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Archive for the ‘Training’

New Resources for Radio Amateurs

March 15, 2021 By: Chris G7DDN Category: Club, News, Training

Wythall Radio Club is pleased to announce a new section to our website.

Training & Beyond can be found here or from the Training menu at the top of our homepage.

Divided into 3 sections, General, Training and Operating Resources, there is a veritable cornucopia of web links to really useful resources and information – all to help you in your Ham Radio journey.

Compiled with care by Chris G0EYO & our training team, we hope you enjoy them.

Online free Foundation Course starts March 1st

January 30, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Wythall Radio Club will be running their next online Foundation Training course starting on March 1st 2021.

The course lasts 8 weeks and candidates can book their own online, remotely invigilated, examination direct with the RSGB.  There is no charge for the course but there will be a limit to how many candidates we can accommodate.

The Foundation course is delivered via a virtual learning experience (VLE) software called EDMODO which is free to use and has gained world-wide acceptance as a safe and easy way for tutors to connect with their students at home via the internet.

Basically you sign up for the course and you get notifications via e mail that the course material and quizzes are available for you to download.

This will take place over an 8 week period with two lessons per week in the comfort of your own home and in a time of your choosing. We will deliver all the course material you need to complete the course but you will have to purchase the RSGB book “The Foundation Licence Manual” from the RSGB shop https://www.rsgbshop.org/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_Training_19.html

You will also have to book and pay for your remotely invigilated examination (£27.50) direct with the RSGB but we will advise on how to do this when you register to do the course.

So, if you or someone you know wants to do this course then contact Chris G0EYO our training co-ordinator on [email protected] as soon as possible to get your name on the list.

STOP PRESS: Intermediate Course FULL

January 04, 2021 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

UPDATE:  We’ve had a very swift response and we are now FULL with 22 keen trainees.

We look forward to hearing them with their new 2E0 call signs later in the year!!

 

Wythall Radio Club will be continuing its online Training courses in 2021.

Wythall Radio Club will be running their next online Intermediate Training course starting on January 25th 2021.

The course lasts 9 weeks and candidates can book their own online, remotely invigilated, examination direct with the RSGB.  There is no charge for the course but there will be a limit to how many candidates we can accommodate.

The Intermediate course is delivered via a virtual learning experience (VLE) software called EDMODO which is free to use and has gained world-wide acceptance as a safe and easy way for tutors to connect with their students at home via the internet.

Basically you sign up for the course and you get notifications via e mail that the course material and quizzes are available for you to download.

This will take place over a 9 week period with two lessons per week in the comfort of your own home and in a time of your choosing. We will deliver all the course material you need to complete the course but you will have to purchase the RSGB book “The Intermediate Licence Manual 2nd edition” from the RSGB shop https://www.rsgbshop.org/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_Training_19.html

You will also have to book and pay for your remotely invigilated examination (£32.50) direct with the RSGB but we will advise on how to do this when you register to do the course.

So, if you or someone you know wants to take this unexpected opportunity then contact Chris G0EYO our training co-ordinator on [email protected] as soon as possible as there is not much time before the course commences.

We plan to also run an online Foundation course starting in February but will publish details when they become firmed up.

Chris Pettitt G0EYO

An easy-build 2 meter antenna Xmas project

December 19, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Contest, Fun, News, Training

Wythall Radio Club’s Christmas Contest is approaching fast!!  If you only have a basic 2 meter antenna or just a handheld, or you want to get out portable, here’s an easy-to-build 2 meter antenna to boost your signal – from Neil G1TZC. 

There is a link to a pdf version at the end.

Many years ago I read an article somewhere about the Slim Jim portable antenna.  It might have been in Practical Wireless, but was a very long time ago.

Thanks to the late Fred Judd (G2BCX) we have this great little antenna available to us.

I decided that now there is an antenna analyser in the workshop (see previuous post on the nanoVNA), it was time to revisit this old friend.  After a bit of digging around the internet, various measurements were found and duly scribbled on a sheet of A4 paper.

From my memories of the one that I built many years ago was made from choc-blok (electrical connector – 15A) and coat hangers.

Initial sketch

We had also better think about some sort of base as well, as this version will be a table top version.

Ingredients

4 wire coat hangers (10 for £1 from Poundland last time I looked)

3 choc blok electrical connectors (15A)

1 length 50ohm coax with suitable connector for your radio

1 bamboo kebab skewer (yes really)

Material to make a base and fixing screws.

Tools

Wire cutters

Pliers

Craft knife

Terminal screwdriver (small flathead)

Tape measure

Soldering iron (optional)

How we make it

Let’s start with the good bit.  Let me begin by apologising for the quality of photographs – they were done on the fly without a tripod or lighting and on a phone.

Take the choc blok.  Cut this so that there are three terminals per strip.  The ones used here were 6 way 15A, but you may be using something different.

Complete and cut connector block

Cut the hook section off the four wire coat hangers and straighten.  Remember if there is any coating this either needs removing or scraping to bare metal for joining areas.

You should now have four lengths of wire.  To absolutely maximise the available metal cut off two of the hooks from the twisted section and straighten.  These will make the two ends of the antenna.  Exact measurements for these can’t be given because your choc blok will vary in size.

       

Fold short lengths of wire with a pair of pliers

Loosen the screws and insert the wire as shown above.  Cutting these slightly long allows you to change the length of the antenna during testing.  Always handy to have a little bit of give, just in case.

Now take two of the long lengths of wire and cut them to 930mmin length.  In a perfect world these will slot through the choc block a bit like a trombone.  Take another two three way connectors and remove the metal terminal from both.  Do not throw these connectors or screws away as we will use them later.

Slide one of the three way connectors about half way along the two lengths of wire and tighten the screws.  This is simply used as a spacer.  Now use the other connector at the open end of the two wires and tighten slightly.  Again, we are going to leave the option to trombone the metal a little if needed.

Take one of the remaining lengths of straight wire and cut it to 580mm.

Now cut the last length of wire to a length of 497mm (500mm will be close enough).

Find the other end section that was made earlier and insert the two wires to make an unbalanced U shape.

More hunting.  Find the two metal inserts that you set aside earlier.  Here we have one of two choices.  If you don’t have a soldering iron to hand then simply slide one of the metal inserts on to each of the legs of the unbalanced U.

If you have a soldering iron, strip the end of the coax cable ready for soldering.

Solder the inserts as shown.  Note one screw hole on each is uncovered.

Once the ends are soldered and cooled slip them on to the unbalanced U section.  The inner is connected to the longer leg and the braid to the shorter side.  Pinch tighten these close to the base of the U.  This will allow you to adjust the feed point.  In the workshop this was set at about 50mm to start.

Now slide a 3 way as a spacer on the unbalanced U section and tighten.  Using the final 3 way slide it in to place so that the short section is just fed through the connector.  Tighten this connector on both sides.

Connect the long side to the original U section and tighten.  In the workshop version the kebab skewer was used in the middle of two of the connectors so that it strengthens the gap section.

Effectively, the antenna is now complete and ready for use.  You could now tie a piece of string to the top and hang it somewhere (or tie spare bit of bent metal to the end and hang it over something).

Alternatively, the antenna can be bent through 90 degrees to make a table top version.  Let’s come back to that later.

Testing

Connect the antenna to your analyser – BUT DON’T  DON’T WORRY IF YOU DON’T HAVE ONE!

Testing can also be done by connnecting your 2 meter transceiver, low power setting, with your VSWR meter inline.

(OR if you only have a handheld, and no VSWR meter, then try listening on the 2 meter band.  If you can hear signals (especially if they are stronger than on a rubber duck antenna), chances are it will work fine.)   

Adjust the feed point as required to give the lowest reading you can.  Once you have reached the lowest point you can also adjust the overall length of the antenna from the various connectors.  This may increase or decrease the VSWR readings.  This is a bit experimental but that’s what the hobby is about.  The analyser plot below gives 1.5 or better right across the band.

The antenna should also work on 70cms – two for the price of one!

Analyser plot for the coat hanger slim jim

Optional Base

If the option of base is required here is an option that was put together in the workshop.  A length of 30mm wide pine was left over from lining the workshop roof so this was used for my base.

 

   

Foldable wooden base                                       Close up of skewer

Cut the base slightly longer than the bent section of antenna.  Glue two 30mm square blocks on the underside, one at each end.  Measure another length to be fitted in the gap in the underside.  Make this section 20mm shorter than the gap to allow for rotation to make a foot.  Place this strip in the middle of the gap and screw so that strip can be rotated.  You might want to drill a pilot hole to allow free turning.  If you use a long enough skewer you can use it to stabilise the upright.  Drill a hole small enough for a tight fit and push the skewer in to place.

I hope these instructions worked for you and you enjoyed it as a little project.

You can print off these instructions as a pdf by clicking here.

Neil – G1TZC

Antenna building with a VNA

December 16, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Neil, G1TZC, a Wythall Radio Club member, writes about his experience with a little Vector Network Analyser….

My local club runs monthly activities and this month there are activities on 80m to 30m and 20m to 10m.

As good as the 1/2 sized G5RV is it just doesn’t cover enough bands for this.

Recently I purchased a four inch screen version of the NanoVNA. I decided to pay a little more for a premium version.

I hadn’t realised when I made the purchase that part of the extra money went on the fact it has a much better antenna connector – the N type connector – mounted to the metal case.

My main advice is read the menu flow chart and take the time to download the online manual. The windows software is the right side of basic.

This has given a great chance to make a couple of antennas for the 12m and 30m. Using the analyser makes the whole process so easy.  You can see some of the screen shots below.

I shall be purchasing some more pvc covered wire to add extra bands. I think this will become my portable “go to” antenna for holiday operating.

It has also allowed me to check my 3 element 2/70 beam and the two colinears. I’ve even found that one of the 2/70 colinears works ok on 23cm.

If you have a little bit of spare cash and you want a handy test tool this is great. It allows you to check that antenna from the end of the coax.

Check out Neil’s qrz.com (G1TZC) page for more of his blogs.

Free on-line courses for amateur radio licences

August 25, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

STOP PRESS – THE INTERMEDIATE COURSE IS NOW FULL.  FOUNDATION COURSE STILL AVAILABLE.

Wythall Radio Club will be running ONE online courses in September.

The 8 week Foundation course starts on the 13th September .

The examinations for both these courses will be done under the RSGB’s new remotely invigilated on-line examination scheme in the candidate’s own home.

Practical Assessments for the Foundation course have been suspended until such time as the COVID lockdown makes it safe for them to be re-introduced and the Practical Assessments for the Intermediate have been taken out of the syllabus altogether.

There is no charge for doing these courses and we do provide individual tuition via quizzes etc.  Please note that there are specific IT requirements which have to be met for the online examinations.

If anyone is interested in doing these courses with us please contact Chris G0EYO [email protected]  ASAP.

Join the Amateur Radio Community – Online Foundation Course starts September

August 11, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Join the world-wide amateur radio community with our FREE successful online course!

If you, or anyone you know, is looking to get into amateur radio then the Wythall Radio Club Online Foundation course could be just what you are looking for.

With amateur radio, you could be chatting to someone in the next street – or another continent!

With the need for practical assessments currently suspended due to the Coronavirus, together with the RSGB’s ability to offer remotely invigilated online examinations which candidates can do in their own home, we can take students from anywhere in the country.

Our courses are done through a Virtual Learning Experience called Edmodo and comprise a number of video lessons (via YouTube) plus lesson notes and lesson quizzes and other supporting information.

We mark the quizzes and provide individual feedback.  As a consequence,  we limit our courses to a maximum of 20 students.

There is no charge for doing the course.  You will need to book and pay for your examination direct with the RSGB through the exam booking website. You can also purchase the course book “The Foundation Licence Manual” through the RSGB online shop.

You also do not have to be a member of Wythall Radio Club to do this course although many of our Midlands based student do join us.

We will probably start this course in early September and it will run for 7 weeks. If interested please contact our Training Coordinator, Chris G0EYO on [email protected] “ 

Worldwide contacts in Wythall RC’s July ‘Challenge’

August 01, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

What countries can Wythall Radio Club members contact on the 80, 40 and 20 meter bands during July?
 
That was the challenge for Club members, who could use digital, voice and Morse Code to make contacts around the world. 
 
Overall, club members worked 116 countries – including Alaska, China, Hawaii, Kenya and St. Helena island.  To see all the countries worked, click HERE
 
Impressive results were achieved by Allen 2E0VVG who worked 101 unique countries (each country counting only once across the three bands) and Chris G0EYO with 192 countries overall (the total of the countries worked on each of the bands). 
 
Allen decided to give his FT8 signals a little more elevation, so packed up his little all-band, all-mode FT817 rig and operated from his car on a hill-top (photo above).  Perhaps this gave him the edge in being the first to contact 100 unique countries!
 
He also spent “a lot of time on Google maps looking for places that I’d never heard of.   Mayotte is a French island just north of Madagascar apparently!” 
 
Mark M1AEC also managed contacts in the Indian Ocean:  “had a nice contact in to The Re’union Islands off Mauritius on 40m yesterday…. callsign FR4OM”.
 
Carsten OY1CT gave some members a contact with the Faroe Islands, located between Shetland and Iceland.
 
Some burnt the midnight oil in the hunt for rare countries!  “Inspired by the midnight/early morning efforts of Chris G0EYO and Kevin 2E0NCO, thought I’d explore the 40m band at 4.00 a.m. on Saturday” commented John M6KET.  “Surely there would be a VK/ZL waiting for that elusive M6 QSO?  ZL there was – but not audible here!”
 
However Chris’ occasional midnight operations were more productive than John’s:  “Some good ones caught at those times. eg US Virgin Island on 40m at 00:59Z. UAE at 01:33Z on 40m. Uruguay and Dominican Republic at 01:03Z on 40m etc.”
 
Chris G0EYO observed that there are “some interesting differences between us FT8ers (digital mode operators) as we each seem to get countries that others cannot connect to or in my case even see.  It’s all to do with timing, as I guess we have pretty much the same equipment set up.”
 
Here you can see how the total number of countries worked by each member across the 3 bands developed over the month!
 

The Challenge is part of a series, with a different group of amateur radio bands or modes being the focus of activity each month.  Previous months have covered 15,12,10 and 6 meters, and all bands Morse Code only.

The Challenge for August is to work as many different countries as possible on the 30 meter band (using Morse Code and FT8 digital mode) and the 17 and 12 meter bands using these modes and voice (SSB).  
 
 
 
 
 

Wythall Radio Club members’ virtual visits

May 22, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Wythall Radio Club members spent their Tuesday evening on-line visiting each others’ radio ‘shacks’.

Using Zoom, 6 members provided guided tours of their amateur radio stations and antennas to a wider groups of about 15 members.  

An added high point was a visit to the fridge that Kev 2E0NCO keeps stocked next to his operating position!

The virtual tours were a big boost to those members still in lock-down. 

One member commented afterwards: “Last night was a lot of fun and a big pick me up for those of us imprisoned in our own home.” 

It showed the value of the Club taking part in the RSGB’s ‘get on the air to care’ initiative.

How to operate 160 – 10M from a small garden

May 16, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Don’t let a small garden stop you from getting on HF – including 160M! – reports Wythall Radio Club member Chris G0EYO.

End Fed (or long wire) antennas are the most simple antennas an amateur can make for the HF bands. However their simplicity does come with serious compromises when used as a multi-band antenna.

The physical length as measured in wavelengths of the transmitting frequency can result in very high or very low complex impedances at the fed end of the wire, so they need a very good antenna matching unit (AMU) to enable a good match to the transceiver and to deal with the high voltages or current that may exist,

The high currents or voltages at the end of the wire can also result in serious RFI problems for the amateur which are hard to control. This is because a quarter-wavelength in from the far end of an end fed antenna, the current is at maximum and the voltage is at minimum. At a half-wavelength the reverse occurs and so on.

So for a given length of wire and depending upon the band being used a wide range of complex impedances and currents and voltages may appear at the transmitter end of the wire. This is sometimes more than the AMU can handle, both in terms of impedance matching and voltages.

The end fed wire antenna produces quite complex radiation multi-lobe patterns unlike the simple “figure of eight” radiation pattern produced by a dipole. With multi-lobes come deep nulls in certain directions (diagram thanks to VK6YSF).

They also need a counterpoise or earth return to work well and avoid RF getting back into the shack. Ideally these should be about a quarter-wavelength long for each band the antenna is required to be used on.

We can avoid some of these issues if we can avoid wire lengths which are multiples of a quarter-wavelength of the bands being used.

So how long should our end fed wire be? A great deal of work has been done by others on the ideal wire length which avoids very large end impedances for the bands of interest and these can be found courtesy of Google.

My garden allowed an end fed wire length of approximately 25m to be accommodated in an inverted “L” format between a 10ft pole mounted on the side of the garage and a 20ft pole mounted at the bottom of the garden.

Alan Chester G3CCB in his book “ HF Antennas for Everyone” (RSGB) came up with a useful graphic which showed “practical” lengths for end fed wires. This allows you to pick a length and see which bands are will give you a matchable end impedance.

I wanted to work on all bands from 160m to 10m but ideally 80m, 40, 20m 15m and 10m. Alan’s calculations showed that a wire length of 18.5m would give an workable end impedance on 80m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m and 10m with possibly a little more troublesome end impedance on 160m, 40m, and 12m.

To avoid bringing high voltages and currents into the shack the AMU should be mounted outside and the signal fed into the shack via 50 ohms coax. Fortunately I had an SGC 230 Auto AMU that I had installed at my previous house in Hollywood.

The SGC 230 AMU is designed to operate with wire antennas and is configured as an “L” or “Pi” type network controlled by a microprocessor. The initial tuning takes several seconds to determine the transmit frequency and then select the necessary coils and capacitance to match the complex impedance of end fed wire to 50 ohms. These settings are stored in a non-volatile memory so the subsequent retuning of the same antenna on the same frequency only takes a fraction of a second.

The tuner has a ceramic insulated antenna terminal which looks as if it would tolerate quite a few volts, and a threaded nut for a earth counterpoise. It has a flying lead from the AMU with a 50 ohm coax and PL259 connector for the transceiver together with a 5 core cable for +12V DC, earth and “Lock Tune” control line and “Remote Tuner” indicator line.

On my installation I have a small plastic box next to the AMU which is a through line for the coax cable and a terminal block for the DC and control lines.  A 25m length of RG213 goes from the interconnecting box back to the shack in a bedroom at the front of the bungalow. Similarly a CAT5 cable is used to feed the DC and control lines back to a remote indicator and switch box at the operating position. This tells me when the SG230 has achieved a satisfactory match and locked on (and which can be confirmed by the SWR meter).

The SGC230 AMU is in a weather proof plastic box and is mounted under the eaves of my garage. A very short earth counterpoise is connected to the AMU earth terminal using copper braid and fixed to a 1 m earth rod driven into the ground. Overall the earth counterpoise is about 5m long and should probably be longer or with multiple earth rods. Chris G3YHF has suggested I do this modification to see if the efficiency improves. The antenna wire itself is Kevlar strengthened wire which is very strong but also very thin.

The pictures show the installation. I should say at this point that the inspiration to put in this antenna came entirely from Roger M0GWM who in 2019 said it was about time I put up some antennas having lived here for 3 years. Together we came up with the idea of using a long wire. Roger also did all of the installation work including running the coax and control cables around the bungalow just under the eaves.

Not long after the installation was completed, and always being a data mode fan, I got Ian M0LQY to set up FT8 on my computer and transceiver which is controlled by an old version of Ham Radio Deluxe. I limit the power to 30W (effectively carrier power – and probably equivalent to 100W PEP for SSB) and have been very pleased with the results.

Bands 160m, 40m, 20m, 17m 15m and 10m are rock solid. 30m suffers from RFI which upsets the wired mouse on the main PC in the shack and 30m seems to be constantly trying to find a good match. SWR’s achieved on these bands are between 1.15:1 and 1.35:1 which I am very happy with.

Strangely enough I never tried top band on any mode  until Chris G3YHF encouraged me to do so on FT8. I found it fun and challenging so made it my Wythall Radio Club DXCC challenge for 2020 (55 countries on 160M at time of writing). Chris has a similar set up with slightly longer wire length and bigger earth counterpoise. Analysis of PSK Reporter reports shows he just has the edge on me when it comes to performance, so don’t let a small garden stop you working 160M – 10M!