The Christmas Train

K8NY

Since 2012 I have been running the Christmas Train on Christmas Eve and now Christmas Day. The “train” is actually a virtual train, I am still here at my station but am welcoming hams from all over the world to participate.

The purpose and message of the Christmas Train is simple: Sharing the Joy and Happiness of the Christmas Season with other radio operators. Our big hope is that we hams also carry over that joy into our daily lives.

Starting on Christmas Eve 2014 and continuing, we have another Christmas Train “engineer” who will be operating on alternate frequencies. Randy, W9RWB, will be operational from his station in Missouri. The pictured QSL above  is available for an sase (stateside) and will be complimentary sent to any DX stations.

Operations will commence for DX  on 24 December at 1400Z. As we have posted on our QRZ sites, please check the Cluster Spots for station frequencies. We look forwar to working you this Christmas Season.

 

 

QSK and Boat Anchors

20151206_153456

I was on 40meter CW last week using my Boat Anchors (DX-60 & SB-303). Called CQ and KK4RF, Marty in Suffolk, VA, replied back. When we exchanged info on our rigs, discovered that he was also running a DX-60 and we enjoyed a very pleasant qso. (QSO video here). During that QSO, Marty told me about this homebrew QSK switch that he had built and was using. It provided full QSK break in as well as receiver grounding and optionally, muting of the receiver on transmit keystrokes. The circuit was designed by Phil, AD5X, who is a prolific designer and QST article author.

I found this QSK switch interesting as I was not happy with my current setup of manually switching my xmtr & rcvr with my DowKey relay. Since Marty had mentioned how well the unit worked, I decided to take a look at the circuit and construction layout to see if I was going to attempt construction. The article appears in the Feb 2012 issue of QST and is also on Phil’s website (AD5X QSK article). I found the circuit and hardware to not be all that difficult so I decided to go ahead and build it.

As is visible, there is  a complete parts list with Mouser part numbers if any parts are needed. I had most of the resistors, caps and all of the diodes but I needed to order most of the hardware, the Omron high speed relays and one of the transistors (the PNP).

The parts arrived relatively quickly and I decided to start immediately. After scribing the positions for the hardware I set to drill things out on my drill press.

Enclosure
Aluminum Enclosure ordered from Mouser

Pretty easy work and was able to borrow the larger drill bits from my buddy Mick, W8MLS.

 

I had a small Radio Shack PCB that I utilized and went ahead to determine parts layout. This was the most difficult portion of the project.

PCB with components laid out.

After setting up I soldered the circuit, installed the relays into the 16 pin sockets and tested functionality.

PCB installed in enclosure All hardware wired in

 

Completed Project Rear View

It worked very well. I then finished with installing the board and wiring the board to hardware (a bit tedious I might add).

 

Completed Project Front View

I tested the completed project and then installed it at my Boat Anchor position. The project worked flawlessly (QSK video here) and I now have updated QSK capability for these old radios. Thanks to Marty (KK4RF )for bringing it to my attention and Phil (AD5X) for his circuit design.

 

 

 

 

K8NY – To Contest or Not

 Well, as far as contesting is concerned I am kinda ambivalent to it all. On one hand I do not like losing the bands to contesters on weekends but on the other hand sometimes I do participate in them however briefly.
I used to operate at the K4VV contest station  and I really enjoyed that experience. It is fun especially in the heat of battle when the q’s per minute are running high.
Having a form of attention disorder (especially in my older years) it just gets kinda boring after sitting for awhile and holding my attention becomes difficult when activity has slackened.
That being said, I really have not participated in any test meaningfully in awhile. From my station here I will sometimes operate briefly in a test just to be active and make some q’s. Also, I am a member of PVRC (Potomac Valley Radio Club) and any points I can accrue will be directed to their total since I am a member. However there is one contest I do enjoy and that is ARRL  CW Sweepstakes. One of the main reasons for enjoying this test is the skill needed to copy the entire Exchange between stations. The Exchange consists of these elements: Consecutive Serial Number, Precedence, Call Sign, Check, and Section. So an Exchange would look like this example: 001 U K8NY 59 WV which indicates QSO number 001, U for Single Op Unlimited High Power, K8NY first licensed in 1959, and in the West Virginia section. If you’re operating the phone portion of this test the Exchange really is not all that difficult to exchange. However, I believe the CW Exchange is  a bit more “dicey” in terms of receiving all the correct elements.

Well I guess I would consider myself not a contester but I do enjoy the challenge of this particular contest.

What I am leading up to here is a little surprise that I received in the mail today. A large, white envelope folded in my mailbox was waiting for me and it was from the ARRL. I noticed just above the address and name the term Contest and the date 09/05/15 printed. I was a bit perplexed by that so upon arrival home I opened the envelope and was greeted with the following surprise.

2014 SweepStakes rot

 Actually I had no idea about the contest results as I just submitted it for the club points. So it turns out that it was 1st place in WV which, I guess, is not too difficult a task as there probably were not many folks participating from my state! As I had mentioned, I am really not into contesting and I have no awards to my name after 56 years of hamming (that’s another column) but it was neat to at least receive something for the effort and to know that my points were aggregated to the PVRC totals. I will promptly store this one in my file cabinet for my family to discard when I become SK hi hi!

 Update 2016
2015 Single Op Unlimited HP class
2015 Single Op Unlimited HP class

Just received this one from the ARRL. Looks nice with the other one in my file drawer.

 

 

Heathkit DX-60A (Part 3) Initial QSOs

Final Amp compartment with plate choke, parasitic choke and 6146 in view
Final Amp compartment with plate choke, parasitic choke and 6146 in view

Still trying to make that 1st QSO, I thought that I might be sending a bit too fast so I slowed it down to about 20 wpm. Sure enough, out of the ether comes a fairly staunch signal KV6Z, Bill from Claremont, OK. He’s pounding in at 599 so I let him know his report and all the particulars. When he comes back, he gives me a 599 as well and says the rig sounds good. Whew, finally the 1st QSO and I know the rig is working. Well, got that one under the belt now, not too shabby a signal report so I QRZ’d again and N4LQ, Steve in Charlotte, NC, replies. We’re both 599 and I tell Steve about the rig and apologize if I might be drifting a bit. Steve says “No drift and the signal tone is pure with no chirps or clicks”. I am surprised to say the least, this over 50 year old transmitter (using only 3 tubes for the CW portion) can transmit a clean CW note. Amazing!

 

Rear view of transmitter with octal accy socket and new Hayseed filter cap in view
Rear view of transmitter with octal accy socket and new Hayseed filter cap in view

After all the excitement, I sign with Steve and Mauro, I1MMR from Genoa calls in and gives me a 599 which was his report as well. I am elated to see everything percolating so well and I also am aware that having the 2 elements on 40 helps in putting in a decent signal at various locations.

Bottom view of the DX-60A
Bottom view of the DX-60A

I button it up for the evening and will have to wait until tomorrow to relive the 60’s era Ham Radio culture.

Heathkit DX-60A (part 2)

Waters Dummy Load - Wattmeter and DX-60A producing power
Waters Dummy Load – Wattmeter and DX-60A producing power

Getting ready for the serious RF and insuring that both the band switch of the DX-60 and the VFO were both set to 40 meters, I placed the meter switch in the PLATE position, set the Mode switch at first on AM and then to CW and using the Tune and Load caps, I was able to find a dip in the Tune and started increasing the Loading -always maintaining a resonant condition. Noticing the meter on the Waters, I saw the power starting to increase slowly (which is what I was aiming for). It initially read 12 watts and slowly increased to 35 watts. I kept taking rest periods as I was not confident of all this loading on the final (6146) and on the high voltage plate circuitry. Continuing on, I managed to get the Plate current to a resonant 100 mils  (which was a very low current according to the manual)but the power output was at 60 watts which is about the normal power out for this rig. My best guess is that the metering circuitry is off (for whatever reason) but the proof of the Drive and Final Amplifier circuitry is in the resultant output. Wow, really was not expecting that much power!

The Heathkit Lineup -  SB-303 receiver, HG-10B VFO and DX-60A transmitter.
The Heathkit Lineup – SB-303 receiver, HG-10B VFO and DX-60A transmitter.

My next task was to ensure that the signal that was being produced was a clean, stable and acceptable signal. Initially I would listen on my Icom IC7600 with no antenna and the attenuation fully on. If I tuned the receiver to a frequency 75 or 100 kHz off the transmit frequency, I knew I would be able to locate the signal on the scope of the 7600 and if it appeared too large I would not monitor it for fear of receiver overload. I packed up the rig, brought into the shack and started to connect the required cables and my paddle. Since I was not going to use my straight key or one of my Bugs, I decided to use the new Begali paddle I had purchased in May at Dayton. Since these old rigs did not have a built in keyer I would utilize my K1EL Winkeyer to key the rig which provides for grid block keying. With everything connected and my Steppir Yagi tuned for 40 cw, I set the grid drive to 2.5 mils and started loading the antenna. At 12 watts I could see the signal on my IC7600 Spectrum Scope and it was not a tremendously strong signal so I tuned the receiver to it. The sound seemed pure, the frequency was stable (I had warmed it up for over 1/2 hour) and I could not detect any key clicks or a chirp. I also monitor my RF output of my station through a Wavenode RF sensor. This sensor has a pickup that allows me to feed the signal to my oscilloscope and monitor it (I usually monitor my SSB waveform  to ensure its linearity) but I am also able to monitor the CW waveform. As my Winkeyer was running my stored CQ, I watched the CW trace on the scope. The envelope looked great- clean and even through CW pulsing. So far, so good. The next item I needed to accomplish was an actual CW QSO. So I made sure that my SB 303 receiver was on frequency and started calling CQ on 7027 Mhz. I was sending at about 27 to 29 wpm but not getting any responses. Uh oh!

TO BE CONTINUED……..

New Heathkit DX-60A

Heathkit DX-60A and HG-10B

 

Earlier this month (July) I had the opportunity to purchase a used (obviously) Heathkit DX-60A and HG-10B matching VFO.  Since I had recently been looking for an older Heath transmitter similar to the DX-20 that I used as a Novice way back in the early 60’s, I was fortunate to come across this listing on QRZ.com. I also noticed that the listing was from a Ham about 120 miles distant from me in the town of Waynesboro, VA (just down I-81).

N4JGO, Bob McCracken, was the Ham selling both items and I found them to be attractively priced. I made contact with Bob and we spoke about the rig. I made arrangements to pick up the rig, tested it out and bought it from Bob.  All of this took place over the 4th of July weekend and although we had some things taking place here at the QTH, I gave the rig a good going over. Bob was a wonderful Ham to deal with, very flexible and accommodating, a true Southern Gentleman.

Once I placed the rig on my work bench, I removed both covers in order to inspect the components and the build quality. I found nothing burnt or over worn and surprisingly noticed that the filter cap had been changed to a Hayseed Hamfest electrolytic as well as 5 other electrolytics in the circuitry. I also noticed that one resistor had been updated with a new CER, probably to ensure adequate  dissipation  of heat. Additionally, many of the existing caps have been replaced with Sprague “orange drops”, my guess is that one of the previous owners was interested in keeping a good signal on the air. Nice to see all these replacements being done.  The build quality was good although I did notice a few extra millimeters of lead length on many of the  terminals. Oh well.  The top of the chassis did have some rust stain marks on it and I did clean everything up but that’s the way with older rigs sometimes – being left in dank basements or sheds can leave some unsightly blemishes on metal. But for the most part, the transmitter was in excellent condition. So much for the Static I needed to get to the Dynamic.

I reinstalled the covers and proceeded to turn the system on and warm it up. All the tubes glowed, the VFO also came to life and I then connected my Waters  334A Dummy Load/Wattmeter to see what the rig was capable of doing. After waiting about 30 minutes, I gingerly set the drive level to the required 2.5ma. I had no problem in obtaining copious amounts of drive so I knew that the oscillator and driver were working well. Now for the moment of truth, will this transmitter generate any power and what about the purity and stability of the signal (if any)?    

TO BE CONTINUED…….

 

K8NY Blog Restart

Just restarting the blog from where I left off in March of this year when I had switched Hosting providers.
Am hoping to post some interesting topics and may go back through some recent events to discuss.