Reaching out to stations from HF QSOs 25 years ago….

1-30-2023 –

Hello! 

Please pardon the intrusion.  My name is Scott.  My call was KD5CAS from August 1997 to November 1999, when I became W5WZ.

I was thinking about my first HF QSOs back in September and October 1997, and wanted to reach out to those 18 hams who patiently endured those QSOs with a brand-new ham only 26 years old.  I could barely copy CW at the time, so I’m sure I wasn’t much for conversation.  Searching QRZ, only four remain with active licenses and an email address in the QRZ records.  So this email is being sent to those four.  If you were the person at the other end of one of these QSOs, I’d love to hear from you.

And, if you happen to have notes in your logbook about our QSO, or have my inbound QSL card, I would love to have a digital scan or photo of that to add to my radio history.

I was licensed as a technician plus at the time.  The rig was a Kenwood TS-430, and the antenna was a ladder-line feed 132-foot dipole.

I’ve been active on HF continually for the past 25 years.  I’ve grown to love DXing and contesting.  With lots of help from others, we’ve built a competitive contest station at my home in Louisiana.  

Along the way, my wife and all four children earned ham licenses.

I’ve attended the Dayton Hamvention 9 times, and have ham friends all around the world.

My basic radio info is found on QRZ at https://www.qrz.com/db/W5WZ

Twenty years of radio exploits are documented at https://www.w5wz.com/

I’m grateful for my elmer, W5LA, who is a close friend to this day.  And likewise, I’m grateful to you for the QSO in my radio infancy.  I wanted you to know that this has been an enjoyable journey, and you each are a part of it.

Thank you so much,

73, Scott, W5WZ (ex KD5CAS)


I was pleased to receive replies via email from two of the four:


Well Hello Scott,

It has certainly been a while. Back when we had our QSO I believe I just upgraded to extra and upgraded from a Kenwood TS-440SAT to a new Icom IC-756. While I had taken a break from the hobby I have upgraded the station over the years. When we had our QSO I was running the Icom 756 with a Cushcraft R-7000 40-10 meter vertical, I no longer have the 756 but I still have the R-7000, the matching network failed a few years ago and is now just a pile of parts. I still have my Astron RS-50M power supply, MFJ-986 tuner and still use my AEA PK-88 that I used to digipeat through the MIR space station, now used through the ISS. My station now consists of two Icom IC-775DSP transceivers, Alpha 76A, Palstar AT-1500CV,(soon to be upgraded to a Palstar AT 4K) MFJ-986, Icom IC-2000, two Heil ICM boom mics, and a Icom IC-9700 all mode VHF/UHF transceiver, soon to be paired with a Icom IC-7300. My primary antennas are a Buckmaster 3kW off center 7 band dipole, an inverted L for 160 and various VHF/UHF antennas. I just purchased a High Gain 640 AV and a Comet GP-95 VHF/UHF vertical but have not installed them yet. I have included a link to my general album that I have posted both of the QSL cards I received form you and the current state of my HAM / Test and measurement shack. https://photos.app.goo.gl/gksC6mUmF7UaUMz27

QSL cards sent by me to N7UQA for my 10th and 155th QSOs ever

73 and thanks for the links.

Craig Petersen – N7UQA

Thanks for your email. congrats.. I was 37 then..

62 now still working with new cw ops. Just helped a guy on 20 cw today.

73, Dennis WD9DWE

In-Band S&P for NAQP – Quick homebrew 1/4 wave vertical

1/21/2023 – This morning I quickly built a 1/4 wave vertical for 15 meters, and the ability to add a stinger for the antenna to function on 20 meters. The antenna is for the exclusive use of the S & P station C which is interlocked with run station B.

The vertical is cross polarized with the yagis on the main tower, so this helps reduce in-band interference.

KD7YS was the exclusive operator today for S&P, and in the first 7 hours of the contest, this antenna and setup added 12% to our total QSO count.

The antenna is 1/2″ EMT. The tilt base is a 2×4 stake driven in the ground, with 3-inch drywall screws serving as the pivot and to keep the pipe vertical. I had some scrap CAT5 cable. I burned 3 inches of the insulation off the ends, cleaned the bare wire in a vinegar and salt solution, then soldered 2 cables into 1 of 4 ring terminals, for a total of 8 random length radials laying on the ground.

Incremental Improvements and Maintenance

1/16/2023 – As the station grows and matures, there is always work to be done!

This evening I accomplished some improvement items in the shack for position C, to enable more efficient in-band Search & Pounce integration with position B

  • Installed Y-Box on K3 at position C
  • Built cable to connect EA4TX Interlock to Y-Box at position C
  • Built cable to connect Top Ten Band Decoder to Y-Box at position C
  • Built cable to connect Top Ten Band Decoder to Dunestar 600 bandpass filter at position C
  • Tested the function of Y-Box, Interlock, Band Decoder, and Dunestar at position C

1/18/2023 – I made six laminated N1MM+ “help” cards, containing many key assignments and some cool macro commands. They are printed on both sides, with unique data on each side. The MS-Word file is available here.

Laminated N1MM+ “hint card”. These should be an asset to operators in the fog of war moments.

January 2023 – NAQP CW at W5WZ M/2

1/14/2023 – Five operators gathered for the Jan-2023 NAQP CW at W5WZ, competing as a M/2 entry. Past efforts from W5WZ have made the “top ten” box, so our goals were high.

With the improving band conditions, we have been looking forward to the 2023 spring series of NAQP contests. About a week ago, I got sick and didn’t feel like doing anything at the station all week.

  • A few items remain undone on the maintenance list:
  • Stringing out the feedline for three “non-mowing season” beverages for NW, SE, SW;
  • Replacing the balun on the KT-34 used for Run2 in-band S&P radio;
  • After recent heavy rains, the 160 Inv-L is non-functional, cause unknown;
  • Middle C-31XR TicRing position pot needed replacing (finished 1.5 hrs before contest start);
  • Need new cable between EA4TX Interlock and K3 at position C;
  • West beverage is deaf, either shorted transformer or open termination resistor.

As for the NAQP CW contest, we gathered a few more ops than normal: station regulars W5WZ, WM5H along with W5LA, KD5YS, and first time guest op K5TS. We knew we wanted to open on 10 and 15 meters, although many times from our location if those bands are open they are too long to sustain good rates for us. So, with that in mind, we began.

Although we didn’t make as many QSOs as we hoped, I think this was as much fun as we’ve ever had in an NAQP CW, and also our highest score, due to the mult counts on the 10 & 15 bands that haven’t been good in several years.

Band QSOs Mults
160: 0 0
80: 318 54
40: 250 60
20: 449 62
15: 307 54
10: 172 36
Total: 1496 266 Total Score 397,936

Hoping to Build another Rohn 55G tower

I’ve had tower sections, EHS, turnbuckles, guy brackets, etc on hand for several years with the desire to erect another tower in the 120-170 foot range. My biggest obstacle has been how to handle a set of guy wires that must cross a driveway. A viable option is to install a guy post. Finding a cost effective steel member has been challenging. But recently I did stumble upon a great deal on some 8″x8″x1/2″ H-beams 21 feet long. With this find, the last obstacle is overcome.

Three H-beams, each 21 feet long
Some of the available hardware as of January 2023

Now it is time to get to work on the planning and designing the tower, antennas, and so on. My initial thoughts are to set this tower with stand alone antennas to allow in-band search and pounce concurrent with operations on the primary tower.

  • A wish list of antennas
  • Two or three Force 12 C-31XR
  • One or two Cushcraft XM-240
  • 2-3 element 30-meter yagi, 24-30 foot boom
  • OWA monobanders for 10, 15, 20; booms up to 48 feet

I also have possession of a pair of KT-34 and a pair of KT-36 tribanders – only one has the M2 machined aluminum upgrades as yet.

What thoughts do you have? How would you design and populate this tower? Please comment below.

Some new toys for the shack

Most hams acquire stuff over time for their use and enjoyment. I’m no different. Here are some recent acquisitions.

Y-Boxes for use with K3 and accessories, RigRunner, Green Heron Zigbee boards
Single band pass filters

And recently, I acquired a used IC-2740 for my car. It has been over 9 years since I had a radio in my car. As I commute 100 miles each day for work, having a radio again has been nice, even though repeater activity is not very high. The knobs on the IC-2740 have a depression on them to indicate position of the knob, but black on black was not very helpful. Using a toothpick and some orange acrylic paint, that problem is solved.

