Friday, June 29, 2018

6m RX Japan 29-6


Japan was visible early this morning. Best DX was JI1FLB. Best signal was JA9IPF (-8dB). Tried several times but was not able to make any QSO or even to be heard in Japan. Working remote at coffee break from my job via my smartphone is not ideal. Die hard DXers will tell you at least need 1KW and a large beam. However I was spotted in south Korea last year only using 30W and a low vertical. Now I have a 5 element beam on a tower pointed to Japan. I'm shure it is possible to make a QSO even with low power if propagation is right.

Received list: JA7GYP, JA7QVI, JI1FLB, JO1LVZ, JA9SJI, JA9IPF, JA3JTG, JA3EGE and JH4IFF

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Space clouds

Space clouds as seen at the northern sky at the northern coast Netherlands. Just above my antenna. Wish I had better photograph equipment as making photos in these conditions is difficult without the proper equipment. ES was remarkable yesterday evening and when I made this photo at 22 UTC there were still plenty of signals. However I've still not seen any USA/Canada signals.

Space clouds or noctilucent clouds are actually only visible this time of the year. I was just reading MW1CFN John's weblog about it. Last year I wrote something about it. You might interested to read it again...

Update: Seems my photo is a cirrus cloud. From photos seen spaceclouds are brighter

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

6m RX 26-June


Best DX was EX8MLT. I have been active and worked a few new DXCC. The map above only shows what I received. Didn't work EX8MLT. Computer locked at 20 UTC. Still have some minor isseus with W10.

Monday, June 25, 2018

6m beam up and running

Took me a lot of work but finally dismantled the emergency mast, it did well in 10 years of emergency service. First it supported a alu CB GPA with 1:9 balun which was very soon replaced by a A-99 CB antenna fed by a CG3000 tuner. I used the A-99 only to support the alu radiator made with alu tape. It worked well. 2 years ago I replaced the A-99 with a I-max 2000 CB antenna as support and used coppertape instead which worked even better.





I am planning to fit the I-max on the mast again. But....well you've seen my previous post. Besides that some of the insulation breaks on the I-max. I think I have to cover it with a second or may be a third layer of tape to protect it from the weather. For now I stored it in my garage.








The supporting and insulating glassfiber militairy mast parts do need a cover as well. I knew this would happen, I guess it was just laziness, or I was out of tape 2 years ago?? What you see on the photo is happening with almost every glasfiber antenna here. Except with the W2000 antenna strange enough, probabely the tube is made from another material?







I got a lot of comments about the water in my antennatuner. I can asure you all that water via coax is not possible. I disconnected the sealed connector and it was like new, I cut it from the coax and the inside looks like new as well. I always make sure everything is sealed with vulcanizing tape very well. Both parts of the housing are screwed together with a thick rubber packing in between. What I think what is happening is that wind is pushing water into the screwholes and pushing it through the packing, I can't think of anything else. There is no hole at the bottom to let any water out. The problem with a hole is that with large wind the water is still blown inside. However, a piece small rubber tube through a hole in the bottom might do the trick? So, far I can't see much corrosion, so the water came in recently. I hope the tuner is still working......if I have some time I'll try to make a emergency setup to test it.


Finally sundaymorning, time to fit the 5 element beam in the tower......I thought. Then it was raining again. So, instead I made some DX on 6m with the vertical. Worked EA8 and A45XR for new ones. Not bad I thought. Late afternoon the sun shines again and I mounted the beam in the tower. It went well and SWR is great. Actually everything works well. Then I turned my beam west a terrible pulsating noise reached my receiver over the complete 6m band, my neighbours solarpanels I assume. As soon as the sun was set the noise was gone. Turned the beam around and made several QSO. But no USA or Canada could be heard. Saw some other dutch stations making QSOs again but they are much more south of me. Suddenly at around 20:00 UTC a few TF (Iceland) stations came in from nothing. Really strong signals, I worked 2, 5 minutes later signals were gone...that's 6m magic.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Antennatuner nightmare


How on earth could there be water in the tuner? It is sealed! It's my worst nightmare.....
Strange enough I didn't have any issues till now. It was still working a few days ago. I just dismantled the antenna and heard water in the tuner. I thought I better let it out.
Hopefully there is no damage, although I doubt it...

Friday, June 22, 2018

PE4BAS goes 2m!

Had some hobby time again last evening. The idea was to dismantle the copertape vertical or to install the 6m beam, or both. But on the longest and first day of summer.....it rains. So, radio left. But no propagation on 6. Since the W2000 antenna does 2m as well I reached for my Daiwa CN-103 UHF/VHF SWR meter and switched over to 144.174 MHz USB FT8. Just for fun! UHF/VHF is not really my piece of cake. Anyway, SWR is 1:1,4 very good. I switched on TX with 20W and at my first TX period DJ1AN (150km) came back for a QSO. And later I had a QSO with PD7WL (244km). Not bad. It surprised me I was received in Denmark and France. So, far there was noticeable ES at all this evening.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

On the shoreline...

John MW1CFN commented on my last post:

6m is subject to ionisation that is shaped into something like the surface of the sea - lots of waves. These propagate from the surface and grow to huge sizes by the time they are at upper D and E height. That's why you get different propagation conditions between closely spaced stations. Sometimes, you can actually hear the effect of the waves on the radio as the signals come and go.

I like this very clear description/explanation of 6m propagation. And it describes what I experienced yesterday evening. I had the feeling I was standing near the surf of the sea on the beach watching the waves breaking but just not reaching my feet. No matter what I tried I couldn't get my feet in the water leaving me very frustrated. No it was not a bad dream....it was real :-(

I watched neighbourstation PA0O and several other dutch stations south of me making FT8 QSO's on 6m with PJ4NX, PJ4X (Bonaire) and several stations from USA. However I couldn't see those stations and only did one decode from K2ND (not shure if that was the callsign) at -18dB which is near invisible on FT8. Imagine....

Actually, I just finished assembling the 5 element 6m beam. And it is just a matter of connecting the cables and fit it in the mast. But it was too late yesterday, it already started to get darker and I was too tired from the day of work. Would I have any chance with the beam yesterday evening? I doubt it! Although I don't know how much better a 5 element beam receives? It could be just enough to get my feet wet.....

Sunday, June 17, 2018

6m vertical on the tower

Placed the 6m/UHF/VHF Watson W2000 (Diamond V2000 clone) antenna in the mast this weekend. It is not on it's final place but so far on top at 16m height. Didn't have much time to play with it though so really don't know how it performs. SWR is the same as on the low 6m long mast. I did receive a 4X4 (Israel) station on FT8 and some europeans. As soon as I made a CQ on FT8 I was spotted in Spain, Denmark and Germany. At least I made one QSO with a station in Germany. I don't think there was much ES at that time...however 6m can open within 10 minutes and close in the bext 10 minutes. Propagation can be very local, it is possible I work DX and a station 50km south of me does hear nothing at all. 6m is a strange and unpredictable band. And because of that it is attractive to radio enthousiasts.




I have changed my shack setup a little. Had to find a place for the rotor controller. Besides that you see 3 switches on the right side. Switching the digimodem, audio NIR-10 filter and a antennarelay at the bottom of the mast. Missing the voicekeyer in the picture since I didn't use it anymore so sold it. Well, the Icom IC-706 looks a little small in that space. Hopefully I will replace it by a IC-7300 in the future. The extra connectors you see are the jack plug for the footswitch and the mini DIN for the computer voicekeyer.


Next step is to install the 5 element 6m ZX-Yagi. I'm cleaning it and have to make some repairs. Hopefully I find some time to install it in the mast this week.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Lucky me!

Still busy with the tower. Arranging the radioshack desk and all the wires and coax cables. I need another lay-out on my desk as I have to add the rotor controller. But first of all everything needs to work before I will do a final install. I finally connected the rotor cable through a 13 pole trailer connector so I can disconnect as soon as there is a thunderstorm approaching. However, nothing worked at all. The nice green light came up and then the pointer stuck. Remember my Kenpro overhaul last year? I changed the scale and forgot to glue it, imagine what happened after a couple of months. The paper absorbs moisture that is always in the air and it will get slightly larger and so it did bulge. Had to correct this first. After the pointer could move freely I thought of how to search for the fault?
Actually it is very simple to measure a 8 wire cable like my rotor cable. Just
connect DC voltage from your PSU to the wires and measure at the other end. So, I connected the + to wire 1 and then moved the - from 2-8. Of course I had to walk all the way to the tower to measure at the other end. Anyway, when I arrived at wire 5 I had no 13,5V, same with wire 6,7 and 8. To make a long story short. It seems the pin-out of the male and female trailer connectors are not the same. That's why I hate those 13-pole connectors I think. After that was corrected the rotor rotates fine.

So, why the title then? I didn't feel that lucky when I was searching for the fault describing above. It did take hours before I finally found the connector problem. Still I feel very lucky.......look what I got for free:


A well known GPS company changed cables at my job a while ago. Since the old cable was going into the garbage bin after it was damaged a little I asked if I could have it. That was no problem. And indeed the sealed TNC connectors were damaged and there were some minor holes in the insulation here and there. It is about 29m (95 ft) long and would fit between my shack and the new tower for covering 90% of the distance. Now, I covered the holes with insulation tape and since the cable was used inside a building I expect no damage or very minor.

The MFJ-259B showed 1 dB loss @50MHz. The online loss calculator tells me 0,9dB loss @50MHz is normal. So, I guess there is nothing wrong with the cable at all.






Time to compare loss at several other amateurradio bands. Measured with the MFJ-259B and compared to the calculator.

MFJ-259B: @50MHz: 1dB, @28MHz: 0,8dB, @21MHz: 0,7dB, @14MHz: 0,6dB, @7MHz: 0,5dB, @3,7MHz:0,4dB, @1,8MHz: 0,2dB

Factory calculator: @50MHz: 0,9dB, 28MHz: 0,7dB, 21MHz: 0,6dB, 14MHz: 0,5dB, @7MHz: 0,3dB, @3,7MHz: 0,2dB, @1,8MHz: 0,1dB

The differences are small. And of course different from each other because the factory is calculating the losses and I measure them with a meter that is not calibrated. However it comes close and it shows this is a very low loss cable which I will use for 6m/UHF and VHF. This cable is not really interesting for HF I think. H2007 might have a little more loss but you hardly notice that, at least I hope so.

Now continue working on the tower and shack before the ES season is over....

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Superantenna MP-1 modifications and experiments

Some years ago Hans PE1BVQ bought a Superantenna MP-1 after seeing mine. Especially the compact size of the antenna when travelling was something to go for and of course how the antenna performed. At that time we exchanged some e-mail about the length of the antenna and how to get a even better performance out of it. We were not alone and it has been tried before. But we are both stubborn radioamateurs and never believe what others tell till we have prove it ourself.
Besides that Hans was on vacation in my area and it's always fun to do some experiments together.

These days you can find these antennas at http://newsuperantenna.com/. Remember we bought ours long before this site even existed. You can buy so many gadgets for this antenna these days. So, it is a good product. I bought mine second hand from a english HAM (M6RDP) who was very active before but only does SWL now. That was almost 10 years ago and still the antenna does well.

The experiment goal was to determine the effect of length on the signal, receive and SWR of the antenna. Theoretically current in a antenna is high at the bottom, so the coil needs as high as possible for higher efficiency. We are not the first ones that tried this. You can read all about this shootout here.


First of all we did a test with WSPR. Hans his vacation QTH is about 20km south of my QTH. So we tried a quiet 10m band to conduct a experiment with a normal and a longer MP-1 and finally compared with a vertical polarized endfed. All transmissions were done with 1W. The first 2 spots are before the experiment. I was the receive only station. We kept a log via whatsapp (modern times ;-)).

See WSPR reports on 10m. 19:16-19:24 are with the original MP-1 (2 rods below the coil). 19:34-19:38 are with the shortened MP-1 (1 rod below the coil). 19:52 and 19:54 are with a 7m long endfed on the ground. What you see is actually no difference. That's because WSPR is not a good tool to measure difference between antennas. Propagation/conditions may differ too much during testing. However, it was a nice experiment.

MP-1 long/short. 1W WSPR signal as received at PE4BAS over 19km
This experiment might not bring the result we expected but we observed other interesting things. For instance removing one rod below the coil does not change the SWR much.

Hans his vacation was almost over last week and as he planned to visit me at home we decided to do a fieldstrength experiment with my MP-1. So after a good cup of coffee we setup the MP-1. Hans brought his analyzer so we could change bands fast.


We decided to measure at 14MHz first as being approx. the center of HF bands covered by the MP-1.


(Click on the photos to view a larger one). At first we tried 3 rods below the coil. A reading of 2,5 stripe on the FSM. With only rod it is 1,5 stripe. There is a difference but it is not that big. How many dB it is? Wish we had better measuring tools. But at least we showed there is a difference. We expect with the original 2 rods the reading is 2 stripes. It was interesting to see the SWR hardly changed with 1 or 3 rods below the coil, something we didn't expect!

Next we tried 40m as we expected to see more difference because of the band length.



You hardly see 0,5 stripe difference between 2 rods or 3 rods. 1 rod is not possible because the antenna is too short then and you can't get the SWR right. So, actually if compared with 20m it is the same difference. It probabely has something to do with ground losses I think.

It was already near sunset when we decided we quickly should have a test on 10m as well to complete the experiment.


Fieldstrength looks larger now but that's just because of the frequency. Probabely the diode picking up the signal is more sensitive here. Besides that the antenna length on the FSM is more efficient on higher frequencies of course. You see a larger difference now, But still it is only a few stripes.

Well our conclusion is that making the antenna larger with a 30cm rod will add some more gain but it will not be noticed at the receiving station. It is more a psychological thing thinking that bigger is always a lot better. However we didn't test it on receive. For that we would need 2 MP-1 antenna's and a switch. A experiment we could do probabely next year?

Did we prove anything new? No, but it was interesting though and a nice experiment to do together. There is another experiment that I want to do. It has to do with the feedpoint impedance of the MP-1. DD7LP claims that there can be a 20% improvement in fieldstrength if you use a beta match at the feedpoint to match the impedance to approx. 50 Ohm. He does this with a 1 microH coil connected parallel to the coax at the feedpoint.

Find the experiment (in German language) here: http://www.darc-husum.de/portabel-antenne.html


To end this post I inserted a photo from both Hans and my FT-817 after sunset. Hans his FT-817 looks a little odd as it felt off the stairs and he removed the broken screen protection. You get a complete other colour backlight then and a bigger screen.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dutch Kingdom Contest 2018 review

Event: Dutch Kingdom Contest 2018
Section:  Low power SSB (A1SSB)
Logger: N1MM+ newest version
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 100W
Antenna 1: Multiband Inverted-V 2x20m open line fed, apex 12m agl
Antenna 2: Multiband coppertape vertical 9m agl
Antenna 3: Watson W2000 for 6m on 6m height

Very bad propagation, not surprisingly. No real DX could be worked or heard, at least not with my setup. However, ES propagation was reasonable and like last year my best band was 6m again. It was a struggle to get stations in the log. And if the contest organisation will believe me or not, most stations gave me progressive number 001. On 6m there was the Aegean contest going on which brought me a few Greece stations in the log. Best DX was with 4L8A from Georgia on 20m. The last half hour was the most difficult. I tuned in on 40m, nothing heard on the whole band, same for 20m and 15m. Could be it was a radio blackout? Only a few on 10m but best band was 6m, tried for 20 minutes and finally worked the last station from Spain at 14:59 UTC, just in time. Once again lots of stations asking about the Dutch Kingdom Contest, even if they could participate. Not many, even not my fellow dutch hamradio colleagues, ever heard about this contest. So unfortunate as if there is not much competition I could be number one again. It gets boring ;-(


Friday, June 1, 2018

Levelling the tower

Despite the tower foundation is level it seems my tower itself isn't. It is one of the things I have to get right before I can think about mounting antennas. Not that you can't mount antennas in a mast that is off level but I don't feel right about it personally. I guess I'm a bit autistic ;-). I have to say that it gave me a headache more then once. How to get a antennatower of several hundred kilos of steel levelled....


First of all I wanted to have a good path around the antenna as I didn't want to stay or sit in the mud when working on the tower. Besides that it looks a lot better in the garden. Unfortunately I was just short of 12 tiles so a tiny piece of grass that has to be cut is left...








Back to levelling then. The mast is over 40 years old and so I guess there is some wear. There is plenty of room at the hinged part of the mast which gives some possebilities. I choose to correct the tower at the base. Not easy but after some welding, grinding and breaking several drills I finally got it right. Some photos:


Correction part at the base

Correction rings at the hinge

Correction cutting and grinding base part of the tower

Fits nicely!

Reasonable level at the hinge now

Level


So, I thought I was ready now till I wanted to pull out the telescopic part of the tower....disaster strikes. The stainless steel cable broke and the part went down into the security lock. I'm happy there is some kind of security on that part....