Bad weather in – antennas down !

So in the QTH down in IO90 the met office issued their warning of bad weather. I brought my antennas down as a precaution of lightening strike. Following a couple of messages on the DX-Commander Discord channel the UK Antennas multiband end-fed was mentioned as a comparison. As such I’ve not had the time or opptunity to get it in place, and with the wire at 39 meters long would require some prep on how to get it in place !

planning the long wire across the garden

The advantage of the DX Commanderj is that all the bands are vertical each, even 80m can be done lengthening the wire. With the End-fed finding how to route 36m of wire into the space I have was a challenge.

I have made a draft and took some measurements, and in combination with some sorta beam poless and mast, think I have a working configuration !

Will post as soon as the good weather has passed, really excited to try out a new antenna

Its all change at the QTH !

So I’ve had a very busy week or two both on day-to-day 9-5 (+!) and around the shack.

I am lucky enough that I get a gardener once a month to do all the lawns and bushes, and I used the opportunity this time to take down all the antennas allowing for a very good tidy lawn.

DX Commander #1 in place, very well guyed down due to the wind we are having of late

I also wanted to try out a method of increasing gain and reception using a 2 Element Parasitic Array on the 40m band – the youtube video here is really good at explaning how the setup works. I was already lucky enough to have another DX Commander on order before Calum goes on his holiday, so I set about measuring the distances and getting the 2nd DX Commander setup for just 40m

The main difference between a parasitic array is that its just for a single band and the distance between the two is 1/4 wavelength, in this case 10m. The wire *should* be a little lower on the 40m frequency than the ‘driven’ – but I am going to double check that when it comes to more fetteling (cant ever get an antenna too perfect imho !).

As you can see in the pictures, I have followed Calum’s advice pretty much and put the radials down, doesnt matter on the 360, but the length is there for 40m. The main difference is that the radials are directly connected to the driven element plate and there is no physical wired connection between the two antennas. I did check the S.W.R. on 40m (and 15) and it was a more than acceptable 1.4:1 across the band *before* moving the radials up. (Note will be finding a cover for the SO239!)

I need to find a ‘good’ way on proving the parasitic is having the desired effect. Out of interest i did attach my rig master to it whilst transmitting WSPR on 40m and sure enough the SWR did go up, which does at least prove that its resonating a transmission on the right frequency.

In practice I gave trusty FT8 a go, and sure enough I was getting far more +db on the map than i have ever had. Now this isnt particuarly good ‘science’ as there could be so many reasons why that was happening, so i could of got lucky. But I will find (and if someone wants to add a comment please do !) on how to test the effectiveness (i’m expecting something like +3-5db gain) I’d be glad to accept it !

I have also upgraded my ‘main’ tranceiver, the reasons are multiple, but mostly the Icom 7300 got very good reviews and the price/performance balance looked amazing.

The Icom 7300 now in the shack

That is not to say that all the hard work and effort put into the Kenwood TS690-S will be wasted, absolutely not ! I have actually made another addition from Japan, this lovely microphone unit !

This pristine MC-85 came from Japan, sadly without box, but its immaculate !

I am hoping i can use the output switch between the Kenwood and Icom as this looks such a gorgeous microphone and the reviews of it are very promising.

I am going to put an end-fed multi bander on the TS-690S and having seen UK Antennas posted on the DX Commander Discord, done some research and went for it !

I have yet to install the antenna as I have moved my 2m/70cm mast to the rear garden. Putting out a big thanks to the after-sales support from Moonraker as I wanted to fully extended my 40ft antenna so i can use the 30m point as a ‘fulcrum’ for the end-fed antenna, creating a nice inverted ‘V’ to use.

Here is the mast I bought from them – the TMF-2 – it really is an amazing mast, yout get what you pay for with this. I looked at several sites, including this one on how to guy a mast. For 40ft it seemed i would need more guys – but gave the chaps at Moonraker a call to explain my mast, antenna and use, and re-located my guy-ring to a centre point on the sectional mast would be ok for a temporary antenna, with the obvious warnings for wind,etc.

I set about with my son (always good to have some help!) with getting the mast up and really well guyed in. I’m made up with the results, I’ve never seen the antenna looking so good and secure. The heavy duty base will be getting some additional ground-pegs but trust me that thing is HEAVY, its not going anywhere 🙂

40m mast with 2m/70cm J pole on top

I was able to reach all the local repeaters as before, but have yet to get a contact to check my signal report (such is VHF during the day time).

So there has been alot of change in the shack, but i’m really happy with the direction its going in !

The Quest to Reduce QRM – DSP & New PC and more in progress !

  • bit of a longer post today so grab a cup of tea is recommend, else scroll through the page until you get to the bit you want to know about

Several weeks ago I was browsing the local 2nd hand radio shop where my TS690 came from, and amazingly they had the DSP-100.

Kenwood DSP-100 – finding chicken teeth is easier

The DSP-100 is one of the first ever Digital Signal Processors. Kenwood were pretty ahead of the game when they released it. You will see all the filters and features you see in this unit in most modern transceivers, but this is (I guess) about 20+ years old, and are hard to come by. I dont mind saying this unit, 2nd hand was £333 ,which is only £40 different of what I paid for the TS690S, but what it brings to the radio is RF filtered and processed. The promise of ‘hi-fi’ quality SSB, AM, CW and RTTY was too good to pass up. And it looks gorgeous too 🙂

When I first set it up with my TS-690s I connected in my xggcomms Kenwood interface I started running into issues. I honestly believe this is no fault of the xggcomms device, but moreso on how the RS232 signal from the DSP-100 unit is processed and fed into the transceiver. Its fair to say whilst I was overjoyed in having the DSP, alot of what i do requires a good CAT connection to constantly adjust the frequency (FT8 & WSPR), so I reverted back to the Xggcomms interface only and started investigating.

Upon searching, other people had experience similar, but not identical issues. The key to fix this was the IF-232C. This translates the serial input into signals at the correct levels for the DSP & the TS690s.

Up until now I have been using a laptop, which had become increasingly over burdened with USB dongles/hubs coming out of it, also getting the computer to be ‘RF Friendly’ and grounded proved a challenge. The only way i could see to easily and reliably RF was via the USB port, and this little lenovo laptop computer already had *alot* coming out of the USB ports.

With that I decided to get a dedicated full-size ham-radio PC. Nothing expensive or new, in fact I was looking for ‘older’ models with a native DB9 Serial interface so USB to Serial issues would no longer be a problem. This HP Elite 8200 met the specification needs for what I would be using the computer for and was a reasonable price/availablity. I could add all the audio inputs and outputs to the native connectors and also use the on-board serial (or so he thought…)

HP Elite ports – native Serial Port and audio on-board

Having migrated PC i went about installing first the apps I know, namely Fl Digi and FL Rig. I have been using these for sometime for WeFax and love getting the images in. The good thing about reducing the QRM, i can visually see it has been reduced, as I will show later.

I did run into some issues with communicating with the PC, the Serial Port settings had to be changed on the PC also, by now I had also discovered i had ordered the wrong cable from RS Electronics, but have a replacement on the way. I went back to using a USB to RS232C interface for now, which after some tweaking worked. I’m sure I’m not the only person who would still setup a IF-232C, so here are the settings I used between my PC and the RS232C.

Screenshot of Windows PC Running Windows 10 and USB Prolific based RS232 connector

Incase its hard to read on the screen, heres the tabulated form

SettingValue
Bits Per Second4800
Data Bits8
ParityNone
Stop Bits2
Flow ControlHardware
AdvancedLeave FIFO Buffers at max and on
Table of Settings for the RS232 Port on Windows for Kenwood TS690S and IF232C

In the FL Rig for the Serial port the settings are as follows (Select TS450S as the transceiver) :-

SettingValue
Baud4800
2-StopBitsEnabled
PTT via CATEnabled
RTS/CTSEnabled
Retries..Byte intvDefaults
Init (Click)Connected
FLRig Settings
Kenwood DSP-100 with the IF-232C

Now I dont mind saying that I’m still learning, so understanding what filter to use when is very much a case of ‘try it and see’, but i will show a comparison between before I started all the QRM clean up and the acculmation of what I have done so far *plus* the use of the DSP-100.

WeFAX – local QRM is quite clear with the ‘banding’ visible across the otherwise clear image

As you can see in the above image, there is alot of QRM in the picture, the ‘banding’ consistant across the image, in this case probably caused by the Ethernet over Power adaptors, is very clear.

Here is a scan today, same antenna, but will all the additonal work to reduce QRM and the DSP in Receive mode filtering.

Reduced QRM, what you do see is from a fan running because its hot today 🙂

When less electical items in the house are running, namely fans, washing machines and the like here is an example image. Again, this is the same antenna, same external line filters/chokes and the DSP and recent QRM work outcome.

The ice-chart from Hamburg

The ice-chart from Hamburg is the equivlant for me as the last row on the eye-test exam. The letters on it are incredbly small and the details/dots equally so. Whilst with a zoom there is some slight distortion (so more to be gained!) there is a total absence of the QRM which was so present in the first WeFax image shown.

I am adding a MFJ-1026 to the mix now (Thank you Nevada radios, you are doing a great job during the lockdown !) and I cannot thank Steve from Xggcomms enough for the assistance he has given me. I asked Steve for some help on how would I go about connecting both the xggcomms and mfj-1026 at the same time, as they need access to the T/R Control line present on the ACC-2 port. Sure enough Steve was good enough to reply on how to do this, by way of opening up the connector and adding a connection to pin 13 and ground (I used pin 12 for ground).

From Page 22 of the TS690S user manual

I had recently performed an inventory of all the wires/cables,etc I had, so it was easy to find the phono socket I required to connect the back of the MFJ-1026 phono socket to the ACC2 DIN plug.

I first tested the connectivity between socket and plug, to ensure it would work correcly before opening up the xggcomms. I am generally unhappy about opening working equipment in that I could break it and make it unoperational, but as Steve had already offered his support should anything go wrong, i bit the bullet and went for it. Needless to say, it wasnt an easy job for me who doesnt do this type of soldering reguarly.

I had already pre-tinned and checked the continuity between socket and wire on the phono socket, so was confident that as long as I was careful I would be able to add the necessary wires to the respective pins.

I dont mind saying that upon putting the shielding on and checking before plugging in that i found that the case (which should be grounded/seperate) ended up being ‘shorted’ and no resistance was shown on the voltmeter. Undeterred I undone the case and carefully applied a small piece of masking tape across the top pins ‘tucking’ between pins to give some isolation. I apologize i didnt take a picture of this. This had the required effect and that when the casing and flexible connector were restored, the isolation between pins had been restored.

Having completed the cable, the next step is to install an external auxiliary antenna for the MFJ-1028 to match against. I considered several ideas, as in just using a simple end-fed piece of wire, to a range of ‘small’ antennas from Russia that attracted QRM to be used in this way. In the end I decided to get another DX Commander. Whilst I wont totally multi-band this will all 6 elements (in particular 80m requires alot of space) I can setup the 2nd vertical ‘auxiliary’ about 2~3 meters from the ‘transmit’. With this I should be able to ‘phase out’ both any local QRM as well as distant QRM meaning I should not only be able to get out more cleanly, i should also be able to hear and filter those very feint remote signals that currently sit ‘below’ the noise table.

As ever, I will keep posting with my battle with QRM, which I think I am winning one week at a time.

Streaming with DXCommander on 80m

Was browsing my youtube recommendations when I saw Calum was live streaming, tuned in and could hear everyone, which was really amazing to hear Calum and everyone else coming out the radio live.

Calum was ace in putting out some calls for M7’s – given the amount of people that call into his CQ’s, it was so nice that there was a gap for us on lower power (10W) to try and have a QSO.

I put in my call and Cal took his time, but i was just too quiet, see the video below.

A very faint M7ALU

Listening i can barely hear my voice, with M7 being just about audiable and i can recognize the gaps of how i would say ‘Alpha Lima Uniform’. Its a shame i couldnt get on the log book, but nethertheless provided a very exciting and good evening enjoying Calum and using the DX Commander as well.

Hopefully the restrictions on exams will soon be lifted and the extra wattage will help me get out that bit more. Fingers crossed !

DX Commander – Adding Radials

The DX Commander comes with 100m of very good wire, which is enough for making the 4 element (40,30,20,17m) vertical and some for radials. Having already bought 50 meters of wire for 80m I was still down on the count for both radials and the ‘all band’ – having complete the ‘all-band’ construction it was now time to sort the radials !

With the orignial wire and radials I had around 28-30 radials, which whilst much better than only 1 and improvement on 15, is still slighty short for 80m and also more radials=higher Db out at other wave lengths.

So what is the science about radials ? The Calum has a good video to help, and the references are very good, so I’ll put that here first.

Radial videos from Calum

So basically adding radials helps (I did try to find a video of a person fallilng off a boat getting onto a pier, but was getting to distracted…) I took 50 meters of wire (the same type I had use on the verticals) and set about making into 3.5 meter lengths, which some great help from my son Paul which saved my back alot in terms of getting up and measuring and cutting !

With the cutting done, it was time to return indoors for strip, crimp and solder !

I then returned outdoors to install the addtional elements. I doubled up on one existing element, but had a pretty decent fan of 3.5m wire elements going on now.

I’d need to an exact recount (will do so later) but I think I now have enough radials to accomodate the 80m vertical.

With having added the radials it was time to test ! For this I use FT8 as it has a great map and includes a signal report when a QSO is complete.

Reaching Kuwait on 17m

I was now reaching Kuwait on 17M and even better was that I could see the call sign in my WSJTX screen – i had to give it a try ! And sure enough within a few minutes (this guy was was getting alot of QSO’s in) I had made contact !

Contact with 9K2OW in Kuwait – a staggering 2,888 miles on 10 Watts of power !

So i think i could continue to add more radials, but for now I’m happy with how the DX Commander is performing and the radials are performing their function. I will investigate more ‘science’ based ways of radial performance, but his helps for now !

DX Commander – all bands & fettling

So its been a bank holiday here in the UK and its allowed me to work on quite a few different things (including re-wiring the Mazda Bongo door looms). When I got the DX Commander it came with enough wire for 4 verticals and the radials to support it, but I purchased some more wire from Radio World, namely the Watson Radio Products EQ Equipment Wire which goes for 40 per meter. I used Radio World as I had other bits and bobs coming from them as well, and my word, they are so QUICK to deliver (UPS Everything !).

I checked from the list what additonal wires I would need to make up., in this case only the 10m and 12m. Having learned from trying to measure the wire indoors I now measure all my wire outside. I have 3 meter workmans metal tape which so far has done me brilliantly in getting accurate measurements.

Wire (Frequency M)Length to cut
10m250cm
12m284cm
wire to cut for 10m & 12m

Having cut the cable I could set about using my new crimping tool I had got from Amazon, the Vastar 2 in 1 Insulated Ratcheting Wire Terminals Crimper (AWG23-10,AWG23-7. The reviews and price (£26.99)really hooked me, given how much just the connectors cost from Halfords.

So the first part was to obviously lower the mast, and then remove the existing wires, Going from 4 to 6 requires adjustment as per DX Commanders docs (pg 2) here.

I also reprinted all new labels, removing the existing ones. One thing I didnt do orginally was to put labels on the bottom plate, so this time I would ! First I organized the cables so they was easy to pick up add, not having things on the floor and in a mess really adds to health and saftey when doing this kind of work.

wires in respective order of frequency (10,12,17,20,40,80 – the long green monster!)

With the mast lowered I followed the instructions and relocated the SO239 feed wire and the 80m connection

movement of feed wire and labelling up

What really helps is the DX Commander stickers. On my spreaders i do them so that they should be aligned when looking down the mast, this gives me a good point of reference.

To start with I just feed the 80m wire up to where it would be for 30m and taped it down. I then worked around the mast feeder positions adding labels as I worked in each new wire.

Now the DX Commander/Calum does say that the clips used on the paracord are hard to undo once set, as I found. Having to try and extract one, manage to break a clip, and I had no spares. So, i thought, well superglue it is then ! With using the YOCTOSUN Hands Free Magnifier, i was able to get it to glue pretty much back on. I was then with the existing cut paracorde and elastic cable to add the other elements which required some vertical tensile strength.

I continued to add all the elements and was happy with the tension and how tidy they are. I also took some time to put some tape around the clips where sometimes the wind will blow and wires get caught in the juberliee clips. As I’m not taking the mast down and collapsing, this wont effect me in the short-term.

With assistance from my son, we got the mast vertical and I could start adding the existing radials I have. I add the radials in a N/E/S/W layout starting from the feed point, and adding where i have capacity. I also done a ground-visual of the 2m/70cm with my iphone (10x max zoom) and could see it was in good shape up there after I had raised it on Friday.

Testing and Results

So the next step would be to test. For this i used the two main data modes I currently use, being FT8 and WSPR. I used WSJTX v2.1.2 and finding a ‘gap’ to press the ‘tune’ button. This would give me repeatable results. I am using the TS-690S internal SWR reading and a 2nd hand HF SWR Transceiver (YW-3) for the external readings.

BandSWR TransceiverSWR MeterNotes
101.11.3
122.280
171.41.6
20OFFSCALE2.5RX is very clear 5/9
402.21.1
802.11
160OFFSCALETo be expected
30OFFSCALE80m wire ?
151.63Does the VV-3 work at this frequency ?
122.13
FT8 Testings with new elements on 10+12m and resonant frequencies/others in WSJTx
BandSWR TransceiverSWR MeterNotes
1011.25 Watts is the min setting on the transmit
1222.5
171.31.3
20OFFSCALE
402.91.1
801.51.1
160N/A
30N/A
151.41.5
1222.1

I am really impressed with the S.W.R. on all the bands, whilst 20M gave a high reading, i suspect that the curve on this band is quite specific. Reception is very strong, so the wire is doing its job in selecting the fequency nicely.

Whilst I wasnt expecting 160m and 30m to be available, for thorughness and future recording, added them (should of done 6m in hindsight). I was happy to see 15m and 12m resonating nicely with low S.W.Rs on of 1.6 and 2.1 respectively.

I will upload a gallery as there is so much evidiential data to show,so browse thru at your lesuire.

DX Commander Build – Day 4 – fettling

So after having so much fun on 40m, I wanted to get the rest of the wires up

So far I have 40 and 30m up (the longest wires), with 40M getting the most use on FT8 (Plenty of contacts logged, and several confirmed via QRZ!)

I had two remaining shorter cables to mount, the 20 and 17. 20 was of particular interest as it has so much going on and seems busy day or night !

Before adjusting the antenna i done a quick test on 20m, and the S.W.R was way off the meter on the radio, so was very much needed if I was going to get out.

I set about re-measuing the wire and 20m required no correction thankfully and 17 only need 6cm adding, which I set about doing. I brought the mast down and rewired.

I started the transceiver and put wsjtx onto 20m. Sure enough within a few minutes, i had made contact in Poland on 20m with a very good db result.

I’ve not tested 17 yet but I’m equally confident that I will be able to get out.

As per previous exercise, here are the S.W.R. measurements with 4 elements up

MetersMid Frequency (Mhz)S.W.R.
40m7.11.52
30m10.1151.21
20m14.21.53
17m18.111.34
Amateur frequency readings after adjustments

So I am very satisified with my DX Commander – I may replace 30m with 80m, but at the moment I have plenty of frequencys and modes to work, even with 10W of power. Thank you Calum the DX Commander for this amazing antenna system !

DX Commander Build – Day 3 (pm)

My next mission was to get the 40m band working. This is a very popular band and has so much on it, CW, Data Modes, Voice, so being able to receive and send is my objective on HF this frequency.

The previous SWR readings gave me confidence that the cable wasnt that far out, and for sure, it only need 6cm adding, so as I had measured I set about adding 6 cm of cable.

After taking down, re-erecting I am pleased with the SWR report from the NanoVNA (i done the recalibration just to make sure !)

1.04 SWR on 7.2Mhz

It really was worth the effort to get such a great reading – my buddipole setup could get down low, usually around 1.7~2.5 reading, good but not as good as this !

I hooked up the mast to the Kenwood and the amount and strength of signals was staggering (at approx 17:15 BST) – as I understand it 40m is a ‘daytime’ frequency for its best performance.

nothing about 1.5 for the entire 40m frequency

With my battle for low SWR being slowly won, I now have to listen, and listen alot to operators to see how they communicate. I cant wait for my first QSO, but know this will be harder than my 2m setup !

I have two more wires to go, but with 40m and 30m (the longest wires) I’m confident I can get the other frequenices all finely tuned before the week is out !

Until then 73;s

M7ALU

DX Commander Build – Day 3

So its been another lovely sunny day down here in the QTH, but with a full day of work means a few hours in the morning and a couple in the evening to get things sorted.

Having done my analysis yesterday, I set about checking the mast. Whilst long winded, I had to be pragmatic and methodical in my approach to ensure progress was made.

  • take mast down
  • remove all wires
  • measure wire outside with long tape measure
  • compare to instructions, correct as required
  • mount and test
  • repeat for each wire

So having yesterdays results I took the mast down, which wasn’t too bad on my own given the mast is so light and guyed relatively low (well compared to the 2m/70cm mast which requires steps just to start! I disconnected all the wires, which was quite quick, then set about measuring the 30m wire.

With the accuracy of laying flat outside there was some 40cm of wire missing, so i cut some, re-soldered back on and reconnected, then re-erected the mast and radials.

I returned inside for testing with the NanoNVA – SWR still 5.5 – agggh ! What had I done wrong ?! so i went to check the basics, like connections,etc. All good there. I then tested the NanoNVA against the 2m antenna, SWR is fine. Then i though, could the other mast effect the DX Commander, surely not, but to make sure kept flipping the tester between antennas.. then it ‘hit’ me.. maybe i should recalibrate the NanoNVA for 30M. I set about doing that then…

30m – 1.76 SWR

Huzzah ! So, it maybe that I need to recalbirate for each frequency, or may not, anyway, to rule that out going forward thats what I’m going to do so the step plan becomes.

  • take mast down (leaving known good wire on)
  • measure removed wire, make corrections as required (lengthen/shorten)
  • re-measure wire to confirm length
  • attach to mast and erect
  • test previous frequency is still working on the correctly
  • re-calibrate NanoVNA for new frequency
  • test

Hopefully I will get the 40, 30 and17 completed today now i have a method, but another busy day of work is about to begin !

DX Commander Build – Day 2

So day two of the DX Commander started with a few more things to build/cut indoors (radials & pipe clamp aqua tubing) then it was off outside to the garden. It is a really glorious day outside, and Covid 19 is still with us. I feel very lucky to have a nice garden to work in and do my amateur radio pursits !

I started off with taking the coax from the ‘shack’ to rougly the area I wanted to install the mast. At 30 meters long, there distance from the shack on ground was good, and once roughly in place could do a saftey assement before going further (overhead cables, what-if scenarios, area is clear/tidy already, aware of other mast/guy ropes).

Once I was happy that I could work safely, i then set about putting the guy rope stakes into the ground, in this case some heavy duty tent pegs that I have used both on my buddipole and rather large 6 men tent (this should be going up this week to help with us going outside safely). It was time to unfurl the full length of the dx commander !

Once the dx-commander was extended and lock, and it is a very good lock action with a sturdy ‘twist’ on each section, i put electrical tape on each join just above the lock. I think this has two functions 1) stop rain water from getting into the lower section 2) protect the fibreglass pipe from the clamps.

I used a wheelie bin and water vat to support during the build – to start with just putting it on was good enough, later i put some bricks loosely around the tail end (base) to help.

I then set about attaching the plates for connecting the radials and verticals. This simply screws onto the bottom. In hind sight I should of labelled the initial feed points for the verticals as well, maybe something I will do post-install when i start tweeking and get basic operating working.

I had pre-made the jubilee clips and soaked them in warm water. Whislt the lengths are given in the instructions, i just went for broke and made them so they fitted, i was happy with the results ! On a personal note, i really dislike jubilee clips, they are fiddly and usually try to find alternatives, in this case tho they do look to be the right part for the job, with the tape and aqua tubing (good idea Cal!) and careful tightening would be ok.

With the pole extended and it starting to take shape, i had a break and enjoyed my surroundings, including the breeze and how well the 2m/70cm mast was doing, it really is a great mast (still need to write the write up of that…) The garden is starting to come alive with srping and the warm weather, it really is a lovely place to relax.

It was now time to start installing the verticals – whilst I had taken the time to label the guide, i hadnt done the plate, but the documentation is very good, so i refereed one more time to my print out. I had the lengths already pre-cut and labelled, although I would find out later on the ‘M7ALU wire cutting factory’ QA processes needed some review !

I feed 40m and 30m thru first being the longest and using electrical tape as needed to keep it in place ‘just for now’. I did have to undo the jubilee clips and put the guiding plates on correctly once more, but no big problem there ! I added some bricks for support to (try) stop the mast rolling off the bin.

So with the verticals fed thru it was time to mount them. I read the instructions a couple of times but was still struggling with getting the penny to drop, so headed indoors. I watched this excellent video to get some help

great section on how to install the verticals, great video overall !

With that I made some scribblings and had a better idea of how to use the supplied clips, rope and elasticcord. But where was the elasticcord.. I checked the list, yep I had checked it off, but I could find it no where, several times of going in and out I couldnt locate it ! I then thought, well, where did I last see it, then went back to my photo album on my iphone, there it was, i knew what i was looking for at least now ! So.. one of the things that happens is that I look for stuff, and cant find it and its actually right there in front of me – this was the case here ! After going in and out 3 times, i found it, unfurled, but exactly where I had left it ! Hidden in plain site, or just stupid.. lol.

I set about cutting lengths and using some of what i had learned from the video, it then struck me that the lengths of the lower verticals were almost identical.. .hmm, thats not right ! So i set about remeasuring with them taught and in place. Yep, sure enough I had added 1 meter to many to 17m ! I measured several times, then cut once more – perfect (he thought..) and attached the cord again, now that looked better. Suprisingly 20m was cut perfectly, even with the fold over !

I remeasured 40 and 30m, 30m was way off by another meter, so cut that to length again, then made tight with the paracord and rope. Once understood this is a really great system and keeps the verticals very tidy on the mast (he said…).

With that I brought the radials out and got them kind of tidy on the stairs, ready for attaching once the mast was about to go up.

With the assitance of my son Paul (who was playing some lovely tunes, not too loud, and heavy enough to enjoy) we go the mast up. The mast is very light, even with everything on it, but having two peole very much helps with health and safety aspect of the installation until the mast is guy’ed up nicely.

So with the mast up, it was really great to see it looking so good. Paul and I admired the view of the mast, whilst I was observing the effect of the wind and ensuring the guy ropes were doing their job correctly ! Everythign in physical construction worked really well, and don’t mind saying felt quiet proud of getting to this stage ! I attached all the radials, having dodgy knees and a hip these were phyiscally quiet a pain to install, but nethertheless, was easy enough. I can see why more permenant installations have these underground though.

With everyting in place it wsa time to start the analysis ! I did say to Paul before hand, if this works, it will be like the oscillisope, a minor miracle – as there are so many components that could make it not work..

So i connected the NanoNVA to the feed wire in the ‘shack’ and as half to be expected the results on the amateur frequncies were quite some bit off. I also noted down the frequency of where the lowest S.W.R reading was, as this can guide in where the issues are.

Frequency (Mhz)S.W.R Result
5.6562.17
10.4765.14
14.3322.95
18.1864.42
21.5623.17
33.6122.85
43.2522.46
lowest SWR readings and associated frequencies

I then tuned the VNA to the amateur frequncies and recorded the midway S.W.R. reading, 20m could be useable for putting RF up, but 40, 30 and 17 were a long way off being safe to use. I like the SWR to be below 3, but for me 1.5 is my target. Even with 10W I would probably damage something and probably wouldnt get out very well as most of the RF power wouldnt be going into the elements.

MetersMid Frequency (Mhz)S.W.R
40m7.15.4
30m10.155.6
20m14.23.01
17m18.114.52
Amateur frequncy SWR readings

With the data in hand, i went to use the excellent DX Commander S.W.R. calculator to either cut or add. Unsuprisingly it was clear that I had too much cable on the mast. This spreadsheet really did make it simple when armed with all the correct data though, so thanks Cal!

I have noticed that the top 40m and 30m elements have become twisted around the top of the mast, so I will first untangle those before cutting to see what the results are like.

Not to be discouraged, i could still use my mast for listening and I could set about setting up my little Windows laptop to control the Kenwood via CAT control.

So there will be another day of tweaking and fiddling to get the SWR right down and there are a few more ‘final’ fittings to put on the DX Commander, but overall I’m really satisfied with the progress and just how good the DX Commander is.

More coming soon !