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David Robbins, K1TTT



2010 Maintenance and Upgrade Blog

This is a running blog of things I do to the station and some stuff done around the house that affects the station setup or contest operating.

Quick Index:

1/1 Starting out better than last year... everything is working!

1/2-3 While K1SFA/K1MK were running RTTY RU I cleaned up a whole pile of cables and adapters that had been piling up.

1/7 Electrical part of generator installation was pretty well done today.


The generator after getting it off the truck and kind of leveled with some pea gravel from the bucket and trash can. The generator is a Kohler 18kw air cooled unit, it has an 80a 240v output breaker.


Where the wires are going in.


The automatic transfer panel before connecting it in to the meter or generator.


The main panel before wiring in the generator.


Generator with side panel off.


Transfer panel all wired in. The line service comes in the pipe from the meter on the right. The generator comes in the pipe from the bottom. The switched line to the inside panel is the cable going out the bottom. The meter box is a bit tight because the input is on the top and the load is on the bottom going out the pipe. to the left.


It looks better with the covers on.

In between the electrical work I also got a load of wood to finish up my bedroom walls and a long backordered shipment of ferrite toroids from Amidon.

1/8 Another busy day around the house. Rinnai service tech showed up at 8am, even though I had tried to move him to next week. Fortunately he was gone by the time the propane tech showed up to connect up the generator, that took a couple hours. Then the DirectTV tech showed up after lunch and spent an hour or so putting in a new dish and receiver. Finally around dinner time the electrician came back and we fired up the generator for a test run. It has no problem with the well pump, electric oven, dryer, or at least one amp. Will have to test with more amps later.


A little fancy plumbing to get a tap off the high pressure side of the house reducer for the generator. Wires and pipe will be buried in the spring, they are protected by some big boards and pallets for now. There are 3 cables to the generator, the big gray one for power to the panel, a small power line that runs the battery charger and carburetor heater, and a control cable from the transfer switch.


The electrician and propane plumber will be back in the spring to bury wires and create a gravel bed for the permanent placement. With the shack windows shut you can barely hear it even though its only 10' the other side of the wall. It shouldn't even be a problem if the windows were open, though mics would probably pick it up.


The after view of the main house panel. The big gray cable in the stud bay on the right is what comes in from the transfer box. In order to do this properly the transfer panel is now the 'main' panel. It has the neutral and ground tied together. The panel in the house is now a branch panel, so the electrician had to spend a couple hours putting in a separate ground bar and moving all the bare grounds from the old shared neutral/ground bus to the new separate ground bus. Now I have to clean up all the phone lines and close the wall back up. Fortunately I'll have some spare paneling as I just got the wood to finish putting tongue and groove on the last 2 walls of my bedroom, so one of the sheets I pull out of there will replace the pieces in the closet.

1/9 Put the closet back together around the electrical panel. Also cleaned up the old phone cables and connections. Set up for K1MK to do NAQP CW. Now its time to do the walls in my bedroom.

1/10 Did tongue and groove on the last 2 walls of my bedroom. About 8 hours from taking down molding to putting it back up.

1/14 Ok, so this isn't exactly about radio... yet. Just wait for the first high power contest and it might be. It all started with a desire to get the local TV channels from DirectTV. After I gave up on doing it on the web site and 3 different customer service people poked at it the result was that my box couldn't handle it. So to change to a new package with the local channels they gave me a whole new system, HD-DVR and dish delivered and installed free. Plus after removing the networks I was paying for separately and the old Ultimate TV service it comes out to $10/mo less than what I was paying before... what a deal!

But my TV doesn't do HD, and its a 4:3 set, so all the HD channels are letterboxed which makes them smaller than before, and the little lump in the scan is not from the old box, its in the TV. Plus the DVD player doesn't do Blu-Ray and its display has been broken for a while. etc, etc, etc... so off to visit BestBuy today. And after one thing led to another I ended up coming home with a new Blu-Ray player, a receiver box (my old DVD included the receiver, now most of them don't), a new powered sub woofer since the receivers seem to assume that now and my old one is passive, and of course over priced HDMI cables to hook them all up since none of them come with cables. Oh, and the TV I wanted wasn't in stock and will be delivered next week... And they will take away the old monster, this could be fun to watch!

