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Rock-Mite update July 30, 2007

Posted by Thor in portable, projects, qrp, station.
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The Rock-Mite transceiver kit that I ordered arrived in today’s post. I’m anxious to get it built and to make my first QSO (contact) with it. I would have built it tonight, but I’m out of solder, and need to go shopping for a few things.

Speaking of shopping, I ordered a BLT kit tonight. No, not the kind you make with bacon, but the tuner used to tune balanced line antennas.

So, my portable & QRP rig will be made up of the Rock-Mite, a BLT, a doublet antenna and, if I can find one locally, a 7 amp-hour 12 volt battery.

The Mity Box, mighty fast July 23, 2007

Posted by Thor in portable, projects, qrp, station.
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Very fast service from American Morse Equipment. I ordered the “Mity Box” enclosure for the “Rock-Mite” radio from them on Friday, and it arrived with today’s mail. It’s a beautiful little enclosure, CNC milled out of an aircraft aluminum billet, and anodized blue. All the holes for connections and controls are pre-drilled; it’s completely ready to mount the board and chassis-mount components.

On order July 20, 2007

Posted by Thor in projects, qrp, station.
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I ordered a few items today:

  1. Replacement parts for my broken Butternut HF-9Vx antenna.HF9V-X
      • Lower insulator (this is what broke, causing the antenna to lay over on the roof).
      • Lower coil – damaged when antenna broke.
      • Radio kit
        1. RockMite in MityBox

        Do you REALLY need email? July 16, 2007

        Posted by Thor in Uncategorized.
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        This story makes you think. At one time I had six different email addresses; was I crazy? Yes. It was nearly impossible to keep track of them all. Even today I have four, although one of them was created by default at at my ISP, Comcast, and one was created at Yahoo, although I never use either one other than for an occasional test. My other two — one is my primary email accout and one I use for ham radio related “stuff”.

        Do you REALLY need email??

        No Email?????? ……….. An unemployed man is desperate to support his family of a wife and three kids. He applies for a janitor’s job at a large firm and easily passes an aptitude test.

        The human resources manager tells him, “You will be hired at minimum wage of $5.35 an hour. Let me have your e-mail address so that we can get you in the loop. Our system will automatically e-mail you all the forms and advise you when to start and where to report on your first day.”

        Taken back, the man protests that he is poor and has neither a Computer nor an e-mail address. To this the manager replies, “You must understand that to a company like ours that means that you virtually do not exist. Without an e-mail address you can hardly expect to be employed by a high-tech firm. Good day.”

        Stunned, the man leaves. Not knowing where to turn and having $10 in his wallet, he walks past a farmer’s market and sees a stand selling 25 lb. crates of beautiful red tomatoes. He buys a crate, carries it to a busy corner and displays the tomatoes. In less than 2 hours he sells all the tomatoes and makes 100% profit.

        Repeating the process several times more that day, he ends up with almost $100 and arrives home that night with several bags of groceries for his family. During the night he decides to repeat the tomato business the next day.

        By the end of the week he is getting up early every day and working into the night. He multiplies his profits quickly.

        Early in the second week he acquires a cart to transport several boxes of tomatoes at a time, but before a month is up he sells the cart to buy a broken-down pickup truck.

        At the end of a year he owns three old trucks. His two sons have left their neighborhood gangs to help him with the tomato business, his wife is buying the tomatoes, and his daughter is taking night courses at the community college so she can keep books for him.

        By the end of the second year he has a dozen very nice used trucks and employs fifteen previously unemployed people, all selling tomatoes. He continues to work hard.

        Time passes and at the end of the fifth year he owns a fleet of nice trucks and a warehouse that his wife supervises, plus two tomato farms that the boys manage.

        The tomato company’s payroll has put hundreds of homeless and jobless people to work. His daughter reports that the business grossed a million dollars.

        Planning for the future, he decides to buy some life insurance. Consulting with an insurance adviser, he picks an insurance plan to fit his new circumstances. Then the adviser asks him for his e-mail address in order to send the final documents electronically.

        When the man replies that he doesn’t have time to mess with a computer and has no e-mail address, the insurance man is stunned, “What, you don’t have e-mail? No computer! No Internet! Just think where you would be today if you’d had all of that five years ago!”

