Author Archive

Sidelined by headphones.

Our new hobby room
This weekend in Canada is a long weekend as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Today Julie and I agreed to take a break from getting our new place looking how we like it and have a hobby day. For me it's amateur radio and for Julie it's quilting. This past week I finished off our hobby room, Julie and I hobby in the same room. In the picture you can see Julie's sewing machine table and opposite to that is her cutting table and my hobby is in the roll top desk. The walls at this point are still naked  as I want to wait for about a week for the paint to be fully dry before we hang any wall items.
The wire and broken support issue
The window in about 4 weeks is going to be changed out with a new window that is almost twice the size of what is in the picture. That should really brighten up the space. My plan for my hobby day was to make sure the my radio and PC software were still getting along after putting my station back together and then I wanted to just go over the radio manual and re-familiarize myself with the radio. I turned on the Icom fitted on the headphones (Julie does not consider CW to be music to her ears) and low and behold only the right side of the headphones was working! We this side lined the plan for the morning. The headphones are AGK K240 studio headphones and I have had them for about 5 years and they are just great. Upon removing the headphone cover plate (non technical term) I two unfortunate things. The first was two wires that were torn off their termination and the other issue was  a broken support which was the reason the wires were torn off. Since these are the best headphones I have had in a long time I was determined to repair them. With the combination of a glue gun and soldering iron the job was completed and the K240 headphones are back in service. 
Glue gun nicely repaired the support issue. 

Well it’s now official!

It's now official on paper with my new call sign for New Brunswick. Funny thing the other evening I was calling CQ (CW) and a few times I used my old call without evening noticing it. Old habits die hard I guess.....it's just going to take time to get the new call rolling off the key like the old one did.

Some positive steps forward with shack RFI

Old HDMI monitor cable
I have had some positive moves forward with regards to my RFI in the shack. I am the kind of person who has to sit back and just think things over, go on the internet and step back and have a good look around. Over the past few days that is what I have been doing. I have had great feedback from my blog readers and it has cause me to think and search out ideas. This was the first time I had ever had these types of issues in the shack but then again I have never used an Endfed antenna before. With regards to my internet adventures I came to the understanding that the Endfed antennas that uses the coax as a counterpoise there can be expected issues of RFI in the shack. My Endfed antenna from W1SFR does not have a separate counterpoise connection. On their website the purchaser is informed the coax is the counterpoise. With regards to my W1SFR Endfed antenna I have contacted the owner Steve many times via email with my questions. His support has been great and Steve has been very willing to afford me as much of his time as needed.
I am the kind of person that things just don't click right away and I need time to mull things over. One  thing that came to mind was my monitor issue I was having. I was using an HDMI feed from my PC to the monitor as I always have in the past BUT in the past I was not faced with the RFI issue. Chameleon Loop antenna  and I remembered the coax that came with the antenna had a set of RF
Chameleon coax choke
chokes on the coax. The reading that I have been doing the the comments on my blog all backed up the fact that with Endfed antennas there is a very strong possibility of RF on the coax if it is being used as a counterpoise. I was able to add the coax from Chameleon to my setup with the RF choke section of coax connected to my radio. I did some testings and found my capacitive touch keyer no longer locked up, my SWR was no longer speratic and I have not as of yet checked my electronic washing machine to see if it stops but that will be when the next load of laundry goes in.
I replaced the HDMI cable with a DVI cable that had RF chokes at either end. This solved my monitor issues of it waking up from sleep mode on it's own and characters showing up on the screen.
I did on Friday end up ordering the Balun Designs 1115 Balun and it should be arriving within the next week or so. My positive tests using the RF choked coax tells me that the purchase of the Balun was a good choice. My next step will be to try out a counterpoise that is 25 feet long secured at the PL-259 that feeds the W1SFR Endfed antenna and see what this step produces. I am hoping with the new Balun, the counterpoise and changing the monitor cable will solve the issues I have been experiencing.
It now the next day and my experiment with the separated 25 foot counterpoise have been completed. I stripped one end of the 25 foot piece of wire and attached it to the outside of the PL-259 using a screw clamp similar to the clamps you see on automative rad hoses.....but much smaller. I checked the SWR on 40m, 30m, 20m and 18m and it really did not change much but what did change was the amount of RFI what was showing up on my waterfall on the 7610. I then removed the counterpoise and the offending RFI was gone. So that was good enough for me I am going to keep the Chameleon coax with the chokes in place until the Balun from Balun designs comes in.

The Endfed antenna is up but with mixed results.

The W1SFR Endfed antenna is up and things went very straight forward with the install. My options for a location a limited so I ended up having to place the antenna in a tree that beside our mini home and then down to the shed about 40 feet or so away. The antenna runs parallel with the mini home along the north side of the mini home. The feed end of the of the antenna is about 25 feet up and mounted to the tree. The far end at the shed the antenna is about 15 feet from the ground.  The coax from the antenna to the shack is about 65 feet in total as the Endfed antenna uses the coax as the counterpoise and Steve W1SRF recommends you have at least 25 feet of coax. The time came to flip the switch on my antenna analyzer and see some SWR results:

Band.         Freq.         SWR 
40.              7.0001.     1.9
40.              7.070        2.5
30.              10.100.     4.4 
30.              10.150.     4.5
20.              14.001.     4.5
20.              14.070.     4.3
17.              18.068.     1.5
17.              18.168      1.5
21.              21.001.     1.8
21.              21.070.     1.8

I was a bit alarmed by the results so I emailed Steve W1SFR regarding the results from his Endfed antenna. He came back with positive comments saying my results looked very normal. This is the very reason it's said that with the Endfed antennas you need to use a tuner. The next step was to connect the Icom 7610 to the whole mix and see how things worked. This is where Murphy popped his head up to give me grief! I began to transmit on 40 meters and with the power at 40 watts things started to happen around the shack and house! In the shack my PC was not running but the monitor was in sleep mode. All of a sudden the monitor would wakeup from it's sleep, on my PC desktop I have a program that allows me to post notes on the desktop when I transmitted CW I would see random letters being typed on a posted notes on the desktop, my electronic keyer would send dah's and no dits and finally our new electronic washing machine would just shut down. The other band I tried was 20m and when transmitting CW at about 60 watts the PC monitor would wake up from it's sleep but no other issues. I was wondering it it was the RF coming back on the coax or because the Endfed run parallel with the mini home is about 15 feet away from the home?
I contacted Steve again who informed me that it could be RF on the coax as it's a counterpoise. His suggestion was for me to purchase a 1:1 balun and from there see if it solves the issues. Steve suggested it may or may not solve all the issues and I may have to look at other options for unsolved issues. Well I have a decision to make....do I want to start spending more money and go down a road that may lead me to gaining more "stuff" but still not being able to use the antenna. Now I did get some comments from my blog readers who do have and are using with success an Endfed antenna. 

Ever so slowly things are coming together.

Audio, mouse and HDMI items 
And so it begins.....I have started to unpack the radio gear and it was evident very soon that I had to do some organizing of coax, various cables and test/repair items. For years my roll top desk draws were filled with "stuff" and it was items that I needed but when something was needed it was a chore to unload a drawer to look for something. Now that I am going to be at this location for some time I wanted to finally sort things out. We have these cubbies from Ikea that have been around for some
Coax cables 
time at our place with really no function......now there is a function for them. As I was unpacking my gear I was shocked to see how many cables I had. I sorted them into a cubby that had just coax cable and another with audio cables and finally a cubby with all my meters, solder station, solder and any item that fell into the category of repair and test. Today I was able to run the  coax cable from my Endfed antenna position into the home. Tomorrow I will be (weather permitting) getting the W1SFR Endfed 40m-6m antenna in place. Things are starting to take shape and it's very exciting. I have the radio gear all set in place within the roll-top desk. I did connect my H800 active antenna to the Icom 7610 just to check out the band conditions. I was shocked and pleased at the very low noise level compared to Toronto.
The test kit 

Antenna planning for the fall and winter.

I'm looking at (in my spare time) an antenna I can use over the winter  months and then when the spring comes and more time on my hands to then further explore antenna options at the new QTH. At this time I have two options......the first is to setup the MFJ 1788 mag loop in a wooden shed that is at the back of the property. For this option I would have to first see how the loop and wood shed react with each other. If there is no issue this may be a good option for the winter as the antenna is protected from the elements. The other option is an antenna I have had in the drawer and really have not used, it's the W1SFR Endfed 6m-40m antenna. With this antenna I can secure it to a tree at one end of the property were it would be about 30 feet off the ground. Then terminate it out by the shed were it would be about 10 feet off the ground. The Endfed antenna is 35 feet long and is not a problem fitting on the property. With the antenna being secured to a tree at one end I have to take into consideration the swaying of the tree in a wind. I was going to put an eye hook into the tree and then a short spring and then attach it to the Endfed housing this I am hoping will allow some flexing via the spring if a wind picks up and the tree starts to sway. The W1SFRR housing is not meant to be premaritally outdoors as the case is not water proof but water resistant. I plan to wrap the housing in self amalgamating tape which would no problem keep the water issue at bay. The advantage to this antenna is I don't have to keep retuning it like I do with the MFJ Mag loop. Once my Icom antenna tuner programs into it's memory the tuning of the Endfed I hope I can just tune across the band and not worry about tuning as I do with the MFJ loop.
Any input from fellow hams who have faced such an adventure would be great.

Hurricane Dorian welcomes us to New Brunswick!

We have been hearing about it all week as Dorian hit the Bahamas and then the U.S. and now it's our turn here in the Maritimes. Julie and I have never been in a storm like this ever! It's 17:00 here local time and the winds are really picking up along with the rain but we are told on the new the worst is yet to come. I have no antennas as of yet up and thank goodness as now that I have seen what could happen here weather wise it may cause me to rethink where and how my HF antenna will be constructed and where. So far our power has not gone out but as the evening goes on the wind picks up I would not be surprised if we are in the dark. We did prepare earlier this week with water, food that can be cooked on the BBQ (once the storm calms down that is), our cells are charged up, our SUV is full of gas, the external battery chargers are topped up, our Eaton FRX5-BT radio if needed will be ready and the list goes on. Maybe because we are very new to this we are over reacting but I would rather have and not need than need and not have. Our generator arrived yesterday but before that can be put into service I have to install the transfer switch. We are now going to throw the dice and start dinner which is homemade mac and cheese.
Oliver our cat has his own take on things.......

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor