Tidying the shack Day 2

Its been a busy end of the week in the QTH – generally tidying up, or in the process of ! After doing a number of supporting activties, I continued to tidy the shack up !

The first task was to clear enough space for the new shelving. I used the static space where my current corner desk is to give enough clearance.

Having got a nice clear space, i then set about hoovering – there was so much dust !

As on queue, the racking arrived from Amazon – time for both me and doggo to get some exercise before building the racking !

Sweety enjoying a sniff in the park

Having enojyed a break and a nice walk in the park with Sweety, i set about builidng the first set of racks. These a shelves/racks that can go 1.8m high, i used them in a half-form factor to create two desks. Having ordered two of these, I was able to create two ‘desks’ with middle shelves, and two others with a nice bit of capacity. The build was quite straight forward and was able to complete with just a rubber mallet.

As time and the day drew on, it was time to start organizing the basic placement of where things will live, or thereabouts, freeing up the my desk and allowing me to continue working.

Having applied a number of layers of conductive tape to the top-most layer of the shelving to get started, i was able to return the radios and start placing the other items in their general locations. I was quite satisfied with the days work given the extent of how disorganized it was at the start of the day. I’m hoping I will get the cable management attached to the relevant loctions and hopefully be back on the air by Monday evening, with at least the 7300, WSPR Raspberry Pi and KiwiSDR.

QRM / Tidying the Shack

So for the first time in a VERY long time (aka YEARS) I’ve had the luxury of a week off work. During the week I found a USB extender was producing a horrific amount of QRM. The offending item has since been disconnected.

I went on to survey my ‘shack’ and that I had ‘allowed’ QRM to ‘sneak’ back in. I was a bit disappointed in myself to be honest as I had spent allot of time and money on virtually eliminating interference, both man-made and natural when I had my TS690S setup as my only station. I was just not paying attention to what I was putting in the shack.

So to make up for my lack of attention, I wanted to understand why this had come about. Mostly the biggest problem is the ease to just add things in and not test them, only to find out they are ruining a hobby I really love.

QRM Identified via KiwiSDR

Looking around the shack I really noticed how even tho I had moved much of the music equipment out, it was still as not as organised as I would like it. Did I need all these computers ? Do I use them regularly, is my setup optimal in terms of service ? For many of the computers, especially my older mac, i really no longer needed it and many smaller projects have come and past.

I looked around our whole house and many things had changed since we moved here, so maybe it was just as good to take a holistic look and think ‘how can i solve this’. With that I rented some storage space nearby.

Storage space not far from the QTH

I was really able to take a big “bite” out of all the things around the house and no longer using. I wont share the pictures on here as its not strictly radio related, but fair to say I made good use of the space and freed up alot of space around the QTH.

This in turn allowed me to think about back in the shack. How can I get desks/working areas tidy and serviceable. I’ve been using computer tables mostly that dont really have the best storage on them, leading to problems of not putting RF chokes on them and ensuring the QRM was reduced. I put too much trust in the power strip RF filter to think it would fix all my QRM issues – obviously it would not.

First call – Ferrite, lots of it and the right sort. Whilst I have VHF/UHF transceivers, allot of my work is on HF. I researched the best ‘general’ ferrite for HF, and think that FT140-43 will reduce/eliminate the RF from getting in and out of the devices. With that I ordered 40 FT140-43 from Qubits. Now *everything* that is in my shack will at least have these ferrites on the power supply/leads, if not more.

I then looked at the desks. I need them to be serviceable. The power-tray racking helped, but I was still having cable management issues, and as us radio operators know, having loops of wire here and there is a great way to introduce unwanted QRM into the shack.

I ordered these Garage Shelving Unit from Amazon which can be split to make a nice height desk and storage space, reducing the amount of ‘wire tangle’ and allowing me to have small boxes to tidy things away.

I’ve also got Aluminium Foil Tape to cover the working surfaces with to ‘bond’ transceivers to desks. This had worked really well when i done it with my TS690S and having the cables from the transceiver neatly on the metal conductive surface the cables was reduced loops massively.

So I will have a very busy weekend coming up to finish up my ‘week off’ but hopefully a shack that is not only free from QRM, but is also tidy and serviceable. I promise to upload pics 🙂

Stay safe, keep well.

Alan / 2E0FWE

The ‘coolest’ FT8 contact yet ?

Was one of those nights when I couldn’t get my head down after a great Easter bank holiday weekend, so had a little play on FT8 in the small hours. Having used WSJT-X for quite some time I wanted to experiment with other FT8 software, and gave JTDX a try. I followed the setup documents and was soon transmitting and receiving. Some say JTDX has better decode than WSJT-X – I think time will tell.

Tonight (Or is that very early this morning) I had what must be the coolest FT8 contact yet tho

DT8A – 8482 mi on the South Shetland Islands

I have never heard of the “South Shetland Islands” until they appeared in the JTDX log – I was quick to click and respond, then patiently wait in the hope my call got responded to. Sure enough, with a few minutes and on 20 watts of power DT8A responded and my signal report was received. What I do with all FT8 contacts is to check the QRZ page and read up to add a little more ‘this is more than just a signal report’ to the QSO, I was amazed at DT8A’s page and the fantastic photos !

In particular as my good lady is South Korean, I found it very interesting that Mr Lee was stationed in such a remote part of the world !

So glad to have reached Mr Lee and I hope his work/research in the South Shetlands goes really well !

Triband Yagi Day 1 & 2

With the Easter weekend and good weather it was a good chance to get the multiband Yagi installed. It has been sitting in my garden since it was *missing parts* which then had to be ordered and paid for from the original supplier in the Netherlands.

I’ve had the rotator and coax for VHF/UHF for some time as well so was really looking forward to bringing it all together.

RCA Rotator

The rotator was purchased from Farnell, no longer available, but ‘RCA VJ226E’ may find some sources on the Internet. warning – my unit came from the US so requires a step convertor for UK usage for 240v -> 110v.

I really liked the instructions for the unit, clear and easy to follow, unlike the sketch-sheet of poorly presented documents that came with the GB-3 Yagi, which looked like something a DIY or student would put together. May the instructions from DX-Engineering on their Hustler just spoiled me..

I started with assembling the rotator indoors and checking the necessary parts. I didnt have a long enough run of coax cable for the feed line, but was quickly sorted out by a local dash to B&Q for “Time Black 3 core Multi-core cable 1.5mm² x 50m” – this is meeting or exceeding the specification required for the unit. I’m approximatting 10 meters of ground-feed and about the same going vertical.

terminals 1, 2,3

Whilst the instructions used black/red/green, i swapped out for ‘live/netural/earth’ but the thing to ensure is that the colours both ends are the same.

Once I Had completed the wiring and had a clear idea of how to mount the rotator mast, i set about how to mount the yagi.

Because an extensive amount of time would be at about ground level I invested in a support so i could work at height with better saftey than just a ladder.

Abbey 5 Way Multi Purpose Platform and Scaffold Combination Ladder

At £114.99 the Abbey 5 Way Multi Purpose Platform and Scaffold Combination Ladder from Amazon would do the job, and also allow me to work on the higher parts of the Mazda Bongo that I have.

Construction was simple enough with a few bolts and rods to put in place. I’m not a ‘light’ person and getting on the first time was a challenge. I used another smaller step ladder to get on and off, which helped. Using one end to get on and off from helped with usign the strength of the frame as a support.

Having got the working platform up, i mounted the rotator onto the mast, this wasnt as easy as I thought as some of the clip-sections blocked the rotator, but with some fine adjustments, was able to get the rotator on.

I went back over all the nuts and bolts at ground level on the Yagi to ensure they was of good tightness, and brought the Yagi over to the mast to assess how to raise it. With help, I was first able to attach the Yagi onto the mast. I checked it from ground level and could see that some cables would get caught so with help raised the yagi slightly up the support mast by about 1 foot allowing more distance for the cables on the Yagi.

I ran the electrical feed wire back to the QTH and then noticed that the power is 110v – I’ve ordered Tacima SC5474W/BP Step Down Voltage Convertor which at a 50 Watt rating is easily over double what the rotator will draw.

I done some preliminary SWR readings using the Rig Expert Stick Pro. I bought the Stick Pro to accompany my HF AA-55 Zoom, which doesnt have 2m or 70cm capability.

For a first attempt I was happy with the SWR readings with no adjustments. I think the next step will be to connect different coaxes and measure their losses, which at VHF/UHF coax can have a real difference.

I’m looking forward to testing out the rotator and seeing how good the gain is on the antenna – with a J-Pole I was able to reach Blandford, Southampton and of course the local repeaters.