Thursday 30 October 2014

CQ Crossband - Final Call - 630m Tomorrow Night

The three VE stations active on 630m CW are looking forward to working you tomorrow (Halloween) evening via the crossband mode during the 630m Activity Night.

In the east, watch for VO1NA. On the west side, watch for VE7BDQ and VE7SL. Here are the transmitting frequencies, times and HF calling frequencies:
  • VO1NA - Joe, in Torbay, Newfoundland. Joe will transmit on 477.7 kHz starting at 2130Z Oct 31 and will continue until 0130Z Nov 1. He will listen for callers on 3562 kHz and 7062 kHz.
  •  VE7BDQ - John, in Delta, B.C. John will transmit on 474.0 kHz starting at 0100Z and will continue until 1000Z on Nov 1. He will listen for callers on 3536 kHz.
  • VE7SL - Steve, on Mayne Island, B.C. I will transmit on 473.0 kHz starting at 0200Z and will continue until 0600Z on Nov 1. I will listen for callers on 3566 kHz and 7066 kHz.
630m propagation conditions have been very good this past week and barring any sudden auroral events, should continue. Unless you are within a few hundred miles of these stations, don't expect signals to be 'loud'. Even when running several hundred watts, antenna's that fit into backyards are not very efficient at radiating all of it! However, from what I have observed, propagation on 630m is very forgiving and has much in common with 160m. Distant signals can sometimes be surprisingly easy to copy when the sun is not up to its tricks!

I have no idea how many stations will be participating on HF but please do not give up should your first few calls not be answered. If conditions appear to be really good, operating hours will probably be extended. Unfortunately Saturday night will probably be out since it is the Sweepstakes CW weekend and will pretty much plug the HF bands, wiping out the calling frequencies.

Don't forget to watch for the Part 5 Experimental stations (WG2's and WD2's) who will be beaconing and working each other on 630m directly. I'm sure they would appreciate your 'heard' reports as well.

Good luck and see you tomorrow.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

New Loop, Perseus and CLE187 Results

The weekend CLE event described in an earlier blogpost provided the first real opportunity to put my new LF loop to the test. Actually, it has already passed the most important test...surviving a large 60+ mph windstorm, while I was away on a short vacation. Unfortunately, a 60' Douglas Fir, just a few feet from the loop, blew completely down...thankfully, over the bank, in the other direction. Cleaning it up will take a few weeks but should provide some good firewood as well as exercise.

Before leaving, I tied the end arms of the loop down just in case it might get windy, but it seems that the light PVC frame does not produce the same windage as my large wooden 10' loop frame.

Beacons logged over the three-night event:

2014-10-25 0600 198 DIW Dixon, NC
2014-10-25 1100 205 XZ Wawa, ON
2014-10-25 1100 209 IB Atikokan, ON
2014-10-25 1100 212 YGX Gillam, MB
2014-10-26 0700 215 AT Watertown, SD
2014-10-25 0600 216 CLB Willmington, NC
2014-10-25 1100 233 QN Nakina, ON
2014-10-26 0700 233 BWP Brekenridge, ND
2014-10-25 1100 242 EL El Paso, TX
2014-10-25 0700 245 YZE Gore Bay, ON
2014-10-26 0700 245 FS Siuox Falls, SD
2014-10-27 1230 248 GLA Gulkana, AK
2014-10-25 1330 251 OSE Bethel, AK
2014-10-26 0700 251 AM Amarillo, TX
2014-10-26 0700 253 GB Marshall, MN
2014-10-25 1100 254 EV Inuvik, NT
2014-10-26 0700 256 TQK Scott City, KS
2014-10-26 0700 257 SAZ Staples, MN
2014-10-25 1100 258 ZSJ Sandy Lake, ON
2014-10-26 0700 260 AVZ Terrell, TX
2014-10-26 0700 263 ZQT Thunder Bay, ON
2014-10-25 0700 264 ZPB Sachigo Lake, ON
2014-10-25 1330 270 FA Apia, SMO
2014-10-26 0600 272 GP Grand Rapids, MN
2014-10-27 0700 272 LD Lubbock, TX
2014-10-27 0800 272 GLS Galapagos, GAL
2014-10-26 0700 274 RG Red Wing, MN
2014-10-27 1330 275 CZF Cape Romanzof, AK
2014-10-26 0700 276 YEL Elliot Lake, ON
2014-10-26 1232 277 ACE Homer, AK
2014-10-25 1100 278 NM Matagami, QC
2014-10-25 1300 281 CRN Sparrevohn, AK
2014-10-26 0700 282 ROS Rush City, MN
2014-10-27 1330 283 DUT Dutch Harbor, AK
2014-10-25 1100 300 YIV Island Lake, MB
2014-10-25 1000 305 YQ Churchill, MB
2014-10-26 0700 323 HJH Hebron, NE
2014-10-25 0600 326 MA Midland, TX
2014-10-26 0700 326 FO Topeka, KS
2014-10-26 0700 326 LTU Spencer, IA
2014-10-25 1330 327 VYI Kahului, HI
2014-10-26 0700 327 JMR Mora, MN
2014-10-26 0700 329 YEK Arviat, NU
2014-10-26 0700 330 PWC Pine River, MN
2014-10-25 1330 332 POA Pahoa, HI
2014-10-26 0700 332 FIS Key West, FL
2014-10-25 0600 335 YLD Chapleau, ON
2014-10-26 0700 337 FF Fergus Falls, MN
2014-10-26 1232 338 CMQ Campbell Lake, AK
2014-10-26 1232 338 RYN Tucson, AZ
2014-10-26 0700 340 YY Mont Joli, QC
2014-10-25 1300 341 ELF Cold Bay, AK
2014-10-26 0700 341 OIN Oberlin, KS
2014-10-26 0800 344 ZIY Georgetown, CYM
2014-10-25 0600 346 YXL Sioux Lookout, ON
2014-10-25 0600 346 YKQ Waskaganish, ON
2014-10-25 1300 346 OLT Soldotna, AK
2014-10-26 0700 347 YK Yankton, SD
2014-10-25 1100 350 RG Oklahoma City, OK
2014-10-25 1200 350 VTR McGrath, AK
2014-10-25 1330 353 LLD Lanai, HI
2014-10-26 0700 353 IN International Falls, MN
2014-10-25 0600 355 YWP Webequie, ON
2014-10-26 1300 355 AUB King Salmon, AK
2014-10-25 1000 356 ODX Ord, NE
2014-10-27 1230 359 ANI Aniak, AK
2014-10-25 0600 360 SW Warroad, MN
2014-10-25 0500 362 YZS Coral Harbor, NU
2014-10-25 0500 365 HQG Hugoton, KS
2014-10-25 0500 365 PAL Palma, EQA
2014-10-25 0600 366 YMW Maniwaki, QC
2014-10-25 1300 366 PNI Pohnpei, FSM
2014-10-26 0700 368 PNM Princeton, MN
2014-10-26 0700 368 PHG Phillipsburg, KS
2014-10-25 0600 370 OUN Norman, OK
2014-10-25 1100 371 GW Kuujjuarapik, QC
2014-10-26 0700 371 MD Bemidji, MN
2014-10-25 1330 373 HHI Wahiawa, HI
2014-10-26 0700 374 EE Alexandria, MN
2014-10-25 1100 376 YAG Fort Frances, ON
2014-10-26 0700 376 ZIN Matthew Town, BAH
2014-10-26 0700 377 EHA Elkhart, KS
2014-10-25 1300 379 IWW Kenai, AK
2014-10-26 0700 379 OW Owatonna, MN
2014-10-26 0700 380 OEL Oakley, KS
2014-10-26 0700 380 BBD Brady, TX
2014-10-26 1000 380 UCY Cayajabos, CUB
2014-10-26 0700 382 YPL Pickle Lake, ON
2014-10-27 1330 382 JNR Unalkleet, AK
2014-10-25 1330 385 EHM Cape Newenham, AK
2014-10-26 0700 385 JD Belleville, IL
2014-10-25 0700 388 AM Tampa, FL
2014-10-26 0700 389 EN Kenosha, WI
2014-10-27 0700 389 CSB Cambridge, NE
2014-10-25 0600 390 HBT Borland, AK
2014-10-25 1000 391 DDP San Juan, PTR
2014-10-25 1300 392 AGZ Wagner, SD
2014-10-26 0700 392 ML Charlevoix, QC
2014-10-26 0700 392 AGZ Wagner, SD
2014-10-25 1330 393 UKS Kosrae Island, FSM
2014-10-26 0700 393 2M Opapimiskan Lake, ON
2014-10-27 1330 393 TOG Togiak, AK
2014-10-25 1100 395 RWO Kodiak, AK
2014-10-26 0700 395 ULS Ulysses, KS
2014-10-25 0600 396 YPH Inukjuak, QC
2014-10-26 0700 397 CIR Cairo, IL
2014-10-25 1100 399 ZHD Dryden, ON
2014-10-27 1330 399 SRI St. George, AK
2014-10-26 0700 400 PPI St. Paul, MN
2014-10-27 0700 400 AI Ardmore, OK
2014-10-25 0700 401 YPO Peawanuck, ON
2014-10-26 0700 407 ZHU Montreal, QC
2014-10-26 0700 407 OOC Natchitoches, LA
2014-10-27 0700 407 AQ Appleton, WI
2014-10-26 0700 408 JDM Colby, KS
2014-10-26 0700 410 DAO Fort Huachuca, AZ
2014-10-25 1300 411 ILI Iliama, AK
2014-10-26 0700 411 SDA Shenandoah, IA
2014-10-26 0700 412 CMY Sparta, WI
2014-10-26 0800 412 BWR Alpine, TX
2014-10-25 1100 413 YHD Dryden, ON
2014-10-26 0700 414 SU Sioux City, IA
2014-10-26 0700 414 MSD Mansfield, LA
2014-10-25 0600 415 CBC Cayman Brac, CYM
2014-10-26 0700 416 LB North Platte, NE
2014-10-25 1000 417 IY Charles City, IA
2014-10-26 0700 418 CW Lake Charles, LA
2014-10-26 0700 419 RYS Detroit, MI
2014-10-26 0700 420 FQ Fairmont, MN
2014-10-25 1100 421 VLY McKinney, TX
2014-10-26 0700 422 EA Kearney, NE
2014-10-25 1000 428 POH Pochahontas, IA
2014-10-25 1000 434 SLB Storm Lake, IA
2014-10-25 1000 512 HMY Lexington, OK
2014-10-26 0700 515 PN Ponca City, OK
2014-10-26 0700 516 YWA Petewawa, ONT
2014-10-25 1000 521 ORC Orange City, IA
2014-10-25 0800 525 ICW Nenana, AK