Orange paint makes the position marks stand out.

Issue with Tic Ring at 85 feet, turning C-31XR

1/10/2022 – The TicRing at 85 feet recently quit turning properly. I finally found time to document my findings and pose the question to CQ-Contest.

Physically, the antenna appears to be pointed about 150 degrees. The controller displays 60 degrees. Turn knob CCW to any position beyond 30 degrees and push start, nothing happens. However, with the knob at about 35 degrees and any where CW to 180, a brief tap of START elicites a sharp BUZZ (like an alarm sounder) from the controller. It also appears to rotate the antenna CW; I quickly turn the know CCW to stop rotation, because I don’t want to over-rotate and put coax in a bind.

I don’t see anything in my TicRing manual about an alarm buzzer, nor do I see any resistances for troubleshooting from the ground. I suspect others have encountered this before, and am hoping to get some hints before retrieving the motor from the tower.

I received helpful replies from N4TZ and K3LR

The buzzing you hear from the TIC controller is the relay chattering. That is caused, I think, by holding down the start button (telling the motor to go) while the controller is trying to get the motor to stop turning because it senses that the motor should not run.

There are five wires to the rotor – two for the motor, three for the direction indicating potentiometer. The motor windings are low resistance, under ten ohms (plus your wire resistance). The direction indication is 500 ohms from the CW to the CCW terminals, with the wiper in between. If the controller does not sense the wiper between the CW and CCW, then it will stop!

It has been known that the pot shaft is sideloaded by the gears such that the wiper will temporarily lose contact. A “fix” is to put some resistance across the controller terminals to make the controller think the rotor is within the range it wants to be and thus the motor will start, moving the pot past the bad spot. In my experience, when the controller had such problems, the needle on the meter would bang to the physical limit, and putting some external resistors would make the meter move back on scale.

The problem with the chattering was, I recall, from the center wiper connection losing contact with the winding. The resistance between the wiper and CW should be minimal when the rotor is turned fully CW (150-180 degrees).

Terry N4TZ

Your report sounds like a POT problem (defective). It is 10 turns and 500 ohms and available at DXE. I suggest you replace the POT and calibrate to zero degrees. With a new pot at the controller you should see 500 ohms across the pot. Zero degrees is when the wiper is at 250 ohms. The ends are 50 and 450 ohms. Only 400 ohms is used to go 360 degrees. You could also have a problem with the gears that drive the pot – make sure you check them.

Tim K3LR

Resistance measurments at the shack end of the control wires, disconnected from the controller. Note 4-5 is esentially open.

With the advice from N4TZ and K3LR, I’ve ordered a replacement POT from DXE.

1/14/2023 – The package from DXE arrived last evening. This morning in the sub-40 degree temperature, with heavy frost on the entire tower, I climbed up to retrieve the TicRing motor. Before descending, I manually rotated the C-31XR to about 30 degrees, where it would be fine to sit for the NAQP CW contest that started in a few hours, just in case I didn’t get the repair completed and climb back up to reinstall the motor.

On the workbench, disassembly was made easy via the anti-seize compound applied to all the bolts the last time the position pot was replaced. My Weller soldering station makes this work quick and easy – desolder the three wires, remove the pot, install the new pot, ensuring it is set at the center of its 10-turn range, reattach the wires via soldering, and test the motor. Tested perfectly. Back up the tower to reinstall the motor and have the ground crew visually calibrate the antenna, then back to the ground and in the shack to verify calibration.

W5WZ reinstalls the TicRing motor after replacing the potentiometer. This Force 12 C-31XR is at 85 feet above ground. Photo by K5TS
Ground crew assists by visually sighting the middle antenna with the upper antenna pointed due north.
W5WZ was the climber for the repair in this obligatory selfie at 85 feet above ground.

I sent K5TS, W5LA and KD5YS outside with a walkie-talkie to be my eyes while I handled the control box calibration duties. Got it all finished 45 minutes before the start of NAQP CW.

The bad pot to be replaced. The newly installed pot is the third pot that has been in service since the TicRing was installed.

