Saturday, November 24, 2012

1st CW QSO! Thank you KD2OY!

After many months, even years, I finally got up the courage to give a CQ using Morse Code.  Much to my terror, David Nadel - KD2OY, returned my call and we had a short QSO.  It was short, mostly because I was so nervous that I didn't know what to say!

I would really like to thank a couple of guys who have provided a LOT of encouragement and support:  Dave Meier (N4MW) and Armand Hamel (WA1UQO).  I would have abandoned CW long ago if it weren't for these 2 guys!

The 1st contact has been logged - onward and onward!!!

73 de KJ4WLH

Monday, November 19, 2012

Antenna Modeling – The Practical Use

What do these software products all have in common:  EZNec, cocoaNEC, NEC 2, and NEC-Win?

  1. They are intimidating, obscure, and un-intelligible software programs somehow related to Amateur Radio.
  2. They each provide a means to use mathematical sets of formulas to simulate antennas in the "real world."
  3. Electrical Engineers, PhD's, Nerds, and the socially unacceptable are the only humans who know the "secret and arcane" art of antenna modeling using these software tools.
  4. These are very expensive software products, well out of the reach of a typical Ham.

No, the answer is not "3"; the correct answer is "2"!  Yes, really - I'm not kidding…

One of my favorite things to do in Amateur Radio is trying to model the "perfect" antenna.  I've "invested" (or wasted depending upon whom you ask!) a lot of time with EZNec (on Windows) and cocoaNEC (on Mac) and I really enjoy them a lot.  I've often asked myself questions like:
  • I wonder what that dipole would look like in my back yard?
  • What does a 3 element, 2-meter yagi do at 8' above the ground?
  • How does a j-pole really radiate?
  • Can I make my own Buckmaster (and save a TON of $$)?
Recently, I was able to put my "investment" (of time) to good use.  I'd decided that I wanted to put up a 40m dipole and remove the doublet that was in its place.  Sure the doublet worked OK, but I'd recently discovered just how inefficient that antenna radiates on it non-harmonic frequencies.  It doesn't really matter what "it" is, but I like things that work efficiently and my doublet surely didn't.

I had to opportunity to "design" my own dipole.  How tricky can that be you ask?  As tricky as you want to make it.  Since I knew how to use EZNec and cocoaNEC, I didn't just want a flattop dipole with it's 70+ Ohm feedpoint and 1.8+ SWR across the frequency band for 40m (see Figure 1).  I used cocoaNEC to model a dipole, sized for 40m, about 45’ above the ground – which was very close to my QTH’s backyard setup – to see what a regular dipole would look like.

Figure 1 - 40m Dipole "Flat Top"

Since the 40m antenna is lower to the ground than the optimal height, I started changing my model by changing the legs of the dipole.  I started off by slightly raising the legs by 10 degrees at the insulator and saw the feedpoint resistance drop a little.  Eventually, I managed to find a nice combination of dipole leg “angle”, based upon the height over ground.  I was also able to adjust the length of the legs to get the lowest SWR across the lower part of the 40m band.  The SWR model is show in Figure 2.

Figure 2 - 40m "V" Dipole

During November of 2012, I managed to find some time to hang my 40m dipole based upon the calculations.  I hung the wires and balun, trimmed, re-hung, trimmed, re-hung, etc. for a few hours.  When I was finished, I used my analyzer to see just how close I was.  Figure 3 shows the graph based upon the numbers my analyzer showed.  The curve is about as close to a match (compare Figure 3 to Figure 2) as I could ever expect!  I was so pleased – it has been a while since a project that I’m working on has turned out so well!

Figure 3 - Actual Analyzer Measurements at my QTH

As I’m writing this, I still can’t believe just how accurate the EZNec and cocoaNEC programs are.  I know it’s not rocket science, but I was able to design an antenna based on my requirements, build the antenna, and finally, measure to see that it matches the antenna design.

Once all the measurements were complete, I got right on the air.  The ARRL was having a Sweepstakes competition and the contacts were rolling in!  Perhaps band conditions were great or my antenna worked even better than I’d dreamed ☺  Either way, there were many contacts to be made!  It was a great way to end a weekend!

If you think that you’d be interested in trying to model your own antenna, RARC will be offering a 3 or 4 week “Introduction to EZNec Antenna Modeling” class in the late winter/early spring.

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, November 18, 2012

40m V Dipole - It's up and awesome!

Well, it sure has taken me a while, but I decided that I needed to remove my doublet.  I was doing some antenna modeling with EZNec and CocoaNec and saw just how horrible the actual antenna resonance was and realized that even though I could get my tuner to match; the doublet was still not exactly working very efficiently :(

So, those thoughts as well as the desire to run a little bit of power in the future and CW, caused me to re-think my antenna situation.  After much fun, deliberation, and consternation, I decided that I'd bite the bullet and build 1 - 40m dipole and 2 - 20m dipoles.  I went to Balun Designs and picked up a couple of baluns:  the 1116de (for 40m) and the 1115e (for 20m).  Wireman got the call for some more #531 wire and I was in business.

I'd be doing quite a bit of antenna modeling and decided that I did not want a flat-top dipole, I wanted a V that I could "control" the angles a little bit.  So, I came up with something of a compromise - I tied a 50' piece of rope between the insulators, hung the wire from the insulators, and the antenna balun hung down in the air between the wires.  It sounds more complicated than it really is - the rope just let me accurately define the length of the legs of the dipole.  It also meant that I could get the Impedance down to around 48 - 52 ohms or so :)

This afternoon I got to go outside and work on my latest adventure.  I think I dropped and raised the balun and wires about 7 or 8 times, but at the end, it was certainly worth it!  I was trying to get my lowest SWR around the 7.150 mark and was only just a little bit off.  I guess I could have kept cutting, but after a while you're just in the right ball park and it's time to call it a day :)

I wired it up, connected to some LMR 400 and listened around for a little while.  Perhaps conditions were just excellent today, but I had MANY, MANY stations around that were S9+40.  I listened to a contest running and gave a shout out, immediate response with a "Hey, your 60+ over here in Annapolis" - I replied with a "Thanks for the station report, new dipole and I'm very pleased!"  I'm also very pleased that my rig was pulling more amps than I'd ever seen - FINALLY, an antenna that is NOT a compromise - just works!

73 de KJ4WLH