Category Archives: K9ZW Shack

Feeling out Antennas for K9ZW Island QTH – Part 4

An update on installing the Custom Extra Heavy Duty Zero-Five Flagpole-Vertical HF Antenna.

Here is the flag flying once the pole/antenna was up:

Antenna flying our flag

After letting everything “settle” I’ve since I’ve releveled the pole by using the mounting nuts on the embedded L-bolts.

Bought the parts for the radial ring and will solder that together back at home.  The ground will need to be a lot more moist to put in the radials.

The underground conduit will be put in by a contractor as well.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Feeling out Antennas for K9ZW Island QTH – Part 3

Focus has been on installing the Custom Extra Heavy Duty Zero-Five Flagpole-Vertical HF Antenna.  First you have to dig a hole.  of course we hit bedrock just 24 inches down, and brushed against the telephone wire despite the hole not being on the original plot of land.  No idea why the telephone wire ran west onto what was at te time a neighbors parcel.  Some mysteries are lost to time.

down to rock at 24 inches

Since we hit rock we had to go for a modified base, where weight and physical dimensions substitute for the 24 inch 6 ft deep cylinder we’d expected to have poured. I was off island when it was formed and poured, so here is the result.  We made a form plate to put the L-bolts in the right spacing and pattern.

 

Final dimensions ended up 4 ft x 4 ft x 2 ft, with a 2 ft x 2 ft by 3/4 ft riser.  Because of the way the bedrock stripped the overall pour was just over 2 yards of high strength concrete – nearly three times the expected 7/10ths of a yard for the tubular design we couldn’t use.

 

Here is the result once the forms were removed:

 

Zero-Five Flagpole base

I didn’t want to take the spacer off at this stage, preferring it to keep everything in alignment until the base is actually installed (it is sitting on the bolts in the picture).

Feedline conduit will turn up along side the base, and I’m running power to the area for later use.  Power will be in a separate 3/4 inch conduit,

I’ll be making up a copper “halo” to go around the base for radials.

Glad to have the support of some engineering for “on rock foundations” as blasting a deeper hole seemed pointless.  I don’t think this flagpole is going to go anywhere before the weather bends/breaks it first.

 

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Feeling out Antennas for K9ZW Island QTH – Part 2

A lot has been happening at the Island QTH in addition to the ongoing Garage Building project.

For quite a while I’ve been using a CrankIR Vertical or a DX Engineering Hexbeam at the Island QTH.

As it will be a couple months until a tower is up, I moved the Hexbeam from its 55-gallon barrel “tower” to an old satellite dish stand on the “utility side” of the property:

DX Engineering Hexbeam at Washington Island QTH

DX Engineering Hexbeam at Washington Island QTH

Not best location at maybe 6 ft elevation and still dependent on an “Armstrong Rotor” (Manual rotation) for directional control, but is the very quick time I was on the air it works just fine.

Report received were excellent, and even at this low height the receive sensitivity is noteworthy.

I was only on the air about an hour and made under two dozen contacts, as the weather was far too fine to be on the radio.

Wonder how I could add a mobile HF setup to my recumbent bike without adding 30 pounds of weight?  Hmm… that way I could do radio while being outside and active!

Back to reality, I had many chores I wanted to knock out this weekend, and Alison KC9MPL joined friends for some boating while I did weed & ant duty chores, snapping this photo of the Islands Bluffs (these are in the North East part of the island, we live on the North West coast which is different):

Washington Island Bluffs

Washington Island Bluffs

The tower on the bluff is used by one of the broadband providers (they offer their flavor of Motorola’s Canopy System).

73

Steve
K9ZW

Feeling out Antennas for K9ZW Island QTH – Part 1

A lot has been happening at the Island QTH – the biggest is the ongoing Garage Building project.

Garage 16 June 2018

And just as importantly the first non-temporary antenna will be going in – a Zero-Five custom extra-heavy-duty Flagpole Multi-Band Vertical antenna.

The concrete base should go in at the same time the garage apron slab is poured.

Zero-Five made two extra-heavy-duty custom antennas to meet my wind/weather special needs. The have tilt-over-bases and a loading-balun for 80m.

Zero-Five Extra-Heavy-Duty Flagpole Multiband Antenna Tilt Base with Balun

One of the two Zero-Five made is reserved for my home QTH to be installed later this year or next spring. These antennas truly are also functioning flagpoles, though I wonder what might happen to a flag when running an amp?

The trenching contractor in the island is running a 4-inch buried conduit to the antenna, so I can both bury a feed-line, and run power to lights for the flag.  I may eventually experiment with a remote antenna tuner at the base of the antenna as well, and the conduit makes adding internet easier later.   Ideally it would be nice to separate the different cables, but as most trenching involved breaking out bedrock I will have to settle for a single conduit and go with the best shielded cables available.

To work well this model requires buried radials, and eventually lots of them.

Because of the bedrock the usual base has been redesigned to make best use of the “rock solid” situation.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Island Building, a new Shack and Workshop, Equipment, Tower and Antenna Decisions

More significant construction is happening on my Washington Island (Wisconsin – Island #WI-001L) building.

Garage Build - Framing

Garage Build – Framing

Presently my physical operating position is in the basement of the house, though with the shack technology I’m using I can operate really anywhere on the property or where there is good internet.

This 1200+ square foot building is of course multipurpose – Garage, Workshop, Storage and Shack space.  Initially my focus is on the first three in the list, as this had QTH lacked garaging, a place to work inside on a car or boat, and was lite on storage.

Provisions were designed in to use the building as a Ham Shack when my “on-Island time” increases enough to warrant heating the new building over the winters.

Initially I’m anticipating keeping all the gear in the present shack location, while setting up a dedicated operating position in this new building.  With the FlexRadio System Flex-6700 Radio, their PowerGenius XL Amp, and then 4o3a’s “Flex-Aware” AntennaGenius, RotorGenius and control modules, remoting basically involves bringing fiber out to this new building to connect the operating position gear.

Initial operating position gear concept is a Maestro, a Desktop Win10 PC, and an iMac.  When time allows I’m aiming to do a custom switch-control with slave control heads in both the new building operating position and in the main physical shack.  That’s down the road, as antenna building is the next red hot priority.

First permanent antenna going in is a custom Extra-Heavy-Duty Five-Zero multiband vertical.  Hoping to get the base in when the new building’s approach is poured to save concrete mobilization costs.

I am deciding what follows next, as I may be reserving the 70 Foot Skyneedle and may put up a much simpler “intermediate tower” on the island.

My intent is to operate from the Island with a Hexbeam.   Both noting that Hexbeams perform best somewhat lower than Yagi’s and LPDA’s, and that Hexbeams are questionable in stacked-antenna situations, it seems a waste to put up the 70 foot Skyneedle while only needing to get the Hexbeam up 40 feet.

Presently I have three different Hexbeams – the DX Engineering Multiband I bought while waiting for the others to arrive, the Custom RadioWavz Barrett Sentinel which adds more bands, but is quite large, and an SP7IDX Expedition Grade Hexbeam that was delayed in transit seemly forever while in customs clearance.

Lots to decide.

73

Steve
K9ZW

FlexRadio Systems Flex-6600M Transceiver and Power Genius XL Amplifier in early use

FlexRadio Systems extended me an opportunity to acquire one of the first production run Flex-6600M Transceivers and a few weeks back a PowerGenius XL Amplifier both early as a “Beta Team” participant.  (I’ll be abbreviate Flex-6600M as just “6600M”, Flex-6700 as just “6700” and the PowerGenius XL Amplifier as “PGXL.”)

As mentioned, I’d participated in a similar program when the Flex-6700 launched.

The “Beta Team” really couple be considered “Late Addition Alpha Team” or “Temporary Alpha Team” or “Little Alpha Team” team members, as to handle the information flow.

Quick disclaimer FRS is still working on parts of the product package for the new Radios, so while I will receive production hardware, the configuration and software parts are not in the final general release form. This again parallels the Flex-6700 program I had participated in.

In my case this new Flex-6600M it will temporarily displace a Flex-6700 at my main home QTH.   I’m definitely planning to retain that Flex-6700.  I have configured the station temporarily to allow fairly quick A/B switching from the 6600M to the 6700.  I have enough W2IHY switchgear to potentially hardwire the A/B setup, but for now the intent is to do plug and play.

My shack is compact – and is especially compact as the sanctity of my radio shack in the old wine cellar room has been encroached  upon severely by buying too much wine in Italy and from a long time Alpha team’s family’s California Vineyard, all arriving as I decided that personal health triumphs.  So those cases have filled what extra area the shack had.

To make room, after my personal testing of the PGXL I’ve decided to remove the Alpha 9500 Amplifier and the Expert SPE 1KW backup Amplifier physically from the operating area, putting them on my “shack reserve shelving” for the moment where they join my fail-safe Alpha 78 Amplifier and a 6M King Conversion Amplifier.  Actually I enlisted some help from my youngest son, Victor KC9NWB, as any college kid home for winter break should get a chance to lug his Dad’s ham shack gear around, right?

I still need to figure out where to move a few items to, especially the audio-amplifier that was going to help tweak my main Shure SM5B microphone’s voice signal but has ended up set so flat that it is really just isolation and audio signal gain.   That said, here is the 6600M/PGXL as of January 6th 2018:

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Overview

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Overview

 

I’ve found the 6600M/PGXL combination really awesome to use.  Reports “out of the box” have been so good that I’ve not spent much time optimizing settings yet.

My station is pretty simple, smaller scale, and gets ends up effective.  The6600M/PGXL combination have in two simple pieces of gear have noticeably improved my station.

I was having so much fun working DX on 20m, that I forgot to snap a photo to share until propagation changed enough that 80m was the lively band.  My present home antenna situation is limiting on 40/80/160m bands compared to 20/17/15/12/10 and the UHF/VHF bands.  So I turned things back on a shot a quick snap will running 80m figuring you all have seen a full panadapter screen before!

So here a quick “station selfie” snap:

 

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Up Close

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Up Close

As previously mention that like both of my Flex-6700’s, this new Flex-6600M was ordered with the GPSDO option.  If software eventually allows I hope to use the accurate time stamping on a station-mixing basis.  If that doesn’t happen the extra accuracy never hurts.

 

My “Late Addition Alpha Team” status came with my agreeing to not speculate and to not detail the exact Alpha Team’s progress & problem solving details, but I am pretty sure it didn’t have any agreement preventing my speaking to how absolutely engaged the FlexRadio Systems, 4o3a Team, and the Alpha Testers really are.  The efforts, feedback/update speed is truly impressive!!

More later this week, and as a teaser I’m going to add two more photos that I will explain in-depth in a later posting – with the SmartSDR versions improving I’ve run into a band situation where 160m was unworkable until I engaged the FlexRadio Systems exclusive WNB (Wide Noise Blocker).

 

SmartSDR no filters and a bad 160m band

SmartSDR no filters and a bad 160m band

 

SmartSDR with WNB making the 160m band okay

SmartSDR with WNB making the 160m band okay

Pay attention to the waterfall difference – the noise is gone I was in business, if RX a bit faint (55 to 53 – clear but weak).  As for the source of the noise, I’ll have to see if it reappears and track it down.

Much much more to follow!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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