End Fed Antenna Review

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Okay, let’s review. By the title you can tell that this is going to be a review of an end fed antenna. Now, the review part. A wise man once said, write what you know about, and me being an advocate of advanced humor, I’m going to try to combine a little bit of knowledge with a little bit of humor. 

A disclaimer. Anywhere on this site, whether it is radio or chickens or pigs, we make no profit off of anything. There has been no gratuity awarded for any product endorsement. For those that do profit off of what they write, great! It is just not our forte.  

It’s been 3 years since I posted any type of article. A lot happens in three years. I have tried some antennas, some radios, I decided to try out heart surgery. I’ve now got one of those zippers from stem to stern. Not literally of course. And not being a person of nautical persuasion, I do not know the difference between stem and stern. But for those of you that are interested, I will share information about the bypass at a later date.

At a radio meeting one night, I heard a guy talking about his new antenna, and he was raving about it. Now all this guy does is CW, or morse code, he doesn’t even have a microphone attached to his radio. Let me back up here a little. This article is not being written at an entry level knowledge base. I’m sorry. So, if we’re speaking of CW and end fed, then you know I’m talking about HF radio. And yes, I know there is some CW on VHF, but that is not what we’re talking about here.

So, continuing. I listened to this guy, and he is a senior operator. So I listened for a while, and this guy learned CW from the United States military. And this guy talks CW all over the world. I’ll get back to this part of the story later.

Okay. The antenna I’m going to review today is made by MyAntennas.com  Yes, that is the name of the company. I will start off by saying I am highly impressed with this product. Are they pricey? Yes. Could you build your own? Probably. And if you would like to do that they will sell you the parts to do so. I bought the EFHW-8010

It is 130 feet long, resonant on 80/40/30/20/17/15/12/10M. It is rated at 1kW maximum. These are the specifications. If you’re not familiar with an end fed, which at the time, I was not, it is basically half of a full wave dipole, in this case, for 80 meters. Because if you remember, the number 468, that is your magic number that you use to figure the length of a half wave dipole. A small example, 468 divided by 3.5 equals 134. 3.5 is the lower end of 80M. So, 468 divided by 3.5 is 134 feet. If you were building an 80 meter dipole, it’s full length would be 134 feet, which would be 67 feet on each leg of the dipole.


Now follow me here. Through the miracle of using a balun, using the end fed half wave length antenna, then you can tune all of the afore mentioned frequencies. Or that’s how it works in theory anyway. Now I’m going to tell you how it works for me in reality.

Equipment used. My power supply is solar. The radio is an IC-718. I have approximately 100 feet of RG-8X from the radio to the end fed antenna. The feed end of the antenna is at 30 feet in the air, it runs approximately 50 feet to an apex of 40 feet and then continues whats left to a 30 foot height. This works okay for me. Your mileage may vary. I have a power transformer from the electric company about 50 feet away, and the apex of the antenna passes over a metal roof that is about 16 feet from ground level. These are the parameters that I have.


Now. This antenna will not transmit on 160M, but it will receive. I did not check for SWR on 30, 15,  or 12 meters because I don’t use those. It did work great on 40M, so 15M should also be good. Here’s what I got. 
All the following readings are SWR. 
80M – lower end 1:1.1
80M/75M – right at the higher end 1:2.5
40M – entire band 1:1.1
20M – entire band 1:1.1
10M – lower end 1:1.8
10M – middle and upper part 1:1.4
60M – the 5 channels 1:2.5
11M/CB – 1:2

As you can see, these are all easily tunable without a tuner. But with a tuner, your radio is happier. So, example. If you have a radio with a built in tuner, it would easily tune these numbers. If you have an external tuner like I do, then for most bands I don’t even use a tuner, and if I do, it just makes my radio a little bit happier.

Because this is a review of an antenna, I’m not going to discuss the theory of SWR. It’s one thing if you’re running 100 watts power, and another if you’re running a 1000 watts. But if you’re looking at this antenna, then you already know the difference.

This company, MyAntenna.com, also provides higher power antennas, just look around. They also sell baluns, RF isolators and other assorted goodies and toys.

Here is a link to eHam.net. I think you will find the reviews impressive.

If you have the space, or the desire, I would highly recommend this antenna. For me, it works. You can also configure it like you would any other dipole. Yes, it is a little pricey and it takes up 130 feet. What do I use it for? I do not contest, nor do I use CW, therefore there is no review of 30 meter. I have made contacts on 80/40/20M, and mostly on 40M. I seldom DX. And I seldom talk, but the reports I receive back are all 5/9, or easily intelligible. 

Again, I have no other end fed experience, I have never used a directional antenna, yes I know these are directional, but you know what I mean. For 10 & 11 meters I primarily use a vertical A99. 


 

I would appreciate your feedback, how your antennas are configured and what type of results you get. We’re all in this ballgame together, and if we can help out a fellow man, let’s please do so. If you have found mistakes in my writings or calculations, please let me know. This is just my experience. I look forward to hearing from you.

My XYL just reminded me that I need to let you know why I do this. First off, I listen. I want to know what’s coming down the road. As mentioned earlier, I operate from solar, not my whole house, but all of my radios, and that’s what it’s for. The system I use is simple. For me simple works better. The man I mentioned earlier that I learned about this antenna from operates all over the world when conditions permit.

In a future article I will tell you about my IC-7300 experience and why I went back to an IC-718. Thanks for being there.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

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 – Entry Level Equipment, Parts 1 & 2 – A Re-Post

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

On occasion, I’ll read a good book, something I find interesting, I’ll set it down and never read it again. I guess for some folks that’s just basic human nature. But, when I was a boy, especially a hard-headed one, it seems that I had to be reminded often the difference between right and wrong. Even though I knew what was right, I had to be reminded frequently, or at least that’s what my father thought, anyway. 

So, on occasion, I’m going to give you some re-posts. Understanding the basic human nature of most people, some would say, “I’ve already read that. I don’t need to read it again.” But, here it is, some good information about entry level equipment. I have to go back often and look up information that I have forgotten. But I’m getting older, and I don’t try to prove to anyone, anymore, anything. And if you’re new here, this will provide you with some entry level information about radio communication. 

In a couple of days I’m going to post information about some newer type radios that I’ve run across lately. Things change. What was new six months ago, has now been replaced, not always with something better, just replaced. So, in a few days I’ll be putting out a new post about good, solid, functional radio equipment that is new to me, and probably most of you. 

Remember, cute and pretty means nothing to me. I look for functional, solid equipment that works, at the best price I can find. Because with the recent turn of events in our country, those dark clouds on the horizon get closer everyday. If you have a family group that lives within a few miles of each other, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up a couple of handheld radios so you could all communicate.

On some good news, though, I would like to share with you a recent comment I received.

