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David Robbins, K1TTT


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2008 Maintenance and Upgrade Blog


Quick Index
Below are running notes of what I have done for repairs and improvements on the station during this year. Most of the pictures are half size versions, click on them to open a full size view.

1/1/08 Start the year with everything working I do believe. One insulator on the 80m 4-square is broke and all 4 of the verticals are splinted with 2x4's just in case, but its working fine.

1/4 Set up for RTTY Roundup NP3D s/o

1/11 Set up for NAQP CW K1MK s/o

Mid Jan - 180' ring rotor won't turn. Find 2 bolts missing from one corner bracket which let the bearing sag and the ring to pop over the other two. Have to pry ring back under bearings and then spend about 1/2 hour trying to line up the first hole to get new bolts in. Used spare bolts from emergency bag, need to replace with proper ones.

1/18 Set up for NAQP SSB and Jan VHF SS for WB2JSM M/2

1/25 Set up for CQ 160m CW m/s and also BARTG RTTY Sprint so2r

Late Jan/Early Feb 3 ice storms with wind in 2 weeks. Top 40m has all 4 elements bent on one side. Bottom 40m has reflector bent. All bent at 2nd tubing section out from the boom. Also on all 5 bent elements one of the loading rods breaks off at the shorting strap when the wind bends the element while the elements are bent so the rods are below the element. 120' 20m also has 4 bent elements, top 20m has one, and 90' one has one bent one. File insurance claim for all the damage.

2/1 throw 40m inverted V up in middle of 180' tower. Almost lose N2KW in snow bank when he falls through ice crust. Set up for FOC Marathon

2/2 Pictures of the 40m damage in progress:

Top 40m with ice and wind

Top 40m with ice and wind

Top 40m with ice

Top 40m with ice, note how on the left side all 4 elements are bent at the sme place and the loading rods are below the element tubing.

Top 40m with ice element closeup

Top 40m with ice element closeup

Bottom 40m with ice

Bottom 40m with ice

2/7 Pictures of the 40m damage in progress:

Top 40m with ice and wind, round 2 of the storms you can see the 1st loading rod broke on the right element

Top 40m with ice and wind, round 2 of the storms you can see the 1st loading rod broke on the right element

Top 40m with ice and wind, slightly crooked elements.

Top 40m with ice and wind, slightly crooked elements.

Top 40m broken loading rod closeup

Top 40m broken loading rod closeup

2/8 Set up for WPX RTTY W1UE so2r Remove small broken pine tree and branch from over one of the 80m 4-square guy ropes.

2/15 Set up for ARRL DX CW m/m 180' 10m reads open circuit, reflectometer points to hardline connector at top of tower.

2/22 Set up for CQ 160m SSB W1EQO s/o and some rtty thing just playing around. Order new 40m4lldd 125mph to replace top 40m and new 20m4dx(for parts).

2/29 Set up for ARRL DX SSB m/m. 180' 10m is working again, should probably open up and check for pin location and water later.

3/7 Go up 180' tower, remove feedlines from both 40m beams. Remove old 40m inverted V coax that wasn't being used. Swap connections on remote switch box so they line up with control box properly. KC1XX comes and takes down both 40m beams in about 2 hours. I buy 1000' of 1/4" EHS he used for tram to replace my too short tram wires. Turned out to be a perfect day, right around freezing and almost no wind. So the snow on the ground was well frozen, otherwise we would have been up to our knees or more.

Rigging bottom 40m, tram line is cable coming down to left.

Rigging bottom 40m, tram line is cable coming down to left.

Bottom one coming down

Bottom one coming down

Bottom one wide view

Bottom one wide view

Closeup of broke loading rod end.

Closeup of broke loading rod end, its really not pulled out, the shorting bar held and the rod broke. The ss saddle and eye arrangement on the philly cable is my modification to prevent the philly from being cut on the side of the small holes it used to go through on the shorting block. M2 has modified the design with a strain relief to prevent that on new ones.

Rigging top 40m

Rigging the top 40m, tram line is hard to see but comes down between guy wires toward bottom.

Rigging top, wide view.

Rigging top, wide view.

Liftoff of top one.

Liftoff of top one.

Top one starting down

Top one starting down


Interesting rigging, use ring rotor supports and boom brace to spread load to 4 points on boom.

3/14 set up for RDXC m/2 Order aluminum from Marmon/Keystone to upgrade bottom 40m...

  • 4pc 12'x1.375"x.058"wall (to put inside 1st section of element)
  • 8pc 12'x1.25"x.058"wall (will go from center all the way through and also replace 2nd element section)
  • 4pc 12'x1.125"x.058"wall (for inside 2nd element section)
  • 4pc 12'x1.0"x.058"wall (for insde 2nd element section)
  • 4pc 12'x.875"x.058"wall (maybe for inside short pieces around element insulators)

This will triple the walls on the first 2 element sections, and double the next section if I do that part. This will pretty much make the elements as good as the 125mph version.

3/17 rope for 160m inverted L's breaks. It finally rubbed through where it hits the upper guys of the 180' tower. Spend evening untangling it and getting it back up before it freezes into the snow.

3/20 send 2 headsets to the Heil Hospital for repair. One with broke mic boom, the other with intermittant cable.

3/21 install 2nd 220v outlet under 40m table... why didn't I do this last year???

3/22 replace indicator drive motor in one of the Yaesu rotor boxes. Set up for BARTG RTTY so2r without moving rotor boxes.

3/24 Start disassembling top 40m beam, stack it next to shed. Take unbent half of reflector and swap with bent one on bottom beam.

3/25 Replace foam on one of the cheap RS guest headsets. Buy another one to replace the one I took to the office.

3/27 Heil returns refurbished headsets. New insulator for 80m 4-square arrives from K0XG. Take director and reflector boom to element clamps and center splice from top 40m to replace ones from bottom 40m. The old bottom one had 2 spliced pieces of tubing clamped in boom-element clamps, the top one had solid 1" aluminum rod as center splice... I like the solid rod much better than the double wall tubing. Start disassembly of bottom 40m beam to start rebuild.

3/28 Set up for WPX SSB NE1C M/M. Have to wait around for heating repair guy in the morning. Pick up aluminum from Marmon/Keystone after lunch, horrible drive in slush until I get a way down the hill. Get back just a few minutes before K1SFA shows up for the contest. When turning on amps the 15m amp goes into thermal runaway, one tube must have an intermittant failure and melts part of the air duct around it, lots of fun to remove it from being melted into the duct. Install new tubes and the amp works better than it had been before, must have had a weak tube for a while.

3/30 Unload aluminum from car to pile next to shed. Nice pile of bright tubing!

4/1 South Beverage is down, top of a pine tree is on it and frozen down. Removed a big branch from a radial on the 80m 4-square. Started checking materials for bottom 40m antenna repair.

4/2 Update 2008 Scores web page with recent contest scores and pictures.

4/3 Continue with disassembly and staging of materials for repair of bottom 40m4lldd.

Shown next to a mechanical pencil for size in the image below, this tool, out of all my toolboxes, was uniquely suited for one job in disassembling the 40m4lldd.

Can you:
  • Identify the tool's original purposes?
  • Figure out what it was used for during disassembling the antenna?

Mystery Tool(click for full size)

4/4 This is what you get when you try to work on antennas in April in Peru... April showers bring May flowers, but do April snows sprout May Yagis??

April Snows

Since it doesn't look like a nice day for antenna work, I have finally added pictures of the ice and 40m takedown. Look up the page for links to pictures taken on 2/2 and 3/7.

SDR-IQ arrived, interesting tool. Works nicely with CW Skimmer version 1.1. Lots of spectrum monitoring possibilities.

4/5 Assemble first prototype new element for the bottom 40m. (click on image for larger view)

New vs old element tubing:

New 40m element tubing

On the left is the old element and the right is the new one.

The old element-boom clamp had 2 pieces of tubing spliced in the middle, then 2' of 1.375" over it, and a 5' 1.5" first section. The first section is swaged down to take a 5' 1.25" second section. The second section is swaged down to accept a 2' 1" piece that has the .875" fiberglass insulator in it. The second section is the one that bent in all the failed elements.

The new element has a solid aluminum rod in the middle, these were salvaged from the broke top one which was newer than the bottom one. I made a longer 1.375" insert to go all the way to the swage in the 1.5" section. Then a new 1.25" piece goes all the way from the end of the center rod to where the old 1.25" one ended, but is not swaged. Inside that is 6' of 1.125" flush with the outer end which then accepts the 1" piece that goes to the insulator. And inside that is a 6' 1.0" piece that butts against the 1" piece with the insulator. Not shown in the picture is a short .875" piece that doubles up the 1" piece up to the fiberglass insulator. I haven't decided if I want to double the wall on the next 5' 1" piece yet or not, I have the aluminum to do it so i probably will, it will just take more disassembly after the insulator.

Assembled element:

New 40m element tubing

Answers to yesterday's mystery tool questions:

The original use: Paint can and bottle opener is correct. These were given away for years by various paint stores. Some called it a 'church key' but I believe that is more properly applied to a combination flat top can (with no pull top) and bottle opener, see the wikipedia article referenced by one respondent.

My use: On the 40m4lldd the butt end of each element has a 24" 1.375" tube inside the swaged 5' 1.5" main element tube to add strength. This combination is held to a short rod that is held in the boom-element clamp by a 1/4" bolt. Due to slight flattening of the tubing and distortion of the hole the inner piece on most of the elements was stuck pretty well inside, and they were either flush or slightly inside the outer piece. That tool was perfectly made to grab the inside of that 1/4" hole in the inner tube and pull it out just far enough to get it started. It could also then be inserted through the hole to finish pulling stubborn ones out.

4/6 Cut and cleaned the rest of the pieces for the sections out to the insulators for the other 7 half elements. Had to substitute one of the 1.5" pieces from the top antenna for one that had some dings in it that prevented inserting the 1.375" sleeve.

4/7 All the new elements are assembled and bolted down. This went smoother than I had expected with only two of them giving me any problem sliding the sections together.

Also got notified that the new top antenna should be delivered Thursday afternoon... then there is lots more assembly to do!

Flipped this blog upside down so now the new stuff is on top and it gets older as you go down. Move the TO DO list to it's own page.

4/8 A big advantage of the new stiff elements... they line up much easier than the floppy ones did. Basically the stiffness pretty much eliminates 8 degrees of freedom in adjusting them, the turnbuckles on the loading rods has very little effect now on the alignment. The bottom one is almost ready to raise now, I think I am going to replace the rope boom truss with aircraft cable or EHS just because the elements are much heavier than they used to be.

4/9 Changed boom truss on bottom 40m to 1/4" aircraft cable.

4/10 Ah, nice spring day in the Berkshires... so I had to take the afternoon off to sit by the phone waiting for the trucker to ask for directions. I did take some time to turn on the phone in the shed and sit out there taking apart the broke elements to salvage parts for other possible projects.

The 40m4lldd(125mph) and the 20m4dx arrived. The 40m4lldd box was damaged and a couple parts were missing... glad I have plenty of spares!! But also the boom tubing was damaged. Spent 2 hours getting the stiffener out of the center section of the boom because the tubing was dinged in the middle and the stiffener wouldn't go in the way it was supposed to... why didn't they ship it installed properly instead of pushed to one end of the section??? Why isn't it the full length of the center boom section anyway instead of 3' shorter?

On the plus side, on the 4th try the heater repair guys finally stopped the leak in the condensate trap on the upstairs heater... if they had just ordered the $11 part the first time they sure would have saved themselves lots of grief, and at least 2 return trips that I didn't have to pay for.

