Part of my Elecraft KX1 upgrade program involved adding the KXPD1 plug-in keyer paddle to the rig. I decided to do this as I like the idea of having one less component to worry about, especially when operating portable. And with the annual John Moyle Field Day only a week away, now is the time to get organised.
I placed my order for the kit over the phone and it arrived in Australia in less than a week.
The kit came well packed and with good instructions. Typical Elecraft.
This was a rather simple kit to put together, being more mechanical in nature than electronic. I only had to use the soldering iron once to solder the wires to the 3.5mm stereo plug. This was also the most tricky part as you need to ensure that there are no short circuits. The space in the aluminium bracket where the soldering takes place is small and cramped.
When all was together, it was time to run some tests. I plugged the keyer into the rig and turned it on. I immediately heard a series of dits and dahs in the headphones, indicating that something was wrong.
I read through the instruction manual and found this case covered: there was a short between one of the plug wires and the bracket. But I knew this not to be the case as I had checked with my DMM beforehand and all was okay. So I read on and found the next test was to remove a rubber grip and see if that stops the noise. It did. So now I knew I had a build up of solder or something between the lever and contact wire.
I pulled the lever apart and inspected it closely. There was a small bit of flux on the lever. That responded well to my finger nail and fell off. So I put it all back together again, slipped on the rubber grip and plugged it into the rig. I held my breath as I turned on the power and heard … nothing. Phew, all good.
Now all I need to do is try out the keyer paddle next time I fire up the rig for the QRP net.
Having gone 100% QRP, I have decided to operate in the true spirit of doing more with less. That means all my radio work takes place on my deck, using battery power and as basic set up as possible.
And boy, am I having fun.
Since making the switch to QRP I have been operating on Tuesday nights with the CW Operator’s Club net on 7.028 MHz. My equipment so far has been the KX1 feeding 3W into a long wire antenna that I string up along the railings of my deck at my QTH.
The long wire antenna is attached to the deck railing and works surprisingly well.
The deck is up on the second floor of my house facing SE. I use a BLT Tuner to take care of tuning the antenna, a Whiterook paddle and a 2 Ah rechargeable battery.
My operating position on my deck. From left: battery, KX1 with Whiterook paddle connected, BLT tuner.
I have no trouble making good contact with operators in Sydney and Canberra and have worked into Melbourne too with this setup. But I need to maximise efficiency so have embarked on an upgrade. I have ordered an internal antenna tuning unit and the plug-in paddle as well as a Buddistick vertical antenna from Elecraft. That should arrive this week. I expect better performance once I’ve had a chance to build and install these pieces of gear.
The time has come to upgrade my Elecraft KX1. To make this little rig even more versatile, I will be adding an in-built ATU. This comes in kit form and needs to be assembled and installed into the rig.
I will also be adding the custom paddle as it will mean I no longer need to take a separate key or paddle with me when going portable. This too comes in kit form.
I have noticed that activity on the HF bands has been very poor over the last few months. So much so that I hear absolutely nothing on 80m and minimal DX on the other bands.
At first I suspected my antenna, which is a long wire. But I do get good reports from DX stations that I am able to work. Then I started noticing reports about low solar activity. I came across an article entitled entitled Cooling Kills: Governments Must Shift to Cold Preparation by TOM HARRIS and DR. MADHAV KHANDEKAR:
Of particular concern are the warnings from solar scientists that over the next three decades, we are headed toward significant global cooling as the sun weakens into a grand minimum. The last time the sun was as weak as solar experts predict will occur starting after 2030, the Earth was in a particularly cold phase of the Little Ice Age that lasted from about 1350-1850, a period when there was great misery around the world.
Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition. Dr. Madhav Khandekar is a former Research Scientist with Environment Canada.
This got me thinking. If their predictions are correct, we can expect reduced HF activity. However, I have also noticed that VHF/UHF FM activity seems to perform okay. This, together with the notion that technology is fast evolving, I think I will look deeper into C4FM technology. This is basically a digital FM mode that allows for the transmission of voice as well as date communications, using commercially available equipment. In the amateur radio domain, Yeasu have just launched a range of transceivers that I plan to purchase, once I have sold off my HF gear to make space on my workbench.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,600 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I couldn’t get the thing to work. I called in the help of fellow hams Wallace VK4CBW and Jan VK4EBP; a fresh set of eyes usually does the trick and in my case it certainly did. Turns out I made a basic mistake and connected up one wire the wrong way round.
The receiver on its own produces fine audio with headphones. I wanted more, so I pulled out a little 0.5W Amp Module that I constructed and fitted into an Altoids tin some time ago. Then I connected up a small loudspeaker that I mounted in a nice wooden enclosure and now I have room-filling audio.
Wonderful little simple project that brings back the magic of radio to me.
When I heard that Dave Banson had announced his decision to close Small Wonder Labs, I decided to press my Rockmite 80m rig back into service. So I connected it up to my long wire antenna and turned it on.
What I heard was a local commercial station booming in real loud. And no amount of tuning would get rid of it. I even connected up my NesCaf filter to see if that would do the trick, but it didn’t.
I consulted the rig’s instruction sheet once more and sure enough, Dave had foreseen this problem and suggested a fix. All that was needed was to install a 1K resister into the two unused pads immediately below D1/D2 on the PCB.
That called for the PCB to be removed from it’s nice enclosure, an Altoids tin.
The PCB safely removed from the Altoids tin enclosure.
The two unused pads can be seen below the two diodes on the right (middle) edge of the board.
Once the resister had been soldered into place, it was just a matter of putting everything back together again.
Everything back snugly in the Altoids tin and ready for use.
So how did the rig now perform? Nicely, although the offending station is still slightly audible. But not enough to bother me. I must add that some nights I can’t hear it at all.
All I now need is a QSO. I call CW every evening in the hope of a contact but so far this has proved elusive. The 397mW output makes this a challenge, but this is what the fun of QRP is all about. It will come.