2020 Station Improvements

Added two new beverage receive antenna – southeast and southwest.

  • Southeast is 580 feet long.
  • Southwest is 480 feet long.

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.

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 custom-built my L-shaped desk for A and B, my friend 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.

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.

Hams love aluminum!

Hams love aluminum! This arrived for me on Valentines Day!

Force 12 mono-band yagi for 17 meters
5 elements on a 30 foot boom

Super excited to get it assembled and up on a tower!

W0AIH SK after fall from his tower

 From Gerry, W1VE.  More information will follow:

“10/31/2018 – Paul Bittner, W0AIH fell 60 feet from the Strum tower (40m). (It was) a beautiful day and he wanted to get ready for SS SSB. No services information yet obviously and the shock has still hit me.  Please pass the word. Thanks.”

I last saw Paul at Dayton 2017 with my daughter Jordan KF5GDJ.  K8CX took a great photo of us.  He was a kind man, always pleasant to be around. 
–Scott, W5WZ

W0AIH, KF5GDJ, W5WZ at Dayton 2017. Photo by K8CX

 

Replaced Display Unit in FT-1000MP

Recently, one of my FT-1000MP exhibit an odd thing on the display tuning bars. Notice the leftmost letters don’t display. The bars stay like this in all modes, both receive and transmit.

Failed Display Unit in FT-1000MP

The Yaesu guy, WA4GEG suggested replacing the entire Display Unit.

 

About 7 years ago, I bought an ‘MP for parts. Luckily, it still had a working display unit.

Earlier this evening, I made the swap. It took about an hour start to finish. Once again, I have two working ‘MPs.

 

New Life for old EZ Way Tilt-over Crank-Up Tower

 

Several years ago I acquired an unidentified tilt-over crank-up tower.  Manual winches, it appeared to be about 60 feet tall.  The deal was take it down and it is yours.  So it has sat behind my shop for about 10 years.

Recently, I saw a picture on the internet of an identical tower, and it was identified as an EZ Way, not that it mattered much to me at the time.  However, the motorized trailered tilt-over crank-up tower that our club has used for Field Day for many years isn’t available this year.  Ah-hah!  Now I have a reason to be interested in the EZ Way.  Of course, it was designed to be ground mounted.  But I have a heavy trailer, and began considering the possibility of mounting the tower, temporarily and safely, on the trailer.

Short story is I reinforced the under frame at the four anchor bolt points for the tower base, and  also fabricated a support for the long end of the tower to rest on when in transit. 

All attachments to the trailer are bolted, so the installation is easily reversible to return the trailer to normal utility use.  The project turned out quite nice!

For FD, I don’t expect to need to crank up to more than 45 feet.  Exercising the KISS principle, I’ll install a flat top plate with a 3 ft pipe stubbed up.  Then, I can slide the larger diameter mast over it, and rotate it by a pull rope attached to one end of the boom.  The antenna will be a KT-34.

Many thanks to Jim W5LA, Mark K5MSB and Shawn WA5VQP for the helping hands on the labor to make this all possible. 

FT-1000MP goes “deaf” on receive antenna

During 2017 ARRL Sweeps SSB, we noticed that one of the FT-1000MPs had gone deaf on the receive antenna.  During SS, this radio was on 40/15, so not having the beverage receive antennas available was not critical.

So, the night following the contest, I popped the top cover off, and removed the RF board.  It only took a couple of seconds to identify 3 broken solder joints that hold the RCA connector on the board. 

Broken solder joints on RF board, FT-1000MP, receive antenna input

Within 15 minutes, the connections were repaired, the radio reassembled, and tested on the air.  Easy fix!