Some activity on the shack

Yesterday my dad and I completed the last wall on my little 8’x8′ shack.  Now I need to finish insulating the walls in the room and putting up drywall.  I need to go under the shed and insulate the floor under my shack so I’ll stay cool in the summer (I’ll be putting in a window A/C unit soon) and warm in the winter.  I am hunting locally for a few old solid doors that I can turn into a workbench and a desk. It is a small room but once I get it organized and get shelving on the walls, I’ll be able to utilize that room just fine.

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Just passing through…

So I decided to turn on the radio and spin the dial around earlier today.  I wound up working Orelvis, CO6LC, by accident.  Glad the radio’s getting out.  Just a lot of local QRM from storms.

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A little activity…

I worked W9IMS tonight on 7.243 and 3.840.  That’s good for me because those QSOs were the first contacts I made on the TS-430S.  The propagation is so bad I didn’t know if anyone would hear me.  Both stations gave me a 59 heading into Indianapolis, Indiana.  There’s a huge line of thunderstorms moving in so lots of static on the bands but I was able to copy both stations just fine.  The audio on the Kenwood is really, really good.

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Adding to the collection

I picked up a Kenwood TS-430S for $275 shipped online tonight.  I’ve been wanting one of these for a long time and the price I couldn’t beat.  It’s being shipped Wednesday so hopefully should get here late this week or early next week.  Now I’ll be able to use the 706 for a “go” radio and start operating out in the sticks more often. 🙂  Here’s a picture of the radio:

That’s from the ad.  I’ll post a picture once I get it set up in my shack.  Really looking forward to the “new” radio: no menus, no computers, just control everything from the front panel.

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Miracles never cease

Last night, I stopped by my post office box to check it at 2 AM.  I was tired, a little cranky, and wasn’t expecting anything.  Instead, when I opened the box, there was a large envelope in it from the ARRL.  I opened it and I was into total shock in a good way!

Let me explain: last year, during the ARRL DX Contest, I was using a 40 meter “hamstick” dipole.  I wasn’t really enthused by the performance but I was bored and thought I’d just see what I could hear.  So I sat down and started working stations all over the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and even a station in the South Cook Islands.  After a few hours, I gave up because conditions were changing and propagation was getting really bad.  I seriously debated not sending in my log . . . but I did anyway.

I promptly forgot all about the contest.

So, imagine my surprise when I get the award last night of not only being my section leader for single-operator, 20 meter class, but my division leader also!  I am in the Delta Division which is Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.  I’m proud of myself (in a humble way) for achieving this award.  I  guess I’ll have to work the contests more often.

Here’s a picture of the award.

KD5COL's 2016 ARRL DX Contest Phone Award

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Back on the air

I was able to contact TG9IIN on 21.300 on Sunday.  Even through the S9-level noise floor from some local 60 Hz QRM, Ilias was very clear.  He had a really nice clear signal.  That was an unusual contact for me because I think this is the only time I’ve ever talked on 15 meters in a few years.  I was actually trying to see if my new tuner could work on 15 with the antenna and it can very nicely.

I’m planning on setting up another antenna like the one I have now only using 22 gauge wire to make the wind load on that transformer box a lot less.  I’d like to be able to get up into the mountains where it’s electrically quiet and make some contacts.  I’m thinking about heading up to the Round Knob Picnic Area in the Cherokee National Forest near my home.  (There is no campground there; I don’t know why it’s labeled as such on that map.  There is a large picnic area and then, if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle or don’t mind a steep walk, there is a primitive picnic area on the top of the knob itself.)  There’s plenty of trees to hang the end of my antenna in though I’ll have to bring a generator for the power.  I think it’d be a great way to spend a morning and early afternoon.

Thankfully there are plenty of places within an hour’s drive that would make for a most excellent operating site in Nature’s splendor.

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Finally, it all works!

I got around to replacing the old RG-58 (foam core) coax on my radio with the new Times Microwave LMR-300 RG-8U 20′ roll I bought off of Amazon.  To my surprise, as I pulled out the connector out of my antenna, the center conductor was broken off inside!  I could wiggle it around like a child losing a tooth.  I hooked everything back up and much to my relief, I am able to get 80 meters matched.  I am still going to add on another 20′ of wire to my antenna though just to be on the safe side.  Unfortunately, that’s about all of the wire I can add because of the short distance from my shack to the tree I’m using for support at about 120′ feet apart.

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New antenna matcher

I picked up a MFJ-949 Deluxe Versa Tuner II for $120, including shipping, off of QRZ.com last week.  The tuner arrived yesterday in excellent shape and was packed very well.  I set it up and it works great.  I’m still having problems getting 80 meter to match correctly so I’m going to add another 20-22′ of wire to the antenna to see if that helps this weekend.  On 40 meters and up, everything matches very nicely.  Just on 80, I can get it to barely tune to 2:5 to 1 which makes me think the antenna’s just a little too short.

Of course, 80 meters is what I’m wanting to use to contact a few fellow hams on the US East Coast because we’re so close.  So it’s still a work in progress.

I’m hoping to finish the wall on the shack and get drywall up so I have somewhere warm to operate from.  It gets kinda cold in the shed right now!

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On the air again

I didn’t realize that it’s been six months since I posted on the blog.  I’ve been very busy with my work and haven’t had much time until recently to get on the air.

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Moving along…

It’s been too hot to do much in my shack.  I need to finish putting up a wall and covering it with drywall then hanging a door so I can work on insulating the room.  I have an air conditioner installed in the window but it’s been over 90 degrees so often and with the high humidity, it’s been tough even thinking about leaving the comfort of air conditioning in the house.  Monday I am ordering the plastic base piece for my Mosley RV-4C so I can get it set up and get back on the air again.  Unfortunately the “hamstick dipole” is a rather poor antenna for anything other than 40 meters.  It works but I’m afraid that it’s just a lost cause.  Hopefully with the change of seasons, I’ll be able to move quickly and get the shack set up in time for winter.  It’s very small so I can heat it easily and spend more time in there.

Once I finish the room, I’d like to start working on getting caught up on all of the QSL cards I need to send out.  I have several years’ worth of cards I want to get out.  Unfortunately I have some gaping holes in my logbook and I will try to correct that.  If you are needing a QSL from me, please let me know!  I am starting a new logbook once I get the room finished and I’m hoping I’ll keep much better logs this time around…

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