Blog Archives

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.

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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!

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Programming Your New Ham Radio… the Easy Way!

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downloadI recently took a deeper dive into digital ham radio and picked up a Yaesu FTM-100 mobile System Fusion rig.  VHF and UHF… 500 Channels on each band!  Holy Crap, Batman…  I’ll wear my aged, stubby, fat fingers to the nubs tryin’ to poke all that individual channel info into those 1,000 spots using those little buttons!  Plus, I have to look up all that info… somewhere… on EVERY channel I want to add to my line-up.  Ain’t no-body gotz time for dat!  (I also had to do that with my Baofeng UV-5RV2+ portable HT a couple years ago.)

What to do?  Path of least resistance!  Did a little research and found a computer program that does it all for me.  (I actually used the free CHIRP software to program my HT a couple years ago.)  RT Systems software makes the programming easy!  You simply pick out your software version based upon what radio you want to program, download the software, (Hopefully your radio came with the right interface cable to hook your radio to your computer to make the download of freq’s to your rig.), grab the repeater frequencies from some site like RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory and in 20 minutes you can load up your rig with more frequencies than you will ever use.  (While CHIRP is freeware, RT Systems and RFinder software platforms are paid versions.  I can honestly say that the software is very reasonably priced for both and you might only need to use it once in a while but it saves you HOURS of manual poking and prodding your radio buttons.)

(Click link below to see the typical instructions)

Radio Programming Software for the Yaesu FTM-100

(See the videos below…)

You can easily marry RT Systems software to RFinder software and quickly create a sort routine that grabs the EXACT frequencies you want and transfer it to your radio.  You can sort by town, state, zip code, ham bands, NOAA frequencies, etc.  

It makes short work of all of it!  You’ll spend more time convincing yourself to not pull in frequencies you will never use than the download takes!  

Once you set up your channel database you want to use for your radio, you simply hook your radio to your computer with the cable… poke a couple drop-down menus… and then the magic happens!  UPLOAD COMPLETE.  

I programmed about 75 VHF and 75 UHF Channels into my radio, start sort to finish sort to upload compete in under 20 minutes.  You might export your databases to your laptop or website to store for the future.

One thing I did that sort of brought sanity to my programming strategy and thinking was that I added the freq’s in sort of “banks” of channels so I could visually sense what channels I needed to tune to depending on my car’s location as I traveled.  For the first 10-15 channels, I loaded repeater data for the local area repeaters within about 75 miles of my home QTH.  I live just below the Mason-Dixon Line…  and yes, I consider myself a southerner but I can be in Pennsylvania within 10 minutes; in fact, I can be at the Pittsburgh International Airport in under 90 minutes!  So, since I travel a good bit for work, I can bounce to various repeaters as I drive in any direction!

In the next grouping of channels I might add just the Pittsburgh area repeaters.  In another group of channels I added the Dayton, OH repeater freq’s since my daughter and son-in-law live and work next to Wright-Patterson AFB and I also usually attend the Dayton Hamvention each year.  Another group of channels I include are the NOAA Weather Channels.  Other groupings include various regions of West Virginia since I also hunt, fish, camp and hike all over the place.

 

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.

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!

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

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!

 

 

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 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!

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

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Bill’s new eBay score! SWEEEEEET!

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

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Bill loading software and setting features.

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

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Generator exiled away for less QRN.

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Tom runs PSK31 as Bill logs.

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Spence working PSK31 and Bill keeps him straight.

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Bill cranking out CW contacts as Spence logs.

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

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

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

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

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

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PSK31 logs of confirmed QSO’s

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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

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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

Heil Pro 7 Headset from 2015 Dayton Hamvention

Pro7-3-B

Having lost a signification amount of higher frequencies in my hearing over the years, I added this to my WT8WV station. Bob Heil spent a few minutes with me on how to set them up with my Icom 761. He’s a great fella! Can’t wait to get them on the air!

The Pro 7 offers a feature set that compliments the Heil Sound standard for headset design. Unlike copies of various aviation type headsets, the PRO 7 is not a copy. It brings newtechnologyto the headset industry. The 2″ thick gel foam ear pads provide extreme comfort for extended periods of time while exhibiting passive noise reduction rated at -26dB, ideal for use in high ambient noise environments. Using technology Bob Heil learned from Paul Klipsch back in the early 70’s, the ear cup enclosures were tuned to the free air cone resonance of the speaker cone thus providing very low distortion with maximum voice articulation providing the ultimate sound reproduction for communications. Theexclusive Heil Phase Reversal system (HPR) allows you to acoustically move the signals forward and creates a spatial widening of the sound field. This feature makes it easier to pull a weak signal from a pileup – useful for DxPeditions and contests as well as a stress reliever as your change the phase angle of the program source. A speaker balance control allows preferred level between the speakers.

The PRO 7 has interchangeable microphone system allows the microphone element to be easily changed in the field for different types of applications. The low distortion Dynamic HC-7 element exhibits a frequency response of 100 Hz – 12 kHz with the -3dB points at 100 Hz and 12 kHz. The traditional Heil speech articulation rise is centered at 2K -4KHz with properly balanced highs and lows. The impedance is 600 ohm. The HC-7 is one of our best microphone elements for speech articulation.

Designed exclusively for iCOM radios, the iC Electret element has a -3dB fixed point at 35 Hz and 12kHz with the sensitivity of-48 at 1500 ohms output centered at 1kHz. The iC element solves the problems with LOW GAIN ICOM radios but can also work with great results on newer Icom models. Bias power is applied to operate the iC electret element. The Pro 7 iC is supplied with our ADl-iC eight pin iCOM adapter cable.

The Pro 7 and Pro 7iC come in black, red, blue or pink.

The balance control located on the LEFT speaker, controls only the left speaker. Begin by setting a comfortable right side speaker level with the AF gain of the receiver. You then adjust the left side speaker where necessary to balance the audio between the speakers. In most cases the balance control will be close to or maximum.

http://www.heilsound.com/amateur/products/headsets/pro-7

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”.

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.

Pre-Contest To-Do List… CHECK it out!

calendar6-300x300     2014-06-28 17.39.43

CQ Contest… CQ Contest… CQ Contest !!!

Ham radio contesting is exciting and fun to participate in regardless if you are a Rookie Contester or a Seasoned Pro-Contester!  As with any big project, proper prior planning makes all the difference in your final score.  This QRZNOW.COM article about developing a Pre-Contest Checklist will add to your QSO tally!  Click link below for the full article…

Pre-Contest Checklist – CQ WW

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!

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

Elecraft KX3 Demo and Connect to iPad Videos

I had the pleasure of playing with two Elecraft KX3 radios during ARRL Field Day 2014 running CW and PSK31 modes.  Both radios worked like a charm off of battery power and we racked up some excellent contacts during the hours of the contest.  I want to thank Bill (WR8S) and Tom (KD8WQK) for letting me get may hands on their toys! Definitely on my WISHLIST!

kx3

The KX3 HF Radio is pictured above.  The optional 100 Watt Amplifier is pictured below.

 kxpa100_fr_1280

Watch the Elecraft KX3 Demo Video below…

Connect the KX3 to an iPad…

CQ Field Day 2014 de WR8S

2014_Field_Day_Logo_333_X_220

Operating Field Day Station WR8S from high atop Chestnut Ridge in north central West By God Virginia, Bill Shultz (WR8S), Tom Graf (KD8WQK) and Spence Graham (KB8FIR) ran QRP CW and PSK31 modes on 2 Elecraft KX3 radios.  It was a great weekend with excellent chums!

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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

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

Ham Radio Blog PD0AC

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Silver Bells Blog

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

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K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

Mountain Mists...

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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

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