Monthly Archives: September 2016

2016 ORC Fall Swapmeet

Today was my club’s Fall Swapmeet. The club does two swapmeets per year, one in the spring  which is indoors and one in fall that is held outdoors. The weather as of late has been pretty poor if you plan to have an outdoor event as we’ve had an unseasonable amount of rain the past two weeks. Thankfully we had no rain today. The day started with a heavy overcast though that’s hard to determine at 5:45 AM.

ORC Swapmeet setup

ORC Swapmeet setup

As the day progressed both the weather and the number of sellers improved.

Gary, W9XT of Unified Microsystems and Josh, KD9DZP

Gary, W9XT of Unified Microsystems  (and ORC) and Josh, KD9DZP

Tom, KC9ONY was running the LeFROG table with their usual offering of interesting bits:

Tom, KC9ONY

Tom, KC9ONY

Patrick, KA1RB the new ARRL Central Division\Wisconsin Section Manager manned the ARRL table.

ARRL table (KA1RB, KA9EAK, KD9DZP)

ARRL table (KA1RB, KA9EAK, KD9DZP)

Tom, W9IPR ran the ORC booth.

W9IPR and KA9EAK

W9IPR and KA9EAK

Bill, KA9WRL was as usual the official radio announcer for the raffle.

KA9EAK and KA9WRL

KA9EAK and KA9WRL

KD9DZP, W9SIZ and I took a break and ran down to HRO Milwaukee as Josh, KD9DZP needed some coax. In the parking lot HRO has a very large portable tower. They are going to be running a station during their Grand Opening weekends in October and this must be part of it. We didn’t check to see if the tower was going to be discounted for the Grand Opening.

W9SIZ and HRO portable tower

W9SIZ and HRO portable tower

When we returned it was time to start packing up. It was noon after all.

ORC Fall Swapmeet

Aside from the usual odds and ends one acquires at a swapmeet, the best find of the day was this:

Vacuum Variable Capacitor

Vacuum Variable Capacitor

A very nice Russian vacuum variable capacitor. I’ve always wanted to have one on hand to build a loop antenna. Now I have one for a future project.

 

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KWM-2 meets TS-590SG

My uncle (actually great uncle) Paul, W9SIZ brought his Collins KWM-2 to my station to try it on my Hustler 4-BTV. He lives in the small town in which I grew up and has used wire antennas on his city lot for many years. He’s 91 years old and has had the KWM-2 station since sometime in the early 60’s. He operates everyday (mostly CW) and is interested in potentially adding a 4-BTV to his station.

W9SIZ

W9SIZ

We set the two rigs side-by-side and did a bunch of A\B testing with the 4-BTV (and my Cobra UltraLite Senior wire antenna) between the two radios. It was very interesting to hear two radios that are well regarded, though separated in time, operating together.

KWM-2 meets TS-590SG

KWM-2 meets TS-590SG

This was not a highly scientific test. No Sherwood Engineering was involved. What was interesting is that in all but a few cases the Collins could hear about as well as the Kenwood, again no science involved. The Kenwood heard weaker stations consistently better for the most part but that’s not all that surprising as the Collins is 57 years old. Does the Kenwood have more features? Obviously yes, but the Collins stayed with it to large extent in normal operating conditions. One thing that the Collins has that the Kenwood doesn’t is this:

The warm glow of valves

The warm glow of valves

W9SIZ was happy with the test and is more seriously thinking about adding the 4-BTV. He thought his old Collins was hearing better than on his wire antennas at home (given band conditions) and his ears are pretty well calibrated after operating for over 70 years. (Note: the case is off the KWM-2 as he just replaced some capacitors in the power supply and decided to bring it over without the case.)

When we were done with the testing we made a trip to HRO Milwaukee. W9SIZ hasn’t been there since they opened. We’ve made many trips together to AES in the past and this was our first trip to HRO together.

KA9EAK, W9KHO, W9SIZ

KA9EAK, W9KHO, W9SIZ

Greeting us as we walked in was Paul. W9KHO. The two Paul’s greeted each other as they’ve known each other for a very long time. It’s my understanding that W9KHO has been at AES and now HRO for 49 years. W9SIZ was impressed with the new store and is glad that we still have an Amateur Radio shop in our area. He was tempted by some of the new rigs but he’s been a Collins man for a very long time and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

What did we conclude? Not a lot. It’s better to have more antenna options rather than less and a well-functioning radio is better than no radio at all regardless of its age. I don’t think we can say anything more firm than that. It was simply a fun thing to do with my great uncle and two nice radios and that’s what Amateur Radio is all about.

 

Radio Dust Covers review

In today’s mail I received the covers that I ordered from Stan, W6ON of RadioDustCovers.com and they are perfect!

New covers

New covers

They both are his elite version. The 590SG is a standard cover that he produces and the cover for the VibroCube is a custom version. Did I have to cover the VibroCube? Maybe not but it wasn’t that much for a custom cover for it and it looks nice with the rig cover. Total time from order to delivery was 7 days. That’s fast considering that every cover is handmade to order and one of mine was custom. Yes, I spent the extra money for my callsign. When you’re going this far what’s another few inches.

The outside of the elite covers is very nice nylon and the inside is a medium weight felt material. The rear portion of the cover is left unattached to the sides  so you can leave cables connected as you see fit or even fold it under and slide it over a rig that is in a shelf.

Elite cover rear flap

Elite cover rear flap

Like many, my shack is in the basement as is my woodshop. Though I have half-decent dust collection and air handling, dust from woodworking still finds its way to the shack. The new radio is too nice to slowly get covered in layers of dust so a cover was in order. I considered a homemade version and some other commercial versions but then ran across these covers while perusing the web. Most all of my other radios have built-in dust covers by virtue of the fact they that they are in racks\shelfs with other stuff including radios on top of them. Not so with the new Kenwood. Nothing is stacked on top the 590SG. I like it at my right hand and since I’ve added a boom mic (Shure SM-58 that was laying around looking for something to do from past music endeavors) my right hand is now free to run the radio while my foot keys the mic which is supported by a Heil HB-1 boom.

If you are in the market for a very well-made cover that is as nice as the equipment it protects I highly recommend contacting Stan. His workmanship is superb and his customer service is excellent.

 

Another project?

What happens when you have one of these:

TS-590SG

TS-590SG

And it has one of these:

RX Antenna input

RX Antenna input

And you recently acquired this:

And these just arrived today:

 

Stay tuned…

 

NPOTA activations

It’s September which means there are only four months left for the NPOTA event. As I write this there have been over 612,000 QSOs with over 11,000 activations of the 489 units. If you look at the stats you’ll see that there are only 40 units that haven’t been activated. This means that over 90% of the 489 units have been activated at least once, with many of those activated a number of times. I wonder if anyone at the ARRL and the NPS thought that this event would generate this level of interest.

Some significant portion of those 11,000 activations involved Amateur Radio in the view of the public at the units. What a great promotion for the hobby. My activations have drawn interest from people at the units that I’ve activated with the first question usually something like “what are you doing?” followed by the typical responses of either “people still do that?” or “my <fill in the blank family member> used to be an Amateur Radio operator.” All the interest I’ve seen has been very positive. I’ve enjoyed doing activations as it’s fun to be on the other end of the pile-up. It’s not like being some ultra rare DX such as Outer Swobovia but I’m not likely to travel there anytime soon so a pile-up in Wisconsin will serve. I’ve also enjoyed the chase as well. As of this moment I’ve done nine activations and have 107 units confirmed.

Wisconsin doesn’t have any National Parks but we do have five units on the list:

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – LK01
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail – TR05
  • Ice Age National Scientific Reserve – AA11
  • Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway – WR09
  • North Country National Scenic Trail – TR04

Of which two, Ice Age National Scenic Trail – TR05 and Ice Age National Scientific Reserve – AA11 have multiple locations throughout the state, many of which are very near my home or where my XYL and I camp.

Ice Age Trail - Point Beach Segment

Ice Age Trail – Point Beach Segment

NPOTA TR05 portable station

NPOTA TR05 portable station

At one activation I had some assistance from a dragonfly:

Dragonfly counterpoise

and an odd little bee that spent about 20 minutes flying around and walking about my portable station:

QRB???

QRB???

For all of the activations I’ve used my Kenwood TS-480SAT @100 Watts powered by a trolling motor battery and either my Alpha Antenna DX Sr, EARCHI end fed, or LNR EF-Quad end fed, all with good results.

NPOTA portable station

NPOTA portable station

On occasion I’ve used my folding wagon to transport the station equipment:

Portable station transport

And other times I’ve worked largely out of the back of my truck:

Ice Age Trail - Northern Kettle Moraine

Ice Age Trail – Northern Kettle Moraine

NPOTA station @ TR05 and AA11

NPOTA station @ TR05 and AA11

The current run rate is about 76,000 QSOs per month so with four months to go the final tally will probably be just over 900,000 QSOs. Maybe there will be a push through the fall and we’ll break one million QSOs for the year. Who knows.

I’ve visited a number of the units over the years and it’s been fun to work them in this event, recalling the times that I’ve visited the unit in the past. With the popularity of this event, and the interest that it has generated I wonder what the ARRL is going to come up with next. I know that I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

 

 

Rawley Point Lighthouse activation – USA 689

Rawley Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest and brightest lighthouses on Lake Michigan. It is located right at the southern end of Point Beach State Forest which is our favorite campground. With the NPOTA event this year I’ve typically been doing activations of TR05 from the park but on our most recent trip I decided to do a lighthouse activation as well. The lighthouse is USA 689.

Rawley Point Lighthouse

Rawley Point Lighthouse

The lighthouse is an active Coast Guard station so you cannot go on the grounds but being a lighthouse and a rather large one at that, you can clearly see it from the beach that is part of the Point Beach park area. I setup my station just above the beach at the end of the boardwalk trail that leads from the parking lot to the beach.

Portable station @ the beach

Portable station @ the beach

I used my Alpha Antenna Alpha DX Sr antenna on 20m with good signal reports all along the east coast and into the south and as far west as stations in Utah and California. The Alpha Antenna works quite well for situations such as this where there aren’t any trees around in which to hang a wire antenna.

The view to Lake Michigan

The view to Lake Michigan

With the wind howling quite loudly and the surf rolling I was able to make 15 contacts on 20m in an hour which was the time that I had before I needed to return to camp to start packing up the camper to return home.

Rawley Point activation

Rawley Point activation

Portable station

Portable station – TS-480SAT

With 74 lighthouses in Wisconsin it’s entirely likely that there will be more lighthouse activations in my future.