12/18/2021 — Checking out the KT34M2 in preparation of the NAQP series in January and February has revealed issues on all three bands.
Some queries to TowerTalk and the responses all pointed toward bad coax/water in coax, or loose connections between balun and front driven element and/or rear-driven element. On 1/13/22, we tested the coax and even swapped with another run. Same symptoms. A call to M2 support; they suggested perhaps water in one or more of the capacitors. We tilted the tower over to access the capacitors. Removed all 16 end caps, finding no water. We did, however, find much insect debris and dirt dauber nests. Cleaned all that out with compressed air and a long rod to push through the 3/8″ inner tube. We also verified all the mechanical connections on the driven elements and confirmed good continuity with an ohmmeter. The SWR curves are improved, but still too low.
Back in January 2018, I met George K7BFI on the air one evening. Turns out we had a few things in common. So while on vacation, I took the opportunity to stop in and meet him at his home in Utah face-to-face. Thanks George and XYL Karen for a wonderful breakfast, and even better conversation!
Keeping your butt in the chair is an important part of contesting. Sometimes the chair is the source of discomfort that leads to diminished BIC time. The chairs in my shack were a mixture of cheap and hand-me-down office task chairs that were not very comfortable.
Yesterday my wife KW5MOM and I were shopping for a new bed for the guest bedroom. I saw some used chairs in the corner and asked about them. The proprietor told me they were $50 each. So I made a deal for five of the Herman Miller chairs.
I hope my shack guests will find them more comfortable. At the very least, all the chairs are the same now.
If you have thoughts or experiences regarding chairs for the contest station, please comment below!
All tower owners should regularly inspect their complete tower system – guys, guy anchors, guy wires, tower base, section bolts, turnbuckles, etc – the complete tower system. Before I climb, I visually check all I can see. When I climb, I check section bolts. And about once a year, I check guy tension and adjust as needed.
10 Feb 2021
Using Loos Model PT-2, I adjusted my guys to these tensions
This process led to me emailing Tim W3YQ to ask his thoughts. Here is the reply:
Well, here’s my thoughts. Plumb is much more important than guy wire tension – within reason. To have a tower in plumb, the whole structure is in compression. It won’t fail. Just like a pencil – you can’t smash it with a downward force, but you can snap it by bending it in the middle.
I know of only two ways to plumb a tower. The first, best, and easiest is to set up two transits; 90 degrees apart. Sight both transits to the bottom of the tower then move up to the first guy level. Get the tower straight up to that point. I usually use the width of a Rohn tower leg as my “good enough” standard. If the tower’s way out of plumb, you might have to mess with the other two sets of guy wires simultaneously. Sometimes it’s really hard to pull that first guy wire set in when the rest of the tower is fighting you. Once the lowest set of guys is done, move up to the next set.
The tension of the three guy wires of any level will (almost) never be equal. The only time that would occur is if you were on a perfectly flat plane and your guy anchor points are exactly on the money. Theoretical but not practical. Someone who adjusts all three guy wires to equal tension almost certainly have a crocked tower. Don’t worry about guy tension. Go for plumb. Use the tension gauge to help you get things set “close” to the suggested tensions. Err on the side of loose instead of tight. That 10% rule is a guideline and it’s purpose is to prevent the guy wires from galloping. They’ll do that in the wind if they’re much too loose. Loose guy wires, again within reason, exert less force on the structure. Yes, when you climb, there will be a little more movement with loose guy wires, but the tower is not going to fall over. Too tight, on the other hand, is exerting an extreme downward force on the tower. True that if you’re perfectly in plumb it won’t collapse, but why go there. So just use your Loos gauge as a guide. Never go above the 10% value on any guy wire, but try to get close to that value on the one that needs the most tension. Then adjust the other two guy wires for plumb and not tension. I usually check the tension of all three and I generally find that they’re way off from each other. That’s OK.
The second method: It IS possible to plumb by attaching a small rope at each guy level, one at a time. Center it in tower, hang it down through the middle of the tower, and attach a weight at the bottom. Then stick a bucket of water for the weight to rest in. I guess you call that a plumb bob. The water keeps the weighted rope from swinging. It’s kind of a PITA, but it works.
So, this led to me purchasing a transit and acquiring another to be able to properly do “Method One” above. Once all the components arrive, I’ll post an update on the project.
