Monthly Archives: February 2013

Update: Custom front panel

A few weeks ago I created a front panel for a kit I built in December 2012. The kit is a QRP Transmit/ Receive box designed by the 4-state QRP club.

Below are before and after photos of the front panel. The first photo is my attempt to drill out holes in an enclosure i purchased from Ten-Tec based on the template provided with the kit. I really lacked the proper milling tools to do the job and, needless to say, it shows.

The second photo is the front panel I designed, again based on the template provided in the kit. The software I used to design the panel layout was provided by Front Panel Express online. (the software I downloaded from Front Panel Express for my Mac work flawlessly) Using the software I positioned and specified sizes for each panel opening. In addition I specified labels for each opening.

I learned that I should have allowed a bit more room for panel openings as the position of components on the board was slightly different than my front panel specifications. I had to enlarge two of the openings using a Dremel bit to adjust for two jacks whose position was slightly off from my specifications.

In addition I learned that I should have positioned my labels a farther from the openings as the connector fasteners tended to overlap my labels somewhat.

All in all I think this was a very successful first attempt.

First attempt.

Second attempt, using Front Panel Express milled front panel.

2013 ARRL DX CW contest

This was my first ARRL DX CW contest. Propagation conditions here in North Idaho were excellent for QRP.

My 5W station and simple dipole attached to my roofline at about 20 feet and open wire twin feedline worked almost all parts of the world: from Central & South America to Europe, Africa, Asia (Russia and Japan) and New Zealand.

15 and 10 meters were really hot during daylight hours and are where I made most of contacts. 20 meters, at least for me, was dead, netting me just 1 contact. 40 meters was just OK.

I set a goal for myself to work 100 stations with the time I had available. I ended the contest just before time ran out with a contact to Guam, which was contact number 101.

My KX3 performed like a champ on a set of 8 rechargeable batteries. The rig’s ability to dig weak signals out of pile-ups and sometimes marginal propagation conditions was very impressive.

My best contacts were Montserrat and Senegal which I never expected to work. Conditions were so good I worked Montserrat on multiple bands.

Looking forward to next year’s contest!

Mobile operation: Pullman, WA

I returned again to a hilltop at the Palouse Ridge Golf Course for mobile afternoon operating session with the KX3 and a simple, speaker wire dipole strung between trees, its twin-lead center about 4 feet off the ground. Weather was cool and sunny with temperatures in the high 30’s or so. I got the antenna in place, hooked it up to the KX3 along with my portable key and phones and fired up on 15M CW.

Within the first few minutes I responded to V73NS calling CQ, having no idea about his QTH. Turns out it was Neil Schwanitz in the Marshall Islands! What good fortune for me. As soon as I signed off there were lots of stations calling him. I must have hit it just right since I doubt my 3W would have punched through the pile-up.

From there I QSO’d with Ted in Sioux City, Nebraska, then N1WPU in Maine. I also worked Valery, UA0ZC in Russia.

For me, this is some of Ham radio at its best!

Here is a photo of my gear and antenna just prior to set-up.

This photo is my view of the hillside overlooking the Washington State Palouse. If you look carefully at the photo you can see my dipole crossing the top portion of the picture.

73 N7RCS

Keeping it clean

I’ve been searching for a way to keep dust off my KX3 and Bencher key. For a while I was just placing a piece of scratch paper over each unit after shutting down. Not the most elegant solution.

Then I asked my XYL, who has considerable sewing skills, whether she could make equipment covers for me.

After a brief consultation as to color, fabric and size and a trip to the local fabric store she had what she needed. One week later I had two very sharp-looking dust covers. See before and after photos below.

Operating mobile for FYBO QRP 2013 with the KX3

It was such a beautiful day today I decided to take the KX3 out and participate in Freeze Your Butt Off Winter QRP Sprint. Wx was in the mid-30s with a breeze. I decided to drive over to the Palouse Ridge Golf Golf Club at WSU and set up on a bluff overlooking the Palouse.

I loaded the KX3, my speaker wire dipole, portable key, and AA batteries in my backback, jumped in the car and headed over.

The clump of trees seen in the aerial view on this page shows where I set up for FYBO.

The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, the wind was blowing. Perfect day! I had forgotten to bring a chair and my headphones, but luckily for me, there was a bench waiting for me. It was quiet enough that I did not need my headphones. So, I tossed my dipole into the trees, leaving the center about 6 feet above the ground. Hooked up the KX3 to the antenna, plugged in the key and battery pack and started scanning for FYBO CQs.

As a started scanning on 20 meters I heard KH6MB (Hawaii) calling CQ on 14.004. I responded, only half expecting him to hear my 3W CW signal. He came right back! Wow! My first mobile contact on the KX3 was Hawaii. Nice.

I went on to notch 3 FYBO contacts in the next hour: K7TQ in Idaho, WD7Y in Nevada, and W0DTJ in California. All on 20M. Not too bad for 3W to a dipole 6 feet off the ground.

I also worked Barry, N2BJ in New Lenox, IL on 15M RTTY. Tried PSK31 but had no luck, although the KX3 did an excellent job translating PSK to text for me. A waterfall display is nice, but this rig makes it pretty easy to run PSK without it.

All in all a very productive first outing with the KX3. My plan is to set up my 32 ft. vertical next time to see how it performs at that same location.

Till next time – 73!