frequencies is ineffective or when the communication distance is beyond the 50-mile (80 km) range of groundwave, and less than the 300–1500-mile (500–2500 km) range of lower angle sky-wave. Another interesting aspect of NVIS communication is, that direction finding of the sender is more difficult than for ground-wave communication (i.e. VHF or UHF). For broadcasters, NVIS allows coverage of an entire medium-sized country at much lower cost than with VHF (FM), and daytime coverage similar to MW (AM) nighttime coverage at lower cost and often with less interference.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_vertical_incidence_skywave

Below are a few very good links to articles for the nuts & bolts of putting together a simple and good NVIS antenna.

http://www.tactical-link.com/field_deployed_nvis.htm

http://www.qsl.net/wb5ude/nvis/index.html

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/K2GW-NVIS.htm

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/cbp-nvis.htm

Here is a sample video by NG9D with an 80 Meter End Fed NVIS Field Antenna.

See How a Schematic Diagram is ACTUALLY Visualized

“How to read an Electronic Schematic” by Paul Wesley Lewis

Wonderful example of how to visualize and equate the schematic diagram with the actual circuit build out.

How Do I Read a Schematic Diagram?

How to Read a Schematic by RimstarOrg 

If you are going to build a simple crystal radio, a QRP rig or even a 100 Watt HF transceiver, you are going to want to understand how an electronic schematic diagram is read.  It’s not that difficult.  RimstarOrg has a great video on understanding the basic concept of reading a schematic.

 

Multimeter Tutorial by AfroTechMods

THE BEST Multimeter Tutorial

The voltmeter… the Volt-Ohm Meter… the Multimeter… digital or analog… continuity… amperage, voltage and ohms… COME ON, MAN!  What is it and how hard is it to use in the every day life of a ham radio enthusiast or just someone working in their workshop?  Once again, Afrotechmods has an excellent tutorial on his YouTube channel for us to learn from!

 

 

What the heck is an Amp-Hour?

Battery amp-hour, watt-hour and C rating tutorial

Regardless if it’s your flashlight, your 2 Meter hand-held radio, your QRP rig, your Field Day station(s), your APRS setup, your balloon launch radio transmitter, your trolling motor, your emergency preparations or your personal GoBox… understanding how long those batteries that supply operating power will last becomes quite important.  It will also assist you in deciding what battery to select for a particular project or product.  Afrotechmods has several excellent YouTube videos on his channel that we all can enjoy!

Battery Technology Comparison by KF7IJZ

Small AGM vs A123 ALM-12V7 LiFePo4 Battery Module

Explaining USB 3.0

ExplainingComputers YouTube Channel, Christopher Barnatt, explains USB 3.0 and how it compares to USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 and data transfer rates.

Do Volts or Amps Kill You?

Does Volts or Amps Kill You? Voltage, Current and Resistance

This should be a good lesson for everyone, especially Hams that tinker and homebrew serious radio equipment.  You’d be surprised how much is too much!  Safety around radio equipment, coaxial cables, power chords, power lines, lightening storms, grounding straps and towers needs to be at the forefront of our mind.

Excellent YouTube video by RimstarOrg.

 

Portable Battery Box for Kayak… or Ham Radio

There are a ton of variations of portable battery boxes and unbelievably expensive if you buy they retail.  I like building projects at home, so here is another battery box with a very different form profile from some of the other videos on my blog.  DIY!  Here is a video from Derek Dickey on YouTube of his own kayak fishing GoBox.

 

Portable Power Box

Battery Box, Simple Portable Power by KC6TYD

I built a portable battery box years ago out of a used small white lard tub from a Mr. Donut shop here in town to carry 2 small batteries to power “things” on camping and canoe trips.  It charged from a flexible solar panel that I laid atop my packed canoe when fishing on the rivers of West Virginia.  Then at night I had a string of 12 volt car lamp bulbs that I would string up around the campsite for some excellent lighting.  It also had a small LED inside the box that would glow amber all night so that if you needed to get up in the middle of the night you can set the small tub beside the tent flap and push a little button to kick on the rest of the lights.  I like this set up from KC6TYD, too!

