Monday, November 2, 2015

WSPRing on 30M

30m WSPRing
On Sunday I found some time to get on the radio and I found there was not to much happening on the bands. I had some other things I could do while on the PC so I started up WSPR just to see how the bands were doing. I gave 30m a go starting around 3pm local time and really there were no spots of my signal. At around 5pm local things began to pickup and I was being heard across the pond. I was using 5 watts and I understand that is very high for WSPR but I wanted to see how the loop antenna would do with that type of power. I would like to use WSPR to see when each of the bands peaks in my area and this would mean a few weekends of WSPRing from morning to evening to see if I can pickup a pattern for good propagation from my location. Just as a side note I'm not sure where W0AY is located.....seems to be out in the ocean?? I did look his call up on QRZ.COM and found his home QTH to be in Montana so not to sure why he is out in the ocean.........maybe M/M?? I did email Laurence to see if in fact he was M/M or if WSPR was just a bite confused last evening.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The MFJ 1788 is on the air and a contact in log!

Not the best shot but it's an evening shot
I was able to get the loop on the air today after work and I was very much wanting to see if it was actually working on the air.........testing it and putting it on the air can be a whole different kettle of fish. I am happy to say the antenna works just fine if not better. It seems to tune to a better SWR and seems more smooth at arriving at a low SWR. In the past it seemed to have a very sharp tuning curve and if you did not pay attention the sweet spot was gone. So the bands were decent sounding well were I was on 30m that is. I called CQ and I had a come back from VE3HEU! Not exactly DX but it's a contact and from what I have been reading the bands at times have been rough shape......HI HI. Vic was so close we could had met for coffee in the local Starbucks for goodness sake.  He is a fellow condo ham that was using a mobile whip antenna and at 10 floors up using approx 90 watts. I am not that bold and my power is at a steady 5 watts as I don't want to have a knock at my door. This gave me a great opportunity some CW practice and boy when you don't use it for some time you really  have to think about what you are sending. It felt really great to get on the radio again as it has been go go go  here with work, out of town guests and just plan old stuff around the house that has to be done. I think I may stick with 30m's as it seems to be very much alive in the early evenings.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Time to look inside the MFJ 1788

Taking a close look at things
It's the fall and time for some antenna maintenance for me there is no tower to climb or any outdoor work for that matter. It's as simple as bringing the MFJ 1788 indoors from my balcony and having a look. I have had the cover of the antenna off in the past so it was no problem to quickly remove it and start investigating. Some of the things I look for are poor solder joints, little critters who have made my antenna home, the smooth operation of the tuning capacitor and the over all health of the components.  It was a good thing I did check the mechanical connections and without exaggerating I have to say that almost all nuts were
Checking the cap fins
loose......some very alarmingly loose! The hardware holding the stepper motor in place was the worst but not far behind was the larger nuts that held the large tuning capacitor in place. I can't remember the antenna acting funky at all but I do believe it was just a matter of time before something reared it's ugly head like a quirky SWR! Another thing I like to do while the antenna is apart and fully cycle the tuning capacitor for not only smooth operation but the equal spacing of the moving fins along side the stationary fins. There was only some minor adjustments needed to the capacitor fins.........BUT where does "Murphy"  fit into this adventure........well just as I was finishing my adjustments the antenna slipped off the TV tables I had it on and the control wire that runs the motor broke off the circuit board! Also the "feed loop" wire was distorted somewhat. The feed loop is 10
Some of the many nuts that were very loose.
Control wire torn off.
gauge wire in the antenna that is contorted into a egg shape, this little baby can really play games with how the SWR outcome on the loop is determined. I played with it when I first got the loop and that was a mistake as it occupied about 2 hours of my time to get the antenna's SWR back to "normal". I vowed to never touch that feed loop again, but thanks to Murphy it seems I have to revisit that dark cave again. I re-soldered the stepper motor wires back in place and did my best with the feed loop wire. The antenna was put back together and with my fingers cross I tested it and to my utter surprise the unit was working better than it has in the past.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Adding a receive antenna

My stealth MFJ 1788 
There have been many a time when on one band I have wondered if conditions had changed and another band had opened up. I have the MFJ 1788 mag loop and with this antenna to check another band another a total retuning is required, this means loosing the sweet spot on the band I am on! It can get frustrating retuning the loop to find out the band you were checking out is more or less dead from my spot on the map. With the downturn of the bands of late and sometime reading on spotting networks how a certain band is now open but to find out after a retune of the loop the propagation gods really didn't allow my neck of the woods to benefit from any opening. I then have to venture back to the previous band and once again retune the loop antenna. Don't get me wrong I am very happy with the MFJ 1788 it has allowed me a means to get on the air from this very antenna restricted area that I am in. I have also made some amazing contacts and am still very much able to enjoy the hobby of ham radio......but the retune thing can get to be a real pain! It was due time to try to come up with a solution, here at VE3WDM it seems that I sell a piece of gear to only find out that later on I need it!!!!!
LF Engineering H-900 that was sold
The easiest way for me to find out what is going on with the bands and at the same time leaving  the mag loop antenna alone is to have a separate receive antenna. But in my case just to string up a separate "receive antenna is not so simple being Im a condo ham. The receive antenna still seemed to be the simplest and best solution for me. I had to knock a receive antenna down to condo size and the best way to do that is the "amplified active antenna". Oh thats right I used to have one of those (LF Engineering active antenna) but wise me sold it and now once again I need it!! Before I dish out some cash for an active antenna I wanted to see what the reception was like with a wire antenna from the condo. Before stringing a wire antenna in the condo I wanted to see what was available to me.....I had a receive antenna looking right at me! I have a curtain rod that is metal and about 20 feet long. I ran some coax up to the curtain rod and down to the Elecraft K3. On the K3 you can add what's called the KXV3A board ( I have one installed on my K3) it allows you do add a separate receive antenna via a BNC connector.
KVX3 board in K3
At this point I have not been able to honestly give my receive antenna/curtain rod a good work out. But I am one step closer to my goal of having a separate receive antenna.