About 1982 one of my sons became interested in Chicken Box (Citizens Band) radio. So, I set him up with our caravan (long gone, like everything else) to use as a CB shack thus finding myself involved with aerials and setting up a station. Naturally, having become drawn in and with a communications background, it seemed that my next logical step was to become a radio HAM myself at last.
|First, in 1983, I obtained my G6SWC callsign, pending passing the Morse test. A few months later I became G4TUG. My station sported a TH6DXX beam and a linear amplifier driven by, the then, fairly new Yeasu FT102. There was also an assortment of wire and commercially made antennae including a reasonably effective two-metre Yagi. Here and above is my 1983 Station.|
That was a very good period of time for radio propagation so I was able to make a fair number of contacts across all bands but mainly ten, fifteen and twenty metres. Over a two year period I worked about one-hundred-and-eighty countries, although I had not counted them at the time but subsequently found out through RodLog, my HAM radio logging system.
Then my misfortune took place and a so-called friend, who was supposed to be helping me, purloined my equipment. The loss of my station caused me to lose interest in amateur radio for the next fifteen years.
Since then I have managed to acquire a number of secondhand transceivers and pieces of equipment from other HAM’s, car boot sales, rallies etc. The only new transceiver that I managed to buy is my Yaesu FT 920, with which I am very pleased. This excites a used Ameritron AL30BX linear amplifier that I only use on top band. The antenna is a sort of random phased array comprising a Top Band rough dipole at a height of twenty-two feet (borrowing a couple of trees for a "V" configuration, not "inverted V") and a Carolina Windom 160 Special "inverted V" at a maximum height of about thirty-three feet. The two antennae are fed into an MFJ 1026 Deluxe Noise Canceling Signal Enhancer (A spin doctors’ name for a Phasing Unit) with which I have had a reasonable amount of success. Admittedly the 1026 would not perform for me in standard trim but adding slow motion drives improved the usability immensely and made it operable and very effective. Now I have worked two-hundred-and-thirty plus countries.
Update: I purchased an ex. demo two year old Icom IC756ProII, dispensed with my Top Band antenna and extended my Carolina Windom 160 Special. 31 feet was added to the short leg and 88 feet to the long leg, making 252 feet across the top. The result is that my rigs internal ASTU will tune everywhere from Top Band to 6 Mtrs permitting me to dispense with any external ASTU; very convenient. Competitive DX is achieved on all bands. Even the Four Squares and beams of others help my signals. My MFJ 1026 has been taken out of service because I now use the linear amp (just for 160Mtrs and the power is too much for the close proximity sampling antenna; it overloads. So I am stuck with a high noise level but 400 Watts is essential for 160Mtrs....it is that which the big boys play with. My latest antenna acquisition is a CobWeb to cover 20Mtrs through to tenMtrs. The CobWeb has an omnidirectional polar diagram which makes it a useful brother to the Carolina Windom that has lobes and troughs. The CobWeb tunes all mentioned bands without the need for an ASTU; that gives me a one push-button change for both aerials and bands. Very convenient. My Icom IC756 ProII has also given way to a ProIII.
For seventy cms I have a second hand five-element quad at about twenty-six feet that works well into Europe with only thirty-five watts.
My two metre antenna is an eight element crossed Yagi that I have configured to operate in circular, vertical or horizontal polarization. From the front or rear view it is in the form of an ‘X’, not the conventional ‘+’. The switching box was a real pain to wire up and phase in all three modes, but patience paid off. It has worked Switzerland on SSB with only thirty-five watts. For most of the UK, FM only, I use a Slim Jim co-linear at twenty-five feet. It does work France with thirty watts FM, but for ninety-nine percent of the time I only squirt three watts into it from a static-mounted mobile transceiver.
For six metres, I have fabricated a delta loop using a discarded curtain rail. It is attached immediately outside the shack window (top floor, three story) at about twenty feet and at the same height as my head when I am at the microphone. It is only about six feet from me and that is not good news with one hundred watts. It could explain a lot though! Anyway it has been taken down and I only use the Carolina Windom now.
Differential Tee ASTU I made earlier!
Here’s the shack in June 2003.
Unable to afford a differential capacitor for my ASTU, I made one up from a conventional cardioid capacitor. All the other parts came from my or other HAM’s junk boxes. Requiring few components, all large, construction is very easy. However, making it cover the frequency range from below 1.8 to above 30 MHz is quite tricky and I am grateful to another HAM for some useful hints, tips, techniques and guidance, as he has made many types of ASTU over the years gone by and has a lot of experience in the subject.
Operating from the top floor of a three-story house, among many other houses, was a major problem due to the danger of causing TVI. After trying out many suggested earthing systems that did not cure the problem, I eventually killed it dead with the use of dedicated and concealed counterpoise wires for each band; magic. Noise problems from the nearby industrial estate were minimised by the MFJ 1026 whilst in use. For good measure and fine tuning I added an MFJ 931 Artificial Ground. Being thrown off the air for TVI is not my ambition.
The picture below depicts the main communicating section of the station in October 2003. Sitting on top of the FT 920 was the MFJ 1026 with a VSWR meter atop. To the right are the VHF and 70cms VSWR meters. On the next shelf above is my PSU and homebrew 100 Watt ASTU that was fed by the FT920, the internal ATU of which cannot tune my Carolina Windom. Hanging from the shelf above the PSU is my Alinco DR605 dual band FM mobile. Atop that was a very old portable colour TV that I used to check for TVI. The next space on the right housed my DX394 receiver with my IC821 multi-mode dual band base station. Above that is a cubbyhole housing four speakers and a Sony tape recorder with external mic added; it is only acoustically coupled but can record from all transceivers and then retransmit. Finally, on the top shelf, was my home-brew 1kW ASTU, now relegated to the spares cupboard; spare Z-Match ASTU with frequency counter on top. To the left of the FT920 is my Ameritron AL80BX Linear Amp and to the left of that is my home-brew computer. The space between the linear and the computer is occupied by the controls and indicators for my rotators. The top shelf supports an old but useful Yaesu FRG 7700 receiver fed by my Top Band vertical (via the ASTU to the right of the power supply) and 14 to 29 MHz rotatable Magnetic Loop. On the far right of the cabinet is mounted the switching box for the rotatable X-Yagi. The space between the linear amp and the computer contains the controls and indicators for my mag. Loop and VHF/UHF rotators. Attached to the right hand side of the cabinet is my X-Yagi switching box, just above the telephone. The rest is too trivial to mention.
|Operating section reorganised in October 2003||Operating station reorganised again in August 2004|
In Feb 04, I acquired an old but good CAP.CO. SPC 3000 ATU for a very reasonable price so it was added to the station, tuning my random 160 metre dipole to the linear amp. The 3000 is visible in place of the TV set that has been moved to the right, thus occupying the space previously used by my homebrew ASTU. The Artificial Earth now sits in the space where the DX394 Rx sat; the latter being placed in stores too. Also recently added is an old Kenwood MC60A microphone for the Icom VHF/UHF transceiver. I already had an MC60A for the FT920 transceiver and the good audio reports received convinced me that this microphone suits my setup.
The CAP.CO ATU tunes the random Top Band dipole, primarily for 160 through to 40mtrs, 400Watts. The ATU adjacent to the Power Supply preselects the Carolina Windom for 160 mtrs. The MFJ Noise Cancellor was fed by the vertical pole antenna and is phased with the dipole. The Dipole and the Carolina Windom feed to the two aerial "A" and "B"sockets respectively on the FT 920.
The above compaction is not the ideal situation for operating, DX’ing or avoiding TVI. Power lines, industrial estate, lots of television sets and home computers, bus route with sodium lighting, J-Beam’s test masts, etc. may all receive, cause, or contribute to, problems that have had to be solved, especially concerning the usage of the Ameritron Linear Amplifier.
The pictures below show that I do have reasonable height, my QTH being about two-hundred-and-fifty feet above sea level. This is certainly helpful for VHF and UHF but the space constraint presents considerable problems for HF antennae erection.
Fortunately it has been possible to ‘borrow’ a few trees outside my premises, which has enabled me to operate on Top Band. It is not good but DX works in winter and is often possible in summer with the MFJ 1026 phasing unit and Carolina Windom 160 Special. Noise is reduced to an (only just) acceptable level and the linear amplifier provides the four hundred watts permitted. I have worked Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand on 80mtrs in summer but with difficulty. Recently I wired up my mast (pole) as a top band vertical radiator but it needs more work yet and radials are an impossibility. It does out perform my Carolina Windom on 160 but so far it is not as good as my rough 160 dipole.
Repairing the ‘Slim Jim’ before my paraplegia. Outside the window J-Beam’s test mast can be seen. The three story house, seen through my window, is similar to the one in which I am virtually captive.
Here are the offending power lines. The distant orange dots illuminate the A45 motor route. Note the industrial buildings behind the houses. The almost vertical line in the foreground is the radiating dangly-down component of my Carolina Windom 160 Special.
For an aerial view of my potential interference sources (sending and receiving) Click Here (thanks to Google), my shack is approximately in the centre of the picture; industrial estate to the left, houses to the right, power lines between (see picture above).
Finally, here are some pictures of my council house sporting some of my aerials.
Note the configuration of the two-metre X-Yagi. Below it is the seventy centimetre five-element quad. Behind is obviously my Slim Jim, above which is the Carolina Windom; both supported by my Top Band mast, the top two feet being made of wood. The cylindrical object is the matching unit for the Carolina Windom, actually some eight feet from the mast. The object adjacent to the front window (the shack) is my curtain rail delta loop for six metres. There is another delta loop, not visible here but at the back of the sty, for fifteen metres. Also hidden around the side and back are a couple of random wire antennae used for receiving and monitoring only. Actually, I find that it is possible to do all my HF and 6mtr work with just my CobWeb and Carolina Windom so all other HF antennae have been removed.
There is no front garden attached to the houses in this terrace so we planted the trees and shrubs on the bare council green, with permission, over twenty years ago. The main reason was to shield our front door from northerly winds whilst providing the area with some pleasant colour and foliage. Most of it has survived the vagaries of the local vandals, sweet little darlings, but not all. If one looks carefully, two sodium street lamps are visible. The one tree in the foreground was there when we moved here, planted by the Council who have since chopped it down! My back garden is only 35 feet by 28 feet so fitting the aerials in is a problem. For a view of the rear visit my gardening page.
We planted the four (there were five) conifers when they were only one foot tall. Hidden among them are about a dozen shrubs and roses of various types.
VHF takeoff is pretty good to the southeast and to the southwest....
....but to the north there is another hundred feet of hill to overcome.
My Top Band half wave dipole is virtually invisible but none the less here are pictures of how it is situated, the scaffolding is temporary of course, courtesy of Wellingborough Borough Council. My wire has since been stolen.
|160 Metre Dipole North East element||160 Metre Dipole South element|
Each leg was a little less than 130 ft long and the total span had to be angled as a slight beam towards the East, about 120 degrees. For a horizontal dipole on 160 metres, height is not easily achievable by most radio HAMs (the proper height is utterly impractical and impossible to erect here); radiating elevation angles are rather high but it did give a reasonable account of itself and captured DX signals quite reasonably; it also gave good results on transmit. The NE leg crossed the green and was attached to the tree adjacent to the three storey house near the road. The South leg crossed the car park and was attached to the tree adjacent to the three storey house near the road. It has a VSWR of 1.2 to 1 and resonates at 1.845 MHz. The Carolina Windom 160 Special is only a few feet away and almost parallel with the dipole, though not as long with a span of 133ft plus a 22ft dangly-down, but somehow they both work well. Of course that is a purely subjective statement but I do strive for the best possible station under my constraints and conditions, and am pretty satisfied. As recently as 17th May 04, my Carolina Windom enabled me to receive a barefoot 5 X 9 + 15dB report from VO1CLT at 23.05 hrs GMT and with several witnesses to confirm it (though I am myself suspicious that it could have been a wind-up). Even in the Spring at about 1630 hrs GMT and in bright sunshine my 160 metre dipole made contact with Italy and, if I recall correctly, Croatia. The next day saw a repeat performance so it was not a fluke. Winter contacts with Australia and New Zealand are not too difficult for either aerial. Both aerials have a large amount of "hammock" sag so that the trees do not snap them in severe winds (I have tried weights and pulleys but simplicity seems to be better). However, the Carolina Windom has a vertical component built in and the sag in my dipole probably contributes a small vertical component too. After all the theory its results that count, and I certainly seem to be achieving them.
The 25ft mast in the South view was only there to support my then 15 metre Delta Loop.
Reminder: To view the aerial photo of my interference and operating
difficulties (linked above) Click