A year ago I wrote about my Christmas 2018 “self-gift”, the pair of JBL Control 2P powered monitor speakers that I integrated into my shack with a Mackie 1202-VLZ Pro. This continues to be enjoyed in my shack because I can listen to multiple sources without being tethered by a headset cord.
Similarly, I’ve been tethered by headset cord to all my microphones because they are all headset mikes. For some time, I had desired an articulating boom + microphone setup. However, I did not want to pay for brand new equipment just to try something out, and I wasn’t really sure how or where I would mount it to not be in the way when not using it.
I had read on the Elecraft reflector some interesting commentary about brands of microphones. As the K3 has a built-in transmit equalizer, it seemed the consensus leaned away from the brand that is marketed as the elite microphones for ham radio. I studied some other brands and the frequency response and cardioid patterns of several microphones.
Soon, I found one that I was willing to buy and try. I found a new condition, open box Shure PGA48 with a 15-ft XLR cable and mic clip on eBay for $33 to my door.
At the same time on eBay, I found a used mic boom, Heil PL2 missing the cable covers and any type of mount, for $50 to my door. Tiny zip ties will hold the cable just fine.
The items arrived, and I was left with figuring out a way to mount the boom. An ‘ah-ha’ moment struck, and a simple solution was found. My radio desk has a brace under the tabletop in just the right place. I drilled a 5/8″ hole through the tabletop and into the 2×4 brace for a total depth of 2 inches. After vacuuming the shavings out, I pressed a steel sleeve bushing O.D. 5/8″, I.D. 1/2″, Length 1-1/2″ ($3 at the local hardware store) into the hole, creating a flush-mount for the boom to sit in. It works perfectly!
Next was to listen to how I sounded with the existing TX EQ settings in the K3. I had a set of “rotating” TX macros set up to allow me to quickly step through five different TX EQ settings.
Yesterday afternoon, I enjoyed many casual QSOs on 17m and 20m using the completely “untethered” accessories. I even experimented with VOX and improved the settings to work effectively with the Shure mic.
Summary: This is a worthwhile purchase and it will enhance my casual operating enjoyment.
In late October 2020, I realized that the paint in the shop, shack, kitchen and bathroom was now 10 years old, and had endured rearing 4 young children. It was time for fresh paint. But instead of exclusive flat white, I got courageous and asked for suggestions from my wife Sharon KW5MOM and my adult daughter Jordan KF5GDJ.
They both suggested adding some real color to the mix, which I gladly obliged. The results were far better than I could have anticipated, and I love the colors in the entire shack area. It’s actually hard to believe what a difference it made!
Finished the project with 4 coats of clear concrete sealer on the floor.
Added two new beverage receive antenna – southeast and southwest.
Southeast is 580 feet long.
Southwest is 480 feet long.
Installed them both 2 feet above the existing beverages for NE and NW using PVC pipe as a vertical standoff.
Built a home-brew EZ-Way Wonder Post to ground-mount the EZ-Way Tower that had been on my utility trailer as a portable tower. This 50 foot tower will be used for 6 meters, 2 meters and 70 centimeters. I rebuilt a Ham-II rotator for this project.
6-meter antenna is a Hygain VB-66DX – 6 elements on a 24-foot boom.
Don’t yet know what will go up for 2m and 70cm.
Implemented an EA4TX INTERLOCK to keep us honest in M/S and M/2 contesting.
And a good time was had by all. 12 hours B.I.C. We had trouble with the SixPack with 15, 20, and 40 meters. Had to coax jump around the SixPack to use 15 and 40 on the right radio. No time to fix during the contest!
Thanks to all for the QSOs, and especially all the >3 band QSOs.
With high anticipation, regular ops W5WZ and WM5H had prepared the W5WZ station for a serious Multi-Single effort for this contest, with full ability for in-band S&P at full power using EA4TX interlock. A portable tower set up 700 feet west of the main tower, with KT-34XA at 60 feet, an 80-meter dipole at 55 feet, and 40-meter dipole at 45 feet provided sufficient antenna separation. First-time guest Dave K5UZ joined the team for the effort.
As always the food was excellent, the station performed well – except the air conditioning – in the 100 degree heat and Louisiana humiditiy it couldn’t keep up with the ops and 3 amplifiers.