A “self mounting”, sturdy, multi-band base HF vertical antenna practical solution.

August 9th, 2014

 

Since being licenced, I have always run modest HF antennas at my home QTH. I was restricted in physical space at my previous home and at the new location I have more space for slightly larger antennas, but decided to keep the setup stealthy to reduce the risk of complaints from neighbours.

Antennas at my QTH, Western HF-10 (HF), Diamond X50N (V/UHF).

Antennas at my QTH, Western HF-10 (HF), Diamond X50N (V/UHF).

I have always tried to have 2 antennas installed at any one time; a horizontal and a vertical. I have had great successes with horizontal antennas, the Alpha Delta DXCC, G3TPW Cobwebb and my current horizontal Antenna, the Western HF-10 have performed very well indeed with no issues mechanically. The Western has been a loyal servant to me since moving into this house. On 80/40/20m especially, I cannot rate it highly enough.

Whilst the aforementioned antennas have been excellent and remained in service at the station for some considerable time, I have always struggled to find a vertical I have been happy with. Why have a vertical? Well propagation is one reason; often signals are stronger when switching between a horizontal and vertical. Also, I think having a spare antenna is great if you want a bit of redundancy from a damaged antenna or feeder. Lastly, FM repeaters on 10m and 6m will be horizontally polarised, as will FM simplex contacts as a rule of thumb. So a vertical of some description is worthwhile.

Most verticals I have tried have been rather short in size which has a performance issue from the outset. There are larger verticals on the market, a few of which I have tried but they have always disappointed as they have either required significant wire radials to perform or they are so long they need guying which is both ugly and impractical for my station. In most cases they are expensive.

Then, recently I read a book “How to listen to the world” by Ken Reitz KS4ZR. An excellent read, aimed mainly at people new to ham radio and shortwave listening but there is a lot of interesting information in there, especially regarding broadcast AM and receiver equipment which would interest the OMs as well.

2” Aluminium mast mounting

2” Aluminium mast mounting

In Ken’s book he recalls not being ready for field day and as the start time loomed, improvising an antenna by hooking his ladder to his ATU and it ended up working rather well! This got me thinking about my vertical issue and I have found getting lots of metal in the air certainly is an advantage with a vertical but it then gets into all sorts of difficulty as mentioned – swinging in the wind and ready to snap as soon as a heavy gust of wind hits it. That or we guy the antenna, creating cheese wire type hazards all over the garden.

That’s when I thought, I wonder if the mast that has played host to several lacklustre vertical antennas and currently just supports one end of my wire antenna would actually work as a HF antenna? Well, the cogs started turning and after some thought, I decided I would try.

Soon after the build began. In addition to the mast itself, I would use a 9:1 UnUn and an earth spike in the ground to create the antenna. I assembled the antenna with the radiating side of the UnUn connected to the mast via a short length of flexweave, attached to the mast by nut and bolt and washer, all waterproofed with silicone sealant. I also waterproofed the connections to the UnUn by wrapping the entire thing in self-amalgamating tape.
My masts I use now are a slot together affair but that was just for ease of shipping, I have also had a single length of pole in the past which would logically make no difference when using as an antenna. The 2” diameter aluminium pole is supported by 2 galvanised standoff brackets, attached to my garage-come-shack. This particular mast has a length of 9m in height and is mounted about 1 meter off the ground.

I set to work, building the simple antenna with a pre-built UnUn from my Pro Whip Antennas 10m portable antenna. I added 7 turns to the RG-213 feeder cable to act as an RF choke and once completed, I attached the other side of the feeder to my MFJ antenna analyser. No band showed a SWR of over 3.1:1 and most (including 160m were between 1:1 and 2:1).

Connections to the UnUn – flexweave to the mast and to the earth spike.

Connections to the UnUn – flexweave to the mast and to the earth spike.

OK so we know just because the SWR looks great it doesn’t mean its going to be a particularly efficient antenna. However on something like the 20m band this near ½ wave antenna is particularly “hot” and when switching between this and my Western HF-10, there were occasions where the vertical did outperform it on receive. It “gets out” too. My first contact was on 14.290MHz with OH1TD 59 report; I was using 60 watts. Later that evening I worked SP8K and OE5XJN on 20m and SV7LNX/P on 40m using 100 watts who gave 59+5, 57 & 55 reports respectively.

One thing with verticals, they are generally more susceptible to atmospheric noise. This design is no exception. I found listening to the chaps on 1.933MHz rather difficult to hear on the vertical but the Western HF-10 received them better, mainly because of the reduced noise floor. The Western HF-10 is advertised as top band capable but I haven’t been able to get mine high enough or the ladder line vertical to allow for this. The solution is to use the vertical for transmitting and the Western for receive, achieved in my case by pressing the Ant A/B button on my LDG ATU when switching between TX and RX but could also be done with the A/B antenna switch on some radios, or using the RX antenna jack on others.

I am more relaxed when the wind is up now because, there is no weight being supported by the 2” aluminium pole other than the pole itself, so it would take an apocalypse type event or a strategically positioned lightning bolt to bring this antenna down. Additionally I have the accolade of being able to say I am using a homebrew antenna too, and it only took a few moments to build!

Photo showing Western HF-10 and Diamond X50N from other side.

Photo showing Western HF-10 and Diamond X50N from other side.

So, next time you are looking for a simple HF vertical, and with bad weather a part of life for most of us on this turbulent planet, why not look up at what your VHF/UHF collinear or small HF compromise antenna is actually mounted on and ask yourself:
“Is the mount actually a better antenna than the antenna?”

The Axeman is back!

May 17th, 2014

After many months of not having a station setup, I have finally gotten around to getting back on the air. The house purchase took 5 months to complete and (apparently), you can’t move in and setup radios and antennas straight away! When I first decided to buy the house, I thought of large beams and a “man size” antenna farm, but after getting a feel for the village tolerances and my own appreciation for the view at the back of the house, I decided to keep my station reasonably stealthy.

Antennas consist of a Western HF-10 and Sandpiper MV5+3 for HF and a Diamond X50N for 2m/70cm.

Some close ups of some of the installation (click on the image to enlarge):

M0SAZ Amatuer Radio Station Detail

Originally I was going to setup my shack in one of the bedrooms I had made into the study but it turns out that was incompatible with my XYL’s plan, so I settled for the garage which has been partitioned insulated, carpeted and blinds fitted, as well as a patio door added to the rear (not all my work, a previous owner had a sewing studio in there). It turns out the garage is great as routing cables and doing adjustments was a lot simpler. It also makes testing portable antennas from the garden a good deal easier.

Here are some photos of the finished antennas (click to enlarge):

M0SAZ Antennas

Antennas at the M0SAZ QTH

Ham Radio Antennas DE M0SAZ

And finally, a picture from inside the shack (click to enlarge):

M0SAZ Amateur Radio Shack

How well does it work? Well its early days but I can access all the local repeaters on 2m/70cm and heard G3LDI and the participants of the Morse training on 145.250 simplex with no problem. On HF, the 1st 3 contacts were Algeria (Sandpiper), East Sussex (Western), and Alaska (Sandpiper). Hopefully we will get a good summer for radio! See more information on my QRZ page.

New Amiga in the shack

November 17th, 2013

I was planning my new shack for when I move into the new house and thought it would be nice to have a little A600 for IRC and other Lo-Fi Internet tasks, so I can chat whilst doing various tasks on the A1200 which can involve rebooting if in a game or demo or something I am trying out crashes. So I bought a few A600′s from eBay and picked out the best condition case and latest version motherboard from the ones I acquired and added some modest upgrades. Here is a quick storyboard of the upgrade process. You can click on an image if you want to make it bigger.

Amiga 600 3.1 ROM

Chose this revision 1.5 motherboard, and added the 3.1 ROM so we can run Workbench 3.1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga 600 Case Floppy

The A600 motherboard is sitting in the case and floppy drive is now added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga 600 top RF shielding

No Wait! I am a radio ham, let’s put the often omitted top RF shield on – keep RF interference to a minimum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga A600HD Upgrade

Now the shielding is on, we can replace the motherboard in the bottom case and attach the floppy disk drive once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga 600 HDD Hard Disk Drive SSD Flash CF

We now add a 512MB Solid State HDD known as a Disk on Module or DoM. This is an industrial model with a wide operating temperature. It attaches to the IDE pins directly but we replace the HDD caddy to give the A600 keyboard extra stability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga CHIPMEM RAM 1MB 2MB A604n 600 Fast memory

Here we add the extra 1MB CHIP RAM expansion to give us a total of 2MB. This is a modern board made by Individual Computers – A604n. It also has the optional RTC board which plugs into a clockport on the expansion board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga A1200 Key board. Amiga 600 keyboard.

Just sizing up the keyboard… The A600 doesn’t lay on top like the A1200, instead it clips into the top case. But I thought I would show it in position anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commodore Amiga A600HD released 1991

All done! Keyboard and LEDs are attached to top case and we close our patient up. Notice I managed to source an A600HD labelled case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga white case & keyboard photo

Looking good! Its hard to get hold of Amiga machines this white nowadays. If you have a yellow one, you can try making a cleaning solution known as Retrobrite which can remove a lot of yellowing. Luckily I don’t have to for this machine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga External Disc Drive. Rear ports.

Rear ports – Disk Drive, Parallel, Serial, Audio, RGB, Composite Video, RF, and power. Toby the cat, who up to this point had been helping me, decided to take a nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga PCMCIA NIC 10/100 Ethernet Wi-Fi RJ45

The other side of the case clearly shows the A600HD label and the PCMCIA port which will be the host to a 10Mbit Network card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CBM UK Commodore Business Machines Amiga

The underside shows the Commodre installed 64MB hard drive and some QC check from Commodore UK. It was checked by L Robinson on the 15th May 1992. I wonder what he/she is doing now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amiga 600 Computer Upgrade Test Installation Hardware and Software

Time of truth. And it works! Result. I have connected the A600 to the TV via SCART for a crisp image. Unfortunately, all my Workbench and other discs are in storage, so we will have to do some more when I get the keys to my house. Shouldn’t be too much longer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There you go, all done. It is not the most ambitious A600 upgrade ever (this website used to be about a much more upgraded machine), but this machine should be stable and reliable and more than able to do what I have planned for it. I did not replace the capacitors that have been known to fail on some of these machines but if I notice any instability issues moving forward, I will perform the exercise.

I am hoping that one day I can do some ham radio things with this A600 or with my 68030 powered A1200. That would be cool. I would also like to write a book on one, as in Word Processing a book using the Amiga – not writing about an Amiga (or maybe I will). Thanks for looking at my little project, that took just as long to chronicle as it did to perform the upgrade procedure!

Coming Soon…

January 9th, 2013

We are back…

Phase5 Blizzard 1230 MKIV

 

 

 

Retiring from the blog scene

April 11th, 2012

After trying to blog all my projects, interests, thoughts and ideas yet constantly running out of time, I am going to stop blogging. I will use this excellent Atom based server for something else online and let the people at archive.org keep the amiga600.net blog immortalised. A static site of info, requiring less maintenance and suchlike might be something I will consider.

Right now, life for me is chaotic and I am constantly feeling rushed and under pressure. The decision not to blog has lifted some of the pressure, however small as I try to streamline my life before modern living gets the better of me.

Thanks for reading! I will do something else with this domain and server soon – more than likely research and/or testing.

Buyaparcel recieving excellent reviews

December 20th, 2011

Buyaparcel.com reviews TrustpilotI am really pleased with how the Trustpilot  reviews have been going for Buyaparcel. We have all been working hard to make customer satisfaction a top priority so we can achieve repeat custom and spread confidence around the Internet that our service is second to none. So far, we are top of the Tools, Garden and Bathroom subcategories and we are 2nd in the main category, Home and Garden. We are not content with that, we are determined to be the best. In 2012 we are improving our physical and IT systems further and we are confident we will be a household name for Tools, Plumbing, Gardening, Bathroom Gifts and anything for the home. If you want to take a look at our progress so far, please check out our Trustpilot profile page here.

YouTube Music Videos – cheeky!

December 19th, 2011

youtube monetising account music videosI like to use YouTube as a huge music player and I used to try and avoid the official videos because of all the adverts. Now I see even the unofficial uploads have adverts! Technically a lot of the videos could be removed by the copyright holder and whilst I don’t believe that is in anyone’s interest, I think it is a real cheek monetising your YouTube account if you have content on there that is so obviously not yours and at the same time is likely to get you lots of ad clicks through the thousands, sometimes millions of hits to the popular videos. The copyright holders should certainly come for those people for all the lost advertising clicks!

I don’t want to see music taken off YouTube, but I think people who upload it should go under the radar a little bit and don’t be so sneaky trying to earn a few bucks from someone else’s hard work.

Yaesu FT-817ND Filter Mod

October 31st, 2011

Collins Mechanical Filter Mod FT-817I have modified my Yaesu FT-817, replacing the stock 2.2KHz Murata ceramic filter with a Collins 2.3KHz mechanical filter.I did this so I could use a better filter on SSB but still allowing me to use the Yaesu YF-122C CW filter in the optional filter slot.

The better noise shape and punchy selectivity is immediately noticeable when you turn the radio on after fitting the mechanical filter. According to the report I read on the W4RT site, the filter is also advantageous in transmit, effectively adding a few dB to the signal without touching the radio’s output power, although I haven’t proved that for myself.

I did all I could to ensure no internal interference was created when using fly leads to get from the 817′s main PCB to the Collins filter, such as keeping them as short as possible and creating some screening from copper wire strands and insulation tape, and it seems to have worked – with the antenna unplugged I am not picking up any unwanted noise caused by RF pick-up from within the chassis.

Care has to be taken to do this mod, as there are lots of tiny SMDs right next to where you need to remove/replace the filter. This mod is reversible simply by de-soldering the fly leads and refitting the Murata CFJ455K ceramic filter. For those who prefer something a little more polished, W4RT do a One Board Filter (OBF) solution which is a little daughter board that houses both the SSB and CW filters – although some delicate work is needed with this solution too. If you are not sure, ask your dealer if they fit – W4RT electronics themselves do offer a fitting service.

Photos of the modification.

Video showing the receive quality after modification.

Should a government get involved in saving the economy?

October 10th, 2011

Government Responsibility Econonomic PolicyIt seems to me that politicians (the incumbent governments) in the developed world over burden themselves with issues that should fall beyond their remit. When we are in recession or at least there are problems with the economy, we seem to expect our governments to find us a solution to this.

I am not sure that’s what they are there to do. As I see it, political establishments should collect taxes to pay directly or indirectly into public services such as roads, healthcare, welfare state, policing, defence and so on. If one sector is not performing such as finance, tourism or energy, then why should the politicians be propping up companies or trying to use taxpayer money to help something that isn’t in the public domain.

If individual’s savings are at stake from a doomed bank or a failing power company would put lives at risk when the lights “go out”, then perhaps public services and what is offered by government needs re-evaluating. Banks with no risk run by government – but perhaps not as rewarding a package as with doing your banking with a private institution (a pay-off for the lower risk).

If unemployment is up and a country is borrowing to support the welfare state on one side and the ailing industry or industries on the other, all of a sudden public services are compromised.  The effect occurring now or in the future when the deficit must eventually be cut. Would it not be better to offer a level of public services based on a political party’s manifesto assurances and do no more, no less – unless the people vote for more to be paid in to get more  out? It may seem a cruel and sterile way of looking at the public sector – but like all financial systems, you have to pay for what you have bought eventually, so why borrow today only to have to pay back tomorrow?

Governments with no more borrowing – an interesting thought.

All inclusive holiday deals – the bad side

September 5th, 2011

All Inclusive Holiday DealsContinuing on the holiday theme from my last post, I want to raise an issue that I think should be of concern to a good many people. Whilst in Cyprus recently, I stayed in a very nice hotel and just paid for breakfast as I wanted to explore different foods and different establishments to offer these delights. My thinking being, if the hotel food wasn’t good, I wouldn’t have pre-paid for it and feel obliged to eat the food for the remainder of the holiday – or pay more money to eat elsewhere.

This I thought was sensible – although I noticed fairly quickly that others staying at the hotel were certainly all inclusive and would stay in the confines of the hotel grounds for much or all of their holiday. Not for me and my partner, so each lunch and dinner time we would go out looking for something new to try. When we looked around we did see a number of food and drink businesses that were boarded up, or in any case certainly not open. When discussing this with some of the still open businesses, I assumed it was a sign of the state of the economy, but this is not the whole picture – I was told that the major factor of the struggle to stay afloat (with some already drowned) was the all inclusive deals that are now encouraging people to only eat at their hotel.

Being the capitalist, I could of course think “so what, its survival of the fittest”, and all the other management speak clichés. But what if all these small businesses closed down? What would happen to the area around the hotels? There would be an ugly, unkempt area which will make the hotels not a nice place to stay because of the lack of investment and maintenance around it. I am sure no one wants that. From searching the Internet on this issue, I find it is not just Cyprus but other destinations that rely on tourism. Dialogue between the travel companies, the hotels, these hard working restaurants and bars and their governments needs to be established to bring back some equilibrium before the situation deteriorates further, which would not benefit any party involved.

I am sure all inclusive is of much benefit to lots of people, especially families who don’t want to have runaway or unknown costs added to their holiday or have all the fun and excitement needed in the resort complex. As such I can’t see the tour operators abolishing the all inclusive package any time soon, but I did have an idea that could encourage some balance back into this market. How about instead of the all inclusive meals only being available at the hotel restaurant, how about giving people vouchers when they book their all inclusive holiday for each of the qualifying meals? When mealtime arrives, they can choose to eat at the hotel, or they can venture out and use the vouchers for that days’ breakfast, lunch or dinner at any participating establishment. The outlets who take part in this scheme can offer an all inclusive scheme menu if their standard menu has meals that exceed the face value of the vouchers – redeemed by the business from the issuing travel agent.
The situation as it is today is an appalling state of affairs and, as little as I can do personally, I am going to send a letter to the major UK package holiday companies with this information, imploring them to take action before it’s too late. If you also think this situation is a travesty, please kindly do the same.