“Hi Frank and Fern
You may not find anything inspiring to write about today, but let me tell you….You two are very inspiring! Thank You for your blog and all the effort you put into it. Because I read your blog regularly, I showed my husband “Franks Radio Communications”. Those posts helped him a lot. He took the technicians test today and passed. Thank You for being here and giving us your insights and inspiration to learn.”
[11/22/14]

Getting your ham license can be very rewarding, it opens up numerous channels of communication, but it is not necessary for other forms of radio communications. I hope you enjoy this little review. Whichever avenue you choose to go, ham radio or not, communication is critical. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank 

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Originally published December 8, 2013

Radio – Entry Level Equipment

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everyone, hope everybody is well and happy. It’s still cold and slippery here, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Okay. So you want to get started. If you’ve read the other posts, then you know that there is no perfect radio. So, what I’m going to try to give you here are some options to ponder and some items to look for in whatever piece of equipment you choose. I’m going to start off with HF radios. And very similar to my other posts about chickens or goats, I can only share with you the experiences that I have had. Some folks want to jump in with both feet, buy some high dollar equipment, and if that’s your cup of tea, please do so. I still learn something new on a regular basis about ham radio. And I am very happy with the equipment that I use. Please don’t take this wrong, this is just for teaching purposes, but if I wanted a more expensive radio, I would buy it. Yes, finances are important to everyone, and I am by no means rich, wealthy or well off. But, as a general rule, I’m in a position in life where if I want or need something, then I will get it. 

We have a local man that I listen to on the VHF channels via a repeater. He appears to be intelligent, financially successful, well educated, articulate, he passed his Technician, General and Extra in a very short period of time with no problems. His first HF piece of equipment was what I would call a moderate, nice radio. Shortly thereafter, he bought a nicer radio, and now he’s talking about getting a top-of-the-line HF rig. He has also gone through the same sequence with antennas. He apparently has the financial means, and I am very happy for him. But I think he could have made better choices along the way, because he talks on the radio about the stuff that he has. And, again, this is fine. But this is not where I personally am coming from. So, if you want to buy a piece of equipment and tell everybody how much you spent, and this is your general forte, then I may not be able to help you out. If you want something that works, then I might be able to help you out.

So, let’s go. Please go to the Universal Radio website. Click on the left hand side on the online catalog button. We are now at catalog contents. Let me make a statement here. I have bought from Universal Radio and I probably will again in the future. They are not the most expensive or the least expensive, but I really like their site layout and they provide lots of data about the equipment they sell.

Now the top right hand column, click on amateur HF transceivers. You will see Alinco, ICOM, Kenwood and Yaesu. Since the ICOM column is the largest, let’s start there. As a general rule, but not always, their radios are listed from least expensive, going down, to most expensive. But this is not always the case.

First on the list, ICOM 718. This radio looks very familiar to me. Is is perfect? No. Under features, on the left hand side, it has AM/SSB/CW modes. What you don’t see is FM. You also don’t see an automatic tuner. So, if you want to operate 10 meter FM, you can’t do it with this radio. If you want to look at a screen in front of you that tells you another radio’s signal strength, you can’t do it. This is an entry level radio that will do what most HF operators require. That is, basic requirements. 

Okay, scroll down to the accessories. Second one on the list is AH-4. That is an automatic antenna tuner. Great. But you can buy one from another company for half the price that works better. LDG Electronics makes a fine quality antenna tuner for about half the price and it should be sold right here by Universal. We’ll get to that in a minute. They have other things going up and down there for other accessories. For the most part you will not need any of these accessories.

Okay, I’m going to hit the back button. Next on the ICOM list is the IC-7000. Okay, let’s take a look at some of the features. This is a nice radio, relatively inexpensive. So, play around in here. See if it has what

you want. You’ll notice under features on the right hand side it says, 100 watts HF plus 
6 meter. Underneath that it says, 50 watts 2 meter,            35 watts 440. 2 meter is VHF, 440 is UHF, but you know that, don’t you? Okay, so this radio will do VHF, UHF, and HF. It has AM and FM and you know that because VHF and UHF are FM and most HF is AM. It doesn’t say SSB? Well, scroll down a little bit and you will see it in the written print a couple of lines above accessories. This is a nice radio and if you’re one of those that’s wants to buy one radio, take a look. But something you can’t do with this is listen to HF and VHF at the same time. Most of the time that would take two separate radios.

Okay, click back to the HF page. So, let’s pick out another ICOM, the IC-7800. It only costs $10,500. This is not an entry level radio. If this is your cup of tea and this is what you want to do, then go for it. This will do more than most people will ever use in a lifetime. And if you want to tell your friends, looky what I’ve got, this will do the job. This radio is well, well out of my league. But it is pretty.

Okay, why don’t you scan through them, play with them, look at the rest of the ICOM’s. A lot of people like Kenwoods. Let’s look at the TS480. This is also a nice radio. Many people like Kenwood, I guess it’s like anything in

life. If your daddy drove a Ford pickup, there’s a good chance you will drive a Ford pickup. Remember that some people will argue to the end of the world that one brand is better than the other. I would recommend you find another crowd. These are all good radios. Just because somebody’s grandpa had another brand doesn’t make it any better. But if that’s what you want, go for it. Please check out the Kenwoods.

Next on this little list are the Yaesu’s. First is the FT-450D. If I were not using my ICOM-718, this would be my second choice. Fairly easy to use, has a built in antenna tuning system. It is a nice solid entry level radio. If you read through the features, it offers what most people need. I would give this radio a solid look. Yaesu offers some interesting radios that most companies don’t. Check out the 817, 857 and 897. These are in some way, a portable type radio. But also make sure they have the desired power levels you want. Yaesu has other good solid radios. 

Please peruse through these radios. Visit with your Elmer. If your Elmer is of the nature that only one type brand of radio will work, get you a different Elmer with a little bit more of an open mind.

Okay, let’s go back up to the top of this HF list and check out the Alincos. The DX-SR8T is your true entry level radio. But it will cover the entire HF bands in all modes, has good power, does require an antenna tuner, and

overall gets pretty good reviews. Let me stress here that there are old salts out there using entry level radios and have been for years and years. The radio that they have meets their needs. I happen to be one of those. I am relatively new to amateur radio, but I have found a radio that meets my needs. I have no intention of switching. I can talk to people anywhere, and I can listen to people anywhere. This is all I need.

Okay. Antennas. The proper antenna is unquestionably the most important piece of equipment you can own. You can have a top-of-the-line HF radio, but if you have a poor antenna, or a poor connection, or any part of the delivery system is inadequate, then your top-of-the-line HF radio will only function as well as the weakest link. Something to think about.

Okay, I went back to the online catalog page, I’m in the right hand column, about halfway down you will see amateur base antennas. Click there. You will see that the vast majority of these are vertical antennas. If this is what you want, go for it. Go down to the brand name Gap. The Challenger DX, please click there. This antenna is advertised from 80 meters to 2 meters. Good luck. Remember, an 80 meter antenna, okay 80 meters is about 240 feet. 2 meters is about 6 feet. I seriously have my doubts about this antenna. But, go ahead and read the rest of them and take a look at them. When you get finished let’s go back to the catalog page.

Go down one more to amateur wire antennas. There are multiple different types of antennas on this page. But they are all considered wire antennas. This is one of those cases where you need to get together with your Elmer and try to pick out something that will work for you. If you do not have a large lot, or you live with housing restrictions, then one of the earlier mentioned verticals may be your best bet. If you have a little bit more space, some older Elmers can teach you some tricks about wire antennas. Just for information purposes, I use the Alpha Delta wire antennas. Remember there is no perfect antenna either. 

