Category Archives: Projects

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…

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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!

DR-1X System Fusion Repeater and the HRI-200 WiresX

A nice video showing the basics of the setup with the HRI-200 and the Yaesu DR-1X System Fusion repeater.

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

This is a good introduction video for anyone curious about Yaesu’s efforts in digital communications at the local repeater level.  It also sets aside some fears and misunderstandings about amateur radio operators making the decision to add or upgrade to digital from analog… you can do 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.

APRS… from the inventor, Bob Bruninga WB4APR

I would venture to say you can’t do better than hearing it from the inventor himself!

Published on Oct 19, 2015

Automatic Packet Reporting System overview by its inventor, Bob WB4APR given at the HACDC Amateur Radio Club. For more information about APRS, go to http://www.aprs.org For more information about HACDC Amateur Radio Club go to http://www.w3hac.org

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.

APRS… Automatic Packet Reporting System

The thing I absolutely LOVE in this wonderful hobby of Amateur Radio is that there are so many diverse niches to explore!  Everything from building your own radio, working through satellites in orbit, transmitting your own slow or fast scan TV signals, Morse Code working over 300 countries in the world on less than a half of a watt of power, emergency response, tons of digital modes, bouncing signals off of the moon, ricocheting your signals off of an excited aurora… basically, if you have an idea on getting a signal transmitted or received to someone you can invent your own technology!

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) combines ham radios, GPS and tiny computers to report your location, regardless if you are standing on a street corner, in a moving car on the highway, camping, hiking, boating, balloon tracking, airplanes or even in space!  Believe it or not, your own cellphone can serve as the computer part, software and GPS .  Check out this slideshare from  on the nuts and bolts of this fun segment of ham radio.  (Click on his name above and check out his other presentations!)

REVIEW: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digital portable radio

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This is a solid review by Don Trynor from VA3XPR from July 2015 of the Yaesu FT2DR dual-bander HT.  (They have a very nice website!)

Our local ham radio club, Monongalia Wireless Association, recently bought 2 of the Yaesu Fusion repeaters and I am doing my own research into being able to enjoy a new type of technology. I am looking at my options and hope to find something to get my hands on at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention!  I would think that prices would be moderating downward by now as others adopt the new radio and there may be some rebates floating around or “Specials” by some of the dealers.  (Read Don’s full review here…  Review: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digitl portable radio )

The FT2DR is a good choice for anyone looking for a full-featured dual-band portable radio that is compatible with Yaesu’s Fusion line of digital radios. While this radio has some innovations, we think that they may not justify the $550 USD price point of this unit. In addition, we feel that Yaesu could improve upon future radios like this one, especially as it relates to the overall user experience. In this day and age when a good user experience for touch screen devices is the norm, such as with smartphones and computers, we think devices like this have room for improvement. All in all, if users can live without the touch screen display and louder audio, they might want to consider a cheaper alternative in the Yaesu FT1DR, which retails for $300 USD.

WinLink… What is it?

K4REF tells us from his YouTube Channel the basics of this interesting technology that we can use as Amateur Radio Operators.  It is most likely very similar to a technology we use daily… away from our radios!

 

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)

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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!

Arrow Antenna Bracket by Randy K7AGE

If you are interested in a relatively easy way to chase “The Easy Birds” (amateur satellites), K7AGE can help you get set up and successful QUICK!

Ham Radio Satellite Arrow Antenna

How to track satellites with K7AGE… Randy is great at explaining the how and why!

Ham Radio AO-51 Satellite with Randy, K7AGE

Randy K7AGE does a great job explaining how the satellite pass will work with minimal ground station equipment.  It is a really cool way to communicate and anyone with a Ham Radio License can do it!!!  Think about it… you are shooting signals to and from something the size of a Cantaloupe that is more than 22,000 miles away from the earth… and MOVING at 17,000 miles per hour in a circular orbit… with a $30 handi-talkie!

 

 

 

 

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

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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

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!