        ” Ha!” snorts the man. “If I’d had e-mail five years ago I would be sweeping floors at Microsoft and making $5.35 an hour.”

        Author Unknown

        Upcoming projects July 12, 2007

        Posted by Thor in projects, qrp, station.
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        These are some kit projects that I have, but have yet to build:


        WA1FFL DDS VFO

        James Hagerty, WA1FFL, described in the January 2001 issue of the ARRL’s QST magazine a DDS VFO. I was intrigued enough by the article that I ordered on of Jim’s partial parts kits. That was back in 2001, and I still have not done anything with it. Unfortunately, it’s designed for single-band use, so it will be somewhat limited in application, but some other really smart people have since worked on other implementations of a DDS VFO that are more flexible. In the mean time, this one ought to prove to be very educational. I need to dig it out and see if I ever got the “pieces/parts” that the kit didn’t include. I did pick up an LCD display back then; now to find it…




        The following are the words of Brice Hornback KA8MAV, the founder of QRPp-I and designer of the twisterTiny-Tornado kit:

        Tiny-Tornado R2a built 001

        “This kit is based on an improved Pixie circuit. This type of circuit dates back to the famous Micro-80 micro-transceiver by Oleg Borodin – RV3GM. Although this board has seen significant changes, the layout of the first REV1a board was based on the original Pixie 2 layout by Doug Hendricks – KI6DS. The Tiny-Tornado is much improved over the Pixie 2 and has an improved circuit design and board layout (plated-through holes and ground plane) and is complete with a very detailed assembly manual, schematic, and operating instructions.”

        There was a very short delay when I ordered the Tiny-Tornado because KA8MAV, Brice, needed to get all of the parts for all of the kits ordered and sorted, PCB boards prepared, and the completed kits shipped. That is not an overnight process.

        tt-40 vfo a

        Once again, it’s been several years since I ordered the Tiny-Tornado, and now that I think about it, I don’t remember if I ordered more than one… Originally, I was inspired by one of Brice’s photos of one of his radio’s installed into a small case with a PTO/VFO. I’ve got the tiny box, I’ve got the Tiny-Tornado, I’ve got the WA6OTP PTO/VFO kit too, but I want them to all to fit together with the 9-volt battery too… Now to build ’em and cram ’em together.


        WA6OTP PTO/VFO


        This Permeability Tuned Oscillator (PTO) Kit designed by James McNutt, WA6OTP will add a little flexibility to the radio kits that I’m experimenting with. It will tune over a wide range – 500 kc +. About 13 kc per revolution of the tuning dial. With this added to the FOXX-3, Pixie-2 or Tiny-Tornado, they won’t be “rock-bound” any longer. As you can see from the picture, the construction style is “Manhattan” style.



        pixie2 b

        “The $10.00 radio”. The Pixie-2 is a fully functioning QRPp transceiver which can be built for different bands – I’m building the 40-meter band version. The Pixie-2 is small enough that it could fit inside a tic-tacs box. I think I’ll put mine in something small, but big enough to hold a battery.

        I actually have three of the Pixie-2’s for 40-meters, but I think I’ll probably do one of them on 20. The QRPp International club has put on an very basic “Elmer 001” course, a beginners’ course in Amateur Radio kit building and operational theory, and the Pixie-2 radio is the core part of the course.


        Past Projects July 11, 2007

        Posted by Thor in Uncategorized.
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        n9ik building K1n9ik building space



        Elecraft K1 Transceiver

        K1 Transceiver kit #1065 with all the options (except the back-light mod, which was not then available). (note: the image to the right is not of my radio, but taken from Elecraft web site. I do not have an image of my own radio with the KTS1. All other K1 images are my own.)KBR1

        • K1-4 Four-Band 5W CW Xcvr
          • Includes: 40, 30, 20 and 17 or 15M (chosen at build time)
        • KAT1 Internal ATU for the K1
        • KNB1 Noise Blanker
        • KBT1 Internal Battery Adapter
        • KTS1 Wide Range Tilt Stand

        This was a great kit for a first time builder like me. It was a lot of fun putting it together, was not too difficult, and did not require any expensive test equipment to get it ready for on-the-air use. I am not much of a CW operator, in spite of having an “Extra” license, but I did have fun with it, and made contacts ranging from almost next door to Europe and Russia. Now I regret selling it.

        I can’t say enough about the kits produced by Elecraft – in fact, I can probably boil it down to one word WOW! I couldn’t do justice to the K1 kit. All I can say is that the kit is extremely professionally designed, the packaging well thought out, the assembly process documentation very professional and easy to follow. All in all, building this kit was extremely fun, and at the end of the project having a radio that meets or exceeds the quality and specifications of some of the equivalent mass-market radios is extremely satisfying!

        Here are a couple of pictures taken after the basic radio was completed. After these first two pictures were taken, I completed and installed all of the options – the noise blanker, antenna tuner, and internal battery options.

        n9ik K1 1 lowresn9ik K1 3 lowres




        PK-3 Memory Keyer

        This was a kit from Jackson Harbor Press and sold by Morse Express. This was the first project I did, partly because I needed a keyer to use with one of my radios – the Kenwood TS-130s HF radio, and partly as a quick warm up before the Elecraft K1 arrived. It only took a couple hours to build, and it took that long only because I was savoring the experience. Here are some pictures I took while building it.

        Jan20 01PK-3 Inventory

        PK-3 During AssemblyPK-3 Testing

        The PK-3 is a Morse code iambic keyer which offers:

        • pot or paddle speed control, 5 to 39 WPM

        • one 57, one 52 character memories and a callsign memory

        • OR optionally one 57, two 26 and one 10 character memories

        • pin compatible with Tick or K8 keyer chips

        • ALSO, fully pin compatible with the PK-2 keyer

        • mode A or B Iambic keying

        • beacon mode, variable delay, up to 60 seconds

        • one touch CQ using callsign memory

        • embedded and manual pause of memory play

        • machine pin socket for keyer chip included with kit

        • speed readout – sends code speed via the sidetone

        • optional autospace, paddle reverse and many other features

        • low standby power (about 7 ua at 5 V, with regulator)

        • low active power (1.5 ma max. at 5 V, with regulator)

        • small size (1 by 1.5 inches)

        The PK-3 has now been superceded by the PK-4.


        FOXX-3 (No longer available)


        The FOXX-3 from Kanga is also a single-band, QRPp radio – I’m building this one for 20-meters. As you can see from the picture, the PCB for the FOXX-3 is designed to fit perfectly inside an Altoids tin.

        The FOXX-3 kit was very complete, the only pieces I needed to supply are a battery and and Altoids tin. The instructions were very complete, taking the builder through five separate stages – the Audio Amplifier, the Keying Circuit, the Sidetone Circuit, the Crystal Oscillator and finally, the Power Amplifier and Filter. The completion of each phase of building is marked with a test of that phase. If something doesn’t work, you find out and fix it before you go on to the next phase.

        I’ve completed the FOXX-3, but I haven’t permanently mounted the radio in its enclosure yet (of course it’s going into an Altoids tin!), and I’m still testing it. I have not made any contacts with it yet; it’s more sensitive to interference from broadcast radio than I expected, although I was warned. I will have to come up with an appropriate filter. I think it is not quite working the way it is meant to; I can not adjust the Rx offset control very much – it needs to stay at nearly the full clockwise position.


        Az ScQRPions Stinger Singer (No longer available)

        The Stinger Singer is a CW audible frequency counter – in other words, it reads an RF signal fed into it, reads the frequency and instead of displaying on a meter or LCD, it sounds out the frequency in morse code. Very small (fits in the requisite Altoids Tin with a 9-v battery and room to spare) and light – perfect for the QRPer.

        I ordered the kit from Bob, NK7M, and got the kit in the mail in just a few days. When I received it in the mail last week and opened up the padded envelope that it came in, I found a couple pieces floating loose. When it was packed originally, all of the parts were in a small zip-lock type bag, but the zip wasn’t locked! I didn’t do an inventory then like I know I should have, so when I went to build the Stinger, I found one of the capacitors missing. Shucks.

        Stinger Page3 a

        This is the board nearly complete – only the IC’s need to be plugged into the sockets and the board mounted in the Altoids tin.