GoBox Ideas

GoBox Update from KC6TYD

I am getting ready to put my ham radio station back together after being QRT for a number of years.  When I think about the VHF/UHF section of my station, I may decide to configure those particular technologies in a GoBox, of some sort.  I really like the idea of being able to “pack-n-go” in the event of emergency comms or Field Day type of activities.

 

Back Up Solar Power for Ham Radio

Harbor Freight Solar Panel for Ham Radio

I spent a lot of time on a medical mission trip to Mali, West Africa years ago optimizing their solar power system.  (Constant dust on the solar panels from the Harmattan winds was a battle for efficiency.)  This is an interesting video done by KC6TYD about his first experience with solar power in the ham shack.  (This only about the concept, not an endorsement per se of Harbor Freight or the manufacturer.)  But I am definitely interested in some solar projects here at home in the future.

 

Analog Oscilloscope bandwidth considerations with W2AEW

Get the right O-Scope!

Monitor your Ham Radio transmitter with an oscilloscope with W2AEW

More O-Scope training!  This guy is so good at teaching it!

Analog Oscilloscope Basics: Making a Frequency Measurement with W2AEW

Bought my first O-Scope at Dayton Hamvention in 2015… here is a good way to learn!

2015 ARRL Field Day

Tom and Bill work on configuring Ham Radio Deluxe DM780.

Tom (KD8DQK) and Bill (WR8S) work on configuring Ham Radio Deluxe DM780 for our ARRL Field Day stations high atop the mountain.

Well… the 2015 ARRL Field Day adventure is in the books… the logbooks, that is. Having experienced decades of Field Day excursions, this one takes the cake!  What started out as a hot, sunny, humid Friday afternoon setting up our station high atop Chestnut Ridge, ended on Sunday afternoon having operated under conditions of torrential rains, a downward shift of 40 degrees in temperature, one antenna failure, one operator unable to man a station due to illness, a generator choked-out by all the moisture in the air and eventually walking around in a literal cloud!  We had three layers of clothes on and could see our breath on Sunday morning!  To say the least, it was a unique set of challenges to overcome.

Plan A was to slingshot and hang 3 doublet antennas, run 2 KX3’s for CW and PSK31, and run an Icom 7200 with a new Heil Pro 7 headset on voice.  We had a 5500 watt generator and 25 gallons of fuel to keep us purring along.  With 4 operators we had a good chance to keep all rigs racking up points for the duration.  Laptops were ready to log and the plan sounded solid.  The goal was to beat our score from Field Day 2014 and thought a good mix of voice and data would do the trick.

Our usual set-up has us mooching off of WR8S’s generosity when he goes to the trouble of of hauling his camper to the top of the mountain.  We extend the awning and set up a table or two to operate from.  Field Day 2014 was done via battery power and QRP mode.

WR8S and WD8DQK bundled up... oh wait...WR8S only brought shorts!  Wins endurance award!

WR8S and KD8DQK bundled up… oh wait…WR8S only brought shorts! Wins endurance award!

Sunday morning in a cloud!

Sunday morning in a cloud!

3 layers of clothes with hands so cold it was difficult to run DigiPan for PSK31 contacts.

WT8WV with 3 layers of clothes and hands so cold it was difficult to run DigiPan for PSK31 contacts.

The video below is a typical contest exchange using CW (Morse Code) and in the ARRL Field Day Contest an exchange of information would be the call sign of the other station, your operating mode (how many radios are you running and what sort of power and station are you running), followed by your section of the country.  Then you return your own exchange to the other station and move on the to next contact by calling “CQ FD CQ FD de WT8WV WT8WV” and hope for a return of your call sign for a confirmed contact to log.  CQ means “calling anyone”… FD means your are calling for the “Field Day” contest… de is French and means “from”… and WT8WV is our station’s “identifying call sign”.  (You will see Bill (WR8S) make a contact and then write down the exchange from the other station on the log paper… then he begins calling CQ FD CQ FD de WT8WV using a memory keyer that he can program with the CQ message, our contact information and a thank you good bye message.  He just needs to use the keyer paddles to send the other stations call sign during a contest.)  Our return message to the other station to enter into their own log was, “WT8WV 2A WV”.

