Torsion-bar suspension for a Morse code straight key?

Posted in Morse code keys with tags , , , , , on 2014/11/22 by Pete Spotts
W1SFR_key

Look Ma! No springs! It’s a new key from W1SFR that uses a torsion bar
to govern the key’s return to ready for the next code element.

I’ve seen and used some slick Morse code keys over the years, and collected several of them. When I read that Steve Roberts, W1SFR, had designed a new straight key based on a torsion bar, however, I scratched my bearded chin. My last exposure to the concept of torsion bars came in junior high school, when I dabbled oh so slightly in auto mechanics.

Well, I’m here to tell you that unusual though they may seem for this application, torsion bars work quite well for keys. The result, at least in Steve’s case, is one of the smoothest keys I’ve ever used. It takes a few on-air contacts, or a few minutes with a code-practice oscillator, to get used to it. The hurdle, I suspect,  is mainly psychological: Structurally, the key looks like it’s missing important elements found in typical straight keys, so it must not behave like one.

In fact, it’s missing nothing.

Continue reading

Adding a brake pad to Elecraft’s K1

Posted in Projects, QRP with tags , , , , , on 2014/05/24 by Pete Spotts
What's that fungus sprouting from behind the tuning knob? That's no fungus. That's a brake pad!

What’s that fungus sprouting from behind the tuning knob? That’s no fungus. That’s a brake pad!

Last summer, I had the pleasure of building an Elecraft K1 — quite a relaxing change from the KX1, with its tighter spaces and height restrictions for some of the components.

Not so much with the K1. It has lots of space to work with. And once finished, what a quiet receiver! The AGC mod I made during construction (thanks for the info, Bruce, N1RX), substantially reduced the initial blast from strong stations. It’s a wonderful QRP radio.

But the 10-turn pot used as the main tuning control is too smooth by half. When trying to zero-beat on a station — tuning to match its signal’s pitch to that of the radio’s sidetone — it was too easy to overshoot or undershoot the correct setting.

Continue reading

NEAR-Fest: Feting friends and finding gems

Posted in Gatherings with tags , , , on 2013/10/29 by Pete Spotts
Lionel J-36 bug

A hidden gem: a 1942 Lionel J-36 bug. Lionel started to produce these for the military during World War 2, when the bug’s designer, Vibroplex, couldn’t keep up with demand. I came across this near the end of the day at NEAR-Fest, after bemoaning the lack of interesting keys to add to my collection. It’s not as far-gone as it looks. It will need a new label, but it will clean up nicely. After 71 years and who knows how much abuse, it still has a smooth action.

Shorter days, trees cloaked in orange and russet and yellow and scarlet, a warm glow suffusing the sky at sunset as days shorten — it’s fall in New England. For the ham-radio crowd in the region and beyond, few events say fall like NEAR-Fest, the New England Amateur Radio Festival.

NEAR-Fest, held twice a year at the Deerfield Fairgrounds in Deerfield, NH,  has a spring edition as well. But it fits best with fall. Perhaps it’s because New Hampshire in May is monochromatic. Greener than winter, for sure. But the colors are all subtle or not-so-subtle variations on a single hue.

Fall brings out a richness and variety of color that matches the variety of the people and wares at the event. NEAR-Fest celebrated its 14th event the weekend of Oct. 12. But it has a richer, deeper history.

Continue reading

A nutty new entrant to the annual QRP-event line-up

Posted in Contests, Portable operations with tags , , , , , , on 2013/09/27 by Pete Spotts
Here's one way to get your peanut whistle into the field!

Here’s one way to get your peanut whistle into the field — air mail! If Steve, WG0AT, can use goats to schlep gear, why not…oh never mind.

How could I have missed this? A new QRP operating event, and it’s coming up Sept. 29. They call it the Peanut Power QRP Sprint — first annual, even!

“They” in this case is the North GA QRP Club. The event runs from 2000 to 2200 UTC Sunday, or 4 P.M. to 6 P.M. EDT. And while you don’t need to run low power or take it on the road, operating low and portable helps.

The event has five categories. Goobers (those are good things, or the “prestige” category, according to the club’s rules on this event) run 1 watt or less CW (2W PEP or less using SSB) and operate as portable stations. At the other end of the spectrum, you have your Raws, who run more than 5 watts (10 PEP) from the comfort of their own shacks or portable.

By the way, for this event portable can mean your own backyard, as long as the antenna you use is a temporary antenna. Temporary as in “set up for this event,” not temporary as in “it’s only up until we move to a new house.”

You can operate CW and/or SSB, and it helps to snag a peanut number (154 here). You’ll be worth more to the folks who contact you.

Reserve a number by sending an email to Jim Stafford, W4QO, at qrp@bellsouth.net. This is not a live email link, so you’ll have to copy and paste the address into your email form. You have until midnight Sept. 28 (EDT) to request a number.

Whether you operate from inside or out, high power or low, it’s nice to see another QRP event in the fall, especially one that encourages portable operations and takes place while there’s still enough daylight at the event’s end!

Planters anyone?

QRP Afield, Chowdercon, and summah’s end

Posted in Chowdercon, Contests, Portable operations with tags , , , , , on 2013/09/18 by Pete Spotts

Checking out the QRP spotting page from Four Tree Island during Chowdercon/QRP Afield 2012. It's ba-a-ack!

Yours truly checking out the QRP spotting page from Four Tree Island during Chowdercon/QRP Afield 2012. It’s ba-a-ack! (Image courtesy of Bob Schmeichel, N1RXV.)

Get ready for the final QRP portable operating event of the summer, and it’s taking place in just under the wire this year. You might call it:  QRP Afield, Autumnal Equinox Edition.

It’s run by the New England QRP Club, and you have no need to sign up for numbers. You don’t even have to leave that ultimate in ham-radio torture: The Comfy Chair! But if you do, boy, will you will cop some major QSO points! Here’s the breakdown. You earn:

10 points per contact if you are QRP and operating from a field or mobile location.

5 points per contact if you are QRP (5 watts or less) and operating from a permanent location.

2 points per contact if you are QRO and operating from a field or mobile location.

1 point per contact if you are QRO (above 5 watts) and operating from a permanent location.

The event runs from 1500 Sept. 21 to 0300 UTC Sept. 22 (11:00 A.M. EDT to 11:00 P.M. EDT Saturday). For the record, the autumnal equinox occurs on Sept. 22 at 20:44 UTC.

For the full set of QRP Afield rules, visit the visit the NEQRP web site, here.

But wait! There’s more!

But in these parts the third Saturday in September has a lot going for it for another reason — Chowdercon, a day-long operating and food fest organized by Carl Achin, WA1ZCQ, a longtime NEQRP member. Carl is well known for operating from woods or shore, and he always manages to find a way to work great eats into the schedule.

Continue reading

WW2 LST is cruisin’ for a few good QSOs

Posted in General Operating, Portable operations with tags , , on 2013/09/02 by Pete Spotts
LST 325 during low tide at Normandy. This historic ship currently is making its way down the Kanawha RIver in West Virginia.

LST 325 during low tide at Normandy in 1944. This historic ship currently is making its way along the Kanawha RIver in West Virginia with hams on board. Image courtesy of Historic Naval Ships Association.

If you are thinking longingly of last June’s Museum Ships Weekend and hankering for another nautical QSO, you’ve got a shot at working a World War 2 veteran while it’s underway.

Through Sept. 23, LST 325 is making its annual goodwill cruise along the Kanawha River in West Virginia.  The ship is maintained by the USS LST Ship Memorial at its home port of Evansville, Indiana.

The ship was launched Oct. 27, 1942, and commissioned the following February. She saw action at Sicily and Normandy. In the mid 1960s, she was sent to Greece to serve in the Greek Navy. The Greek government donated the ship to the USS LST Ship Memorial in 2000 and finally arrived in Evansville in 2005. She’s the only fully operational LST remaining from World War 2.

Perry Ballinger, W8AU, is riding herd on the radio room, operating with the call WW2LST/MM. You can track the ship via APRS here.

He has no set operating schedule, unfortunately. Standing watches and giving tours makes keeping such a schedule tough. But the team is using 14.232 Mhz and 7.232 Mhz as its calling frequency — plus or minus for QRM.

Visit the organization’s website, via the link above, for the schedule of port calls. If you’re in the neighborhood when LST 325 is tied up, drop in and check out the vessel. And be sure to say hi to Perry!

Forget clam bakes — it’s a NE SOTA party!

Posted in General Operating, Portable operations, Summits on the Air with tags , , , , , , on 2013/08/13 by Pete Spotts
The view from Putney Mountain in Vermont, with Stratton Mountain on the horizon to the northwest.

The view from the summit of Putney Mountain, our operating site for New England’s SOTA Day. Stratton Mountain sits on the distant horizon to the northwest.

NE stands for New England, SOTA for Summits on the Air, and it all began with Nick Maslin, K1MAZ, a 22-year-old student and SOTA Jerk who apparently has nothing better to do during the summer than organize mass assaults on New England summits.

This particular assault, set for Aug. 10, 2013, would be code-named New England SOTA Day. Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf,  heck, maybe even Old Blood and Guts Patton himself, would have been proud!

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 460 other followers