Communications

I recently got this radio at a hamfest for fifty dollars.  It has been a very good radio, I really like the fact that it is a twin band instead of a dual band because it is very easy to convert to a cross band repeater and it has two coax cables run out the back.  It has two memory banks one for two meters and another for seventy centimeters.  It outputs fifty five watts  on high power and twenty on low power and has a fully adjustable squelch!  Here is a picture.

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I have just found out that the Wilson County Amateur Radio Club and the Wilson County Radio League will be sponsoring a HamFest.  I can’t put all the details in this blog post, so I will insert a link to the HamQuest website.  I hope to see you there!

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In this post I will be showing you my 70 cm yagi antenna.  This antenna was a project to make in an afternoon.  The parts I used in this antenna are a few coat hangers a piece of scrap wood one piece of coax.  This antenna is great for satellite contacts.  Here is a picture!

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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

This is my extremely low-tech way to dim the very bright backlights that were in my car’s radio.

The back of the radio face

The back of the radio face

After removing the plastic back

After removing the plastic back

This is what I found when I turned it over

This is what I found when I turned it over

See the LEDs on the board?  I painted over them with dark gray equipment paint.

See the LEDs on the board? I painted over them with dark gray equipment paint.

After painting over all the LEDs (there were 15 or so on the board) the lights are still a little on the bright side, but much more tolerable in the dark.

Here are some pictures of the newly built KM4GHM repeater that I am about to put on air in Lebanon.

 

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The (Almost) finished product

I have gutted a Motorola MSF5000 so we could use the case and some of the mounting brackets to hold parts for a completely different machine.

The current version is using a pair of Tait T2020 UHF transceivers for the transmitter and receiver, an ID-O-MATIC IV from Hamgadgets, a Mirage UHF 100w amplifier, 75a wall mount power supply, and a small pass-notch duplexer.  All of this fits easily inside the case from an MSF5000.

Here is is before the amp and with the duplexer laying on top

Here is is before the amp and with the duplexer laying on top

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So far I am really pleased with the way the Tait radios have been working.  They’re really easy to program with Windows, have great audio quality, and don’t seem to generate too much heat.

The ID-O-MATIC as it arrived in the mail

The ID-O-MATIC as it arrived in the mail

And 45 minutes later, we have this

And 45 minutes later, we have this

I’m also really liking the IDOM.  It was easy enough to put together, has really good instructions for setup and programming, and it’s really easy to program with Windows using puTTY (though I haven’t figured out how to program with mac yet).  It seems to be a highly capable repeater controller for the $39 price tag.  It keys the transmitter when the receiver detects a signal, handles a courtesy tone, IDs, Beacons, time out timer and time out penalty, and fan relay.  I’ve connected the RX and TX audio directly to each other, so they are bypassing the IDOM altogether with just a jumper running to the board for the ID audio.  I’m handling the encode/decode tones in the transmitter and receive radios.  The only issue I have found with the IDOM is that when I was powering it via the 12v power supply there was a strong hum behind all audio coming through the board.  This was cured by powering it through the USB port.  It’s possible that the issue was my power supply or the wire I was using.

We’ll be driving the amplifier with just enough power to get between 40 and 50 watts out so as not to overwhelm the duplexer and to help with heat inside the repeater.

It’ll be attached to a Comet GP9 antenna (9.9db gain on UHF) with 100′ of LMR400 when it goes on air.

 

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Field Day is a time when amateur radio operators from all over come together and set up their portable radio equipment, typically on alternate power.  Field day is the largest single amateur radio event of the year and has been celebrated by…  Read More  Courtesy KK4WAO, Wilson County Radio League

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.

 

 

 

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Anyone that follows this blog regularly may have noticed a new page at the top titled “Wilson County Radio League”.  The Wilson County Radio League is Lebanon’s newest amateur radio club, and one that I have a significant amount of involvement with.

If you have an interest in auxiliary communications, a desire to improve your communication and technical skills, and a desire to serve your community, the Wilson County Radio League may be for you.

They’re still getting started, but I’m hoping to see regular exercises and events being planned in the near future to give all of the members hands-on training and actual practice, which is good for the individual and good for the group.  Some of this training would include things like foxhunts, simulated weather emergencies, standard radio protocol, logging practices (Including computer logging) etc.

If there is any interest in such an organization, I would highly recommend checking out the link at the top of this page to read more about them.

Questions can be addressed to the Wilson County Radio League through their website, or directly to me in the comments (or the contact form on this site).

 

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….

We’ve mostly finished the cleaning up, and have moved onto organizing things and making repairs/improvements as necessary.  I’m also taking pictures/video as I go to eventually replace the video posted on our home page.

Here’s an update as to some of the things I’ve been doing, but that I don’t have enough pictures of for individual posts:

Built a 445MHz Slim-Jim to use for a repeater

Built a 445MHz Slim-Jim to use for a repeater

Built a PVC tower standoff (which I ended up not needing, but I'll keep it around for future use)

Built a PVC tower standoff (which I ended up not needing, but I’ll keep it around for future use)

Installed a 2m radio in the "new" 1994 Marquis

Installed a 2m radio in the “new” 1994 Marquis

Replacing the upper ball joints on aforementioned 1994 Grand Marquis.

Replacing the upper ball joints on aforementioned 1994 Grand Marquis.

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At the same time the upper ball joints were replaced, I also replaced the lower ball joints, outer tie rod ends, idler arm, stabilizer bar links, and one stabilizer bar bushing.  I had almost every automotive tool we own out before this was all said and done.

This is what it looks like when I work on a car...

This is what it looks like when I work on a car…

Also picked up this mobile darkroom.  More at a later date on this.

Also picked up this mobile darkroom. More at a later date on this.

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.

Here are some pictures of a recent mobile radio installation I did.  It isn’t mounted in the best place for ease of use, but it’s not hard to get to or hear and the bench seat can still be utilized.  The custom brackets are made from various parts of broken CB radios and mounts.  There are still a couple screws and a little excess metal (the part that sticks down below the body of the radio) that needs trimmed off, but it seems to work pretty well.

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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…

Part of being a ham includes being flexible and having backup plans for operation when the power goes out or wind damages an antenna.  Here’s a way to splice coax without using any kind of connectors or commercially made splice, useful for building or repairing an antenna/feedline at the last minute.  The only thing needed is a sharp knife and some solder.

Strip the rubber off the outer shield for about 3 inches on each piece of coax, slide the metal shield as far back as it will go, and cut an extra 1/2″ off of the center conductors in each cable before stripping the ends.  This allows for the shield to overlap after the center conductors are attached.IMG_3097

Solder the center conductors together like so, and then tape up the connection so they don’t ground out.

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Now slide the shield back down until the two parts touch and solder:

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Wrap the whole area in electrical tape to make it waterproof, and you’re ready to go!  The electrical tape on the outside is optional and only needed for water resistance, but it makes the whole thing appear neater too.

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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Here’s a quick holder for a speaker mic that I made out of a PVC cap.  It was cut out in a few minutes on a band saw.  I intend to use it with a handheld radio as a base station for 70cm use, since 4w reaches most anywhere I need UHF capabilities for a lot less money than a higher power mobile radio.

 

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It also removes from the radio go box, so it doesn't stick out when we carry it.

It also removes from the radio go box, so it doesn’t stick out when we carry it.

The pictures are a little blurry here, but they were the best I had at the moment and get the point across sufficiently.

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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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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