The pictures below tell the story of our challenges and our solutions.  I have to admit I thought we were DOA when the generator croaked at 4:30 am on Sunaday… but we quickly came up with Plan X and realized WR8S had a converter in his truck!  Back to battery power to finish of a good run of PSK31 and CW for 2 points each!

The original team plan was to use my new call sign WT8WV and be “3 Alpha West Virginia” but Jay got sick on Friday so we were now down 1 team member and 1 radio.  Then we had a balun issue with 1 doublet antenna.  So now we are WT8WV 2A WV with 2 Elecraft K3’s and 1 antenna.  We decided to salvage our potential scores by focusing on PSK31 and WR8S’s speedy left hand on CW… and forgo voice comms.

Friday night

Friday night with Jay and Bill

20150626_234118

Bill’s new eBay score! SWEEEEEET!

20150627_100542

Tom working on busted antenna while Bill tries to thaw out from a cold night.

20150627_100828

Bill loading software and setting features.

20150627_111724

Added a 24 X 12 tarp for 3 total sides to block prevailing weather and winds.

20150627_124633

Generator exiled away for less QRN.

20150627_152003

Tom runs PSK31 as Bill logs.

20150627_192530

Spence working PSK31 and Bill keeps him straight.

20150627_205436

Bill cranking out CW contacts as Spence logs.

20150627_210657

Used a nice Android App to log with a bluetooth keyboard.

20150628_091422

Tom and Bill hook-up inverter to salvage our weekend.

20150628_091537

20150628_115158

Tom saves the day! Good Boy Scout… WAS prepared.

20150628_122515

Tom fixed us a wonderfully WARM Sunday breakfast and we continued to grab a last string of PSK31 on 20 meters.

20150628_130517

A nice last hour run of CW on Sunday morning by Bill.

20150628_131239

PSK31 logs of confirmed QSO’s

20150628_141640

Bill brought a 16 foot long string of BRIGHT LED’s to light up our lives! Best gizmo of the weekend!

How can you become a Ham Radio operator QUICKLY?

Ham It Up_HR-RGB

You won’t believe how easy it can be!  You take it in bite-size chunks of information and at your own pace.  NO MORE MORSE CODE REQUIREMENT!  (But Morse Code is a blast to still use and also the most efficient form of radio communication!  I had to be able to send and receive 5 words per minute for the old Novice License… 13 wpm for General Class… and 20 wpm for Advanced and Extra Class licenses.  There are no longer any Morse Code requirements and the Novice and Advanced Class licenses are no longer available.)  For more than 100 years ham radio operators have been exploring the world and beyond from their own little ham shacks / ham station / living rooms.  It never gets old and there is always something to explore!

What can you do with a ham radio?  Talk to people all over the world with as little as 1 watt or less… or even 1500 watts.  Assist in Emergency Communications.  Assist with branches of the US Armed Forces.  Build your own radios and equipment.  Experiment with your own antennas.  Go to fun “Hamfests and Flea Markets” to learn and get great bargains.  Find new friends who are hams in your local club.  Participate in the Annual ARRL Field Day Contest and exercises!  Talk to the astronauts on the International Space Station.  Talk to other hams around the world THROUGH many ham radio satellites orbiting the earth!  Use your local VHF/UHF Repeaters to talk to family and friends from the car, handheld radio or from home.  Track ham radio equipped balloon flights.  Work with hams with disabilities.  Refurbish or collect old time ham radio equipment.  Teach others ham radio courses and/or help with exam sessions.

ARRL-Centennial-Logo-small-1024x868           skywarn           amradiospace2013           amateur_radio_emergency_service_thumb  
                                                               

There are three different licenses you can obtain and they are designed in a way that as you study to get the first license, what you learn there will help you understand the next license study material.  The really nice thing about it is that you will have ALL the multiple choice questions in each exam pool AND THE EXACT ANSWER TO EVERY QUESTION!  That’s pretty good to have all the Q’s and A’s to study!  The sample questions in your study materials are the EXACT questions you will see on the exam.  A score of 74% gets you the license!  There are also FREE practice exams you can take online or even from your smartphone!  (I took a couple practice exams each evening as I sat watching TV in my favorite chair in my living room.)  Soon the questions you have missed in the past practice exams are embedded in your brain with the correct answers reinforced!  Each question will have four (4) possible answers; and on most of the questions you can just about eliminate two of the possible answers just by looking at them.  (I will give you some good pointers about how to study and prepare for the exams at the end of this post!  Read them before you buy any study guides or books!)

