Eyeball QSO with K7BFI

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!

Casual photo of Scott and George with his tower in the background

BIC – An important part of contesting

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.

Mixture of chairs – 3 very cheap task chairs and one moderate quality chair that I selfishly always use.

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.

A pair of the five “new-to-me” Herman Miller chairs, which are highly adjustable.

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!

Tower Guy Tension – You do check it regularly?

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 2021NW GuyNE GuyS Guy
Top 1/4″292928
Mid 3/16″191818
Bottom 3/16″202019
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.

CST Berger model 136

Boom + Microphone + Mount <$90

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.

Shure PGA 48 response charts

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.

What’s in the box.

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!

$3 steel sleeve bushing O.D. 5/8″, I.D. 1/2″, Length 1-1/2

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.

RAG-1 TE+06+06+00+06+00+04+08+12;MN110;SWT24;SWT21;SWT14;
RAG-2 TE+00+00+10+04+04+06+08+12;MN110;SWT27;SWT21;SWT14;
DX TE+00+00+00-06+00+04+08+12;MN110;SWT29;SWT21;SWT14;
VERY-DX TE-06-06+00-06+00+04+08+12;MN110;SWT33;SWT21;SWT14;
FLAT TE+00+00+00+00+00+00+00+00;MN110;SWT13;SWT21;SWT14;

After transmitting at 0.1 watts on 10m and listening via another K3 on a distant beverage antenna, I have settled on these as my initial settings for the new microphone:

SHURE TE-16-14-04+00+02+04+08+12;MN110;SWT34;SWT21;SWT14;
SHURE-DX TE-16-16-10-06+04+06+08+12;MN110;SWT32;SWT21;SWT14;

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.

And here it is! Boom + Microphone + Mount <$90

Summary: This is a worthwhile purchase and it will enhance my casual operating enjoyment.

Fresh Paint!

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.

Guests to the W5WZ ham station are immediately welcomed into a full kitchen.
The kitchen is immediately adjacent the radio room, which houses 4 operating positions. Visible in the background are positions C and D.
The kitchen is immediately adjacent the radio room, which houses 4 operating positions. Visible are positions A, B and C.
Overview of the 4 operating positions at W5WZ.
Looking from the radio room into the kitchen, the convenience of proximity is obvious!
Immediately behind positions C & D lies the test bench and the bath / laundry room door.
A new world map shower curtain adds a nice touch.
Grey wall for an accent
Christmas gift from my youngest daughter Logan KF5MTH.

2020 Station Improvements

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.

Improved beverage transformer and terminations by having printed circuit boards made, and placing inside enclosures, rather than leaving exposed to the weather. Gas discharge tubes to help protect from surges due to lightning strikes. DC blocking capacitor also included on feed point. Thanks to Steve, VE6WZ for the inspiring YouTube video, along with the KiCad files to get started!

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.

From the EZ Way brochure
Home-brew EZ Way Wonder Post, using 6-inch diameter Schedule 40 galvanized pipe. Five feet of pipe is in the ground, with vanes at bottom and just below ground level.
  • 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.
Freshly installed EZ-Way tower on the left. On the right is home-brew tilt-over tower, 45-feet tall with 5-elements on 30-foot boom for 17 meters. At the center, 225 feet way from the camera is Tower #1.
The big project of 2020 was building the 80-meter 4-square.

Implemented an EA4TX INTERLOCK to keep us honest in M/S and M/2 contesting.

2020 July NAQP RTTY – An apparent 1st place M/2

                North American QSO Party, RTTY - July

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

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

Summary:

Band QSOs Mults

80: 151 38
40: 312 53
20: 429 53*
15: 178 38

10: 11 8

Total: 1081 190 Total Score = 205,390

Club: Louisiana Contest Club

Team:

Comments:

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.

73, Scott

2020 IARU HF Championship

IARU HF World Championship – 2020

Call: W5EA
Operator(s): W5WZ WM5H K5UZ
Station: W5WZ

Class: M/S HP
QTH: LA
Operating Time (hrs): 19

Summary:

Band CW Qs Ph Qs Zones HQ Mults

160: 12 0 5 2
80: 65 0 14 10
40: 418 0 32 39
20: 474 722 36 39
15: 185 0 15 18

10: 0 0 0 0

Total: 1154 722 102 108 Total Score = 1,219,260

Club: Louisiana Contest Club

Comments:

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.

Thanks to all for the QSOs!
–Scott, W5WZ

ARRL Field Day – 2020

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

Class: 2E LP
QTH: LA
Operating Time (hrs): 19:37

Summary:

Band CW Qs Ph Qs

80: 94 0
40: 318 15
20: 791 3
15: 711 172
10: 172 125


Total: 2086 315 2401 Total Score = 8,974

CQWW WPX Contest, SSB – 2020

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

Class: SO(A)SB20 HP
QTH: LA
Operating Time (hrs): 6

Summary:
 Band  QSOs
————
  160:
   80:
   40:
   20: 764
   15:
   10:
————
Total:  764  Prefixes = 353  Total Score = 386,182

Club: Louisiana Contest Club

Comments:

Weather was so nice, spent as much time outside as possible.  Made good progress
on preparations for my new 80 meter 4-square, soon to be installed.

With the stay-at-home order in place, I felt guilty spending time away from my
family in the evenings, so went inside with them.