Switch Project Kitset Assembly

May 19, 2015 saw Laurie ZL2TC, Revell ZL2SS, Mike ZL2VM, Karl ZL1TJ, Stan ZL2ST, Peter ZL2CD and Lee ZL2AL at the clubrooms assembling the 4 Part Antenna Switch kitsets. All the various parts were bagged along with the comprehensive instructions to be readied for Post Office shipment in another week.

Many hands make light work counting out the hundreds of screws, nuts, washers and parts.

Many hands make light work counting out the hundreds of screws, nuts, washers and parts.

Job Well Done Team!!!

Left to right: Mike ZL2VM, Pater ZLZ2CD, Laurie ZL2TC, Karl ZL1TJ, Stan ZL2ST, Revell ZL2SS and Lee ZL2AL behind the camera. Job Well Done Team!!!

A club project working together always seems to bring out the best in people and it is a lot of fun and a few laughs combined with a great feeling of satisfaction.

73, Lee ZL2AL

“Q” 4 Port Remote Antenna Switch Project

Each year the Napier Amateur Radio Club designs a club project for it’s Hawkes Bay members. Following on from the very successful “Q” VHF/UHF Antenna project in 2014 we are going to release the “Q” Remote 4 port antenna switch kit for 2015.

"Q" 4 Port Antenna Switch concept drawing

“Q” 4 Port Antenna Switch concept drawing

The project is a remote antenna switch allows you to have one run of coaxial cable from the shack to your multiple antenna setup rather than multiple runs of coax. Most hams have a Tribander, a few dipoles and/or loops and maybe a vertical. Running RG213 coax from all of them back into the shack is expensive and can cause RF coupling between unused cables. The modern approach is to switch the antennas remotely with a switch-box at the base of the tower or in the garage and control it from inside the shack. Some photos below:

Controller Box with LEDs and 5 Position switch

Controller Box with LEDs and 5 Position switch

The PCB showing the relays and wiring of the S)-239 sockets. The blue connector block on the lower right side of the board is connected to the 5 Pin DIN socket which controls the relays.

The PCB showing the relays and wiring of the S)-239 sockets. The blue connector block on the lower right side of the board is connected to the 5 Pin DIN socket which controls the relays.

PCB_SO239_side

Looking at the “business: side of the board. The SO-239 sockets fit through the weatherproof case to allow PL259 Coax plugs to screw on.

The “Q” 4 Port Antenna Switch kit set is supplied with a complete set of step by step instructions and the very highest quality components The kit complete with shack switch controller box and weatherproof outside relay enclosure box. Specifications below:

  • High quality European designed PCB
  • Input/output port isolation better than -69dB and loss is onlyl 0.05 dB at 28 Mhz
  • Designed for 1 – 30 Mhz. Higher frequencies may be switched with slightly higher losses.
  • Switch Relays are very high quality American designed Zettler relays with 20A contacts and 400VAC rating which will allow operation at 1.5KW CW/RTTY or 3000PEP power levels.
  • SO-239 socket connectors are teflon insulated with gold centre pin.
  • All hardware supplied including all screws and nuts etc
  • The Shack Control box has 5 different coloured LEDS which easily shows what antenna you are actually using.
  • 5 pin DIN sockets for power connections. CAT5 control cable may be used (not supplied)
  • 12 VDC at 500ma wall wart power supply (not supplied)
  • All parts supplied fully guaranteed for 1 year.
  • Charts showing Isolation and insertion losses are below”
    This shows the port isolation between antenna outpus

    This shows the port isolation between antenna output

    This shows the low insertion loss

    This shows the low insertion loss

Commercial antenna switches range imported into ZL from $240 (cheaper unit) to around $500 (high quality). The “Q” Remote antenna switch target price will be $150 NZD which represents great value.

There will only be a limited number of these kits available from June 1. If interested please contact Lee, ZL2AL, project co-ordinator at  leezl2al@gmail.com to register your interest.

73, Lee ZL2AL,

Napier  Amateur Radio Club

 

 

First HB ECI Net March 20, 2015

Laurie and I got everything ready for the first ECI Net at 7.30Pm. We really didn’t know what to expect but the Icom IC-765 was ready on 3615 with Laurie at the mic and I was ready with the old 2M radio set for the HB repeater on 670. We started the roll call and much to my surprise had 12 stations call in on 670 in quick succession Things were going well until Murphy showed up . More on that later.