Check out Skimmer Spots to see some of the skimmer spots from those of us testing the CW Skimmer with wideband radios. I will have mine running only when I am around since the antenna the SDR-IQ is on doesn't have any lightning protection.

4/11 Ah, absolutely yucky day in the Berkshires. Cold, rain, breeze. M2 says they will rush to get me replacement boom sections and parts. I can't get one of the stiffener rings out of the center boom section so not much I can do but wait for it. Hopefully this weekend I can get the elements assembled anyway so they are ready. This one has a different element taper after the insulators than the lower rated one so not all those parts are interchangeable.

Had to replace one reflector tip after the newly repaired one slid off one of the cable reels it was sitting on as the snow melted out from under it. Turned the reels on their side for now so that can't happen again as the rest of the snow melts.

4/12 Ah, started yucky, ended nice... got the element halves of the new 125mph 40m4lldd mostly assembled. Some problems with hole alignments and one bad piece of aluminum, they must have gotten a wrong piece in some shipment that had too thick of a wall so the next piece won't slide in. Sent M2 another email to report bad pieces and other minor problems in assembly.

Finally got the south Beverage out from under the pine tree top that broke of and landed on it. must have been 6 or 7 insulators that came off from that.

4/13 More snow today, continued pre-assembly of the element halves in the garage. The boom on this new one is 3" diameter. The center section has a 2.5" insert for stiffening. To center the stiffener in the boom there are 5 rings around it held in place with set screws. When i got the stiffener out of the damaged section one of the rings stayed behind... stuck on the ding in the tubing of course. Spent another two hours coaxing that little ring out, the neighbors must have thought a blacksmith had moved in with all the metal on metal hammering.

4/14 Argh, shipper says I have to file the damage claim because it came COD. Insurance claim on the insurance claim replacement!

4/15 Cleaned up center section of old top boom and, very carefully, and with much lubrication, inserted the cleaned up stiffener and rings into it. Got call from air freight inspector, he will come tomorrow afternoon to view damage.

4/16 Inspector for air freight company came and looked at banged up aluminum and agrees that its scrap... all 37# of the 2 boom sections. Now to see what they will payoff on it. Meanwhile I assembled the new boom from the old one plus the new stiffener. And replaced the one with the bad wall thickness with a piece of the tip of one of the old ones just in case they don't get me a replacement before this is ready to go up. Snow is melting quick now so hopefully will have the bottom one ready to raise by this weekend.

4/17 Put tram wire and lifting rope at 105' to get ready to lift the bottom 40m beam into place, probably on Saturday.

4/18 All the ice finally melted on the pond, still some snow piles along the bottom of the field and in shady spots. Finished tightening and aligning the bottom 40m yagi. Got it rigged up to lift bright and early tomorrow morning. Took the snow blower off the green machine and will try using that instead of the jeep to lift with. Assembled the boom brace for the new top 40m, they only use 1/8" aircraft cable on this one, I have 1/4" (just because I had it already) for my modified one.

4/19 The WX is too nice to be doing this work. 72f, clear, nice breeze... KB1W and W1TO came this morning and in less than 2 hours the bottom 40m beam was back on the air. They also moved the partially assembled boom and elements for the new top one down to the final assembly area. The new green machine did a find job of pulling up the antenna, it didn't even sound like it was working very hard. And the new rigging method I learned from Andrew of XX-Towers made it nice and stable all the way up... See the pictures from the lowering of them down below for how it was rigged so that the boom brace and struts are all assembled and ready to go.

After lunch, started final assembly of new top 40m yagi down at the bottom of the field where it will be hoisted from.

4/20 WX man goofed again, nice WX unless you are a fireman. Brush fires yesterday and today all around the county. Continued assembly of new top 40m yagi.

4/22 Yes, I took yesterday off. Tonight I aligned the elements on the new top 40m and added the tips.

4/23 Rolled out new tram wire for lifting side. The one used for the lower antenna lift will be the back stay. Installed new ACOM2000A... Now I have to learn how to set it up to make it easy for antenna changing and band changing. It does tune quick, thats for sure.

4/24 Playing with new amp got cut short by the season's first t-storm last night. No bugs yet tonight so went and rolled up the ground screens under the 80m 4-square. That stuff is starting to show it's age now, starting to show some rusty areas.

4/26 Hoped to be able to put up the tram wires for the top 40m raising, but it was showering at dawn and the wind didn't drop off as predicted. So spent the day doing misc stuff. I think all the snow is melted so I put the mower deck on the new tractor, cleaned the house a bit, did laundry, cleaned up in the yard a bit, walked the Beverages and fixed a few insulators from branches that were down. Charged up the MFJ-269 and did a quick check on the new 40m antenna. Played with new ACOM for a while. Set the station up for SO2R for NEQP next weekend. And basically puttered around doing little stuff. The afternoon when it was supposed to rain turned sunny and breezy so I did the final assembly check and bolt tightening on the new top 40m so its ready to go up now.

4/27 Well, this was the wx promised for yesterday. Calm and cloudy. Nice day to pull up the tram wire, back stay, and lifting rope for the top 40m. Now I just need another nice day and a few extra hands.

4/29 1.79" of rain since Sunday night left the field pretty wet, but the sun came out after dinner so I went and got the pulley on the tram wire and cut it to length for the 40m lift-off pad down by the pond.

4/30 Added threadlock compound to the tip compression fittings on the new 40m... just in case.

5/1 Ah, the best way to get an antenna up the tower... have someone else do it. KC1XX bumped another job off his schedule and put up the top 40m this morning, while I watched from the office. Well, I could see his truck and them coming and going to the shed, but that was about it. This new heavy duty one sure looks nicer up there, the elements are nice and straight, and the boom is really straight instead of sagging like the old one did. Now I just have to hook it up and align the rotor and make some impedance measurements, hopefully tomorrow.

5/2 KB1W came up to push buttons and I got the top 40m connected and the rotor aligned and tested. It needs some more tape, and the double nuts on the ring mount, it was just too cold, breezy, and damp to do it all at once... but it works.

5/3 Perfectly yucky day outside... Got rid of pile of SASE's that have been sitting around for a while and got ready for NEQP.

5/6 Reconfigured station to m/m for CQM.

5/9 Set up logs for CQM. Clean up a bit in shack and bunk rooms. Order parts to repair DR Brush Mower.

5/10-11 CQM Contest. Clean up shed and garage a bit, put away all tools from previous word to get ready for next jobs. Cut grass under 40m 4-Square, the green machine actually handles that junk where the old one wouldn't. Stack up left over aluminum from 40m work.

5/14 Unpacked new 20M4DX to get replacement parts for all the ones bent by the ice and wind over the winter. Pre-assembled element halves.

5/15 Started widening the parking area. Received visit from another big insulator collector who was interested in some of my surplus insulators.

5/16 Sold a bunch of surplus insulators, cleaned up storage area and used left over materials to enlarge the aluminum and pipe storage area. More yard work.

5/17 Took pictures of each station for hardware pages then reconfigured the station for SO2R for WPX CW next weekend. Repaired DR Brush Mower, most of the way, had to order more parts.

5/18 More work on widening parking area.

5/20 Visit by PA1T and PA1M.

5/23 More work on widening parking area. Clean up inside shed a bit to make some room to work. Set up log and test antennas for K1MK to do WPX CW.

5/24 Ordered materials to reinforce 80m 4-square insulators. More work on widening parking area, about ready for gravel now. Testing new version of CW Skimmer that prevents self spots and fixes a bandwidth bug... the SDR-IQ does get blown away pretty badly by in-band transmissions but still gets some spots if you aren't transmitting too much. Finally got last parts for DR Brush Mower, took it for a test cut around 40m 4-square and pond.

5/25 Fired up the new chainsaw and started cleaning up dead and broken trees and junk around the 40m 4-square, and some stumps around the 80m 4-square. Measured, gooped, and glued up the replacement 20m elements. More cutting of new brush starting to grow around 80m 4-square.

5/26 Nice day, but windy again... Glad I got the 40m stuff done early, its been windy or raining just about every day I've been around since then. Did more cleanup of tools and cable in shed. Ordered replacements for Beverage transformers. Started looking at using leftover pieces from 40m project for verticals for receiving 4-square(s). More yard work. Cut some more trees down around 150' east end anchor that were too close.

5/27 Picked up parts for 3 screw jacks for replacing the broken 80m 4-square insulator. The hardware store guys know enough to not even bother asking what I'm going to do with two 36" pieces of 1" threaded rod, 3 nuts, 3 couplings, 6 washers, 3 1"x4" nipples, and 3 1" pipe couplings.

5/28 Still windy, but have to get off the ground... so went and leveled the crooked 15m Yagi on the bottom ring. Ordered cables to replace Beverage feed lines. Had fun with tools, cut 1" threaded rod with circular saw, welded couplings on one end, ground down ugly weld beads to make the end flat again... made enough noise the neighbor had to come over and see what I was up to. Hopefully these will work to replace the broken insulator.

5/29 Received fiberglass for 80m 4-square reinforcement... started cutting into rough lengths so I could get spare pieces to practice making the ends square. Old table saw bearing seized up after 3rd or 4th cut. Guess its time to go TOOL SHOPPING!

5/30 Finally a nice day. Went up 180' tower, double nutted the top 40m beam boom cradle. Taped things up better. Replaced ungraded temporary bolt in top ring frame with proper one. Found loose nut on one of the rollers on the top of the top ring and tightened that up. Still could use some more adjustment on the roller opposite the motor on the top ring. Measured impedances at the 40m switchbox. Determined there is some interaction with the 'temporary' inverted V on 40m, will take that down next time I go up I think. Went up to the bottom 20m beam and checked that the new element tips have the same hole locations and what tools would be needed to replace them. And all that before 10am.

6/1 Cut more trees down around East 150' guy point. Re-plumbed the 80m 4-square to prepare for insulator replacement and reinforcement.

6/2 NEW TOOL! Bought Makita miter saw, should make quick work of chopping up that fiberglass. Of course before unpacking it in the shed I had to make some room, which meant cleaning up some old junk, which meant cleaning up lots of squirrel and mouse debris, then I had to reinforce the table that was getting a bit wiggly, etc, etc, etc... Didn't get anything done, but the saw does make nice smooth cuts in the fiberglass.

6/3 Started ripout of old Beverage transformers and cables. Mounted new DXEngineering transformers on the pole. Received new cables from DXE for the Beverages also.

6/5 Connected up new Beverage feedlines. Hooked antennas to switchboxes. Now I need to mount an expedition to the far end of the Beverages to connect the new reflection transformers. Anyone want to ride shotgun for that one?? Bring your own bug spray!

6/7 I had to pick the warmest, most humid, morning of the Spring so far to get dressed up in long pants, long sleeve shirt, boots, mask, goggles, hearing protectors, and hat to chop up fiberglass into little pieces then glue it all back together. It was either that or go out into the woods to replace Beverage transformers. Either way I was going to end up itching. But I did get 12 braces for the 80m 4-square insulators glued up.

6/8 Ditto... except this time I went wandering back in the woods, crossed the Beaver ponds a couple times, and replaced the Beverage reflection transformers. Had to take shower in bug spray before going out, then came back soaked from sweat, dew, and mud, with a dog that was wetter than I was. Also cleaned up the shed from recent work a bit more. Ordered V-Bolts to attach the strongbacks to the 80m 4-square legs across the insulator gaps. Why isn't Tessco on my favorites list??

