Radio – Adventure with a New Antenna

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everybody, hope all is well. Once upon a time, before the realization that ham radio was achievable, there were pursuits to communicate 30+ miles by radio. Okay, let me switch to real time here. When Fern and I moved to Oklahoma, we worked about 25 miles from our home. I put a CB radio in each vehicle, and one in the house. Well, I like CB radio, but being the nature of what it is, and living in hill country, CB just would not do the job.

Then I discovered another citizens band radio called MURS, which is around 151 MHz, and by the way CB is around 27 MHz. But, back to MURS. We picked up a few handheld commercial radios, which are programmable, and I put the MURS frequencies in the handhelds. Got a couple of mag mount ham radio antennas, which are built to function between 144 – 148 MHz. I thought, well 148, that’s pretty close to 151, and this little set up worked pretty good. We also use these same handhelds to communicate around the farm here.

But, getting back to the theme of tonight’s post, I decided to go big time. Now, remember, at this time I did not have a ham radio license, and the stuff I’m doing here really had nothing to do with ham radio. So, I devised a little system. I engineered a way to raise and lower an antenna pole, which I’m still using today, by the way. I still think that it was one of my more creative moments. But, on top of this raising and lowering marvel, I put a 16 foot Comet antenna. Except this antenna was not made for ham radio, it was made for 151 MHz, the commercial frequencies, and it worked great for the MURS frequencies. So now Fern and I can communicate from home to work, depending on whether or not the car was in a low spot or a high spot, it worked quite well. But, as fate would have it, our little newspaper had a little, bitty, teeny article about a ham radio class starting. And the rest is history, especially when I found out that you don’t have to learn Morse code at any level of ham radio any longer.

 So I tried this radio, I tried the Alinco mobile VHF/UHF, and it worked more than adequate. Good radio. But it’s a ham radio. What I wanted was a commercial radio, which is 100% legal on the ham frequencies. Now that I am spending more and more time on the ham frequencies, I needed a different antenna. Well, once I discovered the ham world, I put a couple of different antennas on the vehicles, and they work great. Then I decided I would take that same antenna, which is a CA 2×4 SR, CA means Comet. I connected it to a TRAM 1460 ground plane kit. 

Fern and I took the time to put it up on the pole today, and it doesn’t quite work as well as it does on the vehicles. I have two friends that

have this same type of antenna system, each one mounted in a base configuration. With two of my meters, their SWR checks okay, not

great, but okay. Well, here a few days ago I bought a new SWR power meter and mounted it permanently connected to my HF and VHF/UHF radios. It shows my SWR on the VHF to be unacceptable, not horrible, unacceptable, but still usable. And I can’t figure out what the problem is. I have three different SWR meters, these things kind of grow on you after a while, then you forget you have one and buy another one. Here’s the problem. My two portable SWR meters read high, but acceptable. My higher dollar SWR meter reads unacceptable, but still doable. Not the results that I wanted. So is my brand new higher dollar meter just a cute piece of junk? I wish I could tell you.

For you ham folks, my antenna analyzer shows high but acceptable SWR and the antenna tunes perfect at 161 MHz, you know, up by the railroad frequencies. But it shows about a 2 or a 3 from 144 – 156 MHz. I guess I need to reconsider my new high dollar meter, don’t I? But it’s up and it’s in the air, and it’s the first time I’ve done anything really strenuous since my back surgery. And at this time, I’m still walking. 

We started about 2:00 in the afternoon, I guess, and finished at about 6:00pm. Fern took a bunch of pictures. And you might ask yourself, why did it take so long? Well, I had to cut the coax, solder the connectors, doctor the burn from the soldering iron, it never fails me that I will touch that hot tip.

 

 

I had to get out my fingernail polish that I use in place of lock tight. 

I put Stuff on the new connections. Stuff, let’s see, it helps keep out moisture, that’s the main reason I use it on the connectors. And I used a new type stretchy tape to help seal the outside connectors.

Attaching ground plane

Putting Stuff on the antenna connection

But what took so long was getting the old antenna off of the pole. And it’s cold, my fingers didn’t want to work at 45 degrees with a cold northwest wind. I know that’s not cold to some of you fellas, but I’m sensitive. I had to move my cell phone booster antenna, and I also removed an 80 meter dipole that I had constructed. I really wish that they would not use metric on these antennas, but that’s another story.

We put the connectors on the ends of the coax in a bucket to keep moisture out.

Stainless steel scrubber blocking coax entry port into the house.

Attaching the new antenna to the pole.

Dusk is fast approaching as we prepare to lift the pole back up.


Wire has been run back into the house and hole blocked with a scrubber.

Finishing up by flashlight

The kitchen was a mess, but the new antenna is up.

Reconnecting all of the antennas

Fern took some pictures along the way. I hope you enjoy them, because here one of these days, if this experiment works okay, I’m going to put up a couple of new towers and try to improve my communication system. The new antenna works fine. I called a buddy down the road to see if we could still contact each other on simplex. You see, he lives closer to the highway than I do, and when the buses come to relocate us they will stop at his house first, and I want to know when the buses are coming. You should, too. Because the buses are going to come someday. Don’t get on the bus.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

P.S. Tuesday, December 30th is book bomb day for James, Wesley Rawles new book, which is a guide to the selection, use, and care of tools. Here is the link for your reading pleasure. We are looking forward to his latest publication.

 




Radio – Become a Ham, Part 10

Hello, Frank here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, or should I say YL’s and OM’s, things are quickly coming to a close. I expect this to be the next to the last post for the

Technician’s exam. This part coming up will deal with operating procedures. Before we get to operating procedures, let’s say you have read the manual, taken practices tests, talked to the ARRL folks, got yourself an Elmer, maybe taken the test, maybe even passed it. As eager as you are, you still cannot transmit on the radio. Now you can listen, listen anytime, anywhere, to anything going across the airwaves. But you ask, “I passed my test?” Congratulations! But until you receive notification from

the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), you cannot transmit. But they will notify you 1) via U.S. mail, 2) via FCC website. You will need to have your exact name as it was turned in on your application. When it is posted on the FCC website, then you are licensed to rag-chew with anyone that will listen within your band of authority.

Okay, so what are these band authorities? 10 meter, 28.3 through 28.5 MHz, 6 meter and up. One other thing you need to know. When you put

your call sign on an email anybody can go to numerous websites, QRZ.com for example, and get your name, address, city, zip code and a friendly map to your house. So be cautious who you give this information to. If you choose, when you take your test, you can use for

your address a post office box. You say, “My Elmer told me I have to use a physical address.” In the past you did, in the present you don’t. A post office box is perfectly acceptable with the FCC. As most of you know, Frank and Fern are pseudonyms. This is why I have never given you my call sign. So don’t feel slighted if I don’t share with you my personal data. Fern and I are very

particular about operational security. You should be too.

Okay. FM operation. You’ve got your VHF/UHF radio and you want to program it. I would highly recommend some type of computer program.

Most manufacturers provide either a disc or a download so you can program your radio. If you have an extra $40 to $45 I would highly recommend the RT programming systems. This makes life a whole lot easier. Okay. To program your radio, let’s start with simplex. This means you’re talking directly to another person, line of site.

Your transmit (TX) and receive (RX) frequency will be the same frequency, example: 146.52 MHz, which is a frequency that you might want to put in your radio. It is the national simplex frequency. That’s not on any test anywhere, I just thought you might want to know it.

On rare, rare occasions, simplex will have a CTCSS subtone – rare, rare, rare. You ask, “What is CTCSS?” Hold on, and I’ll let you know. If you want to use a repeater, which you probably will, it gets just a little bit more complicated. It is commonly called duplex operation. The reason being, 

when you transmit to a repeater on one frequency and it rebroadcasts your transmission out on a different frequency. For VHF this is plus or minus 600 kilohertz. If you have a scanner, then the frequency in your scanner is your receive frequency. So when you are programming your radio, if you put in the receive frequency, most newer radio programs will automatically set the offset. This is not difficult. Remember 600 KHz is 0.6 MHz. So either add or subtract 0.6 in the ham bands 144-148. Look at the little ICOM chart. You will see frequencies set up for repeaters above 146 and below 146. Play with it, figure it out. And it’s the same thing for UHF, except the plus or minus is 5 MHz. 

Well, if you say that that was easy enough, what’s this CTCSS? Most repeaters, but not all, require a PL tone or CTCSS to activate the repeater. This is normally used for transmission to the repeater. Otherwise you will

not be able to access the repeater and it retransmit your signal. So, you will need to put whatever the PL tone is for that repeater in your radio via your program. In rare, rare cases a PL tone is also used on the transmit side of the repeater, but this is very rare. These are normally used by police departments.

How to make a transmission: You’ve got your radio programmed, you put in the transmit frequency, you’ve put in the PL tone to open the repeater and you’ve put in the receive frequency. Here’s how you do it, this applies to duplex and simplex. You don’t go, “Break one nine, good buddy.” Do not use CB lingo. No ten-four. I do CB, I like CB, but I do not use CB talk on

ham radio. So, you want to call somebody. Let’s say their call sign is KF7MOM. You start off by calling them first, “KF7MOM” and then you give your call sign. Let’s say, “W7NEW”. You wait about ten seconds and you say it again, “KF7MOM, W7NEW”, you wait about ten more seconds, if you do not get a response, then give your call sign and you are finished. That’s it. Okay, why do you wait ten seconds if radio waves travel at the speed of light? Good question. Because KF7MOM might not have a VHF radio on and is receiving your radio’s transmission on the scanner. This will give KF7MOM the time to turn on the VHF radio and respond. Be patient. Okay, let’s say that you want to talk to anyone out there. Listen for a minute, make sure no one is on frequency

and put your call sign out. Some people will put out their call sign and say monitoring. How do you end a conversation? Just talk on the radio like you normally would, then say, “See you later.” and give your call sign. These rules are not set in concrete. There are local variations everywhere and no one is going to laugh at you, not that you will hear anyway. So just key up the mic, hold it about six to eight inches from your mouth and talk in a normal voice. Make sure that your finger is not covering the little bitty hole where the microphone is. 

Okay. Let’s switch over to HF for just a second. If you know who you are calling, the same protocol applies. If you just want somebody to talk to,

which remember is between 28.3-28.5 MHz, which is 10 meter upper side band. Turn your radio on, that is probably the most important step – the ON/OFF switch. Wait for a minute, make sure no one is on frequency and say, “CQ, CQ, CQ” (calling any station) and then give your call sign. Proper phonetics is used more often on HF, so use proper phonetics. Whiskey Seven Nora Echo Whiskey (W7NEW). For those of you that are long winded, you are required to give your call sign every ten minutes VHF, UHF or HF. Don’t forget, 10 meter is upper side band. 

Once you get to playing on your radio, you will find that most people are very, very polite, courteous and helpful. So please do not be the new, rude jerk. If you have an emergency and need to break into a conversation,

the standard procedure is to wait for a break in the conversation and say “Priority” or “Emergency” followed by your call sign. If you are rag chewing with your buddy, be it simplex or duplex, and anybody breaks in with an emergency, be prepared to take notes, but first clear the channel immediately. Let me repeat that. You clear the channel immediately and be prepared to help.

It’s recommended that you use the least amount of power required to operate your radio. The VHF repeater that I primarily use is about 25 miles away. I can activate the repeater comfortably with five watts. But, if there is a torrential downpour, I might need to use more power. Use the appropriate power level. This is one of those cases to where you really don’t impress anybody by using the most power that you can.

Okay, there’s some other stuff here that we didn’t talk about. I finished up through page 42. Next time we will pick up with rules and regulations and it should be the last post for the Technician exam. One last thing. After you get your Technician ticket and you decide to take your General test and pass it, then you will have General operating privileges at that time. Just thought I would throw that in.

Get in touch with ARRL. Schedule a test and take it. Take the practice tests, either free or paid for, it’s your choice. If you don’t feel comfortable, or that you’re not ready, go back and reread the posts again.

Read the other posts about CB, 10 meter radios and scanners. There is lots of good information in there. Get you an Elmer from ARRL. They give them away free. And one extra last thing. Don’t try to be a hotshot and fry your little girl’s brain. Being stupid is not pretty or funny. It’s kind of like being drunk, it ain’t cute. Safety first.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank