Monday, 29 August 2016

Hallicrafters S-38

I was out combing some of the area's antique shops with my better half on Sunday looking for anything BUT ham radio related items when I stumbled upon a boat anchor.  As soon as I saw the name Hallicrafters I got all excited.  I didn't know what the S-38 was but I knew that at the price of $15 it was worth a gamble.

I have looked it up and found a lot of information on restoring that radio.  I'm excited to be working with tubes again.  I learned them when I was in Radio Technician training in the military but never actually used it in practice.  This will also be my first boat anchor if you don't count the HW-8 I started out on many years ago.  I am very excited to start this winter project...get that soldering iron going.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Make the time

Wow I haven't posted since February!  That's what happens when you decide to move.    Packing and removing antennas and all that sort of thing really puts a dent in your operating time.  We have moved to a larger place about 20 minutes away from our old place.  This is a good thing.  The place is larger and closer to my pipe band practices.  It also means that my shack is on the second floor now instead of the basement.  I'm looking forward to that for sure.  I don't have anything set up in the shack just yet because there are so many other "house" things we have been busy at.  Minor renovations and painting seem to take a lot of my spare time lately...that and pipe band.  I do have a TV tower coming next week so that will be a start allowing me to get my VHF antenna up as well as a place to string my wire fan dipole from.  I hope I will be able to hit the VE3ORF repeater from my place with just 50W.

There's no rush on the tower work, of course, because as with most hams I'll likely leave that tower work to November when I'll need to wear gloves.  There's so much to do in a "new" house.  It's 100+ yrs old so it's not new...just new to me.  You always want to make a place your own and our place is no exception.  We have just under 2 acres and in the very center of the back yard is a monster weeping willow.  I may use it to anchor one end of my wire antenna however I'll likely need to use a pulley and counter weight system because I'll bet it will sway in the wind substantially.

I'm looking forward to getting my first contacts from the new QTH so I really should get going on it. I think the best plan is to take a week off in October and get it all sorted out.  As I've learned over the years, it's not about finding time for this's about MAKING time for this hobby.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Thumbs Up for QRP

I was reading recently about some old military radios that only put 5w out but the radios were huge.  It got me thinking about QRP and its operators.  The great thing about this hobby is that even within a sub group such as QRP there are further subdivisions.  There are the backpack/outdoor operators operating Altoids tin radios from a 9v battery and boat anchor enthusiasts whose tubes keep the shack comfortably warm.  One is low power as in not a lot of power consumed and the other is low power out of a rather large army radio using quite a bit of power in the process.  Technology has come a long way from the invention of the tube to the invention of the transistor and then as the years passed there has been the packing of these transistors into chips.  Now we are at the point, with Software-Defined Radio, where micro processors do almost all of the work that hardware used to do.  Add to all this the digital modes that have been designed to use very low power and operate almost in the noise floor.  Whether it's old, newer or newest or somewhere in between, QRPers love a challenge.  We are always looking for the most efficient battery or best gain antenna or the most portable set up all in an effort to compensate for the low power being transmitted.  I think it really fosters the Marconi in all of us as we try this or that to get the best results in an effort to get the most out of the least.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Nice Website for Crypto Geeks

I stumbled upon a website recently that I found extremely intriguing.  It is an online or virtual museum of Cryptographic equipment over the years.  The museum is based in the Netherlands and contains a large number of physical examples of crypto gear.  These are accompanied by in depth explanations of history and use among other things.  I have only had a short time so far to browse the site but there is much to see.  Although the museum is just on the web, they have had exhibits or their collection displayed over the years for the public to see.

Not all crypto gear is radio related, of course, but I know there are many amateur radio enthusiasts who are interested in this sort of thing.  I hope some of you find this site interesting.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Antenna Project

I often talk about operating in the field again.  I used to do it quite a bit.  I loved setting up in a park at a picnic table whether it be winter or summer.  It was a great way to spend an evening or afternoon.  I also used to go camping and set up an antenna for the weekend operating at will.  It was lots of fun.  Before we know it priorities change, hobbies change and we sometimes find that we can no longer "find" the time to do the fun things we used to do.  One needs to "make" time for these things and stop making excuses.  I spend a lot of time in the summer going to Highland Games or pipe band practice and I really enjoy it but as a result playing radio has taken a back seat.  This summer I vow to operate outdoors even if it's in my own back yard.  It's not like it takes a lot of time out of the day.  An hour on Sunday mornings or in the early evening shouldn't be hard to set aside.

I think what I will do as an operating position is to try the vertical buddipole style of antenna suspended from a rope in a tree.  Two Hamstick-style antennas and the appropriate bracket is all that's required and I can leave it up if I operate on the back patio.  Here is a good page showing the set up and some results achieved by W3ATT.  I will start with one band, say 20M, and perhaps 30M 17 or 12 as I like those very much...maybe 40M.  I can't decide but either way I look forward to trying it as soon as the snow starts to melt.

Cheers es 72 de Scott ve3vvf

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Knock Out Season

This winter season I decided to compete in local solo piping competitions called Knock Outs.  There have been two so far and in the 40+ category I have come first place both times...okay, I was the only 40+ competitor.  :o)  The first event which was held in November I had to play a Slow Air followed by a 4-parted 6/8 march.  I chose the tunes "Fair Jean" followed by "George Beley".  I practiced a lot and was nervous playing in front of my peers as well as some pretty advanced players.  luckily I got to go first so I got it over with.  My play went well and I didn't make any note errors.  Technique is the big challenge for beginning pipers as well as timing.  Steady blowing is always a concern at my level as well.  Had there been other 40+ pipers in the event and I had come last it would not have mattered as it's not about the placing so much as it is about the experience and the score sheet you get from the judge afterwards.  The score sheets are very detailed and, from the good judges, very constructive.  When you practice tunes over and over you know what your weak areas are so the score sheets usually don't contain too many surprises but every judge is different and they have different things they notice in any given tune.  I was pleased with my first Knock Out experience.

The second Knock Out for 40+ was held on January 9th and I was to play a 4-parted 2/4 march.  I chose the "Haughs of Cromdale".  I was a bit rusty as I was away on vacation over the Christmas break and had very little opportunity to practice.  I had just 1 week to knock the rust off the tune.  Again, I didn't make any glaring errors but I know I could have played better.  Nerves get to you when playing in front of people.  I finished first again as I was the only 40+ competitor.  It's a bit of a hollow victory but it's all about getting experience playing under pressure.

The finals for the Knock Outs are in March and I have to play a Medley.  I have chosen "Jack's Welcome Home", "Skye Boat Song" and "Lochanside".  I am looking forward to it however the audience will be about 4 times as large at least.  The nerves will be running high that evening but with no other 40+ competitors who have qualified I just need to get through the Medley without being disqualified.  Fingers crossed on that.

Here is a link to the brief write up about the Knock Out on the PPBSO website including a photo of the top 6 B grade pipers from the January Knock Out and myself on the right.

Friday, 11 September 2015


With the approaching cooler weather so comes the antenna work that was procrastinated all summer long.  I installed a sloper for 20M and have been listening to it each evening for a few minutes calling CQ occasionally.  I have installed it semi-permanently and want to finish the job but the conditions have been so poor I am unsure how it will perform.  I also have some other work on a FAN dipole that I need to take care of soon.  These poor conditions are not favourable to the QRPer for sure.  I hope it isn't like this all winter or it's going to be a long one.  Here's an image for the dart board: