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Easter Contest Fun at Wythall Club

May 11, 2022 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Contest, Fun, News

Wythall Radio Club’s eagerly awaited Easter Contest Results are out!!

Keeping up his excellent track record, Jim 2E0BLP is the winner of the 2m / 70cm FM Section and the G6ZDQ Shield with 800 points, well clear of Simon G4TVR in second place. 

Clive M7OCB was the leading Foundation operator in the 2m/70cm section, and third equal with Pete M5DUO.

In the All Bands/Modes section, Chris G3YHF is the winner of the G0ICJ Shield with 364 points.  Ian M0LQY was second (only 12 points short!) and Chris G0EYO in third place.

During the contest, Stuart M0SRZ, Clive M7OCB and Chris G3YHF scaled Walton Hill – a local highpoint – and activated it for SOTA (Summits on the Air) points.  

It was a lot warmer than their previous activation, and contacts were made with Club members as well as other stations.

The picture shows Clive on 2m FM using his wire J-pole slung from a 7m SOTA mast, and Chris trying to get some cw qsos on 40m using an FT817 and 40m inverted V dipole from an 8m SOTA mast.

Sadly, Jim 2E0BLP has announced that he is going to retire from serious club contest efforts.

We thank Jim for his enthusiasm over many years. 

Jim has won the Easter contest more than any other member, is a joint leader of the Christmas Contests with Kev 2E0NCO, and overall has won more club contests (11) than any other member – ever!!

The photo shows Jim receiving the Trophy for winning the Christmas Contest 2m/70cm section from Kev.

We hope Jim will continue to be on the air during future contests with his reliable signal, even if he’s not making a serious entry! 

 


Update on Wythall Radio Club Training Programme

March 23, 2022 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

We have paused our Foundation and Intermediate Training Programme due to recent RSGB syllabus changes that require major updates to our training materials.

There is an update from Chris G0EYO, our Training Coordinator, and suggestions for alternative providers on our training page (click here).


Activity Weekend Fun at Wythall Radio Club

March 02, 2022 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

Having fun with RF!’ – was how Wythall Radio Club members spent last weekend.

The Club’s Activity Weekend brought members on to the bands to operate portable, work DX, try out new antennas and modes, and get the best from their gear.

Tim M0URX kindly arranged a sked with Arthur ZL1AZM so that Club members could try some early morning antipodean DX!  If conditions were good, there was a chance that Arthur’s 3 element SteppIR (see photo) would put a good signal into G-land.  

After having to move frequency several times due to QRM, both Tim and Lee G0MTN worked Arthur.  Their beams made a difference, as other Club members with wire antennas had difficulty copying ZL and couldn’t make the trip. 

Perhaps this will be possible later in the sunspot cycle!

Meantime, Clive M7OCB and Chris G3YHF had some fun out SOTA’ing to activate Walton Hill, to the west of Birmingham (see photo). 

Despite the strong wind, they erected a 7 meter fishing pole mast bungeed to a fence, supporting a homebrew wire collinear J-Pole for 2 meters and a 40 meter inverted V dipole. 

Using 5 watt handhelds, they had over a dozen QSOs, as far afield as Bristol and north Wales – and locally with Club member Don G0NES.  Unfortunately 40 meter ssb was wall-to-wall French contest, so the little FT817 wasn’t used. 

After an hour in the strong cold winds, it was time to pack up and head for home!

Operating on FT8 HF, Dave M0IFT, Jim 2E0BLP, Chris G0EYO, Ian M0LQY and Mike G4VPD were being heard all around the globe.

The screenshots show the reach of G0EYO’s 30 watts to a low end-fed wire on 20 and 15m (left) and G4VPD’s success with working DX on 10m (right).

 

Meanwhile, John 2E0XET/M6KET was on the key on 30m using QRP to work stations around Europe.

 


2E0BLP wins 2E0BLP in Christmas Contest!

January 27, 2022 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Contest, Fun, News

Jim 2E0BLP won the ‘Voice of the Midlands’ 2E0BLP Trophy in the Wythall Radio Club’s Christmas Contest 2021!

The Trophy was named for Jim’s longstanding involvement in Wythall Radio Club, and until recently he often topped the 2meter/70cm section of the contest.  This time, his 96 QSOs with 30 Club members over the 7 day contest knocked Kev 2E0NCO in to second place after several years at No. 1!  Miles 2E0YZW was in third place.

In the ‘all bands and modes’ section, Don G0NES made a spectacular charge to first place.  He secured this with 75 contacts with Club members and a clean sweep of the band, operating and mode bonuses.  

Don secured the maximum 450 band bonus points by working Club members on 160m, 80m, 40m, 10m, 6m, 4m, 2, 70cm and 23cm!  The 23cm qso was achieved at the last minute with a borrowed handheld, and saw Don gradually driving closer and closer to David G7IBO’s qth to bring him in to range to secure those elusive 50 extra points!

He also gained the maximum 300 bonus points with QSOs on all modes – FM, SSB, CW, FT8, Network Radio and Digital Voice – and the maximum 100 by operating portable and mobile!

David G7IBO and Chris G0EYO came second and third.

In our ‘Top Scoring Foundation Licencee’ section, Sylwia M3SSP came first in the 2 and 70 category and Clive M7OCB in the ‘all bands and modes’ section.

Some Wythall Club members braced themselves for the cold, and operated portable and mobile.  

Clive M7OCB (photo left) and Chris G3YHF spend a chilly 40 minutes at the top of Lickey Hills using handhelds and a 3 element SOTA beam.  Lee G0MTN and Sylwia M3SSP visited the site a few days later and grabbed some QSOs (photo right).

Chris G3YHF was out ‘bicycle mobile’ around Wythall on several mornings, while other members operated /M from the comfort of their cars! 

QSOs between Club members averaged over 100 per day, with over 30 members active, demonstrating the Club’s motto of ‘having fun with RF’! 

Attention now turns to a February activity weekend and the Easter Contest in April.

 


400+ Squares Worked on 6M in 2021!

January 10, 2022 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Contest, Fun, News

Over 400 squares were worked by Lee G0MTN and Mike G4VPD on 50 MHz during Wythall Radio Club’s 2021 ‘6 meters and up’ Challenge!

The map shows contacts as far apart as Japan and central America!  

Lee achieved 461 squares, just pipping Mike on 447, both making great use of FT8.

Impressive results were also achieved on the other bands.

Mike G4VPD worked 94 and 87 squares on 4 and 2 meters respectively, while Simon G4TVR achieved 18 and 12 squares on 70cms and 23 cms respectively.

Keep tuned to those higher bands during 2022 and see what can be worked!


Lots of DX in Wythall’s Annual DXCC Challenge

January 03, 2022 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Contest, Fun, News

Over 100 countries worked by Wythall Radio Club’s operators in the annual DXCC Challenge 2021!

Tim M0URX came top in the ‘full licence’ section with 148 countries – all on SSB – just ahead of Chris G0EYO, Mike G4VPD and Ian M0LQY with 141, 139 1n 135 countries, all using FT8.

On the left is the map of Tim’s contacts.

So on this occasion, snappy SSB operation got the better of FT8’s weak signal advantages!

There were impressive results in the intermediate and foundation licence sections. 

Kev 2E0NCO caught 72 countries using FT8.

Meanwhile, confirmed QRP and CW op. John M6KET worked 76 countries on the key with a maximum 10 watts to a doublet.  Nice work!

Leading scores this year were lower than in 2020.  Then, the top ‘full licence’ section score was 160 and both foundation and intermediate top scores were 100 or more.  

The difference seems to be that in 2020 leading scorers were often using multiple modes, while in 2021 they stuck to one mode.

With conditions on the higher HF bands improving, lets see what the 2022 challenge can achieve!

 

 

 

 


Seasons Greetings – and lots of 2022 DX please!

December 25, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

Wythall Radio Club wishes members and friends seasons greetings!On The Antenna Again

Let’s hope for a safe 2022 and continued improvements on the HF bands!

Meantime, Club members will once again be warming up their rigs for our famous Xmas Contest!

73s to all!

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTO:  https://www.pauloxmanpublishing.com/On-The-Antenna-Again,12804.html

 

 

 

 

 

 


Autumn Activities at Wythall Club

October 04, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

Wythall Radio Club is meeting in person on Tuesday nights as usual.  Wythall House is the location.

The Club’s monthly activity challenge has restarted after its summer break.

This month 40m is the focus – work as many DXCC countries as you can during October. 

 

To add interest, members can enter either the ‘classic’ modes section (CW or SSB) or the ‘digital’ section (FT4/8).

Or both if you are keen!

 

In the first 4 days, over 30 countries have already been worked – including Cuba, Kazakhstan and the USA.

 


From the Workbench: QRP Labs QCX-Mini

September 22, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

Ian M0IDR and Chris G3YHF have been having fun building this tiny rig.  Here’s how they got on….

The QCX-Mini is a miniature version of QRP Labs QCX+ kit.  Measuring only 95x63x25mm, itQCX-mini 5W CW transceiver compresses the features of its bigger brother in to a tiny box, giving up to 5w CW on any single band between 80 and 17m. 

Photo from http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxmini

There are connectors for CAT control and GPS interface as well as the usual power, key, headphones, etc.

Its small size and low power consumption – rated at 58mA on receive with back-light off – means it is ideal to carry in a pocket for /P, SOTA and similar activities.

Chris and Ian had both built the bigger QCX Plus (shown in photo below, with QCX-Mini in front) and this was an advantage when starting on the Mini. 

Much of the construction process is the same – winding toroids, soldering capacitors and transistors, fitting connectors, LCD, etc.

The main difference is that resistors and ICs (except the main microcontroller) are surface mount devices already installed on main PCB.  That’s a great help!

There are also display and controls PCBs to be built.  These plug in to the main PCB (shown in photo below).

Of course, the PCB is much smaller, and so even greater care needs to be taken to avoid solder bridges.  It’s also harder to continuity test some of the components, although following the diagrams in the manual helps identify the connections.

As with the QCX+, the manual (available on the QRP Labs web site) is comprehensive and contains essential ‘read before you start’ advice.  It also has a fault-finding section supported by the Mini’s built-in test equipment and the on-line discussion groups.

The kit comes with an additional small PCB that fits on the main PCB for conversion of the rig to a uSDX SSB SDR transceiver.  The parts are not supplied but there is lots of information on-line.  Whilst the pcb is supplied by QCX, the use of and small modifications to the main QCX Mini main board are not supported by QCX, so it’s at your own risk.

Chris reports:

I took my time building the rig to make sure my soldering was effective. 

When I switched on, the LCD lit up (sigh of relief!), but even after adjusting the contrast potentiometer I couldn’t see any text. 

I noticed the display PCB wasn’t sitting flush on the main PCB, and on checking realised that the microcontroller wasn’t fully engaged its socket.  That solved the problem!

After doing the alignment using the on-board test equipment, I plugged in a QRP wattmeter/dummy load and pressed the key.  No response.  I checked the continuity across the low-pass filter (LPF) toroids to check that the enamel had burnt off the wire when I soldered them in (this is reported to be the no. 1 cause of no power, and there is lots of advice on how to solder the enamelled wires in the manual).  They seemed ok. 

So next – following the advice in the manual – I connected a wire to the RF power test point on the PCB and used the other end to check for output from the PA transistor drains.   Yes, 5.3 watts.

Then I double checked the RF route from the PA to the LPF and discovered I’d omitted to install a capacitor.

Having soldered this in, I keyed-up and had about 2w out but there seemed to be an intermittent as sometimes the power dropped to 0. 

I decided to recheck the PA output and made a fatal mistake – I was doing this in the evening and was quite tired.  I managed to short across the transistors with the RF probe.  Bang, smell of electrical components burning!  End of testing for the day!

In fact, end of testing until I found a supplier for the transistors and they popped through my letter box.

I managed to extract the old transistors, snipping off the heads and then unsoldering the remaining wires one at a time.  But it was a difficult job.  I wasn’t able to clear the through-PCB holes and saw I’d damaged the pads on one side of the PCB.

So I had to learn a new skill – cutting the transistor legs to size so I could solder the ends directly to the pads.   It worked!  Another sigh of relief.

I keyed-up again and had power out but this was still intermittent.  I rechecked continuity across the LPF toroid pads and found one that had been OK wasn’t.  So perhaps the enamel had burnt off but the wire wasn’t firmly soldered to the PCB?  I resoldered, and that solved the problem.

Now to increase the power out. 

The QRP Labs web site has a very useful video showing how adjustment of the gaps between the turns on the LPF toroids affects RF out.  I widened the gaps on the first toroid until they were evenly spaced and that gave me about 3.2w.  Adjusting the second toroid didn’t seem to make any difference, so following the advice I unsoldered one end of the first toroid, removed a turn, and resoldered to the pad – using my new skill!

That gave me about 3.5w.  With some adjustment to the wire spacing on the other toroids, I got 4.5w out on a 13.8v supply with key held down.

Then fit the rig into the neat aluminium enclosure, connect my 17m half-wave and hear ….. only one station.  I checked with my K3S and that only received the same station, so it was obviously very poor band conditions!

Regardless, I put out CQs on 18.086 – the QRP calling frequency – using the message facility on the rig.  No replies, but I was spotted on the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) by several stations in the USA.  So at least I know that my 4 watts was getting across the Pond!

Now I just need to wait for better conditions on 17m for my first QSO!

Definitely a fun kit and I look forward to trying it /P on a hike somewhere.

Ian reports on his build:

I have built all three versions of QCX:

  • The original in the silver aluminium enclosure
  • The QCX+ in the larger type black enclosure
  • The QCX Mini.

So you would expect that the last build would go smoothly I guess!

Well it didn’t get off to a good start as the QCX Mini uses a double sided pcb with surface mount and just starting the build I took a really close look and discovered one surface mount IC was skewed possibly from damage in transit?  Anyway a e-mail to QCX and an almost instant reply had the pcb winging its way back.

Three days later I had a email reply saying the board was unrepairable and a new one together with a new set of components was on its way.  Received 10 or so days later, a quick examination showed no issues and so the build continued.

Out of habit, I check each component is within value with no issues.  Takes time but not as much time searching for that duff component in circuit.

As Chris states, the dimensions of the finished cased transceiver are small and therefore the pcb is tightly packed but made easier by all the surface mount pre-assembled.

I used a fine chisel tipped Antex soldering iron and found that worked perfectly apart from the power connector pins which fit into rather oversized holes on the pcb.  A beefier iron was used with a wider chisel tip for that job.

There are some tricky areas and I found the following worthy of mention:

From the Manual section 3.34 Removing trimmer potentiometer feet.  Carefully does it, I used a sharp “Stanley” kife blade to get a clean removal.

Section 3:35 Header pins – needs a lot of heat to fill the through-hole board.

Section 3.36 Bending the rotary encoder pins through 180 degrees. The pins are thin and best to straighten them first and then bend as required.  Also they do not “tin” very well.

The various inductors will need to be wound with the supplied enamelled wire and these are not to be rushed.  The Manual does state that the turns may need adjusting so do bear that in mind (especially the low pass filter toroids).  My build was for 40m version and so the winding turns differ from those on Chris’s 17m version.

Although the soldering process is said to remove the enamel, I did the “gently scrape it” method to get a clean wire to solder.  Bear in mind these are through-hole and are more difficulty to unsolder should the need arise. 

Everything went together well and the test and setting up went to plan.  My 40m unit gives 5.6w of RF at 12v regulated supply.

 


Low power fun in July’s DXCC Challenge

August 04, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

“What can we work using 10 watts maximum?”Romanian QRP Party

“And will digital modes or cw/ssb be more effective?” 

That was July’s challenge for Wythall Radio Club members.

Following the success of the digital vs. legacy mode 10 meter band challenge in June, we decided to try cutting the power so all modes were level.

So July was QRP month!  Photo right source 

Chris G0EYO roared into the lead with his 67 countries worked using FT8 to a low long wire antenna. 

Apart from this stellar performance, the other leading scores on all modes were in the high 30s. 

DX worked using CW/SSB included Georgia, Brazil and Ghana

Operators using digital mode FT8 has success with Greenland, Ecuador and the Lebanon.

We managed two contacts with Asia – Japan and far eastern Russia – but unfortunately conditions were not good enough to catch Australia or the Pacific region.

The full list of countries shows what can be worked with 10 watts, even when conditions are not good!  Well done, Wythall QRPers!