Next on the list are beam antennas. For entry level, this may not be your best choice, but if you want to start out with one, then please investigate these. They are probably the best working antenna of all. Being a beam means that they are directional. So, find you a comfortable Elmer and

talk this over with them. A man down the road from me has an Alpha Delta DX-LB+ and he talks all over the world all of the time. Another man I know, that lives about 50 miles away, also talks all over the world and he uses a beam. Both of these guys are heavy into contesting and CW. So, one person will tell you you’ve got to have a beam and another person will tell you you have to have a dipole. 

Okay, let’s go back to the catalog contents page on the right hand side, go down four or five spaces to amateur antenna tuners. Please click. There are manual tuners and automatic tuners. There are tuners that are built specifically for a specific radio. Some are after market tuners, like LDG, or you see ICOM makes tuners. Check out the prices. I cannot address MFJ tuners, I have bought other MFJ equipment, but as for tuners, I only use LDG. If you’re interested go into the LDG site and they will have a flow chart for which antenna tuner works with which radio.

Coax cable. Coax cable depends on where you live, how long a cable you will need, what frequencies you use and how much power you run. There is no perfect cable. But things to consider. If you live in Washington state

near the coast where it rains a lot, then you will have a different need than someone living in the desert of Arizona. But use a good, new coax. I recommend flexible. Use quality connectors and a proven sealant for your area. And in radio, bigger is better. Yes, you pay more for higher quality cable, and conversely speaking, you get more. This is one of those cases where you don’t try to save a couple of bucks. Don’t use or buy pre-owned cable. Use the best cable you can afford. And the best connectors you can afford. A five dollar connector works a whole lot better than a two dollar connector. And sealant is critical. Arizona and Washington have sharply different climates for the most part. Don’t buy a $2,000 dollar radio, a $1,000 antenna system, and go cheap on coax. It’s just not worth it.

You’re going to need a power supply. If you want to use that same catalog contents page, scroll down a little over half way and it says power supplies and power strips. You’ve learned there are two types of power supplies, regulated and unregulated. Some people need a power supply with more bells and whistles than others, and some people don’t. I would recommend a larger power supply than what you think you’re going to use. Remember, P = E x I. Never use

more than 80% of the equipment’s capability. So, you have a 100 watt radio. 100 divided by 13.8 will give you about 7. Which will be about 7 amps. At the minimum, get a 10 amp power supply. But human nature dictates that you’re going to buy more pieces of equipment. So I would recommend somewhere around a 30 amp power supply. Can’t have too much power. So, take a look around through these power supplies. Find something that will fit your need. Some of these power supplies are made specifically for specific radios. Like I said, look at them. Some of them will have cigar plug connectors, most will have standard binding posts, newer models will have power pole connectors (some, not all). So, take a look at the Jet Stream JTPS28. This might meet your needs. 

While you’re on the power supply page, scroll all the way to the bottom. You’ll see power strips here. Look at these and see if they interest you. It makes hooking up multiple pieces of equipment a whole lot easier. For instance look at the MJF1129. This power strip has binding posts and power pole connectors. You ask, “What is a power pole connector?” Go back to where you just were and right above MFJ or power pole connectors, click on that site. These are real handy little gizmos. 

Okay, I’m going to ask you to do something a little different here now. Open a new window and go to PowerWerx. On the left hand side you will see

Anderson Power Poles. Please click here. Now click on the left hand side, Anderson Power Pole and look at this page a great deal. Look at the right hand side. It says frequently asked questions. You just use these to connect your power cables. These are standard connectors in the emergency rescue fields. This is something a little bit new to you, but take a look at it.

While you’re on the page with Anderson Power Poles, you’ll see 15 amp and 30 amp. Let’s pick the first one, 15 amp, unassembled. Let’s click on it.

Scroll down, it will give you a tremendous amount of information. The 15, 30, and 40 amp connectors all use the same size housing. A little farther down is a cutaway view. These connectors are really, really handy. When you talk to your Elmer ask to visit somebody’s shack that uses these and you will see what I mean. 

Okay, there are a few other little things you will need to set up your HF radio. You’ll need some way to get your antenna up in the air. You might be interested in some type of lightening arrestor. But be advised, nothing will stop lightening from coming into your shack. You need to unplug your antennas.

We’re not going to get to VHF today. But coax requirements, power supplies, power strips, power pole connectors and all of the data mentioned today will apply to those also. This information is for entry level. It is not for advanced amateur radio communications. There are a gazillion other terms, satellite programs, RTTY, just many, many, many things. These things will come with time. So, do you know what a ‘lid’ is? Ask your Elmer. 

Last thing. Safety. It is one thing to experiment, it is another thing to do something dangerous and stupid. If you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT. It’s one thing to have a one watt radio, and another thing to have a 5000 watt radio. If you don’t know what you’re doing, 
DON’T DO IT. 

We’ll talk about VHF next time, and sorry about the weather delay. But I would check out the power pole connectors. They are really cool.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank
  

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Originally published December 14th, 2013

Radio – Entry Level Equipment, Part 2

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everybody. I know some parts of the country are getting the bad weather we got a week ago, and I hope there haven’t been too many slip and falls. The snow from our storms is just about gone. Something I didn’t mention last time is going outside everyday and checking my antennas. Everything was okay.

A little trivia here. Did you know that once you plant your first antenna pole, through a miracle unknown and understood by man, more antenna poles will grow? Some houses actually look like an antenna farm. So, be ready. The tooth fairy brings them too. They just show up in the morning.

Okay. Let’s talk about VHF radios. But first I’m going to group a whole bunch of frequencies and meters together. Last time I talked about HF radios primarily. There are some HF radios that have VHF and UHF. I

know there are designated frequencies for VHF and UHF, but in the general conversation of radio, everything above 10 meter is either UHF or VHF. It starts with 6 meters, 2 meters and keeps going up. Everything today that I am going to talk about, I’m going to call VHF. The reason for that is that most of the equipment you are going to use are going to be similar and the characteristics of the frequencies are similar.

The last post, we talked some about power supplies, coax cable, power strips, power pole connectors and antenna tuners. Most of that equipment you will also use with the VHF radios. Power supplies for example, if you

want a simple operating system, then one power supply is all you need. Remember back when we first started talking about buying a bigger power supply than you needed to get started? Well, this is the reason why. More equipment needs more power. To operate a 50 watt VHF radio you can theoretically get by with 5 amps. To operate your 100 watt HF, you can theoretically get by with 7 or 8 amps. You can see where this is going. You can also recharge all of your rechargeable batteries, normally, from a 12 volt system. You can also charge your cell phones and operate your internet hot spot. There are all kinds of things you can do with a 12 volt system. Now remember when I say a 12 volt system that also means 13.8 VDC. So, 25 to 35 amps is a nice size power supply. Don’t forget your CB radio and your scanners and your weather radio, not to mention you can recharge your rechargeable lanterns if they have a 12 volt recharging system. I even have a 12 volt boot dryer and a 12 volt chicken incubator. Okay. I’ll get back to radios here now.

Again, most of your connectors, coax, safety equipment and grounding all use the same equipment. Something that will be different is your antenna. Most VHF is done with a vertically polarized antenna, which means up 

and down. Most HF uses a horizontally polarized antenna. Not all, but most. Because with HF you are normally bouncing off of the ionosphere so it doesn’t make that big of a difference whether it is horizontal or vertical. But with VHF it does make a difference. Remember, VHF is primarily line of sight and the sending and receiving stations need to have matching polarity. Most VHF that goes long distance is through a repeater. The vast majority of repeaters are vertical. Does this mean that you can’t communicate with a station with opposite polarity? You can, but your sound will be distorted.

Okay. So. Another big difference between VHF and HF. Let’s take 40 meters HF for example. 40 meters is about 120 feet. That’s a pretty long antenna even if you use half wave it’s still about 60 feet. It’s a whole lot easier to run 60 feet horizontal than it is vertical.

Think about it. Let’s go back to VHF. You have a 2 meter signal, which is 144-148 MHz in the ham band. That’s about 6 feet. A half wave signal is about 3 feet. A quarter wave signal is about 18 inches. Vertical is a whole lot easier, because you can’t put a 60 foot vertical antenna on your car. Okay, people will say, “But I know guys that run HF in their cars and they don’t have a 60 foot antenna.” That is correct. Without going into detail, they use electronic gizmos to trick mother nature. But as a general rule, mobile HF operates poorly, especially on the lower bands.

I’m going to throw in safety right here. Never mess with safety. Don’t try to over power a radio unless you know what you are doing. I’m not saying don’t do it. But don’t do it if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

Okay. Let’s go to the Universal Radio website. I will say it again. I have no commercial affiliation with Universal Radio. They are not the cheapest or the most expensive, but their website is filled with easy to access information. I do use these folks and I do buy from these folks and I am relatively sure I will buy from them in the future.

Okay, we’re at the Universal Radio website. Please click the online catalog button. We are now at catalog contents. I hope this page looks familiar. There is lots of information here. Please look around, play around. Let’s go to the right hand column, Amateur VHF/UHF Mobile. By the way, you will not need an antenna tuner for VHF. Okay, we’re there. You’ll see some of the major names. Everybody here makes a capable, competent radio. Most of these are made exclusively for ham radio, a few of them are not. You need to do some research in the area in which you live. There is no reason to get a UHF radio if no one in your area uses UHF. Example: In my area there is not a 10 meter repeater. It does not exist. So, therefore, I do not need a piece of equipment that will reach a 10 meter repeater. So what I’m going to focus on is the most common combination which is UHF/VHF. When you’re reading the data on some of these radios it will just use the letters ‘U’ and ‘V’, which means the radio might be capable of operating on two channels at one time. The combination could be U/U, V/V, U/V or V/U. But remember, if no one in your area uses UHF, then why waste the money? But, if your radio does have two channels and it’s V/V capable, then you can listen to two VHF frequencies at the same time. Food for thought.

Alrighty. Let’s go down and pick the Kenwood TM-V71A. This is a very popular radio. It has most features that most folks look for in a dual receive radio. I would certainly take a look at this one. It is a radio that is easy to modify. I’ll talk more about that shortly. My first VHF/UHF was this radio. Being my first, there was a lot I needed to learn, and I found this radio to be too complicated for my needs. That does not mean it is not a first class radio. 

So, I traded it for a new Alinco DR-635T. Go back to the VHF radio page and Alinco is at the top, the 635 is at the bottom. Please open it. The first thing you could notice is that it costs less. About $60.00 less with this company. It will not do a few things that the Kenwood will do, but it will do everything that I need it to do. It is a perfectly capable VHF/UHF ham radio. It’s easier for me to operate. If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, then you know that my wife and I both have our General licenses. To operate this radio, you need to be a Technician. My wife got her ham radio license mostly just to make me happy. Radio is important to her because it is important to me. She needs a radio that she can turn on, change the channel, push the microphone button and talk. She does not care about beaming a signal

off of a comet. This is what is in her car. It works. This is what is in my vehicle. It works. And this is what is in my house, because it’s easier for me to learn one radio than two or three other radios. With this 635T I use the RT programming system, which is computer based. Some people would say that you need to know how to field program it. Okay, that means that they need to know how to field program it. I need to be able to turn it on, change the channel, push the microphone button and talk. I could care less about bouncing a signal off of a comet. 

I’m going to take a slight detour here, I’ll get back to these radios in a minute. What does it mean to modify a radio? To some people it means more power, to others they want to add a system, one is called EchoLink, and there are multiple other things that you can do with these radios. But the word modification to most people means to expand the transmit range out of the ham frequencies. This radio right there, the Alinco, second

line under the picture says, “Receive coverage 108-173 MHz”. It says, “transmit frequency 144-148 MHz” which are the ham bands within the VHF spectrum. Okay. Follow me here. You can modify this radio to transmit on the same frequencies that it is currently set to receive on. The same for UHF also. If you modify it, if you could receive those frequencies before, you can now transmit on those frequencies. Well, why would anybody want to do that? Well, there are the MURS frequencies around 151 MHz. There are the GMRS frequencies around 465 MHz. If you’re into public service, there are police, fire and EMS which also uses these frequencies. Be advised, to modify this radio to operate out of the ham frequencies violates FCC regulations. But there are some police and fire departments that do just that because these radios are much cheaper than commercial radios from name brand manufacturers. If you have the chance, go back and read under Frank’s Radio Communications the GMRS and MURS post

Now also understand that one antenna normally will not work well on all of these frequencies. It will either be too short or too long and your SWR will

increase. But there is an antenna that is made by Comet. It is CA-2x4SR. If you’ll go back to the catalog contents page on the right hand side down about nine spaces is Amateur Mobile Antennas. Please click. Under Comet, about four down, is the CA-2x4SR. Please click. This antenna comes in two base types. Pay attention here. This antenna can also be used for a base station antenna for frequencies out of the ham band, also frequencies in the ham band. While we’re here, go down two more places under Comet and check out the M24. This is a real good little 2 meter antenna. It will also work out of band, but not great. And it comes with three different connectors. Again, pay attention here.

Okay, back to VHF/UHF mobile. Look at the Anytone AT-5888UV. This is what is called a commercial radio. When it comes to you it will be open and have almost all VHF/UHF frequencies. These type radios can be used in

the commercial service industries which includes police, fire, EMS, schools, railroads, power companies and they can also be used legally for the ham bands. So why not buy one of these? There is no need to modify. It can be used on MURS and GMRS. I guess the primary reason is a quality issue. Some folks say these radios just don’t hold up. I know people that have them and they like them. If they had been out for a few more years, and some of their early quality issues had been resolved, then I would look seriously at using these radios. As far as handhelds go, I do use a commercial radio. They have been out for a good while and they have worked the bugs out.

Let’s go back to the VHF radio page and go all the way to the bottom to Wouxun. Please click on their radio, there is only one. This is another commercial radio and it gets mixed reviews. Notice the bottom line, the warranty is from the factory in China. There are no state side service facilities. If it quits working on you, you have to send it back to China. That’s one of the reasons people would rather buy a ham radio and make a modification.

The Alinco DR-635T. To modify it, you remove four screws, take off the cover, locate the blue wire, which you can’t miss, cut the wire, and you now

have a modified radio. Is it illegal to own a to operate out of band? Yes. Are there thousands and thousands of modified VHF radios in this country? Yes. An example here. Your little handheld GMRS radio, which in most cases are excellent radios, operate around 465 MHz. You program these frequencies into your modified radio, you turn your power down on the radio and no one on the planet will know that you are talking on anything but a handheld GMRS radio. By the way, you need a license to operate on GMRS frequencies. I have never met a person on this planet that has one. You can buy the handheld GMRS radios at any sporting good stores, Wal-Mart, online and it’s up to you to apply for the license. When you get the license, anyone in your family or anyone at your house or vicinity can operate under that license. That means you do not have to have it on you to operate these radios. Go back and read the post about GMRS radios. What I’m saying here is you can have a nice ham radio that will also operate on other frequencies. It’s your choice.
There are many, many other mobile VHF radios on this page. Check them out. Some companies will not sell ham radios to someone without a call sign. So be aware of that. Some companies will, some companies won’t.

You need an Elmer. That’s ham language for a teacher. You can find one through the ARRL website. If your Elmer is not open to ideas of modifying radios, asks for a different Elmer. Some of these ham guys are hard core ham radio people, others are just folks that love ham radio, but they don’t mind cutting a wire here and there. I’d guess the numbers are about 50/50. But, generally speaking, a standard antenna, be it mobile or base station with standard coax and a standard power supply and about any VHF radio will get you on the air. Don’t forget safety. I’m finished.

Another topic. I am of a firm belief that our world is going to experience some type of event that is going to shut down normal life as we know it.

The entire purpose for this blog site is to help people get prepared. If these radio posts help you learn to communicate just a little bit better, then it has been worth my time and effort. To me, communication is critical. Whether you’re a listener or you want to communicate what you have heard to your little area of the country. Who knows, maybe even talking to your neighbors on the GMRS frequencies. Communications is important. A small radio, with a small antenna, with an automotive battery, a power supply, a small solar panel and a gizmo

called a charge controller, you can operate a shortwave radio on 12 volts. This will bring you your local news and news from around the world. A scanner can tell you what local police and fire are doing. That same scanner will also pick up weather and Coast Guard. That same solar panel battery will also power a CB radio, a VHF/UHF radio for ham communications, and MURS and GMRS. It will also power your HF radio where you can talk and listen

around the world. Imagine that. Something like a 20 watt solar panel, a small charge controller, an automotive type battery, a scanner, an HF radio which you can also use for shortwave listening, and a modified VHF/UHF radio and you can listen to the world, talk to the world and also communicate with your local buddies. Don’t forget the humble CB radio. And you can recharge your rechargeable batteries. Give it some thought. Hard times are coming. And if you want to be able to communicate, it is relatively simple. Time is running out.


We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio – Wanna Be A General, Part 6

Hello, Frank here.

Hi everybody, I hope there are still a few people out there following along. Okay, this session we’re going to talk about amateur radio practices. I’m on page 38 of Romanchik. I want to remind you of a few things before we get  

started. When it comes time to take the General test, you will need to get in touch with the local ARRL club and check for when and where to take your test. There is no way around this, it’s the only way. Check the price for the test. In my area, they are normally $15.00. If you plan on taking the test more than once, then bring a couple of extra $15.00 bills. Also remember that the manual I’m using here is not the only way to study. There are some free online sites, paid online sites and the ARRL manuals that now days come with a CD so you can study with your computer. For my General I used HamTestOnline and it worked well for me. I did not use the Romanchik manual for my General, it’s just a common reference point for you and I to communicate, and it’s free. Some of this information we are about to cover is going to appear to be a little outdated. The reason being, because it is. But this is what is on the test. So, learn the answers.

Okay, so let’s talk about it some. The newer HF transceivers are pretty much plug and play. Back in the old days ham radio consisted of two different radios, one transmitter and one receiver. These were two separate beasts entirely. I don’t believe these can even be bought new. So, here is where some of this information we are about to cover comes from, it’s the old days. Also remember that not very long ago CW, or morse code, was a requirement for ham operators. That is not the case now days. Many still pursue CW, but that’s strictly by choice.

These next few items are just ways to help you receive signals better. I seldom use these on my bottom of the line radio, but it does have them. One is a notch filter and one is an IF shift. Next we go onto RF amplifiers. You can run lots of power through a radio. This is where it’s particularly important to understand the affects of RF and how to use it properly and not fry your brain. Remember, safety. If you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT. And if you’re going to do it anyway, do it at low power. 

Skipping on down here, other things you need to know about the operation of your radio. How to set up CW. How to operate in split mode, which you notice has a lot of questions. That means a lot of answers. Split mode basically means transmitting in one frequency and receiving in another.

I’m in the middle of page 39 now, and at the bottom it briefly mentions antenna tuners. Most modern operators use an antenna tuner and most use an automatic antenna tuner. Many radios come with them built in, but the less expensive radios, if you choose to use one, will need an antenna

tuner. I would recommend an automatic one, and I would recommend LDG. If you buy a matching tuner for your radio manufactured by LDG, it is basically plug and play. A word of wisdom here. A capable tuner will tune many frequencies, but in many cases you are losing a tremendous amount of power to do so. This is where a quality antenna is important. As stated before, your antenna is the most important part of your radio system. For most operators, a dipole antenna works great, and I would check out Alpha Delta antennas, but there are many other quality antenna manufacturers.

Okay, I’m sliding over to page 40, test equipment. Do you have to have test equipment? No. Do you want to blow your radio up? No. Here’s what I

would recommend. A decent mulitmeter, an antenna analyzer, and an appropriate frequency SWR meter. Let’s talk about these. A multimeter measures voltage and resistance. They are relatively easy to use, just ask somebody to teach you. That’s where your mentor, or Elmer, from ARRL will come in real handy. They make $10.00 multimeters and up. If you don’t know how to use one, make your first one a cheap one, because if you’re going to fry something, you’d rather fry $10.00 than $100.00. Okay? Okay.

Your antenna analyzer, not a piece of equipment that you have to have. Once your equipment is set up and running, you may not ever use it again. They cost $250.00 and up. An SWR meter is highly recommended. Normally it goes between your radio output and your antenna. Extremely high SWR will damage or kill a radio. Once it’s set up and operating,

it’ll operate for years just fine. They make meters that cover wide frequency ranges, and they make meters specific to certain frequency ranges. Some radios have built in SWR meters. Most operators still use an external meter, though. Inexpensive meters start at about $60.00. SWR is important. There are analog type meters and digital, find one that works for you. This is not a piece of equipment that you have to have, but it is highly recommended. It’s very important if you’re choosing to operate out of the ham bands on the VHF/UHF frequencies. Many of the commercial VHF radios are built to operate outside of the ham bands, but just because the radio will transmit on those frequencies does not mean that your antenna will. This is where an SWR meter comes in very handy. There are antennas made that will operate out of the ham bands, but you might have to have more than one antenna. If you choose to stay within the ham bands, then as a general rule your antennas will work fine. But you still need to check your SWR.

The stuff we just talked about, you need to read these pages and understand the answers. I’m heading on to page 42 now where we’re going to talk about interference. I’m not going to cover all of the information on pages 42 and 43, but you need to understand some very simple concepts. If you put up a ham antenna and your

neighbor is having a problem with their TV signal, and they didn’t have one before you put your antenna up, then you are probably the problem. And if you are the problem, you need to stop being the problem. It’s real simple. Your transmissions can affect television, telephone, baby monitors, heart and respiratory equipment…so you don’t want to be interfering with these signals. And it’s real simple, under the law you have to stop transmitting until the problem is fixed. No if’s, and’s, are’s or but’s. There is no point in arguing with your neighbor that your signal is clean and pure. Any questions about that? This is one of those cases where grounding your equipment well will help solve a plethora of problems.

Okay heading on to page 44, down toward the bottom of it, it talks about single side band operation. You will see a lot of this on the test, it is important and you need to understand it. One, if you understand it, it’s

a whole lot easier to figure it out. But if you are on frequency and you’re

operating on LSB or USB, then your signal extends out to the edge of your operating frequency, which in most cases is 3 KHz. If you need to get a piece of paper and draw a little signal, we all know 3 + 3 = 6. So, can you go right to the edge of a band and operate on SSB? Sure you can. If it’s the top of the band, then you can operate on LSB. If it’s the very bottom of the band, then you can operate on USB. Let that sit in your brain for a while. Get a piece of paper and a pencil and if you need to, draw it out.

Okay, on to page 45. I do not recommend mobile HF operation for new operators. For the most part the antennas are very expensive and they don’t operate particularly well. Again, if you’re using a 100 watt transceiver, then you need to connect directly to your battery and make sure it is fused correctly. Your cigarette lighter plug as a general rule, will not provide enough power to operate 100 watts. Remember, P = E x I. Go ahead and read page 45 and 46 because you will see it on the test.

We should have about three more lessons, three, at the most four, for your General. I hope you’re enjoying this particular teaching style. What I’m trying to do is get a few people set up for emergency communications when things shut down. If you

choose to pursue other routes, wonderful. Amateur radio has a place for just about everybody. An example. Some guys still like to build their own radios. Some of these guys have a tremendous amount of knowledge. Others like to contest and there is a large arena for these folks. My goal is to help get people in the door using the least amount of equipment possible and doing it safely. The equipment I recommend is the equipment I use, and this is just one man’s opinion. But if you see a need for communications, then you need to get started. There are lots of ways to communicate in ham radio and outside of ham radio. In the section called Frank’s Radio Communications there are articles about CB’s, GMRS, scanners and lots of other good, solid information. You might want to skim these areas. Remember, a CB is an HF transceiver that operates between 10 meter and 12 meter, and has the ability in some cases to operate on SSB. 

There’s an old saying around, “I’d rather be a day early, than a minute late.” and if you’re reading this, then you know what I’m talking about. Today the stores are open, the internet is working and the electricity is on. No guarantees about tomorrow. If you’re a fence sitter, then get it done.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio – Wanna Be a General, Part 5

Hello, Frank here.

Hi everybody. Last time we talked about SWR in relation to antennas. As mentioned last time, most people will agree the most important piece of equipment should be your antenna. It’s kind of like buying a giant screen television with a computer type speaker for sound. There are as many types of antennas as you can count on all eleven of your toes. I’m going to cover the most popular ones, but there are still a gazillion other types out there.

First, your beam antenna. Your beam will focus your power and signal in a specific direction. Most beam antennas have a motor to change the direction of the antenna. Picture one of the old TV type of antennas, you know, the ones you had up on the pole? Even some of them had a motor so you could point in a different direction to locate a different broadcasting tower. Same type concept, except the beam antenna will transmit and receive. Now, these antennas are directional. But if you want to contest, and you want to transmit and receive to a specific area, this is a great way to go.

Next is your vertical antenna. Some guys use them and they get good results. But, what you see above the ground is only part of the antenna. In many cases there are wires buried just below the surface of the ground. A lot of guys use these as expedition type use. I have never actually seen one.

Probably the most common is your dipole antenna. There are multiple configurations for dipole type antennas. The most common is half the wire on one side and the other half on the other side. If you’re going to focus on one band, then a single wire will work great. Now, there are dipoles that are made for multiple bands. I would guess that the dipole is probably the most common general purpose antenna that there is. If your dipole is put up correctly and the height is right, then you can transmit and receive around the globe.

Most of these antennas are 50 ohm, but a few of them are not. As I mentioned earlier, there are multiple types of antennas. The only ones you need to be concerned with at this stage are the ones that are on the test. There is something on page 32 of the Romanchik manual that I want to bring to your attention. The term NVIS means near vertical incident skywave. Yes, this could and probably would be on your test, but it’s also real handy for talking to people in your own neighborhood, especially on 40 and 80 meter. Most standard dipoles work well in this configuration.

Okay, I’m going to continue on page 33 with radio wave propagation. If you plan on doing HF transmission, then you need to have a basic grasp of this subject. Solar activity affects the levels of the ionosphere and that determines how well some of the bands function. Remember, this manual just teaches the questions and answers that are on the test. If you choose to understand this information, there is no in depth discussion here, but one of the paid online teaching courses provides much more information, as do the ARRL test manuals. 

Okay, continuing on, page 35. You need to understand MUF and LUF. This is what I’m talking about with the levels of the ionosphere. You will see a lot of this information on the test, MUF especially, the different layers of the ionosphere and when signals are absorbed or reflected. Go ahead and study up through page 37. Remember, all of this information will be on the test. Pay attention to NVIS, 40 and 80 meters use it a lot.

Safety. If your piece of equipment is too hot, or if the case shocks you, then you have an internal problem in your radio. This is generally caused by RF. Properly grounding your radio will often solve this problem. You’ve heard this before and you will hear it again, if you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT! And if you are going to do it, turn your power down low. Pay attention to SWR. Get in touch with your local ARRL chapter. Get a good mentor from your local ARRL chapter.

Okay. Next time I’m going to cover up through page 46 which is going to deal with amateur radio practices. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio – Basic Equipment & Start Up

Hello, Frank here.

I’ve had a couple of requests lately about entry level basic equipment and getting started. For those of you working on your General, I hope you’re well into whatever program you are using. I believe next in our studies is antennas, which is where we will continue. But tonight, will be a different topic.

Okay. Entry level equipment. First, you will need your Technician’s license. That will give you transmitting privileges from 30 MHz up, which includes VHF and UHF. Now, remember, this is just my opinion and recommendation, and this is the very minimum. I’m not going to cover HT’s (walkie talkies) here.

You will need a radio, an antenna, coax cable and a power supply. Radio. Alinco DR-635T. This radio covers your VHF/UHF ham bands, and if you have the desire to open up or modify this radio, it is very easy to do. This will allow you to transmit on MURS, GMRS/FRS frequencies, and if you’re really stupid, it will allow you to transmit on police and fire frequencies, too. This radio is not approved for broadcast on the modified frequencies. There are commercial radios made that will accommodate this need. This radio will work both in your car and as a base station.

For your automobile you now have your radio, your battery is your power supply. You will need an antenna. My recommendation is the Comet M-24M. That for your automobile is your complete kit. You will need to attach the radio to the battery for power, or you can use the cigarette lighter plug. The battery is first choice.

