Remodeling the shack

After nearly 10 years, I decided to change the layout of the 3rd and 4th positions in the shack. The mult station had been under the stairs, the the 3rd station on a very small table. Additionally, all 4 computers were replaced. And I decided to identify the stations by letter, from left to right, rather than by number.

I’ve had a Mackie 102-VLZ Pro sitting on a shelf for years. For Christmas 2018, I bought a gift for myself – a pair of powered JBL Control 2P monitor speakers, and integrated the mixer and the speakers into the shack. Connected the K3 at A, the K3 at B, and the computer at B (my main single op and “work” computer) to the mixer. This has really improved my enjoyment of shack time. I can listen the the bands without being tethered to headphones; I can listen to music from my computer; shack guests can hear the action; the list goes on. I’ve told some of my ham friends that this single change has had a bigger impact on my shack time enjoyment than anything else I’ve ever done!

At position A, I added a vertical dual monitor stand. The EA4TX interlock will sit on a shelf between position A and position B. The desk remains unchanged.

Left to right, operating positions A and B.

It was a different story at the other end of the shack. I had a desk that my father had built for me when I was in 4th grade. It was somewhat custom built for a old 19-inch black-and-white TV, my Commodore Vic 20 computer, and an Atari 2600. I replaced the table top when I became a ham, making it longer and deeper. A removable hutch on top was still functional. Letting go of some sentiment, I took the desk out of the shack, but kept the hutch to use on the table top under the stairs.

Several years ago, after I built my desk for A and B, another WW5RC (ex:KC5WA) had me build a nearly identical desk for him. He recently moved into a retirement apartment, and had to downsize. He offered me first refusal on the desk I built. So, with a modification to utilize what I needed, the desk built by me returned home for position C and position D.

Left to right, operating positions C and D.

Dual vertical monitor stands were added, and new computers also installed. An Astron RS-70M supplies power.

I think the next remodel project will be to epoxy the floor- the bare concrete is constantly dusty and gritty.

2020 Jan NAQP CW M/2

Call: W5WZ
Operator(s): W5WZ WM5H
Station: W5WZ

Class: M/2 LP
QTH: LA
Operating Time (hrs): 12
Location: LA

Summary:
Band    QSOs    Mults
160:    181    43
80:    289    53
40:    301    56
20:    311    57
15:    72    22
10:    0    0
Total:    1154    231    Total Score    266,574

2019 CQ WW CW M/S HP

First time every for a Multi-Op of any major CW contest. We had fun, and wished for more operators to share the fun and BIC time.

As always, thanks to WM5H for pre-contest work getting the station ready and for good food.

Very glad to have my elmer, Jim W5LA, BIC for the majority of the run workload. We are going to make a serious contester out of him!

Band QSOs Zones Countries
160: 67 14 41
80: 168 24 82
40: 256 31 110
20: 775 34 133
15: 89 23 75
10: 39 11 21
Total: 1394 137 462 Total Score 2,210,909

During a post-contest phone call with K8AZ, Tom remarked that a country count more than 400 in the M/S category is a serious competitive effort.

2019 ARRL NOV SS SSB M/S

Once again, a group of LCC members tackled the M/S HP category. Jim W5LA, Bobby WM5H and Scott W5WZ were on hand for the event. Prior obligations took all 3 way on Sunday morning for about 4 hours. Consequently, QSO count was down, but we still had fun!

Band QSOs
160: 0
80: 241
40: 689
20: 532
15: 6
10: 0
Total: 1468 Sections 83 Total Score 243,688

N4PN, SK – 11/05/2019

Contester Paul Newbury, N4PN of Macon GA, SK. Paul passed of a heart attack on 11/5/2019. He’d been active in the Nov SS CW contest this past weekend.
I met Paul on the air several years before meeting him in person at Dayton Hamvention 2007. Me and K5ER were doing the Louisiana QSO Party as a rover. About 15 minutes before the contest started, I had called CQ and Paul answered. He asked what parishes we planned to activate in the 12 hours, and how much driving versus operating we were going to do. We exchange that info, and when the contest started, N4PN was the first call in the log for each parish as we drove our route. On the occassions we’d stop and set up a better antenna, Paul held the frequency for us and took lists for us; then he’d be first in the log and pass the list to us. It was a great day.
I wrote about that experience in 2005: www.qsl.net/w5wz/laqp05.htm
And here’s a great photo of me, K5ER and N4PN at Dayton 2009: hamgallery.com/dayton2009/d09016.htm
Another fine gentleman, and a friend now gone to the eternities.
73 Paul
from W5WZ

2019-CQ WW SSB @ K8AZ

I made my 7th trip to Chesterland, Ohio to the fantastic station of Tom, K8AZ for the 2019-CQ WW SSB contest. Yes, it is a long drive – 16 hours or so. But the camaraderie with the gang makes it all the better!

As usual, I spend some time on Friday helping Tom with various maintenance, repairs, or installations of new items. This trip was no exception. Many hands do indeed make light work!

Tom takes a pre-contest walk around the antenna farm. This time, we found the rope supporting the SW element of the 80-meter transmit 4-square had broken, and the result was a rope tangled up in the elements of several yagis on a rotating tower.

In waning day light, we worked to free the rope from the tower such that the 80-m antenna would be usable. The rotating tower is 15 and 20 meters, so we parked it toward Africa for the night. Once the rope was free, we managed to get it positioned such that the 80-m antenna functioned for the overnight operating period.

The next morning, it was raining. The forecast called for increasing winds throughout the day and into the night. K8AZ and I ventured with bow and arrow to get a string over the appropriate tree. First challenge was using a sling blade to clear walking paths and work areas in the raspberry thicket, then cross a creek to find the loose end of the rope. Second challenge was to place the string. First shot success! Then pulled a larger string, and at last the final rope. With the antenna repaired, back to the house for shower and then operating time again.

Near sunset on Sunday night, suddenly 80-meter 4-square SWR went really high. Upon inspection, we found the NE element had broken loose from the feed point. Hauled a ladder out and worked beyond sunset to complete the repair with 20 minutes left in the contest.

Highlights of this contest: seeing my friends K8AZ, K8NZ, W8CAR, WT8C, AA8OY, K8RR, W8WWV, K8BL; riding in and driving a dual motor Tesla Model 3; meeting KE3X and talking contest strategy; and working CN3A on 160m with my own call!

Station Maintenance Oct 11 & 12, 2019

Over time, things up in the air change! I’d put together an ambitious to-do list!

Towable 55-foot reach aerial lift. Electric, runs on self-contained batteries. Cost $375 for the weekend.

Bobby WM5H and I rented a 55-foot aerial lift, because the 40-meter feed point is 12 feet away from the tower. With Bobby as ground crew and Scott in the bucket, we were able to complete:

  • Repair 40-meter Yagi at 52-feet above ground. Problem was a fried balun connector.
  • Repair 15-meter Yagi at 52-feet above ground. Problem was loose hardware connecting hairpin to driven element.
  • Use lift to rework 17-meter tower
    -Add back stay.
    -Secure new hard line and control cable to tower, leaving loop for tilt-over.
    -Replace rotator loop feed line.
  • Use lift to cut down storm-damaged ash tree in sections. This was more of a chore than expected.
  • Trim a large pine tree behind shop, strategically leaving limbs for easy wire antenna support. Installed a pulley at 55 feet above ground on a limb.
  • Install new 580-foot beverage wire for SW direction
  • Install new 580-foot beverage wire for SE direction
W5WZ accessing 40-meter feed point. The 15-meter feed point is first element on the left side of the tower along the same boom
Fried female UHF connector for the input of the 40-meter 1:1 balun at the feedpoint. The balun was a CAL-AV LABS high power bead balun.
Post-repair sweep of the antenna from the main run radio. This is how it is supposed to be!

At the end of the second day, some items remain to be completed:

  • Move 80-meter Inverted-Vee from 77-feet to 105-feet. Extend feed line as required. Tie out ends as required. Modeling by KA5M shows 1-dB gain increase at 20 degrees elevation; should be a worthwhile change.
  • Build new 160-meter ground plane vertical with elevated radials in new location. Tie top support rope off near top of tower. Run hard line as feed line to new feed point.
  • Re-arrange several wire antennas supported by trees. Replace string with new antenna rope.
  • For the two new beverage antennas, run feed line on the ground. Drive 2 ground rods, install transformer and feed point termination.

Modify AL-1200 HV power supply

WARNING – LETHAL VOLTAGES!!! DO NOT ATTEMPT WITHOUT PROPER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS!!! I’m not responsible for what you do with this information!

The Ameritron AL-1200 has a 3,600v power supply. Its filter capacitor bank of eight, 270mF 450vDC runs right at the limit of its design (8 x 450 = 3600). A common modification is to add two additional capacitors, along with the needed bleeder resistors, to increase the filter bank capacity to 4,500v. Keep in mind that the transformer still puts out 3,600v, so this modification essentially allows the components in the filter bank to have some overhead capacity.

W8JI and W7RY both offer a replacement PCB designed for 10 capacitors. W1QJ described the way he modified an AL-1200 for W2RE. I choose to adopt the W1QJ method, and will show how I did it here.

The modification involves adding two capacitors in series with the existing capacitor chain, with a bleeder resistor across the terminals of each capacitor. I’ve done this by constructing a small PCB that I’ve added to the amplifier. Then, move two HV wires, cut a HV trace and add a jumper for the metering, and add a jumper to complete the HV series circuit.

Conceptually, this is the modification. I’ve omitted the additional bleeder resistors on the drawing, but they are required! The existing bleeders are desoldered on one end to allow me to test them. The one on the far left had failed completely open, thus causing the capacitor to “tick”. That’s what has led to this modification. I had replaced all the caps and bleeders only five years ago.
Here’s my first test fit of the additional PCB. Note the markings on the board indicating the bleeder resistors, capacitor polarity, jumper to complete the series circuit, and destination for the 2 HV wires to be moved, and the new HV metering jumper.
The completed modification and reassembled amplifier.

Beverage Termination Resistors

I use Mouser part # 660-SPR2CT521R471J or 660-SPR2CT52R471J or 588-ON4715E-R58
Carbon Film Resistors – Through Hole 2W 470 ohm 5%TR
$0.10 to $0.46 each, vs the big retailer selling them at $2.49 each