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.

KD5YS 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

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

High SWR on 20m stack

On Sunday 6/12/22, I was checking out the station ahead of our club’s upcoming Field Day. Running through the stacks on Tower #1, I encountered troubling readings on the 20 meter stack.

SWR on each of the three measured independently was fine; however any combination of 2 or 3 antennas sent the SWR to >6:1.

On Tuesday 6/14, I went to the cabinet at the base of the tower. I disconnected the feed lines to the three antenna from the Array Solutions Stack Match. Measuring each antenna with my Rig Expert AA-55 Zoom, I discovered that everything up the tower checked out in 100% working order.

Since I had several new Stack Match relay boxes on the shelf, I simply replaced the relay box.

Back in the shack, everything checks out!

I’ll troubleshoot the bad relay box another day!

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