Saturday, May 29, 2010

A homebrew single paddle CW key

With the heavy rain outside, I was never going to get much outdoor work done today, so I decided to take on a homebrew project. I need a second CW key for the shack because at the moment I have to switch my Kent paddle from the Yaesu FT-1000MP to the FT-897 whenever I am changing from HF to 6 metres.

So I took a trip to Homebase and had a look around for parts which might be useful in making a CW paddle. I purchased a box of hacksaw blades (for the paddle), a press latch (to hold the blades), two small picture hooks (to act as contacts) and the rest I had in the shack, including a block of wood, some wire, a small stereo jack and some lock parts to act as wire holders.

My soldering is not exactly wonderful so I found getting the wire onto the small 1.25mm jack a little bit tedious, but I got there. I did not make any solders on the CW paddle itself - rather I just made secure contacts with the wire using screws. I drilled all the holes for the screws after the first block of wood split!! (Lesson for you all maybe!)

After about an hour I had a completed homebrew single-paddle morse key. All I needed to do was test it, so I took it to the shack and plugged it into the back of the FT-897. To my surprise, it worked first time. I made some contacts on 15m in the WPX CW contest, so it's definitely working fine. It will take a bit of getting used to though. I am used to the double-paddle key, which is a lot bigger, heavier and more robust. The homebrew key is a little 'light' on the touch, but fine nonetheless.

Above is a photo of my creation. I shall call it the 'EI2KC CW key Mk I' (Prototype!). Total cost: Less than 15 euro.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just a brief update on things

I was CQing on 40 metres on Wednesday night while simultaneously broadcasting live on the internet via webcam on my page and also on UStream live. I pulled in about 50 contacts between 10pm and about 11.30pm. It was great fun. A total of 153 viewers stopped by to have a look at the station, with anything up to 15 at one given time viewing via the webcam. Thanks for all the contacts - I got a few new ones for 40m including 9H Malta, 7U Algeria and LX Luxemburg.

I took delivery of a Yaesu FT-897 yesterday (Thursday) to serve as my main 6 metre rig and also my secondary HF rig for the main shack. I haven't had much time to try it out, but did manage a quick test on 6 metres with Thos EI2JD and everything seems fine. I will give a further update hopefully over the weekend. The 897 gives 100w output on 6 metres and I already have a dipole for that band so hopefully there will be some openings over the weekend and I can let you all know how I get on.

Gerry, formerly EI3GWB, is now EI5KC following his passing of the morse exam at the recent Dundalk rally. Congratulations Gerry - delighted for you - and welcome to the KC club !!!

Darragh EI8IZ is now up and running on the HF bands thanks to an antenna installation by Tony EI4DIB - welcome to the HF bands Darragh and hope you get plenty of DX. He is also re-learning CW and hopes to make his first morse contacts this weekend. Best of luck with it.

Thos EI2JD is top of the pile on 6 metres for the EIs in terms of number of DXCCs worked. As of this moment in time he has worked 22 countries. I, on the other hand, am on a lowly five!! But I've only just started - give me time !!! Check our progress on the 6 metre marathon page.

Dundalk Amateur Radio Society (DARS) will be activating King John's Castle Carlingford, Co.Louth on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th May 2010. HF, VHF and UHF bands will be use during the weekend and WAI, EI counties and CASHOTA will be logged. Our callsign EI7DAR/P will be activated for the station.

DARS have been invited by the organizers of the Carlingford Oyster Festival to demonstrate Amateur Radio to the public. Carlingford will be a hive of activity over the weekend as "A taste of Carlingford" is taken place located in and around the Medieval Village of Carlingford. A Taste of Carlingford is a 2 day celebration of fine food and drink. Set in the idyllic surroundings of the Medieval village of Carlingford, all the restaurants, bars and café's will provide visitors to the village a taste of the wonderful range of cuisine on offer, in a veritable market place of little tents and stalls. Artisan food suppliers will provide further treats and colour.

Still no word on my stolen mobile antenna, the Watson Multi-Ranger 9, which was carefully screwed off the roof of my car some time between Monday night 11.30pm, May 10th and 12:30am, Tuesday May 11th. I have since replaced it with the Watson Multi-Ranger 200 which also covers 30m, 17m and 12m. If anyone has information about the stolen Watson, I can be contacted by email at hamradioireland (AT) gmail (DOT) com. Thanks.

That's all for now. Anything more and this would become an essay!!

73 and meet you on the bands,
de EI2KC.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

At long last - my first contacts on 6 metres!!

Following a tip-off from EI2JD Thos that 6m was opening I went to the car at lunchtime and, sure enough, could quickly hear that there was some activity. I only had half an hour (lunch break from work!) so I kept to CW because it was easier to hear. My very first contact was SQ1DWR on 50.091.5 in JO73GK. It was great to get him into the log. Thanks for my first ever 6m QSO!!

At 13:33 local time I nabbed DL1LQR in JO61MG. I was calling as EI2KC/P in IO64TA.

I got some nice contacts into Sweden - SM7CFR (JO76DX), SM7GVF (JO77GA), SM6DVG (JO66GV) and SM5CEU (JO78QF), who kept giving me "FB FB" and we were both 599!

My last contact was OM5MZ at 14:06 local time on 50.093.5 with 559 reports each way. That made it four countries in total on my first session on 50Mhz!! Unfortunately due to work I had to leave the car even though the band was still open. However, I am hoping to purchase a Yaesu FT-897 for the shack in the coming days which will give me 100w out on 6m on the dipole so I will have 6 metres at home and portable/mobile.

Hope to meet you on the bands! 73 de EI2KC.

PS: The map shows how busy 6m was just before I headed over to the car. Thanks to which is a great website.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

6 metres open into Germany, Croatia

Brian EI4KC phoned me within the past hour to say he was working into 9A and DL on 6 metres. I listened in as he called CQ on 50.161 and he had some very strong German stations calling him. Sounds like a good opening. Unfortunately I cannot partake as I am working . . . :(

As you can see from the image, it's a very busy scenario. I hope it stays open till this evening and I might get a chance at my first QSO on 6.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Some Echo Indias working Europe on six metres

There have been a number of EIs working into Europe this afternoon on 6m, which encourages me to give a shout out on 50.150 USB on the way home from work. I checked the band at lunchtime from the car (Icom 706MkII, 20w, Watson multi-band whip on magmount) and could not hear anything although I did work into LA and SM on 10m CW and into OZ on 12m SSB. The EI0SIX beacon in Kildare has been heard a number of times, most often in Germany.

The map (from VHFDX) shows where the concentration of activity is on the band, with a lot of Germany, Poland, Slovakia etc on the east working into France, the UK and Ireland on the west.

Will today be the day I get my first QSO on 6 metres?

Stay tuned . . . . .

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Yaesu FT-1000MP repaired thanks to EI7BA & EI4DIB

My heartiest thanks are due to John EI7BA for his help in talking me through disassembling my Yaesu FT-1000MP and doing a repair job to VCO 1 which had led me to being inoperable on 160m, 80m and 40m. John talked me through opening the radio and getting deep inside it over Skype - and all from memory!! Apparently this is a common problem with the FT-1000MP, and is usually to do with a dry or faulty solder on one of the VCO coils. Tony EI4DIB arrived just as I had removed the VCO board and was able to help with a wee bit of soldering. We put it all back together in jig time and - hey presto - it was working!! I'm thrilled.

Without their help, I would have had to pack the rig up carefully and post it off at great expense to the UK for a repair job which would no doubt have cost a couple of hundred quid. And I would have been without a main HF rig in the shack. So thanks again lads, and especially to John EI7BA whose expert guidance got us to the crux of the problem. I'm very grateful.

The video above is very brief (I had to concentrate on the job in hand!). You can hear John talking me through it and you'll also see Tony with the VCO board in his hand before we repaired it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nice late opening into Martinique on 17 metres

There was a good opening very late into the Caribbean on 17m last night at around 10:40UTC (11:40pm local time). Here was FM5DN who heard me on my first call. There were three other Martinique stations on 14m SSB at the same time but they were working quite a hefty pile-up from Europe so I didn't bother even trying!! It was nice to get FM into the log again on 17m though.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spaghetti Junction on 6 metres - but nothing for Ireland

It must have been one heck of a day on 6 metres across Europe, according to VHF DX. However, with all the openings and the huge amount of contacts made, there was not one single QSO made with an EI. I monitored 6 metres at regular intervals during the day. I did hear Brian EI4KC CQing on 50.090.00 CW and gave him a QSO but nothing else. What a pity. I hope the band opens significantly in EI during the next week or so. I'm looking forward to my first QSO out of Ireland . . .

Got some EI0W contest action last night

Here is a video from the webcam at the EI0W contest station. I was at the mic on 80m SSB at the time and was called by EI8JB, Charlie. This was the CQ-M contest, and my first real piece of contest action with EI0W.

Watch live video from ei1429's channel on

Friday, May 7, 2010

One sick Yaesu FT-1000MP . . .

I have a sick FT-1000MP. Last night there was suddenly no TX or RX on 160m or 80m in either SSB or CW. All the other bands were fine. Then I was listening to Argentina on 40m and suddenly that band disappeared too. The receive just dropped away and I had no TX either. I turned on the rig first thing this morning and everything was fine. I had TX and RX on 160m and 80m and 40m. But after about only three minutes, 160m and 80m were gone again.

If anyone can help me diagnose what's wrong with the radio, I'd be greatly appreciative.

UPDATE: I can hear 40m on Sub VFO-B but cannot TX on it. Same with 80m. Same with 160m. However, I can only RX on these bands when I have the same band selected on BOTH VFO A and VFO B!! If I select, for instance, 40m on VFO A and 80m on VFO B, nothing. But if I select 40m and 40m on A and B I can hear audio no problem. Hmmmm . . .