Thursday, October 29, 2009

Toroid Wire Stripping

I have always had a problem stripping very short lead-ends from toroid coil wires, this is especially a problem for surface mounting a coil.

I have asked the question on several forums of; "how others do it?", but until now, nothing was an acceptable method for my fingers.
  • I have tried burning the end with a torch - wire will not take solder afterwards.
  • Folded Sand Paper - works good for long leads, but not for short SMD board mounting.
  • Scraping with a blade between finger or thumb - Fingers are too fat, blade too sharp, wire is too small and wiggly.
  • And, many other forum suggestions.

There are two problems with toroids winding that must be resolved;
  1. How to keep the wires tight and secure while working with it.
  2. And then, how to remove the insulation on very short leads.
  • Use Hot Glue, filling the centre will prevent the wire movement.
  • The technique that I use is; Fill the centre with Glue, and squeeze it between fingers, using a strip of Teflon Mat Sheet as a release medium (otherwise the Glue will stick to skin and it will HURT!). 
  • The pressure between your finger and thumb pvides a nice looking indent on the surface of the the glue.
  • Glue that overflows, can be pulled off around the edge of the toroid.
  • Note: I don't think the Hot Glue will degrade the performance of the toroid even at High Frequencies.

Fill the Centre with Hot Glue
Fold the Teflon
Mat Sheet
Squeeze Between Fingers
Caution - It can be HOT!

  • Scrape the leads "at the edge of a block of wood!"
  • Rotate the toroid as necessary, it only requires scraping on the four sides of each wire, doing two wires (or more) at a time.

Turn 180 Deg, Scrape the other side

Turn 90 Deg, Scrape the two other sides of each lead

It seems simple and silly now, but why didn't I think of that, I have been doing it "the hard way" for a very long time.

The results - a Good looking, stable Toroid, filled with Hot Glue, and ready for though-hole or surface mount.

Toroid - Ready to Mount

Building toroids, with short leads, are now fun again!


One of my Hot Glued Cores was used in a QRP transmitter final stage, RF current was enough to heat the core, and melted the glue which ran onto the surface mount parts below. I now do not recommend using Hot Glue for high current or heated cores.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Successful QRSS Online

I tried my Centre Insulator QRSS Transmitter the other day without success, see: previous post.

Now it looks like, I may have been off Frequency (the band segment is only 100Hz wide!) - The Transmitter is subject to outside temperature, and the direct loading effect of the antenna. I may have NOT checked the Frequency after turn-on?

 The QRSS Transmitter - in it's nest.

Ready to be raised back to 15 feet AGL.

Tonight I retried the experiment (at 20091028 06:38Z), set the frequency, and - it worked!, I got a spot!,  .   .  .  .  I know - it was on my own Grabber?,  But, my Grabber is remote, 8 miles away.

This Transmitter has be measured at 43uW output with a calibrated RF Test Set, which make this a "1mile / 5uW" Spot,  or if my math is right and physics holds, that's "200miles / 1mW".

1mile / 5uW Spot

Now, to see if any other Grabbers will see my Centre Insulator QRSS Signal!  Note, I am not sure of the condition of the Battery, it was the last one that I had on the shelf.

My remote Grabber is at:

  • At 20091028 07:45Z, the frequency has drifted down to edge of the QRSS band segment, it may be a bad Battery, or the usual fast drop of the outside temperature tonight.

Update 2:
  • This next morning, 20091028 17:30Z - the little Centre Insulator QRSS Transmitter is still going strong, and with warmer outside temperature the Frequency has move back into the centre of the band segment.

  • Both, my signal and WA5DJJ can be seen, (along with some WSPR signals at the top).

Update 3 - 20091029 17:00Z:
  • Still running strong after 35 hours on the same battery! 
  • This now has become a "Die Hard" test!

Update 4 - 20091029 19:00Z:
  • Sorry to report, the little QRSS's DURACELL must be on its last gasps, the oscillator has dropped out of band segment at 20091029 18:43Z - we will continue to monitor until its last moments.

Update 5 - 20091029 19:20Z:
  • The little QRSS and DURACELL condition has stabilized, below and out of band segment, but stable. To continue to monitor the condition, the Grabber window has be moved down the band.

Update 6 - 20091030 01:00Z:
  • Amazing, The little QRSS and DURACELL just keeps "Going-and-Going" (wait, that's an EverReady slogan), the Frequency has moved up to the band edge and competing for space with WA5DJJ on the Grabber - Sorry Dave.

Update 7 - 20091031 00:00Z:
  • OK, I am still Amazed, The little QRSS and DURACELL has been running for 65 hours and has stablized at 10.140015mHz My other projects are on hold as I do not want to disturb this test, but I need the frequency to tune a new DC receiver , which will just have to wait.
  • The abrupt downward shift in frequency that was thought to mark the end of the battery, must have been a sudden change in temp or a rain storm incursion onto the circuit. Currently, I have no predictions as to test's contuned longevity.

Update 8 - 20091101 05:15Z - RIP:
  • The little QRSS and DURACELL has stopped, after running for 99 hours 15 minutes, during its life time it produced 4.267mWhr of RF Power. It called its ID in QRSS and CW 35,730 times.
  • It slipped off the Grabber at 10.139960mHz. 
  • I do not expect a recovery of any kind. It will be missed!
The Last Tx
Shown Faintly Near the Bottom

WOW, that was fun, Let's do it again!  . . .  sometime.

See the next post for the continuation of this adventures

E-Mails Received:

Dear Eldon,

Very interesting. That is amazing you could hold it on frequency hanging out there in the cold. I have to work very hard to keep mine on frequency. I thought the idea of hanging a solar panel  on it was a great suggestion.... then at least it would work in the daytime.

Your 8 miles / 43microwats figgured out to be 186,046 Miles per watt. That is 7.8 times around  the earth.... If I remember my Earth circumfrence correctly. So, I think that is one to put in your record book.

A ham I know put one of my Michigan Mighty Mites in a Great Stuff Cacoon. The great stuff really made it thermally stable. Then he launched it in one of his baloons and it went for miles and miles and didn't very much in Frequency. I thought that was a pretty neat way of doing thermal control.

Thanks for the look into your experiment. Glad to see someone else doing something interesting.

73 Dave

David R. Hassall WA5DJJ

Congrats Eldon for your uW experiments and blog.

I have running in my lab a 100 microW 30mt beacon.
The power is given from a 4x4 cm photovolaic cell.
Fluorescent lamps of the ambient is enough.
The oscillator is made with a BSS83 fet.

My challenge now a design a similar solar driven RX.
How far I could tranmsit and receive
a  modulated CW signal with theese  means ?

             Perhaps it sounds a little crazy.

                                       73 de IZ1KXQ


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Marker Family Photo

Dave Axe - W7AGJ came by my Shop today while I was working on board design for the replacement QRSS Receiver, previously I was working on the last Band Edge Marker Oscillator and had just gather them into a group on the bench.  Something was said about they looked like they were there for a Family Photo - So,  why not - here it is!

The pre First - Not shown in photo, was an "Ugly Style Leaded" oscillator soldered to the top of a 9volt battery clip, photo is available in another Album.

Here is the Family, from left to right:
  • The First, was created to try to use SMD parts in Ugly Style.
  • The Second was the previous circuit in SMD Flat Layout, not all parts are SMD, I had just started using PCB Layout Tools and found PCB-FAB-In-A-Box.
  • The Third - using all SMD parts (except Crystal, Switch, and Antenna).
  • The Forth - New Layout and added a previous forgotten part - a decoupling cap, which made for low output.
  • The Fifth - New Layout, while trying to make it as small as possible.
Do I need five Markers? . . . . NO, they were just fun projects and I learned a Lot!

I do not currently have plans to expand the Family - Or, at least not until I can mount all of the components on the side of the Crystal, my skill level will need some improvement first.

This was a fun project - Now onto, Bigger Smaller and Better Things

Don't you just love this Radio/Electronic Stuff!
If NOT, you should not be reading this Blog


Sunday, October 25, 2009

A WSPR Transmit Engine

Among my many other projects, I have been thinking about building a WSPR Transmit Engine, a self contained module, that could be paired with a (simple or complex) Oscillator/Transmitter on any band.

I really want to follow G3XBM and G4ILO's leads and get on other interesting bands with a simple configuration.

My initial goals, desires or ideas for this modulator/controller are:
  • Self contained module
  • PIC or other controller
  • Simple rotary Input for CALL, Grid and Power
  • Display for interaction
  • Maybe an output to set Power on Transmitter
  • Provide Audio FSK and/or DC level for direct modulation
  • Transmit Control as necessary
  • Receiver for time tick from (WWV or other) for transmit timing, maybe using the TX antenna?
  • Easy connection to simple Oscillator/Transmitter
  • Simple low Battery power requirements
  • Built with simple and easy to obtain parts
  • Easy to reproduce in Manhattan, Ugly or SMD Style
  • Published Art Work, Source Code and Parts List
Does anyone have any other ideas to consider or as a starting point?


Here is what I think I know - more details to be added as they are known - please help if you can.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Replacement 30m DC Receiver

I currently run a SA602 Direct Conversion Receiver ( old  Photo ) on 30m for QRSS Grabber and WSPR monitor. I built the receiver about a year ago using "Ugly Style Construction" and so far it has served me well, with the excepting that some 60Hz hum that can be seen on the Grabber, at:

I plan to build a replacement, to try to eliminate the hum problem, by; eliminating some ground loops, provide more audio isolation, and update it with all SMD components.

A Trial Fit

This is a start, an audio isolation transformer still needs to be included on the left hand side, and the audio section needs to move left a little so that I can put a divider in the centre slots.

Round fillets would be nice to fit the box better, but the PCB software (DipTrace) does not provide good support for that yet ( it is the beta ), besides, my notcher only does square corners - rounds are a pain.


Friday, October 23, 2009

SMD Trimmer Dissection

On the same order as the Micro Soldering Tips, I ordered some additional micro Trim Caps - these things are great - I am sure many of them will be included in my future projects.

Because I now have several - I had to take one apart to see:

"hows it made?"

Three parts; Ceramic Base, Slotted Rotor, and a Cage

The main part is a ceramic block with two metallised plates on the top surface, one on each end.  The top slotted ceramic disk is half metallised, and rotates within the metal cage. The cage straddles the ceramic block, with tabs folded over the sides, and one end. The part would normally be soldered on three sides to one connection, and the forth edge becomes the second connection. It takes a very-very small screwdriver to tweak this thing.

This Cap is 2-20pF, 25Volts, and NPO
Which is great for Oscillators!

I do not understand the physics of this thing, How or at what point would the disk be at maximum capacitance? A higher power magnifier is needed for a closer look to discover it's secrets.


Marker Project Resumes

The Micro-Tips for my soldering iron were received today. The unfinished Band Edge Marker Projects resumes, - and now is finished.

Marker Finished, and On Frequency

I know, they all look alike?  But, they are getting smaller, and they are still just fun to build. I have about $18.00 invested in this Marker (that is in small-lot-quantity part prices).


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Unsuccessful QRSS Online

The other day I turned off my WSPR, Home QRSS Grabber and DigiPan receive programs, and installed my small QRSS Centre Dipole Transmitter.  The System ran for about 30 hours, But Grabber spots were not reported, not even my own remote grabber which is about 8 miles away.

I do not think the 43uw (as measure on an RF Test Set) into a dipole at 15 feet AGL is enough for DX and the ground wave can not go the distance to my grabber.

Centre Dipole Insulator QRSS Transmitter

The Transmitter is installed via clip leads into the Centre Insulator on a 30 meter Dipole.

The Transmitter's Working QTH

Planned improvements include more power (qrp QRO), maybe up to a few milli-watts. I have some 2n7002 which will work great for a PA, at the expense of battery life. Just another project to finish - Don't ya' just love it!


Fifth Generation QRSS Band Edge Marker

OK, I admit it, I have a obsession for small Home-brew electronic projects.

This is the next iteration of my QRSS Band Edge Marker, my goal is to make it even smaller.

Marker - PCB Art Work

This Home-brew PCB is 1.0 X 0.75 inch; with 15mil traces, 10mil GND Grid, 3pt font, and using 1206 parts.

This is a standard Colpitts Oscillator, with my own modifications for stability.

The black thing in the centre is a L78L05 Voltage Regulator - left of it is a 2N3904 SOT-23. On the bottom row, the third component from the left is a GKY50086 4.5-50pF Trimmer Cap. For this oscillator, the trimmer should have been a smaller value and NPO, but this is only value I have a present.

I normally do not like to cut the leads off of new crystals, but this a dedicated application and this is where it will always be.

I LOVE small parts!

Project on hold, waiting
Soldering Iron Micro Tip Replacement

While working on this project, I changed the tip of my new soldering iron for a larger size to solder the ground wire onto the crystal.  Unfortunately, the micro tip (1/64 inch wide) that I removed is was very fragile and does not like rough treatment - as I found out!

Without a spare micro soldering tip - this project is on hold until replacement (557-7566-100) arrives.

Six replacements tips are now on order - never again do I want to be without a spare.

I only had six more solder joints to make on this project!

My other soldering irons do not have small enough tips, as necessary for this task.

BTW: The photo above was taken through a Ring Magnifier Lamp with a older camera, it is less than expected of a real Macro Lens Camera, but it is OK for my purposes.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Forth Generation QRSS Band Edge Marker

With a few new parts from Mouser, I was able to re-implement my QRSS Band Edge Marker for the forth time. See several previous posts.

Now all of the parts for the Marker are SMD; except for the Crystal, Switch and Antenna (the 2pF Cap standing on end). The replacement of the original large trimmer cap with a new SMD part, has helped make the Marker much smaller.

I was running out of old, good quality surplus trimmers, so these new SMD trimmers will come in handy for many of my other projects.

The Marker is set at 10.140100mHz, and will be used as a band edge Marker between QRSS and WSPR. The Marker is very stable as measured by ARGO.

I enjoy building very small QRP things.
The PCB is 1.225 X 0.800 inches,
most parts are 1206's.

My goal is to reduce the size so that I can mount all of the components on the side of the crystal, powered with two watch batteries - which may not be possible, but I will try.

I can see from distortion in the photo, that I need to work on my Macro Photography methods.    I replaced the bad photo.

  • I have started a new configuration of this same circuit that will be: 1.00 X 0.750 inches. I could make it much smaller by stacking parts, which is somewhat like "Ugly Construction" style on a PCB - but, for now I will stick with the flat SMD PCB method.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 2009 - eBuild-A-Thon and BBQ

We just finished the third - eBuild-A-Thon and BBQ.

I neglected to get a proper list of attendee, so, sorry if the following details are incorrect.

Due to previous commitment, some of the Sky Valley Amateur Radio Club Hams came by early and were unable to stay the whole day. We toured the Shop and discussed future suggested projects, including proposed PCB design methods.

Sky Valley Attendees were:
  • Tom Singleton - K8TOM and his Sons (didn't get their calls)
  • Charlie - N6IBI
  • Diane - KE6JRP
  • Dave Axe - W7AGJ
Later in the morning, the following arrived to join the days activities:
  • Roger - K7RXV
  • John - KC7NVE
  • Jeff - K07M
  • Dave Axe - W7AGJ - Returned for the second visit

As usual, Tess - my dog, was uneasy with all of the visitors, she loves kids and warms up to them quickly, but adults are different. Knowing that Tess loves to chase Balls, I decided to try something different with this group and Tess. Carolyn (my sister) helped to find Tess a ball, that could be thrown or kicked by each person - after that, each person was Tess's friend and all apprehension was gone. Only with a loud clap of thunder, from the approaching storm, did the ball play stopped for shelter at my feet.

Tess inspecting the base of the Antenna, . . . .
Or is that the Ball that she wants!

John - KC7NVE, brought his Transceiver, Laptop and did some PSK31 set up and work. He used my 30m vertical antenna and was able to use the built-in antenna tuner to match it for other bands.

Roger - K7RXV, brought his newly minted Two Port Network Analyser (from , to try out and show the group it's operation. After a technical discussion of it's attributes, we connected it to my 30m antenna to review it's tuned configuration. The Network Analyser reported a 1.05:1 SWR at a frequency slightly above my normal use at 10.140mHz - I was thrilled!

Reviewing Analyser Reports

While testing the 30m Antenna, and during a fast moving rain squall, the Analyser report went nuts, SWR went way up and the resonate point flattened and lost definition.

Question: with all of the playing with the Antenna Analyser, did we change something that messed up the report? 

No, with a lot of investigation, we found that the feed-point-ground at the base of the antenna was intermittent. The ground point was implemented via a spring clipped copper strap around the ground support. The previous days of windy-stormy weather must have loosened the clip and made it intermittent during the current rain squall and for our tests. A quick snap of a pair of vice-grip pliers, solved the problem (I'll fix a permanent solution later).

This is a temporary Ground connection Fix

Three of the Donkeys came to the Shop edge,  and tried to provide insight into our antenna problem, but by that time we had the problem solved. Therefore, they only received sugar cubes for their efforts.

The Rejected Antenna Engineering Support Crew

Jeff - K07M, brought in several of his projects that he has been using with his airplane for reporting his position, via the web, while traveling across country. He has several ideas for mounting the newer generation of hardware within his plane. I have seen several of Jeff's kit built projects - Jeff is a Master Builder, with excellent soldering techniques.

When Dave - W7AGJ, returned, he provided a prepared report on the propagation terrain path from the Sky Valley 2m Repeater to my QTH. It is no wonder that I have trouble receiving the repeater. In the three miles path there are several ridges, with trees, higher than line of sight between the repeater and my QTH. The suggested solution; was a Chain Saw, or a higher fixed base station antenna. Unfortunately, the antenna will have to wait.

I re-demo'd the "PCB Fab-In-a-Box" building techniques, we created another small PCB, which we also used it to practice SMD soldering techniques.

There were many other discussions and activities that have not be mentioned - but for more on that, you will just have to join us and enjoy!


A Note:

It is great to be associated with such great Amateur Radio artistic Knack giants, where harmonious discussions provides each with something more than the sum of the parts.

After twenty plus years of teaching short technical courses, I have developed and validated a Theory:

The Instructor always learns more from a teaching event, than the Student.

And now, after Hosting three eBuild-A-Thon events in my Shop, I have developed the first Corollary:

The Host always enjoys more from a technical event, than the Attendee.

My validation is as follows; there is no way that a person has the capacity to contain or could obtain more enjoyment than I, from hosting these events! . . . . .

Thanks to my Friends - Eldon - WA0UWH



I wanted to just say a big "thank you'" to you and your sister Carolyn for hosting us on Saturday. I know that there are others from the club that were very interested in visiting your place, but couldn't make it this time. Based on word of mouth reputation and a little more lead time on the announcement, I wouldn't be surprised to see several more folks there next time.

Anyway, it is extremely kind and generous of you to allow us there as guests and hobbyists. It's just a fabulous place. I will try to remember to send out the meeting notice a bit earlier this time to hopefully allow folks to be able to reserve some time to come by.

This is the sort of fellowship and help that radio clubs are established to foster, and I am very appreciative of your contribution.




Thursday, October 15, 2009

WSPR Receive on 500kHz

Now that I can run two WSPR stations, one in Tx/Rx and the other in Rx only, I started looking around at other Bands to explore.

I have a few passions; Minimalist Systems, 30 Meters, VLF/LF/MF and K Band.  The 500kHz (600 meters) or the like is something that I have always wanted to explore. G3XBM has rekindled my interest in Med Freq, even though I can only receive. Maybe someone local to the Pacific Northwest has the same interest, I will leave the WSPR receiver on this Band a few days.

Who knows, maybe I will receive WAPR over the pole from Europe.

I will have to look up the Regs for US Ham use of the 600m band, and the lower frequencies in general.


Two Reporters on WSPR

For a long time I wanted to run WSPR on my Ubuntu system, after many Google searches I found G4ILO where WSPR was compiled for the PCee system which is Linux.  I downloaded it to run on my Ubuntu workstation.

So now what do I do with it?

I decided to try to "receive only" the same spots on a second Receiver (Kenwood R-2000) as on my standard WSPR station (IC-730). It was interesting to compare the Timing, Frequency and Signal Strength between the two system received spots.

THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN, THE IC-730 TRANSMITTED!!!,  on it regular schedule, into the poor R-2000's ear (antenna) and mine! The S meter went Off Scale at +++40db , it is a wonder that the R-2000 front-end was not blown!

The R-2000 Receiver must be well protected, so far it has not appeared to have suffered ill effects, after multiple assaults.

When I started this, I did not "upload" my R-2000 received spots.

BUT, Why not?

But, How? I already have the IC-730 reporting spots and I wanted to have both receivers report separately into the WSPR Data Base and onto the Map.

I turned on reporting.

I checked the WSPR Data Base and sure enough, two spots were being reported and logged with different signal strength for the same receiving call sign. The WSPR Map would only show the original call FLAG (maybe the "red" (receive only) FLAG may have be behind, but I could not see it).

I tried several things; I change my call to "WA0UWH2" - that work for the Map, but the DB did not report and received spots - I think because the added suffix of "2" was not a standard call format. I think (but, I may be wrong) the DB only reports spots "to and from" active transmit stations? The Map reports "Receive only" stations with a red call FLAG.

I changed the configuration back to "WA0UWH" and decided to try to make the call FLAG stand out, I could move the mapped point by changing the reported grid location "over by one" grid square. Besides, that is where my Data Centre is located and I will have receiver there, someday?  My call "WA0UWH" was reporting itself to the DB in Grid "CN97bv" and to "CN97av"!! It worked!?

But, I checked the WSPR Map, only the original call FLAG was being displayed for my call sign.

I decided to try something else, I removed the last letter of my call for  the "receive only" stations. I checked the QRZ call Data Base, my foreshortened call "WA0UW" is not assigned, and I think a SWL-only station can use anything they desire for a handle? maybe? Or it may be illegal?

For now, I have Two Map Flags, and Two Data Base entries for each received spot. Note, the Signal Strength is very different from each, as the receivers and antennas in use are very different. The FLAGS still covered each other on the map, so I cheated a little more and move the R-2000 up a grid square (now it is; up one, over one).


Now I can start looking at some received diversity reports, and see it displayed on the WSPR Map.

Too bad, the WSPR reporting system did not easily accommodate multiple receiver situations like this? I'll have to request it.


WSPR Data base now allows for Call sufixes, you may see my receive only station as WA0UWH/R - the R is for "remote".


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Storm Outage

I think we have recovered from yesterdays wind storm and the resulting power outages.  The Receivers, Computers, Clocks, WIFI, Satellite Internet and Web Servers all had to be rebooted or restarted. The QRSS and WSPR processes are all restarted and reporting as normal.

The only damage or casualty was maybe a UPS, more tests are necessary.

Today it looks like we will have just a little wind and some rain.

Problem, I will have to trouble shoot QRSS Receive the next time I am at the Server.


Monday, October 12, 2009

October 2009 - eBuild-A-Thon and BBQ


This Saturday, Oct 17, 2009, my Shop is available by Invitation for Building Electronic Projects as before, see link:

Due to the possibility of cold unpredictable weather, the outside "BBQ" will be replaced with indoor "Cold-Cuts", bring additions to share if your like.

I plan to re-demo PCB generation, Etch and SMD soldering. If you would like to try your hand at this, junk boards will be available.

Please bring "Show and Tell", Build Projects, QRP Rigs, small tools and Laptops (WIFI, Internet and printers are available).

See this link for All the Details, Map, and RSVP:


Sunday, October 11, 2009

A new 30m Vertical - Installed

My new 30m Vertical is Installed at the new Data Centre and the Direct Conversion Receiver (SA602) is providing QRSS Grabber Images to the WEB - so far, it works like a Champ! (fingers crossed).

Installed and working!!
With an under ground feed
Radials will be installed later, before sod is installed

The Grabber Web address is:

I hope the is NOT a premature announcement of a successful move of my Seattle QRSS Grabber with 24x7 Availability.  After making several similar announcements, over the last 6 months, on failed attempts, I think I got all the right pieces in place this time.

I would have NOT believed that it was going to take this long to relocate my grabber and have it in operation.

The new Antenna, Grabber and Data Centre is about 7 miles way from my QTH, which means that I can now transmit PSK or other, without de-sensing or overloading the Grabber Receiver.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

A new 30m Vertical - Base

I finished the 30m Vertical Base, it is complete, and ready for installation. The upper aluminium sections are cut and split, also ready for installation.  I will lub the slip joints with "GB OX-GARD" even though oxidation is not a problem away from salt water of Puget Sound.

This antenna will be used for QRSS, WSPR and PSK on 30 meters.

Ready to be mounted, the upper aluminium sections slip into this base and clamp at splits at the top of the first short base section.

I guessed at the value of a bleed resistor 2.2K Ohms. It is what I had, greater than 10 time 75 Ohms. The end of the aluminium sections are open so they do not collect water, which was a problem with my old 4-BTV base.

The copper strap will be in contact with the support pipe which is driven into the  ground. Radials will be attached on the bolts below.

In hind sight, it may have been less expensive to find a commercial 20 or 40 meter antenna and make modifications, but I do not know of such an antenna. Maybe I should have just used a wire strung in a tree!?

But, It was still a good enjoyable Shop Project!


My Heroes Day - Oct 10, 2009

Today would have been my Dad's 88th Birthday - Oct 10, 2009.

In honour of my Dad, I declare  -  Oct 10, 2009 as My Heroes Day.

I have heard that you can help keep someone's memories alive by occasionally saying their name, this is my place to say My Heroes Names.

These are My Heroes

 By: Eldon R. Brown SR

First and Foremost, My Dad:  Leonard J. Brown 1921 - 1998
  • My Dad was not an educated man, he only went to the third grade, but he was the; smartest, wisest man I have ever known. He could fix or build anything, as shown in the photo below.  While clearing a home site (1949), when I was three years old, he was inventing an easy way to move and lift logs, with the aid of the back wheel of an old car that he converted into a tractor.
  • My Dad was the Original MacGyver.
  • My Dad encouraged me to get a good education and provided many opportunities to explore my interests.
  • My Dad would never say "no" to any of my requests, but would encourage me to follow my ideas.

A Friend of the Family: Glenn Ronfeldt - a Second Father Figure
  • Glenn introduced me to electronics at about the age of 7, by giving me a "Radio Kit" - which was a medium size box filled with parts; coils, resistors, capacitors, tubes and connectors. I worked with those parts for years, building many things, most of which did not work, but I used a lot of solder and spent a lot of time doing it. The kit started me off and it kept me off-of-the-streets and working on electronic projects.
  • When Glenn passed away, I collected parts and returned to him the equivalent "Radio Kit", made up of modern micro electronic parts. The replacement kit was contained in a small glass vial, which I tucked into his shirt pocket, just before they closed his casket. But that, by far, will NOT repay my debt.

Antioch, CA - Antioch High School
My Electronic Teacher (1962-1963): Mr. Larry Heath
  • Mr. Heath, provided the information and encouragement to learn the theory and details of electronics - Ohms Law, RC Time Constants, Inductance, Capacitance, and Tubes. In the class we built many kits and projects. 
  • Mr. Heath and I both took the Amateur Radio Novice test about the same time, he became WN6CMD (I think) and I became WN6CMS. 
  • Several years ago we exchanged email.
  • The last information I have on Mr Heath is here.
  • Note: I do not know Mr. Heath's status or location.

Antioch, CA - Antioch High School
My Drafting Teacher  (1961-1964): Mr. Bruno Favro
  • Mr. Favro taught me how to think as a self critical engineer, looking at all aspects of 3D design, and how to document my ideas. He was very tough and critical, but very fair.
  • Note: I do not know Mr. Favro's status or location. 

My Childhood Fictional Heroes:
  • The Lone Ranger - Clayton Moore
  • Ben Cartwright - Lorne Greene
  • The Duke - John Wayne

For better or worse, these Heroes helped make me what I have become.


Friday, October 9, 2009

A 30m Signal Black Hole

Last night, Oct 8, 2009 about 8pm (local) I checked my WSPR receiver for activity - there was NONE!

It was like the receiver was disconnected from the antenna - in fact, I checked all of the antenna connections looking for a problem. The S meter was indicating near zero for background noise.  Only the "heart beat" of my electric fence charger moved the needle off of zero, I unpluged the charger and then,  . . . Nothing, Nada, Zip - S Zero!

At intervals, only one station, a friend, Doug W7RDP (about 21 miles away) was being Heard and Reported via WSPR. Which was also unusual in itself, as we do not often report each others WSPR signals. Doug was also not being Heard or Reporting any other WSPR stations.

Also, there were no QRSS signals being heard.  My QRSS Grabber was blank - it looked like an off-station TV screen.

I must have been in "A 30m Signal Black Hole"!

This was very unusual, normally about 8pm, 30m is HOT.

The only thing that I suspect, for the lack of signals in-or-out of my QRH, was the strange weather. It had been a clear all day, followed by a very dense low overcast evening.

Could contrasting weather layers trap signals in, and prevent outside signals from reaching my antenna?

I wonder if anyone has ever report this type of signal or weather related condition?

It would be interesting to review the WSPR data base for when the "Black Hole" effect started, how long it lasted, and how large an area was affected.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

A new 30m Vertical - Insulators

I have started machining the Hard Plastic Insulators for the antenna mounting bracket.

Centre hole to fit largest antenna tube

Ian, my Great Nephew (9yr) is staying with me for a few days, he likes to work in my Shop on small projects. But, I do not like him to be close to the machines while I am intently working. So, I gave him a project to keep him busy - I thought, it would take him about two hours to put a plastic Transmission Kit project together. NOT! - he was done in about 30 minutes.

 Parts laid out, with instructions at the ready

He is going to be a great Engineer someday!

Back to my Insulator Project

Ready to start turning the outside

Almost finished machining the first Insulator
This is a just a trial fit.

Ian's Finished Project

Ian was finished long before I was finished for the day!

After his project was finished, he wanted to just stand and watch the turning process on the Insulators.

It is a real joy to have someone, so young, so interested, and so intent on Shop projects.

Unfortunately Ian will not have a chance to get much Shop training in school - as I once had in my high school Shop classes. Local schools "don't do Shop" any longer. Looking back now, if it had not been for my Shop classes - I would have been just another LOST kid in a big school!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A New 30m Vertical

As promised (see previous post), I have started building a second free standing 1/4 wave 30m Vertical Antenna, for my QRSS Grabber Receiver, which will be installed at the new Web Server Data Centre.

The antenna will be constructed similar to my old Hustler 4-BTV Multi Band Antenna and will be mounted on a stake driven into the ground.

The Blank - 24 x 4 Inches

Machined and Cut
The half cut scored lines will help make the folds easy

Folded, Welded, Painted and U-Bolts Installed

Ready for Insulators
(humm, . . Now that I posted the photo, it looks upside down? -  but you get the idea)

Now, I will machine the Insulators from some Hard Plastic.


New Soldering Iron

I have been using the same Soldering Iron for the past 30 years, it is a 60W Weller. I have gone through about 4 tips in that time, and now I am due for a tip replacement,  I need a new "smaller tip" for SMD circuits. I have checked with local suppliers, they just laughed! The tips for my old Weller are getting hard to find, if at all. I will continue to look online, the Iron is still good and I like it.

To keep my projects going, I have decided to look for something new. I have checked the local suppliers and did not find anything that I liked.

About 45 years ago, a "rich" friend of mine, lent me his New State-of-the-Art "Cordless Soldering Iron". It was great, very light, heated fast, and with a work light. But, I thought it was a little small for the soldering tasks of the time.

Well, times have changed!

The other day while ordering some SMD components from Mouser, I ran across the Soldering Iron catalogue page, and there on the page was the "Wahl - Cordless Soldering Iron" (557-7800) just like the one that I had used 45 years ago (at least it looks like the same). I am a little richer now, so I added it to the order. I also ordered the Micro HI-E Tip (557-7566-100).

Soldering Iron and Stand

Fine Tip

Today, the order arrived. After unpacking and installing the Micro Tip and doing some initial test SMD soldering joints - I am very please with my new Soldering Iron. It is much better than I remembered, from long ago. From my perspective - parts sizes have caught up with the iron's ability. The Micro Tip is just right for SMD work - and it's not tied to a wall socket!

It is interesting, after all this time, I am still using 45-Year-Old-Technology, on new tech-SMD projects.

Now, if I can just find a tip for my old Weller,  .  .  .  just to keep in going!

  • I took it apart (what else would you have expected - it has screws!).  I noticed after sitting on it stand, it indicated that it was fully charged via a little red LED, also I noticed that the handle was warm (I now know that it must have recently finished charging).
  • How does it know when it is charged?
  • Simple, there is a "heat latching breaker" that sits on top of, and in contact with the battery. When the battery get hot the breaker contacts opens, and across the breaker contacts is a limit resistor and LED. I assume the small LED current that by-pass the open breaker contacts provides a trickle charge, probably less than 10mA.
  • To restart the charging cycle, you are required to reset the breaker via a small slide switch. This seams like a cleaver and reasonable approach to a NiCad charging problem.
  • Interesting, the breaker is not in the tip heating circuit!?

UPDATE: I think this is a link for new Tips for my old 60W Weller:
  • Three Tips are now on order.

UPDATE 2: Finally, after miss-shipment and lots of delays - I received my order on Nov 6, 2009.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Editing my Blog

I am sure glad it is easy to edit posts on, I make many mistakes and after the initial post and while re-reading them, I normally edit each one about ten times before feeling it's finished. More often than not, I forget word suffixes like "ed" or "s" and make other spelling or grammar mistakes - "Spell Check" is a Blessing and a Curse!

I know, I am not the best writer and not as polished as I should be, but I think "scrambled thoughts on paper" are much better than "untested, polished thoughts only in your head". 

I am kind of wondering what "viewers" like you see when this blog keeps changes with my edits?

For some of my posts, I have intentionally made modifications as Addendums or UPDATEs, as more information is known about a project. Other times I just Link to the original post in a new a new one - that is, If much more information is needed or the information feels like is goes in another directions.

I hope all of this free-form does not confuse anyone.

I have to remember that this blog was original just notes to myself and a place to keep associated project Links. If others find this useful - so much the better! So far, the Cluster Map suggest about 700 "viewers" have at least looked at this site since July 2009, and I have received a lot of e-mail about my projects - Thanks, I did not expect that!

The lesson learned - I think ever person should have a blog on which to post things that interest them, there are many blog space providers - and it is much simpler than you think.

Note: This simple post has already been edited about ten  sixteen times.

Working on the 30m Vertical Antenna

I have moved my Web Server to the new DataCenter location, and now have spent some time getting ready to install a 30m Vertical Antenna for my 30m QRSS Grabber Receiver at that location. We dug the ditch for the under ground antenna feed line which will be about 40 meters away from the building. The coax is installed and now I need to build the antenna itself.  I have purchased three telescoping 12 foot aluminium sections (which as much more expensive than I expected) to assemble a free standing 1/4 wave 30m Vertical. I plan to build a base, similar to my old 4-BTV multi band vertical antenna and attach it to a pipe driven into the ground. Some ground radials will be installed later as the area will be covered with sod and the installation of radials will be easy.

Currently my 30m QRSS Grabber Receiver is still at home, from which I transfer the Grabber Images to the Web Server as they are created to the new Web Server DataCenter location via the Internet. My home is served via a Satellite Internet Service and upload transfer speed are slow (and it detracts from my available band width).

So, . . . soon if all goes well, I will be serving my 30m QRSS Grabber Receiver Images from the same location as they are received, and updates to the Web will be more often.