W1RCP & SKCC Senator Run

I started trying to learn CW as far back as 2013, and I finally got brave enough to try a CW QSO in 2014. On April 6, 2014 I called CQ on 10m and had a 20 minute QSO with W5ZIT. It was my first and last CW QSO for another 2 years.

Fast forward to March 2016, and I finally got brave enough to try calling CQ using CW again. I made a successful QSO and discovered there were online clubs for CW. One of the clubs that I joined was the Straight Key Century Club. On March 31, 2016 I was given my number 15375. Things were good for a few months.

From March 31 to June 19, 2016 I made 70 QSOs with members of the SKCC organization, but I didn’t know there were awards. At the time I had 58 QSOs that qualified towards the Centurian award. After June 19, 2016 I quit CW because of noise on the band and kids that wouldn’t let me play. It took several more years and a few circumstances to get me back in action.

In the early 2021 year I had two good friends of mine (Eddie, KO4NLL and Billy, KO4NLK) take and pass their FCC examinations. Then they passed their General exams, and I was hooked on helping them set up stations and get on the air. I too started to get back on the air. I purchased an Icom IC-7300 just like my friends! In March 2021 (there’s something about March!) I started playing radio again by chasing FT8. During the 13 Colonies Special Event I also got brave enough to chase a few parks on CW. They were simple exchanges and nice enough to slow down for me. Then I wanted the TM13COL France Bonus station, and the only way to get it was CW. I started chasing more POTA on CW, and then one night on July 7, 2021 I had a 30 minute ragchew with Art, WB8CCR, and he asked a great question.

“I see you work a lot of FT8. How do you like and what do you like best about it?” I later emailed Art because I couldn’t send my answer at the speed I was going (slow), and I was starting to get ear fatigue, too. It really had me thinking. I used to enjoy CW. I was really good at it back in 2016, but I let a few hiccups get in the way. They were just excuses.

Then one day the FT8 program was shut down and never opened again! On July 22, 2021 I decided to take the plunge back into CW with SKCC. Head first. Full speed ahead (which wasn’t fast and very sloppy). So here’s how my run for Senator went:

QSOs are “Qualifying QSOs” for SKCC award purposes for this timeline
From July 2021 to 7 Aug 2021 I finished my first 100 QSOs for Centurian
10 Aug 2021 —> Tx1 +50 QSOs
21 Aug 2021 —> Tx2 +50 QSOs
8 Sep 2021 —> Tx3 +50 QSOs
14 Sep 2021 —> Tx4 +50 QSOs
24 Sept 2021 —> Tx5 +50 QSOs
4 Oct 2021 —> Tx6 +50 QSOs
11 Oct 2021 —> Tx7 +50 QSOs
18 Oct 2021 —> Tx8 +50 QSOs
5 Nov 2021 —> Senator! +200 QSOs

There are so many more awards to shoot for in the SKCC organization. Centurian, Tribune, and Senator are main awards, but there are ragchew awards, marathon awards, triple key awards (TKA), WAS, Prefix awards, and others. If you’re a veteran of CW or a newcomer, please consider the Straight Key Century Club, and Keep CW Alive!
http://skccgroup.com

Homebrew Cootie/Side Swiper

Playing radio with the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) is fun, and I wanted to try out a new key so I went to Lowe’s and spent about $20 on some stuff to make a Cootie or Side Swiper.

Parts needed:

4 – small brackets with screws
3 – #10-32 x 3/4″ screws
8 – #10-32 nuts
1 – hacksaw blade
2 – furniture slider felts
– wood or some kind of base
1 – zip tie
– a few feet of wire (2 or 3 conductor)
1 – mono or stereo plug that fits your rig

The first step was to sand the paint off of the saw blade. I used a wire wheel to make this easy. Then I cut a 4.5″ piece of the blade for the spring arm. I drilled the original hole in the end of the saw blade so the screws could pass through. Then I sandwiched the blade between two brackets and secured it with a screw and nut. I used a cutoff wheel to shorten the screw so I could reach the other hole in the bracket when I mount it to the base.

The next step was finding the center of the poplar board that I cut for the base to mount the parts onto. I found the center and mounted the spring arm and the pivot base first. Once it was centered I drilled two pilot holes in the poplar and then secured the spring arm and pivot base assembly to the base.

Once the pivot base was in place I started finding the locations for the left and right contacts. I could have moved them a little closer to the spring arm to allow for more adjustment, but if I need less spacing I could change the 3/4″ screw for a 1″ screw. After attaching the left and right contacts to the base, I threaded one nut onto each screw and then placed the screws (contacts) into the brackets and secured them with another nut. At this point the Cootie was almost ready. Now we need to wire it up.

To wire mine up I chose to use three wires. If I wanted to use it like a single lever paddle I could. You could use two wires and a jumper from the left and right contacts if you did not plan on using it as anything but a sideswiper. For the SKCC, all code must be sent manually so to make this Cootie compliant with the rules I chose to use gator clips to short the two contacts together (as shown in the image above). I wired mine with the dots on the right side and the dashes on the left and the ground/common on the pivot base. I used a USB cable for my wires and connected it to my Icom IC-7300 according to the owner’s manual (page 18-4). A true cootie would only need a mono plug, but I chose to make it where I could use it for Parks on the Air as either an electronic bug (using the IC-7300 settings) or as a single paddle (again with IC-7300 settings).

Edit 11-19-2021:
After a long CW QSO with Rob, W2ITT, I decided that I should turn the screws around for the contacts and grind them to a point. I also mounted the wires under the bracket to eliminate two nuts. The contacts were developing some chatter or bounce, and I didn’t like it. I kept having to sand the heads of the screws, and I think this ultimately will solve the chatter issue.

Adding a Key Jack to iPortable Pro

See that plug on the front of my iPortable Pro 2? That is not a factory addition, but I think it should be standard. As a CW enthusiast, it became an annoyance to have to go to the back of the case to switch keys. I’ve been working on this idea in my head for quite some time, and I finally had a few minutes to make it happen.

The process is really simple. Using a 3 conductor wire is a plus, but I don’t have that so I used two sets of twisted pair and further twisted the two pair together using a drill. Then you just connect the Tip, Ring, and Sleeve together of the plug and jack. Drill a hole in the panel, and then attach the jack to the panel, and plug in the plug into your rig.

The parts I used:
– about 2.5 feet of 3 conductor wire
– one 1/4″ stereo jack
– one 1/4″ stereo plug

The full wiring is easy as 1-2-3.
The full setup with my two main keys front and center.

End Fed HalfWave 40-10m

After being asked to activate a particular park on the air, I was told that an end fed half wave antenna would work well for portable operations. So with that information I began researching how to build an EFHW for 40-10m. I’ve build single band dipoles for these frequencies, but I wasn’t sure about how to go about this.

The main part of this antenna is a 49:1 balun. It is a transformer that has a 7:1 turns ratio, and isn’t too tough to make. So follow me as I lead you on a photo journey of how I built my 40-10m EFHW.

I cut about 136 feet of wire for the antenna. This can be shortened later when it comes time to trim and tune the final product.

Antenna wire wrapped around a spool for easy transport.

Winding the toroid was the next challenge. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I followed Steve Ellington from Youtube. Two wraps with twisted wire and then 14 wraps with the long length wire. I used a drill and a vice to wind the two lengths of wire together. Watch Steve wind his transformer. He explains it much better than I can. Solder it into the junction box as shown in the image with a 100pF 15kV cap from tip to ground on the SO-239.

K1TA created this image to show how to wind the toroid. I used 1 core for barefoot ops.
The transformer soldered into the box.

Testing this with my RigExpert AA-170 was a joyous occasion. I was quickly able to loop the end of the wire about 12 inches and zip tie the end together so I could string it up with paracord. 40m, 20m, and 15m were 1.7:1 SWR. 10m was 2.2:1 in the CW portion and 2:1 or below for the voice portion. I consider that a win!

PARTS LIST:
1 4” X 4” X 2” PVC Junction Box (LOWE’S)
1 500 Ft. roll 14 AWG Solid (LOWE’S)
A few feet of 15 AWG Magnet wire Remington p/n 15SNSP.125 (DIGI-KEY 2328-15SNSP.125-ND)
1 Ferrite Toroids / Ferrite Rings 43 Toroid 12.7mm 61mm
p/n 5943003801 (Digi-Key 1934-1592-ND)
1 100pF +/-10% Capacitor 15kVDC p/n HVCC153Y6P101MEAX (DIGI-KEY BC5419-ND)
1 SO239 chassis mount female connector (Amazon sells these)
Various stainless steel nuts, bolts & eye hook

POTA Activation – Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Blog

Eddie, KO4NLL, and I were asked if we would activate the Doerun Pitcherplant Bog in Doerun, Georgia as a Parks on the Air activation. This is a blog on the steps that we took (and the best order of them) to make this happen. The park identifier is K-7882.

3-10-2021 @ 9:16am: Contacted the DNR to ask permission to transmit from the park. I was initially told that it probably won’t be allowed, but my information was passed to someone who might be better to answer that request.

3-11-2021 @ 9:55am: Contacted the DNR to follow up. I gave them a few scenarios for operation to widen the chances of being approved for operating. I said if mounting an external antenna was not allowed I could operate solely from my vehicle in the parking lot. It would only be from sun up to sun down coinciding with the park rules. She said she would speak with the supervisor.

3-11-2021 @ 10:00am: DNR returned call and said that we cannot venture into the woods to operate, but that we could operate from our vehicle using a vehicle mounted antenna.

Amateur Radio Go Box

Eddie, KO4NLL, and I decided to build an Amateur Radio Go Box or Bug Out Box. We wanted it to have a decent portable power supply and a small VHF/UHF radio and a small rollup antenna that could fit in the box when not being used.

We’ve seen the Hammo Cans, but we didn’t feel like we needed all of the extra gauges and plugs. We wanted enough room for extra storage for cables. There will be a SO-239 connector and an Anderson Powerpole connector for either a second device or for charging using a charger designed for LIFEPO4 batteries.

Parts List:

From randl.com:

TYT TH-8600 Dual band radio
10AWG zip cord
1 foot Jetstream Jumper

From amazon.com:

SO-239 bulkhead
Anderson Powerpoles
Miady LFP16AH LIFEPO4 battery

From eBay:

2 Meter Slim Jim J pole VHF UHF Antenna 24ft lead-in DX King

Purchased locally:

50cal ammo can – dimensions roughly 11″x4.5″x6.25″
Nuts, wing nuts, washers, and screws 6-32 and 8-32
1/2″ angle aluminum for battery support
Spade connectors for battery
Sew type velcro
Automatic battery charger

3D printed:

Powerpole Chassis Mount Bracket

Images:


Eddie's finished go box
Eddie’s finished go box

 

The finished inside of the Go Box
The finished inside of the Go Box
Inside diagram of the Go Box
Inside diagram of the Go Box
The outside view of the Go Box
The outside view of the Go Box

Ground Plane Antenna from Coat Hangers

One of my antenna projects was to make an antenna for 2 meters from coat hangers. It’s not a unique project; You can search the web for coat hanger antennas and find plenty. I just wanted to share it because I like how it looks. This is about the easiest antenna I’ve ever built.

I used five coat hangers, ring terminals, and a butt splice. The hardware used were 3mm screws and nuts.

I started with a 22 inch vertical piece and 22 inch radials then I trimmed them down to the finest SWR that I could be happy with. I was quite surprised.

After a little trimming I had about a 20.5″ vertical and 21″ radials. If you build this antenna, make sure that you start long so that you can trim it to the best SWR.

The radials were soldered to the ring terminals using a propane torch. I scraped the coating off the hangers so that the bare metal would be exposed. I’m sure that the solder doesn’t actually stick to the steel hanger, but it’s close enough.

The vertical was crimped to the SO-239 connector and then I poured solder into the connection so that it would fuse to the center pin. This was because solder would not directly fuse with the coat hanger. If I had used acid core solder that might have been easier to tin the tip of the hanger. Your mileage may vary.

The next step is the figure out how to raise this antenna. I’m thinking of using 1 inch PVC to run the cable through and then mount it to the top of 1 inch EMT using a coupling. I haven’t quite worked this out yet, but I plan on figuring that out later. For the time being I raised the antenna using my painter’s pole and a piece of PVC driven into the ground. Eddie and I tested it out at 5 watts, and he can hit almost any repeater within a 30 mile radius.

Let me know if you’ve built a Sputnik antenna (as I call them).

The ground plane antenna calculator can be found by clicking this sentence.