I passed my novice radio amateur exam in March 2013 and I registered the
PD4KH (pappa delta four kilo hotel!).
I passed my full radio amateur exam in March 2016 and I registered the callsign
PE4KH (pappa echo four kilo hotel!).
PE4KH on qrz.com
I am usually located around maidenhead locator: JO22NC
After my participation in the EA PSK63 Contest 2018 I plan to have the radio active in the upcoming weekend for the EA RTTY Contest.
The first work on the balun case was placing the SO239 socket. This included drilling a hole in the case of the right size and at the right position. Figuring out where to put it was mostly influenced by the fact that the ferrite core has to be placed inside the case and I wanted the SO239 socket, the ferrite core and the output terminals not all jammed together. So the SO239 socket was not going to be in the center. For this my new caliper was a useful tool and I measured the inside size and the wanted location of the socket. And I figured out I could drill a 16mm hole and the SO239 socket would fit inside while leaving enough room for the mounting flange. Holes were drilled and things worked out fine, so the SO239 socket is now mounted. After checking the future location I realized I will have to mount the balun with the SO239 socket facing downwards because the antenna cable is quite heavy. This has to be taken into account with the next steps. Other parts of this project:
- Building my own balun, part 1: idea and parts needed
- Building my own balun, part 2: measuring the 'old' balun
- Building my own balun, part 4: Deciding on where to put dipole ends and finishing it
- Building my own balun, part 5: First tests of the result
- Building my own balun, part 6: Redo and some success: a working antenna again
tested the SARK100 antenna analyzer from Linux. The 10 meter band dipole probably moved a bit or something else changed.
I have now tried FT8 on the 2 meter band several times. One time I received a message via FT8 to try it on the 70cm band too but I haven't figured out the right frequency on that band yet. DX contacts have been made into England, France and Germany. Furthest 2 meter contact at the moment is 323 kilometers. From the doppler shift I see the most probably reason for these distances is aircraft scatter, which means I'm using big metal reflectors in the sky to bounce my signal, without even paying for an airplane ticket. I'm looking forward to 'E-skip' and other phenomena that can make 2 meter radio signals reach larger distances. I wonder what that will bring me.
The different radio bands also have quite different properties. The HF bands below 30 MHz have ionospheric refraction which lets the signal return to earth in far away places. The VHF bands (30-300 MHz) are usually only line of sight, signals usually will not get beyond the horizon. Recently I saw mention of the FT8 mode on the 2 meter band. Specifically here: Essex 2M Activity Day Update - Essex Ham and VHF FT8 - M1AVV. This inspired me to give it a try myself. It took a bit of searching to find the right frequency for FT8 on 2 meter. I found out it's 144.178 MHz so I started trying there and soon made my first contacts with Dutch amateurs at reasonable distances. But from time to time I saw signals from further away than was possible, for example England and France. My best guess is that aircrafts reflect the signals. I also saw doppler shift in signals which confirms aircraft reflections. After a few tries I was able to make my first contacts at nice distances in the Netherlands.
I was considering hanging a dipole antenna outside. This would need a balun and I realized that I have a good outdoor-capable balun hanging in the attic. It's a Fritzel 1005 1:1 current balun which is good up to 300 watts power. I am not going to use 300 watts under the roof close to other equipment and the balun there does not need to be rain proof. So the idea was born to build a smaller balun for use under the roof and have the Fritzel balun available for outdoor use. And last Saturday was a hamfest (radio onderdelenmarkt Rosmalen) so I had an idea of things I wanted for this project. Parts needed for a current balun:
The various collections of electronics parts only missed the SO239 socket and a case. Those were found at the hamfest for a nice price. The choice of design is a current balun or a voltage balun. I had to do some searching to find a good comparison between the two, and DX engineering has one at Baluns: Choosing the Correct Balun - DX Engineering which has:
- A ferrite core with the right specifications
- Wire with enamel coating
- An SO239 socket
- Terminals for connecting the dipole wires
- A caseCurrent baluns, rather than voltage baluns, should be used whenever possible. Current baluns provide better balance and often have lower loss. Current baluns, especially 1:1 ratio baluns, tolerate load impedance and balance variations much better than voltage baluns.Some searches found good explanations of building your own baluns, I found a very clear explanation at VK6YSF project page. So I'm building a current balun, and when it's finished enough to test it I will measure how it is doing. I have the tools like the SARK100 antenna analyzer that I can control from Linux and a dummy load so I can check everything.
As planned I participated in the EA PSK63 contest 2018 last weekend. As this contest starts at 16:00 UTC and not the usual 12:00 UTC I decided to again try my luck as single operator on the 40 meter band only (SO 40 DX for this contest). Contacts were made Saturday evening and Sunday morning and afternoon. Sunday at 12:45 UTC I gave up on finding any new callsigns on the 40 meter band and decided to switch to the 20 meter band. Conditions were not very good and I think I made some errors copying serial numbers or on the decision whether to count a contact as valid. And at least two calls had me in their log but my log was not convinced we made a contact around that time. In the end I made 125 contacts, 79 on the 40 meter band and 46 on the 20 meter band. Looking at the results of previous years I thought I would end up with a higher ranking with the 79 contacts on the 40 meter band only so I entered in that category. The 20 meter contacts will only count as checking for the other participants. The one that got away: I saw an amateur from Thailand call CQ but my answer did not make it back there. A nice contest. I was able to practice fast contacts a bit even in difficult conditions. As usual with all contests I also uploaded my score to the Veron Afdelingscompetitie where our local chapter A08 is doing ok.
Last week we were staying in a holiday home in the Ardennen area in Belgium. Temperatures were constantly below zero which can make my fibermast break easily according to the instructions. I also forgot to bring a side cutter so setting up the fibermast with the rubber profile at every level would be hard to take down again. This made it a bad idea to leave it up overnight. Due to the cold and me having a serious cold as well it took a few days before I got around to a bit of amateur radio. When I got around to setting up the mast it went reasonably well. The ground was frozen so I needed a hammer to get the pegs into the ground for the guy wires. The foot of the fibermast decided to slip away and the tip fell against a wall, but no damage. When the mast was up and the dipole hanging the local RF noise turned to be at the same S8 level I am used to at home and it was very hard to make a contact. I tried 40 meter FT8 with transmit power dialed back to 25 watt since the radio itself started showing signs of RF interference. One partial contact was made (no full exchange of signal reports). And then I noticed gardeners working on pruning bushes everywhere and working in my direction so I disassembled the mast again and took all the parts back in. For next time I may find some plate to anchor the foot of the fibermast so it can't slip away. Maybe a plate with a big hole in it for the mast and two small holes for tent pegs.
This year I am planning to participate again in the EA PSK63 contest edition 2018. Although the weekend is not completely free there will be time to get as many spanish stations and others in the log as possible. Time to find out if I can improve my score from participating in the EA PSK63 contest in 2016.
This evening another two new countries in my amateur radio log: Lebanon and Gibraltar. First OD5ZF from Lebanon and 4 minutes later ZB3M from Gibraltar. That makes three pairs in two months. These two were both in FT8 mode on the 40 meter band. FT8 is very good at fast contacts at low received signal levels.