Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Near-Fest Fall 2019, Strange electrical problem, more tinkering and the 160 meter antenna is up finally!!

I want to say hi to Judy, KE6MHX and Dave out in CA. I worked with them (remotely) for many years. They read my blog from time to time. I had a chance to have lunch with Judy recently. She still works for Kollmorgen and was out here for work, so we got together for lunch. Really enjoyed visiting with her. Hope to CUAGN Judy 88/73

Near-Fest Fall 2019:
Wasn't going to go to Near-Fest in October because there was a Nor'Easter that weekend and I didn't want to be driving in the pouring rain. But Larry N1FG ask me if I was going and it turned out the storm was further out to sea then expected and the weather was rather nice.

I saw a lot of  70's ham gear for sale this year. Most were in the $200 to $300 range. Most of these radios were pre-WARC.

I was surprises to see several Kenwood MC-50 Mic stands for sale. I was looking for one several years ago but couldn't find one.  I pick one up, with the mic for $50. It works great!

MC-50 with Mic that I bought at Near-Fest
Met up with Larry, N1FG by the Community Church food pavilion (where else? hihi). Larry took a road trip across the country this last summer and made several stops to visit some SKCC members along the the way, Including Bert, F6HKA, who was at Dayton and Tony, K6ELQ out in CA among others Please read about his road trip in the Sept 2019 Rag Chew .

Larry N1FG and me met at my favorite spot at Near-Fest. 

New England Vintage Electronics Club:
Usually I don't get into the antique radio items at Near-Fest, but this radio caught my eye. It is an Apex radio, which I never heard of. Two features of this radio are: Tubes are shock mounted and the user has to supply all the DC voltage to run it. 

From what I understand, early on not a lot of houses were wired with electricity, radio manufacturers would have to provide terminals for the DC voltages and the customer would have to supply these voltages.  Deriving them form what power source they could get there hands on. Visit their web site here

Apex radio

The tubes are shock mounted to reduce micro-phonics. Notice the DC terminals

Met Bill Holly at Near-Fest. Bill has a nice collection of keys, mostly VibroPlex. He has written a book the history of the VibroPlex company, but, unfortunately, I don't think you can get it anymore.

He had some copies of another book he wrote called "Love Letters to Spike". See photo below. I thought I had an email address for Bill, but damned if I can remember it.

Meet Bill Holly, K1BH. He has quite the collection of telegraph keys. Has written a book on VibroPlex keys

I bought this book from Bill K1BH. Interesting read about a telegraph operators love letters to his girl.

No explanation necessary.

Strange Electrically Problem:
I started having some strange electrical problems. When I keyed my radio just once, the floor lamp started to flicker very randomly. Very annoying to say the least. I got the electrician over that did the wiring to look at the problem. What he did to solve the problem was to short the neutral to ground at the box in the garage.  That seems to have solved the problem. He also replaced the arc fault circuit breakers in the box. Everyone knows they suck, right?

DG-5 repair:

My Kenwood DG-5 digital display had some more issues. First off, the display was real dim. This turned out to be a bad feed through on the PCB at the base of 2SD235 transistor.

Second, the upper two digits were acting flaky. And guess what? more bad vias.

Not entirely surprising, it turns out the DG-5 was plagued with bad vias. There are about 82 on the main PCB. I think I fixed about 20.

Some people just heat up and apply a little solder to the via. A much better fix is to pass a 24 or 30 gauge single strand wire through the via and solder on both sides of the PCB. This provides a mechanical as well as an electrical connection.

It still has some flakiness, but better then before. I will probable have to do all the vias, but not today.

My Kenwood TS-520S with the DG-5 digital display.
160 meter Sloper:

Finally was able to put up my 160 meter sloper. I have had this antenna for about three years now. I got it when I was still living in VT. Had a lot of trouble trying to get it up in a pine tree but was never successful.

However, it was not that difficult to put up here at my Georgetown home. I actually got the line over the tree in the front of the house the first try. A first for me hihi. It took me two days to finish only because I am having issues with my knees lately and didn't want to go up and down stairs too many times in one day. Getting old sucks!!

The picture is a little dark, but my 160m sloper is up. You can see my 80-10M OCF Windom dipole just above and to the right.

Ground line to ground rod.

Not the best picture but the view from the back yard.
There has been a couple of interesting discussions on the news/user group about head copying code and also using a computer to decode CW. If you get a chance, or haven't already done so, you might want to read through these treads. Also one on "My winter time QRN is back"started by Russ K1RWT. Russ lives in the next town over from me. I pass by his house when we do our grocery shopping. Nice house, almost downtown Groveland. Quite a few business around him. I suspect a heating system in one of them is what is causing his problem.
Month count overall QRO
Oct        51       63        51
Nov       33      129      90
Month count place
Oct        70      16

As you know we are at the minimum of the Sunspot cycle. But you can still get some DX in. Last month I was able to get Australia, Argentina  and Israel. Not bad for less then 100 Watts and a flat lander to boot!!

Well, I think I should stop this here. It has already taken me almost two months to just write this small bit.

All for now!

-73 Dave KB1WOD

Thursday, October 10, 2019

NearFest, Shack DONE, OCF Windom back up and some RFI issues solved!!

Well, it has been awhile. I guess it is time to do an update on things. Actually it has been a really long time. I started this post in the spring and it is now October. Gee, do I procrastinate.

Near-Fest (spring 2019)
Was not bad weather this Spring at Near-Fest. However, it seems vendors and the flea market have thinned out. I am not sure why. Maybe the fact that Boxborough Ham Fest is every year now is impacting Near-Fest.

I did buy three stereo cable with 1/4 inch plugs for my TKA key project. I am waiting for my shack to be complete to finish the project.

I did see Larry,  N1FG and of course he took some pictures for the "Rag Chew". Always nice to meet up with Larry.

The real tragedy was the church concession was not open. So no apple pie this year.

OCF Windom
Well I was able to put up my OCF Windom dipole. I took the EFHW antenna down. It had broken several times and needed to be retired. Glad I was able to get my OCF back up.

I think the root cause of the EFHW failure was because one end was tied to the porch, which did not allow any give when there was some wind. We had some 50 mph winds which put a lot of strain on the antenna. So I shouldn't be surprises it broke.

I am hoping since the OCF dipole is anchored in two trees, it will not be as prone to breakage.

OCF dipole

Closeup of OCF

Temporary mount for my Slim Jim 2m/70cm antenna. I hope to get it mounted  to the back of the garage when my ham shack is completed.

Toilet flange used as antenna wire input to ham shack.

Nothing too shattering form the Flex front. I did have a DAX issue that was caused by a Windows update. So I submitted a bug report and within a day Tim had the problem fixed. For some reason some of the DAX drivers got named wrong and Tim just had to rename them.

I must say Flex service is great. Never had an issue they could not solve.

Shack Update
The shack is finally complete and I have moved in!

Below are some pictures of the ham shack being built.

Since the room above the garage was never intended to be used, the contractor needed to add a beam down the middle of the floor because the span was too long for the joist. They also needed two beams across the width of the garage. One over the garage door and one in the back of the garage.
floor beam

This was the Faux door on the front of the garage.

Window to replace the Faux door.

Wall between shack and storage area

Storage area

Stairs and platform.
Open for business

The new shack!!

Of course setting up the shack was not without problems. When I was setting up, I started setting of the smoke/heat detectors in the garage, mostly 40M and 20M. If I reduced power, the problem would go away. My solution was to route the lead in coax from the antenna completely around  the back of the storage room and the shack. I also rearranged my layout so the radio is now towards the front of the garage and further away from the smoke/heat detectors. This solved my RFI issues with the smoke detectors and also greatly reduced the RFI into my speakers.

Here are my WES results. I didn't submit a May or June WES.

Month   count overall   QRO
April       42      86          57
July        55       27         17
Aug        29      72          52
Sept       13       172       123

Here are my Brag results for April to September. Not getting the 90+ brags that I was trying for every month. Kind of fell of the wagon.

Month    count     placed
April        21           42
May         59           26   I was bonus brag this month
June         28           24
July          48           21
Aug         36           16
Sept         36           21

That is it for now.

73 - Dave KB1WOD

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

SKCC K3Y event, Antenna problems, Shack update and Who am I?

Time for another installment!

Good news!! I finally made Sx4. It took a real long time to get there. Hopefully Sx5 will be not so hard, especially with all the new members joining. There are already new Senators with numbers in the 17, 18 and 19 hundreds! Truly remarkable.  I guess we are getting our name out there and more people are trying CW.

CW skills:
Recently there was a topic on the SKCC about CW skills. There were several things talked about.

One was that it appears some operators were using some form of decode software to read CW. I know this for a fact. I actually had one operator tell me that is what he was in fact doing.

A second comment was that some were using "electronic code generators". I know that the rules allow this if you have some impairment that does not allow you to use a mechanical key. But, I have heard some hams calling a "perfect" CQ but when they start a QSO, the sending is not quite the same quality.

Of course my road to learning CW was all wrong. I started by memorizing the code and repeating it in my head without really listening to it. Big mistake. I tried to use a decoder, but found they left a lot to be desired. Decoders expect mostly perfect code and perfect conditions. They are more or less designed for contesting.

I tried listing to the ARRL CW practice files on my computer. That worked OK but just.

A great book to read is  "The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy" By William G. Pierpont NØHFF (SK). This pointed out all the mistakes I was making, and I was making a lot!!

Copying in your head is probably the best skill to try and acquire.  Recently I have been listening to random words (500 most common) at 18 WPM with characters at 25 WPM. I listen for about 2 mins and try and copy them. I am using the JLMC  program by Sigurd Stenersen LB3KB. It is fairly programmable so it works well. I probably get about 20-40% but this has help me a lot in the head copy department.

Well, the K3Y event is over and, unfortunately, I only got 18 of the 19 regions. I missed out on AF. There was only one station on from Africa and that was John ZS6JBJ. 

John did a great job, but conditions were not great here in MA for an AF contact. Only a couple of times did I hear him at 329 but most of the time there was nothing heard at all. Plus the pile ups were bad. John only had 101 total contacts, which was the least of all areas. South Africa is a tough place to get.

It seems John tried to be on at least twice a day everyday. He was mostly on 40 and 20 meters. Oh well, maybe next year.

John ZS6JBJ Thanks for being a K3Y operator. I really appreciate your dedication!

There was a remarkable number of QSOs, over 32,000! By the way, the free map web app exceeded the usage limit. so you can't see the K3Y operators location.

Well my antenna broke three times. It turns out that where the wire goes into the trap is a weak point.
If you look at the first picture, you will see that the antenna wire goes into the first hole, loops around, comes out the second hole and then is wound around the form and then repeats the threading on the opposite end.
Looking at the second photo, you can see the wire has broken right at the hole. (ignore the spider nest hihi). What I did to try and fix it, was to move the trap up about an inch and try and splice the wire together.

Well that worked OK for a couple of weeks, and then it broke again where I had spliced the wire. So for the second repair, I tied the wire together with a square knot and soldered the ends together.

Well that only lasted a little while before it broke again. Finally I tied a square knot again and just twisted the ends of the wire together and put a bunch of electrical tape around it.

Turns out wind is a big problem for me here in Georgetown. We were getting 50-60 MPH winds here. No wonder my antenna broke!

I have finally used some bungee cords to help with the wind problem. That seems to have work for now.

Now that the weather is getting better, I think I will try and put up my OCF Windom. Hopefully that will stay up better.

Added Bungee cords. One at the transformer end and one about 20 feet along the wire looped around the porch railing. This helps with strain relief for the antenna.

Here are my results for the last 4 WES events. As you can see, I have been slacking as of late.

Dec 80 QSOs 39 overall 24 QRO (good for 10th place all time for area 1/MA)

Jan  52 QSOs 40 overall 22 QRO

Feb did not post results only made 13 contacts. I should have posted anyways just to get the number of participants up a little.

Mar 43 QSOs 84 overall 56 QRO

I don't know if this is new or not, but on the WES page, there are some statistics that are quite interesting. It gives results of top 10 scores for all areas and states at this link: Weekend Sprintathon Participation Statistic . Interestingly I have 10th place for MA and I have 7 out of 10 top 10 for VT. Of course VT doesn't have a lot of members, 74, (0.37% of total members) and not many participate in the WES. Also most of my WES events were done in VT.

Month  QSOs place
Nov      81      19th
Dec      97      16th
Jan      105      37th (K3Ys counted as brags)
Feb     39        25th

Progress on new shack:
Oh I wish! Well I did get a structural engineer to design the changes that need to be done to the floor above the garage. Now I am waiting for my builder to come over and pick up the drawings so he can start the project. and waiting and waiting....

Who am I? (Ancestry DNA:)
Off topic but interesting. As a Christmas present this year, I got an ancestryDNA kit. So I sent it in and didn't get any real surprises.

I am basically English (73%), Irish, Scottish (22%) and about 5% Germanic.

Flex radio has released V3 of their 6000 software. Again it will cost you $200 to upgrade. I am still running the latest version 1. V3 doesn't have anything I need. My 6300 has locked up a couple of times but not enough to make me go crazy and spend $200.

All for now - 73 Dave KB1WOD

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Oct 2018 Near-Fest, K3Y QSL card, QRP, Log book woes AGAIN! and much more of course


This October was not a good one for Near-Fest. It was wet and cold. Not too many vendors or flea market guys showed up. So it was very sparse this year.

However, I did run into Mike N1STN who had some interesting antenna launchers for sale.
We have all seen this type of antenna launcher before; however, this one is a little different. It has an extension piece on the valve to make it easier to fire the launcher. It is also built with much better PVC material. Mike says he routinely puts 100 psi of pressure into the launcher.

He only makes a few and sells them only at Ham flea markets. He also makes one with an electric valve trigger, but those were sold out.

They are completely assembled and very well constructed. I want to say they were $120 but I can't remember now.

Antenna launcher

Close up view. Notice the projectiles are small orange colored PVC types.

Air cannon with an electric valve. Mike was kind enough to send me this picture. Thanks Mike!

Of course the main reason I go to Near-Fest is for the home made desserts! This year it was Dutch apple pie. Very good!!!

The local church group runs this food concession where they serve the pie.

Pie special this year: Dutch Apple Pie Ala mode! Yummy!!

Ran into this interesting looking trailer. Reminded me of the NestEgg trailers. It turns out this was a prototype trailer someone had built. The person had a complete Ham station inside.

This is a home made "Egg"

Of course no visit to Near-Fest would be complete without stopping by the Nut Net table with Brian WO1VES and Harry WA1VVH.  The Nut Net is an informal net that starts every night at 11:00 P.M. on the NSRA Danvers MA repeater and is open to everyone. Brian was telling me that there are not a lot of check ins, but he says there are a lot of listeners. He says a lot of people tell him how much they like listening to the Nut Net.

I must admit it is quite informative as well as entertaining.
The Nut Net guys Harry and Brian.
K3Y QSL card:
Well, here is my 2018 K3Y QSL card. This one was special because I got the grand sweep. Other years I would only get 18 of 19. One year it was Asia and one year it was South America.

Notice that I had gotten them all by the 9th. I wasn't taking any chances this year!!

The reason I got it so late is because I was moving and didn't want to worry about having it sent to the wrong address. Especially since I was not sure where I would be for awhile.

Thanks to Drew AF2Z and Jeremy KD8VSQ for getting this QSL card to me!

K3Y QSL front

K3Y QSL back


Moving along, got 60 (need 150) 2xQRP points so far. One note: I have had a couple of sked page QSOs where the other operator was QRP, but did not indicate that they were until they sent their power. It would be helpful if you request a SKCC qso and you are QRP, to please let me know that  ahead of time. It will save me some time. Or I could just ask HIHI.

Log book woes:

Well, I did it again. I forgot to correct the clock in the K2FRP SprintLogger. All 59 of my QSOs were off by one hour. It took me half the day to correct the log and correct and LoTW.
Maybe I should stop using it.

Windows bit me with an update. I have been able to just ignore the recovery feature for the SKCCLogger, but this time.. NOPE!!. When I opened the logger, I noticed that none of my QSOs since WES were there. Fortunately, I was able to recover them after an initial moment of panic.

I am working towards Sx4. It is taking me a long time to get there. The main reason has been the two moves I have had in 4 months. My antenna isn't as good as what I had in VT plus I was off the air for 2 months. I am down to needing 60 more "T"s.

October WES  I had 77 QSO and was 36th overall and 20th in QRO. Bonus was to spell words from calls. I missed one word. I needed one more "P".

November WES was not so good. Ended up with only 59 QSOs and was way down in the standings.  I was 69th overall and 51st in QRO, not my best effort.

Did not get my 3 per day this month. I ended up with 73 brags which was good enough for 17th place.

Rag Chew:

BTW I got a mention in the June issue of the Rag Chew news letter in the Brag section. Also my article "The SKCC for the Intellectually Challenged " is in the March issue. If you haven't read the Rag Chew, you should. Not just because of me... there are a lot of good things in there.

Here is a link to all issues The Rag Chew

Ted, K8AQM is the editor and is always looking for material for the news letter, so if you have something, let him know. Thanks Ted for your efforts!!


I have had 309 QSOs since my last Oct 3rd. All were CW.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

GFCIs replaced, New SKCC cootie key, New power supply


So a few post ago, I was complaining about the GFCIs my electrician installed. So I bought some Leviton GFCIs and had my electrician replace the ones he installed. Big difference, they work great. The ones that were replaced were from General Protecht. Which are made in China. Lesson learned: "Use the good stuff or you will regret it". By the way, thanks for all the advice I got from the group on this. It really helped

SKCC cootie:

LNR Precision INC. is selling sideswiper keys with the SKCC logo on the base. So I bought one, of course. It was less the $100.00 and arrived about a week ago. I have been using it for awhile and like the feel. It has about a 2 1/2 pound base so it is very stable. They sold out quickly but will do another run of 100 I think.

Thanks Randy KB4QQJ for this cool cootie!! Please visit his QRZ.COM page.
My new SKCC cootie key

Here is a little video of my SKCC sideswiper in action.

Power supply:

I have been using a TekPower power supply model number TP30SWV for a couple of years now. I had a lot of "odd" noise artifacts on my Flex 6300, which I wasn't sure it was from the power supply or not. So I decided to buy a new supply. I bought an Alinco DM-30T from DX Engineering. Boy what a difference. No more funny wandering noise issue. I should have gotten one of these in the first place. Again "Use the the good stuff or you will regret it". I am think about using the TekPower  supply to power my 2 meter rig to see if it cause any issue with it. I am going to say no, because the 2 meter rig is FM so it should be immune to AM noise.


For the September WES I was not able to put in a full day on Saturday, but was able to do so on Sunday. This months theme was Cootie Operators. This is a picture of my "Cootie". I been using it exclusively for about a year now and really enjoy it. 
I was 22nd overall out of 227 and 15th out of 166 in the QRO group. 


Got 71 brags this month. Fell short of my 3 a day goal. I am at 11th place right now but window on brags doesn't close until the 15th of the month.


Still working on this. I have 32 points so far for the 2xQRP award. I need 150.
For 1xQRP I have 52 points. I need 300.


Made 147 CW QSOs in September. Also 7 FT8 contacts just for fun.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Nostalgia, Antenna repair, QRP at the worst of times and etc.

 Back in 2012, or there about, I tried to look up my old call sign (WB1AHE) on the F.C.C. U.L.S. site with no results. I could not remember when exactly I had gotten my first Ham license and wanted to see if it was in their data base. Alas, No.

The other day, I decided to google my old call signed and got a pleasant surprise. There is a web site called .that has a ton of free material on line. It actually had the Radio Amateur Callbook on line and searchable!! Visit the site. I think you will find it interesting. Oh, bye the way, I did find my call sign in the 1977-78 Radio Amateur Callbook.

As you know, I just moved into my new/last QTH. As I was unpacking, I noticed a book marker in a 1976 ARRL Handbook. When I opened to the bookmark, I saw the article for the QRP transmatch that I had built for my HW-8. I had forgotten all about it. It even had some of my hand written scribbles for a switch I had added for a 50 ohm resistor load used to tune the final of the HW-8! Also I found the section for the first dipole antenna I built. It was a folded dipole (bazooka) antenna cut for 15 meters.

It actually worked quit well. Conditions must have been good back then because I made a lot of contacts to TX, MS and LA with it.

My first home made dipole. A 15 meter "Bazooka"
The QRP transmatch I build for my HW-8 random wire antenna
When I moved from VT at the begin of March 2018, I had to take down my outside antenna. There was still a foot of snow on the ground. One end came down without a problem, but the other end; was not coming down. The rope I used to tie that end had wrapped itself around a branch. I could not budge it. I finally was able to break the wire at the crimp. Of course, I wound up flat on my back in the snow. Was pretty funny, but it was down. So now I need to repair it.

I got all the pieces to repair my Carolina Windom™ antenna. Up until now, I have been calling this a OCF dipole, which turns out to not be exactly correct. I think when you add the vertical radiator, it becomes a Carolina Windom™. But since that is a trade mark name, W8AMZ (SK) could not use it. Therefore, it is called an OCF dipole / Windom. If you are interested, there is a good explanation here of the  Carolina Windom  by Jim Thompson, W4THU.

The dimensions for the W8AMZ are slightly different then the  Carolina Windom™. The short side is 44' for the W8AMZ and 50' for the  Carolina Windom™.  Overall length is about the same, only where the off center is placed is different.

So repairs are complete. Just waiting for the leaves to drop.

My W8AMZ OCF dipole/ Windom missing the short leg
First Step: solder new wire to the end of the old wire and do the strain relief.

Second step: measure out 44' and add isolator to the end

I had a great time with the September WES this month. I was not able to work most of Saturday, but was able to work almost all of Sunday. I finished with 72 QSOs and 870 bonus points.

I was 22nd overall and 15th in the QRO 100 W or less group. I will take it.

This month's theme was Cootie/sideswiper operators, of which, I am one. So for every cootie contact I made I got double points.

Had a good August brag count. 106 plus the bonus station, Steve  VK7CW. September will probable not be as good.

I have decided to try for thr 1xQRP and 2xQRP awards. Since conditions at very poor and will only get worst in the next year or so, I figured it would be a good challenge. Lets face it, anyone can work QRP when the conditions are good HIHI.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Final Destination.. No, not the movie!

Final destination:
Well, been at my final QTH for 9 weeks now. It did not take me as long to get my station on the air as the last time. Got it up and running on Sunday, July 15th. Three weeks instead of 2 months this time. It help I had all my stuff this time.

Things are not going as smoothly as I would have hope. Buying a house is not much different them buying a used car. "Buyer beware". It doesn't matter how well you inspect a house, you can't see everything that may cause a problem. Like a new roof!

We have had a lot of plumbing and some electrical work done. Plan to have more electrical work done soon. The garage has a descent space over it, but quite a bit of work needs to done before it is usable.

I am having problems with the new GFCIs the electrician installed in the bathroom next to my radio room and in the kitchen. My radio seems to trip them with ease when I put out 100 W. 30 M is so bad I can only put out 10 Watts!!! 40 and 20 I can run about 50 Watts.

The other drawback is the altitude here. I am only 79 feet above sea level, where Randolph, VT was almost 700 feet. I don't get out quite as good here.

For July I got 60 brags plus the bonus brag for K5MP. Was not able to operate the first two weeks of July due to move, but did respectable. For August, I am in the mid 90's right noe. A few more days left for brags.

Was able to participate in the August WES. Made 100 QSOs. Did a lot more CQing this time. So far I am in 13th overall out of 213 and 6th in my category out of 98.

