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Lately I have been stropping all my knives because I think that it makes them much sharper than the traditional method.  Using a leather strop can’t replace a sharpening stone, but it is good to use after you have your knife somewhat sharp.  This method originated when barbers were still using straight razors.  When shaving your beard about half way through, the razor would start to dull.  They would get a leather belt and run the knife blade up and down as if they were using a sharpening stone.  Here are some pictures!

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//EWINSLOW

The Wilson County Radio League will be holding an openhouse in October. Since CRL is closely associated with the League, we are reposting the information for those who may be interested.

Learn more at this link

The "sunsphere" over Knoxville, TN

The “sunsphere” over Knoxville, TN

This past Saturday we decided to go up to the annual R.A.C.K Knoxville hamfest. We went looking for a little of everything, and certainly found it.

Amongst other things we purchased LMR-600 cable for the KM4GHM repeater, a 2.4GHZ parabolic dish for the WCRL mobile command post and a surplus of Tait UHF radios.

We found a lot of good things and met a lot of good people during R.A.C.K Knoxville. It was definitely a good hamfest and worth getting up in time to see the below picture.

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At the Tullahoma hamfest I bought a Workman model 104 dual band SWR/power meter. This is an amazing little meter that definitely falls under my “best buys” list. It has seen heavy use since I bought it and has worked flawlessly until recently.

Workman 104 SWR/Power meter

Workman 104 SWR/Power meter

When I would key up the transmitter and tune for maximum deflection, it simply wouldn’t build up that much power. After some tapping, banging and beating it would usually ping the meter and go back to normal. I thought this was an internal issue and spent an hour pouring over it with a soldering iron doing reflow work to no avail. Finally in frustration I turned to my sometimes friend sometimes enemy, QRZ forums.

I got lots of good feedback on this post and I simple reminder from N7EKU to check my SO-239 connectors and make sure they were not the problem. If my PL-259 was not firmly planted in the SO-239, I would be losing lots of power and therefore having difficulty tuning up the meter. That was it, a new SO-239 soldered in and it works great!

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If one one of your cable’s connectors has a big blog of solder on the end, it can squish the brass slats so tight up against the insulator that they do not make good contact with a normal PL-259. I could have straightened them up, but decided to go ahead and replace the connector for the sake of it. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best, thanks Mark!

I decided to buy a role of Self Bonding Super Tape to keep in my toolbox specifically for waterproofing coaxial connections. This is the exact same thing as splicing tape which you will find at any hardware store, so I’m not sure why harbor freight calls it super tape. Anyway…..

I will now be using it any time I put an RF connector on or have a coax connection out of doors. It’s much waterproof than electrical tape because it stretches out and bonds to itself very tightly. It doesn’t break the bank either.  A 10ft roll costs about as much as a good roll of electrical tape, and it doesn’t take much. With electrical tape I end up wrapping over and over and sometimes still don’t get it watertight. I used about 3.5 inches of splicing tape in the picture below.

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This stuff is not sticky like you would think. In fact, it isn’t sticky at all. You have to stretch it way out to get it to stick to your connector, but once it sticks you just keep wrapping and it’s a breeze. I have not tried taking any off yet, but it seems like it would be easier than the standard tar.

 

 

 

I realized that no one has posted here in quite some time. I personally have been too busy doing to document very well, and intend to correct that. My next couple of posts will be devoted to the CRL lounge/Radio shack which was started about 2 months ago. During this time I have learned several things and discovered a good many tips which I will give their own individual posts. This post will be focused on the outside of the shack, the antennas.

 

 

As with any proper radio shack, the antenna farm is still growing. The primary VHF J pole is about 25 feet off the ground, with a secondary J pole just above the roof. We’ve also put up an 11 element 2 meter yagi and various scanner/FM antennas.

 

 

 

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For HF we run a 102 ft MFJ dipole stretched between trees. It does great, but isn’t too impressive in the pictures

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We have a a tree problem right now, and need to do some serious pole sawing. That is going to be one of our many upcoming projects. In part II I will give an overview of the inside of the shack. I will do more detailed “How-to” type posts on individual topics such as how to (and how no to) install a station ground, how we chose to get our coax through the wall, and so fourth.

 

 

 

Many radio hobbyists have a hard time soldering PL-259 connectors onto coax, and for a good reason. Thought I have done it, putting one on with a soldering iron is grueling. It’s next to impossible to get the whole connector hot enough to melt solder and flow down to make a good connection with the braid, so most hams I know don’t even bother trying to solder the braid. It usually works ok, but a connection like that is sketchy at best.

I’ve been using the hot air gun on our new soldering station, and have been amazed. I made a couple cables just for the fun of it!

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The examples above are with RG-8U, No reducers involved. Though it may be hard to see, the finished product has a pretty good connection. It took an impressive amount of solder to fill the connector up, as I got it hot enough to really flow. This is how I will be making cables from now on….

I have started building my radio/general electronics toolbox.
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In the future I will write a detailed post on it, but for now I am just going to mention an adapter I made for the kit.

This is a mini-UHF to PL-259 adapter. It is pretty self explanatory, I had a mini-UHF cable, cut it down to jumper size and soldered on a PL-259.
For anyone who works with Motorola equipment, this is pretty much a necessity. Most cables, test equipment and etc will be PL-259/SO-239, wheras your Motorola mobiles will mostly be mini-UHF. This is also good if you need to quickly hook a radio up and have standard antenna and coax.
This is just one of the many adapters the box will have before it’s all said and done.

Recently I bought a pair of coaxial strippers at a hardware store on clearance for $7. This pair usually retails at $20/25.

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They have the basic coax strippers, plus regular wire cutters and strippers. A pretty versatile tool.

It is designed to strip 75 ohm coaxes such as RG-6u, but the sizes are so similar it ought to work for 50 ohm (ham radio) coax E.G. RG-8x.

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To strip your coax, insert the cable into the correct slot, then clamp down firmly on the handles. Spin the rest of the cable around a couple of times to cut the rubber coating, not being so aggressive as to cut the shielding.

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Pull the coax out of the tool, and you now have a nicely stripped cable.

Last weekend at a yardsale I picked up the 1993 “get your HAM RADIO license” manual, along with a copper ground rod, for $1. The exams have expired, but looking through it caught my eye on how many useful things are in there. When I started studying for my ham radio license along with a few others at CRL, we went in on the current ARRL ham radio license manual to study with. While I have referenced it for many things, I was not inspired by it’s usefulness. That, and the fact I was in a hurry (12 hrs before the test) led me to use online flashcards and leave the manual for another day.                      The manual I had purchased seemed overwhelming at the time, as well as lacking in the nuts and bolts information I was looking for (namely, how to pass the test and setup a dipole antenna that would allow me to hit the county repeater with my HT)

The opposite seems to be true with the 93 edition.

 

Some nuts and bolt electronics

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Component information

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Some very practical and useful antenna information as well as safety advice

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Basic station components and some coax information

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And lots, lots more

 

I have already referenced it several times for things such as “What is a low pass filter?” and etc. This one will definitely be going on the shelf as a great reference book, and good loaner for people trying to get started into radio.

One more interesting thing, they still had a novice license back then. I’m really not sure when the novice disappeared. I know several older hams who got started with the novice, but with lack of certain capabilities had incentive to promote. Also, something I didn’t know, Morse code was required for the Novice, but not the Tech. Interesting…

During another washer repair, I accidentally cracked the plastic tub surround (AKA the outer tub). The outer tub is fairly easy to break if you have it out, as it is made of pretty thin and brittle plastic.  After searching the internet for hours, I found essentially no useful information on how to fix it, accept to replace the entire tub surround. (About $100, which many washers aren’t worth). I decided to try PVC pipe cement, as it is designed to bond with a very similar material, and is waterproof.

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Below is a picture of my patch. The purple is the PVC primer, while the clear is cement. It may work fine without the primer, however since bonding tightly was the primary tossup, I applied plenty of primer. Many things could have held water in theory, but most of my other ideas would have had bonding difficulties

 

 

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As to the original repair, it went well too, but I did not have enough pictures to make a useful post of it.                                                                                                      The tub patch holds water perfectly. There doesn’t appear to be any pressure on the outer tub, so It should be a long term fix.

This is a great documentation of a spot-welder build:

http://www.avdweb.nl/tech-tips/spot-welder.html

Torroidal coil transformer

Torroidal coil transformer

I believe we have the large gauge wire and the microwave oven transformer already.  Hmmmm….. I guess we will just need a day with nothing else to do!

Throughout the long course of my drywall repair project I have certainly learned to only use metal putty knives to apply mud. A wider blade is better, not to mention the fact that the whole thing seems to go better for different reasons such as better spreading and etc. That said the metal knives all seem to rust quickly.

I have began resurfacing my most often used knives with a crystal clear enamel coat in a rattle can. This seems to be keeping the rust away, at least for some time.

QUALITY CONTROL NOTE

Make sure the coating goes on smoothly. Drips or bumps will show up in your mud, no matter how small.

 

Due to the fact that I regularly scrape dried mud off of my knives, the enamel coat is not permanent. Below is a picture of one that had endured 2/3 months of use and abuse. The majority of that time was sitting with mud on it and then being scraped to use after a few days, whereas being used every day and kept clean would be better for it. Anyway, if I can sand off the old coat and redo it once in awhile, it is worth it to keep rust and mud from mixing.

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I don’t fish very often, but have somewhere around 15 fishing poles, most without line or reels. I have heard about making antennas on these for awhile, but never actually done it. You can make a simple holder for one of these out of PVC pipe and stick it up outside a window, on a boat, atv, or even an alice pack.

The idea is simple, just mount a wire dipole to a fishing pole. Maybe you could run the wire inside a big enough pole???

IMG_5708  I just soldered the wire to the SO-239 connector and zip tied it in place. I mount the connector on the bottom and roll the ground wire up to be let down when in use, since it’s polarity is not critical. I need to find a better way to secure the connector itself so I can’t break the wire off again. I built one of these and soldered the wire directly to the poles, which works just as well.

IMG_5712 Then secure the wire at the top

IMG_5724  I zip tied my coax to the handle so I couldn’t yank the coax and break the connector.

I also took advantage of a tripod and pipe for portable ops

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Chickenroadlabs will be setting up at the mini maker faire in Nashville!!! (Sep 13 2014) More event info can be found at nashvillemakerfaire.com

We will be setting up a ham radio station for people to make their own contacts at! We will have capabilities through HF, VHF and UHF, as well as software defined radio. We’ll also be bringing a trebuchet, solar death ray, pain machine, and much more.

The event is from 10/5 Saturday, September 13th. The event will be free for all.

See  http://www.nashvillemakerfaire.com/ for more!

Lately I have been doing quite a bit of drywall work in a single wide trailer. Due to the way trailers are transported (and the expense of paying someone to properly install drywall), they just staple on some cheap cardboard/trim over all the seams and call it done. This is okay, but after 20+ years of abuse the trim is coming out all over and it is almost easier to just rip it all out and do drywall the right way, this is what I’ve been doing.

I have used 3 kinds of mud.

around 18$ (includes bucket).

 

Mix your own low dust compound $18 or so and no bucket.

 

for about $6 (no bucket)

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Mixing drywall compound

This is pretty much the best way to get the non premixed stuff mixed. Make sure your bucket is clean, dump the mud in, add water, and mix. It is important to have a bucket with a good lid to keep the mud from drying out. The kind they sell premixed drywall compound with works good, but a food grade bucket is even better. Now, to my final conclusion.

The premixed regular dust compound is the easiest. The consistency if perfect, but it is pretty dusty.

The mix your own low dust compound is true low dust, it all goes straight down. That said, I don’t know if I contaminated my bucket with something or what, but it stunk, bad. And I kept having off color brown streaks show up as I was applying it. Not to mention a few certain spots did not dry white, but stayed gray. They are dry, but maybe not completely cured??? Also, after mixing it fills only about 2/3 if the bucket, paying the same price for less.

The regular dust mix your own compound is what I will use from now on. The dust doesn’t seem as bad as the premixed stuff, and I personally don’t even use a mask for it. It to only fills about 2/3 of my bucket, but for 1/3 the price it is not bad at all. FYI The product says it is ready for use, no mixing required. THEY LIE!!! This stuff is like clay, where mud should be about like pudding. Not a big deal, but it WILL need mixing.

 

Two weeks ago we went to the Short Mountain repeater club’s annual ham fest. We stopped by for an hour right after they opened to find anything we needed, and then went back right before close to find everything we didn’t need. That strategy worked pretty well, among other things we found the following in the morning trip.

An MFJ SWR/power meter for 144/220 MHZ

A couple random pieces of coax cable

Several Kenwood HT microphones (Fit for Baofeng use)

A couple of 80’s Kenwood HTs

And probably a few things I have forgotten about.

Upon the return trip in the afternoon we found people almost giving things away, in fact, some of them really were. We came home with a couple power supplies, mobile radios, and a large boy of odds and ends.

It was a great fest overall, our first at that. I heard good things about Dave’s BBQ, though I never had any. After seeing what they are like close by, I may be ready to go further for one in the future.

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Last weekend I stopped in at a yard sale and, among other things, for about 8 CB mag and lip mount antennas in a pile and gave about $6 for all of them. None of them were particularly useful as they set, but by screwing the right antenna with the right base I now have a halfwave 2 meter mag mount, a CB mag mount, a 2 meter lip mount, as well as a pile of bases, cables and antennas that will all be useful with minor repairs.  Details on their specific uses will follow….

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Last week I ordered a pico keyer plus kit from hamgadgets.com to use as a beacon/foxhunt controller. I ordered it late Friday (like 3 pm) and had it in the Monday mail (and this was the $2 USPS shipping). Great if you ask me….

Below is a picture of it as it arrived Monday. For the size, I thought they would stuff it in a padded envelope. Not at all! It was wrapped on all sides in bubble wrap and put in a sturdy cardboard box, no chance of damage in the mail. NOTE: In the demonstration picture there is nothing to scale it to. I was under the impression it would be about 6 inches long :) Not a problem at all, just a little surprising at first (I could have just looked at the specs and seen this).

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Specs:

  • NEW – header connector makes it easier to build into your own gear or a custom cabinet!
  • NEW – Includes voltage regulator components for optional external DC power!
  • Low voltage operation – from 2.5 to 5.25VDC
  • Ultra low current operation – typical sleep current well under 0.1µA, only 1-2mA when keying. A single lithium coin cell can last many months, or a couple of years depending on use.
  • Low parts count for quick, hassle-free assembly. Most builders with some experience report the average time to assemble is about 15 minutes. Figure under an hour even for beginners.
  • PCB-mounted, 1/8″ (3.5mm) jacks for your key and rig
  • PCB-mounted speed control potentiometer
  • On board lithium coin cell battery (included) and battery holder
  • On board speaker for sidetone
  • Dual 2N7000 keying output MOSFETs for solid-state rigs and some tube gear, handles up to 60 V positive or negative.
  • Simple one-button “menu” setup
  • Setup and message entry using your paddle
  • Dot and dash memories for easy code with perfect timing and spacing
  • Works equally well with single-lever or dual-lever keys using iambic “squeeze” or non-iambic keying
  • Dual Speed feature – Speed is adjustable from 5 to 60WPM from the menu. You can use the speed control pot to adjust from 5 to 63 WPM, and instantly revert to the stored speed at any time!
  • Speed control range (min/max) can be set to your preference
  • Variable pitch audio sidetone can be turned OFF or ON
  • MCW mode uses the keying output as PTT to send audio Morse code over voice radios – now you can practice Morse on the air with your friends using 2M or 70cm FM.
  • Adjustable weight
  • Selectable iambic Mode A or Mode B as well as Ultimatic mode
  • Hands-free Tuneup mode lets you select a steady carrier or 50% duty cycle dits
  • Beacon mode allows repeating messages with user-specified delay up to 99 seconds
  • Straight key autodetect – plug in a straight key and cycle power, and the keyer will automatically use straight key mode with all memories available!
  • Message pause – insert a pause to manually send RST or other information in the middle of a saved message.
  • Four message memories hold up to 60 characters each, and can be chained together in any order to make up to a 240 character message. Message #1 can be set to auto-start when power is applied, great for propagation beacons.
  • QSO/serial number can be inserted in a message, auto-incremented and decremented. You can set or reset the QSO number from the setup menu. Counts up to 65536, which should be enough for the biggest contests.
  • Optional leading zeros can be sent for QSO numbers less than 3 digits.
  • Cut numbers can be selected for QSO numbers in stored messages. Zeros, nines, both or neither can be selected.
  • Transmitter QSK delay compensation – Lengthen elements by a preset number of milliseconds to correct for transmitters that tend to shorten dits and dahs in QSK mode.
  • Paddle switching – effortlessly select left or right handed operation without switching wires or turning the key upside down
  • NO BATTERY BACKUP REQUIRED to retain settings or memory!
  • Easy to integrate into new homebrew or kit rigs, or add it to your older equipment.
  • “Factory Reset” option to restore all default settings to your PicoKeyer

For$18.50, I am thrilled so far…

Rabbits

Quite a few things have gone on with the rabbits lately. Tiny now has 3 four week old kits pictured below, and 2 of Mixy’s 4 have sold. Also I have added a new buck (Name to be determined) to the breeding staff, and bred him with Mixy. I have also re-bred Rosemarry with the buck Liberty.

Tiny and her kits

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New buck

IMG_5505 He is a purebred mini-rex, of which I would like to find a few females.

 

The other day I started experimenting with the idea of an indoor dual band delta loop antenna.  I don’t have any HOA antenna restrictions, however was looking for a portable antenna with easy setup for when I am away from home. These are pretty simple, one string hangs it from a curtain rod, and it is up.

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I will be posting a more detailed how to with results early next week.

 

I currently have an FM radio/alarm clock at my desk. It had a 12 inch antenna that stuck out of the top, which worked well enough, but wasn’t a winner for looks. Between that, and the fact I had some coax, I decided to improve it. The design is pretty simple, strip the insulation off 15 in of the coax, bend the two sides apart, and there was an FM antenna.

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The pictures turned out a little hazy, but ought to give you the idea. I planned to use the stripped shielding as the ground side, but due to the difficulty of getting it in the right place, I cut it off and used a wire nut to hold the alternative piece of wire on.

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I than ran it up the trim, out the door, an stuck it under the lip in the siding just above the door.

(The reason I love old FM radios compared to new ones) The radio had places to screw the + an – sides of the coax to!!!

IMG_4773  I don’t know that you will ever find this on a new one, but back then they made these things to you could improve the antenna without taking it apart to find the hot and cold and so fourth. No connectors required, just screw and go!

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If you have an antenna up in the air for months or years at a time, even protected as they are, the threads on your SO-239 will get corroded.  The tool below is essentially a tube with wire bristles sold for cleaning car battery terminals. In the center picture I demonstrate it’s use on a SO-239 barrel connector. It was also used to clean the back of the 2 meter amp.

IMG_5190 IMG_5199 IMG_5197  Nothing big, just an interesting tip.

Several weeks ago the dryer vent hose burst open, raising temperature and humidity in the laundry room. Below are some pics of how I found it.

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Note the heavy layers of dust on everything. Another good reason to duct the linty air outside.

IMG_5330 In addition to being torn at the end, it also had several holes going all the way down the hose.

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With a new hose and tight connections at both ends, the laundry room stays cooler, dryer, and has less dust. TIP: I used a large zip-tie at both ends to keep it tight.

 

A few months ago I got a dual band reverse SMA  15in whip antenna for my Baofeng uv-5r. It works very well compared to the rubber duck, however starts to look worse for the wear after heavy use. Just cosmetic issues, torn rubber casing and etc…

I finally tore off the black shielding, which looks pretty good to me.

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Not a big deal, but just a tip I thought I’d pass along