Archive for the ‘antenna’ Category

…almost there…

Inspired by the success I had on field day using some (most) of n0oqa’s gear, I’ve made some purchases to get my mobile-deploy-able setup going.

First, I decided to go with a hitch mount push-up mast. Using Larry’s setup really sold me on the Max-Gain Systems fiberglass mast. I ordered the MK-4 Standard from here: http://www.mgs4u.com/fiberglass-push-up-mast.htm

Also, after seeing what it really means to have a tuner “talking to” the radio, I purchased a Yaesu FC-40.

My plans are to setup the FC-40 with the ladder line and deploy-able antenna as well as the coax and CAT lines to the radio, then stage all that in the bed of the truck. I have a covered bed and will have everything staged in a waterproof bag.

This will leave the CAT port of the radio for my BlueCat device. Since I’m primarily on VHF when on the road, this will let me work repeaters easily wherever I’m at.

When I’m somewhere I can park to do some HF work, I’ll get the antenna base mounted in the receiver, put the antenna in, roll out the FC-40/antenna/coax unit, hook up the CAT line and the tuner coax, get the pulley staged on top the mast, push-up the mast, guy-rope the mast, pull up the feedpoint, straighten and anchor the ends of the antenna wires – and I’m on the air.

This will be an inverted V antenna.

If I get a couple fiberglass painter poles, I can guy-rope them at the ends and raise the wire ends a bit. Getting them off the ground even 5 feet will help tremendously since my antenna center will only be about 23 feet off the ground.

Thoughts?

Advice?

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…wh7da mobile…

So, I’ve had this Yaesu 857D sitting around for almost five years and decided to finally install it in the truck. I wanted a clean install that can easily goes back to the factory look without much fuss. I wanted to minimize the permanent alterations.

I also wanted to use my stock antenna or fit a stock looking 2m antenna where my radio antenna was. The antenna part of the project turned out to be an unsuccessful adventure and I’m now running with a magmount until I tackle that project again.

The radio: Yaesu FT-857D

The truck: 2009 Dodge Ram 1500

Accessories: BlueCat bluetooth CAT port dongle and a West Mountain Radio Rigrunner

As with any radio installation project, first you have to get behind the dash:

Getting behind the dash

Getting behind the dash

We initially pulled the stock radio to get to the antenna so we could see what it tuned up at and determine if there was any way to mess around with using the stock antenna. As you’ll see from the pictures below, it was not a viable option. It tuned up on 103Mhz and was routed with 75 ohm coax. Some options in the future are to pull out the 75 ohm coax and run 50 ohm up to the antenna. I’m also looking at fitting a Larson 2m antenna in the stock antenna base. We’ll see. For now, I’ve put that part of the project on hold in order to get the radio mounted and working.

Does that look like a normal american vehicle antenna connection? Turns out it’s not.

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The late model Dodge antenna adapter doesn’t fit my late model Dodge. After digging around in the back room with the radio install guys at Best Buy, we found that the correct adapter for my late model Dodge truck was a VW/BMW/European adapter cable. Figures.

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When we checked the antenna, it tuned up on 103, which is not what I need – but exactly what I was expecting. In the 145/146 range it had over a 3:1 SWR. Not even close enough to mess with. And, we found the stock antenna coax was 75 ohm.

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This is the adapter dongle we made using the adapter cable. Simply cut off the stock antenna connector and put on a 239.

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Enough about what didn’t work. Let’s look at the radio head install.

For this, I like the gooseneck head mount my dad had in his Dodge. It kept the radio head low and out of sight (and out of the sun) while still easily accessible and easy to use. With the BlueCat dongle, I won’t need to fuss with the radio while I’m driving anyway – but more about that later.

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The gooseneck is a simple to mount item I got from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FW5LTUI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

You simply loosen one of your seat bolts and slip the mount in, then re-tighten the seat bolt. My seat bolt was mounted horizontal, so the gooseneck comes out forward then goes up, but it’s not in the way. Most seats should have a bolt that goes down into the floor which makes a slightly cleaner looking install.

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I took the mount adapter off the top of the gooseneck thing, and modified the plastic corrugated tube to run the head cable in and out cleanly without chafing on the edge of the tube. I used little grommets to protect the cable.

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I like the way this looks with the short run of head cable coming out near the top of the gooseneck, while most of the cable is hidden inside the corrugated tube.

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For the radio, I knew I wanted to mount it under the passenger seat. The stock jack used to be there until it collapsed under the weight of the truck last year. I now have a bottle jack I keep in the back. Much safer and easier to use. The stock scissors jack was braced by a little spool looking button thinger that screwed into the floor.

Here is the hole left when you take the little spool looking button thinger out.

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And here is what the little spool looking button thinger looks like in the radio bracket – and then screwed back into the floor. This makes for a successful, convenient, and no alteration radio mount. Worked out perfect.

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Now with the radio:

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Then with the Rigrunner:

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All this gets hidden behind the stock kickplate. Sorry, I don’t have a picture of that. The Rigrunner is attached securely with a couple cable ties through the carpet. Small holes that you’ll never see once it’s removed.

The power to the Rigrunner is run from the battery with a 20 amp fuse on each lead.

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We routed the wires through a large boot already in the firewall. Poked a small hole with a screwdriver and fed the wires through. It is an unrecoverable alteration, but a minor one. For the Dodge Ram, there is a boot on the inside and a boot on the outside, so you’ll be going through two boots and have to be EXTREMELY careful to not nick or cut any other wires.

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Finally, I wanted a power switch to turn the Rigrunner on and off. I mounted an LED lit switch in the dash. This is also an unrecoverable alteration, but a useful one. Who doesn’t need an extra switch for something? Right?!

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And that’s my install. Pretty clean.

Future projects include a permanent option for a 2m antenna, as well as a removable bed-stake mounted 20m for HF operation. Looking forward to that. I’ve had my General ticket for … well, a long time – and I’ve not yet used my HF privileges.

Many thanks to Larry Narikawa – N0OQA – for his expertise, advice, and assistance!


As for the BlueCat – that thing is amazing. It used the CAT port and gives you bluetooth accessibility to your radio. The guys who maintain the RepeaterBook have an app that works with the BlueCat. It uses your location and the repeater information in their database to present you a list of repeater options, starting with the closest. With the app running on your phone, you simply touch which repeater you want to use and it automatically sets the radio with offset, PL tone, etc. Everything you need. Amazing. I went down the list, setting each repeater into memory, and can now just scan the local repeaters.

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When I’m traveling, it updates based on my location. No matter where I’m at, I can see a list of the local repeaters and only have to touch the one I want to use on my phone. It instantly programs the radio.

Here is a link to more information about the software: http://www.zbm2.com/bluecat.html

Here is a link to the UK site where I bought the BlueCat: http://www.hamradio.co.uk/accessories-general-bluecat-radio-interface/adonis/bluecat-repeater-controller-for-yaesu-pd-4899.php


Overall, it was a successful install so far. Unfortunately, the repeaters here are mostly quiet. Not a lot of activity. Not like the Hawaii repeaters. You could always find someone on the Diamondhead repeater. I do miss that, but am finally trying to get involved in some radio activity here in Minnesota.

-wh7da

…antenna questions…

So, I’m joining a black bear hunt for this fall on Kuiu Island in Alaska. For emergency communications off the island, I am the only General Class licensed ham (so far) and so I picked up an FT-897 off eBay. This should be a great rig in the event we run into any problems.

I have a ton of questions based on the following information:

  • I have not yet ever operated HF.
  • Though I understand many antenna basics, much of it still confuses me.
  • I do not have an antenna tuner.
  • The manual for the 897 states

    “When installing a “balanced” antenna such as a Yagi or dipole,
    remember that the FT-897 is designed for use with an
    (unbalanced) coaxial feedline. Always use a balun or other
    balancing device so as to ensure proper antenna system performance.”

  • My pack weight for the trip is already exceeded with this radio and batteries, I must go absolutely minimum portable with the antenna.
  • Near the end of the trip, if we haven’t used the radio for emergency contacts, I plan to drain the batteries making QSO’s, which I have not yet made on HF.

Question 1: What band/frequency do you recommend for making contacts from the island?

Question 2: What antenna design do you recommend? It needs to be simple and inexpensive (which I think means a wire dipole), but I’m confused about the statement from the manual about the radio designed for an unbalanced coax feedline.

Question 3: Will I need an antenna tuner? Would an antenna tuner be only for multi band operations? Can I get by without one if I only plan to operate on two frequencies (one for QSO’s and one for the Alaska HF emergency frequency)?

Question 4: What recommendations and suggestions do you have for a beginner making his first HF contacts? I’d like to go on the air and not make “newbie-blunders”.

Basically, I’d like to make a trip to the hardware store this weekend and get the materials to build me an antenna. I can experiment with it next week, while I’m still on leave. I’m just not comfortable enough with the information I have to start building one. I’ve read everything from “you will need an antenna tuner if you are using unbalanced feedline such as coax, even with a balun” to “just throw a wire over a tree and make your contacts”. There’s a lot of middle ground between those statements.

So, any ideas for the newbie? Thanks in advance!

…eBay winner…

…So, I’m the proud new winner of a used eBay FT-897! I know, I’m excited too. I already can’t wait to get it. Should be here within a week or so.

And, what next? Hmmm… antenna. I’m thinking a really simple really portable string-up wire dipole antenna. Not necessarilly all band, but at least 20m and maybe 40m. Something that can be thrown up over the trees and operated on low power (for battery life).

Then, portability. Transport container. Something hard-cased like aluminum, or soft cased? Something hand-carry, or shoulder/back carry?

Of course, I’ll need another programming cable (I think) and programming software (definitely).

What about solar charging? Portable panels are getting pretty cheap nowadays.

Hmmm… and the habit addiction hobby expands…

…joined EARC…

…Well, it’s been a year since I was licensed, and I finally made it to a club meeting (www.EARCHI.org). I’ve had every intention of joining for quite some time, but only recently got around to it.

My first meeting was great. They did a PSK31 demonstration that was quite interesting. Definitely has some gears turning for me. I also picked up some cool stuff at the swap/shop after.

I picked up an inexpensive dual band mag mount mobile antenna (Jetstream JTM2P), some Power Pole connectors, a Power Pole power panel (Saratoga PP4), along with some wire and adapter connectors. So, it was a very productive evening.

Also, if you are out here in Hawaii, you know that parts are hard to come by, and shipping is expensive… Well, check out NH7QH’s store: http://www.d-starhawaii.com/store.html

I was able to purchase the items online, send payment via PayPal, and he delivered them to the meeting the next night.

I’ve also signed on for NCS (Net Control Station) training. So, I’ll be able to help out with the nightly nets. Tonight, I’m going to check in via mobile to test the new antenna tx/rx. Next, I just have to figure out how invasively I want to setup the FT-7800R in my wife’s Liberty. I want to keep it portable, so permanent mounting is out, atleast for the main radio. I currently have the radio sitting under the drivers seat, with the removeable head sitting out on the console. It works well enough for a temporary setup, but I want something between temporary and full install… We’ll see…

…P Echo…AKA Oscar 51…

I received P-Echo last night. I attempted to answer a CQ on it, but tx/rx were pretty noisy. I didn’t quite make out the callers callsign, and though he heard me, he didn’t get mine either.

I hung around as it made its pass and heard several others answering the CQ. It was pretty cool to hear people using the satellite as it made its pass.

I was using a stationary dual band J-pole and a Yaesu FT-7800R. With a directional antenna, I know I’ll have a better chance at it. Looks like a homebrew Yagi will be on my list of stuff to do!

…heard first satellite…

…I think…

I believe I received PacSAT, AKA Oscar 16 today on 437.025.

Actually, I started getting an intermittent transmission on 437.030, and followed it for several minutes down to 437.015, where it faded out. I was using my Arrow dual-band J-pole. There was nothing for several seconds, then an electronic noise that lasted for about 10-15ish seconds, then nothing… and that repeated.

…homebrew antenna…

So, What do you do if you have a UHF SO-239 chassis mount coax connector and a bunch of croquet wire hoops sitting around… and you’re bored?

You build a 1/4 wavelength groundplane antenna!

groundplane antenna

First, collect the necessary parts… wire hoops and chassis mount UHF connector.

groundplane antenna

Then, straighten the croquet hoop wires.

groundplane antenna

Next, you’ll want to measure the wires for your frequency. Mine came out at about 19.25-19.26, since my target frequency is 145.800 (ISS).

groundplane antenna

What’s next? Cut the wires. (Note: some sites recommend leaving the radials up to 20% longer than the vertical element. I don’t know a lot about antenna theory, yet, so I split the difference and cut my radials to 19.75).

groundplane antenna

Remove the coating near the end that will mount to the coax connector for the vertical element, and clean up the metal wire with some sandpaper.

groundplane antenna

By pure luck, this is how well the wire fits into the end of the UHF coax connector. Beautiful! Add a touch of solder, and the vertical element is done. Be careful while soldering. The vertical element will carry a lot of heat away from the soldering iron, and I melted the plastic a wee bit. Of course, I’m using a crappy uncared for soldering iron…

Now the hard part… how to fit the radials to the chassis mount? If I had a die that small, I could have cut threads on the end of the radial wire, bent the end into an “L” shape, and mounted it to the coax chassis with a nut on each side of the hole. But, it was not to be that easy for me…

Solder? I was not having much luck doing any kind of soldering on this chassis mount connector. So that was out. After stewing on it for a couple hours and rummaging the garage, I came up with this:

groundplane antenna

Crimp-on wire connectors. These did not easily go on. I had to open up the crimp tube a bit with a nail to get them to slip over the croquet wires. Since there is no “give” in the croquet wires, the crimps don’t exactly work like crimps. So, this is a temporary solution since the wires will slowly work their way out of the crimps with a little jostling here and there over time. But, it allowed me to continue with the build!

ground

Then, you put a little bend in the radials, and attach them to the UHF chassis connector.

groundplane antenna

Then, you cut a hole in the side of your PVC antenna mast base, run your RG-6 antenna cable, and test your radio!

So far, I have great tx/rx with the repeaters I can normally hit with my j-pole. However, I had no luck with the ISS, though it wasn’t a close pass… So, I’ll watch the passes, and try again on a closer one.

End result? I have a VERY inexpensive 1/4 wavelength groundplane antenna for very little effort! Great project.

…FT-7800R Portable…

I finally finished my portable setup!

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How portable? Well, the antenna, the pvc standoffs, the tripod base, the antenna cable, and the power cable all break down to fit in a croquet bag. The radio, mic, manual, and logbook all fit in a little fanny pack. To protect the radio in the fanny pack, it slides into a foam filter for a wet/dry vacuum.

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It’s a Yaesu FT-7800R with Anderson Power Pole connectors and 10ft of cable. To connect to a power source, I have 3 options: Connect to a car with a RigRunner (my wife’s Jeep, my Jeep). Connect to any car with the cigarette lighter adapter (not for extended operations, really just emergency use). Connect straight to a battery with the mini jumper cable adapter.

The antenna cable is 15ft of RG-6 coax, with the appropriate ends soldered/crimped on.

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The antenna is an Arrow Antenna OSJ 146/440 J-Pole. I paid the extra money to have the long element break down into 3 pieces. Both removable thirds of the long element screw into the angle bracket base for storage.

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The tripod base is an old rocket launcher made by a company no longer in business. Someone really should get the rights to this and make these again! Best part is that I didn’t have to modify the tripod at all, so I can still use it as a rocket launcher when I move back to the mainland… (no real rocket activity out here on Oahu).

To stand the antenna off from the tripod, I used a couple sections of pvc. If I need the antenna higher, I simple add another section.

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The whole thing needs less than 5 minutes to set up, and occupies very little space in the back of the Jeep. To take it elsewhere, simply put on the fannypack and throw the croquet bag over your shoulder. It’s all very light.