ham-radio-test

You will just need to do some interesting and fun reading, look at the questions (and the exact answers) from each chapter of the book… and before you know it you will be ready to take the exam!  You are going to learn some really cool stuff each time you read the material.  PLUS, as you advance to a higher class of Ham Radio license you can pick your own call sign!  (In the early 1980’s my first call sign was KA8LJO from the FCC as a Novice Class licensee… then I was assigned KB8FIR by the FCC when I got my Technician Class license… and better yet, when I got my Extra Class license I picked my own call sign, WT8WV… “Whiskey Tango 8 Whiskey Victor”.  I chose it for three reasons… I am fond of an occasional taste of good whiskey… I love my state of West Virginia… and phonetically it stands out and sings in a pile-up during a Ham Radio contest!)

GWTW14Stech

The first license you study for is called the Technician License and the exam has only 35 questions!  You will learn some very basic things about electricity, how your radio signals move through the air, some of the rules that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) expects us to abide by for best practices, antennas, radios, the frequencies you can use in your new radio, and much more!  You will gain legal access to some very good frequencies for both voice and data communication in several excellent ham bands.  You could be ready to take this exam in a couple weeks of study!

gwgw11gen

The second license is called the General Class License and also has only 35 questions.  This course adds to what you learned in the Technician Class study.  It really dives just a bit deeper into some common things you will find will help you get more out of your antenna, radios, contesting, which ham bands magically open at specific periods of the day and year, some simply explanations of a few electronic circuits we use every day, and much more!  You will also gain even MORE frequencies on the ham bands to use at your pleasure!  You could be ready to take this exam in 2-4 weeks of easy study!

gwem-12extra

The third (and highest class of Ham Radio license) is called the Extra Class License and consists of a 50 question exam.  This study course really dives deeper in what you have learned in the Technician and General Class license preparations.  It will take a bit more time to study and prepare, and has a few more questions on the exam.  You gain ALL frequencies allotted to Ham Radio communications, with several excellent niches within certain ham bands reserved for ONLY Extra Class licensees!  You could be ready to take this exam in 30-60 days with some good study and practice exams under your belt!

ARRL-Logo

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) also offers all sorts of study books for not only all the licenses but a myriad of way cool ham related stuff for every facet of this vast hobby!  I have been a member of the ARRL for years and the monthly QST magazine alone is worth my dues!  Plus you get discounts on all the other books and items.  You can even find a local ham radio license class!  http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-class  Here is a link to the ARRL study guides for the three licenses.  They are much more in-depth than the Gordon West series of license books and a good addition to your study… but I personally feel the Gordon West series in the best way to get that license quickly.  Below for more information.   http://www.arrl.org/ham-radio-license-manual

thb-27365

License Exam Study and Preparation Tips

Select which study book you will use for the license you are going to test for.

Find a quiet place to read.

Have a yellow highlighter handy to highlight things you might need to refer to for a question.

Study about 20 minutes a day.  That way you won’t overload your brain!

Download a smartphone app with the ham radio practice exam questions and answers.  I used this all the time whenever I had to wait around for something or someone… or in a boring meeting (once in a while).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iversoft.ham.test.prep&hl=en

Watch free YouTube videos to help you prepare or further understand the chapter.  I have watched all of Dave Casler’s YouTube videos and they were a tremendous help to UNDERSTAND not just the question but the concept for every ham license book.  He does each video by chapter or topic and they a short enough to consume in a sitting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEWmiMotimY&list=PL07A7D1C9D7BF7F48

