Posts Tagged ‘Shack’

My shack

Shack – operating position Jan 8th 2015

As many of you know, I had a cerebellum brain bleed in Sept 2013 which was operated on. I am steadily recovering, but my voice is still poor so I much restrict operations using voice modes for now.  The picture shows the operating position in my shack. As shown, I am using 500mW on 10m WSPR (WSPR-AXE-CW beacon) and 5mW ERP on MF WSPR via a homebrew transverter (just below the clock) and the earth-electrodes in the garden.  MF uses the PC and FT817 whereas the 10m beacon is tiny and needs no PC. The loading coil (above the power meter) is not used with the earth-electrodes. It is used when on MF when loading up miscellaneous other antennas. It is not in use at all currently.

When fit again, I intend to resume field experiments.

Not shown are any of the optical, 136kHz or VLF kit or the bench used for building. The latter is currently awaiting better health again.

Yet another shack clean up

Back in January when I took delivery of the FT857D I reorganised the shack, disposed of lots of surplus junk and the resulting layout has served me well for most of the year.

As I've acquired more equipment I have found myself struggling for space and the cluttered workbench has prevented any proper construction.

Following a rearrangement in the house I had a spare 'desk' which I wanted to make of, so the plan was to move the workbench and put the new desk next to the existing desk. I had some bookshelves which were being used inefficiently and I almost threw them out but decided to make use of them by cutting them down and modifying to make new shelves to sit on the back of the desks.

I had another clean out and the remaining junk is now in large plastic storage boxes under the desk should it prove useful one day. It is still a little cluttered but I have much more room with proper access to my books and magazines.

The workbench is at the end of the shack directly under the overhead light

 It is a work in progress, but it is a much better place to work and operate in.

In the shack

This is a photo of me in the shack just before lunch today. Since lunch, I have had to disconnect everything because of an approaching lightning storm. At the last count (flashes to thunder) it was about 2km away but I think the storm is now moving away.

G3XBM in the shack today

For storm maps see . The storm seems to have moved off: I can still hear thunder (to the east) but no nearby lightning. We have heavy rain, which will do the garden good.

Just a moment ago there was a flash and thunder almost overhead.  This showed up on the lightning map. Storms still rolling around. I shall not reconnect the antennas and radio gear for a while yet.

Its quiet. WSPR quiet

If you ever needed proof that QRP is good fun and very rewarding, look no further than my latest project. I just (today) finished building the QRP Labs Ultimate 3 kit. This kit is amazing and I've ordered mine with the 20m BPF as thats the lowest band my home Antenna will go to.

In its current configuration my kit only pumps out 200mW and I left it running while i went out to a party with the family. On my return I was staggered by the reach on the little kit. The longest distance it was heard was a staggering 6408Km ! all that way with just 200mW of RF..

Here is a map I've downloaded of the plots :

and a list of the stations that heard it. You will notice some frequency fluctuation. I have to box the kit up and think about some stabilisation on the DDS. but hey for its first outing - I'm very happy !

All systems go…

Excellent service from Waters and Stanton, Radiozing and M0CVO Antennas meant my FT-857D, PSU and HF antenna arrived the day after I ordered them. They have however sat in the boxes while I have struggled to reorganise my workshop/shack after the Christmas chaos.

I have disposed of a lot of junk being quite ruthless to reduce the clutter and have completely changed the layout, increasing the size of the desk and putting it on the other side of the room next to the workbench, which is much more logical.

The new look operation centre
I have finally summoned up the courage to drill a large hole in the wall to allow the antenna coax to enter properly, previously it has been done by squeezing it around the door!

Unfortunately the weather this weekend has been horrendous, yesterday I planned to erect the antenna but gave up following the intense squall which hit in the afternoon with thunder, lightning and hail! Today hasn't been much better with heavy rain for most of the day, the rain did finally eased off so I managed to erect a temporary mast with the 144/430MHz collinear on the top and the HF antenna underneath.  I know this isn't ideal as the mast is metal and may affect the HF, but seems okay. The forecast for the next few days is also a bit worrying but the mast is guyed at two heights so should be secure.

The antennas, with the stormy sky behind
I have literally just turned on the FT-857D and had a quick listen on the bands, it is very daunting for this first timer! The first thing I have worked out is how to drop the power output, current set a 5W for HF and VHF/UHF

I have a power/swr meter suitable for HF/VHF and UHF I purchased at last years Hamfest and I have it connected in the setup, and was trying to check the SWR but it wasn't registering anything when I pressed the PTT then I realised that with SSB enabled it wouldn't!! Switching to FM and I was able to check that everything was okay... Beginners mistake I know!

Now off to read the manual..

Got a proper radio, well it’s on order!

Well I've finally done it..

I have ordered my first proper 'rig' It is a Yaesu FT-857D a nice small, portable/mobile unit that will give me access to the HF and 6m/2m/70cm bands in all-modes. It has took a while since I first identified it as potential purchase but thanks to some generous Christmas presents I now have the sufficient funds and following several recommendations have decided to take the plunge and ordered it from Waters and Stanton

She is a beauty!

I have a decent 7A PSU, purchased last year which I am sure would have sufficed for 10W maximum operation however I decided to also purchase a MAAS SPS-30-II 30A(35A peak) PSU. It was a good price from Radiozing and offers plenty of power for anything I am likely to run in the foreseeable future, and from the pictures and reviews seems to be built like the proverbial brick out-house. As well as the main connectors on the back it has spring clip terminals on the front as well as a cigar lighter type connector. Dual meters showing V/A and can be used in variable mode from 9-15V or fixed at 13.8V 
This is the beast!
I have also ordered one of M0CVO Antennas highly rated HW-20HP off centre fed dipoles as a starting point for HF. The antenna works in 6 bands (20, 17, 15, 12, 10 & 6m) without needing an Antenna Tuning Unit (ATU) which is one thing I haven't purchased, however Nigel(M0CVO) Chairman of SKARS (South Kestevan Amateur Radio Society) and owner of M0CVO Antennas has kindly offered to loan me an ATU in the short term.

Delivery should be later this week and I suspect I have a large learning curve ahead of me as I hit the airwaves! If you should hear me please be gentle..

New toys.

Its been some time since I bought myself any new toys but the two purchases I have made really are for when I am QRP with my go pack.

Firstly I have changed the rucksack I use. The previous pack was excellent initially but I quickly understood its limitations and when full of kit I realised that everything essentially falls down to the bottom and makes the pack really quite uncomfortable to carry.

After much research I noticed a few reviews of the 5.11 rush series. They have 3 packs designed and named the 12, 24 & 72. I decided to go for the 5.11 Rush 24 which has a capacity of 34 litres which is pretty much the same as the previous pack, but this one has may compartments and sections to store the kit.

One big advantage of this pack is the MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) strapping that the back pack has all over it. Meaning that you can purchase extra modular pouches, cases and attachments to the outside of the pack. So far I have managed to pack the water bottles, mast and VX8 hand-held radio to the outside of the pack with specifically designed pouches. This of course leaves the inside completely free to carry the essentials. Click here for more info on the 5.11 Rush 24

With the repacking and organising of the new case I did document (stock check I suppose) the contents of the pack so I know exactly what I am carrying – and can adjust with ease what I want to carry. I documented it in the form of a mind map, and I’m sure there are bits that I have missed off – feel free to comment.

As I was packing the case I also really decided it was time to change the battery power I have been carrying for some time to a new light weight alternative.

Weighing in at a quarter of the weight of the SLA, I have opted for a Lithium Polymer pack designed by Debam. Its not cheap but well worth the investment when it radically reduces the weight of the pack. The battery is 8Ah and comes with its own fuel gauge, choices of charging adaptors and comes in its own case.

The pack is also smaller than the old SLA, but 1 disadvantage is that I cannot use the Solar panel with this pack as I doesn’t being trickle charged. So the SLA pack complete with Watts Up meter will remain intact and live in the boot of the car. Click here for the details of the battery.

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