Dave Richards AA7EE

January 31, 2012

QRP CW WAS, KA0XTT and W0O, WBR Receiver, and NT7S To Give Seminar at FDIM

Phew – quite a headline there.  I suppose if I were a more organized blogger, I’d break this into several different topics and get several blog-posts out of it.  However, I’d like to get it all out of the way, and get this info imparted to you in one fell swoop, so here goes.

After completing the Norcal 2N2/40, I got to thinking that it would be really neat to achieve WAS with it – that would be QRP CW WAS on just the one band – 40M. I didn’t get close unfortunately, though I didn’t make a concerted effort either.  On completing the K2, all the other QRP rigs with the exception of the CC-20 were packed up and put into a box; I wanted the operating desk cleared and simplified so I could spend time with my precious new fixation – the K2. With that, the prospects of QRP CW WAS with the Norcal 2N2/40 faded somewhat, but I realized that with the multiband capability of the K2, achieving QRP CW WAS should be pretty straightforward – and it was.

In my entire amateur radio career, I have never won any kind of award – and I’ve been licensed since 1978.  This has been due mainly to very occasional periods of activity interspersed with longer periods of inactivity; a pattern of operating that I know I share with quite a few other amateurs. I’m also not a very competitive person, but it seemed that it was about time I qualified for something, and QRP CW WAS seemed like the obvious first choice.

Not much to say really.  I operate almost daily, and many of those QSO’s from normal operating provided QSO’s for WAS. Add in the odd contest here and there (the ARRL 10M Contest was very helpful, as was NAQP).  Predictably, as my list of states still needed got down to a mere half-dozen, Delaware and Rhode Island were in that list. Luckily, NAQP allowed me to nail both those states through QSO’s with WW3DE and W1WBB.  At the end of my last blog-post, I asked if anyone could give me a QSO with WV, as that was the last state I needed. Frank KA8SYV very graciously responded and did indeed give me a QSO with West Virginia.  It was quite fitting that the QSO with Frank was the one to complete my WAS, as it was he who bought my FT-817 back in June of last year.  We did try to make the QSO with his FT-817, but I couldn’t quite copy his sigs, so he went up to 100W, and the difference was like night and day. Luckily he copied the 5W sigs from my K2. Thanks Frank – your 40M loop was doing a fine job.  Not only was the personal connection with Frank a good reason for him being the final QSO of my WAS attempt, he has an excellent QSL card too, which gave me another reason to want a QSL from him. Here it is:

Frank said that so many people commented positively on that image that he had it made into a QSL. I love it! A few days after receiving it, a card arrived in the mail from John N8ZYA, for a QSO we’d had a few months earlier.  John noticed from my blog that I needed a confirmation from WV and sent me his card.  How did I miss that WV QSO when looking back through my log? Even more perplexing is that John and I have exchanged e-mails and blog comments before, so are well familiar with each other.  Aah well – better to have too many confirmations than too few. Thank you John.  For dog lovers, my Alabama QSO provided me with this QSL:

I now have all the contacts I need. I am waiting for one confirmation from W1SJ in Vermont, but his QRZ page states that QSL’s are generally answered 6 weeks after a contest, so I have every reason to believe that a confirmation from him is forthcoming. When it arrives, I’ll be able to apply for a WAS certificate from ARRL, or if I want to stick to my original goal of having a paper QSL from each state (and not just a combination of paper and LoTW) then I think there are one or 2 more states I need paper QSL’s from. However, they are all states with which I have enough insurance QSO’s so it’s not a problem.  I’m not sure if I will even apply for the certificate. I’ve already achieved WAS. Once the confirmation arrives from W1SJ, I’ll have confirmation that I’m in the log in 50 states for QRP CW contacts and that’s enough for me. Mission accomplished!

Yesterday morning, a QSL I’ve been hoping would materialize actually did. It was for a contact I made with special event station W0O in Frankenstein, MO on Oct 31st. What a fine card. I can’t think of a more fitting QSO on Halloween than with a station in Frankenstein. Thank you very much to the Mid-MO Amateur Radio Club:

The postmark on the envelope was equally impressive. Can you see the word “Frankenstein” spelled out in the tree branches?

Another QSL to arrive yesterday was this one from the fictional TV character Mike Baxter KA0XTT, played by Tim Allen in the series Last Man Standing.  In return for my QSL, the production team sent Mike’s QSL, autographed by Tim:

A group of hams on Twitter decided to send our cards in as a bundle together in the hope that our cards will all be displayed on the wall at Tim’s operating position in a future episode.  I suggested that they send their cards to me so that I could send them on their way, my reasoning being that as I’m in California, the last leg of the trip will be a day or two quicker. Here are the cards from our Twitter group before being bundled up and sent to Studio City:

N9VN and KE7JTU’s cards didn’t arrive for some reason. Perhaps they will be the subject of a QST article in a few decades along the lines of “QSL cards long considered lost finally arrive 30 years later”!

In other news, I was excited to be able to contribute some text and photos to the next edition of the ARRL book “Low Power Communication” written by Rich Arland K7SZ. The subject will be my build of the WBR Receiver, which has generated quite a lot of interest. Poor Daniel N1BYT must be getting a bit fed-up with the renewed interest in his excellent regen receiver design, 10 years after it was initially published in QST.  I noticed that his e-mail address has disappeared from his QRZ page and did wonder if he did it so that we’ll all stop bothering him with questions about the WBR! It will be the project for the group build at this year’s OzarkCon, a number of people have commented to me that they have also built, or are building, their own copies of the WBR, and at least 2 individuals/groups have expressed interest in making a kit of parts available, though I don’t know whether a kit will materialize. To this day, the post on this blog about the WBR is by far the most popular, consistently receiving more views than any other post. Thanks Rich – I have never had anything I’ve written or taken pictures of published in a book before, so this will be thrilling!

Last but very definitely not least, the news has just come out that Jason NT7S will be heading up a seminar at FDIM this year. While I know that he would be well-equipped to talk about the logistics of providing day-care for a toddler and a boisterous (yet affectionate) golden lab, while still managing to find time to design circuits and occasionally even operate on the air, the tentative subject of the talk will be the use of free and open source tools in the development of his products, but he may tweak the subject and content of the talk as time progresses.  If you want to learn about etherkit and Jason’s planned product line, FDIM this year will be a good place to be. He will also have a vendor booth.

November 1, 2011

Buying and Selling Stuff – and Meeting People

Filed under: Uncategorized — AA7EE @ 9:28 am
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been selling and giving away things in fits and starts for about 10 years now.  The first big downsize was in 2001 when I moved from a 3 bedroom house in the hills above Los Angeles to a 1 bedroom apartment in Hollywood. Many large pieces of furniture were shed in that move, but I still managed to cram a lot of stuff into that apartment in the slightly funky end of Hollywood across from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Then a move in 2008 to San Francisco, where you get less apartment for the same money, necessitated the shedding of still more belongings. Successive moves from San Francisco to a studio in Oakland, and then to a room in a lovely old house also in Oakland meant even more downsizing, and opportunities to turn all the expensive gear I’d been accumulating while I was making money, back into cash.  I figured that as much as I enjoyed photography, I didn’t really need the set of pro-level portable lighting made by German company Hensel, so I sold it to an Australian photographer who was visiting the Bay Area and saw my ad on Craigslist. That put some very welcome cash into the coffers and freed up some space. While testing out the lighting gear, we set up an impromptu photo shoot outside on the street and he shot one of my neighbors, a young aspiring hip-hop artist, who was very happy to get pro-quality promotional photos taken for free while the buyer was making sure my lights performed well (they did.)

Buying things and selling things.

Our lives go through many changes, and in the course of these changes we acquire and shed belongings. I think that it’s important to constantly take stock of our “stuff” to see what what we need and what is merely taking up space and not serving us. In the course of selling things, I’ve met some really interesting people.  When I’ve owned and taken care of my possessions, it’s gratifying to pass them on to people who will also look after them and get good use from them. A few months ago I sold my FT-817 to Frank KA8SYV. Frank’s a bit of a tinkerer and home-brewer, and we talked on the phone about our home-made construction projects.  He told me about an indoor loop he had constructed, the performance of which he was very impressed with.  He has a curious and active mind, and I remember thinking to myself that it felt good to be selling my FT-817 to him. We’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times since then and it’s always a pleasure. Another thing about Frank – he has just about the coolest QRZ profile picture I’ve ever seen (which he has now turned into a QSL card.)  Get over to his QRZ page and take a look for yourself.

More recently, I sold a W4RT One-Touch Tune for the FT-817 to a gentleman through the FT-817 Yahoo Group and a set of Mountain Ops cases for the FT-817 and LDSG Z11 Tuner to Jim KB0JTC.  Jim’s been interested in getting a set of these for his FT-817 and LDG tuner for a while and, as Mountain Ops have been out of business for years, they’re not easy to come by.  Although Jim owns a slightly later model of LDG tuner, he already has a plan on how to make his tuner fit the Mountain Ops case and I can tell that he’s going to get some good use out of the TacPacks and wraps.

I have a couple of items listed on my local Craigslist too, a digital calibration target, which is useful for setting your white balance in the field, rather than doing it after the fact, and a Tamrac Expedition 5 camera backpack:

This backpack is in great condition – no tears or damage. I think a local sale will be better, as the cost of shipping might not make it worthwhile to a buyer. I’m asking $70 for it, but might let it go for $65 to an online buyer, provided packing and shipping is paid for in full:

This backpack will hold a DSLR with lens attached, as well as several accessories. All the original dividers  come with it, which can be configured to accommodate a wide variety of storage needs.  The backpack fits snugly on your back and makes carrying while protecting your camera gear quite easy.

My main motivation in selling this stuff has been to help me purchase a K2. While the funds raised will only be a fraction of the money needed, it will be enough to push me over the psychological barrier and get me to the point where I can click on that purchase button.

In fact, it did the trick. Early yesterday morning I went to the Elecraft site and purchased a K2. I ordered it shipped via USPS Priority Mail and because I live only 54 miles from Elecraft, it is scheduled for delivery later today (Tuesday).

Thank you Frank and Jim for helping set me on the path to another chapter in the odyssey of my QRP life, and I’m glad that the need to sell some of my stuff caused our paths to cross!

June 19, 2011

No Commercial Rig In The Shack For Now And All Sorts Of Homebrew Plans

Filed under: Ham Radio,QRP — AA7EE @ 3:55 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

I sold my FT-817 just days after mentioning 2 posts ago that it was up for sale.  After a week on Craigslist, I was planning on putting it up in a few of the online ham forums and then on eBay. It didn’t come to that though. In fact my rig sold not because of Craiglist, but because of the post here on WordPress.  I didn’t know that many folk read this blog!  Shortly after posting here that the 817 was for sale and including a link to the Craiglist ad, I received a call from Frank KA8SYV, saying that he was interested, and courtesy of Paypal and Fedex, the deal was finalized. I’d assumed that he found me on Craigslist but then remembered a remark he’d made during the phone call in which he complimented my large CD collection. The only way he could have known about that was if he’d seen this blog first before following the link to the Craigslist ad to get my phone number.  Hope that’s not against WordPress rules 🙂

The day that Frank received the radio, he called to let me know, and we had a great conversation. Frank’s been getting back into the hobby in the last couple of years, and his enthusiasm is infectious.  He told me about a great little 80M indoor loop that he built (which he forwarded details on) and it turns out that he has the kit to build K8IQY’s SS-40 receiver.  I’m envious, as I have really enjoyed the receiver on Jim’s 2N2 transceiver and the SS-40 is also reported to be low-noise. It was just great to converse with a fellow ham who has similar interests to mine – thanks for the phone QSO Frank.  I knew that Frank would be a trustworthy buyer – not only is he a fellow ham who can build things, but he also has a picture of a kitty in an astronaut suit on his QRZ page.  He just had to be cool!

As a result of that sale, the band coverage here in the shack is a little slim, but that’s fine by me.  I have the Tut80 on 80M, the Norcal 2N2 on 40M, and NT7s’ VRX-1 direct conversion receiver – also on 40M. My 80M activity is sparse, due partially to the fact that my only antenna is a co-ax fed inverted vee for 40, so 99.5% of my activity is on 40M CW.  Most amateurs would consider this a very meager ham-shack situation, but it’s working out well.  I never have to try and figure out which band to operate on, and I spend zero time adjusting the ATU. The 2N2 is always on so when I want to operate, I just turn the volume up on the rig.  Also, the lack of a commercial transceiver is a very good incentive for me to build equipment for the other bands.  I like what not having ready-built gear does for my creative juices.  If I want to go on 20, I have to sit down and figure out what to build for that band, as I’m not about to buy another commercial rig just yet.

The plan here at AA7EE is to spend more time building and experimenting.  I don’t design circuits, but I have enough gumption to build from schematics, and have been wanting to get lots of practice in Manhattan construction for a long time now, so the plan going forward is to build stuff. With that in mind, I spent a day or two putting in a big order with Dan’s Small Parts And Kits, as well as a small order for toroids and some transistors from W8DIZ –  “The Toroid King” (how can you say no to 50 x 2N3904’s or 2N3906’s for $3?)  The goal is to have a big stock of the most commonly used components, as well as enough PCB material to make Manhattan pads and build cases. Once I have a well-stocked junk-box, I can see what I’m using from it and order ahead to keep it stocked up. Hopefully, most projects will only require me to order just a few parts, with the rest coming from the personal stash of parts.  As a kid I had a big junk-box of parts, but it consisted mainly of donations from local and benevolent hams with the contents of a few self-purchased “grab bags” thrown in. I’ve never purposely ordered bulk amounts of all the common resistor and capacitor values and types, along with quantities of commonly-used semiconductor devices. What pleasantly surprised me was that (as long as Dan comes through with this order, and it’s good stuff) if you look for deals and buy from the right places, it needn’t break the bank.

I can’t wait to have my own personal arsenal of resistors, fixed capacitors and trim caps, diodes, transistors, pots, toggle switches, DBM’s (Dan has ADE-1 DBM’s for $4.50 each), ICs and who knows what else. The teenage me would have been so excited to know that I would one day achieve heaven on earth 🙂

Once everything arrives, here’s the plan of action:

 

* Build an active bandpass filter for NT7S’ VRX-1 DC receiver. I’m excited to see what what Jason’s receiver sounds like with audio filtering

* Build a regen receiver for 80M so that I can listen to the weekly West Coast AM net – and maybe mod it for 40M

* Consider building a QRP AM TX for 40, which can later act as an exciter for a linear amp (you think I’m crazy enough to try AM QRP on 80 and 40?)

* Build K8IQY’s 2N2-20 Manhattan-style

* Remove the Tut80’s polyvaricon and modifiy it for tuning with a varicap, so I can use a 10-turn pot, then put the Tut80 in a more stout case made of PCB material

*Lots more things.

 

The above are just ideas and we’ll see which ones come to fruition and which ones remain in my head, but I think I have plenty to keep me occupied, especially considering the fact that I work at a snail’s pace (solder one resistor, take a swig of coffee and look out the window, solder another resistor, take another swig of coffee and play with the kitty etc etc.)

It’s going to be so much fun!

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