Category Archives: CW

QRP fun with the Elecraft KX1

Elecraft KX1 is a minimialist QRP radio with high performance.

When talking about my radios, I often overlook the QRP gear. I have several QRP — low power below 5 watts — radios that I used to be very active with, but in the past few years with bad band conditions I’ve gotten out of the QRP habit.

I’m spending a week in a cabin in North Carolina in a couple weeks, and am planning on taking a small radio and portable antenna. So today I got out the Elecraft KX1 and fired it up on 20 meters. I hadn’t had it on the air for a while, and after this afternoon, i wonder why I’ve forgotten QRP.

The Georgia QSO party was in full swing on 20 meters, so it was a good chance to see if the QRP signal would reach them. During the afternoon I worked 20 different Georgia stations with no problem.

Then I tuned down the band and heard W1VDE calling CQ from Oregon. I answered and talked to him for a while. He said my 4 watt signal was loud in Oregon — 20 db over S9 for you hams out there. That’s about as good as it gets.

Then I moved up to the QRP calling frequency, 14.060 and called CQ. On the first try N1DN came back to me, and he was operating QRP from Connecticut. So I basically worked coast to coast this afternoon with 4 watts. I’ve got the QRP bug again.

Here is a good review of the KX1 by another blogger.


DX on mobile CW

Tuesday was a great day for mobile CW. On the drive into work I had a long chat with Marty, K1WC, in northern Maine. I’ve talked to Marty a few times and he has a great fist — that means he sends good code — and he’s a good conversationalist on CW. We talked for about 40 minutes of my drive in and then I turned off the radio and listened to NPR.

For the drive home, I listened on 40 meters but didn’t hear much on. So I switched to 20 meters, hit the tune button, and the antenna retuned itself for 20 meters. The first thing I heard was a loud signal, GR100MGY. From the G prefix I figured it was England, but that is a strange call so it sounded like something special. He also was working split — transmitting on one frequency and listening up 2 or 3 Khz. So I set up for split while driving 70 miles per hour — I turned the RIT on the radio to -2.50 kHz and tuned up until I heard the station. I knew I was transmitting up 2.5, but had no idea who else was up 2.5 calling him. So I started throwing out my call, and after about 10 tries I worked him. That’s neat to bust a pileup running mobile.

Then I tuned up the band a little, I didn’t hear much, so I called CQ. I was answered by WP4L. I knew that was Puerto Rico, and actually had a nice QSO with Angleo.

After that I tuned around a little and heard a faint CQ froom G0KDJ. I thought “why not try” and answered his call and worked Jim in Liverpool, England. So I worked three DX stations on the way home. Not a bad day.

When I got home I looked up GR100MGY. It was a special event station marking the 100th anniversary of the voyage of the Titanic. It was only going to be on 5 days, and had just gone on the air that day. Hence the pileup that I broke through.

New paddle from CT599

The CT599 paddle.

I had been admiring the paddles made by Yuri CKM on Ebay and I finally pulled the trigger and purchased one a couple weeks ago. It arrived last Thursday, and after a weekend’s use, I will say it has exceeded my expectations. It’s not quite as nice as the Begali, but it’s close. And for half the price of the Begali, I can’t complain. It is very nice looking solid brass, very heavy, and has a very smoothe feel to it. I’ve been using it all weekend and have gotten used to it and it’s grown on me.

Tonight I was having a conversation with Steve, W9SN, and we were moving along around 35 words per minute. That’s about as fast as I can send on the Begali, and I was worried if I could reach that speed on the new paddle, but I did. By the end of the contact I was sold.

I’ve been using the Heathkit twins a lot, and they have really grown on me as well. They are from the early ’80s, but make a very nice little CW vintage station.  And they look so nice up there with their red dials. It’s hard to describe the joy of sitting here having a nice converstation on morse code with someone across the country, talking about the weather, radios, work, and life in general. You can’t get to detailed at 30 words per minute, but you can carry on a nice conversation. To me, that’s the joy of ham radio.

Mobile CW station is back

The Little Tarheel ready to go on the Mazda 3. I have a 2 meter/440 antenna on the right, but I’m not sure why I put it on the car. When you have HF mobile, why mess with 2 meters?

Last weekend we had nice weather, so I didn’t have any excuse not to get the Icom Ic7000 installed in the Mazda 3 and get back on mobile CW. I have finished the installation with only one hole drilled in the back of the back seat, and everything is working.

For an antenna, I picked up a Litttle Tarheel on eHam classifieds a month or so ago. It was brand new, it had never even been assembled. I bought a new Comet trunk lip mount and put it on the back hatch of the Mazda. I also purchased a N2VZ Turbo Tuner, which mates with the 7000 to automatically tune the antenna.

I’ve had good luck/bad luck with short screwdriver antennas in the past. I ran three different ATAS 120s through the years. Two failed, and I was still using the third when I sold my Mini Cooper and went off the air mobile a year and a half ago. I sold the ATAS, as I didn’t like the way it interfaced with the Icom 7000.

So it was with some trepidation that I hit the tune button on the radio after I got everything together. I could hear the antenna start moving, and in a few seconds it was tuned on 40 meters. I switched the radio to 20m hit the tune button again, and it tuned on 20 meters in a few seconds. I’m happy.

At that point I was running the radio off of an accessory power outlet in the car, which isn’t a good solution. This afternoon I wired it directly to the battery, so I’m 100 percent ready to go. I even found a nice little cubbyhole that the Vibroplex Code Warrior Junior paddle fits into.

Tomorrow morning I have the 80-mile commute to Rockford, so I’ll be testing it on 40 meters. Then Wednesday through Sunday I’m driving to west Nebraska and back — a 2,000-mile round trip — so there will be a lot of mobile cw time while cruising Interstate 80. Listen for me around 7025.

More reports on it next week.

The control head is held next to the gearshift with Velcro. That's the weak link in the installation at this point, I've had good luck with Velcro in some installations, but so far it doesn't seem to sturdy in this one. Note the paddle in the cubbyhole at the top of the picture. I can rest my hand on the gearshift while sendiing. Perfect.

Good weekend on CW

This weekend the bands have been open, the local line noise relatively quiet, and I’ve had some free time. The result is I’ve had a half dozen nice CW contacts in the last day or so. That hasn’t been the case most weekends lately.

This morning I talked with NI9Y, Dan, in Mishawaka, IN. I had talked to him a couple times before years ago, but we had a nice conversation. What’s notable is this morning he sent me a recording of what my radio sounded like at his station. The attached file is me, talking about how I bought a certain radio and wrapping up the contact. Conditions were such that we were both loud at each other’s stations.

Last night I had a couple of interesting conversations. I talked to AC7M, Doc, in Twin Falls, ID, and discovered that he had also grown up in western Nebraska. In the years talking to random people, I’ve talked to very few who also started out in west Nebraksa. We had a nice chat about the area, etc.

Right before that I had a very unusual CW contact. It was with Greg, K0GDI, near St. Louis, and it was the first contact he had made on CW. He is a fairly new ham, and said he was challenged by another ham to learn CW. He did it, and evidently did a good job of it as I was clipping along at 20 words per minute. It was obvious he was a new operator, as he was missing some of the standard operating practices. That’s fine. I tried to follow good procedure, and by the end of the contact he was starting to mimic that. That’s how you learn in ham radio — making contacts and paying attention to how other people operate.

It was nice to hear a new, young, operator on CW. There aren’t many on, and I’m not sure who is going to be around to talk to in 20 years or so.

Enjoy listening to the audio clip below.

K9OZ ON PRO3 FEB 11 2012 ON 3.550 MHZ AT 1217 UTC DE Ni9y

Straight Key Night

New Years’s Eve is Straight Key Night for hams. We all get out our old radios and straight keys and relive our youth. I was running a 70s era Novice radio, the Heath HW-16, and using an old military straight key from WWII. We get spoiled by the modern radios with selective filtering and electronic keyers that make sending Morse code much easier, but it is a blast to get the old gear out and pretend it’s 1965 and I’m a 12-year-old playing with radios in the basement.

Slow summer

Looking in the log a couple weeks ago, I realized I had nearly been off the air this summer. So I tried to get on the air for some simple cw QSOs a couple weekends ago, and it was nice to hear CW again.

Last weekend I ran the North American QSO party for a few hours. I did a couple hundred contacts, mostly on 40. 80 meters was just too noisy to deal with.
This weekend I messed with the Worked All Europe DX contest on Saturday night on 40. I could hear a few EU stations, between all the US stations calling CQ Test. I managed to squeak out 25 contacts on 40 meters last night, but that’s less than an hour on good band.
As the weather changes, I’ll get more active on the radio and more active on the blog, I promise.

Lack of activity

This has been a slow summer for ham radio. I made a couple of contacts running mobile the last week on 40 CW, but really haven’t been on the air in the past month. I even missed Field Day, for the first time in 10 years. A wedding of an old friend’s daughter took precedence. Hopefully, I’ll get back on the air the next month, and have some things to post about.

I did pick up a software defined receiver at a Hamfest a couple weeks ago, but haven’t gotten it out of the box to mess with yet. Stay tuned.

Mobile cw

I had a couple of good cw mobile contacts yesterday. Look for me on 40 cw all day today and Sunday.

IPad post

Ok, this is the first post I’ve tried to make by actually typing on the iPad. It works, but is going to take some getting used to the keyboard. The iPad is an interesting toy, and I’ve almost got it sete to where I can control a radio remotely and stream audio back to the iPad. I don’t have the audio part working yet, but I’ll figure out my mistake soon.
This morning I made a nice QSO with Pete K4BKD, who I’ve talked to multiple times. It was a good saturday morning cw chat, we talked about weather, radio, dogs, radios, cars, and pollen counts, all at 25 words per minute using Morse code. Fun.

Location:Lincoln Ave,Lisle,United States