IOTA Contest on Cres Island, EU-136

Just a quick post because I am too lazy these days to write, holiday is near…
Last weekend I was on a small trip to Cres Island, EU-136 in Croatia and worked as 9A/YO4HHP for a couple of hours in IOTA contest. The location was a wild beach called Meli, or Spiaggia dei 7 cancelli (Beach of the 7 gates), named so because you have to walk around 30 minutes passing 7 gates (but I think there were 10 actually).

9A/YO4HHP, from Cres Island EU-136 IOTA Contest 2016

9A/YO4HHP, from Cres Island EU-136 IOTA Contest 2016

The antenna was a 5 m fishpole with a radial very close to the water. Funny how I could hear the motor boats spark plugs into the receiver when they were sailing away. Other than this, the reception was fantastic with the salt sea/ground nearby and without any city RF noise.

Meli Beach, Cres Island

Meli Beach, Cres Island. Internet says is a sandy beach. Probably was couple of years ago. Now there are pebbles

Couple of QSOs made both on SSB and CW with Europe and Africa only on 20m/5W. Lots of island station were active from all over the Europe. An interesting and active contest.

9A/YO4HHP, Cres Island, Meli

9A/YO4HHP, Cres Island, Meli




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New Shack Furniture

Somehow I wanted to combine my other hobby, woodworking, with ham radio, and the best thing that I came with is this radio shack. The entire design concept is formed around the FT-817 and its accessories, a space for a small shack PC for logging and various interfaces, and some future equipment that I would like to accommodate. Practically, almost every space there is or will be assigned to something particular.

ham radio shack wood

Wooden Ham Radio Shack

Dimensions are 700 mm length, 550 mm height and 170 mm depth. The body is made out of laminated pine boards, 18 mm tick, available almost in every hardware store around Europe at least. Some stores even cut your boards to your desired dimensions, so I did to save some time and dust in the house…The horizontal front edges are mahogany strips of 20 x 10 mm found in a store here in Trieste. Gives a better aspect and contrast to the rack. And the finish is an acrylic glossy transparent varnish.


Various Angles

For the microphone cord I’ve made this cutout to get it out. It is long enough to plug also the headphones jack.

ham radio shack wood

FT-817 Mike Plug Cutout

Finally I have somewhere to use this microphone hanger that came with the transceiver.

ham radio shack wood

FT-817 Mike Hanger

Initially I wanted to make a build video with this project, but I wasn’t well equipped with lights and tripod, so I did only some pictures during construction, in order to make at least a photo slideshow video. Unfortunately some month ago my laptop’s hard drive physically broke and I’ve lost everything. Luckily I was able to make this video build with the construction of the drawers, and uploaded to Youtube before the hdd failure:

It was fun building it, many hours after work of sawing, chiseling and sanding…a lot of sanding, but I am very pleased with the result.

wooden ham radio shack

YO4HHP Ham Shack

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SOTA Activation of Slavnik Summit (S5/BR-012)

Some days ago, on 25.06.2016, I went to Slavnik summit in Slovenia, very close to Trieste, about an hour drive, to try my first SOTA activation here in this area. The summit is 1028 m high, 4 points, and it is located nearby the small village of Podgorje, Koper.

S5/BR-012 Slavnik


The actual climbing to the mountain took about 2 hours, tourist tracks starting from the village at about 500 m altitude up to 1028 m. The view from up there worth the effort getting here, you can see all the coast line of the northern Istria peninsula and the cities of Piran, Koper and Trieste.

S5/BR-012 Slavnik

View from S5/BR-012 Slavnik

My thought initially was to arrive there before midday to catch some activity on 20 m before King of Spain SSB contest, but this never happened, and I arrived couple of minutes after 1300 local time.

Fishpole vertical antenna for 20 m

I installed the fishpole, with three anchors right close to the summit post, 5m wire vertical antenna with same length radial for 20m,  wired up the equipment, FT-817 and a 7Ah SLA battery, and start CQing. Barely managed to make 2 QSO and the band started to get busy with the contest, where I’ve made also a couple of QSOs. After a while I moved to 17 m band for a few more connections and then I saw a rain approaching and start packing.

S5/YO4HHP on SOTA S5/BR-012

I was a little disappointed because the rain stopped couple minutes later after we left, but decided not to return, at least I was happy I’ve tested the ground around here and wish to return for other nearby SOTA summits.

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Microphone Dynamic Compressor DYC-8×7 Kit

One addition for the FT-817 that I should have added for a long time, arrived today from Box 73, the online shop of the german ham radio magazine, Funkamateur. It is a microphone compressor based on the SSM2165 chip, housed in a handy enclosure and plugged between the transceiver and the microphone. Kit details can be found in this description from their website, both in german and english.

DYC-8x7 Mic Compressor

DYC-8×7 Mic Compressor

The online shop is only german, but very intuitive to use even for non german speaking users like me. In my emails to them confirming the payment they were actually so kind to translate based on the shipping country I selected, but the text was in portuguese. Funny… A romanian living in Italy and speaking portugese with germans.

Working in SSB, with 5W and small antennas its not a suitable combination, but hope will make a difference with this little jig. Folks from and some Facebook groups gave it a thumbs up. From the datasheet: “When transmitting SSB, a dynamic compressor increases average transmitted power, and thus the audibility of a weak signal at the distant receiver, by at least one S-unit.”

The kit comes with the SMD components already soldered, the only things to mount are the SSM2165, two pots, RJ connectors, a tantalum cap and a switch.  I will give it a try soon these days and see what it can do.

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CQ WPX and back on the air

This weekend I worked for the first time from my location here in Trieste, and what could have been a greater test then the WPX Contest.

Guiding myself by the “any antenna is better than no antenna” motto, I used my mobile HF base loading whip, Proxel PRO-X1, mount it on the flag support just with the magnetic base, and hanged only one 5m radial along the building. The radio setup was usual, FT-817, Z817 tuner and N1MM for looging and CW sending with this simple interface I built some time ago.

Didn’t had to much expectations, but for a couple of hours on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons-evenings, I was able to make 70 contacts from 40 to 10m with this modest setup, all EU stations, from every corner of the continent. P3, Cyprus, is to close to consider a DX.

IV3/YO4HHP station during WPX CW

IV3/YO4HHP station during WPX CW

My position at a middle floor, the building in front of me, the antenna close to the wall surely influenced a lot the efficiency of this already compromise antenna. Much noisier than a wire dipole I am used to work, in fact I couldn’t least hear a DX station from NA, JA, UA0. I remember just hearing some stations from Azores, Morocco, that area. Probably the propagation wasn’t helping me to much either, the upper bands were red almost all the weekend:



Two things that I could improve slightly to the antenna is to add some more radials, I might have room for 2 or 3, and try to use it at different inclinations. Now is at 70-80 degrees, and seems too close to the wall. Curious how will perform from 45 to horizontal.

One more minus now is my callsign in CW. Its way too long for the correspondent. I already had in the past a lot of miss copying the HHP suffix , and now by adding the IV3/ complicates things a little bit. In some big contests, when I read the log check report, I can see there how many people are getting my callsign wrong, like HSP, SHP, SSP etc. Usually the percentage was 5%, now I expect a two digits number:)


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New QTH, new Country

In the past months since my last post here I was off from any hobbies, radio or electronics projects, just a day on my summer holiday at Hamradio Friedrichshafen, which sadly I haven’t wrote anything, only a photo album made.

Well, from now on, at least for the next two years, I will be operating as IV3/YO4HHP/P and who knows, maybe with a full Italian callsign in the near future. I have been transferred with the job within our company group here in Trieste, in the North-Eastern part of Italy.

Trieste - photo:

Trieste – photo:

I couldn’t stay away from the radio virus, so I carried out with me on the plane the FT-817 with its accessories, a few Arduino modules to experiment, some home made RF measurement equipment, and an assortment of components, SMD, ICs, toroids etc. Unfortunately no tools, just a tiny plier and a screwdriver, so I have to get new ones from here.

FT-817, shack

Newly  “poor” Shack

Luckly for me, the owner of the apartment I rented here is a big football fan and he used to hang his team flag outside, so I have inherited this useful flag support to use it, of course, as an antenna support. I was thinking about the MP-1 Super Antenna will fit best here. Meanwhile, I will just hang some wires to this BNC-Banana adapter for fun and checking out the bands on Rx.

Antenna Support

Antenna Support

I have already identified some ham radio activity here, saw a few YAGI beams on some buildings, there is also a radioclub in the city, 9A and S5 are very near, meaning a lot of SOTA, WFF, IOTA posibilities, so no excuses to waste time!

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YOFF-470 Activation, Lacu Sarat (Salt Lake)

Today, taking advantage of the national free day I drove to a nearby location, about 10 km South of my QTH, into a WFF zone, Lacu Sarat (Salt Lake) Braila. This lake is splitted into two by a small road, the first lake is a touristic resort, with therapeutic salt mud, and the second is part of a Flora and Fauna zone, YOFF-470.

YOFF-470, Lacu Sarat Braila

YOFF-470, Lacu Sarat Braila

I stayed there not more then one hour and worked about 45 contacts on 20 m band with the PRO-X1 mobile antenna and 5 W power from my FT-817.

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20W HF Amplifier with RD16HHF1 (K5BCQ’s kit) #2

Read Part 1 here.

Well, its been a while since I started this project and I see that many folks are visiting my first post, so here is an update of what I did lately with this amplifier.
I short words first, I put the board all together, set the bias current, attached a heatsink, built LPF board and did about half of the mechanical construction on the enclosure.

RD16HHF1 20W

20W Amp Status

Most of the time my amp stood on the shelf dismantled because I couldn’t manage to find a reasonable 1 or 2 Amps scale ammeter to measure the bias current. Most of the cheapo multimeters have 2 mA, 20 mA, 200 mA and then suddenly 10 or 20A scale and I wasn’t feeling confident measuring the 2 x 300mA with it. Luckily, a few weeks ago I was able to put my hands on this Romanian old school “piece of art” multimeter, called MAVO-35, which can measure 1 and 5A DC current.
So, after I finish assembling the board, MOS-FETs attached to the heatsink, 50 ohms dummy loads on both input and output, I have set up the currents to 300 mA each side. With the pots turned full CCW the board only drawed 50mA, so now with the bias set it, the total current consumption in stand-by is 650 mA. Instructions can be found also on Kees, K5BCQ, website.

MAVO-35 Multimeter

MAVO-35 Multimeter

I see now that Kees has a new version of the amp. Main difference is that he replaced the two output binoculars BN43-202 with one single transformer. He says the first version was getting to hot at 20W, so I will probably get the same issue…Anyway, now he published the schematic of the amp on his website, so go check it out.

K5BCQ 20W Amp Kit Assembled

K5BCQ’s 20W Amp Kit Assembled

This is a first version of the Low Pass Filters board. It is a six filters unit, with five poles, switched by Omrom G5V1-12 type relays. They are initially designed for 160m, 80m, 40-30m, 20-17m, 15-10m and 6m. Here in the picture are missing the 160, 80 and 6m filters. I got the silver-mica caps also from Kees, ordered separately. For the missing slots, I couldn’t find the necessary values yet. After the RF tests I will publish also the PCB layout and the schematic. I still have to follow if is this board will work properly, in terms of heat dissipation, RF loss etc. As you can see I have used Amidon T50-2 for the lower bands and T50-6 toroids for the higher ones.

Low Pass Filter Board

Low Pass Filter Board

These are the initial panels but I will change their actual design. I have made them a long time ago, but since then a lot of ideas came and gone away. To my first design I have added LED power and swr meters with LM3914, as you can see down bellow. Later on I did a separate stand-alone SWR meter, and this days I have in mind to add a small LCD, 8×2 characters maybe, or an old Nokia graphic display driven by an Arduino Nano.
Same to the back panel. In my first design I actually forgot to add a PTT socket. Even if the amp has a SOX circuit, it is better to have this one also. And, optional, if can be done, I will add an attenuator switch, to toggle between 1 and 2.5W input, or 1 and 5W.

K5BCQ 20W Amp Kit Assembled

20W Amp Panels

The SWR bridge is a model. One of the toroids is missing in the picture. It is used in the other SWR meter.

K5BCQ 20W Amp Kit Assembled

20W Panels Inside

To this last additions, LCD, ATT etc, I will concentrate later. Now the next step is to put some RF signal to the board and see how it works. Hope to do this soon and keep you up to date.

Read Part 1 here.

