Was lucky enough to have a few extra hours of sunlight to get work on the antenna done as my house was having an electrical certification inspection (i.e. no power on at all) for a couple of hours.
In that time i set about rigging the rest of the nebula !
One thing I did not anticipate is how much the trees would interfere with the rope. I was glad i had this extra hour or two to take my time and just focus/learn about the rigging. I started off with the ‘^’ of the triangle in the rigging on stage 2, that went really well with the rope and could hitch it with a carabina no problem. Continuing with the nearside left hitch point, which is too tight, i was able to connect this to stage 2 without problem, where as stage 2 right side required a bit of work to get the rope thru the trees, but a quick bit of of trimming and I was connected !
The mast was quite a bit off center, but it was good to practice and see where this was. Having not ‘rigged’ a mast this tall before it was a question of take it down and put it up each time to get the rope lengths in a good approximate distance. This worked reasonably well and I’m building up a better procedure of bringing the mast down without tangling the ropes.
Undoubtedly I will need to spend more time on the ropes to give them a better ‘balance’ I think the main culpurate is the bottom left point (if you draw a ^ and take the tip as front-center). AS the guying distance is just before 5m its slightly asked compared to the other amount of seperation the other guy-stakes have, but I will be able to correct this so it doesn’t ‘tug’ at the mast and it will be vertical in all directions.
Overall for an hours work i was happy to get all the guy ropes attached. The picture above exaggerates the tilt somewhat as its on .5 zoom and naturally ‘bends’ the shot somewhat more (as you can tell from the bricks in the house). I will get my spirit level out and get the mast truly vertical and set about adding the vertical elements.
Still, i’m still learning and enjoying every moment of it. Fingers crossed will have the nebula on the air not before too long !
So as predicted I’ve been flat out with assingments/revision for an exam on Monday at Uni.
Having had taken Sweeety (our dog) for a walk, the weather was really nice – cold but bright and more importantly no wind. Having received the heavy duty guying kit in the week and now with the necessary tools to tighten the small clamps, though I would take 30 minutes/hour out to just get the antenna erected with the metal guying ropes.
I first started with the worst rope, where i have tied two piece together. As much as I trust my knots, this was the first one to address I could then work on the other two ‘front’ supports.
In no time I had the guy-wire measured out and firmly attached to the hitching post. As you can see that is not going to come loose any time soon, but there is quite a bit of excess wire as its designed for a 10m high mast, where as I’m at about 3.5m vertical on the first attachement point.
The tilt base really did make a huge difference in doing this work, it was so much easier in being able to push the mast up each time and then guy each hitching post. The end result was a very stable mast, even with only rigging point. Nethertheless I will still continue to guy up attachment points 3 & 4 with rope.
i even had time to make a quick video, and got the orientation right !
Overall, i’m happy with the weeks progress, in doing small jobs thruout the weak, such as painting the base, cutting the radials and then at any opputnity i had to get the mast up.
Hopefully next week should be slightly less busy out of office hours and will still have my lunch break to doing small jobs.
I think for next week i will do
cut 80, 40 and 20m vertical wires
solder into groups the radials (need to see how many radial attachemen t points i can use)
then sat/sun complete guying 2 & 3, attach radials & 80, get first S.W.R. reading.
So making good time of my lunch break, i set about creating the lengths of wire required for the radials.
The guide advises 10m radial lengths and 30 from teh supplied wire, with 60 being me the optimal for 80m. I took the wire from the delivered kit and set about it !
So i had time to checkout the base whilst i was in the garden, and apart from the part i couldnt reach, it looks a fairly decent job. I’ll be completing the rest tomorrow in my lunch break as its now flat on the ground as the underside is painted. I used my trust surveyors tape measure, i can really recommend getting one of these if you are making wire-based antennas, it saves so much cutting/adding later on. I pinned down at 10m10cm to allow a bit of room for cutting and soldering the hook connectors on.
I used two mast-brackets to create a ad-hoc spool system – it really made life easy in pulling out the 30 lengths of 10m wire. I have some other spools of wire also, but they are a little larger, but the ones supplied by callum are a really good size to ‘work’ with.
I was glad in the time i had to get all the lengths cut, so I can *hopefully* make a start on creating probably them into groups of 4 (will check how many connectors i have). I’ve ordered 500 meters of wire from Sotabeams, its not as ‘heavy’ as the wire callum provided, but good enough for radials, so i should be able to create the 60 radials for optimum 80m performance. The good thing is that the wire handly gives the velocity factor, so calculating the lengths of wire to match 40 and 20 should be easy enough.
I also received the guying kit which includes steel guying ropes. These are for only upto 10m high, but I’m intending to use these on the lowermost section, leaving guying points 2 & 4 to a good quality rope. I will probably use the guying stakes to secure the tilt base in some fashion.
So despite it being a busy week with work/uni-work and limited day-light hours, have got a reasonable amount of ‘prep’ work done. Hopefully I can at least get 80m working this weekend, but lets see how things pan out, but feeling confident so far !
So a few very long nights and little sleep, but having been making the most of my lunch-break to get little jobs done on the base as well.
On 5/1 i received my Makita routing kit, its not ‘brilliant’ but got the job done as the photos show. Could put it on my Bosch SDS drill and make enough of a gap to get the washer and bolt onto the main bolt. With everything tightened up and in place i gave a very liberal dose of industrial superglue to secure everything in place. A day later it was ROCK SOLID ! very optimistic that i should get no more ‘wiggles’ from loose bolts !
As ever the English weather arrived right on queue. I had received this *awesome* ‘paint‘ the night before. Its actually for sealing leaking roofs, but principle is that it will keep the water out the wood. It is as thick as treacle to apply but one coat has left the wood well protected.It can take upto a week to dry, but hopefully it will be ‘dry to the touch’ ahead of the weekend so i can guy the antenna up.
Overall, i’m happy that the bolts on the end and glue will keep the mast secure on the bolt, and the paint will ensure the longevity of the wood on the base (or more so than it just being naked!).
So an early start pondering more programming and exam revision – have to say that I dont write a MSc blog, maybe i should… hmm. Anyhow more work on the Nebula today as soon as the sun came up and i could safely work in the daylight. First job, take down the 40m and 20m antennas I have been using for the last few weeks.
I was really happy how well both the dipole 40m and the buddipole vertical on 20m worked the last few weeks, they was quite quick to setup and kept me able to do the things I enjoy, also making telphony SSB contacts on 40m was great as well. I was glad that the buddipole went up with no damage and came down equally as well – I have packed it up nicely (as always!) for its next outing.
Having a free area to work in I started to measure up 5m diameters for the guying stakes to go in the ground. I started with the measurement from the guy I would ‘walk’ i.e. attach the last rope to, then work out the other angles/positions for the two attached. I was able to mount the nebula with relative ease onto the mast base, the scaffold diameter and length being ideal and not having any lateral movement.
I had not guyed any points yet as i wanted to be sure that the bolts and pivot action worked correctly. I created some temporary supports from the garden furniture we have, which proved to be an ideal height for the mast at rest. I noticed that the position of the mast the trees to the right would need some trimming back as not to catch the elements on when they was attached to the nebula.
I had already done one test run, but I asked my good lady to take some pics of me raising the nebula up, as you can see here, the tilt base is doing an excellent job and it makes raising and lowering the mast no harder than the ‘classic’.
Next i measured out the necessary positions of the guying stakes, i had enough room in all directions, but would require some pruning of the trees/bushes to allow access. The electric saw I used to cut the base-posts made light work of that and I was soon able to access the 5m distance from the mast to where the guying post is located. I also took down the other branches which would interfere with the mast as when doing the ‘test’ push could see they would constantly be tangled if I left them.
It took about 4-5 attempts to get the guy ropes the right lenght. I opted to use Mastrant-P 4mm diameter as I have used that in the past and can trust it to keep the mast up. As is I dont have enough to complete all the guying for point 2 & 4, so have ordered 100 meters more to compelete the guying. I will keep the guy rope callum provided for my other SOTA beams.
Having completed the first unsupported upright I then took it down until the additonal guying rope arrives. I’ve put up some posts around the mast to keep people safe and avoid any damage to the mast.
