Well as ive mentioned before due to the pandemic and its affect on my self employment ive drastically slimmed the shack and my equipment down, its really saddened me but it is what it is.
So the new shack for the end of Jan 2021 as per the above shot, one single radio for now, not even a 2m radio for local chat, I will be back “dont know when dont know where” breaks into a Vera Lynn classic LOL.
Even the 27in 5K Retina Imac is up or sale, downsizing to a small Mac Mini, sad times.
On a completely different subject, ive just gotten back from work (I am able to work during lockdown) should have been there all day but the weather today has been bitter, heavy rain, cold and wind made for very uncomfortable working conditions in a very cold unheated brick workshop in the middle of the countryside, when I couldnt feel my fingers and my toes were freezing it was time to call it a day and come home to a lovely warm house.
Nostalgic pic of how the shack used to look, I know I shouldnt drink and DX
A little fed up recently, with having to slim down my equipment due to financial issues I had thought my spirits would be lifted by my recent overhaul of my tower and what would hopefully be the replacement for the MA5B, put a new winch and cable on the tower which was quite difficult in itself in a box section tower but I got there in the end.
I purchased a 2nd hand Hexbeam last year, its an antenna ive always wanted to use and having ordered a new one from Ant MW0JZE I took the opportunity of purchasing a 2nd hand one to use in the interim period so after finishing the tower work I began the process of building the Hexbeam, it soon materialised that it wasnt going to end up being the dream antenna I wanted, nothing to do with performance, the hexbeams are proven performers, its all down to size, I always knew it would be a little different from a visual perspective but thats ok, what I didnt perhaps perceive was that in my very small garden this thing is rather huge, I hummed and hahd and sat for a while thinking about it and then decided to dismantle it, I dont have a huge garden and im fairly surrounded by houses, I honestly thing my neighbours would have kittens if I put this up.
So where does this leave me, honestly im not sure, I could visit my neighbours and ask them if they have any issues with me putting it up, I could just put it up anyway or I could give up and think of something else, at this point I just dont know, what I do know is I need to get something that is going to perform reasonably well up fairly soon before I lose another year to mediocrity.
Yeah and its been pissing down for days, someone up there is having a laugh !!
First of all, Happy New Year to anyone who may be reading this, my first post of the new year, following on from my last post about slimming down due to my financial situation I have now put up my Icom IC-7700 for sale from my home shack and will continue to use the IC-7300 which ive had for a few years, the 7700 is hands down the best radio i have ever used, just an amazing receiver and amazing filtering coupled with just the right amount of front panel buttons without having to delve deep into the menu system, am i gutted, bloody right but the 7700 is worth at least £2K so I have no choice but to let it go.
Whilst doing things on a budget ive not had any antennas up for the lower bands, nothing lower than 20m here so a few years ago I bought a very rough R7 which in hindsight was a wreck, last year I picked up an R5 which was in slightly better condition albeit with an issue with the 17m trap so I decided to have a play at making one good R7 out of the old R7 and the better R5, anyway I got it up and running this week and it seems to play ok not really tuned it for lowest SWR on each band yet but on the CW portions of all bands bar 40m its less than 1.7 which im happy with, its about 1.9 on 40m which with a tuner I can live with, I have currently only pretty much ground mounted the antenna to test it but initial tests look good, heard a fair bit of stuff on 40m last few days including some NA at decent signal strengths so the plan is when the weather improves to move the antenna to a different location in my small garden and mount it so the base is approx 8-10ft off the ground, its currently on 2ft from ground level.
The downside of vertical polarization is the noise level, its around S5-S7 on 40m but sadly the 30m noise level is still S9+ which it was previously on my old R7000, ive no idea at this point what im going to do if anything to try and remedy that.
And sadly not the weight type of slimming down (although could do with that as well) Covid and the Pandemic has had a dramatic effect on my finances this year, ive been self employed for a good number of years now and for the last few ive been working 2 jobs, my primary work has been photography, primarily wedding but pretty much any genre of photography and my other job is working for Innovantennas building a vast array of different type of antennas for Amateur and Commerical, sadly due to Covid my photography work has come to an abrupt halt with no photography work this year at all to that end my income has dropped significantly and although ive been struggling through the time has come to make some sacrifices as far as my radio equipment is concerned.
Amateur radio is one of those things you will lose interest in every now and then but will come back to it, for me thats definatley been the case over the 30 odd years ive been licensed, I had a few years away from about 2010 and never really came back until 2017, unfortunately this time around the hobby took hold a little bit tighter than in the past and its become as it has been in the past more than a hobby but a lifestyle choice, I have come back into the hobby with the enthusiasm I had in the late 80s when I first got licensed, anyway I digress. so jump forward a few years to the present day I have luckily managed to do very well in my wheeling and dealing to buy mostly 2nd hand equipment and have amassed quite a bit of kit in the last few years well 2020 has been a wake up call as far as family and finances go so I sat down and thought do I really need all of this or do I just want it, of course the answer was the latter, anyway to make a very long story a bit shorter ive decided to slim down my equipment, ive started with my workshop where I had a lovely Icom IC-7000 and the matching LDG auto atu, a fabulous bit of kit but sadly I had to say goodbye to it this week, I still have the little Yaesu FT-100D that got me back into the hobby about 4 years ago and out of the two of them the Icom was worth the most money so much to my dismay its now gone.
I wont dwell on it as it pisses me off to think about it but my family and finances really have to come first, the little FT-100D is a nice little radio but not in the same league as the IC-7000 but needs must and I have to do what I have to do, ive also amassed a fair few antennas in my arsenal so again they will be slimmed down along with lots of ancillary equipment such as ATUs, meters etc etc, I have also slimmed down the main shack as well, more to come about that.
Anyway enough of my woes, to be fair I worked some nice stuff on my little FT-100D when I came back on the air so now thats shes out of retirement I hope she will be good to me again.
So have been thinking lately about antennas and deciding what to do at home and at the workshop, I finished building my 3 element LFA which I actually started building about 3 years ago and never got round to finishing, Initially I thought I would put it up at the workshop and maybe put my 2 element Innovantennas Moxon up at home but I decided to go the other way round, the Cushcraft MA5B will be coming down in the next week or so to be replaced by the 3 element 10m LFA, I realise its a monobander but the plan is to build either a rotary dipole for some of the other bands or build a Cobweb for 10 thru. 20 which will include the WARC bands the plan is at home also to put up a G7FEK nested Marconi which will give me access to the lower bands down to 80m which I currently dont have.
I bought some 450 Ohm ladder line a few weeks ago and have built the nested Marconi antenna but havnt had the chance to put it up yet, that left me with the rotary dipole at the workshop for 10/15/20m, its worked well for me but I feel now that the sunspot cycle is finally starting to show some improvement that im missing out on some of the openings on 10m, to that end I took down the rotary dipole and replaced it with the 2 element 10m Moxon, at a whopping 17ft above ground level (I kid you not) the bottom line is though its working well, a few minutes after i put it up and with not even really turning the antenna in any particular direction I switched on the radio to hear FY5KE Cqing from French Guiana with an excellent signal peaking at 599 when I eventually tweaked the beam heading directlly onto him, the following day I also heard a couple of VKs albeit weakly but at least I heard them and also a couple of North American stns, this bodes well for the coming weeks I hope.
The downside again from the workshop is ive lost the other bands but I do have a small Cushcraft R5 Vertical which I may strap to the fence so I can at least use the higher HF bands including the WARC bands down as far as 20m, we shall see
Anyway a couple of youtube videos for your viewing pleasure of how the Moxon is working at a pretty low height, the feature picture is of the Moxon in all its glory.
As you may or may not be aware my workshop is located in the countryside a bit away from my home so luckily I have managed to put the odd antenna up and have a play from time to time during breaks and lunchtime, the workshop shack consists of a little IC-7000 which is a fabulous little radio with great TX audio, especially paired with a very cheap Neewer NW700 Studio microphone, anyway over the last couple of years Ive played with various antennas at the workshop, my 6 element 50MHz Op-Des was up all summer but now weve come to the end of the Es season Ive taken it down, I renovated an old Cushcraft R5 Vertical which has been up for the last few weeks, I have had various other antennas up over the past couple of years which are probably on other blog entries.
Anyway recently I put up a Comet H422 Rotary dipole for a disabled friend of mine, he had a Proantenna Dual Beam Pro up before which I took down, it was looking very sorry for itself, very green and grimey, my mate said that I could just take it away and see if it was any use to me, forward a couple of weeks to this week, I fished the antenna out of my workshop, cleaned it thoroughly (Brillo pads work wonderfully), replaced the bent and wonky capacity ends and replaced with new stainless steel nuts and bolts.
I put the Dual-beam Pro up yesterday, not really expecting much, its advertised as a non resonant rotary dipole with capacity hat ends, in the centre is some sort of ferrite core balun, its well made to be fair, the antenna requires an ATU, I put it up and connected everything up not really expecting much, my little LDG AT-7000 auto tuner seemed to cope with it on all bands, I wasnt blown away initially but decided to have a tune around and its only fair to say that it suprised me, first contacts where into Khazakstan on 17m, then Thailand, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Cyprus to name but a few so all in all it seems to work.
Well following on from the previous post, Ive started to slim down and sell off a lot of equipment, i originally intended to just keep the IC-7300 and my IC-7000 but im struggling to let go of my IC-7700, its a beast of a radio with a fabulous receiver and ergonomicaly its perfect for me, also the 200w comes in handy, although mostly I leave it set on 150w and forget it, as far as downsides are concerned on the 7700 there really arent any apart from the sheer size and weight of it, it would certainly leave a lot more room on the operating desk, given the current state of the the country with Covid and the current very fragile state of my finances due to losing a lot of work the money would definatley come in handy, buggar it really is decisions decisions !
On another entirely seperate subject ive recently started playing on 2m Cw and SSB and having some fun, ive never done anything on 2m other than FM in my 32 years of being licensed so last week i put up a small 6 el LFA and have been playing on the other end of the band, I have managed to work a few into the closer EU countries, PA, F, DL, ON, even managed a GM near Aberdeen and another G near Manchester on CW, the only 2 CW signals ive heard on 2m, Ive been giving a call on CW but so far not had any replies so for now will have to be SSB, not sure why there is a lack of activity on CW on 2m its certainly a shame, the radio im using on 2m is the little IC-7000 which seems to work fine, power out is 50w to the 6 el LFA.
its certainly different from 6m and HF but im enjoying my little foray onto another band, the antenna is only about 25ft so could really do with being a bit higher so I may think about moving it to the HF tower on top of my MA5B at some point
Couple of little vids on youtube showing the 6 element and my IC-7000 on 2m SSB for the first time ever
As you may or may not be aware I have two Jobs, I have been a professional photographer for a number of years now, my other job is working for Innovantennas building the full array of HF/VHF and UHF antennas, alas due to the Covid 19 Pandemic my photography work has all but dried up so I have to rely purely on my work for Innovantennas, in itself its fine but it left me with a dilema to try and recoup money do I sell my photography equipment or do I slim down my Amateur Radio gear, sadly there really is only one decision, in the hope that either later this year or early next things pick up on the photography front I really need to hold on to as much of my photography equipment as i can so ive taken the difficult decision to slim down my Amateur radio equipment and take the minimalist approach, im still passionate about my lifelong hobby but need to be realistic when it comes to finances and work, so over the next few weeks the shack will be slimmed down to the bare minimum, a HF/6m radio and a radio for VHF
I intend to keep my little IC-7000 that im currently using at the workshop, simply because its a great little radio, gives me a chance to play radio on breaks at work and its the radio I intend to take to ZC4 for my little one man DXpedition should these Covid 19 restrictions finally get relaxed, ive already lost out on two trips and am still trying to get my money back from Ryanair for my cancelled trip in March. What I keep in my main shack is the next decision I need to take, I also have a lot of ancillary equipment, ATUs, Meters, Antennas etc that I need to seriously think about letting go, my kids insist im a Ham Radio hoarder, nah honestly thats not the case !!
Anyway just a little update to where I am at this point, keep safe everyone.
On another note using some spare time ive played around at designing some simple new QSL cards for my various calls, nothing groundbreaking just simple cards, hope you like them.
Without a doubt, my two favourite bands, with that in mind these are the two bands im concentrating on over the summer (if you can call it a summer) I put my 6 Element Innovantenna Op-Des (pictured above) back up at the workshop a couple of weeks ago so i could monitor 50Mhz between jobs, ive managed a couple of new ones albeit on FT8 but at this stage of the sunspot cycle I will take what I can get, would much prefer to work DX on conventional modes like CW and SSB (CW Preferred) but you have to go where the DX is.
A very welcome ATNO in the shape of Jeff TZ4AM in Mali and on CW as well a few weeks ago took my DXCC count to 98 and HZ1SK on FT8 this week took me to 99, very close to the magic 100, although i still need at least 20 confirmed at this point, it sometimes seems easier to work the DX than actually get it confirmed.
This years Es season has been very hit and miss, unfortunatley the one decent opening into the Caribbean last week was missed as I was not QRV that evening, there has been some nice stuff on 10m and the band has opened up into North, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean on a fairly regular basis, there has also been some nice short E’s openings into EI, GI and GM, I have resisted the temptation to use FT8 on 10m or any HF band for that matter preferring just to restrict my FT8 usage to 6m
I have been thinking of taking the Cushcraft MA5B down at home and replacing it with a 3 element 10m LFA, although the MA5B is a 2 element on 10 its still a trap antenna and thus a compromise, im still undecided whether the performance difference between the LFA and MA5B will be significant enough to warrant the hassle of changing them over, still to be decided.