For your base station. Same radio. You will need a base

antenna. I am going to recommend a Comet CA-2x4SR. Yes, this is a mobile antenna. If you choose to modify your radio, this antenna will work for all of the frequencies mentioned above. With this you will also need a ground plane kit. Make sure both the antenna and the ground plane kit have UHF connections. Now, you will need some kind of pole to put this up on. Top rail fencing from your local lumber yard works great. Two 10′ pieces, with one bracket attached to the highest part of your house, normally the ridge. Put this antenna and ground plane kit at the very top. Now you will need some coax. For VHF/UHF short length and low power, use RG8X. If you’re going to run more than 50′ then a higher quality cable is needed. For your base station, you will need a power supply. Here is my recommendation for a small power supply, MFJ-4125. This will power your radio needs for years to come. That’s all you need for your base station. You have a radio, an antenna and ground plane, coax cable and a power supply. You need to have a way to get your antenna into your house. I drilled a hole

through my wall, used a PVC pipe, a 45 degree angle and ran it through that way. To keep out bugs, I use stainless steel scrubbing pads on both sides and spray heavily twice a year with bug spray. You will also need a grounding rod connected to the base of your antenna pole and connections between the pole and the grounding rod. Speaking of this antenna pole, this is the horizontal pipe that goes along the top of a chain link fence, it’s called top rail. One end is slightly crimped to allow the next piece to slide over it. Cut off one of these crimped pieces, about 3′, drive the non-crimped end into the ground, with the crimped part sticking above ground surface. Now slide the rest of your pole over the piece in the ground, align it with your bracket attached to the side of your ridge, of course, make sure it’s straight up and down. Now you have a good, solid pole. Some lumber yards carry 21′ lengths of this top rail and some don’t. Lowe’s carries it, but you will have to special order it. And if you do that, get the thicker gauge metal.

Okay, that’s your VHF and UHF mobile and base station. This is as basic as you can get. No switches, no power strips, that’s it. For lightening protection, unplug your power supply and disconnect your coax cable from the back of your radio. Put that piece of coax that you just disconnected into a glass jar

laying sideways. If you want to know what your SWR is for your radio, you will need an SWR meter. A very basic one is the MFJ-842. You’ll also need a coax jumper, RG8X will do fine. Footnote: all jumpers and coax should be PL-259 to PL-259. Okay that will do you for VHF/UHF.

I’m not going to discuss HF for mobile use. For most people it’s just not practical. There is a small portion of 10 meter that a Technician can use. For the other parts, you will need your General license. So, here goes. For your base station radio, let me reiterate, this is just one man’s opinion. My recommendation is the ICOM IC-718. You will need an antenna tuner. You do not have to

have an antenna tuner, but I highly recommend it, and my recommendation is the LDG IT-100. For this you will also need a jumper, RG8X will work just fine. Next you will need an antenna, for this my recommendation is a dipole antenna. If you only choose to operate one band, then a simple dipole will work great. If you choose to operate

multiple bands, here is a pretty good selection. These are made by Alpha Delta and they are all good dipole antennas. This dipole antenna, like most antennas, the higher the better it operates. Metal roofs and power lines will take away greatly from it’s performance. But you can mount it on the same pole as your VHF antenna. Come down about one foot from your VHF antenna, drill a hole through the pole, attach an eye hook and a light weight pulley. This is how you will attach your dipole at the center. Each end of the dipole is up to you. Again, the higher the better. For your coax use RG8X. You will also need an SWR meter and for this radio an MFJ-860 will work fine. You will also need one more jumper. This

radio operates off of the same power supply as the Alinco base station. Lightening applies the same with this radio. During a lightening storm unplug your outside antennas coming in and your power supply. 

Again, this is your very basic operating equipment. By the way, these are the radios that I use and the antennas that I use and the meters that I use. What I didn’t mention here is that it is not required that you have the following pieces of equipment. Power pole connectors make life very handy. Power strips come in real handy if you’re operating multiple 12 volt DC devices. A more professional tower comes in handy. All you need is a radio, an antenna, a power supply, coax cable, a meter, a couple of jumpers, a way to hold your antenna in the air and you need to ground the antennas attached to the pole by grounding the pole. Remember, always follow basic safety rules, it will pay off in the long run.

The reason for this post is because of the following email. All the equipment I mentioned here is new, and don’t forget, the HF radio is also an excellent shortwave receiver. The writer addresses time on the radio. There is no requirement for any time at all, just what you choose. Also remember I do radio from a survival perspective. I do not contest, but if you choose to, you certainly can. 98% of my radio time is listening.

I would like to start with Ham radio, but what has stopped me is the expense. Maybe you can write some posts for the lowest common denominator. Ham radio for the lowest of budgets. That would be helpful. Usually when people write about Ham radio operations it is just too much information, just like people who write about solar power. I got started with solar by watching a 2 minute or less video. The person broke it down and made it super easy. I was able to get started with less then $300 and it is enough power to run a laptop, light and modem and router for hours. By putting the few pieces together I learned what it took to do solar. That simple tutorial that showed a small setup hooked up and running was more valuable to me then all those complicated books and articles that I read about solar power!
I think if you write for the ‘haven’t started but would like to start’ crowd that would be a great service and it would get more people involved in Ham radio. In most people’s mind it seems too complicated and too much of a commitment – people have a lot on their plate. Economy is on everyone’s minds. Show how to start simple with just the basics so we can get the idea. People can always upgrade as their budget allows. It would be nice to have excellent equipment but that is not always possible for everyone. Having a small setup to communicate with is better then not having anything at all.  And then there is the subject of how much time does a person need to spend on the air?  That could be a show stopper for many.  I have a busy schedule with all my homemaking and homesteading duties and do not want to spend a gillion hours on the radio but want to have the abilities and skills should the occasion arise.

The person below has requested vendors which I have included with each item discussed. There are vendors that are cheaper and some that are more expensive. The items that I have listed can be found for less from some other vendors. I like Universal Radio, but I also buy from many other good folks out there. Hope this information helps.
 
I would like to buy a ham radio and antenna, but do not know what I should buy.  I am a  beginner, so I am not interested in a radio with lots of bells and whistles.  Just a basic get the job done type of radio.  Also looking for a good vendor to purchase said radio and antenna.  Also need to know how to properly install and set up antenna for best reception.

Also, where to get the study guides to get licensed.  In the future a license probably won’t be too important, but the knowledge on how to properly operate a radio using approved standards will be critical.

Any information you can give me will be great. 

Please remember, these are just my recommendations and opinions. Many people will disagree and say you have to have this and you have to have this. If you want to get started, this will get you there. Both of these radios are good, solid pieces of equipment. Many veteran ham operators use this same equipment everyday. Again, this is just my opinion. I will remind you that I am of the persuasion that someday we are going to face some type of collapse. Radio may be one of your only means of communication. I also use solar power. Please take the above statements with a grain of salt, because it is also, my opinion.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

 

Radio – Wanna Be a General, Part 4

Hello, Frank here.

Hi everybody, anybody get any RF burns this week? If you did, hopefully it was on your hand and not inside your head. I’m going to start with safety and end with safety. 

Today we’re going to talk about signals and emissions and some other interesting things. Right now we’re going to look at the word emissions. You want emissions to go from your radio, out your coax and ultimately out of your antenna. If you have things set up right they will. But if you have a piece of equipment that might be getting a little old and it’s just wearing out, then you might get some emissions where you don’t want them. Same thing can go if you have your antenna system hooked up incorrectly. 

You need to have your equipment grounded. This will take these unwanted emissions that are bouncing around inside your metal radio and send them to ground, or Earth. If your piece of equipment is too hot, and it shouldn’t be, this can be caused by many things. One of the causes is RF escaping from your radio at the wrong place, at the wrong time. It’s kind of like if your car is running hot, and it’s not a summer day and you’re not pulling a trailer. So, things to think about and pay attention to. Ground your equipment and know how it works. Some pieces of equipment just operate warm all of the time, it’s their basic nature. That’s part of the reason that you need a good mentor from ARRL.

Okay, AM and FM. Most of you are familiar with AM and FM radio in your car, or home. These are the two primary ways that signals are sent through the air. But for listening purposes, in your car AM is amplitude

modulation and FM is frequency modulation. AM is older, FM is newer. Okay, let’s say you are listening to an AM radio station on your dial, and you cross an old metal type bridge. There is a chance you will lose part of your signal because the bridge is acting like a Faraday cage. If you’re on FM you probably won’t notice a difference in the signal at all. Because FM is normally a higher frequency, or newer frequency. For the most part, 30 MHz and down are AM, and in most cases, but not all, 30 MHz and up are FM, which is what you’re using right now if you’re playing around on VHF and UHF. Why the change? Newer discoveries and newer technology.

So far we’ve talked about AM and FM as bands. But AM is a type of modulation, as is FM. By the way, on a side note. Most shortwave listening, SWL, is AM. Now for both of these, AM and FM, you have a carrier frequency. Let’s say my voice is at a certain frequency. It is added to the carrier frequency. Remember what a sine wave looks like? The sine wave is the carrier frequency. Let’s take 900 KHz and my voice at 8000 hertz, you add that to the 900. But you add it and make the amplitude of the sine wave get taller on the top side and the

same on the bottom side. The frequency really doesn’t change, just the amplitude of the signal. That’s why AM radio is more affected by weather. I’ll explain more why in just a second.

Now with FM, which means frequency modulation, you still have a carrier frequency, which for radio purposes, let’s say 100 MHz. You add my 8000 hertz voice, and it’s added to the frequency. It goes through the air and the radio receiver separates the two and you hear my 8000 hertz voice again. But the reason weather, lightening and things, do not affect FM is because the top and bottom of the carrier frequencies are filtered and removed, wherein, AM is not. That’s why FM has a cleaner nicer signal and less static. That’s a whole lot for just the first two questions here, but that’s basically how AM and FM work. Very basically.

So, skimming down page 22, you see talk about upper and lower side bands. These are used almost all the time in HF transmission. Ironically, the lower HF bands, 160, 80,  and 40, use the lower side band, or LSB, and above 40, most of the time, upper side band, USB, is used. Okay.

What are side bands? If you have a regular AM signal, like you listen to on your car radio, or your SW radio, which is intermingled in between all of the ham bands, then this signal includes the carrier and upper and lower sidebands. When you are transmitting on 40 meter LSB, your radio removes the carrier frequency and the USB. This makes the bandwidth much smaller, takes less room on the bandwidth and your power can be used more efficiently. This may sound a little complicated, but if you let it soak in for a while, it will make sense. Just for knowledge purposes there is some SSB on VHF FM, but it’s not used a great deal.

Okay, let’s continue. Modulation is very important. If you’re listening to HF and some guy sounds like a duck, then either you or he are probably off frequency just a little bit, or the sender could be over-driving the frequency. This boils down to too much power going into the microphone, often referred to as microphone gain, or he could have the microphone too close to his mouth. Okay, go ahead and read these pages and don’t forget the links at the bottom of each section.

Page 24 breaks down some of the terminology of the parts inside of a radio. You will see these on the test. Go ahead and go through page 25 and we’re coming up to antennas. 

I need to give you a couple of formulas to start with. We’re going to use the ‘T’ formula. It is: 300 = frequency x meter. The next one is: 468 = length in feet x frequency in MHz. So, build you a ‘T’, put the 300 on top, and on each side of the vertical underneath the 300, put frequency on one side and meter on the other. Now this is just used for estimations, but it will come in real handy on the test. And remember, once you start the test, ask to use scratch paper and write down these two formulas and use them all through the test.

Example: Your frequency is 150 MHz. You divide that into 300 and you get 2, which would be 2 meter. Or, if you know the meter and you want to try to find the frequency, let’s say you know it’s 10 meter. Take 300 divide it by 10 and you get 30. Is this exact? No. But 10 meter is 28 and 29 MHz. So, this is just for estimation, but it will get you in the ballpark. And if you have forgotten the frequency and meter relationship, this will get you real close.

The other one. Build you a ‘T’, put 468 on top. Put length in feet on one side of the vertical bar, and right beside it, on the other side of the bar, put frequency in MHz. This is to find the length of an antenna for 1/2 wave. This is also an approximation, but it’s very close. 

Example: You want to find 1/2 wavelength for 10 meter. So, you know that the frequency is, let’s say 28.7 MHz. You take 468 divided by 28.7 and you get 16.3. So for a half wavelength antenna at 28.7 MHz, you need approximately a 16 foot antenna. Okay? Now, let’s say you want a 160 meter antenna, which is 3.9 MHz. You take 468 divided by 3.9 and you get 120 feet for a half wave signal. Now at this stage you can tell that this is not going to be a vertical antenna. This will obviously be a horizontal antenna. 

Let’s try one more for fun. Your 2 meter VHF radio, which is, let’s say 147 MHz. Take 468 divided by 147 and you get about 3.2 feet. Remember, the higher the frequency, the shorter the antenna. It’s a whole lot easier to have a mobile VHF radio, than a mobile HF radio. Want to know why your cell phone has such a small antenna? Remember, this if for half wave. You can use a quarter wave or a one eighth wave antenna. Back to your cell phone. Take 468 divided by 900 MHz equals 0.5 foot. Which is about 6 inches. So a quarter wave antenna would be about 3 inches, and a one eighth wave antenna would be about an inch and a half. 

So, obviously the higher the frequency, the easier it is for mobile communications. And, remember, almost all VHF and UHF are line of sight communications. And for all practical purposes, they’re all vertical antennas. And for all practical purposes, all HF frequencies use a horizontal antenna. There are some exceptions for 10 meter and 12 meter, and there are still some 10 meter repeaters around the country. And don’t forget 11 meter. You say, “What is 11 meter?” It is where the CB frequencies are located, which an HF radio. CB also has single side band, SSB, but they operate on LSB instead of USB. Don’t forget the humble CB, it is a great radio. And some CB antennas are also good for 10 meter and 12 meter.

Go ahead and read along about impedance matching. But you have to understand that SWR is critical. You may have a tuner for your HF radio and it may tell you that you’re tuned, but that doesn’t mean that your SWR has decreased. It means that through the miracle of electronics your

radio is matched with your antenna, but your SWR will still be high and your power will be reduced significantly. An antenna tuner may allow you to transmit safely, but if your SWR is high, your power will be sharply reduced. You hear people talk about 1:1 SWR ratio. Well, that is in a perfect world and we do not live in a perfect world. Now, for test purposes you will see 1:1, 4:1, 6:1. You will notice that the larger number is always first. But on the test, you will find that sometimes the largest number is second. You can eliminate those as wrong answers. You’re going to need SWR meters for HF and VHF/UHF radios. If you are mobile, you can check your SWR, get it set right and remove your meter. And if you want to, you can do the same thing for HF, but many leave the meter attached permanently. 

Next time. Read ahead about antennas, starting on page 28, and please read through page 32. Most people will agree that your antenna is the most important part of your radio system. Always remember safety. If you don’t know what you’re doing, check with your mentor, or more commonly called, your Elmer. I hope this helps just a little bit.



We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank