I thought that I’d share the exciting (to me, at least) experience of getting my first amateur radio station together. This station is being installed in my “second” home, where I spend most of my time. My main “home” (and mailing address – gives me another reason to visit them) is still out at the parent’s acreage with more space for antennas and towers. That station will have more room, inside and out. But will take longer to setup.
June 2015 —
while waiting to get the funds together for my first HF rig, Josh, KEØCPH and I unwound the HF sloper antenna that Les, KAØLZU had kindly handed-down a couple of months earlier. We found that my initial plans to tie-off the far end of the sloper on an unused post near the garage would not work, as that post was not far enough away from the 35-ish foot tall Rohn 25G tower (that holds the television antennas). We mounted the sloper low on the tower and stretched it around the house and deck to unkink it, being careful not to pinch or otherwise damage it.
After some discussion with my father and an uncle, the landlord/property owner, neighbors, and city officials, it was decided to auger a hole and set a post for the far-end tie-off of the sloper. The post to be placed at the southwest corner of the lot.
I called One-Call to have the utility companies locate their facilities around my in-town QTH. And determined that I was about six inches too close to the electric and telephone lines to use anything but hand tools to dig the hole. So an executive decision had to be made. Nobody wants to dig a deep hole by hand, the hole must be moved north. We decided that 12+ inches to the north would be sufficient.
With Field Day approaching, things got busy for me. And when I wasn’t busy, the weather and schedules of others were not in agreement with advancing the project.
20 June 2015 —
The weekend before Field Day, I finally managed to get the funds together to get my first HF rig, a used Kenwood TS-940S. As I already had an HF antenna tuner, I just needed to get the antenna up and coax run to get on the air.
Field Day 2015 —
Thanks to Dave, NØNAF suggesting that I bring my “new” rig to FD, I did finally get it on the air. Figured out the initial setup and discovered a possible problem or two with it, that I have to check out.
Thursday, 02 July 2015 —
While attempting to connect the auger to a friend’s skidloader, I took a tumble and bit the dirt. This delayed our progress by a couple of hours, but I eventually got the hole drilled while Josh, KEØCPH and my uncle assisted.
Friday, 03 July 2015 —
My uncle delivered a shortened (18-foot) telephone pole. His gift to my endeavor.
Sunday, 05 July 2015 —
My uncle returned with skidloader and log chain in-tow. My dad stopped by to lend a hand, and the three of us… well, okay the two of them, had the post set in minutes.
Tuesday, 07 July 2015 —
Another friend of mine stopped by and decided to climb the tower to mount the sloper. A little prep work on weather-proofing the connection between antenna and feedline, and about 30-minutes later, we had the high-end up and secured. With the coax choke as parallel to the tower as we could get it, we secured the coax to the tower to prevent excess strain on the connector.
We then maneuvered the antenna over the roof, ensured that the parallel elements weren’t all twisted and tangled. Then with the garage roof as the only remaining obstacle, we tied a water bottle onto the rope end and tossed it over to the far side of the garage. From there it was a matter of positioning my friend’s truck so we could secure the far-end rope high enough to get good clearance for the antenna. Looks like I’ll need to invest in a good ladder.
Saturday, 15 August 2015 —
I got tired of being so close to being on the air, but always delayed by one thing or another. So around 7:30 pm I took one of took a PL-259, some solder, a LONG extension cord, and my 300-watt soldering gun over to the tower with a wire/cable cutter and started to work on making some good connections.
I found that my soldering of coax is still not up-to-snuff, but I’m getting better. I also found that the tower section of coax is just long enough to reach the tabletop on the back deck.
A raised eyebrow and “hmmm”-thought later found me dragging my station out of the house to setup for some HF operation on the deck. And what a wonderful night it was for operating in the open too. The antenna tuned nicely for 20 meters, but I was having much trouble making any contacts. I switched to 40 meters and was hearing lots of activity (NA SSB QSO party). My first HF contact (outside of Field Day) was with AA4NC in North Carolina, but I was so green, I forgot to get his name during the QSO (and I’m not sure if I gave him mine). My next, and first complete exchange (well QSO party exchange) on HF was with Mel, KJ9C in Montana. Thanks guys (and everyone else, too) for your patience!
Just as I was getting going, Josh, KE0CPH called me on the phone, and a short time later, he stopped by to work some HF, alfresco. Josh couldn’t stay too long, but I enjoyed sharing my rig so he could work some HF too.
The QSO party didn’t last nearly long enough… but it was enough to let me know that my antenna was working.
After everyone went off-the-air, I made an attempt to tune the sloper on 75/80 meters (during the QSO party, I was unsuccessful), and was able to get about 2.2:1 SWR. Perhaps it will drop a little once I remove the unused Big Ugly Dish from the corner of the garage, where I’m sure it isn’t helping my RF.
I found a few groups on 80… 75 meters, but either they didn’t hear me… or they didn’t want to talk to me. Perhaps another day, I will test my performance on 75/80 meters. I decided to check for DX spots and band conditions, and it looked like perhaps I might be able to work into Europe… that was a bust… I could hear faint CW from Slovenia, but my morse is too rusty to try if I had a key. Judging from the QSO party, I’d say that my sloper IS directional too. Seems that TX to CA is pretty strong, CO was S9+ to 20-over, but MD was fairly weak.
Not a permanent solution, but I found a way to get on the air!
Then routing cables, lightning protection (well… static mitigation) and proper grounding. Maybe checking the antenna with an analyzer to see where it resonates… And try to determine what happened to the power in the garage where I was pulling my utility power for operation (Was it RF being induced in the pony line from the house to the garage? Did I blow a fuse? Was it the extension cord being nearly parallel to the antenna? Or did I kill a GFCI outlet?)