Laurie was kept busy on 3615 with 6 stations checking in. All in all we heard from Hastings, Napier, Pakowai, Takapau, Palmerston North and Gisborne with good communications both ways. We followed up the check-ins with a question on what capability each station had. Many had National System, 670, 725 and HF. About half the stations had portable battery power capability.ZL2GT Shack

Problems:
The shack was set up so that we could have a headset on 3615 but it proved quite difficult to operate the 2 stations site by side. We will solve that next month for the check-in by moving the 2M radio out of the shack and into the main room away from the noise of 3615. We won’t need headsets either.

The 2M radio was a problem in that it would transmit on 610 and when I release the hand mic the frequency readout would wander off 670 to 669 or down further. I know that I didn’t hear replies from several stations until I twigged to what was happening. Obviously a radio fault and we will put a different radio into service next time. We have a spare Yaesu FT1500 for our use.

Dave Walker let us know that the IC765 was a bit off frequency. In fact it was about130 Hz high on thansmit. We will sort that before next time.

Thanks to all for making it successful and we hope it will continue and become a bit more crisp as time goes on. The concept of an informal network of trained amateurs being offered to CD, Police, Fire SAR or any other service that needed us may prove attractive if a disaster happens. If nobody wants us we still may be able to help each other if it all turns pear shaped some day!

The next ECI is next month on Wednesday April 15

73, Lee ZL2AL and Laurie ZL2TC

Sunday Tea & Mellowpuffs

It was mooted that we open up the clubhouse each Sunday afternoon at 2 Pm for those who wanted to come along, have a chat, solve a problem or set the world right. March 15 saw 9 come along. Laurie provided the tea and mellowpuffs (thanks Laurie) and we were still taking flat out 2 hours later. The club’s automatic morse code keyer was set up and Revell ZL2SS played morse for some time getting used to how to use a paddle. Revell has memorized the code and now wants to get his speed up to have an “on air” QSO.

A

Lots of chat and tall tales going on here!

Lee, Laurie and Dave reminisced about school days and “whatever happened to?”  All in all, lots of fun and it will become a regular feature of NARC on Sunday afternoons

73, Lee ZL2AL

The Jock White Contest 2015

The Players at ZL2G 

IMG_1323

Lee ZL2AL

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John ZL2QM

IMG_1331

Wayne ZL2WG

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Stan ZL2ST

 

The Jock White Field Day contest rolls around every year near the end of February and the ZL2G team always hopes for fine weather to put up antennas, tents and guy ropes. We are seldom disappointed. This year the weather in Hawkes Bay was a cracker and Stan ZL2ST, John ZL2QM, Wayne ZL2WG and Lee ZL2AL planned another assault on the Patea trophy operating from the ZM4T Contest site in the hills above Tongoio beach about 30 Km north of Napier.

We arrived Saturday morning and pulled up the horizontal full wave loops for 80M and 40M. Antennas checked out OK. Over many years and trials with other 40M antennas we find that a low horizontal loop, being a NVIS antenna works the best for us. The vertical full size loop works very well on 80M. Two FT1000MPs were used, one being the Napier Club’s radio. IBM computers running N1MM software along with K1EL keyers and Bencher paddles complete the setup. The club’s Honda generator was fired up and working. This is probably it’s 25th or more field day outing. Thanks to Karl, ZL1TJ who repair some smashed AC power outlets from an accident last year. Stan’s tent somehow managed to stand up again in one piece and the stations were quickly set up. Antennas were checked again, measured and trimmed and strangely we were ready for the 3PM start.

Stan and John ready the tent

Stan and John ready the tent

Antennas were measured and trimmed and strangely we were ready for the 3PM start.

Stan unrolling the 80M Loop

Stan unrolling the 80M Loop

John instructing Stan on how to pole vault over the tree and hang a halyard!!! Actually it was one of the 40M loop support poles

John instructing Stan on how to pole vault over the tree and hang a halyard!!! Actually it was one of the 40M loop support poles

The contest opened up and within the first hour 40M was well ahead of the pack and 80M was just in front. The rest of the day fist day was in a close race with ZL1XH, ZL2QF, ZL1VK and a couple of other stations for top honours nationally. The central region was a two way race with ZL2QF and we exchanged the lead a few times. ZL2QF sprinted ahead of us on 40M at one point and we were ahead of them on the other band. The end of the contest put us 30 or 40 QSOs over ZL2QF and at the time of writing this Stan is scoring the logs so the outcome is unknown.

Sunset with the moon over the tent. it is about to get cold

Sunset with the moon over the tent. It is about to get cold

it does get cold later at night. Wayne and John beavering away just before midnight

It does get cold later at night. Wayne and John beavering away just before midnight

Our team has been doing this same contest for the past 35 or years. We also do a few other international contests during the year. We are well aware of trends and operating practices in contests. And we have become so aware over the last few years of how the style and practices of the Jock White contest have simply not changed. Frankly some of the operating practices are archaic and counterproductive to modern contesting. The Jock White has stagnated and 2015 edition was just as poor as usual with some very good and some very bad operating practices heard.

1) Many stations are still using paper logs. This is really unacceptable with the free N1MM contesting program having an inbuilt module to run the JW. N1MM keeps track of band changes, band modes and real time scoring. Stations that use paper logs are doing themselves a disservice by keeping their contacts waiting at times and making so much work for themselves by having to score manually. But what about the contest organizer not accepting electronic logs? That is true but it is such a simple matter to print out a N1MM log and email it to the organizer which is quite acceptable. An N1MM printed log is at the very least readable and scored pefectly which has the make the organizer happy!

2) At least 10% of the ops were using a hand key. In fact some of the CW was almost unreadable. Worse, the op had to repeat and repeat wasting his time and ours. Most radios have built in electronic keyers with perfect timing. The N1MM logging program generates its own serial number exchange perfect each and every time. I can the the bleating I write this. “But I don’t know how to use a paddle, or I don’t know how to do this or that”. Amateur radio and contesting is all about finding a solution to a problem. Just make an effort to learn a new skill and do it!

3) At least 1/3 of the ops were using “Fifer Niner” on phone instead of clearly pronounced English speech. The NZ Jock White contest is the only contest on the planet where old WW2 British military and NATO pronunciation is used. I cannot understand why as this type of number exchange is quite unnecessary, doesn’t add any readability and frankly sounds ridiculous.

4) At least 3/4 of the stations were answering with “My number to you is”  Of course it’s his number to me. I am hearing him!!!!. The correct is exchange is “You are five nine (pause) “one seven three” (S/N) (pause) “Branch two five” (Branch) “Over” and do not repeat the exchange without being asked for it!

5) A third of the ops would repeat back the number to me that I just gave them before giving me their number sequence!!!!  One infuriating station consistently gave me his full report and numbers as soon as I finished a CQ without me acknowledging his call and that I had actually heard him. It is bizarre and it changes the pattern and sequence of operating.

These practices just continue on year after year and do nothing to improve contest operating standards. New operators in the Jock White contest simply ape the style of stations they hear and fall into the same poor practices. It is obvious that most have never participated in a modern international contest. I think that the Jock White contest deserves better and it can only get better if these practices outlined above were acknowledged as being silly and counter productive.

The ZL2G team enjoyed ourselves immensely as we always do. There is nothing better than spending a weekend away playing radio! It is a great outing each year working on antennas and portable power. We knew what to expect and that’s the game we are in. That’s the Jock White Field Day contest for 2015.Will we do it next year?  Maybe. Maybe not!

73, Lee ZL2AL and the ZL2G Team.

80M – 40M Antenna Repairs

The 2015 Jock White Field Day is fast approaching at the end of February and Mike ZL2VM needed the 80/40 Trap antenna at the club to be working properly. It had a very low resonance on 80M and was not all that high in the trees. President Laurie, ZL2TC volunteered to make repairs and Lee ZL2AL volunteered his trusty spud gun. Wally, ZL2MO was also available for the morning and decided to join the party. His help as 2IC of the spud gun patrol was most valuable. We arrived around 9AM thinking it would be over in a few hours. Antennas don’t work that way. After hauling down the antenna we decided to put both ends up much higher in the trees and also change the feedline to a heavier version in anticipation that the our Linear Amp would be fired up and in the system some day.

Resonant and all ready to perform on 80M

Resonant and all ready to perform on 80M

Even better on 40M! President Laurie ZL2TC approves

Even better on 40M! President Laurie ZL2TC approves

Five hours later the antenna was back up much higher in the trees, resonating almost 1:1 at 50 ohms on both bands with a new feedline and connector. It will be interesting to see what Mike and the team using ZL2GT Branch 99 (Home Station) will be able to achieve in the contest. Lee, Stan, John ZL2QM and Wayne ZL2WG will be operating ZL2G Branch 25 from the ZM4T Contest site.

NARC Meeting Feb 4, 2015

MINUTES OF THE NAPIER AMATEUR RADIO CLUB

Meeting on Wednesday 4 February 2015 at the Clubrooms 123 Latham Street

Chair: Laurie ZL2TC, the meeting started at 7:30 pm.

Apologies: ZL2ST, ZL2DC, ZL2ALK.

Present: Laurie ZL2TC, Lee ZL2AL, Dave ZL2MQ, Mike ZL2MY, Errol ZL2IT,
Wally ZL2MO, Bert ZL2OC, Revell ZL2SS, Peter ZL2CD, Dave ZL2DW, Rob ZL2US, Jan ZL2CZE and Karl ZL1TJ.

