Show & Tell Meeting – March 7th

There are less than two months left before Hampden County Radio Association’s Annual Show & Tell meeting. During this meeting members bring in projects they have either completed or have made progress on over the last year and give a short presentation to the membership. This is a great opportunity to show others what you’ve been up to and for fellow club members to get ideas on projects they might want to try. Past projects have ranged from the simple to the complex and from very small to very large and everywhere in between. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to share. There is still plenty of time to build that kit you have stashed away or put together photos from the project last summer. We look forward to seeing what you’re up to! If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Matt – W1MSW

2013 Annual HCRA Show & Tell Meeting a Success

Last Friday’s Show & Tell meeting was a great success.  We had 9 members bring projects that were either completed or close to completion. All of the presenters did a great job explaining their projects in detail to the club and the audience had good questions for the presenters.  Congratulations to Juergen – AB1SU (DK1TM) who scored the most points with the audience and chose the Raspberry Pi microcomputer for his prize.  Jeff – NT1K & Dan –KB1VWQ tied for 2nd place and duked it out over the last two prizes.  After the dust settled, Dan went home with the Arduino Uno Microcontroller and Jeff took home two raffle tickets for the KX3 drawing.  All of the presenters did a wonderful job with their projects and we thank you for taking the time to show your fellow club members what you’ve been working on.   Thank you to everyone who was able to make the meeting, including those who were able to tune in via the live stream on the HCRA USTREAM channel.  A special thank you to Jeff – NT1K who setup the live stream and manned the camera throughout the evening.  It’s never too early to start thinking about that project for next year!

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can always see what you missed here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/29659726

Matt – W1MSW

Visit the HCRA Table at the MTARA Hamfest this Saturday.

MTARA Hamfest this Saturday, March 2nd – Visit us at the HCRA club table!

The hamfest/fleamarket season is just getting underway. What better way to break out of the winter blues than to spend a few hours with your local friends, wander aisles of tables full of ham radio bargains, eat food you probably shouldn’t, and overall have a good time than to go to one? I for one can’t think of anything better, that’s for sure. Lucky for us there’s one right around the corner!

The generous folks at MTARA have again made tables available for local clubs and HCRA will be there in full force. Please stop and say hello while you’re browsing the aisles for that ‘special bargain’. Want to join or renew your membership, you can do that. How about chatting with club members, yep, you can do that too. Buy a raffle ticket or three for a KX3 – most certainly. Pick up a bargain item donated from our members – yes sir. We’ll even have a few projects from the previous nights Show & Tell on display, maybe they will inspire your creative juices and give you ideas of what ‘stuff’ you can pick up to build something yourself?

KX3 Raffle. The winning ticket for an Elecraft KX3 will be drawn around noontime at the hamfest. Tickets are selling fast (there’s only 250 being sold) so stop by the table early to get yours. Think about how you will feel taking home a $1000 radio for the price of a winning ticket!

Do you have something you would like to donate to HCRA to sell at our table? If you do please either bring them to Friday’s HCRA meeting or contact Jim/KK1W for pickup. We’re not accepting items for sale, just donations. If you have items to sell yourself contact MTARA (see link below) and see if they have any table space left. And please, no computer monitors, printers or anything else you would have to pay for disposal.

The MTARA Hamfest will be held at the Turnverein Club in Feeding Hills, MA. Doors open to the public at 8:30 AM. For more details and directions please click here.

See you at the hamfest!




Foxhunting meeting tomorrow night – don’t miss it!

February first is indeed tomorrow – also the date of our next HCRA meeting.

We’re putting on an ‘all about foxhunting’ presentation by a few of our members. If you’ve never heard of foxhunting this will be the time to learn. If you have foxhunted in the past that’s OK, we’re going to cover some exciting new material, both technology and methods, you may have missed over the last few years.

We’ll have a brief presentation with visual information and a video, presentations by some experienced foxhunters, examples of equipment used and then it is YOUR turn. Would you like to jump on board and ‘re-invigorate’ foxhunting in the area and if so – what type(s) of hunts would appeal to the majority of our members?

In the back of the hall Jeff/NT1K will conducting the ‘Build-a-Beam’ workshop.The results will be a perfect foxhunting antenna. If you are one of the dozen or so folks signed up don’t forget to bring your payment along. I don’t believe our Paypal account is setup for payments quite yet.

Don’t forget to pick up a KX3 raffle ticket while you’re there – they’re going fast and the drawing is only a month away.

See you tomorrow night,

VHF 3EL Tape Measure Yagi Workshop – February 1st

A part of next month’s meeting will consist of a “Build A Beam” workshop where you can build a 3 element VHF Yagi that is made from PVC and measuring tape.

3EL Beam


It’s a great antenna for portable operations such as foxhunting (RDF), SOTA, camping or anything else that you need an improved antenna over the stock “rubber duck” antenna that comes with your portable.

Here is a quick video of it in action.

The antenna will be mostly fabricated before the meeting. At the meeting we’ll be assembling the antenna and soldering on the coax which makes it a easy and fun build.

The antenna will end up costing $20 that has to be pre-paid before the meeting to cover the costs of material. If you’re interested in making an really neat Yagi, please fill out the form below.

Those whom have not paid, please bring cash to the meeting. Thank you!

Kenwood IF-232C USB Replacement Interface

For those of you with ye olde Kenwoods, this little rig control interface may be of some interest to you. It does what the Kenwood IF-232C does but only cost me about $25 and a little time for soldering.  I haven’t tested every aspect of it yet, but I know the VFO changes in both N1MM and Commander from the DXLab Suite.


A couple notes from my experience building it:

Because the site in the tutorial was out of stock at the time, I purchased my board from here:

Also, my board had a solder jumper with two connectors, so I just moved the solder bridge from the 3.3V pin to the 5V pin removing the need for the extra wire jumper in his design.  My board had different connections on the sides so I just connected wires to the connections indicated by the pinouts of the DIN-6 (RTS, CTS, RXD, TXD, GND).  These are clearly indicated on the underside of the board (my board at least).  Yours may vary here as well, so look before you leap.

In addition, the mappings to the DIN-6 connector are as you’re looking into the radio, not as you’re looking into the connector. I discovered this the hard way and had to do some resoldering.

One last note: FTDI released a successor for MPROG called FT_Prog which works perfectly fine for programming the chip for the inversions needed. Drivers are available on their site, but Windows 7 SP1 x64 pulled them down from Windows Update without a problem.

There is also a utility on the FTDI site to remap COM ports if the chip ends up with a COM number greater than 8 (the max N1MM supports).

73 and Happy New Year de K1MAZ

Building a portable 12 Volt DC power source

If you’re like me, you not only enjoy your radios in the comfort of your shack, but like to go outside to “play radio” in events such as the upcoming 2013 ARRL January VHF Contest. This is a contest where I enjoy being a rover station. I also take part in spontaneous DX parties, public service events such as road races and providing Amateur Radio communications in times of need to such organizations as the American Red Cross. All of these activities at one time or another may require that battery power be used, as commercial power may simply not be available.

In this article, I’m going to discuss how I made my 12 Volt DC portable power source. I urge you to make, and have an auxiliary power available for yourself in the event you find yourself without commercial power. Fortunately for me, except for the battery box, everything else I needed was found around my shack and home.

The components of my 12 Volt DC portable power source include:
1. Four Anderson Powerpoles – Two red, two black and all with 45AMP barrel connectors.
2. 10 gage red/black zip-cord power wire (It’s best if you not use speaker wire).
3. Heat-shrink tubing of various sizes.
4. Two battery post terminals, for the AGM 12 Volt battery.
5. One 4-pole snap-in panel mount for 2 sets of Anderson Powerpoles.
6. Two Velcro Velstraps – 3ft X 2in
7. One 12 Volt (AGM) vehicle battery. As your power needs may vary, and there are any numbers of detailed articles about battery selection, I’m not going to cover that here.
8. One full-sized battery box.

