My "Dr. Frankenstein" Key for WES

Oh what a busy week this was !

On Thursday evening (Oct. 6) we just had the SKSE, and the weekend of Oct. 8-9 was coming up …
WES time again.
But at the same time I had been hunting for a special award, celebrating the passing of Miguel De
Cervantes, 400 years ago (see http://cervantes.ure.es/ ).
When your call is O N 7 "Don Quijote" you HAVE to get that award, right ?
Oct. 9 was the last day to get the three missing contacts to get my “Platinum” award, I only got to
that on the Sunday at 16:00 UTC. So my time in WES was rather limited, in the end I made only 6
QSOs, but … 4 of them were US stations.
Now for the special theme this time … From the depths of the junk box, unspeakable keys!
So between all this Cervantes hunting, I went into the garage and grabbed some wood and screws.
But what to use as contact points ?
I had a box full of old appliances in my garage, ready to bring to the container park (dumpster).
I saw a couple of broken clock radios and a desk lamp. So I cut off three power cords and went back
to the shack.
After some thinking … drilling a couple of holes … and using only three screws, I came to this result :

A view from the side shows how two of the pins of the power cord form the contacts, the power plug
from the third power cord is the key’s primitive “knob”. The lever is a wooden paint stirrer which
seems to have just the right tension, so I didn’t make an adjustment for that. However, the contact
distance was way too big, so I added a fourth screw halfway the lever to reduce the spacing to a
comfortable distance.

I then covered my DF key with an early "Halloween theme" ... scary stuff eh ?

You could call it a “dust cover” but I suspect it collects more dust than it protects … HI.

The key was used in all 6 QSOs, and worked quite well, though it feels rather “soft”.

Here the proud builder/owner … hope you like my “design” !


Very Simple Straight Key

I used to have a very simple "emergency" key with my KX3, just a pushbutton (the TURBO switch from an old PC, remember the days when PC's had a turbo mode ?).
I didn't use it very much because it has a bit too much travel for good keying ...

I did make several paddles in the past, all made from scrap pieces of PCB.
One of those was made after the idea of Carel PA0CMU for a double paddle : http://members.ziggo.nl/cmulder/paddle.htm
Carel based his design on the idea of  NB6M for a single paddle :

So I got the idea to make the simplest straight key, and still have good results. This is what I came up with ... you need :
- 2 pieces of single sided PCB, approx. 2 x 5 cm, may vary along your taste ...
- Two contacts from an old relay (cleaned with a blue ink eraser)
- Dremel cutting tool
- Soldering iron
That's it !

I took a picture when everything was cut to size, ready to start soldering.
(I didn't make a drawing, just drew some lines without even measuring , hi)

I took the two small pieces for the side posts from another piece of PCB,  but you could actually cut the center piece in two. The excess PCB of these post will be cut off later anyway.

First solder the contact strips in place (take care : don't put solder on the contact points !).
Then mark two lines on the bottom piece and solder the posts in place.
(this picture is from a second model with wider "arms" for some more resistance)
Also remove a strip of copper to isolate the front contact from the rest (all the rest will be GROUND).

Then put some spacer between the contacts and hold both parts in place with a clothespin, like this:

If you are satisfied, solder the arms in place, they can easily be repositioned later if the contact distance is not what you like.

Then put a capacitor of 10nF over the "gap" and connect a cable with a 3.5 mm jack.
For my KX3 I have to use a STEREO jack, but using only the tip and sleeve connections, this may differ for other brand of transceiver.

I made two different keys, one has a fixed cable, the other has a 3.5mmm connector, to be used with a seperate cable. I can fit both this key AND a mini single-lever paddle in a film can !

Have fun !



Frog Sounds QRP CW kit build

This is my attempt at the Chinese "frog sounds" QRP kit.
After ordering it for exactly 9.99 EURO, it arrived some 3 weeks later. Everything was in one little plastic bag, and even had 3 sheets of instructions !

A well made PC board, and as I found out during the build ... too many components (mostly capacitors and one transistor), and one missing component, an electrolytic cap of 1µF, not too bad, I have those in my junkbox. Three sockets are provided for the IC's, nice. 

There is no real building order in the instructions, just a placement diagram and circuit diagram.
So I used some common sense and started with all the resistors ...

Then adding the caps and some other stuff ...