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YOFF-203 & Mobile HF Antenna, Proxel PRO-X1

Last weekend I did some mobile antennas experiments on the field. I have in my shack two of them, one “don’t remember brand” dual band VHF/UHF and one HF antenna, Proxel PRO-X1, which I never use them before.

The PRO-X1 is the italian version of the MFJ-1699 and the australian Outbacker. It consist of 2 parts whip, one fixed and one collapsible on a certain height regarding the band, and a multi tap base loading coil. Total height goes to about 184 cm.

Proxel PRO-X1, HF Mobile Antenna

Proxel PRO-X1, HF Mobile Antenna

So, on Saturday late afternoon I have set up my car, installed the antenna, put the whip to max length, taped to 20M band, wired the FT-817, its “super” SWR meter looked good and made the first try. First contact was a Cretan station on SSB. I was surprised it worked with that tiny stick and 5W!

Later on I began working in ARI DX Contest. In the next hour I was at about 20 QSOs on 20M, both SSB and CW, all European stations, but more easily worked then with my cherry tree dipole. I then switched to 15M band, just changing the tap, no whip adjustment. Same, the “ultimate” SWR meter of the FT-817 looked ok. After two contacts, the big one came. I was hearing PY5QW on SSB, called him once and for my surprise he came back with my full callsign copied. Didn’t believe it, 11000 km from Brazil with 1.5 m antenna and 5W/SSB. Ok, then I cheked his QRZ page and saw his antennas… Next was a new country for me, GU, Guernsey Island. Totally, in about two-three hours I have made over 40 contacts in the contest.

Mobile FT-817 Setup

Mobile FT-817 Setup

Next day I went to a nearby location and activated the YOFF-203 zone in World Flora and Fauna Program. A group of salt lakes near Balta Alba village. In about 30 minutes I have managed to make about 47 contacts on 20M SSB with the HF mobile antenna.

YOFF-203, Amara Lake

YOFF-203, Amara Lake

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Summer HF Antennas

I took advantage of the small Easter vacation last weeks and installed two HF antennas at our countryside place, 10 km away from the city, where I spent most of the summer weekends. Like every spring, I reinstall my wire antennas in the big old cherry tree just before the leafs start to grow and make this job difficult. Except adding some masts, I cannot install hinged antennas in the courtyard other then the trees.

Dipole for 20M band. A 2 x 5 m Inverted V, with feed point at about 7-8 meters high.

I made this antenna first time in the same location two years ago. Worked fine JA and K with 5W. Last year I did a butterfly dipole, adding also a 2 x 10m of wire for the 40m band. I wasn’t very satisfied on 40, not so spectacular DXs. On 20 and 15, on the other hand I made my first South American contacts. Don’t know if the extra 2 x 10 m counted to much, but this year I decided not to add it anymore.

Dipole for 20m Band - 2x5m

Dipole for 20m Band

Quad Loop for 10M band

From the remaining wire I took one side of 10 m long and made this quad loop, vertical mounted, for the 10 M band. Each side is equal, aprox. 2.5 m each, hinged from a walnut tree.

Quad Loop Antenna for 10M Band

Quad Loop Antenna for 10M Band

Normally a quad loop has 100 ohms impedance, so I made a 2:1 balun. I could have live with that, and made the LDG Z-817 tuner do the job, but at my FT-817 having the extra BNC socket in the front panel I wanted to easily switch between the dipole (connected with Z817) and the Quad Loop (already tuned).

2:1 balun quad delta loop

2:1 Balun

I used an Amidon T130-2 toroid for the balun, and wired, like in the diagram below, 6+6+6 wounds. Didn’t made any fancy box for it, just wrapped insulating tape all around.

2:1 Balun Wiring

2:1 Balun Wiring

Here is the loop being measured and marked the corners before putting it to its place in the tree.

Quad loop antenna 10m band

Quad Loop Setting Up

Hope this small walnut tree branch to be able to hold the antenna this summer:)

Quad loop 10m

Antenna hanging from the wallnut

Now waiting for the 10M season to arrive. Didn’t made any QSO yet with it, just a comparison when receiving between this and the dipole. The difference is quite remarkable. More noise silence and more gain, although in theory I found out that a vertical loop has about 1.2 dB gain over a dipole.

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