Go-Kit Components
Go-Kit Components

Once the components were laid out, the first thing I did was to turn over the battery box. Then with my trusty Dremel Tool and multipurpose cutting bit, I cut out two thin rectangle holes just big enough to pass one of the Velstraps through [Picture A.]. Once the holes were made, starting from inside the box; I simply passed the Velstrap out one of the holes, across the underside of the box, then back into the box via the other hole [Picture B]. This Velstrap will later be used to hold the battery in place, once it’s inside the battery box.

Dremel Tool, Battery Box Bottom
Dremel Tool, Battery Box Bottom

I next took the top of the battery box, and again using the Dremel Tool and multipurpose cutting bit, I cut a square hole measuring 1.00 inch by 1.25 inches. This hole will later be used as a place to insert the 4-pole snap-in panel mount to hold the Anderson Powerpoles [Picture I].

The wiring came next. Following proper techniques, I crimped a 45 AMP barrel connector onto each of the four wire leads of a 10 gauge red/black zip-cord power wire. Then, keeping with ARES/RACES standard orientation, I assembled the red and black connectors (tongue down, hood up, red on the left, black on the right as viewed opposite the wire side). With each pair assembled, I then joined the two pairs together, one set over the other. NOTE: When using large gauge wire, it’s easier to put the connector housings together before putting the barrel connectors in.

Once the four connector housings were together, I inserted the wire lead’s barrel connectors into their corresponding connector housings. Red into red, black into black. Using the proper sized heat-shrink tubing, I fed both sets of zip-cords through it, then brought the heat-shrink tubing all the way up until it met the base of the Powerpole connectors. I applied heat and shrunk the tubing in place.

Using a sharp knife, I then split the ends of the zip-cords and separated the red side from the black side all the way up till it reached the heat-shrink tubing near the Powerpole connectors. I then fed both red wire leads into one length of heat-shrink tubing, then both black wire leads into a separate length of heat-shrink tubing. On both sets of wire leads, I left a generous amount of wire extending beyond the heat-shrink tubing. I applied heat and shrunk each of the tubes around their respective wire lead sets.

Powerpole connectors on, power-leads separated then heat-shrunk together by polarity, it was time to insert the four-gang of Powerpole connectors into the 4-pole snap-in panel. The Powerpole connectors simply slide in to the 4-pole snap-in panel and are held in place by inserting a retaining pin [Picture II].

Were almost home, just a few more steps: Holding the lid at the distance I wanted it to be from the bottom of the box, I measured out the length the wire leads from the 4-pole snap-in panel to the battery posts needed to be, then cut off the excess wire. Now cut to length, I inserted both red and black sets of wire leads into a single heat-shrink tubing. I remembered to leave enough of the wire leads exposed in order for me to later attach these wire leads to the battery terminals. I then applied heat and shrunk the tubing. Once the heat-shrink tubing cooled, to minimize movement of the wiring harness I secured it to the top of the box. After striping away enough of the outer coating, I attached each set of wire leads to their respective battery terminals and attached the battery terminals to the battery posts [Picture III].

Assembled Components
Assembled Components

The above having been completed, I placed the top onto the bottom of the battery box and secured it using the last Velstrap…Done! I now had a safe, secure and ARES/RACES standard orientation compliant source of 12 Volt DC power.

Completed 12 Volt DC portable power source
Completed 12 Volt DC portable power source

It’s my hope that this article, by showing you how with readily available components and it’s quick and easy assembly, you’ll be motivated to create your own portable 12 Volt DC power source.  After all, the bottom line is this: You never know when that next event will cause the lose of power to your shack, and there’s no guarantee there’ll be commercial power available at the places you go to, or get called to. A piece of equipment like this will give you one more way to be ready to get on, and stay on the air.


Rich – N1KXR

SOTA Activation on Mt. Monadnock

Nick (K1MAZ), Jimmy (KB1PRA), and John (Kx1x) activated Mt. Monadnock (W1/HA009) on October 20th. Here, Jimmy is holding the 2m tape-measure beam while Nick operates. I’m probably looking for lunch. More on this SOTA activation and the Summits on the Air program at the next HCRA meeting, November 2nd.

Home Made Off Center Fed Dipole

Here is my first attempt at an article.  I wanted to make a all band antenna without the long tail of a G5RV.  I did some research and remembered that awhile back I had received an antenna from a fellow ham that had been struck by lightning.  It was a 40 meter Carolina windom.

Started by taking the 2 baluns apart to see what they were made of.  Found the upper one was a 4:1 to 1 balun.  It had 15 turns around a 3/8 ferrite rod.

Mine was burnt and broken from the lightning hit.

Searched on the internet how to make one (new they are approx. $20-$30).   I wound 10  turns of the 14 gauge wire on a small piece of 1 inch O.D. PVC pipe. This was then enclosed in a small piece of 1 1/2 inch O.D. PVC pipe and end caps for weatherproofing. Two stainless steel eye-bolts are used to attach the antenna wires and another to support the balun.





(photos were taken from the internet)

Buying one probably would have been easier but there is no experience in that.

Next was to take apart the other balun and see what made it tick.  There was no damage to this one just a rattle (curiosity killed the cat).  This one was a 1:1 Choke balun to dissipate RF.  Took it apart and found the ferrite rod hand broken.  Guess I need to make another.  Back to the internet.

Here is what I found

I needed a choke balun to keep RF from getting back into my radio and finding new ways to make sure I stayed awake late at night. I found instructions online for a simple and cheap coax 1:1 choke balun. It is supposed to handle 160 meters to 10 meters which is perfect for my application. I made some modifications to the construction but I kept the critical parts intact. Mainly I added HF connectors at each end so that it can go inline in with my coax to the antenna. I figure I can also use it later for other antennas because I can simply make an adapter that screws onto one end to allow me to hookup wires directly to it for either ladder line or antenna wires. It’s a bit heavy so it’d have to be supported by some rope instead of just the wire if I needed to have it up in the air, but that isn’t a big deal really.
Here are the beginning parts of the 1:1 coax choke balun. I have about 21 feet of RG-58u wrapped around a 3″ PVC pipe form that I drilled two holes in to feed the coax into the inside of the pipe. At the bottom you can see the end caps with the SO-239’s installed already. I bolted them in with 6-32 screws with a nice large fender washer to provide a strong backing and to spread the stress out across the cap so that if it has anything hanging on either end it will not break the cap and pull out. Everything is sealed up with some really nice 35 year, silicone impregnated, permanently flexible clear caulking to provide a weather proof seal that should last a long time. I also tacked down the winding in place using a few beads of the same caulking to keep everything nice and tight.
Here is a close-up shot of the two end caps where you can more clearly see the method I used for mounting the SO-239 connectors. With the fender washer as a backer it would take quite a bit of force to pull the connector out. Odds are the coax will pull apart first, but let’s be honest, it’d be a lot easier to fix a piece of coax than it would to rebuild this thing!
Here is a shot of the coax and how it is hooked up to the connector. The center conductor is soldered in and the braid is attached to a ring terminal which is then bolted onto one of the bolts using another nut. It’s a pretty solid construction and should last a long time, I hope.
Here is the fully assembled choke balun. I drilled a small hole in the pip to allow air to escape when I pushed the two ends on, otherwise it would have acted like an air spring and forced one end back off. It will be sealed up with caulking once the PVC cement dries. Overall length from tip to tip is about 13″.
(Some wording and pictures were taken from internet)
Being that I was building a 10 thru 80 antenna ( if you remember it was a 40) I had to change the length of wire also.

Holding true to the original Windom formulas, I used a ratio of 37.8% for one side and 62.2% for the longest side after determining the half wave length at the lowest operating frequency…. This is the 200Ω point, hence the 4:1 balun. (50Ω to 200Ω) The antenna is very simple.  As already mentioned it is fed at the 1/3 point.  So for 80m and up, you have one leg that is 45 feet long, and another leg that is 90 feet long.   Some tweaking may be needed, but mine was built within an inch or two of those measurements.

The 10 feet vertical radiator really does radiate, and offers vertical radiation to the existing horizontal radiation, and therefore adds to the low angle omnidirectional radiation. The line isolator stops the vertical radiator radiating all the way back to the shack.  Ideal height for the feed point is around 30-35 feet.

This is the same design as the ‘Carolina Windom 80 Special’

Hopefully Every one enjoyed this



Palm Paddle on a KX3? No problem!

Palm Paddles on a KX3

Well, I bit the bullet back in March, caved in and ordered a KX3 kit. It arrived August 9th via my friendly postlady and was on the air that evening. Overall the build process was painless – maybe 3.5 hours to complete without working very hard.

One of the major reasons for purchasing the radio was SOTA activations, primarily using CW (Morse code). The radio was a major purchase and since I already own a set of Palm Mini Paddles I chose not to order the Elecraft paddles that screw directly to the front of the transceiver.

Of course the magnetic base of the Mini Paddles does not work very well on the KX3’s aluminum case. A quick internet search didn’t turn up an ‘aluminum magnets’ so I was forced to find a different solution. I mocked up a cardboard version of a thin steel end panel that would slip over the RH side of the KX3 and held in place by the thumb screws. I took a few photos and bounced the idea off Frandy/N1FJ, Jeff/NT1K and Barry/N1EU.

First idea, scrapped quickly the following morning!

After sleeping on it I thought it could be accomplished more simply by a single strip of steel, perhaps stuck to the radio with double stick tape. I opened up my email and Frandy had already done the deed, using one of those metal strips that mounts electrical boxes in sheet rock. They’re called ‘F’ brackets, or by the slang term ‘battleships’. Damn, I have a bunch of those in stock, why didn’t I see them last night?

Anyway, a half hour later or so my Palm Paddles are mounted neatly on the RH side of the rig. I choose to counter sink the screw holes and use slightly longer FH screws (1/4″) to mount the steel strip, a sturdy method and still allows dis-assembly without having to peel off the strip. I could have elected to drill the holes larger than the bolt heads, and use double stick tape with the same result. I guess I just like to screw things together!

Here’s a short step by step of the process. The battleships cost maybe 25 cents, there were extra screws in the spare parts bag that fit perfectly, total time maybe 1/2 hour or so. I still may send my strip to the paint shop (rattle can) – but not today. We’re going on an activation tomorrow!

First, find yourself a ‘battleship’ and modify. Most any hardware store/home center will have these in their electrical department.

A ‘battleship’ ready for modification.

Cut where indicated, drill to fit, file the edges to a nice shape. Polish with one of those 3-M finishing pads, paint to match if desired. Sorry for the reflection in the photo, there is a vertical cut line just to the left of the ‘cut at arrows’. The easiest thing to do is remove the side panel from the KX3 and use it as a template.

Mounted on the RH side of the KX3

I added a piece of vinyl electrical tape on the back (not shown) so it won’t mar the case, then took out the original screws and attached the strip with two 1/4″ long screws that came in the spare parts bag. The original screws will just fit but I had these so why not use them?
Warning! Choose your screw length carefully, you don’t want them to extend too far into the KX3 and cause damage!

Another view of the paddles on the KX3

That’s all there is too it. Less than $1 in materials, maybe an hours time and your Palm Mini Paddles are ready to make lots of CW QSO’s Thanks to Frandy, Barry & Jeff for all their ideas.