6/9 I thought I heard a tree come down in the thunderstorm Saturday afternoon. Today I carried the big stepladder down to the 80m 4-square and the South Beverage was fine, Lucky went for a swim, we walked up the road a bit and back, Lucky took another swim. (The 11 Canadian Geese in the pond were NOT happy) And on the way up to the house from the pond I see insulators are off a half dozen posts. The sound I heard must have been it breaking off the last branches, then tonight (Monday) it finally fell, right across the South Beverage where it crosses the stream, pulling the wires about 4' below ground level. I was able to pull it around just enough to pop the wires over the end of it and put back on all the insulators without losing a single one.

6/11 Unclamped the glued up strongbacks. Staged some tools and materials for 4-square work Friday. Gravel for driveway delivered across the road, Carl will help move and grade it tomorrow or Friday.

6/12 Finished staging tools and stuff for the insulator replacement.

6/13 With the help of KB1W, WA1ZHM, and KB1OEV, I replaced the broke 80m 4-square insulator. Fairly straight forward operation, loosened the bolts on the old one, stuck 3 home made screw jacks between the plates, lifted it about 1/4", slid out the old one and slid i the new one. Just about 1/4" of prying needed to align the holes, put in the bolts and lowered the jacks. Then removed all the extra bracing and ropes while installing the strongbacks. Installed strongbacks on all 4 of the 80m 4-square verticals. Sure looks lots nicer down there with all the 2x4's and extra ropes gone.

80m 4-square repair

The new strongbacks in place.

80m 4-square repair

Closeup of one end of a strongback. They are 2"x2"x1/4" FRP angle. The 3 small pieces are to provide spacing because of the overhang of the insulator plate.

80m 4-square repair

The broken insulator and the 3 jacks used to lift the tower. The jacks are 1" threaded rod with a 5" pipe nipple and coupling over the top and a rod coupling on the bottom for a wider base and for something to grab while turning the lifting nut.

6/14 Finished up parking area expansion with the help of Carl and a borrowed backhoe. Played in VHF contest.

6/15 Played in VHF contest some more, nice 6m opening. Split Wiki into Station and Operator areas.

6/18 Caught up putting scores on web page. Cleaned up some other old emails and stuff.

6/20 Built 8 verticals out of the remains of the 40m4lldd pieces. Now to get some 4-square controllers and figure out where to put them. Finished setup for AA CW for W1UE.

6/21 Cleaned up the shed and aluminum/wood racks. Did the (kinda) annual tour of the anchor trees. This is where I make the tree-huggers either happy or mad. They can be happy that I at least go around and regularly move ropes that tie things to trees so they don't get strangled. Or they can be mad that I tied something to a tree in the first place. If you are of the latter kind I DON'T recommend that you read the parts of my book where I talk about the various episodes of the Peru Chain Saw Massacre and how I heated with wood cut down from clearing land for towers for 13 years.

6/26 Been busy this week with brush mowing and other yard work in between showers. Changed station set up to M/M configuration for ARRL FD and IARU HF coming up. Added Spot station to the M/M configuration on all stations. Will start testing skimmer integration during FD and IARU.

6/27 VACATION! Taking a week off to do nothing but work! Doesn't that make sense? Anyway, started by finishing cutting trees that were too close to the East guy wires on the 150' tower. And also cut a stump near the house to get ready to grind next week... Anyone ever run a stump grinder? I'll have one here 7/3-4. Ordered parts for a receive 4-square, DXE box, phasing lines, coax. Will probably be here by next weekend to setup before IARU.

6/28-29 Play with FD and CW Skimmer, boy does it find lots of FD stations on 20m, too bad we didn't have a real CW operator to work them all, but using CW Skimmer on the local audio helps quite a bit when I do play a bit on CW.

6/30 Replace some old fence rail pipe on one of the feed line runs with 2x4's to get the 40m 4-square feedline up a bit more. Straighten up some of the leaning and wobbly feedline support posts.

7/1 Yard work, also moving firewood out of 80m 4-square area to prepare for stump grinding. The supervisor doing his job:


7/2 More preparation for stump grinding, mostly down around the 80m 4-square. Made insulated bases for 4 verticals for the first receiving 4-square. Received adapters from Radio Shack for the receive 4-square. Now I just have to figure out where I am going to put them. Upgraded both Wiki's to the latest version from screwturn, old version was 2.0.21, new version is 2.0.33. See screwturn history for info on changes.

7/3 Grinding stumps. Parts for receiving 4-square arrive, unpack and start pre-assembly of cables.

7/4 More pre-assembly of cables and center post. Now if I only knew where I was going to put it. More stump grinding. Please, if I EVER say anything about renting a stump grinder again someone remind me of this time and that stump grinding is worse than grass cutting. Time to call in the professionals!

7/5 Perfectly yucky wx... Made a change to make WinTelnetX work better with CWSkimmer and IRC.

7/6 Put up listening 4-square in a temporary location... now if there were just some good signals to test it with.

7/9 One new coil for HF-2500 arrived. Start disassembly of the first one to be fixed. Decide I need to go TOOL SHOPPING!

7/10 Got new Craftsman Dremel like tool set to do some modification to the chassis of the HF-2500. Modify coil support and chassis and reinstall.

New Coil

A good coil. Note the gold colored wrapping on the core. It mounts in that orientation on the bottom of the plate that is the front of the RF deck just above it. The 5 holes in the Tecaform spacer are supposed to line up with the 5 holes in the front of the RF deck, but weren't all just right.

New Coil

The spacer supplied with the new coil, the small holes match the ones in the RF deck. The one removed from the amp that had been previously repaired at the factory. They must have enlarged the holes to try to get more air through. I countersunk them to make them line up with my enlarged holes.

New Coil

A way to keep aluminum shavings out of the HV supply and tube sockets while grinding bigger holes.

New Coil

My modification to the core support.

New Coil

The new and old coils. Note the melted down core and front retainer and the blackened wrapping on the melted core.

New Coil

The back view of the melted coil.

New Coil

The front view of the melted one. Over half the core was melted down, except in the very back where the screw was holding it in.

New Coil

Bottom view of the melted one.

7/11 Nice off-Friday morning! Did inspections on 10m and 15m towers... notes:

10m Tower
  • Needs 30' and 60' guy wires tightened, top 2 sets ok.
  • G-1000 mast clamp bolts are rusted pretty badly but still holding fine.
  • All leg bolts rusted
  • Lots of light surface rust
  • South 10-4cd is old one with plated boom-element clamps, they are all badly rusted.
  • Top 10-4cd is slightly tilted, has been for a while. Boom clamps too badly rusted to try to fix.
  • 40m 4-square control cable is badly cracked and needs to be replaced.
  • There is a spare 1" hardline and 2 wire control cable to the base of the tower (used to be 80m 4-square)

15m Tower
  • Long coil of rotor cable at base that could be removed.
  • Ring Rotor cradle missing 2 bolts on one boom clamp plate.
  • Spare 5/8" CATV hardline at 60' (2 tape markers)
  • 90' 15m4dx reflector is a bit crooked
  • G-2800 mast clamp bolts rusty but holding fine.
  • TB3 mast clamp bolts rusty
  • upper sections have some light surface rust
  • some leg bolts rusted

Finish re-assembly of HF-2500 and retests just fine. Attempts to increase airflow did not slow down heating of coil as measured on outside with IR thermometer. It is apparent it is the wire that is heating up not the core. It is interesting that the older amps had smaller wire that did not pack the inside of the core like this newer wire does... none of the older amps have had a melting problem with the smaller wire either.

Set up for IARU HF contest.

7/15 Quiz of the day... in the snippet of the schematic below what is the effect of the right side wafer of the band switch shorting out the right half(on 80m) or 3/4's(on 40m) of the L2 inductor on the current in all 3 sections of the windings? (click on it for larger image)

Amp Matching Schematic

7/17 Took apart another HF-2500 that had a melted down coil support. I was able to knock the melted down piece out of the center of this one and salvage the coil for experimentation. Wired it up temporarily as single band 80m leaving the 40m and 160m taps open.

7/18 Made new covers for the 40m and 80m 4-square dump resistors... not pretty, but better than nothing, or a melted plastic bag. Set up the modified amp on 80m to test... but too many thunder storms around to start that tonight. Look down the page to 7/10 for pictures of first repair I just got sorted out on here.

7/19 Ok, the results are in. I did two runs of 10 transmissions at 1500w afsk rtty on 3595. Each transmission was 30 seconds, followed by 10 seconds off so I could record temperatures. One run was with just the 80m turns on the coil connected, and one with the 160m turns shorted the way the original design works. Because of inductance changes when the 160m turns were shorted the tuning was different as noted below. Temperatures were measured with a Craftsman Professional 1400 Degree IR Thermometer... that one had one of the smaller spots, the laser pointer, and as an added bonus has a type k thermocouple input that can be read simultaneously.

Just 80m turns used:
  • Power 1500w
  • Ip=800ma, Ig=25ma, Vp=2450v, drive=40w
  • Tune cap = 21 Load cap = 48 (on scale of 0-100% meshed from front panel)
  • Temperature of the 80m coil wire on outside of core = 174f on inside = 220f
  • Temperature of the 160m coil wire on outside of core = 122f on inside = 150f
  • Ferrite temperature = 150f.
  • I suspect the temperature rise of the 160m wire was just due to the conduction from the hot core as it slowly increased as the test progressed. Some of the temperature may be just reading the IR from between the wire from the core also.

With 160m turns shorted:
  • Power 1500w
  • Ip=950ma, Ig=20ma, Vp=2350v, drive=50w
  • Tune cap = 33 Load cap = 62 (on scale of 0-100% meshed from front panel)
  • Temperature of the 80m coil wire on outside = 221f on inside = 330f
  • Temperature of the 160m coil wire on outside = 144f on inside = 210f
  • Ferrite temperature = 185f.
  • This time the 160m coil wire temperature shot up as soon as the test started instead of heating with the core... so yes, there is current in it, and yes it does do something bad.

The reduction in plate current with the 160m turns open is interesting. I expected some tuning difference due to the inductance change caused by the open turns but wasn't sure how the network would respond to that. Obviously the range on the tune and load caps was enough to handle it in this case, I would have to check the full frequency range and expected load variations to be sure there is enough range to cover the band. Or I could adjust the turns just for 80m single band use so it had the same inductance as the coil with the shorted turns.

Some inductance measurements: 80m section by itself with 160 section open = 16.5uH. With 160m section shorted 12.9uH

Started cleanup of yard and house for picnic. Set up for NAQP RTTY SO2R.

7/20 Continued cleanup for picnic. Setup station in M/M configuration for IOTA contest during the picnic.

Removed high band loading coil and connected just 80m turns of the toroid in the one amp to try that out. It tunes fine up and down the band anyway.

Removed the 3 power supplies that I bought to temporarily replace the Radio Shack recalled supplies. They would not tell me that 2 wires had to be switched, nor could they do the fix in the store, they had to be sent out for a couple weeks. And since I couldn't go without them for a couple weeks, and they couldn't just exchange them, I bought 3 replacements and told them I would return them when the repaired ones are back. Well, they are back now so I'll return the supplies tomorrow and get mine back. It would have been so much easier if they just published the fix for those who know how to take out 6 screws and swap 2 wires that are on push-on connectors.

7/21 Picked up repaired Radio Shack supplies and put them back on their stations. Put up tarp on deck for picnic.

7/22 Rainy night. Did some shopping and stuffing of the fridges for the picnic. Updated web site scores page.

7/23 More rain. More cleaning and preparation for picnic.

7/24 More rain. Clean up shed and get tables and chairs for picnic.

7/25 FINALLY SUN! Set up deck for picnic.

7/26 PICNIC! Perfect WX... Sorry, no pictures, maybe someone else got some?

7/27 Clean up from picnic and relax.

7/28 Changed station setup to SO2R for upcoming s/o contests.

7/31 Removed temporary setup of the listening 4-square to prepare to move it to a better site. Received 3 new low band coils for the HF-2500 amp repairs.

8/1 Tested antennas for NAQP. 40m 4-square dump resistor is shot. North-East Beverage seems to be way down. Everything else seems to be working.

8/2 Beverage problem may have been a temporary splice at the shack end. Sounds better after removing the splice this morning, and resistance through reflection transformer seems normal. Will see how it works before treking into the woods. Cut some small trees and brush to make more room for the listening 4-square in the wooded area between the driveway and 40m 4-square. Cut small trees and brush growing up under the 40m 4-square feedline.

8/3 Installed receiving 4-square in its new, hopefully permanent, home. Used the single piece verticals, fed at the base, with just a single radial on each one for now. Seems to hear better than the center fed verticals did, but not much f/b during the day. Will have to see how it does later when the arrival angle is a bit lower.

8/4 NE Beverage still way down. Took a walk tonight and checked the wires, they are all up in the air still. I have swapped coax at the shack end to check the inside wiring. I swapped coax at the transformer boxes to check them. I even swapped two of the transformer boxes. Must be the reflection transformer, it measures ok wire to wire, perhaps the ground is broken. Will have to mount an expedition back there to see what the problem is.

8/5 Well, I was right. The ground wire was broken. Good test of the effectiveness of those reflection transformers, the signals without it were s0 where they were s9+ on the others. The story is better than the problem though. After doing all the shack end troubleshooting I could I decided to mount an expedition to the far end... not an easy task as there is a big new beaver pond in the way. And not knowing what the problem may be I wanted to take a spare reflection transformer with me. So I went to the end of the South Beverage, down past the 80m 4-square. When I got there the can that I had put over the top of the stake and transformer was missing. Not just blown over, completely gone... strange. I disconnected the transformer and after finding a narrow spot to cross the stream down past the beaver pond I beat my way through the brush and trees to the SW Beverage end. The can was off that one also! But this time it wasn't missing, it was just a few feet away, rather crumpled and with some big holes in it! Not wanting to meet up with the owner of the teeth that punched those holes I quickly figured out that the bear had pulled the transformer sideways enough to break the ground wire. I replaced it with a piece of wire I had brought along 'just in case' and beat a hasty retreat back the same way I had come. I put the South end transformer back in place and went back home. I knew there was another reason I didn't like wandering around out there in the summer. Unfortunately this is an important Beverage direction for the upcoming WAE CW contest and needed to be fixed.

Bear Bites Beverage (Can)

Bear Bites Beverage (Can) (click on image for full size copy)

I just wonder if the bear was looking for his morning coffee, or did it not like me littering his territory with my stuff. I wonder if this is the same one that flossed on that same Beverage a few years ago?

8/6 Quick service from Comtek, ordered dummy load Saturday, received today. Replaced 40m 4-square load, now its better, but I think something still isn't quite right with it. While the SWR is better, it is distinctly higher on 2 directions than the other 2. It does seem to have a good pattern on receive though.

8/8 Finish checkout of everything for WAE CW. General work around the yard. Move some of the firewood from the 80m 4-square up to the driveway.

8/9 Run new control cable from 40m 4-square up to the shack. Replaced all tape on that long run with fresh stuff. Removed old deteriorated control cable. Moved some more firewood out of 80m 4-square area.

8/10 Moved more firewood out of 80m 4-square area. Mowed down some of the suckers and weeds growing up in the 80m 4-square area. Dressed up the cables to the listening 4-square. Added 4 more radials to the listening 4-square, connecting the bases of the verticals. It had 4 radials, one outward from each vertical. With just the 4 radials it was better than the temporary place I had it set up before, but still not what I would hope for... Now to do some more testing.

8/13 Pulled new control cable over to the 40m control box and wired it up. Had intermittant high SWR. Went down and tested all positions and checked dump power, everything is working fine. Cleaned up some of the loose cables under the 40m table.

8/14 Did some more testing with melted down modified amp. I melted some of the Tecaform in the toaster oven until it started to break down, it went limp at about 350f but it made very little odor even up to 600f surface temperature. The stink when the coil overheats appears to be coming from one of the tapes wrapping the ferrite cores. I stripped all the tape off one of the melted ones and re-wrapped just a single coil on it for 80m, about 13uH, then tested that. With the same 30 seconds on 10 seconds off 1500w cycle it still got the wire up to 350f and melted off one of my Nylon tie-wraps, but didn't stink. That modified single band amp should be good for this fall season anyway.

8/15 Set up tools and rigging stuff for possible work on 20m elements on Saturday.

8/16 Wx is cooperating, nice calm morning. Replaced all 4 bent element halves on the 120' 20m4dx. This was a tip and tilt job to get the 1st joint on each element in to range to reach from the tower. It was starting to get a bit breezy by the time I was done about 10am, but not enough to be a bother.

8/18 More experimenting with amp problem.

8/19 More experimenting and measurements of amp coil.

8/20 Move more firewood out of 80m 4-square area, figured out how to get more access with tractor without taking off mower deck to get to some of the farther back piles.

8/21 Move more firewood out of 80m 4-square area. Set up for evening sprint.

8/22 Another nice morning on a day off! Replaced element halves on the top 20m4dx. Inspected 150' tower from top to bottom. Ring rotor is pretty rusty. Note spare 1/2" catv hardline with female UHF end and black/white twisted pair spare at 140', also 5/8" catv with bent over end that will need a new connector at about 135'. Moved more firewood out of the 80m 4-square area.

8/23 Big day at Boxboro... Long day also. Left about 6:30am, dropped off mast for KE1FO along the way, didn't get home until 8pm. Bought some ceramic standoffs that shouldn't melt down to replace the Tecaform in some of the amp coil supports. More calculations by K1MK say there could be as much as 250w of heat loss in those toroids, with no air flow inside the coils that would definately be enough to heat up that core.

8/24 A bit breezy, but not enough to stop me from replacing the last bent 20m4dx element from last winter. The south one still has some bent ones from falling ice, but those can stay that way until I salvage parts from the others and replace those.

8/25 Cut about 2/3's of the brush in the 80m 4-square area. Still got more firewood to move out of there.

8/26 Moved firewood out of 80m 4-square area.

8/27 Moved firewood out of 80m 4-square area.

8/28 Moved firewood out of 80m 4-square area.

8/29 Cut some stumps and long pieces and moved firewood out of 80m 4-square area. Cut more of the brush out of the 80m 4-square area.

8/30 Cut more brush.

8/31 Moved more firewood, got last of unstacked wood and brush cleaned up in the 80m 4-square area.

9/1 Cut last of brush except for what is under last few wood piles in the 80m 4-square area. Put back up a radial for the North end 160m Inverted L that was taken down for cutting trees around the 150' tower guy wires. Taped back up one of the feedline bundles to the 150' tower and pulled it back to the top of the drawbridge posts.

9/6 Installed RTTY supplemental cooling fan on the ACOM amp, gave it a bit of a test in the Russian RTTY contest.

9/7 Well, tropical storm Hanna blew through over night, while waiting for things to dry up I finished packaging up the HF-2500 80m modification for the Fall contests. This should prevent the overheating we have seen in RTTY.

Along we K1MK we did some modeling and measurement of the coils and cores. We think the core is a -2 powdered iron mix. There are 2 T225 cores stacked in the form wrapped in fiberglass and then a clear tape. It appears the tape wrappings are the source of the stink, the Tecaform when it melts gives of some fumes but not as bad as what was in the tape when I unwrapped the core. The wire is 12ga silver plated Teflon insulated and was not damaged at all from the heat. With the core as shown in the pictures below I measured a Q of about 100, which gives a series loss resistance of about 3 ohms. K1MK modeled the pi network in SPICE and given the current in the coil this results in heat dissipation in the coil of about 250w. As you can see from the earlier pictures the wire is pretty well packed in between the wrapped form and the Tecaform support which probably doesn't give much room for airflow.

Measurement Setup

Coil measurement setup with MFJ-269 meter using the tune capacitor to resonate the coil for Q measurement.

Measurement Setup

Single band 80m modified amp. The area where the coil is now is usually occupied by the high band air core coil, the toroid is usually tucked below the tune capacitor.

9/13 Straighten up the 80m 4-square elements a bit. The one that was broke was a bit off vertical still. Cleaned up this page a bit, some of the early pictures were just links, now they are in-line so you don't have to click on them to view them.

9/14 Replaced low band loading coil in another HF-2500. This one was an older design that switched in capacitors for the low bands and had different numbers of turns in the coils. I had to remove a few turns for 40m and 160m and was able to get 80m close enough by spreading the turns on the coil a bit.

9/18 Tested latest repaired HF-2500, tunes up fine on all bands. Change station from SO2R to M/M for CQWW RTTY. Moved some more firewood out of the 80m 4-square area.

9/19 Finish running coax above ceiling for receive 4-square. Put shack ceiling back together.

9/20 Get updates to N1MM Logger, including some beta test ones for CQWW RTTY. Get updated supercheck, country list, and call history lookup files.

9/21 Well pump died, in middle of load of wash of course... No service available until Monday morning. 10m Roofing filter dead, remove it from radio, we probably won't miss it there anyway next weekend. Software mostly working, a few oddities reported.

9/22 Replaced well pump, contractor was only 2 hours late and came alone... this was definately a 2 man job! In the process we had to rewire the well power switch and pressure switch for it in the basement... who in the world would connect white to black and black to yellow and red to ground??? Anyway, I now have plenty of water again. Got my money's worth out of the old pump, the date stamp on it made it 32 years old.

9/23 Trimmed some branches from a tree blown down around the 80m 4-square to get them away from the radials. Mail roofing filter back to InRad for repair/replacement.

9/27 Roofing filter returned from InRad... Now that is quick service!

9/28 Replaced roofing filter in 10m radio. Noticed that the 20m Sub-Harmonic IS BACK! ARGH! See 2003 Tower Work and Subharmonic Generator experiment for info.

10/2 Moved more firewood out of 80m 4-square area.

10/3 Moved the LAST of the firewood out of the 80m 4-square area. Replaced the low band loading coil on another HF-2500. Played musical amps, put the newly repaired one on SO2R position, tuned on all bands to test it out. Put the other recently repaired one on 15m and made the one that was on the SO2R position a spare, it is one of the oldest ones with different wire on the low band coil. Set up for CQP.

10/4 Cut the last big stumps in the 80m 4-square area and brush mowed the last of the stuff growing up through the wood piles.

10/5 Went up 20m tower looking for the Subharmonic Generator. Tried grounding shields of the 2 jacketed hardlines to the tower at the base, 60', and 120', and regrounding the connectors at the top better. No improvement, and maybe it got worse. Must be something different doing it this time! Double ARGH! Thanks to W1UE who was doing CQP for running the tests from the shack while I added grounding up the tower.

10/6 Did more testing with rotating and switching antennas to find the Subharmonic Generator. The lowest threshold powers are with either the top or 60' 20m rotators pointing south, but the next lowest is pointing north. The only switch or rotator other than 20m that seems to affect it is switching on the 150' 80m inverted v. When that is selected the threshold increases a bit. However, the SWR on the south 20m is much higher than it should be and appears to be intermittant at times... perhaps something in the balun or feed point??

10/7 Curiouser and Curiouser... more testing of Subharmonic Generator. For those of you who haven't seen this little gremlin it kind of works like this... Somewhere there is a diode connected to something that is nearly resonant on 40m. As the 20m power increases it will suddenly hit a threshold where the diode starts conducting. This puts a pulse of voltage on the resonant element, this pulse goes somewhere and reflects back to the diode just about the time that the 20m exciting voltage hits its next peak... this time because the voltage reflected back arrives about the same time as the next 20m voltage peak the diode doesn't conduct, or at least not as much. The waveform this generates is an ugly 1/2 of the exciter frequency mixed with the exciter that then makes the 15m 3/2's harmonic that started this whole hunt again.

This time I tried putting 20m power into other antennas to see if any of them were particularly sensitive to creating this effect... figuring that if there was a bad joint, or flakey balun, or something like that it would stand out. The various thresholds for starting the oscillation look like this:

  • 20m top pointing west = 550w
  • 20m top pointing south = 100w
  • 20m European stack = 350
  • 20m ring pointing west = 300w
  • 20m ring pointing south = 100w
  • 20m south = 70w
  • 80m inv v at 150' (on 20m tower) = 100w
  • 80m inv v at 70' (on 40m tower) = 60w
  • 80m 4-square = ~300w
  • 15m stack ~300w
  • 10m at 180' on 40m tower = blew up balun first
  • 160m inv V at 180' on 40m tower = 500w
  • 160m inv L's beaming E-W = 150w
  • 160m inv L's beaming N-S = 240w
  • 160m single inv L (the south one) = 400w
  • sloper on 60' tower = 10w

Say what??? 10w! Time to go take a look at that sloper and the 60' tower! Oh, and replace the 10m balun, darnit... its probably good that I didn't try individual antennas on the 15m tower first.

10/8 Its a Witch Hunt in Peru, just the right season for it I guess. Tonight I went up and cleaned up the top of the 60' tower. I took down the sloper that was there and shorted out the 2 left over guy insulators, then while I was at it tightened up the guy wires and checked the ground connections... no change. I also checked the feed point of the nearby 160m inverted L, no problem there. Then I started on another tact, maybe if I transmit into 2 antennas on different bands, rather than forcing 20m power into the wrong antennas... So I transmit on the 20m ring rotor antenna with a threshold of around 200w by itself. When I transmit on 80m with 100w on the South and West beams of the 4-square and on the low inverted V it raises the threshold a little bit. Transmitting high in the band on 40m the threshold raises to about 500w when transmitting on the lower beam, about 400w on the top beam, about 400w on the inverted V, but goes up to over 1000w with as little as 10w into the 4-square. Go check all the connections on it, everything seems ok. Try it again, now 100w into the 4-square only raises the threshold to about 500w! ARGH! Next one, about 10w into the single 160m inverted L raises the threshold to about 1000w! Now what? Check the connections on it, they all look ok, and no change, about 10-20w into it raises the threshold over 1000w. Getting too dark now, more tomorrow probably. But at least the 60' tower looks better now with nice tight guy wires... and a bunch of connections have been checked tight.

10/9 The hunt is still under way. Tonight was a nice warm autumn evening so I went up to replace the Balun on the South 20m Yagi that I thought was intermittant. Well, that was only part of the story. The Balun got replaced, but I'm not sure it was the real problem. In the process of starting the replacement I found that the coax connector had never been soldered on that cable. This was one of a dozen or so identical cables I had made that are now used on the 20m, 15m, and 40m stacks. This is the second one I have found to not be soldered so far. Quick Tom, I need some 6 sigma training or something! So after coming down the tower to get the torch, going back up and soldering the connector, finding the SO-239 in the old Balun was loose, I had to disconnect the old Balun wires that go to the elements. Doing this loosens the clamp that holds the hairpin tubing in place, when that is loosened the tubes on both sides almost slide out of the shorting bar! Both setscrews in the shorting bar are loose! So I put some more goop on the Balun connections and tighten them down, then spread some more on the shorting bar end and tighten the set screws as much as I can with the end of a pair of wire cutters shoved in the Allen head screw, then tape up the joint to keep the goop in the gap... That had better last for a while. But now what about the other 4 of those beams up above it????

10/10 Well, another night of Witch Hunting... still no success. Tonight I pretty much eliminated the new listening 4-square. I laid down all 4 elements on the ground, disconnected the control and coax to it and still had the harmonic. Just for good measure though I regrounded where it was connected to the hardline and old control cable at the 10m tower base. If nothing else when this is done I'll have everything a lot better grounded than before. Put station back in M/M configuration.

10/11 3 hours up the 180' tower, about an hour of that beating on a hardline connector to get the center pin back where it belonged. The problem with the 180' 10m beam was not the balun, I first disconnected the hardline connection and measured the beam with the MFJ meter and it was fine. This was the final failure of the hardline connector that had been intermittant the last couple years. The center pin of the N connector on the hard line had backed out until it was just barely making contact, the high SWR from trying to pump 20m RF into it fried the tip of the pin and broke the circuit. So I had to take the hardline connector apart and pund the insulator back up to where it belonged and then reseal everything. I also grounded the 3 jacketed hardline runs at the top of the tower. I checked all the bolts on both ring rotors, there were several loose ones on both of them... that probably answers the question about where the 2 bolts went from the top one last winter, those flanged lock nuts don't seem to hold very well. And I finally removed the 40m emergency inverted V. But after that there is still no change in the Subharmonic Generator. After lunch I went and grounded the shields of the 3 jacketed hardlines going up the 180' tower, still no change. But I am getting lots of stuff done that should have been done one time or another anyway!

10/12 KB1OEV got me a couple of discarded workbench static mats. They fit nicely on the station desk sections and are nicer than the pieces of linoleum from the last bathroom remodeling. The surface is softer and a bit textured so they make nice mouse pads, so you don't need a separate pad and can use the mouse anywhere on the surface of the desk. The surface is also a very good non-skid surface for paddles, they almost act like they are stuck down on it instead of sliding around on the hard flooring surface.

10/13 Bought a Grundig G5 to go sniffing with. It works fairly well as a field strength meter with the antenna retracted and the sensitivity on 'local'. Rigged up a pair of HT's to trip the vox on 20m and went walking around hunting. The strongest signals seemed to be around the Beverages so I disconnected everything from that post, no change. The lowest power that makes the Subharmonic is when the top or ring antennas are pointing at the 15m tower, so went up there and checked all the coax connections, no change. Sniffing back from the Beverage post found even stronger signals at the corner of the house where all the cables go in, so maybe it is really inside... sniffing inside found that when pulling off some of the 10m cables the threshold changed, but never stopped... completely disconnected all the 10m coax and checked it, no change. Figured it wouldn't hurt to improve the grounding at the entrance a bit so connected the 5 jacketed hardline shields with that .125" aluminum wire directly to the ground, cleaned up some other connections. No change, if anything it is happening at even lower powers now. While moving around hardline I found 2 of them had rubbed through their shields and taped them up to protect them... all the entrance connectors and those big loops should probably be cleaned up, maybe next summer.

10/15 Up 150' again. Cleaned up 80m inv-V connections. Checked at each 20m antenna going up for the noise and it was fairly weak all the way up on the west side of the tower. When I got done with the 80m inv-V I started checking everything around the top and found strong signals from an unused twisted pair that used to be the controls for the 80m inv-V beam. Grounding it seemed to change the noise intermitantly, but after removing 350' of it from the tower to the shack it didn't change. I do seem to get stronger subharmonic signals near the various power and control cables, but is that being generated up the tower or just conducted from below? I need to go up again and check the 20m switch box and replace the coax T that has been taped together for years after the clip ring popped out so maybe I'll find something there.

10/17 A bit cool and breezy this morning, feels like 160m wx! Too breezy to climb so decided to finish pulling out that unused twisted pair. Pulled it in through the shack entrance and at the 80m station it dissappeared into a hairball of assorted wires all bundled up with tape and tie wraps. Well, it may have been a mistake but i started taking the splice and extra loops of wire out and by the time I was done I had about 50' of cut up spare wire, more than that in old sticky electrical tape, done a bunch of resoldering, and almost completely rewired from the 80m control box to the 2 cables going to the switch boxes.

Made some more measurements on the subharmonic last night just after some rain:
  • Top - south = 70w
  • Ring - south = 75w
  • South = 600w!!
  • Europe stack = 1500w
    Then again this morning before sunrise
  • Top - south = 45w
  • Ring - south = 100w
  • South = 300w!!
  • Europe stack = 600w
    And again after the sun was up for a while(about 9am)
  • Top - south = 45w
  • Ring - south = 90w
  • South = 150w!!
  • Europe stack = 900w
    So yes, it is probably moisture sensitive with the biggest sensitivity on the south antenna.

I went around again and disconnected each coax coming into each station, nothing notable there. I also unplugged each of the rotors and shorted out the ring rotor cables with no effect. I did notice some interference on the low 80m inv-V at high power on 20m so I went up and cleaned up it's connections. They were a bit corroded, but cleaning them up made no change. It is interesting that transmitting on relatively low power (<50w) on the low 80m inv-V raises the threshold. Also transmitting on the south or west 80m 4-square beam raises the threshold. I went around the 80m 4-square and the South Beverage run with nothing interesting on the sniffer, signals were generally weak except right next to the Beverage wires. Disconnecting the reflection transformer on the Beverage didn't do anything either.

I went up to the 20m switchbox and replaced the T connector for the matching line, it wasn't as bad as I thought, but it got replaced anyway. I also inspected the 20m relays, they all look fine. The Subharmonic signals up at that level on the tower were weak. On the way down I inspected the inside of the TIC Ring Rotor connection box, everything seemed fine in there. I got much stronger signals from the coil of spare rotor cable, but moving it around and putting it on a different face of the tower didn't change anything. On the ground I went around the 150' tower guy points and twanged all the wires, no change. I twanged guy wires on the 15m tower and the north west set on the 180' tower with no results. The signal does seem strongest around the 160m inv-L, but moving around and retightening the radials on the North L didn't change anything.

10/18 A real nip in the air today, 32f at sunrise. Rewired the 40m antenna box to remove the inverted V, just add a diode from that output to select the top beam instead so there are no buttons without a valid antenna. Unrolled the 80m 4-square ground screens. That is a much easier job now that all the brush and tall stumps are gone.

Continuing testing the Subharmonic Generator... Neat new stuff, it also generates an 80m subharmonic at 1/4 the frequency, but it takes about double the power to do it. This could explain the 80m noise during CQWW RTTY. The 80m one is also more sensitive to transmitting on the 160m inverted L, it takes less power to stop the 80m subharmonic than the 40m one. This should narrow the search down a bit, now I need something that is resonant on 80m also. And what do you know, even though its out of the band there is one on 160m also. And no, these can not be generated by adding or subtracting regular harmonics... now it should be easier, I need something resonant on 160m... and there are only 3 of those(at least intentional ones) out there! I hear it on the inverted L's on 160m, but its weak on the 160m inverted-V. It is also much louder, like s-8, on the low 80m inverted-V but only s-1 or so on the high one, it is strongest, about s-5, in the North lobe of the 80m 4-square and weakest to the South. So that makes sense I guess, its somewhere near the house... yeah right, like that helps!

Time to divide and conquer! One piece at a time:
  • Disconnect South end 160m inverted-L. No change on 40m and 80m, but I don't hear it on 160m now.
  • Disconnect the radials from the South 160m inverted-L. This is harder because they are all twisted together after wrapping around the pvc pipe, but get them all separated ok... no change.
  • Disconnect the radials from the South 160m inverted-L that were tied to a guy wire and a cable run carrier wire. Inspected radial end insulators, they all look ok. No change.
  • Disconnect the North end 160m inverted-L. No change.
  • Disconnect the North end radials and check the end insulators. No change.
    Well, completely divided but not conquered!

Next, check 15m antennas again. Set to tx on the top 20m near the threshold level, about 50w now. Turn the top and bottom 15m antennas around. Top one seems to get signal strongest from the East. Bottom one may also get strongest from that direction, but has interesting null at about 160 deg where the threshold goes up to about 100w. Switching antennas on there also changes the threshold. Did I not find something my last time up there?

Next, rotate 40m beams. On the top 40m there is are deep nulls in the signal when pointing North or South-East, and maybe a dip to the West, but the threshold doesn't seem to change. On the bottom 40m there is very little change in the signal as the beam rotates.

Lower the low 80m inverted-V wires down to the tower. Now I get a broadband noise on the high 80m inverted-V and 4-square when transmitting, but only the clean subharmonic on the low inverted-V... very strange. But the 40m threshold seems about the same. Short out the ends of the low 80m inverted-V to the base of the tower, no change. It appears the wideband noise is from the amp at very low powers, turning off the amp or retuning it seems to get rid of it.

Break for lunch.

Try transmitting on 15m and 10m and rotating those antennas to see if they can excite the resonance. Neither one of them on any antenna seems to excite the Subharmonic Generator... Both of the rings generate some cracklies while rotating, but nothing oscillates.

Lower the ends of the high 80m inverted-V, no change. Lower the 160m inverted-L rope about half way down, no change. Put back up both 80m inverted-V's and the 160m inverted-L's. Short the 160m inverted-L's to the feedline run under them, no change.

You know, this is starting to get annoying.

Restore 160m inverted-L feedpoints with nice new clamps and lots of conductive gunk. No change.

Another interesting one... I can make a Subharmonic when transmitting on 40m from the lower antenna. Its lowest threshold is about 600w pointing at Europe. It doesn't do it from the top or when using both or from the 4-square.

And to round off the set... I can make a Subharmonic on 160m when transmitting on 80m with about 500w from the low inverted-V but not the high one or the 4-square. The signal is louder on the inverted-L's than the inverted-V though.

10/19 Starting to run out of antennas to test now. Lowered the 160m inverted-V down, got the North leg which is connected to the coax shield straight down the tower and the South leg down pretty far, but I didn't want to pull that rope back across the pond to get it all the way down. When I did that the 20m power threshold to start the oscillation didn't change, but the tx power into the 160m inverted-V to stop it was reduced from about 50w down to <10w... now that is interesting. Pull it back up and the stop threshold goes up again to 50-100w. I took this "opportunity" to move the North leg farther away from the 180' tower top guy wires and out a bit farther. I was able to get it over to the 150' tower base to tie it off just at the end of the existing rope. That seems to have helped the tuning on that antenna a bit. Its too windy to go up there this morning, it was almost too windy to pull the 160m inverted-V back up to where it belonged. If nothing else I am getting some of the 'To Do' list stuff crossed off.

Now, what does this mean? The treshold to start the oscillation is the lowest when the top 20m is aimed just about at the 180' tower. The top 20m antenna is at 150' and that one has the lowest threshold to start the oscillation. What is up there? The 2m beam, the 10m beam, the 40m beam, the 160m inverted-V, a TIC 1122 ring rotor, and a G-2800SDX rotor. Pulling the plug on the Yaesu rotor does slightly change the threshold for starting oscillation. This might point to something in that rotor or cable, that it only changes the threshold slightly is not too surprising, when I went through this before and found the coax connectors that would stop it up the tower when they were grounded the end of the cables in the shack didn't affect it much at all.

Investigating the 180' 10m rotor. There are 2 extra wires in that cable. It is an 8 conductor cable, but only 6 are used by the G-2800SDX. Resistances between the various wires seem ok. Grounding some or all of the wires in the cable slightly changes the oscillation threshold. Sending <10w of 160m RF up the cable raises the threshold.

10/20 Back up the 180' tower with a pocket full of capacitors and ferrites. Do a 6 wire bypass on the G-2800 rotor control cable, add 4 split ferrites around it, and ground the 2 unused wires... no change. Then clean up and add gunk to the 160m inverted-V connections. No change. On the way down I check a couple places and try sticking an ohm meter pointy probe through the hardline jacket to ground it, no changes there. I get strong signals on the G5 around the coax switch so do a 6 wire bypass on that one also. No change.

10/21 Do shopping for CQWW SSB, start cleaning house.

10/22 Finish most of the house cleaning.

10/23 Go up 15m tower, inspect top rotor connector, no change in subharmonic when it is disconnected, but it did get louder when I touched the shell. Checked all the hairpin shorting bars to be sure they are tight, try touching elements and shorting them out with reach rod, no change in subharmonic. Inspect switch box inside, seems ok, no change in subharmonic while touching each lead. Check ground rod just outside shack, run hose on it for a few minutes and no change. Hose down feedlines around shack entrance and toward the listening tower, threshold goes up from 50w to 75-80w just after hosing.

10/24 Set up station for CQWW SSB M/M. A beautiful day in the Berkshires... 50f and light breeze, it doesn't get any better than that this time of year. Went up the 20m tower and did a 6 wire bypass on the top rotor cable. It was in bad shape, must have been twisted and quickly taped for soldering later and never was... rewired it and bypassed all wires to ground. No change in subharmonic.

FINALLY! The Gremlin has been slain! With K1MK here early for CQWW SSB we started doing some more testing with him running the radio and me doing stuff. We started with hosing down the feedlines and stuff outside. It did raise the threshold from 50w to 100w or so in a couple steps, but nothing dramatic. Then we started looking for higher harmonics again, we found an odd one at 49MHz and got a null with the 6m antenna sideways at the shack. We found one just above 2m, but couldn't get any bearing on it. Not having a VHF-AM receiver I tried the HT that went above the band and could hear it on FM in the shack. So loud that the rubber duck was too much... so switch to the paperclip and scan the shack. Its the strongest around the 10m station, mostly near the stubs, so disconnect those. I've been here before a ways down the page so didn't really expect to find anything new... but kept disconnecting stuff and the threshold kept going up and up, but wouldn't go away. It seemed to be most sensitive to the SWR meter being in the circuit, yes some of you did suggest those, but I had already disconnected all the meters from the antennas and still had the subharmonic... so that just couldn't be it. Put the meter in, 100w or less, take the meter out 1000w or more... but it wouldn't go away. Put the meter in and pull the 12v supply to it, 1000w threshold! Pull the power from the 80m meter, threshold goes up some more. Pull the power from the 40m/SO2R pair of meters, and it goes up more. Pull the 15m meter power and it goes over 1500w... pull the power from the 20m and 160m meters just in case... SILENCE! I'll test more after CQWW SSB, but my best guess is that something in the PEP circuit that gets 12v power was rectifying and resonating with the coax stubs on the different stations... 7 sources, all in the shack! Well, I did get lots of ugly stuff cleaned up outside anyway... maybe there were some other sources outside also... in any case now we can have a nice quiet contest without QRM from ourselves anyway!

10/25 Friday night there was a broadband noise on 10m and 15m, not able to get much direction except basically East on 15m and maybe North on 10m from the 120' tower. Went walking a couple times with the G5 receiver and it seemed loudest around the house. Finally found a noisy switching laptop supply on one of the operator's machines.

10/26 Big wind and rain storm over night, measured 44mph at about 10' above the house, but it was probably double that 100' and above. Got some broadband noise from 20m on the stack occasionally this morning, but it doesn't seem to be on any individual antenna. Also broke one of the 80m 4-square insulators over night, but the fiberglass prophylactic braces held just fine. I think those insulators are not adequate for this type of no-concrete tower. I'll probably double up the fiberglass on them in the future just in case.

Top 40m ring rotor didn't want to turn clockwise past North about dawn. It was nice so I got dressed ready to go up and see what was wrong, but watched it with a telescope while an operator in the shack turned it. It went West ok, then turned all the way East with no problem. Turned it back and forth a couple times and it looked just fine. Maybe it has a tight spot around North and bound up when making a small turn... seems fine now anyway.

On the plus side the intra-station interference seems to be way down in general this weekend. Those meters may have been doing more than just the sub-harmonics that I was chasing.

Modified 80m amp gave up Sunday night, power output went down and heat went up... maybe lost a tube or that toroid changed value so much it wouldn't tune. will test later. Replaced with ready spare to finish the contest.

10/27 Car died on way home today, and I just don't feel like doing the log processing... Took a look at the meters that were causing the sub-harmonics. These are relatively new Daiwa CN-801 HP meters. I'm not sure what was doing the resonating, but I can see the rectifiers now. Its a classic pin-1 problem. There is a 12v unpolarized power input to the meter for the light and PEP circuit. They made it unpolarized by keeping the incoming wires both separate from ground. Instead of the normal way of grounding the shell of the connector to the case they run both wires to the circuit board and into the AC inputs of a full wave bridge rectifier chip. Then the negative output terminal of the chip goes to the circuit board ground and then the case. This means that two of the 4 diodes are cutoff between the 12v negative power supply, which is grounded to the shack ground, and the +12v supply. So whatever RF gets picked up on the power cord, or on the few feet of cable between the amp, meter, and switches ends up turning on those diodes. Of course at that point there are all sorts of possible things to resonate in the shack, most likely the coax stub filters are part of the circuit. A single .01uF cap from the incoming power wires to case ground eliminates the rectification up to 1500w at least, where without it the subharmonic starts under 50w. I am betting that some of the odd interactions, like transmitting on 160m would stop te subharmonic from 20m to 40m were caused by higher levels of RF keeping the diodes either conducting or cut off enough to prevent the circuit from building to a resonance.

And just to show that it works in the wild just like my contrived experiment at: Subharmonic Generator. This is what the voltage on the positive and negative lines of power cord look like when its not connected to the meter:

No Subharmonic

And what it looks like when it is connected:


Note the alternating squashing of one peak of the 20m rf which results in the 40m sub-harmonic.

10/28 No hardware work, process log and spot database for CQWW SSB.

10/29 SNOW! about 2" over night. There was lots of wind last night, and the change from rain to snow left a bit of freezing junk, but all elements are still in place today. Of course the rental car had no scraper and mine is in the shop with my car! Car still broke, so another commute in the rental. Help out N4ZR with a WinTelnetX setup for the CW Skimmer.

10/30 HOT AMP! Fired up the modified 80m amp again. It wouldn't tune, too much plate current, caps max mesh, no dip in plate current. Pulled toroid out, failure mode was obvious once the wire was moved out of the way:

Split core

At least the dealer finally found something definate wrong with the car, a shorted wire in the injector harness. But now when the downstairs heater comes on it makes a loud vibrating noise, call service place and get a promise for someone to show up Friday sometime.

10/31 Setup station for SSCW SO2R. Attempting to contact Palstar who apparently is the new owner of the Command Technologies amplifier line to find out what those cores are. Service guy for tractor shows up with new fuel gauge, thats not the problem, must be the sender unit, back to order more parts... not that I worry about a fuel gauge on a tractor, but it is a new Green Machine so it should be working. Service guy shows up for heater, pulls mouse out of induction fan, proceeds to do full cleaning and test on both units while he is here instead of coming back in 2 weeks when it was scheduled. Put tools away in shed from all the tower climbing from the subharmonic search. Put snow blower on tractor. Clean up other left over parts in shed and make room to park the DR Mower in there for the winter. Now I'm ready, let it SNOW! I think its supposed to get up into the 60's next week. Order more fiberglass from McMaster Carr, I'm going to double up those strongbacks since one of the insulators broke... just in case. Order more of the V bolts from Tessco, some of them felt like they galled when I tightened them down, want to have spares in hand... just in case. Ordered some Teflon wire from Surplus Sales of Nebraska to wind my own coils, and a piece of 1/4" thick Teflon sheet from McMaster Car to insulate coils from the RF deck since the Tecaform piece that was under the broke coil was melting.

11/1 Check tuning of 160m inverted-V after it was rearranged during the subharmonic hunt. Its better now without the extra 1/4 wave 50ohm transformer in line so I take that out. Hmm, that gives me a long enough piece of coax to put back up the 40m inverted-V down where it should be for SS that starts in a few hours. So run that up the tower and install the 40m inverted V at about 45'. Tunes a bit low in the band, but it will be ok for CW, it will need some trimming before SSB though. V bolts from Tessco show up, on Saturday via FedEx... I don't remember asking for overnight, and definately not for Saturday, they must just do things fast by default.

11/2 Start work on 25th anniversary edition of the Building A SuperStation book.

11/4 Fiberglass and Teflon arrived from McMaster-Carr today. Now I just need some wire and cores. Got reply from N8PH at Palstar that now owns the Commander line, the cores are T225-2B, so ordered a dozen (minimum order) from Micrometals. Stuck one of the removed coils that was still good, but a bit black, in place of the cracked one to test the tubes. The amp tuned up just fine, so at least I don't have to get more tubes right now.

11/5 Installed more of the static mats on the other stations. Nice white non-skid table tops now, but for how long?

11/6 Teflon wire arrived from Surplus Sales of Nebraska.

11/7 Stapled static mats under front of tables to keep them from hanging out. Set up station for WAE RTTY SO2R. Plate fuse blew in so2r HF-2500 amp when first tuned up, swapped it with 80m amp and replaced fuse, its functioning ok.

11/8-9 More work on book update. Visit by DH1TW.

11/10 Setup station for m/m operation for SS SSB. Found interference to bedroom radio on shortwave, the webcams are noisy. Shutting them off gets rid of lots of noise in the shack and up in the bedroom. They don't seem to be heard outside the shack at least.

11/11 Cores from Micrometals arrived.

11/12 Wound new inductor for 80m single band amp. 16.5uH on 2 cores in series. In a short test it seems to run much cooler, has a lower plate current at 1500w out, and a better tuning dip. I'll have to rerun one of the timed tests after it cools down all the way, maybe tomorrow. There are 16 turns of 10ga silver plated copper, Teflon insulated wire on two T225-2B cores from Micrometal. They are sitting on a 1/4" thick 3"x3" piece of Teflon. For future reference, that took 10' of that wire, but is not wound very tight, that wire is just too slippery to pull by hand very well.

Dual core

11/13 Reran a temperature rise test on the modified single band 80m amp. This is 1500w 30sec on 10sec off for 10 cycles. The original coils ran up to temperaturs of 220-230 deg with up to 350deg on the inside. This one only got up to 141f at the hottest point I could find. The left tube does seem to be running a bit hotter than the right one during the test though, this would seem to agree with more discoloration on it's fins than on the right one.

11/14 Just need to set up computers for SS SSB, so cleaned up old TV and Satellite cables in the attic. Removed the zip cord loop from the upstairs bedroom and put a sloper off the TV tower for the SWL bedside radio. Replace the wire stuck in the SO-239 with the mobile antenna on a piece of flashing in the attic for 2m from the bedside radio. Green machine gas gauge finally fixed.. it was the sender that went bad. More work on book update. More work on website, updated VRML station model.

11/15 Finish setup for SS SSB. Everything working.

11/16 80m FT-1000mp keying relay sticking, keeping amp in TX. Swap radio with spare (that I thought had a sticky relay earlier but had been behaving itself on the spotting station when I tested it)... Sure enough, its relay is also sticky, just not nearly as bad. Time to make some new cables and key the amps from the band data jack instead I think. 20m ring rotor turned north-west and wouldn't turn back. Played with it a bit and got it back south-west. Voltages seem ok at the controller.

Well, it was worse than I first thought. The 20m ring is windmilling. A bit windy, but I grab some rope and go up to tie it down so it doesn't wrap up the coax or something else. Send query to TIC General about what parts are available for a 1989 vintage 1032 ring.

11/18 Rewired the 80m FT-1000mp to key the amp from the band data jack instead of with the relay. Except for the odd DIN plug why didn't I do this before. sure is easier than sending them out to be repaired. Swapped back to the 80m radio that started sticking bad during SS because it already has the key click mod. Swapped 80m amps back to the re-modified single band one, so now the spare amp is an all band one.

11/21 Removed the broke ring rotor drive assembly from the 20m tower, unfortunately it made it down the tower before I did resulting in a broken plastic housing. Query sent to TIC about how to proceed with repair/replacement. Motor seems to run, but output doesn't turn, must be in gear train somewhere. The good new is that Carl at TIC says that they replace all the plastic when they upgrade the drive unit.

11/22 Test all rotors, turn bottom rings back to Europe for CQWW next weekend. Top 40m doesn't want to move initially, once wind comes up and buffets it a bit it moves ok. Must have been some ice in the rollers or something. Order 2nd drive motor from TIC just in case to give it some extra torque up there. Do more work on book update. Run listening 4-square cable over to 20m table to try during CQWW CW.

11/23 Ah a beautiful morning in the Berkshires. 13f, light breeze, clear blue skies, sun peeking between the trees, snowing, perfect time to go walk the Beverages. Only one insulator knocked off by a branch that came down. Started cleaning house for CQWW CW.

11/24 Shipped 20m ring motor and mounting to TIC for upgrade. Started stocking the fridge for CQWW CW... I hate shopping this week!

11/26 Clean house for CQWW CW.

11/27 Continue setup and tuning for CQWW CW.

11/28 Finish setup for CQWW CW.

11/29 20m amp developed noise while in receive mode, about s-6 wide band crud. Replaced with spare amp.

12/1 First ice storm came early this year... one 160m inverted L broke at the knee, and some branches and a small tree are down on some of the 80m 4-square radials and Beverage, but not causing any problem right now.

12/2 Ah, the old love story... Car meets deer, deer runs off, car dies of broken heart. If anyone finds a deer out there with K1TTT embossed on its left side, I want some of that pre-tenderized steak!

12/3 Nice afternoon, got home early after cleaning out radio and stuff from old Cherokee before it got dragged to the junk yard. Fixed 160m inverted-L rope so that is back up in the air anyway. Surfed the web comparing new cars.

12/4 Bought new Wrangler... things sure have improved since the last one, the dealer could do all the registry work, loan paperwork, insurance, etc, in house. No need to even send someone to stand in line at the registry to transfer the plates, even though it did take them a while to figure out how to enter the K1/TTT Ham Radio vanity plate into the system. On the way home there was ice and snow so I got to try out the 4wd. And the rest of the herd must have been jealous of the one with the K1TTT imprint and took a run at the new one so I got to test the ABS also!

12/5 Cut down a couple of the bent over trees around the 80m 4-square. Installed 2m/70cm radio in new Jeep. Did some more work on the book update.

12/6 Doubled up the fiberglass strongbacks on the 80m vertical with the broke insulator. Only had to break off 4 of the 12 V SS V-bolts due to galling when they were put on. Started trying to troubleshoot noise on 20m amp from CQWW CW... First simple test of turning it on and doing a couple minute warmup resulted in nothing.

I really, REALLY hate intermittent problems like this... it wouldn't do it cold. So I started warming it up, after 1/2 hour or so I got the transformer up to 225f, the rf deck surface about 150f, the tubes about 130f, the case was nice and toasty... and I got about 15 seconds of noise from all of that. It may have been modulated a bit by line voltage fluctuations from the 160m contest op on the next station, but wasn't dependent on it. There was no measurable grid or plate current when it did it. I did get to cycle the stby/op switch a couple times and the noise dropped but didn't go away when I went to stby... so perhaps it could be something in the control board oscillating when it hits some particular temperature, but its darn hard to reproduce.

12/7 Got instructions from Palstar (the new owner of the Commander amp line) to modify the control board with some more filter caps on the 12v supply to prevent oscillation. Need to pick up an electrolytic to do it.

12/8 After a suggestion from KI6SZ of Palstar who now owns the Commander amp line I picked up some electrolytics at Radio Shack on the way home today, yes, they actually do have some fairly well stocked parts drawers. Installed .1uf caps on the input and output of the 12v regulator and a 220uf 35v electrolytic on the output. Before installation there was a rather strong oscillation at 3MHz with a strong 6MHz harmonic component as you can see below, horizontal = .1usec/div, vertical = 1V/Div. This was measured on the 12v output jack on the back of the amp. I was able to hear it wandering around even through the 14MHz bandpass filter between the rig and amp. This could explain some of the other odd birdies I have heard and could never quite trace down before they would run out of the band.

12v Regulator Oscillation

The capacitors installed on the back of the circuit board.

12v Regulator Oscillation

I also tested the amp on the right hand radio of the so2r setup and it didn't have anything on it's 12v output. I'll keep the scope handy and check the others later.

12/10 Top 40m ring rotor is stuck on North again.

12/11 Looks like top 40m ring may have a ring joint aligned with one of the bearing plates. Still won't move so will plan on going up there soon to check it out. Ice storm predicted for tomorrow, I'll wait till after that is gone at least. Tested the other 5 HF-2500's, none of them showed any oscillation on the 12v output.

I took Thursday off just in case it started early, Friday was our regular Friday off on my work schedule anyway. Thursday I fired up the generator once just to be sure it was ready, but ice wasn't too bad. Maybe 1/2" by dark. But temperature dropped and it kept raining over night.

12/12 ICE! 1" plus lots of icicles over last night. Just barely got up to 32f, then dropped down and started blowing. Both 40m beams, the 180' 10m, and 2m are scrap, top 20m has broken elements, one 15m has a broken element, 160m inverted L's are down because the pulley broke on the 10m tower end. The Beverages pulled so hard they broke the 6x6 post and pulled out the F connectors on all 6 of the new cables, plus they are down probably most of their length... I don't dare go into the woods yet, there are still trees breaking and ice falling, sounds like a battle zone and looks like a tornado has been through.

At 1am N2KW work me up to tell me power was off, he was here getting ready for the 10m contest and had been playing on the low bands. When I got up in the morning power was of course still off so I started the generator to cool off the fridge and warm up the house. Started freezing ice in freezer to be able to put in fridge to extend generator off times, and waited. At this point all antennas were still intact except the 160m inverted L's whose pulley had broken and the Beverages. The Beverages had pulled so hard that they broke the 6x6 post at the shack end off at ground level, this jerked off the F connectors on the coax for the transformers, but doesn't look like it did any real damage to the boxes. There was a little bit more rain Friday morning. Late morning Friday after the rain was pretty well over the neighbors and I got out chain saws and cleared our road so we could get out and trucks could get in. I took a short drive to survey other damage and got about 1/4 mile each way on the paved road before it was blocked. Stayed home and ran generator off and on. About mid day the wind came up and broke the elements off the top 40m beam, all 4 of them on one side so it tipped over the other way into the guy wires. That also started breaking elements on 20m and 15m yagis that were bent like horseshoes to start with.

Surprisingly I found that the neighbor's phone across the road was working Friday afternoon. A couple hours later my phone and DSL came back on. Apparently Verizon is parking trucks for temporary power at the roadside CO box to keep it powered until the line comes back. Late Friday afternoon I tried the road again and found it was open. It was an obstacle course of ducking under low trees, going around down wires, and not much fun, but it was open out to the main road where we saw some tree service trucks still working their way up rt-143. Apparently it was National Guard troops that cleared the trees out of the road.