2014-10-27 1300 200 5M Sparwood, BC
2014-10-27 1300 200 YJ Victoria, BC
2014-10-27 1300 203 YBL Campbell River, BC
2014-10-27 1300 203 ZKI Kitimat, BC
2014-10-27 1300 206 EF Castlegar, BC
2014-10-27 1300 214 LU Abbotsford, BC
2014-10-27 1300 218 PR Prince Rupert, BC
2014-10-27 1300 223 YKA Kamloops, BC
2014-10-27 1300 227 CG Castlegar, BC
2014-10-27 1300 230 YD Smithers, BC
2014-10-27 1300 236 YZA Ashcroft, BC
2014-10-27 1300 242 XC Cranbrook, BC
2014-10-27 1300 242 ZT Port Hardy, BC
2014-10-27 1300 246 ZXJ Fort St. John, BC
2014-10-27 1300 248 ZZP Sandspit, BC
2014-10-27 1300 250 2J Grand Forks, BC
2014-10-27 1300 251 YCD Nanaimo, BC
2014-10-27 1300 257 LW Kelowna, NC
2014-10-27 1300 260 YSQ Atlin, BC
2014-10-27 1300 260 ZXS Prince George, BC
2014-10-27 1300 261 D6 Fairmont Hot Springs, BC
2014-10-27 1300 266 VR Vancouver, BC
2014-10-27 1300 269 YK Castlegar, BC
2014-10-27 1300 272 XS Prince George, BC
2014-10-27 1300 278 1U Masset, BC
2014-10-27 1300 290 YYF Penticton, BC
2014-10-27 1300 293 MB Victoria, BC
2014-10-27 1300 312 UNT Naramata, BC
2014-10-27 1300 325 YJQ Bella Bella, BC
2014-10-27 1300 326 DC Princeton, BC
2014-10-27 1300 326 XJ Fort St. John, BC
2014-10-27 1300 332 WC White Rock, BC
2014-10-27 1300 332 XT Terrace, BC
2014-10-27 1300 344 XX Abbotsford, BC
2014-10-27 1300 346 N9 Tumbler Ridge, BC
2014-10-27 1300 350 NY Enderby, BC
2014-10-27 1300 356 ON Penticton, BC
2014-10-27 1300 359 YQZ Quesnel, BC
2014-10-27 1300 364 4D Helmet, BC
2014-10-27 1300 368 SX Cranbrook, BC
2014-10-27 1300 368 ZP Sandspit, BC
2014-10-27 1300 368 ZVR Vancouver, BC
2014-10-27 1300 374 EX Kelowna, BC
2014-10-27 1300 378 AP Mayne Island, BC
2014-10-27 1300 382 YE Fort Nelson, BC
2014-10-27 1300 382 YPW Powell River, BC
2014-10-27 1300 385 WL Williams Lke, BC
2014-10-27 1300 389 YWB Kelowna, BC
2014-10-27 1300 391 TK Smithers, BC
2014-10-27 1300 394 DQ Dawson Creek, BC
2014-10-27 1300 400 QQ Comox, BC
2014-10-27 1300 414 YZK Kamloops, BC

Not heard:

UAB - 200 (probably on but hvy QRM)
YDL - 200 (probably on but hvy QRM)
M9 - 240
HE - 245
V6 - 280
2U - 284
3G - 330
B3 - 335
YAZ - 359
Highlights of the log include beacons from the Galapagos Islands (GLS-272kHz), Samoa (FA-270kHz), Cayman Islands (ZIY-344kHz), Guayas, Ecuador (PAL-365kHz), Pohnpei, Micronesia (PNI-366kHz), Matthew Town, Bahamas (ZIN-376kHz), Cayajabos, Cuba (UCY-380kHz), Kosrae Island, Micronesia (UKS-393kHz), two new Hawaiians and numerous first-time North American catches.
Needless to say, I am pleased with the way the new loop is performing. The loop and preamp appear to provide a measurable improvement in overall S/N compared with my large LF inverted 'L'. All listening was done using the Perseus SDR.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Solar Flare Magic

Cycle 24 continues to behave like few others! The slowly-decaying cycle released a major solar flare at 2247 UTC Friday....afternoon on the west coast. Topping-off at X3.1, it was the sixth-strongest of the cycle and originated from sunspot 2192, the largest in the past 24 years.


Since then, there have been three more major flares from this same region, one at X1.0 (on Saturday) and the most recent (this morning) at X2.0. Oddly enough, none of these flares have produced CME's as little plasma release has been detected. Any associated auroral events will be very weak or unlikely in spite of region 2192 being geoeffectively positioned at the time of the flares.

However, the near light-speed arrival of Friday's emitted UV radiation caused a fast rise in the muf as spotty signals from various regions of South America were soon being heard on 6m in North America.

The most prominent signal was that of CX7CO (Carlos), in Montevideo, Uruguay. Thanks to the ever-alert KE7V, who posted news of the sudden arrival of Carlos, he was widely worked around North America including the west coast, a region that is usually left-out of the action. Known to have worked Carlos from here were myself, VE7XF, VE7DAY, KE7V, K7CW and possibly others outside of my hearing range. Shortly after working the west coast, Carlos was heard working JA's as his signal became weaker.

The distance from Mayne Island to Montevideo is 11,425km (7100 miles), which would tend to indicate that the contacts were a result of F2 propagation. Some have suggested a Sporadic-E-to-TEP link but I have my doubts...several 'TEP markers' were not present and there were no signs of any Es activity from this area. Although his signal peaked at 569, it is not uncommon for F2 signals to be weak, unlike the bone-crushing levels they can sometimes reach.

As spot number 2192 slowly rotates out of view, it looks like the overall solar flux levels will quickly decline, diminishing the chances of any new activity on 6m this fall. One thing however is for just never know what might come next on the Magic Band!

Friday 24 October 2014

'29 Style Transmitters...What To Build? - Part 2

When it comes to putting a transmitter together for the BK, there are a lot of choices! My advice for a first-build '29 rig would be either a simple TNT or a Hartley-style oscillator. Both are easy to get operating and, when correctly optimized, are capable of putting out a nice-sounding signal.

For a first-time build, with the main objective being to have something ready in time for the December BK, I would not be concerned about overall appearance or period-appropriate parts. For now, the only thing that must be period-appropriate is the tube...improvements can come later.

As well, I would not be overly-concerned about running the maximum power of 10W input. If you are able to get a type '10' or the equivalent VT-25, or a pair of 45's, then the legal-limit is easily within reach. Utilizing something smaller, at just a few watts output, should not be considered a deterrent, as BK-operators all seem to have very good ears. Just 2 or 3 watts will guarantee plenty of contacts no matter where you are located!

Shown above is a fine little TNT built by Kevin, WB2QMY, in New York. It uses a very affordable UX-201A triode, originally manufactured in 1925 for radio receivers. Although Kevin's TNT puts out barely 2 watts on 80m CW, we had no trouble working each other in a recent BK QSO Party. If you build it, they will come!

If you prefer to tackle a TNT, here is the information you will need. This circuit appeared for several years in the ARRL Handbook's transmitter-section. I suspect that it was probably built by thousands of young hams in the late 20's and early 30's and affordably introduced most of them to the magic of radio. For more building details, including how to keep high-voltage off of the main tank coil, see the information on my website describing the TNT project.

Should you be interested in tackling a Hartley, here is an interesting circuit described by Nick, WA5BDU.

Courtesy: WA5BDU

Nick's circuit uses the readily-available '27 type, popular because of its indirectly heated (modern style) cathode. Nick fully describes his project here.
Such a transmitter would readily lend itself to a parallel arrangement of two or more triodes, such as the 27 or the 45 and would develop good power levels inexpensively.

ABØCW has designed a Hartley oscillator using a pair of 27's in parallel and uses them to drive a small amplifier. As described on his website, the oscillator would make a fine stand-alone transmitter with a simple link-coupling antenna circuit.

Courtesy: ABØCW

You can find a list of '29-style related building links, as well as a gallery of transmitters constructed by others, at the bottom of my TNT web page here.

And....circuit ideas, help with parts and lots of BK-chat can always be found at the where the focus is mainly on building and operating.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Hunting For NDBs In CLE187

VR-266 Vancouver Int'l (50W) - heard as far east as NC
How time flies...once again it's time for the monthly Co-ordinted Listening Event (CLE) for NDB hunters....the 187th event. These always interesting and popular affairs take place over three nights, with this one starting on Friday, October 24th at local noon and running until Monday, October 27th, local noon.

These listening events serve several purposes. They:
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the online database can be kept up-to-date
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
  • will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
  • will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
  • give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed
This time, it's a two-part activity, should you decide to chase normal DX beacons as well as those from your own country or state/province. Here are the details. 

Days: Friday 24th October - Monday 27th October
Times: Midday on Friday to Midday on Monday, your LOCAL time
QRG: Normal LF/MF frequencies (190 - 1740 kHz)
NDBs: Normal DX and 'HOME' ones (not DGPS, Navtex or Amateur)

Please try to log NDBs that are over 2,000 km / 1,250 miles from you.
If you have a wall map in your shack, you could draw a circle on it.
It will be accurate if it is a great circle map centred on your location.
(There are other easy and very good ways to find which NDBs qualify
for you - I will describe them in the Final Details email)

Please also try to log NDBs in YOUR OWN radio country. For listeners
in AUS, CAN and USA, that means your State or Province.
It will be trivial for a few of us in tiny radio countries, very challenging
for a listener in, e.g., RUS (Eu). Most of us should have a fair list to
try for.
If we also mention any of our home regulars NOT heard, it will help
others to know about NDBs that are not currently active.

If you report on both parts, DX and HOME, I suggest you put them in
separate parts of your log. As usual, any UNIDs that you come across
will also be of interest - in a third part of your log.

Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted here a few days after the event.

The very active Yahoo ndblist Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other listeners in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome.

If you are contemplating getting started on 630m, listening for NDBs  is an excellent way to test out your receive capabilities as there are several NDBs located near this part of the spectrum.

You need not be an ndblist member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 

Reports may be sent to the ndblist or e-mailed to either myself or CLE co- ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA). It was very exciting to see two new reporters to last month's event after reading about the CLE right here. Hopefully there will be more first-time reporters for upcoming CLE187.

Please...don't be shy and do give the CLE a try....then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database.

Monday 20 October 2014

'29 Style Transmitters...What To Build? - Part 1

Most hams in the late 20's and early 30's seemed to be using simple or two tubes at the most. No doubt the poor economics of the time made it difficult to build anything really elaborate but it didn't seem to stop them from getting on the air with whatever they could put together.
New rules for amateur radio signal stability came into effect in 1929, making that a pivotal year for amateurs, resulting in several new ideas for 'modern' transmitters hitting the publications of the day.

All of the simpler, one-tube transmitters, were self-excited oscillators capable of pretty good sounding signals when operated correctly and when the wind wasn't blowing the antenna around. Being directly-coupled to the antenna meant that any variations in antenna impedance caused by antenna wire movements, would result in  the note rising or falling in frequency by several hertz ... with the resultant 'musical-sounding' note. You can usually hear lots of these during the windy winter BK Party!