As it gets dark quite quickly here during the week and I have a massive backlog of Uni work to get thru I think the earliest I will have to work on the antenna again is the 9th/10th – my plans are for ‘during the week’
Complete the countersink for the bolt exterior nuts/washers. (A quick drill/cut job)
Waterproof the wood so it lasts as long as possible (due on Wednesday)
Measure 80/40/20m vertical elements and create (measuring outdoors/sun/daylight needed!)
Create radials for 80m (reckong on 8*10m to start with, i have *loads* of radials pre-made)
Then come Saturday/Sunday I should be able to get the 80m wire going vertical attach the radials and see what the initial S.W.R report is like !
Hopefully this will all come to frution, but depends on how well i’m doing with my assignments in the evening and the weather next weekend.
Until then, stay safe and hope to catch you on the airwaves soon !
Another sunny start to the day down here in IO90, having started the day early playing catchup to some cool python programming waiting for the sun to come up, i was soon out working on the nebula tilt base as soon as it was light ! (8:30 UTC).
I assembled my progress and tools and looked at the next steps, i always enjoy watching Calum’s videos so I could see where i am upto in the build. One thing stood out tho, there is a plate at the very bottom of the tilt base. See pics below from Callums videos.
I’m lucky enough to already own 2* Classic DX Commanders – I’ve used them in a very good parasitic array before, so i could identify the plate calum is using as the radiating plate for the classic. I headed out to the garden to source one !
So having sourced the required plate and safely keepng the parts so I only need another ground plate to get the classic working again, i set about checking that the plate would fit on the scaffold pole. Here I ran into an issue, my scaffold pole was thick in diameter, probably only as much as 1cm but enough that that the plate wouldnt slip over.
I used an offcut of scaffold as a template and tried to find the best way with the tools i have to cut a bigger hole, but excessively big, so it would still be a reasonable fit. I used the saw with a metal blade to make small 1cm depth cuts the circumference of the inner-circle, where i was then able to cut the ‘teeth away’. Sure enough, although it looked very ugly, it worked !
I marked out the part to ‘hack’ out so it fitted reasonbly ‘snug’ to the bolts and tilt, i ‘popped’ the base out the Nebula cap and fitted over. This looked like the same base as Callums ! I was making real progress ! Hurrah ! Now the time came to make the supports. I took the other end of the fence-post and cut it in two. This would give me an ok-ish 6cm either side to play with for supports, but then this is a nice bit of 10cmX10cm post.
Having made the supports i needed to get them onto the tilt, the wood is 10cm deep, and need about 5-6cm plus to make any kind of secure connection. I had a quick look online, but was coming up with nothing, darn, was making such good progress ! I am very reluctant to goto any shop, but needed to get this done, so headed to B&Q to get some essential screws. I found the staff incredbly helpful in helping me choose the best screw for the job (self-tapping wood, thickness/end screw type) which I wouldnt of been able to do via the internet, so although I was a bit stressed with going to the supermarket, i was glad of the help i got.
For the side-supports i used 4 self-tapping screws to start with 2 of them went in very easily, the othe 2 needed a ‘manual’ finish to tighten up. I think what helps the most is doing a manual ‘screw’ for 4-5 turns so the screw is nice and vertical, then going in with the dill. I liked the way the combo of a SDS/Manual chuck adapator worked with a torx screw holder, it saved me a fair bit of work !
I then used the last two bolts I had to attach the tilt-base to the pallet boad, these went in the easiest by far, and as you can see the result was really good in that the tiltbase had a very secure ‘ground’ to work from on the pallet.
I then moved the tilt base to the ‘antenna’ area of the QTH, pointing it in the general direction of how i will walk it up. I made a short video that hopefully helps in explaning the positioning.
Having spent around 4 hours it was time to take my doggo for a walk !
I’m hoping for more good weather tomorrow and after tidying away the current 40m and 20m antennas to do a ‘test’ erection of the Nebula !
Its a bank holiday here in the UK and I made good use of the lovely bright sunny morning to get cracking with work on the tilt-base for the Nebula. It gets dark pretty quick here now in the afternoon so maximizng daylight hours and me not getting too tired really means making good use of the free-time.
I set about getting my tools together I would need to continue the build. I had left it at the point where I didnt have metal drill bits and the ones I had ordered were not SDS, so then had to get a SDS adaptor. After a couple of minutes of working out how the adaptor fits, i was able to drill the hole in the scaffold pole. Have to say the drill bits done an excellent job cutting through the scaffold pole like it was butter !
Having now successfully drilled the hole through the scaffold cut off i spent a few more minutes watching callums tilt base video (will post again below for reference) – the next step was to construct the base.
I was lucky enough to hold onto an old pallet that came with some goods i ordered on line, as there was no instruction or request to return it, I was able to use that. It had plenty of wood to cut down and move forward with the base construction. I already have a good electric handsaw, but its more designed for ‘flat’ cutting, so I purchased a Reciprocating Saw, HYCHIKA 18V Cordless Saw with 2x2000mAh – at £83.99 this is not ‘cheap’ but compared to other tools in the price range, it certianly is good value for money. I have ot say i was expecting it to be ‘will do the job’ but was really impressed that it came with two batteries (3/4 charged) and several wood and metal cutting blades. I can see myself using this tool alot on other projects, it certainly made light work of cutting up the bits i needed from the pallet !
Having cut the wood I wanted to get an idea of how ‘wide’ to make the base, so i popped around to see the Nebula mast and do my daily antenna inspection (yep, I check the knots/stakes are safe *every* day). Have to say the QTH antennas look quite seasonal.
Having got the Nebula radial plate i could then size up the base and fix it together. I have a number of electric drills, ironically the most expensive (Bosch) being utterly useless. I have a hand-held black and decker one and I added this electric screwdriver for £21.99 to the armoury of tools. Now for £21.99 you’d not really expect something that was particualy brilliant, in the video Callum uses a gorgeous Makita drill (envy) to get his screws in, but I have to say i was amazed that this little USB charged drill had plenty of torque to get the large screws into the wood. Only the last screw (which I think I put it in at an angle) required manual intervention.
Next I wanted to check i had got the holes aligned, and amazinly i had got them inline to about 50mm of each other. I did take a bit of a ‘wack’ with a lump-hammer to get the bolt thru, but sure enough, it went in !
Getting the rod out was interesting.. i used an old drill bit and hammered away, this did cause some slight damage to bolt, but nothing that wouldnt be seen or stop the build. I then went back to watch the you-tube video to work out the placement of the bolts and washers with the tube, making a sketch so i would get them on right.
At this point i could see that i have either drilled the whole too high up the pole or got a measurement wrong from the guesstimates made from the video. I was able to use the saw with a metal blade to shorten the scaffold pole so it would tilt fully.
I was now able to tilt the pole into position. I made some adjustments with the bolts and used the saw again to cut the excess off the bolt. By now my dog Sweety (yes hes a boy) was also after my attention and had been doing this for about 2-3 hours. I felt i had made really good progress and it was time to take Sweety for a walk and enjoy the afternoon with the missus 🙂
Having tidied up all the tools etc, I started to think about the next steps. I’m going to counter-sink the bolt-holes so they are not protruding and use some good all-weather protection for the wood. Next steps will be to secure the tilt-mechanisim to the larger pallet base, where by it should almost be ready to test out ! Hopefully the bright, but dry weather will continue over the weekend allow a few hours each day to get ever nearer completing and getting the Nebula up and operational !
Whilst i enjoy a ‘ragchew’ on the IC-705 via D-STAR, the Internet and ‘Bit Encoding Rate’ (BER) has more to do with the quality of the received signal than an actual radio wave. (I use a Pi-Star hot-spot as there is no DSTAR repeater nearby IO90).
With that I know that the IC-7300 is a very capable radio on its own, but even with previous antennas having access to all bands did I ‘try’ telephony that much, preferring to stick to digital communications via the computer. I thought it was time to give it a try and get used to operating telephony on the IC-7300.
The inspiring video section !
I checked out this video and it gave very good examples of setting up the audio for various transmit types. If you have a 7300 it well worth the watch and I’m sure the same principals apply to other radios.
Tim, G5TM, has a great video on calling CQ. Having watched the video I was up for trying calling CQ on the 40 meter dipole I am currently using !
I started calling CQ not expecting any replies, but amazingly on 50W on a dipole I did ! My first QSO on 40m was with IZ6TGS. He was obivously a really experienced operator and it was amazing to reach him ! I was immeadilty drawn to how unprepared I was to ‘log’ – when doing FT8, its so well setup it make it easy. Suddenly I was trying write down the call sign and any other details. Thankfully Adrio was a patient and great operator, we managed to give a report each way and I had made my first HF SSB contact !
It did really show I needed some ‘help’ with logging and operating. Having seen both M0MCX and G5TM operate live on air (its great watching a live stream!) they use a free piece of software called N1MM Logger. You can see them both as they start the QSO they are typing in the call sign and any details they can garner. My problem was that I was restricted to the hand-microphone and my Windows PC neither has a screen or keyboard attached as I connect via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Whilst having recently tided my shack-tables up, there is still limited space on my 7300 table.
I was able to come up with the following solution !
Keyboard and Screen Technology
They keyboard and mouse come as a set from Amazon, the Perixx PERIDUO-212 Wired Mini Keyboard fits nicely on the keyboard shelf under the 7300, along side the BHI Dual In-Line Filter. For £16.99 this was a really good piece of kit, obviousy its not as good as the keyboard i use on my mac, but then i’m mostly using it for typing out call signs and reports, not developing stuff 🙂
I combined this with the 7 Inch Small HDMI Monitor with VGA which cost £36.99. Even at 7 inches and a respectable 1024×600 resolution, I could easily see NIMM with no problem when using my radio. It fits very nicely on the desk and comes with a fairly decent stand. I’ve not even had to fix it to the table and its staying up nicely.
The last part of the equation, is no doubt, the most important. Whilst having a QSO i struggled to write down the call sign as my hand had a handmic in it. Whilst there are many microphones out there, the SM-50 is the recommended microphone within the 7300 manual and importantly receives very good reviews on eham. It is not a cheap microphone, nor is it expensive, as my son can attest in his experience of sound engineering, microphones can get *Very* expensive depending on what you want to record and where.
I orderd the SM-50, i was very impressed with how sturdy the base and the flexability of the neck. I could bend this perfectly over to me a few inches from my mouth to make operating alot easier.
I went about setting the 7300 following the videos above and adjusting the microphone gain on the underside of the SM-50 to match the 7300. I also read the manual on how to setup recording my ‘best’ voice for 7300 so i could replay my CQ call.
This also made listening via Wesbree WEBSDR very easy and amazingly i could hear myself ! During this time my CQ call on repeat was picked up by DK4EI. We had a great QSO, his setup amazing, but i was happy with 50W and a dipole to come thru with a 5/9 report into Germany!
If you have been on ‘digital modes’ during the solar minimum, and also maybe slightly nervous of going on HF, i can say its worth putting the effort in to get onto SSB/Telephony.
My key points are
As per Tim’s video sound enthusiastic/engaging – I took my time and made a ‘good’ recording/playback feature of the 7300 – it works !
Set up your audio/microphone well and for the audience/conditions, the pileup busting video is really good for this. I’ve not had to change my settings, and i get great audio reports
Get your logging software, or pen/pad easily to hand, fill in details as you go, it makes the QSO more rewarding and you can spot people again !
Get a good microphone, for me the SM-50 suited *my* needs and had good reviews. You may want a different type of microphone and use it in a different way (VOX/PTT/Foot PTT, up/down buttons, on a bracket.. SO MANY FACTORS).
I am getting (braver?) better at HF QSOs and am currently limited to 40 meters, so you might hear me put the shout out during the evenings and night. Until then I really hope to have a QSO with you !
It has been fantastic weather for December down here in IO90. With my son visiting for Christmas it was the perfect opportunity to make some real progress on the tilt-base for the Nebula.
I started out in the morning by building the workbench that had come from Amazon. At £28.99 i wasnt expect high-quality and i was pleasently suprised at how nice this was. Construction was fiddly, but nethertheless straightforward. Overall, if you want a cheap workbench, you can probably do ok with the Wolf.
Once the workbench was assembled, Paul and I started getting things safely setup outside. I have never used this type of saw before, and i said to Paul to shoutout STOP if he saw me doing anything dangerous/or could go wrong, thankfully it went really well ! The Circular Saw I used is the Katsu 100793. It cost £43.99 and comes with another wood-cutting blade. The instructions were simple, yet useful and reassured me of being able to use the tool safely, having never used one before. Overall I can recommend this a tool you are going to use on on occasion – one niggle is that it really does need a better protective box, as i’ve kept the original but that will only provide limited protection.
To keep the wood secure on the round table we have, I used Irwin Quick grips – these cost £16.99 but really done a good job in holding the wood tightly in place. Operation is easy enough after the first time of use, and getting things clamped becomes very familiar quickly. Overall I can recommend them as well !
I then set about drilling the hole for the steel bolt to go thru. I already have a good Bosch SDS drill (altough i’d love a Makita like callums !) i just needed to order the required SDS wood drill bits. I chose the Yato YT-3300 drill bits. These come in a really nice presentation pack as well, and made easy work of drilling the hole for the bolt to go thru. I measured an inch from the top and mid-way on poles.
The next step was to use an old bit of scaffold i had lying around – i got this off the builders who were erecting my neighbours buildings in his back garden. £10 well spent. This involved another first as I’ve never cut tubing before, i’ve ground things down (usually flat surfaces) but never cut a tube. I already had an angle grider so put on my protective goggles and tried to see what i could do with the angle grinder
Having cut the scaffold pole, the next step is to put the bolt-hole in it. I thought i had some SDS metal bits, but all the ones I have are for plaster-board. A quick trip to Amazon found LATERN 10Pcs Tungsten bits. At £9.99 the price is good for the amount of bits and I’ll only be using these occasionally. As I was getting a little tired and by now it was about 2PM, thought it best to tidy up and put everything away. I’m really happy that my son and I could work on this together and the bulk of the ‘heavy cutting’ is done, plus I’ve increased my confidience in using power tools I’ve never used before !
Weather is not looking so great tomorrow/monday, so it might be next week/weekend for drrilling the hole in the pole but will see how I’m doing.
So i started the day out on really wanting to get my MFJ receive only loop antenna up. I have used it before, but always slightly too low. The mast I purchased to support this is the DIAMOND AM 450, it is designed to hold light antennas such as the MFJ-1886.
As you can see in this video
When out with it, i guyed it and twist-locked the mast, but it always came slipping down, most the very top and the 3rd section from the top. I took the antenna down and brought it in for the evening, giving the mast a good clean/dry and seeing if i could get each section to lock in the comfort of my hamshack.
I did have some limited progress but still felt the 3rd section was not tight enough, the others were so tight, they really was an effort to unlock them.
I went out the following day, but again the mast slipped. I stood there trying to tighten each section, for untold time, but it just didnt grip, at all. I was clearly wasting my time with this mast. So if you want my opinion, DONT get the AM450, its dreadful mast with poor locking sections. All my other masts have some form of ‘lock’ or ‘locking screw’ and work perfectly.
So whilst i am enjoying just how good the little mag-mount whip works on 20M with the IC705, i do have a proper, and pretty well equipped, buddipole setup. My problem, and here the blame lays soley with me, is that when ever I use the buddipole a part of it breaks, or gets damaged. I am pleased to say todays work showed that my patience and method have improved and no damage to the buddipole occured (so far..)
I want to put this here as a warning for anyone that buys the buddipole *ALWAYS GUY YOUR MAST* and not just ‘at the end’ when its going up, when ever you are working on it/near it, guy it, you need to concentrate on getting the SWR down and doing the loading on the coils correctly, bumping the mast so it falls over is probably going to hurt you and your wallet when the expensive ‘whip’ antennas snap from the copper screw-ends.
You do not want to rush a buddipole build – much like any other antenna, but there is more to do with a buddipole, hence why I’m always a little bit reluctant to get it out. Compared to a dipole or a random end fed, there is a substantial amount of work (arrange parts, put parts on, tune antenna – reguy for elevation, measure SWR, bring down, SWR..)
But that said I’m very happy with the gain I’m getting off the buddipole dipole, sure it could jus tbe the conditions, but the antenna is really pulling in the signals. I’m putting out 10mW on WSPR. Just checkout the reports.
On FT8 the SWR was over 3 on 5W of power, but I’m hoping the kit I’m building will help with that !
It will probably take me a few hours over a couple of days to do all the necessary winding and soldering, but the ATU gets impressive results (when built correctly !)
I’ve ordered some tools (didnt fancy cutting a fence post with a small wood cutter) which will come in useful around the house.