Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Trouble with Toroids – Getting all Wound Up Apparently About Nothing…

When you run across a well done article on a topic we all tend to need every bit of help on, well you share the link to that excellent bit of work.

I’ve had more trouble with winding toroids than any other aspect of kit building, excepting fussing with surface mounted components too small to see without a glass.

Mike VE3WDM has done an excellent write-up of how he conquered the toroid problem, with very helpful onwards links.

“VE3WDM’s HAM RADIO BLOG: Are toroids getting you all wound up” at:

Hope you find this useful!



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Mother Nature & Work – Sitting out the 2010 CQ WW SSB Contest

A combination of work taking away the first half and Mother Nature’s doings requiring my attention to a downed tree taking the second half – not to mention the tim needed to re-erecting my antennas after bringing them down due to the week’s huge storm – are filling this weekend, rather than the 2010 CQ WW SSB Contest I had hoped to at least casually operate.

At tower heights professional gear near my home registered sustained 84 MPH winds with higher peak gusts during this week’s storm. As a precaution when the storm dropped down enough to allow the tower to be safely lowered all the antennas were put into weather-safe mode.

A roughly 70-80 foot tree came down near the long wire antennas and the GAP vertical, though fortunately its base slid down my backyard’s ravine, clearing everything important, though it has left a 20 foot top sticking over the yard. It looks like the foremast of schooner ship! Sunday will be spent putting up several rings of scaffold on adjustable plates to safely get at the parts that need to be dropped. Expected an hour of prep-work for five-ten minutes of chainsaw-time. The ground is too uneven for a ladder, which also is too risky if anything goes amiss, and a lift would tear up the lawn.

Maybe in after work tasks I’ll find some time & open bands to run a few hours – just depends.

As for any serious personal self-challenge the 2010 CQ WW SSB Contest drops into my “wishful thinking” contest list.

Hope that YOU do get on air for the contest and score well! I’ll be thinking about the QSOs that I “coulda, shoulda, woulda” made if work and Mother Nature had let me keep my plans.



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Planning for a Shack Relocation – Six Steps Away Rule

Back when I first set up my present station in what was supposed to be the Wine Cellar/Cool Storage of this home, I knew I was violating the “Six Steps Rule.”

Several very active long term operators strongly advised to put a person’s operating station no more than Six Steps from their usual living area in their home.

For reasons Domestic, Technical & Logistical I knowingly violated this – first I had to respect that my radio station was perhaps a center in how I spend my time, but was not a center of our family time. Then there were issues of ready power & routes for feedlines and cables. Logistically the space was available, undeveloped would put a station in a decent spot.

The downside is having it tucked out of the way, rather distant from the “lives in the house” and the forced physical space design limitations are limited the station effectiveness.

Deep in thought on how to correct the situation, bringing the station nearby to our main living area.

In the back of my mind is the question of whether a bigger transition is in the cards, as we see the children one by one depart for University & Careers. Do we appropriate some of that space for hobby use – as I would also very much like to have a designated space to practice & rehearse in. Practicing long-tones and scales is just as well kept in a off-space if others are home.

Back to the Six Step Rule, one friend has violated this in a big way, and very successfully! He has a separate building about a 50 yards from their home, which could double as second home. A wonderful solution, though with several children at a time in University for the next roughly eight years the checkbook is already committed elsewhere.

Have been thinking of converting the “guest room” into a combined Radio Room, Study & Dressing Room. As I am prone to be an early riser, a late reader and operate the radios just about anytime something good is worth catching on the radio waves, a combined function room might be the ticket.

As this room could open into the Master Bedroom through a short passage, the small alterations seem to beg doing. Don’t think the rehearsal area could overlay well, and am thinking of co-opting one of the boys room, perhaps with a change to a murphy bed for the weekends they are home from school.

My potential new radio area is close to the tower & feedline box, has reasonable access for adding the power circuits & cable pass-throughs needed, has a view of the tower & antennas and solidly meets the Six Step Rule from our main living areas while being a bit buffered from the main space at the same time.

Not that the space is perfect, as a floor plan that allows for the doors & station desks to work seems a challenge. And a review with my builder friends to make sure there isn’t something structural in the way of the minor alterations hasn’t happened.

Once those milestones are achieved perhaps a few sketches will be put up to share.

Six Steps…. hmm, wonder if that also described the design process?



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The Waxing & Waning of Radio Clubs

The radio club is an interesting social affiliation. Fellowship, mutual aid, local political presence, teamsmenship, special events, attraction & support of hobby newcomers, repeater support…. these are but a few of the reasons – the “existence purpose” – for a club to originally be formed, and if the good original reasons are sustained the reasons for the club’s continuance over time.

Some clubs come into existence for singular reasons – a repeater club, a DX club, and the local contesting club are typical focus groups.

Some came into existence for geographical reasons – the XYZ County or City radio club.

Some have a special event, or special site – the USS XYZ Museum Club, or the XYZ Special Event Club.

Many add reasons over time, becoming one of the “Big Tent” radio clubs where many activities are reasons for existence.

Locally our clubs are in flux. Sharp focuses and interests that have drifted over time have led to new centers of activity and temporary disarray.

This sort of Waxing & Waning I’ve been told by very old time radio amateurs is normal, and they have seen it over and over.

Embracing change as a chance to rejuvenate both personal and group radio activities is easier said than done, especially when emotions, egos and checkbooks get into the mix.

Doing that full embracement of the inevitable changes of time, personal interests and the complexion of the community has its rewards.

As just one example of the changes a club faces, Geographical limitations are so changed from even my childhood days – everything from improved inexpensive travel options to “virtual travel” through VoIP, Video Conferencing, Webinars, and other distance technology techniques. If things work out tomorrow I’ll participate in another of several Web-Lectures on Amateur Radio with fellow amateurs from around the world!

It seems the trick for a continuing small club is to keep its focus, or maintain an altered focus engaging to enough members to be sustainable.

And it is important to recognize when one’s own personal interests have moved to a different aspect of Amateur Radio. In my case I do not have all that much interest in Repeaters and Emcomm. Nor is my present interest in building projects like the Rb-Frequency Source or chasing DX a huge overlap in interest for many of the members. I imagine my describing chasing the Togo DXpedition waiting for a break in the pile-up doesn’t exactly sound a lot better than a description of “paint drying” to 2m repeater focused member.

When a club looses its focus, like a car that rusts out and blows its engine, it needs to be overhauled or scrapped. Which is more appropriate is a local situationally dependent evaluation with no pat answer.

The only “for sure” is that doing the same club things and somehow expecting a different result doesn’t seem to make much sense, especially when the “different result” is somehow always imagined as only a “positive different result.” The same routine will usually result in exactly the same results, at least until the last member leaves turning out the lights…..

For the record I belong to a few groups, whether they be waxing or waning. ARRL, Society of Midwestern Contesters, W9DK Mancorad, NEWDXA North East Wisconsin DX Association, NCDXF Northern California DX Foundation, Feld Hell Club, PODXS 070 CLub, OMISS, Century Club and so on….. though I have become pretty passive in most of these groups.



Mole Day Oct 23rd 2010

Oct 23rd is almost upon us again and it is time for International Mole Day 2010!!

Celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m., Mole Day commemorates Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x 10^23), which is a basic measuring unit in chemistry. Mole Day was created as a way to foster interest in chemistry. Schools throughout the United States and around the world celebrate Mole Day with various activities related to chemistry and/or moles.

For a given molecule, one mole is a mass (in grams) whose number is equal to the atomic mass of the molecule. For example, the water molecule has an atomic mass of 18, therefore one mole of water weighs 18 grams. An atom of neon has an atomic mass of 20, therefore one mole of neon weighs 20 grams. In general, one mole of any substance contains Avogadro’s Number of molecules or atoms of that substance. This relationship was first discovered by Amadeo Avogadro (1776-1858) and he received credit for this after his death

Check out more at the National Mole Day website!



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GUEST POST – AE5JU on Boy Scout Jamboree on the Air

Another welcomed GUEST POST – AE5JU on Boy Scout Jamboree on the Air




BEARS W5BMC Jamboree on the Air

The BEARS (Bayouland Emergency Amateur Radio Service – W5BMC) had the great pleasure of hosting 15 Boy Scouts and their Scoutmasters at the BEARS station for Jamboree on the air. They spent about 2 hours with us while we showed them everything from generator and antenna tower to cases of MRE’s, bottled water, and 1st Aid Kit. “Be Prepared” is the Scout motto, and so it is with the BEARS.

The Scouts were all courteous, attentive, and just good kids. They raised their hands to speak and asked some very good questions. Just good kids.

We explained the use of, and differences between broadcast radio and amateur radio, propagation and use of HF, VHF/UHF radio, and various modes of operation. I flashed through my personal stack of QSL cards, showing contacts all over North, Central, and South America, the Carribean, and Europe.

We brought the Scouts into our radio room and listened on 20 meters, then dialed through 17 meters, and on up to 15 meters, making note of the stations working JOTA. One ham, VE3AXW on 17 meters, really caught my attention in the way he was working the JOTA stations, talking to the Scouts. I remarked, “This is the guy we want to try to talk to.”

While waiting our turn to contact VE3AWX we explained various ham terms used, comparing terms such as QSL or 73 to texting terms like LOL or K. I pointed out the map on the wall showing the numbered areas, and the Scouts quickly found the “3” area in Canada.

When we heard Tony give his 73 and finish his contact with another station there was finally a pause. I called, “VE3AXW, this is AE5JU” and Tony came right back us.

Tony VE3AXW is a class act! He talked to a number of the boys who patiently waited in line for the mic to be passed to them. The Scouts got to see that you really can talk to other countries, in this case over 1100 miles, with just 100 watts from a radio (Icom 718) that can be purchased for about the price of a laptop computer, with a homebrew wire antenna (80-10m Windom).

As the Scouts talked to Tony after a few exchanges each would say, “I’m handing the mic to the next boy.” And Tony would do it all again, asking about Radio Merit Badge, interest in ham radio, how long a scout, age, etc. And “So, what do you think about ham radio?” And the Scouts asked Tony some good questions, too.

Tony will be sending enough QSL cards so that each Scout who participated will get his own card.

We have arranged for some of the Scouts to take license classes.

Also, for the Scouts to earn their Radio Merit Badges one of the required activities is SWL. They have to listen for a total of four hours in both daytime and evening sessions. We have arranged the loan of an Icom R75 and my Field Day antenna, along with some suggestions of frequencies and times to listen.

At the end, Jackie KA5LMZ (BEARS President) and I signed cards confirming the Scouts had completed part of their Radio Merit Badge requirements (a visit a radio station).

All in all, a great learning experience for the Scouts.

No Scouts were injured or killed in this activity.

Paul – AE5JU

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