Hints I’ve learned:

==> Grind a small flat area on the pot shaft so the set screw in the plastic gear will actually prevent the gear from slipping on the shaft

The base of the bad pot. Bourns 3590S-4-501L RES 500ohm+/-5%. Mouser #652-3590S-4-501L

Elecraft K3 – Line Out TX Monitor

Dec 2022 / Jan 2023 —

I have been trying to setup up the K3 and Mumble to enable proper audio for remote operation.  The issue encountered was at the remote location, microphone input was being played back into my ears with the round trip induced latency, essentially “jamming” my ability to speak coherently.

Thanks to an email with the exact solution from Kazu M0CFW, M5Z, JK3GAD, I have figured it out!  K3 LIN OUT has a TX MON setting that was added later than my printed user manuals (K3 # 251, so it has been around a while).

K3 MCU 5.58 / DSP 2.88 / FPF 1.26, 3-16-2017

* PREAMP 2 (ON KXV3B) NOW USABLE ON 15 AND 17 M: PREAMP 2 improves noise figure by about 6 dB on 15 m and 3 dB on 17 m relative to PREAMP 1.

* TX LINE OUT (MONITOR) LEVEL NOW ADJUSTABLE: In CONFIG:LIN OUT menu entry, tap ‘2’  (REV switch) to set the “T=” level (TX monitor). Tap ‘2’ again to return to the RX LINE OUT setting

K3 documentation and software update

All three of my K3 had TX MON = 30.  Adjust to 0, Mumble problem 100% resolved!

I remember now that this was set to provide ability to record N1MM voice keyer messages on the fly! Because I didn’t remember, I’ve made notes in the config matrix of all my K3 manuals.

–Scott, W5WZ

Improving Beverage Receive Antenna for SE

1/2/2022 – With the upcoming Bouvet DXpedition, now seemed like a good time to improve my beverage receive antenna for the SE direction. The current SE beverage was 480 feet long, and is run on the same posts, 2 feet above the primary NW beverage.

Several years ago, I planted some oak trees on the north and south sides of my property, which is primarily a pasture. They have grown, and now are adequate to anchor the ends of beverage receive antenna wires. I selected an appropriate pair with a 310/130 heading between them. These trees are 525 feet apart, for an additional 45 feet of length for this antenna.

Selected trees for this project circled in red

In the past, I had watched a YouTube video by Steve VE6WZ and his beverage installation techniques. Borrowing heavily from his method, I commenced my work.

At 12 feet above ground level, I drilled a 5/16″ pilot hole to install a 3/8″ hot-dip galvanized eye bolt. At the fixed end, a 3-foot loop of rope and an insulator are attached to the eye bolt.

For the floating end, I began exactly as VE6WZ demonstrates in his video. However, with 80 pounds of counterweight via the single pulley method demonstrated by VE6WZ, the wire was still sagging more than I desired. At this point, I decided to implement a 2:1 pulley block method to multiply the tension to 160 pounds.

Overview of the 2:1 pulley block tension method on my SE beverage. 80 pounds of actual weight has tensioned this 525-foot wire keeping it about 12 feet above ground across the single span

17-gauge galvanized steel electric fence wire has a breaking strength, depending on which source for specifications you trust, between 125 and 176 pounds. Thinking that I may be pushing my luck with 160 pounds of tension, I removed 40 pounds of weight, lowering the tension to 80 pounds via the 2:1 pulley block. The entire span is still sufficiently high above the ground. With storms approaching, that’s the end of work for today.

Closeup of the pulley block arrangement to achieve a 2:1 mecahnical advantage
  • Additional plans:
  • 3 ground rods (1/2″ copper pipe, 3-4 feet long) at both feed point and termination ends
  • Soldered, rather than compression ground wire connections to ground rods

2022 Minden Hamfest

12/17/2022 – the weather was forecast to be cool, but sunny. WM5H and I drove over to Minden, Louisiana to the MARA Annual Christmas Hamfest. We got to see some friends and swap some good stories.

WM5H and W5WZ at MARA hamfest

In the swap tables area, I bought a set of Array Solutions band pass filters for a fair price.

Band pass filters for 15, 20 , 40 and 80 meters