Minutes of the previous meeting were read and confirmed correct: ZL2MO, ZL2TC.

Arising: Wally: polycarbonate panels for the front porch on hold till painting completed.
Clubhouse interior now further enhanced with new lino in the kitchen and storage shelves relocated. Once again Wally was thanked for the many hours he has given to the club over recent months.

Correspondence: Notice of the Te Puke annual sale, letter from the Hastings District Council regarding the District Plan meeting on January 21, a thank you note to and response from Korin Tsuruta ZL2PGJ, quotes for new gutters around the clubroom.

Finance: No financial transactions reported.

General business: Dave ZL2DW and Rob ZL2US reported on attending the Hastings D.C. Meeting on January 21. Council insisting that aerials etc. are part of Building Construction while Branch 13 submits that aerial structures are more aligned with Network Utilities. Council staff did not appear to have studied the issues adequately and do not seem to understand the need for adequate antenna hight. No significant progress was made.

Dave ZL2MQ reported on the participation by the Moon bounce boys tracking an experimental Moon orbiter launched by the Luxemberg based ‘LuxSpace’ organisation. Dave’s submission of tracking data placed him no.6 on a worldwide basis and earned him a prize for his efforts.

Lee ZL2AL brought up the concept of a stand alone Hawke’s Bay amateur radio disaster backup communication network. This has been discussed before and Rob ZL2US suggested basic frequencies and procedures in a short article in the Breakout of 3 March 2012.

Lee, having discussed the idea with Laurie and Mike ZL2VM, said that the previously strong link of AREC with both SAR and CD is now no longer there. A Hawke’s Bay wide network of radio hams  called the ECI Net It would in the first instance be for the purpose of supporting fellow members in case of natural disaster but may also be available to authorities as a communication network ‘of last resort’.

Lee put the questions ‘Is this worthwhile’ and ‘Will it work’? All present answered yes to both.

It is proposed to set up a (short) net, say the 3rd Thursday of each month where a controller will call for log ins on both VHF and HF.  Records will be made and recorded of the availability and status of participants’ equipment. The controller function could rotate to ensure ongoing participation and work sharing. Frequencies: local repeater “670” and HF 3615 Khz on 80 m. These frequencies and brief instructions to be added permanently to Breakout. Jan suggested a booklet of a few pages to be kept in a prominent place in the shack.

Lee explained this year’s club project, a four port remote antenna switch. These switches reduce the number of coax cables into the shack and make antenna switching quick. Commercially available for $200 to $350, the proposed high quality kits would sell for $150 or so. Circuit boards available from CZE land. Parts for 20 kits are to be ordered.

Other general business: Errol donating a vintage Marconi receiver to the club, Rob going to the Palmerston North club Waitangi day picnic ( has spare seats), Lee: NZ licence valid for 6 months only in Canada and possibly other countries for permanent residents?

The meeting closed at 7:45 pm

Followed by Laurie explaining the mystical behaviour of antennas, reactances, impedances and how to measure these quantities using the Antenna Analyzer.

Laurie explains the mysteries of an Antenna Analyzer

Laurie explains the mysteries of an Antenna Analyzer

Good clear diagrams and down to earth explanations made the talk another good one.

Karl ZL1TJ, Secretary NARC .

Working Bee 1 – Nov 3

The mission was to erect the new Hustler All Band vertical antenna on a tilt-over mast that was donated to us by Hilton Myer ZL2MN (SK).  ZL2TC, ZL1TJ, ZL2AL, ZL2MY, ZL2MO and ZL2SS assembled bright and early on Sunday morning ready to do great things. The weather was warm with sunshine and perfect antenna weather.

The front of the Club Rooms quickly became a hive of activity.

The front of the Club Rooms quickly became a hive of activity.

We had two jobs to complete. The first was to repair the 80M/40M trap dipole which had one leg disconnected from the a supporting giant gum tree. The spud gun soon took care of getting a line over the top branches while Laurie installed a new halyard line on the top of the VHF dipole mast.

The second job was to assemble the Hustler vertical antenna and get it on the mast. The photos below tell the story.

The Hustler laid out and ready to assemble

The Hustler laid out and ready to assemble

Maybe we should read the instruction manual?

Maybe we should read the instruction manual?

The radials are attached here says Karl

The radials are attached here says Karl

Lee, drilling holes in the cross brace

Lee, drilling holes in the cross brace

Wally and Revell working on the cross brace for the mast

Wally and Revell working on the cross brace for the mast

Wally and Michael clamping the Hustler to the mast

Wally and Michael clamping the Hustler to the mast

The Hustler raised to it's operating position.

The Hustler raised to it’s operating position.

And does it work? Yes, indeed it does. A quick run with the antenna analyzer showed resonant spots near where they were supposed to be on each band. The morning turned into afternoon and there was limited time to check how well it will actually work and we left around 3Pm. We were getting some good signals through on 15M and 40M Comparison with the trap dipole showed that the vertical was noisy. We expected that. In any case, the job is done and the antennas are back in operation.

Our next project is getting the bigger mast up to put the tri-bander on. That will happen at the next working bee.

73, Lee ZL2AL

“Q” Antenna Assembly Night

The Club Project “Q” Antenna kit assembly was set down for Wednesday May 21, 2014. We all met at the NARC Clubrooms and quickly got stuck in to the task at hand. Each ham was given a kit of parts and over the next hour great quantities of RG58 coax, tape, heat shrink tubing, pop rivets and aluminium foil came under combined forces of flying fingers, sharp knives, pop riveters, heat guns and soldering irons. The photos below tell the story.

If you hold it, I'll tape it in place!

If you hold it, I’ll tape it in place! Mike ZL2MY and Dave ZL2MQ working on the foil tuning sleeve prior to the heat shrink tubing fitting

Shane ZL2PG decides that it would be a good idea to follow the instructions.

Shane ZL2PG decides that it would be a good idea to follow the instructions.

Wall ZL2MO turns up the heat on the heat shrink tubing.

Wall ZL2MO turns up the heat on the heat shrink tubing.

Michael ZL2MY and Laurie ZL2TC working out what comes next

Michael ZL2MY and Laurie ZL2TC working out what comes next

I've finished mine says Rob ZL2SG

I’ve finished mine says Rob ZL2SG

At the end of the hour 5 antennas were assembled, with connectors fitted and Laurie ZL2TC checking their operation with the Bird 43 wattmeter and radio. All of the antennas checked out perfectly with a 1:1 SWR on 2M and a little over 1.5 to 1 SWR on 70CM.

Al finished!

All finished! Left to right: Rob ZL2SG, Dave ZL2MQ, Wally ZL2MO, Laurier ZL2TC, Michael ZL2MY and Shane ZL2PG. Karl ZL1TJ at the Grand canyon in the USA and couldn’t make it. Lee ZL2AL took the photographs

It was a great night which saw the completion of the 2014 Club construction project. 20 of these antennas have been made this year and this is the last of them being assembled. Some discussion took place of a possible club project for next year. We have some interesting ideas to explore. Watch this space.

73, Lee ZL2AL

Hawke’s Bay Hamfest 2014

The Hawke’s Bay Hamfest April 5, 2014
After kicking around ideas for the past year the Napier Amateur radio club decided to to get stuck in and do it on the weekend of April 4th and 5th The planning paid off! Emails were sent to 40 clubs around the North island with an attached Flyer which they kindly sent out to their members. Thank you to the hard working club secretaries! With the Nelson Park Cricket Club in Napier venue arranged, the weather looked a bit ominous but typical of Hawke’s Bay the heavy weekend rain forecast turned into an insignificant shower Saturday morning. The Friday night get-together renewing old acquaintances and meeting new ones before the hamfest allowed hams to register before the opening the next day. Saturday morning saw a small car boot sale in the car park and an audience of nearly 70 hams gather to enjoy the day.

Powerpoint Presentations on SDR technology by Jan ZL2CZE, Antennas by ZL2AN, Solid State 2M KW Amplifier Construction by ZL2MQ, Propagation by ZL2AL and Mobile Installations by ZL2TC were thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. After lunch, Bob Sutton ZL1RS, a notable EME Dxers made a presention on his trips to Africa, the Pacific and other parts of the world operating EME for the past 25 years. Bob and Chris ZL2DX then did a live on screen demonstration of EME contacts using JT65B mode on 2M into the USA with his antenna array set up outside the venue.

Raffles and draws took place during the day. Thanks to ICOM NZ for their prize donations.
The day ended with a few drinks and a few farewells to those who had travelled long distances. About 20 hams and a few of their YLs stayed on and enjoyed the hospitality of the Napier RSA on Saturday night before traveling home the next day.

The Napier Amateur Radio club wishes to thank the six speaker/presenters and all the amateurs who helped us make the event so successful. In addition we say thank you to all the local amateurs and those who traveled long distances to be with us on the day.

It was a weekend of fun, absorbing new technology and refreshing old ones. The bonus was renewing old acquaintances and meeting new ones. Ham radio was the winner on the day.

73, Lee ZL2AL