Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ham Radio Saturday

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 I had two weeks off from work, a short layoff that was supposed to be a lot longer. Thinking I had lots of time on my hands, I hit the deck running on a million projects around the house. The biggest ones, a long retaining wall and a stargazing slab, I started on immediately. But I've got some Photoshop work to do before posting those photos. The following pics are of my ham radio receiver and antenna which I've been working on setting up for almost a year.



This is my Drake R-4C receiver and speaker. I bought them on eBay. Getting good deals on eBay takes patience and time, neither of which I have much of. But at least I had enough patience to wait for an R-4C in good condition. This receiver is 40 years old and has old-fashioned vacuum tubes. My other choice, a Collins 75A4 receiver, I couldn't afford. I like old tube radios because that's what I used when I was a ham radio operator in my teens. The new radios are obscenely expensive, in the thousands of dollars, and absolutely out of my price range. I don't know if they work better than the old tube-type radios. Notice the pad and pencil in the pic. I prefer CW (Morse code), but I'm a bit rusty. Back in the day I could send and receive 40 words per minute. Now I struggle to copy at 15 WPM, and most hams seem to send at about 20 WPM. So there's lots of gaps.



I put in some "future" conduit lines into the house when I was building, so I grabbed one of them to run a RG-213 coaxial cable out to the antenna. In the two spots where I stubbed up the spare conduits, I cut the sheetrock and installed access doors. I mounted a SO-239 connector on this access door, because I think wires hanging out of gaping holes are an abomination. I bought the cable in bulk, so I had to put a PL-259 connector at each end, with a soldering gun. I also found some right-angle coax fittings to keep things more orderly. The coax, the fittings, the soldering gun, and the access doors were all purchased on eBay. Oh, and I used a Greenlee punch to make a perfect 5/8" hole in the access door for the SO-239. Got the Greenlee punch on eBay, too.


This is where the conduit line comes up. There's two conduits going into the box, but I'm only using one. I may need another line someday for another coaxial cable or perhaps a security camera. I always plan for future expansion. PVC doesn't take sunlight well, so you can see I spray-painted the two conduits a light tan. I had to mask off the bollard and support pipe to avoid overspray. Yes, I'm anal.


This is my CushCraft AV-5 multi-band, aluminum tubing, trap vertical. I got it on eBay. :)  When you put it together from the parts in the 4' box, it ends up being about 28' tall. It's leaning a bit because the wind is blowing pretty stiff right now. I was originally going to put up a long wire antenna or 42' untrapped vertical, which would have needed an antenna tuner. The "ultimate transmatch" I bought sits unused on a shelf. If I don't use it in the next year, I'll put it back on eBay.



The trick was how to mount the vertical antenna. I used two 6" riser clamps to fasten a 4' length of 2" gas pipe to one of the bollards that protect our well. The antenna slips onto the gas pipe, I connect a short length of coax to the antenna, then I'm good to go. Mrs. UC objects to a permanent antenna, so to keep from getting frosty glares, I separate the antenna into two 14' pieces and hang them on a rack in the garage. Sounds complicated, but it takes all of 5 minutes to either assemble or disassemble the antenna.

It's been raining since about 2 a.m. and I couldn't work outside like I planned this morning. Instead, I hooked up my antenna and listened to the sweet sound of Morse code this morning. There was some sort of contest on, where the hams try to contact as many other hams as they can. All the bands were filled. I listened to stations from Japan to Florida to Australia. My preferred band is 40 meters (7 MHz), but I also listened to 80, 20, and 15 meter CW.

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