I highly recommend the Gordon West Technician Class License Value Pack for getting your Technician License quickly!  I don’t get paid for saying this!  Grin.  However, I will tell your this is the best investment in getting a license you can find.  Gordo makes it fun to learn and he tackles every question and answer in a way that will etch it deep in your memory.  You will absolutely burn through the questions and he’ll teach you ways to remember even the questions that seem difficult for some reason.  I have met him at the Dayton Hamvention and he’s a wonderful person and so helpful.  He even gives you his personal telephone number to call if you have a question!  I suggest burning the CD’s to an MP3 format and put them on your iPod, iPhone, Android or other device so your can listen to them anywhere… car, at lunch, on the treadmill, working out, hiking, etc.  Worked for me every time I did my 30 minutes on the treadmill and lifting weights!  (After I completed my Extra Class license with his book and CD’s I sold them for half-price to another General License ham in our club who is now studying with them!  You could recoup some of your cost, too!)

http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=78&sort=4

I highly recommend the Gordon West General Class License Value Pack for getting your General Class License quickly!  http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=59&sort=4

I highly recommend the Gordon West Extra Class License Value Pack for getting your Extra Class License quickly!  http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=43&sort=4

Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams!

These are free and a good way to see what areas you need to focus on so you can master a question.  I did this about every evening during commercials watching TV!  Great feedback on how you are progressing in your studies.  When you begin scoring 80% on these practice exams you will be ready to sit for an exam!  (If you buy the ARRL study books, they come with a CD with all the questions in the pool, the answers, scores your exams, shows you the areas you need to focus on, and tracks your progress by each section of the question pool.)  

http://www.eham.net/exams/

Getting you Ham Radio License is NOT rocket science… but it will be fun!  It’s a hobby that is ageless.  What happens if the cellphone towers don’t work, or if there is a prolonged power outage, or a natural disaster prevents normal communications?  Ham radio operators are often the first folks getting the word out and getting the help coming in!  I doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, either!  I have pieces of equipment I have either built myself or purchased dirt cheap at a flea market.  I have also saved my money for some other items in my ham shack.  It’s also a fun hobby to share with family, friends, and associates worldwide!  GET ON THE AIR!       

Click on picture below to enlarge it so you can see the frequency privileges you get with each license!

band_planou

Doublet Antenna to Hang!

Will be putting this baby up in the air soon!  Also have a 4:1 balun to add to it.  We use these for Field Day, as well!

Will be putting this baby up in the air soon! Also have a 4:1 balun to add to it. We use these for Field Day, as well!

2015 Dayton Hamvention Exploits

Tektronix 455... have always wanted a 'scope' to use to monitor my signals.  Got this one from a engineer who upgraded to a fancy new one.  Paid $75 for it and it works great!

Tektronix 455… have always wanted a ‘scope’ to use to monitor my signals. Got this one from a engineer who upgraded to a fancy new one. Paid $75 for it and it works great!

Bill, Tom and I decided to buy a QRP rig to play with that night while in Dayton.  So we picked this little jewel up, found an old power supply, and rigged up a dipole for some 40 Meter QRP.

Bill, Tom and I decided to buy a QRP rig to play with that night while in Dayton. So we picked this little jewel up, found an old power supply, some cheap meters and rigged up a dipole for some 40 Meter QRP.

Bill and Tom (with the assistance of my daughter's cat,

Bill and Tom (with the assistance of my daughter’s cat, “Ender”) put together the custom dipole for 40 Meters. It was strung through the kitchen and up the stairs… and it made beautiful music!

Inside the MFJ 40 Meter QRP rig... CLEAN!

Inside the MFJ 40 Meter QRP rig… CLEAN!

Picked up a cheap power supply and some $1 meters to add to our Dayton Hamvention

Picked up a cheap power supply and some $1 meters to add to our Dayton Hamvention “power house QRP station”.

Bad capacitor in power supply had to be re-soldered.

Bad capacitor in power supply had to be re-soldered.

Needed a little TLC

Needed a little TLC

Stealth antenna for QRP

Stealth antenna for QRP

Bill wiring circuits with Tom's oversight.

Bill wiring circuits with Tom’s oversight.

Bought this cute and tiny South African Special Forces Keyer to use for QRP and Straight Key Night contests.

Bought this cute and tiny South African Special Forces Keyer to use for QRP and Straight Key Night contests.

20150516_191317

A couple of old $1 meters

20150516_200821

Lighting up the FINALS! Burning holes through the clouds!