How To Make A CAT5 Network Cable

Recently I remodeled the attached garage into an additional room (which will include my revised ham shack) so that it became a functional area.  Before hanging the dry wall I ran both electrical circuits and a network circuit so that I could not only supply power to the whole room but also 2 circuits for my ham radio equipment and computers.  After pulling the CAT5 cables I had to terminate them for hooking up the wireless router and computers.  This video shows and explains the exact sequence of the individual multicolored CAT5 wires and the order they need to be slipped into the connectors before they are crimped.  WRITE DOWN THE WIRE COLOR CODE ORDER GIVEN IN THE VIDEO TO USE WHEN YOU ARE READY TO MAKE THE CONNECTIONS. 

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

How Does a Multimeter Work?

Afrotechmods is a very insightful and easy to understand YouTube channel to follow on basic electronics.  Here he talks about multimeters and their usage in our ham shack.  I have several different digital and analog multimeters and their usage often depends upon the application and project.  He does other excellent videos, so check him out!

WM2U’s PSK31 Webpage

This is BAD PSK31 signal identification... keep it clean!

This is BAD PSK31 signal identification… keep it clean!

Good article on PSK31 by WM2U that has all sorts of good information.  Also his Tip List is below.

http://www.qsl.net/wm2u/psk31.html

 WM2U’s Tip List for PSK31

  • Set sound card sampling rate to 11025Hz
  • This must be at least a 16 bit sound card.
  • No Signal observed? Check your WAVE slider is not zero.

  • Set Rx and Tx frequencies to 1000Hz.
    NOTE: This value will get you up and running but if you plan on using a filter change it to the center frequency.
  • If using LSB check the “Inverted QPSK” box.
  • Too much noise! Try using a narrow CW filter.
  • Using a Word Processor, write your buffered messages and save them as .txt files, placing em! in a folder called ‘buffers’ created in the main PSK31 folder.
    NOTE: This is NOT a form of type ahead buffer. It is simply a method to pre write ‘Standard’ messages hence saving you keyboarding time.
  • READ THE HELP FILES.
    • Your sound card output must NOT overdrive your Mic Input.
    • Do not overdrive the sound card input from the Radio.
    • Get used to the Waterfall/Phase indicators for tuning.
    • Do not use your Speech Processor.
    • Be patient. This is a new mode. You will not find all the features you are used to yet!

How to zero-beat WWV to check or adjust a Frequency Counter’s accuracy by W2AEW

This is another cool video by W2AEW.  He does the best job of explaining theory I have found.  His videos are excellent and his schematics and formula explanations are easy to understand.  I have exchanged messages with him and he encourages us to follow his blog and learn.  Also check out his website below!

This video shows how to zero-beat the WWV signal as a tool to adjust the frequency reference of an old frequency counter. It demonstrates the concept of zero-beat’ing a test signal against the WWV carrier. Since the WWV carrier is likely more accurate than any other frequency reference that most hobbiests and hams have in their labs, this is a useful technique. It can be used to check or adjust the 10MHz reference in the counter, if it has one, or can be used to very precisely set the output frequency of a signal generator which can then be used as a test signal for the frequency counter.

Similar techniques can be used to adjust the frequency accuracy of a ham radio’s reference. Several years ago, I wrote up a procedure that I put on my website. If can be found here:
http://www.qsl.net/w2aew/adjustrig.htm

 

Tektronix Oscilloscope Triggering controls and their usage by W2AEW

This video describes the Triggering controls on a typical Tektronix analog oscilloscope. Other analog scopes will typically be similar. The video presents the Trigger Level, Slope, Source, Coupling, Mode and Holdoff controls, and how each of them are used and their affect on the triggering capability of the scope.

Measure Capacitors and Inductors with an Oscilloscope and some basic parts by W2AEW

This video shows how to measure the value of unknown capacitors and inductors using your oscilloscope and a simple pulse generator. There are many ways to do this, but this video focuses on just two basic techniques. The video was inspired by this blog post on scopejunction.com:
http://www.scopejunction.com/author.a…
The techniques are very simple, and are a good example of basic principles of RC and LC circuits. Another bonus is that it shows another use for the fast-edge pulse generator that was shown in a video I posted several days earlier on making your own basic TDR:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cP6w2…
The capacitors are measured by simply measuring the RC time constant, and the inductors are measured by making a simple LC tank circuit and measuring the resonant frequency.

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playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

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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

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Tactical HF

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

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slightly sub-orbital testing facility

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