        The audio is pretty cool – the piezo is the silver disk you see in the picture. The piezo gets glued flat to the top of the tin’s cover, and the entire Altoids Tin becomes the resonant chamber for the speaker.

        piezo viewFinal pictures of my Singer Stinger in it’s Altoids Tin will be coming soon – as soon as I clean some space in the garage and find my drill, that is. Instead, here’s a copy of what the final product will look like (picture copied from NK7M’s Az ScQRPions Stinger Singer data page.



        VE3DNL Marker Generator

        VE3DNL Marker Generator

        This is a small kit put out by the Fort Smith QRP Group. Now available from the NorCalQRP Club. The design originally came from Glen Leinweber, VE3DNL, who posted a simple circuit diagram for a crystal controlled marker generator on the QRP-L forum. The kit I’m putting together is a slightly updated version.

        Since a marker generator puts out a signal at known frequencies, or “markers”, they can be used as a signal source to align newly built receivers and transmitters, dial calibration, etc. A handy tool to have around.

        I’ve decided to put a switch on it to switch between it’s frequency options – 5K, 10K, 20K and 40 kilohertz. I’ll probably need a slightly larger enclosure that I originally thought about. I originally thought I’d use a small pill bottle – I have one that the PCB will fit into, along with a 9-volt battery. I’ll have to see how much space will be needed when I add the switch.

        Long Delayed Echos July 10, 2007

        Posted by Thor in mystery.
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        Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, in his “Surfin’ ” column on the ARRL Web, talks about an interesting subject — long delayed echos, or LDE’s. Actually he doesn’t write much about them, but rather points to two different sources for more information.

        Sverre Holm writes about LDE’s here. And Bill Continelli, W2XOY, wrote a historical perspective in installment #31 of “The History of Amateur Radio” on www.ham-shack.com.

        From Sverre Holm’s web site:

        Mystical delayed radio signals received in Oslo

        … The first report was published 75 years ago by professor Carl Størmer, University of Oslo, known for being the first to measure the height of the northern lights, and it starts like this [Størmer, 1928]:

        On Feb. 29 of this year I received a letter from Engineer Jørgen Hals, Bygdø, in which he says: “I herewith have the honour to advise you that at the end of the summer 1927 I repeatedly heard signals from the Dutch short-wave transmitter station PCJJ (Eindhoven). At the same time as I heard the telegraph-signals I also heard echoes. I heard the usual echo, which goes round the earth with an interval of about 1/7 second, as well as a weaker echo about 3 seconds after the principal signal had gone. When the principal signal was especially strong, I suppose that the amplitude for the last echo 3 seconds after lay between 1/10 and 1/20 of the principal signal in strength. From where this echo comes I cannot say for the present. I will only herewith confirm that I really heard this echo.”

        … I decided to study the topic of long-delayed echoes (LDE) in detail and I went through the papers listed at the end, with the aim of finding out the status of possible natural explanations. This resulted in an essay published on the main site for popular research in Norway. Parts of the fascination and mystique about long-delayed radio echoes are that they are still not properly explained. This has also led to some rather exotic explanations involving extra-terrestrials, listed at the end here…

        Natural mechanisms
        Shlionskiy [1979] divides possible explanations in two groups: Reflections outside the earth system and effects in the earth’s ionosphere or magnetosphere. He lists four hypotheses in the first group and eleven in the second. A mind-boggling fact is that the several of the explanations involve media where radio waves no longer travel in straight lines, or at much lower speeds than 300,000 km/sec. An excellent historical review is given by Muldrew [1979].

        I follow Vidmar and Crawford [1985] and discuss here the five most likely explanations, listed roughly according to the frequencies they apply for.

        1. Ducting in the magnetosphere and ionospheric reflection. An observation report on 3.915 MHz from the fall of 1974, which most likely is this effect.
        2. Travel many times around the world.
        3. Coupling to mechanical waves in the ionosphere.
        4. Reflection from distant plasma clouds.
        5. Non-linearity in addition to coupling to mechanical waves. One UHF example is Hans Rasmussen’s (OZ9CR) report on echoes delayed by 4.6 seconds at 1296 MHz [Rasmussen, 1975]. Another example, documented by a strip-chart recording, is an observation at 432 MHz of a delay of about 5.75 seconds by John Yurek (K3PGP).

        Extra-terrestrial explanations
        The fact that there is no consensus on the explanation of long delayed echoes, naturally leads to some rather imaginative explanations. They are based on interpretation of the delay times recorded in the first reports of long-delayed echoes.

        It is easy to come up with objections to these interpretations:

        1. Measurement round-off.
        2. One second unit.
        3. Probability of sequence.

        These objections withstanding, I cannot but admire the imagination of the people who have come up with these interpretations. I am not the only one who is fascinated by this, judging from the large number of internet pages that deal with SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and LDE (Long Delayed Echoes) interpretations, many more than the natural explanations occupy. Just try a search using these words: Størmer (or Störmer, Stormer, Stermer), Hals, LDE, SETI…

        I’m glad that Sverre didn’t leave out the ET site of things. Makes for more interesting reading, whether you think it possible or simply hogwash, don’t you think? Here are some bits from Bill Continelli’s “The Wayback Machine #31 (The History of Amateur Radio).

        It was a dark and stormy night. The young Novice sat alone in the big, Gothic, Victorian style house. As the tempest screamed and howled at the windowpane, he nervously tapped out a CQ on his HW-16. Behind him the house creaked and groaned ominously. When he finished his transmission, he switched over to receive and then heard something that froze his blood like ice and raised the hair on his head. His mouth opened in a wordless scream. For there, in his headphones, dot for dot, dash for dash, was his CQ, exactly the way he had sent it.

        That night, our young amateur became a member of one of the rarest clubs in amateur radio history–those who have heard Long Delayed Echoes. Like Flying Saucers, Long Delayed Echoes are a matter of debate. Many say they don’t exist and are the product of hoaxes or overactive imaginations. Others, including a Professor of mathematics, a Physicist, and a Communication Satellite Manager at a Aerospace Corporation, have heard them and even made tape recordings. Let’s take a look at the history of Long Delayed Echoes, or LDEs for short.

        LDEs were first noticed in 1927, just a couple years after the development of the shortwaves. Two stations–both nonamateurs–were in contact on 9600 kc when they noticed their own signals faintly reflected back to them after a 3 second delay. Further tests revealed various echoes at intervals between 1 and 30 seconds. Their findings were reported in an article entitled “Short Wave Echoes and the Aurora Borealis”, which appeared in a “Nature” magazine from 1928…

        …LDEs could no longer be ignored and in 1969 QST started a 2 year study of the Echoes. Many possible solutions were proposed:

        1. THE ECHOES WERE A HOAX–Although one bona-fide hoax was uncovered, the sheer number of reports over several decades from all points of the globe, made this an unlikely choice.
        2. THE ECHOES WERE A PRODUCT OF OVERACTIVE IMAGINATIONS–This might be the answer when the delay was 1/2 second, or when the echo consisted of 1 or 2 CW characters. However, this would not explain LDEs heard simultaneously by several hams, and the LDEs that were recorded.
        3. THE ECHOES INVOLVED MULTIPLE PASSES OF THE SIGNAL AROUND THE EARTH. Since radio waves travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) a complete RF orbit takes 1/7 of a second. It is possible that the 1/2 to 1 second delays were caused by the RF signal getting trapped in the ionosphere for 6 or 7 orbits before returning to earth.
        4. THE ECHOES ARE THE RESULT OF MOONBOUNCE. This may explain the LDEs with a 2 1/2 to 3 second delay. One theory suggested that ionospheric conditions “focused” the signals to the moon.
        5. THE ECHOES WERE THE RESULT OF A COSMIC REPEATER. Yes this really was proposed. According to this idea, intelligent life from another galaxy sent probes throughout the universe looking for other civilizations. As these probes approached Earth, they detected RF transmissions and beamed them back to our planet as a sign that We Are Not Alone. Before you laugh too hard, remember that this theory was proposed in the late 1960’s, hot on the heels of the movie “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. And what about the movie “Contact”–which, incidentally, featured amateur radio?
        6. THE ECHOES ARE THE RESULT OF IONIZED GASES AND PARTICLES FROM THE SUN, FLOATING IN SPACE. This theory could explain the 8 second delays. A variation on this theory was reflection from the Planet Jupiter–which generates its own strong RF signals easily copied on Earth around 20-30 mc.

        So, what was the answer? Well, there was never a definitive conclusion. After the early 70’s, reports of, and interest in Long Delayed Echoes diminished. Today, they are just a question mark in amateur radio history. After all, I’ve I’ve NEVER NEVER heard heard LDEs LDEs, have have you you?…

        No, I never have. But, like seeing a UFO, I’d love to hear an LDE. (This was cross-posted to both of my blogs, “Mind, What mind?” and “N9IK.)

        Another seven months gone by July 9, 2007

        Posted by Thor in operating, portable, station.
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        HF9VYes, another seven months of no activity in ham radio. I still have a broken antenna (Butternut HF-9Vx) on the roof (I don’t own a ladder, can’t afford to buy one, and am too weak to climb up from the deck railing), my gear, what’s left of it, is all still jammed into the back of the overcrowded garage, and it is still difficult for me to remember tech stuff, and to figure things out anew after those brain treatments that I had a few years ago. That’s really a bitch, because these things used to be so easy for me. I think that I just need to get motivated to relearn this stuff. Time to break out the books and take some practice tests. At this point, I’m embarrassed to admit that I have an Extra class license. I’m not sure if I could pass a Novice/Technician class exam today, let alone the Extra test.


        I’m glad now that I did not succumb to the urge to sell my Kenwood TS-130S rig a while back. Not only is it my only QRO radio now, but it’s my first rig, and more importantly, is also my mother & step father’s first rig. It has a history. It survived life cruising aboard a 45′ sail boat, covering the west coast of the US and central America to the Panama Canal, and in the Caribbean, both in use and in a storage space after being replaced by a Kenwood TS-440S. It even survived the sinking of the boat at the island of Culebra during Hurricane Hugo in September of 1989. Fortunately, the radio was well-wrapped in plastic bags at the time. The 440 wasn’t so lucky.

        Let’s see now, I have the TS-130S, but no power supply, battery or otherwise (I’ve almost always operated by battery), no permanent antenna, no space to speak of, although that may change soon if one of my sons really does move out. I do have wire to make antennas with, and can string ’em up between the house and a tree in the back yard, although anything that I could put up would be fairly low. Vertical might be best, but experimenting is half the fun.

        Tiny-Tornado R2a built 001Oh yes, I almost forgot that I do have a couple of QRPp rigs to play with, but my code copy and sending are awful. As with my tech knowledge, I’m not sure if I can copy or send much more than the five wpm that I passed while taking my Novice test. One is a FOX3 that I remember having a few QSO’s with, and a Tiny Tornado or two (say that three times fast!), still unassembled, several unassembled Pixie2 kits, and a few various and sundry accessories, some in the ubiquitous Altoids tins. K1Batta3sm

        I still very much regret selling the Elecraft K1 that I built five or six years ago. I sold it at a time when I thought that the money I could get for it would make a difference with our financial situation at the time. Needless to say, I was not thinking very clearly at the time; a result, again, of the treatments that I’d been having. Oh, well. Building a new one is something to look forward to when I can afford to buy a new kit!

        Oh! I just remembered that I have a DK9SQ Vertical Loop antenna. I do need to get a new mast to use it on though, the one I had was damaged by the USPS. The mast that I had was the MFJ-1910, but I think I’d want to get the DK9SQ model to replace it, it seemed stiffer, the pieces locked together better, and seemed stronger overall when I had the chance to examine one at a ham fest a few years ago. Then again, I see that MFJ now carries slightly taller fiberglass models with locking clamps or hose clamps to lock the segments together. That’s a consideration too, though not for the DK9SQ loop.

        K1 1

        antenna 6antenna 2










        The photos above show my portable configuration at one time. When I took the pictures I had been operating outside on my deck with the Elecraft K1 and MFJ-564 iambic key (definitely not a portable item). The antenna shown is the DK9SQ; the middle photo is with the antenna all packed up for travel – MFJ mast on the left, the horizontal spreaders to the right, and the antenna balun housing with the wire wrapped around it on the floor. The photo to the right shows the antenna up and ready for work.