Friday night there was more wind, and it switched around to come from the west. Saturday morning revealed that the bottom 40m boom brace had failed on one end and the boom broke. Its now leaning badly and most likely has damaged the ring rotor due to the unbalance load. Later on one of the European 20m antennas boom broke also.

Dec 08 ice

Top 20m before wind came up and broke the elements.

Dec 08 ice

Top of 180' tower before the 10m beam broke also. 40m beam has all 4 elements broke off on the left side and dangling from their loading lines. The weight tipped the other elements down.

Dec 08 ice

The Beverage post that broke off at ground level. The post in the foreground was pulled over by the rope from the low 40m inverted V.

Dec 08 ice

Closeup of 160m inverted L rope. The rope is 1/4" polyester, so you can guage scale.

Dec 08 ice

Bottom 40m beam, before the wind came up.

Dec 08 ice

View looking back toward the house from the pond dam, those were about 50' tall Scotch Pines that literally pulled themselves out of the ground.

Dec 08 ice

Under all those trees is the bridge across the pond outlet.

Dec 08 ice

The 80m 4-square lost some radials, but otherwise was standing intact all day.

Dec 08 ice

The bottom 40m after the wind came up.

Dec 08 ice

The top of the 180' tower after the wind, 10m and 2m are both broke.

Dec 08 ice

Natures thinning and pruning of the trees.

Dec 08 ice

Broke and twisted 15m European antenna at 90'.

12/13 Cold! Temperture dropped to 11f, fortunately the wind dropped off so it wasn't too bad. N2KW made it out late Saturday morning after working a half dozen contacts in the 10m contest. With rotors frozen and ice all over the antennas they weren't working very well, and my generator doesn't like amps so he was only on low power. With colder temperatures coming it was probably best that he left then. I also had come down with a nasty stomach bug...

Saturday night I think I slept for about 12 hours, but was feeling better when I work up. That G5 radio runs for quite a while on 4-AA batteries.

12/14 Sunday morning and still running the generator for an hour or two at a time. The node and web server are only on while the generator is running. Temperature up a bit and may get above freezing today. Supposed to be warm tomorrow. Sunrise pictures below (click on them for full size version):

Dec 08 ice

10m tower, at least all the elements are still in place here.

Dec 08 ice

40m tower, all 4 elements brok on top 40m, top 10m broke, and 2m bent badly. Bottom 40m boom broke when truss broke. It looks like the boom end bolt broke, the cable is still there with an empty eye.

Dec 08 ice

15m tower, a few twisted and broke elements on these.

Dec 08 ice

20m tower, top one is missing half a reflector and has other bent elements. Next one down at 120' has a broke boom.

Dec 08 ice

Closeup of top 20m.

Dec 08 ice

Closeup of 120' 20m European antenna.

Dec 08 ice

Closeup of top 40m and 10m.

Dec 08 ice

At least I now have a good view of the 80m 4-square, could only see tips of 2 of them before.

Dec 08 ice

Insulator on the deck.

Recovery operations are already underway...

Dec 08 ice

New Beverage post installed. Used big old screw jack to pull out stub of post that was left and slipped spare one down into the hole. Added back stay since its hard to pack dirt down around it now. Put 3/4" rebar stake next to closer post, its broke below ground level, this should keep it up for the winter.

Dec 08 ice

DX Engineering Beverage transformers removed from old post and brought in to melt off before getting reinstalled. Will need to re-terminate the 6 cables before these are needed again.

Ordered RG-6 stripper, connectors, and crimper for the nice F connectors DX Engineering uses.


Current broke list:
  • 40m4lldd at 180'(all 4 elements snapped)
  • 40m4lldd at 70'(boom folded when truss broke)
  • 10m4dx at 180'
  • 2m at 180'
  • 20m4dx at 150' broke and bent elements
  • 20m4dx at 120' broke boom
  • 15m4dx at 120' broke and bent elements
  • 15m4dx at 90' broke and bent elements
  • 160m inverted L's pulley broke
  • All 3 Beverage runs flattened, 6x6 pressure treated post broke off just
    above ground level.
  • One 2x4 radial support post broke on 80m 4-square
  • Most radials down on 80m 4-square
  • 40m feedline stuck under down tree, but still ok I think.
  • Branches down on 40m 4-square radials
  • Branches down on 160m Inverted L radials

Saturday or Sunday I didn't like the looks of the 60' listening tower guy wires. I think the 160m inverted L rope may have loosened them or pulled one of the screw anchors out a bit. I drove some stakes on two of them that seemed loose and added some extra ropes just in case.

So far I have replaced the 6x6 Beverage post because the ground was loose enough to do it and I wanted it done before it froze in. I repaired another broke coax run post that broke. I replace an 80m 4-square radial support post that broke for the same reason.

Tonight I lashed the 70' 40m4lldd hoping to keep the boom from breaking off and causing more damage and to take the unbalanced weight off the ring rotor. And I lashed down the broken boom half of the 120' 20m that was starting to flap in the breeze before it could damage anything else (I hope).

12/16 Power was restored about 1pm today, only 4.5 days off, not bad for as much damage as there was. Some areas may still be off a few more days around here.

This afternoon W1EQO came with chainsaw in hand and cleared the trees and branches off the 80m 4-square radials. When I got home I put back up the 160m inverted L's, the 40m inverted V, tied the ends of the Beverages to the new post so they don't get lost in the next snow/ice storm tonight, then went and got all the radials for the 80m 4-square back up in the air. W1EQO also cleared the N-S Beverage from the 80m 4-square to the end, that’s about half the length of it that needs clearing, there is still a bunch of stuff down on it between the 4-square and the shack end.

12/17 DX Engineering connectors and tools showed up today. Cleaned a few low hanging branches and downed stuff from the 2nd driveway entrance. Got repair quote from XX-Towers for insurance claim.

12/18 Nice WX this afternoon, but a blizzard forecast for tomorrow, so I took the afternoon off to see how many wires I could get up off the ground before they got lost. Started with the chainsaw on the 40m 4-Square. Got all of its radials and the feed line back up off the ground and in reasonable condition. The radials should be replaced next summer probably. Then started on the N-S Beverage run because W1EQO had most of that finished already. Got it cleared and back up on the posts, only about 2/3 of it on the insulator rods, the rest just tied up with rope, but since the wire is insulated anyway it shouldn't really matter. Installed the 3 DX Engineering Beverage transformers on the new end post. Got all the 160m inverted-L radials off the ground and pretty much in the clear. Got the South ends of the 40m and low 80m inverted-V ropes out from under big branches.

I know I have mentioned this before, but here is the worst example ever... When something is broke or shouldn't be used for some reason I use a cheap homebrew tagout system, just red electrical tape over the button or switch. Or for things like rotors that shouldn't be turned I'll pull the plug and wrap that in red tape. This is what the boxes look like before getting the 160m inverted-L's back on line.

Dec 08 ice

12/19 Amazing, Central Tractor had exactly the number of fiberglass electric fence stakes I wanted, and the right insulators for them, and the right drill bit. To repair the Beverage posts I need to drill a 3/8" hole through a pressure treated 2x4 the wide way, so a normal little twist bit won't do it, you need one of the longer auger type bits or one of the long shaft flat ones... I got one of both just to be sure. Nice heavy snow tonight.

12/20 Yep, nice snow. 8" or so of nice light stuff. Phone repair guy shows up before I get driveway cleaned to fix the eye that pulled out of the beam in the ice. Note to self, put antenna receipts in folders with instruction sheets, the insurance company now wants to see receipts to get the original values... spend an hour or so hunting through 5 year old bags of receipts and paperwork to find the 20m and 15m ones. I must have gone over some 'pay it off quick and get him out of our hair' limit on this one, they are actually going to send an examiner out to look at the antennas.

After lunch its up to 13f, so I fire up the chainsaw and tackle the SW-NE Beverage run. About an hour to cut my way to the back end. About 1/2 hour to cut 10' of one wire out of the beaver pond ice that it got frozen into. That was fun, using a chainsaw to cut ice on the pond that has about 3" of slush on top of it. Then breaking up the ice with an improvised pry bar made out of a cut up branch. Playing in slush and water at 13f is not always a good idea. By the time I'm done my gloves are soaked, my hat fell in the water, my boots are soaked, and so is most of my snow mobile suit. And then its a very exhausted walk back up to the house. I hurt, but its a good hurt. Hopefully tomorrow the hurt will be gone and I can get that one tied back up to the posts. Take a hot shower and throw all the clothes in the wash... sit down and have a hot chocolate with 100 proof peppermint schnapps in it... yummmmm.

12/21 A Nor-Easter forcast for this afternoon, and its only 11f and snowing and blowing at sunrise. Decide to go get the SW-NE Beverage off the ground early. Take a bucket of rope and some insulators and trek on back that line again. Fortunately it doesn't take long to get it tied back up on the posts. Lucky Dog was definately not happy, but followed along anyway. I would not have played in the water this morning like I did yesterday, the east wind is making it feel much colder than yesterday.

12/22 Cold, very cold... time to hibernate.

12/23 Wind chill got above zero during the morning, and the forecast for tomorrow is freezing junk and rain, so I took the afternoon off from work and got the NW-SE Beverage up off the ground. Of course this one had some huge trees across it, one of which will be there for a while, wedged about 10' up between a couple others. This is the only one that broke one of the ropes, the far end anchor rope for one side broke... the limp wire made it harder to dig out since it kept sliding through my gloves.

12/24 Nice warm afternoon, up to 40f when I got home from work. Finished hooking up the Beverages. Had to tighten up the ropes so the jumpers would reach, then hook up the jumpers to the DX Engineering boxes. Ran a new ground wire to the rod. Installed new F connectors on all 6 coax runs. Reconnected and tested. Of course they were backwards, so had to swap all the wires end for end to get them pointing the right direction again.

12/25 Tighten up the temporary guy ropes on the 60' listening tower. Fix chain saw tension adjuster. More editing on 25th anniversary book.

12/26 Added a couple feet to the 160m inverted-L rope to move the south L out from under the guy wire. When the wind blew strong from the west it was pushing the wire up into the top guy wire causing arcing.

Went up the 180' tower. Disconnected the feedlines for both 40m4lldd-125's. Removed the two broken halves of the driven elements from the top one. All 4 elements are broken in the same place, right at the start of the swaging of the first tubing section. This is the one spot where there is only one thickness of tubing in the section of the element out to the truss/loading line connection point. On my design that was on the bottom one this gap is bridged by 3 sections of tubing from the next tubing out.

Dec 08 ice

You can see above the end of the broken off element of the 40m4lldd-125. This is the swaged down part of the first tube out from the boom. The 2 inner pieces of tubing reinforce the 2nd tubing section. The first tubing section 2 inner sections also, but only the swage covers that one joint. The nuts were on the bottom of the element, the top of the tubing (on the right) was torn by the wind and ice which folded over the bottom(on the left) which then quickly broke off in the wind.

Dec 08 ice

The scrap aluminum pile starting to grow.

12/27 Another perfectly yucky day. Caught up on QSL card pile. N2KW here for Stew Perry 160m contest. Made adapter plugs to key all the amps from the FT-1000MP Band Data jacks. Had to rewire the SO2R band decoder plugs because they were insertable pin types and didn't have all the pins included.

12/28 More editing of 25th anniversary book.

12/29 Had visit from insurance adjuster.

12/31 What a way to end the year... a bunch of crumpled aluminum still up in the air and piled up on the ground while waiting for the insurance company to do their paperwork. Its been too cold and windy to do much anyway even if there was new aluminum available.