Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Here Comes The '29 QSO Party!

Saturday, November 9th, as well as the following Saturday (16th), will see the annual running of the Bruce Kelley 1929 QSO Party, otherwise known as the '1929 BK'.

Only transmitters that are 'era-appropriate' are allowed to be used. More specifically, transmitters must employ tubes that were available in 1929 or earlier, and transmitters must be self-excited. No crystals allowed! Crystals were new and largely unaffordable for most hams back in the depression days.

The year of 1929 marked a real turning point in amateur radio as governments finally cracked-down on things such as frequency stability, out of band operations and re-alignment of call districts. In short, hams were henceforth required to behave themselves and to clean up their signals and methods of operation.

Although the new rules did a lot to improve things when it came to 'signal purity', there was still a long way to go ... but the wheels of improvement had been officially set in motion. The next decade would see monumental changes in both transmitter and receiver architecture, as engineers along with some particularly gifted amateurs, strove to unlock the challenges of this relatively new technology.

If you tune across the CW bands during these two upcoming Saturday nights, you will have the rare opportunity to hear exactly what the bands would have sounded like back in the very early '30s'.

For the most part you will hear single-tube Hartley, Colpitts or TNT oscillators along with a few two-tube MOPAs thrown in. Many of them will suffer the same problems encountered by the boys of '29 ... chirp, drift, buzzy notes and frequency instability from antennas swaying in the wind.

The MOPAs will sound much better but some surprisingly nice-sounding signals can be heard coming from properly tuned and optimised single-tube oscillators. I recall being blown away by the lovely sounding signal I heard from such a rig when first tuning into the BK activity several years ago, only to learn that it was a self-excited Hartley using 1/4" copper tubing for the oscillator tank circuit!

The '29 watering-hole on 80m will be around 3550-3580 kilocycles (be careful not to confuse this with kilohertz!) while the early afternoon to post-sunset 40m activity will be found from 7100-7125 kc. There may even be a few on the very low end of 160m. Although many of these transmitter styles were used on 20m and higher, the BK rule-makers have wisely decided not to inflict these sounds on the present ham populace as it would likely keep the 'Official Observers' busy for several days writing pink-slips.

Like last year, I will set up my Hull Hartley (160, 80, 40m), as I haven't used it much since building the MOPA a few years ago. If it's very windy (almost assured), the Hartley will really sound like 1929!

My  Hull Hartley

You can learn more about amateur radio happenings leading up to and following the 1929 crackdown in my earlier series of 'Why '29' blogs here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Those wishing to put something together for next year's event can find everything needed here:

Introduction To Building ... '29-Style

Building '29-Style - Part 1

Building '29-Style - Part 2

Heck, there may even be time to throw something together for this year if you have a few parts and an older tube or two ... the '27' comes to mind and is readily found in many junk boxes. Maybe you know an old-timer or two with lots of parts that could help you out. Your transmitter does not need to look pretty nor need it use period-correct components or coils ... it's just the tube that needs to be correct ... 27's are dirt cheap and easy to find. A simple Hartley '27' oscillator will get you enough wattage to have plenty of fun!

Let's hope for good conditions for this event as the last few years have been adversely affected by geomagnetic storming. Poor propagation or not, I guarantee there will be plenty of  '29ers busy calling 'CQ AWA' on the low bands.

Complete BK details are available here.


bdrummond said...

After following your blog for some time now, Steve, I decided to post a "Thank you" for doing such a great job with it. Your work has been the inspiration of many, myself included.

I participated in my first Bruce Kelley '29 QSO Party Event last night with a '29 Hartley that was lovingly built by a now SK ham. I worked 12 stations, including W2ICE. I heard you working N1BUG in Maine on 80 meters (his TNT transmitter had a dynamite (pardon the pun) signal into Georgia and was arguably the steadiest '29 era signal I heard last night)

Regrettably, we didn't have good enough propagation between us to be able to work you. Maybe next weekend will be better. It would be a great pleasure to work you in this year's BK Event.

73 de Bobby D - AK4JA

Steve McDonald said...

Hi Bobby and thank you very much for the nice words...they are very much appreciated as the main purpose of my blogging is to promote more interest in homebrewing, CW and just having fun on the air.
I'm sorry that I missed you but conditions were just not very good last night. There were brief (30 second) spurts of greatness but they didn't stay around...conditions were just very weird up here. I gather that they were much better back east.
Fingers crossed for next weekend and hope we can make contact!

73 Steve

W3GMS said...

As always Steve, its always a thrill to work you on the BK event. So glad we were able to have a contact on 80M this year.

QSL card is on its way!!


Steve McDonald said...

Tnx odd is this. I had, not moments ago, typed your call and QSO info into my official BK log! It was a tough one at your end I think but as usual, you had a good signal back here. Tnx Joe. Unless you need / want a card, no need to send one. Let me know if you want one and I'll post it this week.

W3GMS said...

Hi Steve....Yes, conditions on my end were less than ideal. I had static crashes reaching 20 db over 9 and their was lots of QSB. If not for those two challenges, you would have been arm chair copy.
Yes, it would be nice to get a QSL from you.
Now the challenge would be for us to work each other on 160M, during the BK event!

Steve McDonald said...

FB Joe...will put a '7SL' 1929 style card in the mail for you this week.