NEXT YEAR... this will be our big purchase for a tower for our weekend QRP station.  Tom gets to carry it out of the Dayton Hamvention Hara Arena to the truck.

NEXT YEAR… this will be our big purchase for a tower for our weekend QRP station. Tom gets to carry it out of the Dayton Hamvention Hara Arena to the truck.

Upgraded to Extra Class License and New Call Sign ! WT8WV

In March of 2015 I took my test for Extra Class and passed with flying colors.  I then did some searching for a unique vanity call sign that would have the letters “WV” somehow incorporated for “West Virginia” initials.  None of the 1 X 2 calls were available, so I fixated on variations of a 2 X 2 call.  I tried prefixes of W? A? K? N? followed by 8WV.  After some thought for use in a contest, I settled on a “WT” prefix since you don’t tend to hear many “WHISKEY TANGO” prefixes… soooooo…

WHISKEY TANGO 8 WHISKEY VICTOR

WT8WV

A buddy of mine in the ham club said, “That’s a lot of whiskey’s…”  I told him I am fond of whiskeys and love West Virginia… hence the new call sign.  Eighteen days later the FCC granted my first choice and I retired my old call sign, “KB8FIR” and before that my original call sign from the early 1980’s was “KA8LJO”.

N1MM Contest Logger Software

N1MMLoggerPlus250x75

http://n1mm.hamdocs.com/tiki-index.php

There is a new version out now, so be sure to get the latest version!  But these videos will give you the gist and get you up and running pretty fast.

The Splinter II QRP Ham Radio Kit… Impressive!

Going to have to build this little rig!  

http://breadboardradio.com/breadboardradio/Products.html

CHIRP Ham Radio Channel Programming Software

I fiddled with CHIRP for about an hour and found it relatively easy to program my two Baofeng hand held radios.  Once you get a hang of it you will find it pretty easy.   I love that you can sort your freqs by state and county repeaters and also add the NOAA weather channels.  I suggest watching this video to help you get a sense of it before you start.  It sure beats trying to manually program 125 channels!

Baofeng UV-5R and Wouxun KG-UV2D Dual Band Radios… A comparison

71kDkIpQ0YL._SL1000_

It was time to get a new 2 meter HT and I decided to get a dual band this time.  I recently purchased on Amazon two Boafeng UV-5RV2+ radios for under $70 and like them very much.  Here is the link for the Amazon deal… http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9Q78W/ref=pe_385040_127541860_TE_dp_2

Here is a good video comparing the Baofeng and Wouxun Dual Banders…

I will need to add a better antenna to them but for the money they seem pretty nice.  Audio is excellent.  Programming them manually is a bit of a pain in the drain, so I downloaded the free CHIRP software and had them programmed in under an hour. Once you get a sense of the CHIRP software future changes will go smoothly.  (I’ll post another video about using CHIRP.)

Best Way to Coil Coax and Audio Cables

Any one who has EVER coiled wire, coaxial cables, audio cables or even a hank of rope knows UNCOILING it has at one time or another created a “rats nest” of tangled mess that will increase your blood pressure, makes you exceedingly cranky and often has caused Tourettes-like symptoms.  Fighting an unruly coil of coax or audio cable wastes a lot of time when setting-up a gig, a Field Day site or even coiling a power chord at home!  Having spent years working in television studios, control rooms, and other audio gigs on a daily basis, I learned early on from the engineers that there is ONE way to coil cabling… W2AEW shows that in his video!  (P.S.  Engineers can be especially grouchy if you don’t coil correctly and THEY get to untangle YOUR improperly coiled rats-nest from a previous gig tear-down as they work on an important production. Time is money.)

Radio Propagation 101 (N9LVS)

Excellent tutorial by Dan Vanevenhoven (N9LVS) on what all the numbers in a propagation report mean to amateur radio operators and their ability to broadcast every day.

K1AR Contest Tips… boosting your contest scores!

QRP 20 Meter Phone

QRP 20 Meter Phone

Understanding how serious Ham Radio contesters rack-up big numbers in their final score tallies will add to your own scores.  This is another excellent QRZ.COM article from John H. Dorr (K1AR) about Contest Operating Tips.  This fellow knows how to contest!

K1AR Contest Tips

10 Most Popular Microphone Wiring Diagrams

HEADSET1            micdiagram2922

This is an excellent article from QRZNOW.COM showing the pin-outs for the 10 most popular microphone cables.  This QRZNOW website is a huge resource for hams everywhere.  Click article link below for full article and wiring diagrams…

10 “Most” Popular MIC Wiring Diagrams

Anderson Power Poles (Part 2)

Anderson Power Poles For 12 Volt Ham Radio Connections

These are very handy for all sorts of your 12 volt ham radio projects!  

Will be looking for these at the next hamfest!

Space Weather Impacts Everyone… including amateur radio!

space weather

From the U.S. National Weather Service YouTube page… click video links below…

We rely on advanced technology for almost everything we do today. Satellite communications, GPS applications, and the electric power grid provide the backbone to our Nation’s economic vitality and national security. This technology however, is vulnerable to a threat from space — our Sun. Eruptions from the Sun can have a profound impact on society. In Boulder, Colorado NOAA space weather forecasters maintain a constant vigil on the Sun, alerting a diverse customer base when storms are imminent. Operators from many sectors will take mitigating actions to protect the critical infrastructure that we have come to depend on.

An Introduction to Space Weather and the Space Weather Prediction Center

Space Weather Impacts: Communications

Space Weather Impacts: GPS

Space Weather Impacts: Power

RS232C DE-9 Pin Outs (M/F)

   dsub9m Male

dsub9f

Female

Again, DXZone has the information needed if you are needing to wire up an RS232 cable for an amateur radio project.  Click the link below for which pin does what!

RS232C DE-9 Pin Outs

Feed Lines… A Basic Understanding

The ARRL Website has excellent information on their website about all things amateur radio.  This article explains the basics about some of the more common feed lines in use for antenna construction and the termination to your ham radio equipment.  Check the link below…

Feed Lines… ARRL.Org

Tips on Soldering Projects

Z25_Soldering

The DXZone is another resource I can turn to for insightful articles and information.  Check out the link below for solid soldering tips and how to do a good job on your next homebrewing or kit project!

8 Awesome Tips And Tutorial Videos On Soldering

The Doublet Antenna

I have helped build and used two of these Doublet Antennas during the 2014 Field Day Contest and they worked great!  Worked many stations on CW, Phone, and PSK31.  Works great across many HF bands.  A little over 120 feet long.  WR8S (Bill Shultz), WD8WQK (Tom Graf) and I are going to make one for my ham shack as soon as I order the parts. Take a look at Ray Heffer’s explanation of the Doublet Antenna and a diagram by N4UJW below.

8010doublet

playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

BG5TLA's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Tinkertoytech's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

KC4LMD

Chronicling my pursuit of amateur radio’s "Worked All Neighbors" award

Casey's Place

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

Hackaday

Fresh hacks every day

VK4JAZ

Writings about Amateur Radio

Tactical HF

I love the smell of ozone in the morning...smells like...radio.

WB5RMG : RadioActive Blog

slightly sub-orbital testing facility

73, de N2HTT

A blog about ham radio, Linux and more...

Ham Radio Blog PD0AC

Thoughts of a Dutch radio amateur

Silver Bells Blog

Truth Appealing...

CQ de WT8WV... GraHAM's Dits & Dah's

My journey in amateur radio intrigues and hobby interests

K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

Mountain Mists...

A pleasant journey into how I see things... big and small

playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

BG5TLA's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Tinkertoytech's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

KC4LMD

Chronicling my pursuit of amateur radio’s "Worked All Neighbors" award

Casey's Place

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

Hackaday

Fresh hacks every day

VK4JAZ

Writings about Amateur Radio

Tactical HF

I love the smell of ozone in the morning...smells like...radio.

WB5RMG : RadioActive Blog

slightly sub-orbital testing facility

73, de N2HTT

A blog about ham radio, Linux and more...

Ham Radio Blog PD0AC

Thoughts of a Dutch radio amateur

Silver Bells Blog

Truth Appealing...

CQ de WT8WV... GraHAM's Dits & Dah's

My journey in amateur radio intrigues and hobby interests

K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

Mountain Mists...

A pleasant journey into how I see things... big and small

%d bloggers like this: