Saturday, 26 October 2013

QRPp Contesting, 500mw amazement.

I have been working a few stations this evening in the CQWW SSB contest, I have made my station basic and low power on purpose, it is all about the QRP challenge this year and my setup reflect the rewards that basic operating can give. 

I have worked the following stations already with 500mw SSB using the butternut HF9V antenna and patience. Of course it's a standard 59 report being in contest, a shame really that I didn't get a true report from the other side of the QSO. 

DF0HQ on 80m
DF0HQ on 40m
K1BX on 10m
VY2TT on 10m 
RL3A on 15m
RN3F on 20m

The mission is to see if I can match Keith's (G0RQQ) 7 band 1000miles per watt award but over a weekend, I'm not far off. I may sneak onto 160m later or wait until morning for 12/17m although I have already got one qso for 1000miles per watt on 12m from a couple of weeks ago with an EA8 station. 

Keith has had a run if success on 10m with five 500mw contacts across the Atlantic. Hopefully more QRP DX will follow for us both. 

Below is a picture of the basic station a it stands this evening. You may start to notice I am forever shifting my radios to allow for work and experimenting. 

Modifying the FT-1000MP mark V Noise Blanker

I have been reading that the noise blanket mod for the FT-1000mp mrk V helps to improve the rx performance. I spent some time taking the radio apart to find the mod had already been done but after checking the resistor used with the DVM it was not quite the value recomended. I swapped it for a new 220 ohm resistor and put the radio back together. 

The verdict...
I always wondered why my radio performed better under contest conditions than the identical radios with the same filters at the radio club, now I know. 
Did the resistor swap I did help? Yes, a small but noticeable improvement especially when listening to weak CW near strong signals. 

Happy :)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

QRP super low power awards and achievement

Keith G0RQQ has contacted me today to let me know how he is getting on with the QRP challenge, he has taken to trying to work everyone with 500mw SSB on all bands possible.
So far he has managed to work: -

Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, England, Finland, Germany, Gran Canaria, Italy (on both HF and 6m), Portugal, Russia, Sicily, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine. 

All these with just 500mw of SSB power into a roughly 20m horizontal loop in the attic.

The other part of the news was that Keith has gained an award for what he has achieved. He now has a 7-band 1000 Miles per watt award from the QRP Amateur Radio Club Inc (QRP-ARCI.) The bad news is there is a delay in the award, the reason... Keith is only the second person ever to claim the award and the only one person to manage it using just SSB. Keith is now aiming to complete the feat on more bands and see if there is a the chance of creating a higher number of bands award.

Of course the total list of countries are many more when you add the 1w, 2.5w and 5w contacts to the list. Remember that the list above is just since January 2013 with causal operating.

Well done Keith... Please slow down so I can catch up on the challenge.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

QRP, Camping and lots of rain.

I haven't posted for a few days because I took a few days out to go camping, to enjoy the outdoors and reset my brain after a first term of chaos at the college I work at.

I met my brother at Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire to take a few days off. I am trying my best to get him licensed for Amateur radio, so far he hasn't given in but I will be delivering an Old FT-101 that has no output but still an active RX. I hope he can start to listen and pick up the bug.

First off the weather was awful, it rained on and off for most of our stay with the exception of a few hours of nice weather in between. The tent, Jetboil stove and radio provided the entertainment when the weather was not good enough to get out walking comfortably. 

I planned to take my ft-847 and large battery with me but changed my mind last minute to take only the ft-817 and QRP kit only. I took my portable vertical antenna and my HF 9-band multiranger antenna. I had very little luck with the vertical but more with the mobile whip. I think this was down to the radials I had made up for the vertical, I really need more tuned radials and to get the whole thing elevated. 

The best results for me came on 10m working into Turkey and Romania on 2.5w with the mobile whip on the car.

The real shock was what could be heard on 40m late into the evening. I was hearing lots of JA stations booming in, this is not a thing I am used to hearing and wished I had my larger Butternut vertical and one of my other radios to take advantage of the cliff side location looking out over the sea.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Making an OK radio a great radio

Some time ago I treated myself to a Yaesu FT-847, I wanted a radio I could use on the higher bands and it had the option to use 4m (Although I am still waiting to experiment with this band.)
Everywhere I read about the radio, the comments made it out to be a poor performer on HF, although I wanted the radio for higher bands it seemed a decent backup option for HF and portable operation too. It even had the option to turn the power down as low as 2w.

I set about finding out how I could improve the performance of the radio, and among all of the mods out there the easiest one to do that would not impact on an otherwise mint condition radio was the mod to add INRAD filters to the unit. When I first got the radio I was planning a visit to the Isle of North Uist in the Outer Hebredies and decided to take the radio with me to see how it would perform in a low noise environment. While I was there I spoke to a fellow amateur on 40m who had the same radio but with the filters installed. He gave me glowing reports about huge improvements in the performance of the RX once added.

I have already experienced adding extra INRAD filters to the FT-817 and liked the results it produced. I opted for the 2.1kHz crystal filter to see if it would improve things. It took some time to get the filter due to a mix up with shipping but it did turn up several weeks later, might I add with excellent customer service to sort out any problems.

I installed the filter in the radio on the RX path and using the coax jumpers installed it in the location suggested in the instructions. (See the image for exact location) All I can say is wow, what a difference! I am now able to tune across the bands and notice less noise, more separation between the signals and hear more on busy bands like 40m and with a marked improvement in the ability to read weaker signals near the noise floor. I expected a small improvement but not quite what came.

I have done side by side comparisons with my FT-1000MP MrkV and have found that in a contest there are occasions when the 847 hears better than the 1000 with both 2.0kHz filters in the RX. I will have to get some videos put up on Youtube of the radios in a large contest on 40m.

The next step for me was to consider if I am to be serious about working on CW and QRP. It made sense that I needed to make sure I added the 300Hz CW filter too. This time I opted for the mechanical filter to save a few pounds, after all this is only my backup radio.

So after all the effort and considerable expenditure I now have a half decent performing FT-847 on HF and on CW. I really like the small footprint and simplicity to flip from band to band on a radio that can go as low as 2W QRP.

Next time you think about spending lots on a new radio think about how much you may be able to improve the one you have with a much smaller price tag, but when it comes to it we also all like new toys. Until I can save enough for a KX3 or even a K3 I will have to do with what I have.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A quiet week on the radio

This time of year my day job takes over as the first term gets fully underway at my college. I like to squeeze in time to unwind and play some radio but it doesn't always work out thy way. 
I did get to spend a short time doing radio related activities though. 

On Tuesday evening I joined Tim M6ZRT and Keith G0RQQ for some activity on 70cm for the UKAC contest. There were quite a few local contacts and after I left some of more distance. This always happened when I leave the portable site. They were using an Elk antenna with 10w from the FT-857 to work stations all over the UK. 

After heading home I received a text message asking for assistance. It seems Tim had forgotten to run the engine occasionally and had a flat battery. I had to nip back out to te remote location with a spare battery and jump leads. I hope I don't make the same error in the future. Perhaps I should always operate from an alternative to the car's battery. Still a fun evening and some interesting stations worked from a very basic setup in IO93RH.