Friday 28 September 2012

New Feature On The Blog

Ham radio is all about learning new things and keeping abreast of new developments in our hobby and in general. Broadening our knowledge base keeps the old mind active.

A new feature I’ve been wanting to implement on this blog is a Link Of The Day. Some days it will be included along with what I’m writing about or it will be a stand alone article that I find interesting, either about amateur radio, computers, science or a good old fashioned WTF type link. More often than not there will be at least two links that I find interesting and hope that you do too.

I hope you all find this new feature as interesting as I do.

Remember, you read it here first! – Bob VE3MPG

Links of the day:


Tin Foil Hats Actually Make it Easier for the Government to Track Your Thoughts







3D Sun for the iPhone 








Thursday 27 September 2012

10 Meters = Gud DX

10 meters is proving to be a fertile band for some good DX. I rarely use more than 20 watts here at VE3MPG. My preferred mode is digital; today I was monitoring 10 meters while getting some odd jobs done around the house and in the garage.

The great conditions on 10 remind me when I finally got my voice privileges way back in the early 1980s. After six months or a year, I can’t accurately remember I took my logs in to the Department of Communication here in Ottawa. The inspector had a look to see how active I had been on CW and stamped my log and gave me voice privileges on 160 and 10 meters. Ten in those days was very active and I installed a mono-band yagi on my roof up about 40 feet. Wall to wall signals and my TS-520 buzzed the ionosphere for many pleasurable hours working DX.

Back to today – my first contact was ZB3R in Gibraltar. I had worked Stephen a couple of weeks ago on 15 meters. Great signal and got him on the first call – power out about 15 watts to my Cushcraft R6000.zb3r_StephenStephen uses an FT-950 and you can see how professional his station looks. Have a look at his QRZ profile for more pictures of Gibraltar itself and more about Stephen’s station.

The second DX contact today was ZL4AD, Brian in New Zealand; again with 15 watts out and an honest 599 report from Brian. I’m using the latest Beta version of Ham Radio Deluxe for digital contacts and logging.

Now if the conditions continue into the weekend that would be great.

Thursday 20 September 2012

St. Louis Vertical Part 3, Conclusion

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3593

This is part three, the conclusion of the construction of the St. Louis vertical.

I terminated each end of the twin lead by melting a small hole in between each conductor, large enough to fit a zip tie through and pulled in nice and tight. Then I stripped off insulation from each conductor and soldered them together – did this at each end of the twin lead coil. The bottom shorted conductor is kept bare and I use a good quality alligator clip to attach my coax center conductor. The orange wire is attached to a 17 1/2 foot counterpoise as seen below.

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3585

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3587

Here you can see the bright orange stake that I use in the field, along with the bright orange counterpoise so nobody trips over any of this stuff while operating portable.

Using alligator clips allows the use of multiple sized counterpoises to increase the efficiency of the St. Louis vertical while in use.

I carry a second stake with a 40 foot counterpoise. In this configuration the antenna resonates around 6.5Mhz. In a future version of this antenna I’ll add fewer turns of twin lead so it resonates close to 20 meters. I use an LDG tuner, the QRP Z11 along with my FT-817 and the tuner handles this antenna quite nicely.

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3588

The photo above shows the upper terminated connection with a male/female connector to attach the radiating element that extends to the tip of the Wonderpole. It provides an easy disconnect point for the radiating element.

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3595


These male/female connectors are available at most hardware stores that carry electrical supplies. I use heat shrink tubing to give all the connections a professional look and I think it extends the life of the antenna components. It doesn’t take long to add that extra finishing touch.






The antenna is staked on a ground spike used for beach umbrellas. It is a discontinued item that was available at Lee Valley Tools here in Ottawa. I attach a one inch wooden dowel about 3 – 4 feet long and to that I attach the St. Louis Vertical with large plastic zip ties. At the end of my session I just snip the zip ties off. The zip ties get the Wonderpole nice and snug against the non-reactive wooden dowel and if need be I can hammer some of the extra length of the wooden dowel into the ground for greater stability during windy conditions. I sharpened the end of the dowel for ease of insertion.




© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3589

Here’s the St. Louis Vertical fully extended at the edge of my patio. This antenna is a great portable addition to operating in the field and it sets up in less than five minutes. My first contact was on 15 meters using 2 watts on PSK31 to a station in Slovenia with a 599 signal report.

Please let me know if you have any questions of the construction details.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

St. Louis Vertical Part 2 of 3

This article is part 2 of the construction of the St. Louis Vertical – a continuation of part 1 that I published a couple of years ago. You can head over to part 1 of the construction article here.

Continuing from grinding down the Wonderpole clips I further grind them down with the Dremel tool so they are flush with the tube; this will allow the twin lead to lay flat along the body and also allow the adhesive to better cover the tubular shape of the Wonderpole.

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3556

The next step caused me to think very carefully on how to wrap the twin-lead onto the Wonderpole. I had read on various sites describing how hard this was going to be. Some described it as a two man operation to ensure that the twin-lead was wrapped tightly around the pole. Hmmm, this was going to be a problem unless I figured an easy method to accomplish this task. Of course thinking about these last two years I finally came up with a solution. Enter some 3M Indoor/Outdoor carpet tape. Man this stuff was sticky but I think it would hold and as it turned out was an elegant solution. © Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3557

The trick was to apply the tape every inch or so, keeping the backing on until I reached the next inch while turning, by hand, the twin-lead. This was hard work and each time I stopped to rest my aching hands I attached a zip tie to hold the stiff twin-lead in place. Eventually I surmised that additional tape was needed so I eventually covered the entire length of the pole as I wound the twin-lead. © Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3565

There was still a problem – the stiff twin-lead was pulling away despite the extreme stickiness of the 3M tape. Thinking quickly now as I was at least two hours into winding this twin-lead on the pole. I went to my workbench in the garage where I do the occasional refinishing work on antiques. I use a Black & Decker heat gun to lift old paint from projects I’m working on. I figured if I heated the twin-lead sufficiently it would take on the cylindrical shape of the pole – an it did – it worked great, though I kept the zip ties on just in case.


You can see my progress in the photo below. The white tape backing is removed to expose the sticky backside of the tape; and you can see the zip tie in place while I rest my hands for awhile.© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3561© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3560

I had a good supply of RCA twin-lead that I had purchased about 10 years ago at Princess Auto, a surplus type store located across Canada. Of course halfway through construction I had neglected to figure out how much of the 50 foot length of twin-lead I needed. A quick calculation of number of turn per inch showed that I would have almost five feet left over. That horseshoe was working overtime now…with this important information in hand I continued winding until I reached the end of the pole. I still have a 50 foot length and a 100 foot length set aside for other projects using twin-lead.
© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3564





The picture at the left shows detail of the zip tie and the double sided tape exposed for winding. Every few inches I would fire up the heat gun to meld the twin-lead to the pole shape.

After almost three hours I had completed the toughest part of constructing a St. Louis Vertical and took a good rest before continuing this homebrew antenna.

Part 3 to follow tomorrow.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Sean Smith, KG4WSS, Killed in Consulate Attack

From the ARRL this afternoon -


KG4WSSSean P. Smith, KG4WSS, of Falls Church, Virginia, was killed when the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked on September 11. He was 34. Smith was one of four Americans, including Chris Stevens -- the US Ambassador to Libya -- who was killed in the attack.

Smith is survived by his wife, Heather, and two young children, Samantha and Nathan. “They will grow up being proud of the service their father gave to our country, service that took him from Pretoria to Baghdad, and finally to Benghazi,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement.

Read the entire story here at the ARRL website.

Chilicon 2012–A Resounding Success

The annual Chilicon put on by the Ottawa Valley QRP group turned out to be a resounding success despite torrential rainfall on Friday night. This didn’t dampen those hardy campers from fulfilling a superb fun filled weekend at the Rideau River Park along the beautiful Rideau River near Kemptville.

I operated by small portable station, an FT-817, my NUE-PSK digital qrp modem, and my experimental version 0.06 St. Louis vertical (construction article coming up in my next posting here). Didn’t get as much operating done due to the nature of amateur radio ops being out in the wild. Most of the day encompassed walking around to various sites rag chewing with the various operators and admiring the ingenuity of their portable setups. There was some very nice equipment and innovative antennas and Mike’s (VE3WMB) homebrewed magnetic loop gave me a few ideas for one of my own. I managed to work a station in Slovenia with 2 watts out to my St. Louis Vertical, so it’s doing a very good job of getting out for a hastily constructed portable antenna.

I met some old friends at Chilicon this year as well as many new faces and I do hope that next year’s Chillycon (renamed due to lack of actual chili, but aptly re-badged to reflect the frigid night temperatures endured by the hardy group this year and last.)

Here are a few photos that I managed to take in between operating and chatting with the QRP members.

© Bob Baillargeon OV-QRP Weekend-0869

Eric VA3AMX with K2


Graham VE3GTC 817 stand

Michael VE3WMB

Michel and his Flex1500

pat VE3EUR



An excellent weekend despite rain on Friday and a little on Saturday. The weekend culminated with some very large excellent pizzas from a local restaurant in Kemptville.

Conspicuous by his absence was Martin VA3SIE who had to work and we’re hoping to see him next year. Martin, there was an excellent cache of single malt scotches at one of the campsites if that’s any enticement for attending next year’s “Chillycon”.

The OV-QRP Yahoo group can be found here for more details on this year’s Chilicon.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Lest We Forget

© Bob Baillargeon WTC Mem_sm

“Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light falls, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” - James Baldwin

Saturday 8 September 2012

How I Mounted the NØSA TIP1 Mini Paddle

Mounting the mini paddle got me to thinking – it had to be light weight but not too light weight that the paddle would slip about while in use. The mount also had to be at a comfortable height to work just right with my large hands. I also wanted it to be uniquely Canadian.

Usually with projects like this I need a few weeks to let the solution come to fruition. I came up with a unique idea – use a hockey puck; it’s cheap, has some weight to it and it’s Canadian, eh? It fits into my ‘go’ kit quite nicely and it’s durable. A visit to Lee Valley Tools here in Ottawa provided the pucks and some high friction adhesive discs for a very reasonable price – a dollar for the pucks and just a few dollars for a bag full of discs. The pucks aren’t quite kosher Canadian, being manufactured in Slovakia now, but they are ‘regulation’ size. As you can see the adhesive discs fit perfectly on the puck and prevents slippage on just about any surface.© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3537© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3538

© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3532

© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3535


© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3549

And finally a last picture of the FT-817 propped up with the $2 iPad adjustable stand from my previous article of a few days ago. Also note the front antenna connector is terminated with a 50ohm resistor left over from my network installation days. This is to protect the finals in the event that I forget to switch the antenna from front to the rear antenna port.

© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3553

All photos for this article were taken with the Canon G10 in RAW format and post-processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for colour adjustments and cropping. Irfanview was then used for reducing the photo size and sharpening for efficient use on this blog. This will be the topic for a future article.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Portable Ops Mini Key by Larry, NØSA

A few months ago I ordered this beautifully crafted mini paddle from Larry NØSA. Larry is a master craftsman and machinist and his attention to detail is second to none. Despite its size this is one smooth paddle and it comes with its own set of adjustment hex keys. It’s a magnetic paddle made of 7075 aluminium; Aluminium alloy 7075 is an aluminium alloy, with zinc as the primary alloying element and is used in aviation applications. Larry does all of the polishing and finishing by hand. This was one of the last paddles from a short run he did of this model.

1-© N0SA mini Key-3212

1-© N0SA mini Key-3213

The paddle included a wedge base that has a double sided adhesive so application to any base material such as a metal plate is really easy to do without tapping screw holes. I purchased an extra wedge base that is used as a spare.

Have a look at Larry’s website for more info on other paddles he produces. NØSA’s Paddles website is here.

Also have a look at the Eham reviews of Larry’s paddles. There are almost 50 reviews giving a 5/5 rating – superb ratings.

1-© N0SA mini Key-3214

Saturday 1 September 2012

Magnificent Eruption on the Sun

Courtesy of Space Weather News for Sept. 1, 2012

MAGNIFICENT ERUPTION: On August 31st, a magnetic filament on the sun erupted in spectacular fashion, producing a long-duration solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME) and one of the most beautiful movies of an explosion ever recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The CME propelled by the blast might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field in the days ahead. Check for movies, forecasts and updates.

The bands seem to be in excellent condition today. Have been on digital modes since early this morning and snagged EG9SDC in North Africa on 17m PSK63 using 20 watts to my Cushcraft R6000 vertical. Lots of good signals.

Today I’ve been busy freezing tomatoes for the winter months – an excellent and extremely sweet crop this year due to the hot, dry conditions in Eastern Ontario (FN25fe).

Tomato Harvest 2012

The crops grown here are all organic and the neighbouring farms supply our family with fresh eggs, honey, organic grass fed beef and chicken. During the cold months I bake whole wheat bread from  from locally grown organic wheat that’s ground at a 150 year old mill in Manotick Ontario about 10Kms from my home.