And finally all connectors, the final transistor and the two ringcores you have to wind yourself.
The final product looks like this, and it took me about 2.5 hours.
The orange wires in the picture are not from one lead, I DO have orange headphones AND a mini paddle with an orange lead ... can you tell orange is my favourite colour ? HI
(I'm still looking for ORANGE 50 Ohm coax ... anyone ?)
Btw, I use the paddle as a straight key by putting it on it's side, there is no keyer chip in this kit.
There is a Chinese kit WITH a keyer for around 15 EURO though.
(search ebay for DIY 51 Super Rock Mite RM Kit CW Transceiver Shortwave Telegraph )

Does it work ?
Yes it does , but ...
The receiver is quite sensitive, but lacks selectivity as you can expect ...
I connected a 40m dipole and connected the phones output to my laptop running the program DSP-FIL by Makoto Mori
This program dates back to 2001 but still does a good job ... all kinds of filters down to 70 Hz.
The only thing you can't do is keying CW and listening to it on the PC .. because of the delay !
So I used my "orange" headphones, these have an extra audio output jack, and this was coupled to the PC. The sidetone of this kit is around 1000 Hz (and not so stable, still have to check which capacitors are responsible for the drift). So I put the DSP-FIL very narrow around 600 Hz, and when keying I heard myself in the headphones, while receiving I listened on the PC. Problem solved.
I called CQ and after 3 times calling , a G station answered and I got a 559 report ... wow !

So I was curious at what power I really had made this QSO with.
My Bird wattmeter is too inaccurate at this level (I only have the 100W element).
So I measured it in the school lab as 820 mW ...
Maybe not too bad, they advertise 2W out, but maybe they mean 2W INPUT , and the circuit values indicate it was designed for 1W  output.

In the mean time I put the PCB in a nice aluminium box, and printed some labels, then put them on the box with clear Scotch tape.

I also added a audio CW filter I had made long time ago, to avoid the use of the PC as a CW-filter.

73 - Luc


ON7DQ SOTA Tour – March 2016

In the second weekend of March, I made a 4-day trip to DL, to visit the Bergheim Funkflohmarkt (hamfest) and to do some SOTA activations of course. That weekend was also the last chance to get the winter bonus points on those Belgian summits that are over 500m asl. So on Friday March 11, I set off at 05:45 local time .. to get at my first summit at 8:30 local.

ON/ON-010 Baraque Fraiture

Snow as far as you could see … so setting up in the snow : FT857D operated inside the backpack + link dipole.

Tried 20m first for some VK/ZL … no luck. Then gave a shout on 7.085 (to give the ON3 stations a chance to work me too) and … boom ! The pileup that followed went on and on … filling page after page in my logbook … made exactly 100 QSO’s in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Great !
I was getting cold, so never went back to 20m, off to the next summit …

ON/ON-013 Bois de Hodinfosse

More snow .. yes, you have to earn that winter bonus , hi.

This time I used the KX3 and link dipole, and took a chair and a small folding table/stool, so that nothing had to lie around in the snow. A large piece of plastic laid out on on the snow kept my backpack and other stuff dry. Made 33 QSO’s, again all on 40m.

On this picture, you see my MIC/PTT interface box for the KX3, to use a PC-headset.

ON/ON-011 Sur Clair Fa

It was getting around noon when I finished at ON/ON-013, so I first drove to the next summit, and had a small “lunch-in-the-snow” there.

Then setup my station, again KX3 + link dipole. My 5800 mAh LiPo pack had been recharged in the car while driving, so it was a “fresh start”.
Made 31 QSO’s there, of which one DX with N1GB.

Had I mentioned I didn’t meet one living soul during these three activations … it was “Cold and Lonely” (like the song by Slaid Cleaves).
It was different on the fourth summit, since this is a popular Langlauf ski area.
ON/ON-001 Signal de Botrange

Lots of tourists here, but I found a quiet spot next to the observation deck, across the main road (see track by G4OBK on Sotamaps).
Very cold wind here too, so I had to make the activation short, and again worked only on 40m. Still no bad result : made 48 QSO’s in 40 minutes.

So far for day 1 .. it was time to go to my hotel (Hotel Jufa in Jülich). This is a brandnew hotel (built in 2013) in Youth Hostel style, but offering “normal” hotel rooms for singles, couples or families (see picture).
It was very quiet in this weekend, but at other times it can be crowded with youngsters (eg. school trips).
They have a nice sauna so my (c)old bones were warmed up very quickly .. hi.
It is a cheap hotel too, I paid 34 Euros per night, breakfast and dinner included, although the dinner was very sober compared to what you get at other German hotels (felt more like a school meal).
But you get free access to a nice park adjacent to the hotel.

Saturday was spent at the Funkflohmarkt in Bergheim, and some shopping in Aachen, no SOTA today …
I did buy a small VHF/UHF antenna at the hamfest, a 4-element Log Periodic, made by ANJO Antennen.
(details here : http://www.joachims-gmbh.de/detail_blatt/LP145435E.html2 )

DM/NW-134 Sophienhöhe
Sunday was again devoted to SOTA, but on Sunday morning was also the UBA Spring Contest 2m (Phone & CW). So I wanted to get a piece of that cake too. Now my KX3 doesn’t have the (expensive) 2m module, and even then .. what to do with only 3W in a contest ?
So I decided to take my two backpacks up the summit, one with the FT857D and VHF antenna, the other with the KX3 and HF antenna.
The summit is a firm 45 minutes walk, I took the path from the North parking as suggested by Phil, ON4TA.
(Franz, ON9CBQ/DL3RBF, suggested a path from the West, I’ll try that next time).
Now how do you carry two backpacks .. ? I went up this way :

Coming down I found another way to do this .. so one of the backpacks is actually … um ... a FRONT PACK !

Look Ma, no hands !!

On this summit , it was time to test the newly acquired Log-Periodic antenna.

Did it work ? It sure did, my second QSO was with ON4OS, my own club in Ostend … 250 km away, with good signals. Not too much activity on 2m though, so made only 10 QSO’s in total, of which only ON4TA was a typical SOTA chaser …

During my “lunch on the summit” a walking group passed by, and suddenly a man came to me and said (in German) .. surely you are a “Funkamateur” ? Yes , of course ! It was Karl-Heinz, DL2XL , also a SOTA activator.
Then it was time to move to HF. First with the FT857 until the batteries started going down, made only 5 QSO’s on 40m. Then switched to the KX3 and moved up : 3 QSO’s on 20m, then went to 15M and wow !
I worked three VE stations in a row !
For all the time I stayed on the summit, only 21 QSO’s was not the best result, but the weather was good, and after the activation I even walked for another hour on the summit (with my two backpacks !), to see the “Römerturm” (viewpoint on the summit).

And just a remark to Ed, DD5LP … do you really have to leave your name all over this summit ?

Just joking .. but this is what you see everywhere along walking route E and D … hi.

PA/PA-002 Vrouwenheide

Monday March 14 was the day to go home, with 2 Dutch summits on my list. The first one is a very easy drive up summit, it’s only 50m to the summit. So I quickly set up the KX3 and link dipole, for my second biggest pile-up on this trip : 60 QSO’s in just 45 minutes, including a VE and a W station.

PA/PA-003 Observant (Sint Pietersberg)

This artificial slag heap near the city of Maastricht is something else.
I followed the track of Phil, G4OBK to get to the parking spot, but then it’s still a nice steep walk to the summit. Being a Monday, not many visitors there, so I had plenty of space to set up. I couldn’t get my “spike” in the ground though, so had to use some bungee cords to tie my pole to a bench to keep it upright.
My setup was again the KX3 and link dipole.

This time all went very well, 51 QSO’s in total, including 5 S2S’s, and quite some DX on 20m … read on !
Since this was my last activation before going home, I thought “why not try CW for a change ?”
(I did use CW occasionally before, but only to work other S2S station, never called CQ SOTA myself)
I let the KX3 memory keyer do its work, and some Russian station came back … got 579 from him.
OK, let’s call some more CQ …
Then … to my surprise I heard a very familiar call W0MNA , Gary from Kansas, and of course after Gary came Martha W0ERI !
To explain why I was so excited : I met Gary and Martha last year in Branson, MO, USA on the OzarkCon QRP Conference, so what a pleasure to get those great folks in my log on my first CW adventure ….
After 2 more CW QSO’s I still had to try my new Arduino project : an Arduino UNO polls the KX3 for received text and displays it on a 1.8” LCD display. Compared to the meager 8 characters on the KX3 display, mine can show up to 460 characters … so ample time to follow a PSK QSO.

This worked fine in RX, but I had more trouble sending a reply with the CW paddle, which is then sent as PSK by the KX3. Better bring something with a keyboard next time …
There is also a real-time clock in the box, and an SD-card, but I didn’t get the save/log function working in time for this trip, so can’t show any text from the log, but I did take a picture of one PSK QSO.

After that it was time to go home .. feeling very satisfied with all results on this little SOTA-tour …

73 de Luc - ON7DQ

Bridge over the canal "Albertkanaal" at village of Kanne in Belgium, seen from PA/PA-003