One of the most popular first-time transmitters in the late 20's was the one-tube TNT (Tuned-Not-Tuned) style, as it was such a simple design.

With a low parts-count, it was easy on the pocketbook. The grid coil was broadly resonant near the plate circuit's frequency, resulting in enough feedback to sustain oscillation. The grid coil really needs to be optimized (a simple procedure) for peak efficiency and note quality. You can listen to the note quality on my own TNT while transmitting on 40m.

The Hartley oscillator is just as easy on the pocketbook as the TNT, and in the opinion of most, capable of an even better-sounding note once properly optimized.

This transmitter is optimized for best note-quality and plate efficiency by finding the correct tap point on L1. Hear my own Hartley's tone while transmitting on 160m.

The third popular transmitter of the 20's was the TPTG (Tuned-Plate-Tuned-Grid).

The TNT, mentioned above, is a variant of the TPTG and similar in operating principle. Although the addition of a second variable capacitor added to the TPTG's building costs, optimizing performance was somewhat easier since the grid circuit could be more readily adjusted for the oscillator's 'sweet-spot', without having to add or remove turns on the grid coil.

All of the triodes mentioned in my previous blog will work well in the above circuits. Keying is normally accomplished as shown below, by connecting the balanced filament resistor on the directly-heated cathode to ground.

It is important to know that construction need not be fancy to get on-the-air for the BK and there is no reason why modern components cannot be used, along with the era-appropriate tube. If you're still undecided, I'll give you some building details to consider next.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Today's Blog

I'm presently on the high seas...well not too the coast of Oregon and using the ship Internet system...if the video links in today's blog do not show up, because of limited bandwidth uploads, they may be found on a YouTube search for W0VLZ and for N2OUV.....hopefully they show up and this won't be required!

Building .... '29 - Style

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the annual winter Bruce Kelley (BK) QSO Party, usually spurs some new construction of transmitters styled after those that were popular in the late 20's and early 30's. The main stipulation for entry into the two-weekend affair is that transmitters must be self-excited (no crystals) and use tubes that were available in 1929 or earlier.

Initially this might seem a difficult task, and that was my first reaction when first learning of the vintage operating event. Once I had learned more about these types of transmitters and actually listened to the BK action, I knew that it was something that I really wanted to do. After seeing several inspiring videos from Neil (WØVLZ) and Joe (N2OUV), demonstrating their homebuilt '29 TNT transmitters, I knew it was something that I really had to do! Perhaps the videos will grab you as well:

See more of this transmitter in action here.

One of the first things that might seem impossible to obtain would be a suitable tube that was available in 1929. Most of the tubes used in transmitters back then were designed for receivers, usually audio tubes that were pressed into RF oscillator or amplifier service. In the dirty-thirties, larger RF tubes were expensive and beyond the reach of most amateurs unless they had deep-pockets.

Tubes commonly found in BK transmitters are the type 10, 210, 45, 245, 27 and the 227. All of these types are still available today with some being more costly than others.

The most common tube is the type 10 or 210 which is also available in a military format, still NIB, as the VT-25. This is the same tube used in the WØVLZ transmitter.

This tube can easily handle the 25W power requirements imposed by the BK and then some.
Typical prices range from $50 and up.

The next most popular is the 45 or 245, which is pretty well maxed-out at around 5-7 watts. The cost of a 45 is about half that of a VT-25.

The widely available and inexpensive 27 / 227 will produce 2-4 watts of output...more than enough to work across the continent under normal conditions. The low cost (around $5) makes these particularly attractive for the first-time builder as a transmitter using a pair of these (or more) in parallel or in push-pull is an easy way to get started.

Here is a list of popular tubes that could be used for BK-eligible '29-style transmitters. There are probably more but these are the ones seen most often:

Suitable tubes are always available on e-Bay and from dedicated online tube-sellers. A quick Google-search will turn up several sellers, with prices and condition. Of course, one of the first places to look should be any of your ham friends with deep junk-boxes, especially those that have been building or amassing parts for many years. Check out the next ham fleamarket...especially those dusty old boxes under the seller's table. And...there are probably several hundreds of basements still filled with suitable old parts, just waiting to be liberated....seeking them out is all part of the '29 building fun.

Once a decision has been made to go forward with a '29 project, the first thing is to decide on the type of transmitter to build. There were three popular designs back in the late 20's, each with their own pro's and con's. I'll tell you more about these next and give you a few suggestions for getting started.

In the meantime, see what your 'oldest' ham acquaintance might have in his basement and keep an eye-out for any ARRL Handbooks from the early 30's as they are full of valuable building ideas....and you may wish to check-out K7JPD's ideas for finding old parts.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Perseus Video Recording

After viewing so many interesting YouTube videos of various Perseus DX catches, I realized that my present method, using just my I-pad, had to change.

I asked a few of the folks that had been posting high-quality captures, what method they were using, and learned a bit about "screen recording" software. These programs allow you to capture, in reasonable definition video, exactly what is appearing on your computer this case, the Perseus user interface.
I ran across several freeware offerings, all requiring downloading and installation but reviews of most showed problems ranging from excessive malware along with the software, embedded viruses and glitchy performance issues.

I then came upon an online screen recorder called "Screenr" which required no downloading, no sign-up and had rave reviews from several sources. Screenr allows you to capture up to five minutes of video per file and then to either save it on your own system in .mp4 format for editing, upload it to a host of social media sites or directly to YouTube.

I fired-up Perseus and then Screenr to gave it a try. The first thing that popped-up was an adjustable frame that allows you to size your video so that just the wanted subject is visible and any additional screen clutter is not included.

As a test, I made two recordings and uploaded them to YouTube. To my delight, it all worked quickly and seamlessly although it seems that I need to do further experimenting with my audio level settings.

The first video shows two new broadcast band catches that were logged this week, using the new loop pointed to the east. KRJO in Monroe, Louisiana (1 kW) and CHTO in Toronto (1 kW) both in the top-end of the band.

The second video shows my two favorite NDB-band propagation indicators... AA (365 kHz) near Fargo on the ND/MN border as well as little 25-watter, YLJ (406 kHz) in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Either of these make fine prop indicators for the 630m as well and can be heard from both the east and the west parts of the country.

The bottom line is that Screenr seems to work extremely well and is an excellent way of saving some of your SDR catches for web or blog site posting. As well, it could be used for making voice-narrated instructional videos limited only by your gets a 5 out of 5 from me!

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Planting New Radials

With the return of cooler weather and a few overnight rainy periods, the brown summer-lawn has suddenly turned green and is growing far too fast once again. I find this time of the year, as well as early spring, the best time to plant any new radials that I like to continuously add to my vertical antenna systems. My large inverted 'L' for 2200/630m as well as my half-slopers for 160, 80 and 40m, all have a common base, which lets all of the antennas benefit from the radials laying just beneath the lawn.

The procedure I follow is fairly easy but does take time and I usually just add four or five each year. Although I haven't kept an accurate count, I know the system now has fifty or more radials varying from 30' to 70',  fanning out in various directions from the base of my main tower.

The terminated end of the radial is first pinned-down using a U nail or a longer 3 1/2" galvanized finishing nail that has been bent over in the vise, with the height of the grass determining which one I use. Shorter grass lets you get away with the smaller U nails, which can be found in most building supply stores.

Once pinned, the grass is parted using a stick, knife or awl, to produce a shallow gap for the radial to sit in. I try and do a 3-foot section at a time before placing the wire into the opened-up area. Another way that is effective, especially if the grass is short and the soil dry, is to run the blade of a knife through the grass to actually slice a shallow slit which the wire can be pushed into. This allows the wire to be almost completely buried immediately. Both methods require pinning, with the nails, every few feet.

Once pinned in place, the grass can be quickly ruffled back into place, covering the radial. When done in the fall or in the spring, the grass will very quickly completely overgrow and incorporate the radial into the lawn, never to be seen again.

An interesting product that I have recently learned of may also be of interest - "Ground Staple Pins" by RossRadio. Details may be viewed at their website.

It really is very little work for the immediate payback realized by lowering system ground losses and increasing your antenna efficiency and overall ERP, especially on LF.

With the winter DX season just around the corner and the pleasant fall weather, it couldn't be a better time to plant a new crop of radials in the backyard!

Saturday 11 October 2014

630m Crossband Activity Night Reminder

Just a reminder about the 630m Activity Night coming up at the end of this month. You may recall the details in an earlier blog. I think the most exciting thing about this evening will be the opportunity to try to make a crossband CW contact between one or more of the three participating Canadian stations, hopefully covering both ends of the country:

  • VO1NA - Joe, in Torbay, Newfoundland. Joe will transmit on 477.7 kHz starting at 2130Z Oct 31 and will continue until 0130Z Nov 1. He will listen for callers on 3562 kHz and 7062 kHz.
  •  VE7BDQ - John, in Delta, B.C. John will transmit on 474.0 kHz starting at 0100Z and will continue until 1000Z on Nov 1. He will listen for callers on 3536 kHz.
  • VE7SL - Steve, on Mayne Island, B.C. I will transmit on 473.0 kHz starting at 0200Z and will continue until 0600Z on Nov 1. I will listen for callers on 3566 kHz and 7066 kHz.

Joe should have pretty good coverage of the east coast with his fine antenna system, shown above.

Please note that, at present, the 'crossband activity' is planned for Friday evening only since Saturday night's CW Sweepstakes Contest will make HF listening more difficult.

All stations will either call CQ or run “VVV” marker beacons while listening on their respective HF receive (QSX) frequencies, which will be included in the CQ or marker beacon message.

Also know that it is completely legal for U.S. and VE amateurs to contact Canadian amateurs via the crossband mode. Unfortunately, it is not possible to contact those stations that may be operating in the Experimental Service and not using an amateur radio callsign.

For additional information, please see the ARRL's description of the event.

Remember that you don't need a fancy antenna to listen on 630m. One of your HF antennas, fed as a 'longwire', will probably do the job....even better if you can tune it to resonance.

I will blog another reminder just before the event. We all hope that you can be there!

Friday 10 October 2014

VE7BPO Homebuilder Web Files

The recent closure of Todd's valuable site has resulted in the entire data from there now being mirrored at two locations in .pdf format. It's all there, complete with all the schematics and photographs from the original site ...and is very easily searched.  The file is about 40Mb and consists of 945 pages!

  • Jason, NT7S has posted the file here.
  • Steve, VK2JA has posted the file here.

If you missed it earlier, Todd's new blog is slowly starting to take shape and by the looks of it will soon be running full-speed ahead.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Loop Listen

As Murphy would have it, and in spite of the low amount of solar activity, LF/MF propagation has been very poor since getting my new 10' x 20' loop in place. The few front-to-side nulling checks that I have done, have produced results varying from around 20db to 30db, depending upon the signal. I suspect the depth of null is also affected by the signal's arrival angle but there is still more to learn. The pattern seems to be very close to that of a typical circular loop...the classic figure-8 pattern illustrated below as shown on the Wellbrook data that came with my ALA100LN preamp.


More typically, the null is around 21-22 db as shown on this test while listening to the ground wave carrier of the YZA ndb (236kHz) located in Ashcroft, B.C., about 150 miles to the NE. As expected, the null is fairly sharp and the front / rear lobe, fairly broad.

One short check at dusk, produced nice signals from  CJBC, the French-language station in Toronto. The past few nights it has been very strong but with a strong echo effect. I wonder if there is more than one CBC outlet here (860kHz), such as a low-power repeater, causing the echo.

At the same time, while still fairly light outside, WCCO in Minneapolis had a nice signal just before sunset.

No matter how poor conditions become, it seems that the Hinchinbrook (Alaska) ndb, 'ALJ' (233kHz), is always strong....looping north.

My apologies for the video quality. If you know of any software available for making full-screen Perseus video captures so that I might improve my technique, please let me know. Presently I am just capturing them on my I-Pad which leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Hopefully conditions will only get better as the season progresses and I am able to give the loop a good workout....before it gets too windy!

Monday 6 October 2014

VE7BPO 'Popcorn' QRP / Home Builder

“The emphasis is fun. The hope is that it will attract new people to electronic design, measurement and experimentation. Hopefully, this site stimulates interest in QRP homebrew electronics.”

That's how Todd Gale, VE7BPO, described his website. Up until this past weekend, Todd site was one of the Web's premier sources of inspiration, accumulated homebrew knowledge and hands-on experimental wisdom. I was shocked to receive an e-mail from Todd explaining that the site would be taken down because of continued  bandwidth / network struggles with his one and only choice of providers. It truly was sad news for myself and the thousands that regularly visit his site for guidance. However, all is not lost as Todd went on to say:

"....I will convert all the site files into pdf files and stick them on a download site sometime in the future. I may re-emerge with a small-scale site or blog at some point, but don't really know for sure."

Happily, today Todd has informed me that he will indeed begin a new POPCORN QRP  blog in which he hopes to update with his benchwork descriptions that we have all come to enjoy.

I have listed Todd's blog site on My Blog List to the right but you may prefer to set your bookmarks for his site. Don't expect too much until later in the month as he is still working his way up the blogger's learning curve....hopefully we will see him back soon. Best of luck with your new endeavour...and, like the original website, I'm sure it will be great!

Courtesy: VE7BPO

Sunday 5 October 2014

New LF / MF Loop

Some may recall my blog back in July (Wellbrook Loop Plans) describing a new loop that I had been thinking about as a possible replacement for my 10' shielded loop. I had been doodling various construction ideas using PVC tubing in an effort to keep it as light as possible, without introducing any metal near the loop. On Monday of this week, I dismantled the 10' loop in preparation for my new experimental rectangular loop.
I've had the Wellbrook loop preamp here for a few months, so it was now or never, while the weather was still 'antenna-friendly'. Now I do understand that this goes against one of ham radio's long-standing traditions that dictates all antenna work must wait until the weather can't get any worse. Antennas built in the winter rain always work much better than ones put up in the summer. Hopefully it's not Wouff-Hong or Rettysnitch punishable but the fall DX season is almost upon us and I'm not waiting for the rain!

The new 'loop' is not really loop-shaped but is rectangular (10' x 20') and more like a Flag antenna shape. I considered a Flag but really don't need any back-end nulling capability since I'm mainly interested in listening to the east and to the north.

The main boom section is composed of two sections of 1" PVC thick-wall (Schedule 40) pipe joined at the center and reinforced with a 10' section of 2" x 2" Douglas Fir. In addition, the boom has a truss of 1/4" Dacron to take out any end-loading sag. The vertical end sections are 3/4" Schedule 40 PVC pipe, fastened with a T at the boom end. The center mast is made of 2" Schedule 40 ABS pipe with a long section of 1 1/2" ABS nested inside that telescopes upward to anchor the truss ropes and give some additional rigidity to the mast.

Main boom and mast construction
This type of construction would lend itself well to anyone interested in a rotating Flag antenna for the BCB / LF or 160m. The costs are very low, the structure is lightweight and the materials are readily available at most hardware outlets.

Looping E/W

Although the preamp is completely sealed and weatherproofed, I still decided to mount it inside a container. The container also provided a convenient anchor to terminate the loop end wires (PVC-coated #18 stranded) without putting any tension on the soldered terminals.

Although I have not had much time to listen, and conditions are still in 'recovery' mode from earlier disturbances, initial indications are that everything is performing as well, if not better, than expected. It certainly outperforms my 10' active shielded loop by a large margin. I have yet to do any serious S/N comparisons between it and my primary LF receive antenna, a large inverted L, which must be tuned to resonance for the desired listening range. I believe that the very quiet loop / Wellbrook combination will provide an overall S/N improvement.

I have always believed that smaller loops provide deeper and sharper front-to-side nulls so I was pleasantly surprised to measure (using Perseus) null depths from 25-30db, on various groundwave signals....more than expected. Skywave signals also deliver sharp deep nulls in the order of 22 - 25db...again surprising, but I'll take them! A brief listen pointing S-E last evening turned up good signals from 1 kW'ers KYHN (1650kHz) in Fort Smith, Arkansas and KKGM (1630kHz) in Fort Worth, Texas. An early morning listen revealed good audio from JOIK (567kHz) Sapporo, Japan and JOAK (595kHz) in Shobu. Down in the ndb band, little 25-watter 'IP' on 210kHz was an all-time new catch from Mobile, Arizona.

There is still much to learn from this new antenna system but the biggest challenge will be keeping it up all winter. I did lose one of my 10' loops after several years, due to wind, when the main (un-reinforced) PVC mast eventually failed from flexing fatigue. I will tie the ends of the new antenna down when the winds get strong to reduce as much mast flexing as possible. I could however, run the risk of violating another long-standing radio tradition..."if your antenna stayed up all winter, it wasn't big enough". I just can't win.

Friday 3 October 2014

Building For The 'BK'

It's almost that time of the year when, once again, the '29ers start preparing for the winter Bruce Kelley Party. In case you're not familiar with the 'BK', it's a winter event celebrating the transmitters of 1929 and earlier. Transmitters used for the event must be self-excited crystals allowed...and the tube(s) used must be those that were available in 1929 or earlier. It's an eye-opener to hear how the band must have sounded in the early days of amateur radio CW...even better if you're making those sounds yourself. The 'BK' usually spawns a flurry of construction, so if you think it is something that might interest you, you have until early December to get ready! Unfortunately many aspiring 29ers always leave it too late and inevitably run out of time before all of the building challenges can be overcome.

Over the next few weeks I'll have more to say about the 'BK' and '29 style in general, since this year, I hope to add an amplifier to my self excited Hull Hartley, shown above.

For now, I'll tease you with the basic information regarding the QSO Party as published by the 'BK' sponsor...the "Antique Wireless Association"......just in case you want to start planning an entry (hopefully!).

The Bruce Kelly 1929 QSO Party is a yearly AWA sponsored event where participants build their own transmitters using the designs, techniques, and tubes that were available in 1929 and earlier, and then put those classic transmitters on the air and try to contact as many other 1929 stations as possible.  Since they use early designs, it is a cacophony of whooping, chirping, buzzing, clicking, drifting, swishing, swaying, warbling, and other interesting signals.   This is what ham radio sounded like in 1929 and for two weekends in December its 1929 again on the ham bands.
This year for the first time we are activating Bruce Kelley’s W2ICE call sign as a 1929 SPECIAL EVENT STATION!  W2ICE hasn’t been heard on the 1929 QSO Party since Bruce’s passing so this will be a real treat to hear and work the namesake station of this event!   A special event QSL card will be available for valid contacts with W2ICE.  QSL information will be posted on the AWA website.  W2ICE is operating as a 1929 station and contacts count just like any other station.  The 1929 QSO Party was started in the early 1990’s and championed for many years by Bruce Kelly W2ICE, an AWA co-founder.  Prior to Bruce’s passing, he asked his close friend John Rollins W1FPZ to keep the 29 QSO Party going. John Rollins managed the QSO party for many years and renamed it the Bruce Kelly 1929 QSO Party in honor of Bruce.  Ten years ago John Rollins asked me to manage the 29 QSO Party for him and Bruce, and to keep the event alive because it meant so much to both of them.
Dates:  Sat. Dec. 6, 2014 @ 2300 GMT to Sun. Dec. 7, 2014 @ 2300 GMT and Sat. Dec. 13, 2014 @ 2300 GMT to Sun. Dec. 14, 2014 @ 2300 GMT
Objective:  Contact as many 1929 stations as possible.  Contact exchange consists of RST, Name, QTH (State such as ME or MN or NY), last two digits of the year of the transmitters design or publication (such as 29 or 27 or 23), type of transmitter (such as TNT or TGTP or MOPA or COLPITTS), and power input (such as 6W or 9W).
Rules:  Transmitters must be 1929 or earlier types of self oscillators such as the Hartley, TNT, PP tuned grid tuned plate, MOPA, Colpitts, etc.  No crystal oscillators.  Tubes must have been available during or before 1929.  Typical tubes often used are type 10, 45, 27, 211, 71A.  Individual stations can be worked only once on each band over the course of two weekends.  You can use any vintage or modern receiver that you wish.  The event is open to all 1929 stations including non-AWA members and AWA members.  You are encouraged to join the AWA and support 1929 radio!

Input Power:  Transmitters are limited to a power INPUT of 10 watts or less.  However, to help make East-West contacts, power may be increased to 20 watts INPUT between the hours of 0500Z (12 Midnight EST) and 1300Z (8 AM EST).  Note this is INPUT power.  Power input is calculated by multiplying PA plate voltage x total PA plate current.   Example:  my plate voltage is 300 volts dc, and plate current is 30 ma, so total input power is 300 x 0.030 = 9 watts input. Stations running more power than this are considered “modern” for this event and do not count.

Frequencies:  The QSO Party typically operates between 1800 to 1810 Kcs, 3550 to 3580 Kcs , 7100 to 7125 Kcs, plus or minus depending on QRM.  40 meter activity is up significantly because it offers both night time AND daytime propagation!   So when 80 shuts down Sunday morning, I hope to see you on 40m.  (Courtesy AWA)

Presently, almost all of the activity is from Minnesota and points eastward....the west is poorly represented for some reason but activity out this way has been slowly increasing over the past two years.
You don't need much in the way of power....every year I work several eastern 'BK' stations that are running just 2 or 3 watts, usually using receiving tubes pressed into RF oscillator service....much like the real boys of '29 likely did.

If you want to try something really different and relive the days of early amateur radio then you've still got time to get started. I have some helpful building hints on my VE7SL Radio Notebook site.