Welcome to the Web Page of Amateur Radio Station N3VCK

Updated 10 September 2018

I am relatively new to Amateur Radio, having passed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) entry-level Technician Class license exam in January 2017.  In February 2018 I upgraded to General Class Amateur Radio Operator (HAM).  My on-air call sign is N3VCK.


This is essentially a log of my progress in the amateur radio hobby, with the entries appearing in reverse order; the most recent posts are at the top of the page, and the initial entry is at the bottom.


I'm a member of the Amateur Radio Relay League, the national organization of HAMs, and a local club.  Click on their logos, below, for more information.

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The long-awaited antenna tuner finally arrived in mid-August after several mis-adventures, and it is pictured above, left, mounted under the 20 meter transceiver discussed in earlier posts.  After talking with the kind customer support staff at MFJ, who blessed my heart and told me 20 units had just been shipped out and that my order was still way down the list, I called one of the store-front vendors who carry their products -- and where this model had been long out of stock -- and found several now in stock.  So, I ordered one, cancelled the order with MFJ, and waited the expected 2-3 days for it to arrive via Priority Mail.  On day 1 it reached the Metro New York USPS processing facility ... and disappeared.  So, I put a tracer on it and heard crickets from USPS for two weeks.  The vendor and I mutually agreed that it was dot.gone, so they sent me another one ... the last one left in stock throughout their nationwide retail chain.


On 8 September the USPS robo-emailed that the original package has still not been found ... 


In other "news," I received a call out of the blue from the NHARC president to ask if I would accept a trade for the IC-737A with the blown-out internal automatic antenna tuner in the form of a used Kenwood TS-570 that a silent key (deceased) member had willed to the club.  I, of course, accepted, and I'm now able to get on the air on all three bands covered by my HyEndFed 3-band antenna.  It's pictured above, right, sandwiched between the MFJ QRP rig and the VHF/UHF Scout G1 rig on my radio desk in the 3d-floor man cave.  (See earlier posts for more on those)


With the TS-570/HyEndFed rig, powered by the battery in the Scout G1, I was able to gather 10 QSOs from members of a Pittsburgh-area 10 meter club, the Breeze Shooters, who sent me the spiffy certificate.

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73, N3VCK

Scroll Down to go back in time, or click the button to go the beginning of the log.

Start at the beginning

July 2018

Well, two months since the last update, and I'm still waiting for shipment of a manual antenna tuner, a device that compensates for an antenna not being precisely trimmed for the frequency range you're transmitting on, from MFJ.  It's designed specifically to work with the 94xx series of MFJ transceivers.  Once I've added it to the portable HF rig, I'll be able to operate over a wider part of a bandwidth more conveniently than having to adjust the physical or electrical length of the antenna for particular frequencies.  There are many commercially available antennas that come from the factory capable of operating on multiple bands without the need of a tuner, but even those don't resonate across the full spectrum of frequencies in all of the bands they are designed for.  They are also pricey.  So, a tuner is necessary to get the most out of a commercial antenna and essential if, as I want to do, you want to design a so-called "home brew" antenna from speaker wire and a few inexpensive insulators.

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Nevertheless, I was able to make a good contact (QSO) with a station in Purvis, MS, near Hattiesburg using the MFJ-9420/HyEndFed 3-band antenna rigged vertically at Boy Scout camp in June.  


Power comes from the Anderson Power Connector output on the face of my Scout G1 (see below for info on the Scout G1).


My station was set up in southern Fayette County, PA; Purvis, MS is 825 miles away.  Not bad for a first attempt! Since then, I've made QSOs with a station as far away as Brittany, FR and as close as Northern Virginia and Southern Indiana.

June 2018

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Since the last update, when I wrote about studying options for getting on the air on the long-distance High Frequency Amateur Radio bands after frying my new/used IC-737B, I decided to focus on equipment that was relatively inexpensive and suitable for low-power portable operations.  


MFJ Enterprises, a manufacturer and mail order retailer of a huge variety of Amateur Radio equipment based in Mississippi, offers a line of single-band HF voice transceivers with an output of only 10 watts (1/200th the legal limit on some bands) in the $230 price range.  They are very basic but do the job; I have seen YouTube videos of operators making contacts with stations over 1,200 miles away on the same machine that I purchased, the MFJ-9420.

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In the meantime, I did bite the bullet and purchased a 3-band 10/20/40 meter antenna that is adequate without a tuner on roughly 1/2 of the 10 and 40 meter bands and all of the 20 meter band.  I set it up in a real compromise installation on the deck yesterday as shown at right and checked it with an antenna analyzer that I picked up used at a HamFest last weekend; the results were within tolerance (Standing Wave Ratio <2) across the General License portion of the 20 meter band.


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What do I mean by "compromise?"  Well, this is an End Fed Antenna, designed to be installed either horizontally high in the air or on a slope, with the feed point near -- but not on -- the ground and the far end high up in the air.  I followed an experiment by VE3TWM, Tracey, owner of YouTube channel "Outdoors on the Air"  (Click the image at left to watch the video), using this same antenna in a vertical configuration, which is perfect for my portability goal, as well as the limited space I have for antennas in our backyard.

The end of the wire is at the top of a 33' telescoping fiberglass mast bungied to a column on our deck.  Because my mast isn't long enough for the 40+ feet of the antenna, I had to slope it to a mount point about 3' above the deck (7' above ground), and, as you can see from the blue line tracing the wire, there was a bit too much slack in the wire (it should be as straight as possible but without too much tension).  Nevertheless, this installation yielded SWR's between 1.5 & 1.8, which will work OK.  If I shorten the wire a couple of centimeters, it should be even better.


So, I'm happy ... I'll be able to take this rig to Scout Camp next week and attempt to make some contacts on 20 meters and, maybe, get some Scouts interested in this hobby.


At some point in future, my goal is to purchase one of the low-power multi-band transceivers, which currently cost 4-5 times more than the MFJ "Tin Lizzies," but for now, I'm going to focus on 20 meters (a day-time band) and gain experience with different antenna configurations - antennas are the most important element of radio communications.  You might have a $1,200 100 watt rig, but if your antenna isn't properly installed and trimmed or tuned, you're not going to be able to communicate with anyone.  My next transceiver will be either the MJF 40 meter or 6/10 meter version in the 94xx line.   

April 2018

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My focus is on portable operations, so ...

... I operate on the VHF and UHF amateur bands with a Yaesu FT-7800R transceiver installed in a portable, self-contained "HAM Can," the Scout G1 by Hardened Power Systems of Pulaski, TN.  With the Scout G1 I can operate  both mobile & portable.  For portable ops, I use a roll-up SlimJim dual band J-pole antenna suspended from a telescoping mast or a handy tree branch.


Click on the image for Hardened Power's website.

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The Scout G1 also allows for mobile operations.

My mobile set-up is pictured at right, using the FT-7800R's detachable control head with a smart phone holder adapted to fit in the CD player slot and a mag-mount roof antenna.

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The indispensable Hand-held Transceiver (HT)

I can also operate in the 2 meter and 70 cm bands with a hand-held Baufeng UV5R.  At right is the HT in its case next to my "go bag" with accessories for various contingencies.  The "go bag" contains various auxiliary power supplies at left and the a roll-up SlimJim J-pole antenna w/ 50' of para-chute chord mentioned above.​

Indoor Operations:

Moving the Scout G1 indoors I operate as a base station from my third floor HAM shack, using a semi-permanently installed SlimJim dual band J-pole antenna patented by Ed Fong.  It comes in kit form from Ed's ebay store. 


Click on the image to go to the Ed's Antennas website.

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