Having dismantled my antenna collection for a recent house move has left me without the capability to RX/TX on a lot of bands, but the flip side is I get to start over and play around with a whole new bunch of antennas 🙂
Deciding on what HF vertical to put up is taking a long time (so many choices) as once the vertical is up, I don’t want to be messing with it. More than a little desperation over last weekend, saw me recycling wire from old antennas and digging through my large electronics left overs collection, just to get back on the air.
Sticking with a safe bet as far as bands go meant throwing something together for 20 meters. There isn’t many times in the day when the bands not usable, along with a wavelength that means its easy to get a decent antenna up quickly and cheaply.
20 Meter Homebrew Dipole
This went together easily and worked great first time out, making me think I wasn’t reading things right!.
Everything was made more straightforward by staying away from the usual method of tuning for the middle of the band then seeing how bad the resonance fell off on the upper/lower limits of 20 meters and instead feeling lucky that the SWR sweet spot was right around the PSK frequencies (where I spend most of my time anyway).
I’ve been too reliant on ATU’S in the past and wanted to get on the air without one for a change.
The 14 gauge wire comes from an old SWL reception antenna, insulators are cut from a old plastic vacuum cleaner pipe (made the holes with a hot soldering iron) and the tie offs for the end of the antenna is some cheap poly garden twine.
Ugly Balum Heaven
In an effort to keep RF out of the house and try to limit RFI to the neighbors, I built my very first Ugly Balum (full details can be found over at hamuniverse.com
After a fruitless search for a suitable piece of plastic pipe to serve as the core of the ‘ugly balum’ in a builders store, things went rapidly down market and an expensive chunk of plastic turned into a £2 drinks bottle 🙂
Had to detour from the free here because the 20 meters of coax needed for the balum with enough left over to feed the dipole had to be bought from new. Got stung here too, as not being prepared to wait for someone to send it to me, meant getting robbed by the local ‘electronics’ store to the tune of £20.
With a few layers of black electrical tape, I’m very pleased with the result and as a cheap balum solution for QRP operation its something worth trying (even if it does look a bit weird).
Pretty Little PSK Interface
Trying to directly connect audio between transceivers and computers is great until you key that mic. Even low levels of RF can happily travel into the computer and leave a nasty little buzz all over any audio your trying to use (not ideal for datamodes).
There’s plenty of circuits of varying complexity on the Internet, but half the battle is breaking the physical connection to prevent any problems. A transformer is great at doing this and you’ll be able to use almost anything you can lay hands on.
As I needed some amplification from radio to computer and a good deal of step down on the audio going into the radio (more control on over deviation), a couple of 240 to 12 volt mains transformer have the right ratio (20:1), but as I only had one the other was forcefully ripped out of a old (unused) free view box.
Lucked out here as the free view transformer had what looks like a 5 volt rail along with the 12 volt and switching over to that terminal because the incoming audio was a little weak, bought the levels up very nicely.
Yeah, I know the whole interface looks a mess but I’ve never been concerned about the looks of a thing, just if it works or not.
Testing is the Sweetest Part
Its simple for me to grab some wire, a radio, some supplies and head out into the surrounding countryside for some QRP work (much more enjoyable now the summers here), but I’ve not had the time. This made having a half tidy antenna up and working at home so much fun!.
Even with the dipole only 15 off the ground at the moment, a solid 10 watt output is hitting places all over Europe just fine. Now I’m looking forward to the weekend for more time to grab that mid evening DX that 20 meters is famous for.
This post could have been much longer, but there’s always a fear some people will get bored 🙂 ,if you want any more information about the ‘stuff’ I’ve put together, you can reach me on social media (buttons are top right of screen) or send me a message via the Contact Page