Rebuilding the Shack– from scratch

Rebuilding the Shack– from scratch

Operating position showing old Icom 756 PROIII

The old station

In 2014 I decided to upgrade the station, I became retired in 2013, and my use of the station was no longer weekends, and holidays.  I could use it anytime I wanted, day or night.  I decided I needed a better radio, and a bit more desk space.  After a lot of looking, the Elecraft K3 popped up on my radar.  The K3 provided me with a better radio, and a bit more desk space, exactly what I wanted. See more of the clean up here.  At the time of purchase for the K3, I decided it was about time to do a station rebuild, starting with the station grounding , and working my way to the Coax and antenna, and finally the control lines.  This of course necessitated a complete tear down of the entire shack– right down to the operating desk.  I decided that given I had a new high performance radio, I needed to be sure that the shack was as “in order” as I could make it.  So the tear down began…  As can be seen from the photo on the left, 10 years of neglect had left the rear wiring in a bit of a mess, and somewhat dirty.  Now before you say, what a mess, look behind your operating desk…  If it is clean, you are one of the few hams that actually gets behind things and keeps things clean, and you can now say “What a mess”.  The entire series regarding RFI mitigation can be found here. Read more »

Categories: Cleanup, Construction, Info, Reviews, Shack Rebuild, Station | 1 Comment

ARRL to FCC: “Grow Light” Ballast Causes HF Interference.

ARRL to FCC: “Grow Light” Ballast Causes HF Interference, Violates Rules.

arrl-smallOn March 14th, the ARRL published an article stating: “ARRL formally complained to the FCC, contending that a “grow light” ballast being widely marketed and sold is responsible for severe interference to the MF and HF bands”.

In a bold move, the ARRL complained to the FCC regarding Grow Lights and the RFI they generate.  The ARRL included extensive lab reports on a single lamp unit showing HF interference beyond commission set limits.  See the this article on the ARRL web site for full information. Read more »

Categories: Info, Legal Actions, RFI Mitigation | Leave a comment

Review of Ameritron’s AL-82 Amplifier

Ameritron's AL-82 amplifier

Ameritron’s AL-82

After several years of use, this review of Ameritron’s AL-82 amplifier seems long overdue.  I have owned the AL-82 for three years now, and over that time, it has given me incredible performance on all bands.  This review will not be a technical review, it will in fact be a general observation and usage review.  Questions like:  does the amp hold up, does the amp work, does it run hot, is it easy to tune, etc., that sort of review…  All comparisons will be based on my ownership of the following amps: Heath SB-220, Heath SB-200, Drake L4B, and a Gonset GSB-201.  All amps but the Gonset were wired for 220 VAC, not  110 VAC.  All amps were run in desktop service.  ie. not in a rack with additional cooling, just sitting on a desk.  All amps were used in contest service.  We need a base to compare amps with, so we will break the amps into the following. Read more »

Categories: Accessories reviews, Ameritron: AL-82, Info, Reviews, Station | 1 Comment

Review of ‘The Daily DX’

The Daily DX

The Daily DX

I wanted to actually use “The Daily DX” for a year prior to reviewing it, that way, I could actually speak from a position of knowing what I was talking about, and not just mouthing a review of it.  I tried the free two week trial.  The Daily DX provides.  When I signed up it was on the order of 49 bucks a year or around fourteen cents per day.  The daily DX is a DX newsletter that comes out pretty much every morning at 4 AM PLT.  It comes out as email, and is very topical.  The first question to answer is “Was it worth it”?  The answer is yes, if you like DX.  If you are not interested in DX, then skip “The Daily DX”, it is not for you.  If on the other hand you want to know what is happening in the world of DX by all means subscribe.  If you have the slightest interest in DX, you should subscribe.  I initially subscribed to do the review, I have however now renewed my subscription as The Daily DX has actually helped me get more DX!  For instance, today, it noted that the Vatican would be active for a 10 hour period…  I have not seen this information anywhere else, just in The Daily DX.   Read more »

Categories: Daily DX, DX, Info, Reviews, Service reviews | Leave a comment

Review of N3FJP’s AC Log 4.x



This is the review of N3FJP’s AC Log, One of the best logging program available just got better!  Scott Davis, (N3FJP), has announced his completion of the rewrite of the popular logging program called “Amateur Contact Log“, version 4.0 from Visual Basic to the C# language, moving the version number from ACL3.4x to ACL4.x.  See my review of ACL3.4 here.

N3FJP's AC Log, ACLog 4.x full screen view.

ACLog 4.x, click for larger view

Alas, I had hoped that the next rewrite might make it possible to port to Linux…  This rewrite does not do that, (thank you Microsoft), but, it does run under VirtualBox, and I hear under Wine for Linux as well.  So it looks as if I will be keeping  my VirtualBox Windows XP box for a bit longer…

Overall the program seems more mature, the look and feel are better, the fonting seems better, but there are a few foibles in it yet, not many, and nothing bad so far.  Overall the program is well written, seems a tad bit slower than 3.4, (which is not a surprise), but has several new features which make it a good change.  Best of all, N3FJP makes the update available free to registered users.  Something that surprises me.  Most vendors will charge for a major version change.  Perhaps given that this was not really a massive change, (to the user, but a total re-write to the author), no charge was levied. Read more »

Categories: Info, N3FJP: AC Log 4.x, Reviews, Software information, Software reviews, Station | Leave a comment

Phased arrays for 40 and 30 Meters

Overview of Lot showing all ground radials, and antenna placements.

Scaled view of project


If  you look at this site, you will see that I have been fighting an RFI problem for years…  For the most part I have it beaten down, and it seems to not be coming back…  So…  That said, I decided to construct a four square array for 40 meters, and a two element 30 Meter phased array, so I could null the remaining RFI, and gain some signal too boot.  This also gives me a decent 30 meter Antenna array as well…  A four square system is not a small project, you need four verticals, miles of ground wire, a phasing unit, and some land, couple that with a two element 30 Meter phased array and you end up needing something like two miles of ground wire, and five antenna…  For the past few decades I have been threatening a 40 Meter phased array, maybe two elements, maybe parasitic, or maybe driven, I never really committed.

I had a failed tower project, and found myself with a slight surplus of money after I sold everything dealing with the tower…  The cash I was going to use for the tower, could be redirected to the four square project.  So I decided to build a phased array for forty and 30 Meters!  As I see it the pros/cons as as follows: Read more »

Categories: Antenna Reviews, Construction, Info, Reviews, Setups, Station | Leave a comment

Review of DX Engineering’s Radial Plate



This review of DX Engineering’s Radial Plate was prompted by the installation of a Four Square array, and a two element 40 Meter vertical array at NK7Z.  I decided to evaluate each item in the building of the arrays separably, then review the entire system as a whole later.  Years ago I had promised myself I would never spend fifty bucks on a piece of metal with holes in it.  After making the decision to build a Four Square for 30 meters, and a two element phased array for 40 meters, I decided to revisit that decision, as I had a lot of ground radials to lay and connect to antenna bases.

My plan was to buy the needed parts for a single monopole, construct it as perfectly as I possibly could, and then duplicate that process for the other five antenna.  Part of that process was to buy a radial plate for the ground radial system so I could keep all of the wire under control…  I bit the bullet and bought one!  I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived, it is so pretty…  So perfectly built…  So heavy…  I actually didn’t feel so bad about spending fifty bucks on a piece of metal with holes in it!

The photo above, and on the DX Engineering web page does not do the plate justice…  It really looks a lot better than the supplied photo from DX Engineering.  The surface is smooth, the holes are sharp edged, and perfectly lined up, and in general the construction is a 10 out of 10 for quality. Read more »

Categories: Accessories reviews, Antenna Reviews, Info, Reviews, Station | Leave a comment

Review of Ameritron’s SDC-102 Screwdriver Controller


SDC-102 by Ameritron

SDC-102 by Ameritron

This review of Ameritron’s SDC-102 Screwdriver Controller was written as a result of perhaps 5 months of use of a new Ameritron SDC-102, in a  2004 Tahoe four wheel drive sports utility vehicle.  The Tarheel 100HP antenna is mounted on the stock Tarheel antenna mount, which in turn is mounted to a Tarheel trailer hitch mount, which lives on the rear of the Tahoe in the trailer hitch receiver   I am working on a quick weatherproof disconnect for that setup.  When finished I’ll add it to the review section, or start a new section on homebrew stuff…

I did not want to use a switch which raised and lowered my antenna with no feedback, of any kind– I wanted some repeatability, and to me, repeatability means numbers used for calibration, not just listening to the background noise and peaking it.  Although that actually works pretty well, the thought of having to re-tune for each band change, (perhaps while driving), to some unknown position of the antenna seemed at best:

  • primitive
  • dangerous
  • a waste of time
  • not good for the output stage of the rig
  • not good for the antenna itself

I have never even used the single switch controller switch, other than to test things out, I went directly to the SDC-102.  The SDC-102 is a well constructed metal box, with a mess of cables coming out the bottom of it.  It is light weight, and somewhat thin so it mounts up pretty well…  See the specs later on in the review for more detail on that.  It is easy to read, and I can attest to the fact that it did not run my battery down when left on overnight…  The photo on the left does not do justice to the brightness of the display, it is a lot brighter than the photo shows. Read more »

Categories: Accessories reviews, Ameritron: SDC-102, Antenna Reviews, Info, Reviews, Setups, Station | Leave a comment

Review of LDG AT-1000 PRO II Autotuner

LDG AT-1000 PRO II Autotuner

LDG AT-1000 PRO II Autotuner

This review of LDG AT-1000 PRO II Autotuner is a follow up review of the AT-1000 PRO II autotuner…  I sold my LDG AT-1000, (review here), in order to purchase the AT-1000 PRO II Autotuner.

The price set me back a bit, ($539.00 at HRO), but, based on my previous experience with LDG’s quality, and customer service I went ahead and purchased the LDG AT-1000 PRO II Autotuner, I have not been unhappy with that decision at all.

The size of the boxes is very close, with the AT-1000 PRO II being the larger of the two…  This caused me a bit of pain as my setup is VERY tight…  The PRO II is about 1/4 inch wider…  It almost did not fit.  I had to remove the carry handle from my Icom IC-756 PRO 3 to get it to fit, and it was tight…  I do miss the meter, and the thought of paying $130.00 for an external meter makes me take a deep breath and say…  It’s OK…  I have not bought the meter yet…  I hope the meter takes power from the Icom like the tuner does…  See the review for more on this…  I will add to this review on the meter if I decide to shell out another $130.00… Read more »

Categories: Accessories reviews, Antenna Reviews, Info, LDG: AT-1000 PROII, Reviews, Station | Leave a comment

Review of the LDG AT-1000 Autotuner

Review of the LDG AT-1000 Autotuner

LDG AT-1000

I picked up a blemish version of this tuner several years ago from LDG.  I had an issue recently with the tuner, (after five years of contest use), and LDG did such a good job of customer service I decided to do a review of this device.  Actually it was in the works anyway, and their customer service was so good I pushed it up in the queue.  So here is the Review of the LDG AT-1000 Autotuner.  The tuner information from LDG can be found here.  BTW, I have purchased the PRO II tuner, and so far it is running just fine, and a bit faster on tune up…  It seems a bit quieter as well, so I will review the PRO II after a few months of operation as well. Read more »

Categories: Accessories reviews, Antenna Reviews, Info, LDG: AT-1000, Reviews, Station | Leave a comment