Series Eight Episode Twenty-Five – VHF Repeater Project (GB3XP) (29 November 2015)

In this episode, Martin M1MRB / W9ICQ is joined by Ed Durrant DD5LP ,Martin Rothwell M0SGL, Chris Howard M0TCH and Andy Mace 2E0IBF to discuss the latest Amateur / Ham Radio news. Colin M6BOY rounds up the news in brief, and this episodes feature is VHF Repeater Project (GB3XP).

  • PMR446 Liberalisation
  • YOTA 2016‏ Austria - Call for Applications
  • New Youth Amateur Radio Club
  • New Amateur / Ham Radio Band on 5 MHz
  • Emergency Communications Changes in Oregon
  • New Sky Product Raises Pollution Fears
  • UK Retailer Fined for Faulty Battery Sale
  • New Raspberry Pi “Zero” Launched
  • Afrikaans Amateur Radio Dictionary
  • Marconi Recording Released

Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].

Cold enough for antenna work

My last big project before winter was getting a wire antenna up for 160m. My HF antenna has been a Carolina Windom up 40' or so, hung below the trees. It has been a fabulous antenna for me, allowing contacts all around the world. But lo, it does not work well down at 160m. The HF gurus in my area continued to remind me that I needed to get down on that project finally bubbled to the top of the list. I would have a two HF antenna QTH!

My first try was an end-fed zepp. After some reading and encouragement from others, up went the wire. I placed 500' of 12AWG up in the trees. This time instead of hanging it below the trees, I used the bow to shoot it right over the tops. My youngest daughter and I had a blast over the week doing the project, including making some homebrew ladder line to feed it. After about two weeks of working on and off on it, the time to test had come. The results were awful. Although it tuned up ok, I swear it generated noise. I heard birdies I've never heard before, but the signals I wanted to hear were 3 S units or lower than the same signals on my Windom. I tried different grounding solutions, and even tried re-orienting the end of the wire to make more of a loop. I added a 1:1 balun (based on some other reading) but that solved nothing.

Not every experiment results in success, so down came the wire. Funny, it took about 10 minutes to pull it all down compared to the week to get it up. Anyway, Fred KC9REG had given me a commercially made 160m double bazooka that I had stashed away in my barn. I pulled it out, laid it on the ground, and determined which tree limbs I could hang it from. No more laying wire in the trees - this one was going up in the clear. After about 3 hours of work (I must be getting better) the antenna was in the rainy 37F air.

I took the KX3 outside under a tree and hooked up the coax (no ladder line this time). While it tuned ok, there seemed to be no signals anywhere. A check of the KX3 on the Windom revealed that the Apocalypse had not occurred. Ugh. Will I ever get a working 160m antenna?

I texted Fred (I was so sick of ham radio by this point that I reverted to the phone). He assured me the antenna had worked the last time he had it up. We texted back and forth a few times, and then he called. He offered to bring up his analyzer to see what was going on. About an hour later Fred shows up and sees something very interesting...the antenna isn't resonant on any frequency. We checked the PL259 at the ground and it was fine. We let down the apex and plugged his analyzer right into the antenna. It looked good, but the PL259 at that end of the coax was loose. Not just loose, it spun. It was held on by shrink wrap. This was a commercially made coax I had never used before. I won't name names, but don't trust fly by night ham radio stores that have nothing more than a website and a guy named Bruno making stuff in the back of a warehouse.

I drug the ends of the coax into the porch, and Fred pulled out his soldering gun(yep, he brought everything with him.) Fred had me back in business in about 5 minutes. Back out to the antenna, pulled it up, hooked up the analyzer and worked! Pulled out the KX3 and I had signals all over the place.

Finally, after an expensive long wire antenna building experience (just under $100 in raw supplies) an elmer named Fred came through with both an antenna, soldering gun, and knowledge to make it all work. Watch out I come!

Michael Brown, KG9DW, is a regular contributor to and writes from Illinois, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Ham College 11

Ham College episode 11 is now available for download.

Tommy and George discuss ‘Your First Radio’. More questions and answers from the Technician class question pool. Learn how you can win an Icom T-shirt and cap.



George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].

Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 87

Raspberry Pi Zero: $5 computer
Of all the things we do at Raspberry Pi, driving down the cost of computer hardware remains one of the most important.
Raspberry Pi

3916 Santa Net 2015
Every year on 3916, we give good little boys and girls a chance to talk to Santa Claus at the North Pole!
The 3916 Nets

Kids are not the future of Ham Radio
You’ve heard it a million times: our kids are the future. But I am starting to think it is incorrect.

rtl_433: 433.92MHz generic data receiver
rtl_433 turns your Realtek RTL2832 based DVB dongle into a 433.92MHz generic data receiver.

5 things good Elmers do
Sending a newcomer a QSL card is a good way to encourage them to get on CW again, and I included the message, “I hope to hear you on again sometime.”

RTTY contest soapbox
I honestly thought I was going to be making blazing fast contacts since it’s a “Digital” mode. Nope… RTTY contacts are much longer than CW or SSB.

DIY kit for aircraft band monitoring
There is an interesting kit being sold on eBay designed specifically for aircraft monitoring of 118-136 MHz.
The SWLing Post

SatSat iOS satellite tracker
Satellite tracking software displays current and next passes for any satellite. It also provides beacon frequencies to listen to.

APRS Paths explained
“Why is WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1 better than WIDE2-2?” The answer has to do with the use of neighborhood “fill-in” digis.

HF Automatic Link Establishment (ALE)
Automatic Link Establishment, or ALE for short, has become a worldwide standard for initiating HF communications between two or more points.

Samuel Morse’s other masterpiece
The famous inventor’s painting of Gallery of the Louvre is as much a fascinating work of art as a 19th century history lesson.


The changing face of hobby electronics
The internet offers cheap components from global suppliers to anywhere in Australia but may also herald the downfall of local brick and mortar stores.
State of Electronics

Amateur Radio Weekly is curated by Cale Mooth K4HCK. Sign up free to receive ham radio's most relevant news, projects, technology and events by e-mail each week at

Don’t Bug OUT when hearing a Vibroplex semi-automatic key

Vibroplex Bug Morse Keys 

Since starting to work CW on-air a few months back I became familiar with the sound of other operators using Vibroplex Bug telegraph keys.  I have been curious to try one of these semi-automatic keys even though I know that they are not recommended for new operators.
Vibroplex Original Semi-automatic Bug
The Bug uses a sprung pendulum to automatically send DITS.  The action of moving the lever to the right starts the pendulum in motion and it creates evenly timed DITS automatically.  DAHS are created by manual timing moving the key to the left.  Using the key requires quite a bit more practice that using a straight key or paddles. 
The Vibroplex semi-automatic Bug is considered a manual key by the SKCC (Straight Key Century Club) so it counts in SKCC contacts.
Used Bugs in decent working condition can often be had for under $70.  This one was advertised as being "un-used new in box".  Indeed, when I received it, it still had the shipping bumpers on the main spring and still had shipping grease.  The glue on the nameplate had deteriorated and come loose and there was significant oxidation on the parts.  This bug dates from sometime in the mid to late 1950s so it's a bit older than I am.  Bugs haven't changed much in design since 1907.  The history of their creator, Horace Martin is interesting.  He created the bug to help deal with his own degraded sending ability due to long hours operating a straight key as a renowned telegrapher.
Horace was a professional telegrapher so he designed the bug for professionals who sent at speeds well above what is normally used in amateur radio.  The slowest speed this bug can send DITS without modification is about 25wpm and goes well above 40wpm.

As a beginning CW operator you will generally be well below that speed in your copy skills and likely your sending speed as well.  But when experienced hams work you with a bug they will slow their DAHS down to your speed, however without special added weights there's not much they can do to slow down their DITS to your speed.  This gives their FIST a unique sound.  The DAHS are sent slowly but the DITS are zinging by.  When you first hear this style your brain will not know how to interpret what you hear but give it some time and you will learn to copy them.

You can slow the Bug down by adding weight to the end of the pendulum.  An inexpensive method is to wrap the weight with some solder.  I've wrapped mine to bring it down to about 22wpm.
Wrap the pendulum weight with solder to slow it a bit
Here is a little video letting you hear a bit of the cadence of the bug.  Now I just received this thing today and I practiced with it for about 30 minutes before making this video so I'm no bug operator for sure but it will give you some idea of the bug "swing"...

The Vibroplex Bug next to a Kent Hand Key.

Manual Morse Code Keys

So don't "bug out" when you hear one of these on the air.

That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations

Richard - N4PBQ

Richard Carpenter, N4PBQ, is a regular contributor to and writes from North Carolina, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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Allham and no !