I really miss it when I can't do the WES.

SKCC Awards:
Got several SKCC awards lately.
15M Cx1
20M WAS, WAS-C, Cx6, Px6 and Tx9
30M Px2
40M Sx2, Px6, Cx7 and Tx10
80M Sx1

Thank goodness for the SKCCLogger. I would have never figured this out with just a spreadsheet
Thanks Ron AC2C!!!

Been working like a charm, mostly.  I had a couple of lockups recently, but not often enough to worry. There have not been any updates the 1.X version of the software, only the 2.X version. I have been happily running version 1.11.12. Since I have the "cheap" radio, I don't see the need to pay the $200 for the upgrade. I have had no issues with Windows updates messing up the DAX or CAT interfaces.

I have got most of the parts to repair my 80-6M OCF dipole. I will wait until the leaves are off the trees to get it back up. Also want to get my 160 Slopper up then.

I was toying with the idea of a 160-6M OCF dipole. But it turns out, If I make the long end of the 80-6m OCF the short end of the 160-6m OCF, and add the required length to short end the long end of a 160-6M OCF, It would be the same. Only thing I don't know is how long the vertical radiator has to be.

New Shack:
Below are some pictures of my shack. It is not fully up. I still need to put up my Slim Jim antenna for my 2m rig.

Bad news: My 2M rig causes the GFCI's to trip. I guess I will have to wait until they are changed.

New Shack!!

EFHW 80-10m up in the trees about 50'

One end tied to deck post close to the house
First try at a video

Monday, June 18, 2018

Big changes.. some good... others...not so much. WES, K3Y and Brags

Big Changes
Well the biggest change is that we sold our house in VT and have moved back to MA. Right now, we are renting a house in Rockport. Actually not a bad place to be in the Spring. Weather is nice, cool but not cold and the tourists haven't shown up yet so the traffic is still OK.

Also nice to get back to some decent fish in the restaurants. You just can't get good fish in VT, sorry.

The worst part was being off the air for almost 2 months. That was not fun.

We found a house in Georgetown and will be moving at the end of June.

I don't mind telling you the last six months have been the worst of my life. I will never do this again!
I don't miss VT much but I do miss my house. We had it build for us and it was just what we wanted. But, best laid plans as they say.

Temporary Station
The below pictures are of the temporary station. Since I didn't want to impact the property, I bought an EFHW 80-10 meter antenna and hung it over a tree in the back yard and tied it off to the porch on the back of the house and to a tree out in the woods. It's direction is NW to SE. I didn't intend it that way, it just happened.

I had a 20 foot piece of COAX and used that to connect the radio and antenna. Unfortunately, it was not long enough to bring in through the window, so I have to leave the radio on the porch. A little bit of a nuisance since I can't leave it out there.

The antenna works quite well. It tunes 80 - 10 meters fine except for 30 meters. I only get a 2:1 SWR on 30.

Wires come in through the window and I use foam strips to form a seal.

Temporary EFHW 80-10 tied to the porch railing.

EFHW up over the tree, about 50 feet up.

Using an old laptop as my computer for the Flex-6300.

Radio sits outside. My feed line was not long enough to put the radio indoors.

I was able to do the January February and June WES.

Month      QSO    Overall    QRO
Jan             50         33           25
Feb            92         15            7
June          33          60          47

As you may know K3Y is a month long SKCC anniversary event. The goals is to contact as many K3Y operators on as many bands and areas as possible. 
This is not a contest, so WARC bands are permitted. I did good this year I got a total of 67 out of a 143 slots. and got the grand sweep. Worked all zones 0-9 plus KH6, KL7, KP4, EU, AF, OC, SA, NA and AS. 19 in all.  I also worked 90+ different operators out of 195. I also operated as K3Y/1 and made 16 contacts. I am happy with my results.

For January I had 124 brags (K3Y counted as brags), 38 in February, 19 in April and 81 in May.
So far for June I have 52 brags.

All for now. Thanks for stopping by!

73 Dave KB1WOD

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The SKCC for the Intellectually Challenged

The SKCC for the Intellectually Challenged


Why am I writing this? Well, in the four plus years that I have belonged to the SKCC, I have picked up quite a few nuggets of information and techniques that have greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the SKCC and CW in general.

Like a lot of new ham operators, I was glad the FCC did away with the code requirement. That was a hurtle I didn't think I could jump and kept me away from getting my license for many years.

Little did I know that after getting my license, I would be spending 99% of my time on CW.

The SKCC web site has a wealth of information Everything you need to know is there, but it can be overwhelming trying to sort it all out. What I hope to do here, is to give a simplified view of the SKCC and how to use all the tools available to enhance the experience.
Here is a link to the main web page: Straight Key Century Club (SKCC)


The SKCC is a group of CW operators who enjoy using mechanical keys to make CW contacts. The goal of the group is to encourage members to make contacts with other members to achieve personal goals and promote the use of CW.
Your skill level is not important, but it does enhance everyone’s enjoyment.
The members and officers are pretty laid back but are very active in their club duties. They are very responsive to any request or issue.
They have a user group here: SKCC User Group

Software and Online tools

Software, I believe, is the key (pun intended) to the SKCC success. What software does best is routine repetitive tedious tasks repeatedly without complaint, something us humans hate to do.
One thing I am not going to do is explain how to use these programs. The old term applies RTFM! If you don't know what that means, Google it. The authors of these programs have spent a lot of time writing the help files. Please read them. Most are searchable and there is always Google or Bing, if you are of that camp. There are also user groups that you can search.
Warning to Windows user: Some of these programs write data into the directory that the software is installed. The windows directories “Program Files” and “Programs Files (x86)” may not allow you to write to these directories. Therefore, you may have to install these programs elsewhere. Mine are at C:\.

SKCC Sked Page

Where to meet people. It is not a spotter page per se, but more of a chat board. Great place to hang out. My SKCC QSOs really took off once I started visiting the sked page. It was a little intimidating at first. I wasn't sure what to do and it took a while to get comfortable. But finally, I relaxed and have made some good friends there.
One approach is to logon but stay “Away”. That way you can see who is there and send them a PM (private message) to request a QSO. New numbers are in great demand, so if you are visible on the sked page, you might get overwhelmed with request and panic, not that I did that..HIHI.

The Sked page is here: SKCC Sked Page. There is a help file here: SKCC Sked Page Help

SKCCLogger by AC2C

Don't let looks deceive you. This is a very powerful logger, especially for SKCC QSOs. The only thing it doesn't do, is to upload logs directly to either LoTW or But that is easy to overcome.
Its ability to analyze your logs and detect your goals and generate reports that can be used to earn your goals is outstanding. I have used it exclusively for almost all my SKCC logging needs. It can be also be used for sprints.
The program can be downloaded here SKCCLogger Download
Ron also has a user group here: SKCCLogger User Group

skcc_skimmer by K7MJG

This is a windows console based SKCC member RBN (reverse beacon network) program. No fancy GUI just the info you really need to know. I use this for my regular QSOs and for WES. You can have multiple copies running with different configuration files. This is a real-time update program. That means it periodically updates the members you have sent a “de THEIRCALL”.
For this program, the three things that you should supply to the configuration file are: your call, the location of your log file in adf (example: mylog.adi) format and your grid square. You may also adjust the SPOTTER_RADIUS parameter. I have mine set to 200 miles radius. This gives me about 6 RBN stations that are near to me.
Another interesting feature of this program is if you call CQ, skimmer will report where your call is being heard, regardless of your radius limit. This helps to see if your signal is getting out. It is also a good indication as to how long it takes for the skimmers to decode your call. One thing you might also get from this is how good your sending is. RBNs are software tools connected to radios that listen to CW on the bands. If your sending is not good, then your call will never be decoded. So, practice your sending or you might never be heard.
You can download the program here. SKCC_Skimmer download

VOAProp by G4ILO

GUI for propagation prediction software. Based on Voice Of America propagation prediction software.
This software helps you determine which band may work for a particular station. Though it is not perfect, it will give you a good idea of what bands are good for the time of day.
You can download the program here. VOAProp GUI

SprintLogger by K2RFP

Not a must but I like it for WES and SKS. It can also be used for cwfun events. The reason I like it is because for sprints, I start with a new log and then start skimmer with it pointing to the K2RFP log file. I also run skimmer without reading the sked page see below.
SKED = {
'ENABLED': False, # usually is set to True
This tells me if the calling station is already in my log. Save a lot of time. After the sprint, I import this log into my main SKCCLogger file.
You can download the program here. SprintLogger by K2RFP


There are many awards that you can achieve with the club. I am only going to talk about what I believe are the top five awards. One thing to note. There is no cross-log checking for awards. I believe this was intentionally done because some people don't like to summit logs or don't like to be bugged by people to submit their logs. Since there is no monetary value associated with SKCC awards, it was felt the honor system was good enough. (IMHO)


The easiest, but the most critical. Why? Because a lot of members never reach this first goal. They may have joined the club for reasons other than awards. Myself, I was looking for help learning CW. I never really paid attention to goals, was not interested.
It was a follow ham that I used to talk to on 2 meters that got me interested in chasing some of these awards, Matt AA1JD. He would talk about the SKCC and some of the events and so I decided to try and get some of these awards. Once I got into it and started figuring out some of the tools available, I was in all the way. Matt was first on my list for Centurion.
Some things you might want to think about. If you are calling an unspecified CQ and are using an electronic keyer, please also have a mechanical key hooked up. Why? If a SKCC member responds to your CQ, he would like to exchange numbers. That means you will have to do the exchange with a mechanical key. If you do not have one connected, you can't do the exchange. Also, if you are looking for SKCC members please call CQ SKCC. It really helps other members who may want to exchange numbers, but are not sure that you will do that. Also, it wouldn't hurt to give your number for any exchange, providing you are using a mechanical key, e.g. “MY SKCC NR <YOUR_NUMBER>. The other operator may not know about the SKCC and he might ask you about it. Never hurts to advertise.


These awards are a little confusing and daunting, at least to me they were. However, once I understood what each level meant, it was a piece of cake. Well, maybe not that easy. Mark, K7MJG, has a very easy to understand chart that explains all levels from Centurion to Senator.
The basic Tribune award requires you to make 50 unique number exchanges with Centurions, Tribunes or Senators since the date of your Centurion award. However, if you want to achieve a Senator award, you need another 350 unique number exchanges with Centurions, Tribunes or Senators. This is quite a lot so breaking it into 8 - 50 QSO blocks seems like a good idea. At least you have manageable goals and other members can see your progress with the SKCC_skimmer program.
You can view Marks chart here. Award Chart


THIS IS NOT THE END! You are almost there! The hard part is over. Getting that last number for Tx8 was a tough one for sure. Enjoy this part. Getting your Senator will be a walk in the park compared to reaching Tx8. Remember you start over with contacts. So, any T or S station you QSOed with to get your Tx8, can now be QSOed with again to get your S.
But don't let it end here. All too often hams reach the Senator level and just go away. Why? IDK. I guess they were looking for a challenge and are now on to other things. Who knows. The more members who are active, the easier it is for others to reach their goals. We do have some members who are Sx5 so keep at it.


There are four primary WAS awards WAS, WAS-C, WAS-T and WAS-S. Please see the explanation of each of these awards on the SKCC web page.
Since this is a relatively new and small club and reaching Senator is not easy, not all states have Senators yet. In fact I was the first Senator in Vermont and only got that in Jan of 2016, so not quite two years ago. North Dakota, for example, doesn't have any Senators. But the good news is portable operation is permitted so a Senator from one state can travel to a state that doesn't have a Senator and exchange numbers for people to get their WAS-S award.


Prefix award where the SKCC number of the prefix is added to the prefix score. The interesting thing about this award is if the SKCC number of a station you work is greater than the number of a previous prefix you work, you get to add the difference between the two numbers to your score.


There are several monthly activities and one yearly activity. These activities are a great way to get more new numbers for awards. I usually get quite a few numbers that I need for awards participating in these activities. None of the sprints permit WARC bands. I am not going to go into a lot of detail here. The web site has all the info you need to operate these activities.


Two-hour sprint. Always held at the same time every month. Much like other sprints.


This is a special sprint that is more EU friendly. But NA participation is allowed. Also has some accommodations for QRS operators.


My favorite, the Week End Sprint. This is a 36-hour event, of which you are only supposed to work 24 hours. I like the “work a few then take a break” aspects of this sprint.

K3Y Anniversary event (not a contest)

This is a month-long event held every January. This is the only event where all Ham bands, including WARC bands are permitted. The goal is to fill in as many K3Y/X band slots as possible. One thing to note here: Try to get as many DX K3Y as soon as possible. It turns out there may not be DX K3Ys for the whole month so get them while you can. I missed out on SA last year because very few SA stations were on late in the month. Those that were, were on late (after 00:00 UTC) and only on 20 meters. Which from my QTH in VT, made it impossible to get a contact.


Monthly SKN is truly the reason the SKCC exists. However, over the years it has become less important since all the other activities seem to generate quite a bit of CW on the air.
First night of every month. Not much is said on the web site about it. I assume it uses the same rules as the ARRL SKN. No logs or QSO counts are submitted.


A monthly - month long “event”. Contacts with other members not included in other events and not yet QSOs with that month.
I try to work at least 3 brags a day. Doesn't always happen, but I manage usually get between 50 and 100 brags a month.

Final Comments

The SKCC is not for everyone, but it seems to fit my personality. I always felt that there should be some objective to obtain or some skill to be mastered. The SKCC seems to provide me with both.
As of December 31, 2017, there are over 18,000 members. Granted not all members are active, but enough are active that you can always find a member on the air almost any time and almost any band.
There are many other clubs that emphasize other aspects of CW. Each are very good at what they try to accomplish.
I hope these few pages will be of use to others and come join the fun of CW.

Monday, October 23, 2017

 Ham Radio - QRP: Vibroplex Vibrokeyer

 Interesting analysis of the design of Vibro-Plex single lever. It all makes sense to me.

 Ham Radio - QRP: Vibroplex Vibrokeyer: Get it right the first time The electronic keyer, for sending Morse code, came into into use in the late 1950's and early 1960's....