Sunday, April 21, 2019

So how is #60m these days?

Since it is close to the ES season I'm planning to remove the HF5B and replace it for the 5 element 6m beam again. The days are getting longer and we look towards the summer. Actually I didn't expect the 60m band in good shape for DX since so far I thought long distance could only be made when it is dark or just before/in/after greyline. But since the KH8 DXpedion from American Samoa is on 60m sometimes I thought it would be interesting to see if I could receive them. Well so far that didn't happen. But surprisingly I was spotted every morning at ZL4YL in New Zealand last week. This sunday morning I was surprised by the constant signal from V31DL (Belize), the sun is already up for at least 2 hours! It's a sunny warm day and still V31DL is received with at least +1dB on FT8 60m! And not only him but some USA stations as well. To me the excellent greyline propagation on this band at this time of the year is really a big surprise.

At the moment I post this it is 8:35 local time. Greyline is long gone. But V31DL is still received with -5dB. Following PSK reporter my 15W signal is still spotted with -17dB by him. It is incredible the path is still there...

Update 21-4-2019 end of day:
I left my computer on to see when the signal from V31DL would disappear. You see him still calling but no one answering. I wonder I was the only one still receiving? Still after almost 3 hours after my sunrise I still received him with -9dB. And I guess then he stopped calling...

Friday, April 12, 2019

PA0DR - follow up surprises

Following part 1 at my blog this is not yet the part 2 I wanted to write about. It is just something in between I wanted to share. With the help of others and specially my neighbourstation PA3BCB Gerard who wrote me after I published the dutch PA0DR story in our local magazine Hunsotron and on my blog. He knew Dirk personally and saved some valuable memorabilia after Dirk died in 1991. Some of the items don't fit into part 2 of the stories but are interesting to show I think. Gerard sent me some scanned pictures from the items he has but after some e-mail exchanges decided to give almost the whole package to me for the story and to show others that are interested in the history of this dutch HAM. On top you see a first edition (1959) of Quad antennas by William Orr, Dirk was very interested in quad antennas and had one himself. Just when I'm interested in a quad antenna to replace my HF5B. Is this a coïncidence?

A QSL card by a SWL (RA89) from New Zealand was sent to Dirk in 1939 when he witnessed a first with Peru for PA0DR. The card has very nice details from a short wave receive station at that time.

You can click on the pictures to enlarge. Notice the QSL came via dutch radio organisation NVIR (Nederlandsche Vereeniging voor Internationaal Radioamateurisme). After the war NVIR was one of the organisations that united with others to form the VERON which is still the largest radioamateur organisation in my country. Dirk became a member a year after the war.

It is unbelievable I got this piece of evidence in my posession now. I guess this can be called a real museum piece. And I got so much more I want to show you. But you have to wait till I finish my story...

Wait, there is more to tell. If you read my last months article well and followed the link to the picture from the possible "Winchester" transmitter you see a nice picture from a home made replica transmitter. It's the kind that could have been used by the resistance in WW2. I didn't notice that this article was written by PA3BCB's XYL. Gerard has this replica in posession and brought it with him to the radioclub evening to show us. I really don't know what kind of bulb is on there but this transmitter features some nice details like square wire to connect all individual parts.

According to Gerard there are few components and/or wiring missing and to get it to work on the 80m band another coil is needed. The coil at the side of the bulb is for 14MHz I believe. There is a possebility that this replica has been made by Dirk PA0DR but so far we didn't find any evidence for that. It is Gerard's intention to restore the transmitter and make at least one CW QSO with England with it like the resistance did in WW2. Of course I'll keep you readers informed about this.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The quest for a homemade multiband beam

The butternut HF5B I use now.
I've been looking for a multiband directional antenna since my antenna tower is finally standing. I've seen several commercial options, some of them are expensive, some less expensive. Last year I had the opportunity to buy a commercial made HF5B antenna. It's a 5 band antenna 20,17, 15, 12 and 10m. It should be directional on 20m, 15m and 10m and a dipole on 17m and 12m. In reality I found the antenna only being directional on 15m and 10m actually, on 20m it is behaving like a dipole. I would like to have a antenna with some more gain and a good front/back ratio. Most ideal would be a antenna like the SteppIR urbanbeam but the price is much too high for a average radioamateur like me. Ultrabeam makes similair beams for example the 20MX which is sold for about the same price as the SteppIR.

LZA10-5 with  a price of only €470 a good alternative
if room is no issue 
A bit cheaper are the aluminium beams like the Force12 XR5, LZ antenna 10-5 or Optibeam 10-5M.  But viewing the specs of those last 3 I think it's just as good as the HF5B. No one will ever see or hear the difference between 3 or 4 dB gain, however front/back ratio will be much better I guess. Even cheaper are multiband wire beams like the hexbeam but due to the unusual shape it is not always a antenna for everyone. Let's be honest, look at the specs from all these wonderfull antennas, they all have nearly the same specs which are not even far away from the HF5B I have in my tower now. Buying or building a multiband beam with better specs is just a dream which will never come through. But building my own antenna would be just more satisfying! So, that is what I'm going to do. Building my own 5 band directional antenna with specs that are as good as a commercial one.

Since a fullsize horizontal 5 band beam is no option here I'm thinking of a alternative by using lineair loads or capacitive hats . I've used the lineair load principle on my alutape multiband vertical in the past with success. There are several designs that can be found but which one suits me best? I think it is a trail and error path because what works well at someone else could be not working at all at my QTH. Other possebilities are capacitive hats and helical loading. I have to investigate these options. I don't like antennas with coils so that is something I absolutely want to avoid.

Best photo I could find from a 3 band BBQ quad
Another option is to build a 5 band cubical quad. I made quads in the past and also used a PDL2 quad on 11m and 10m. It was all with mixed success. The homemade quads didn't do what I expected and the PDL2 quad did but was of course only suitable for just 2 bands. The nice thing is that quads don't need that much height to work well on DX. The width of a 20m quad is about 5,5 meters measured from side to side when the antenna is configured as a cubical. That is reasonable and I think I can have it in the mast. If it is still too big I can downsize it using lineair loads. A good example has been made by Degen BBQ quads in the past. However as far as I know they don't make them anymore, at least they are not listed on their website. The concept is interesting though especially for those that have not much room. The lineair loaded 20m quad is only 3,4 meter wide.

I will study these options and there might be even more? Anyone have any ideas? I prefer to build the antenna by myself but any commercial option is fine, I guess it can always be build, However time is as always a issue. But as always....let me dream on...