1/16 Set up for NAQP SSB for WB2JSM M/2 operation.

1/21 Exciting week in radio land. Removed Aluminum foil hat from the old TV, the new Samsung HDTV should be delivered tomorrow morning.

1/22 New HDTV installed today. Set up for BARTG RTTY Sprint for tomorrow morning.

1/23 No discernible noise from the new TV setup found on any band yet.

1/25 Setup up 2 radios for 160m cw contest. Setup rest of station in SO2R for later.

1/29 Finish setup for CQWW 160m CW contest. I had been playing with some usb-vga adapters to use extra monitors for grayline maps, but those machines locked up randomly during BARTG RTTY. Pulled them out and put the 19" widescreen monitor I got by mistake (it really isn't very good for normal use since the height is only 768 pixels) on the skimmer server to run DXAtlas on. It works good for that since its best on a wide screen.

1/30 Found that the NW Beverage box output is dead. Ordered a new box and preamp to try out from DX Engineering. That way I can have a spare on hand in the future. Temporarily connected both wires to one input terminal so the SE output is bidirectional for now.

1/31 It was a nice day and NJ1F showed up but couldn't operate until near the end of the 160m contest so we took down and repaired the NW/SE Beverage box. There was a broken wire on one of the transformers, I soldered in a short piece of wire and its working fine again. The replacement box will be kept as a spare when it arrives.

2/4 Setting up for FOC Marathon for N2KW. The first red tape of the winter... the top 40m ring is stuck. Inspection with telescope doesn't show any problems. But motor current is high, with my ear on the tower I can hear it trying. Best guess is that one of the motors is jammed. Have spare motor set to go if WX forecast holds I should have a couple hours in the morning without much wind.

Received DX Engineering spare Beverage box and preamp. The case style has changed a bit on the Beverage box, the top is now plastic but with a , but it still pretty hefty.

2/5 Went up tower at dawn before wind came up. Replaced one of the top ring rotor motors on the 40m tower.


What the well dressed tower climber is wearing this season... Lucky dog doesn't seem to care about the temperature. It was a relative heat wave at 16f with winds slowly rising to 5-10mph by the time I was coming down. I'm glad I didn't opt to tie up the hood before going up, it would have been too warm. I did take up 3 pairs of gloves, I only used the mid weight pair.


The motor taken down, autopsy to be performed later.

2/6 Motor taken down from top 40m ring works ok on ground. Sent back to TIC General anyway to have them check it out.

2/7 While N2KW was playing FOC Marathon I cleaned up and swapped tool cabinets so the bigger one is in the shack with the good stuff in it and the smaller one is now in the bedroom with all the little used stuff.

2/10 Setup SO2R RTTY for K1SFA for WPX RTTY.

2/13 Installed DX Engineering RPA-1 preamp and SDR-IQ on 160m Beverage line after the RIP-1. Found one of the annoying birdies at about 1843. It was actually 2 of the MM-3 keyers contributing to it... very stable clocks in those things from the traces on the SpectraVue waterfall. There is some other noise that is raspy and unstable that seems to be related to when the second radio amp is keyed on the SO2R station.

2/15 Started setup for ARRL DX CW.

2/18 more setup for ARRL DX CW.

2/19 finish setup for ARRL DX CW.

2/25 Start setup for CQ 160m SSB for W1EQO S/O and NAQP RTTY for K1SFA M/2. Big snow yesterday, see full story at: BIG Blizzard

2/26 Broke snow blower gearbox trying to clean up big plow pile by mailbox. Set up for CQ 160m SSB. W1EQO gave up on trying to get up RT-9 because of snow/ice. Did a little playing around myself. He may come up Saturday and W2GB may be up then also.

2/27 Setting up for NAQP RTTY. 20m bottom ring rotor indicator pot appears open. Can still turn it by jumpering the indicator and watching position out the window. 10m bottom ring rotor motor appears open, is pointing East, it can just stay there till it warms up a bit.

3/5 Set up for ARRL DX SSB. Went skiing around Beverages, more small branches that have been hung up in the trees since last winter fell down but nothing big enough to do any damage.

3/18 Well, been quiet except for a bit of ice and wind last weekend. The only damage may be a slightly bent reflector on the 120' 20m Yagi. The rope from the 150' 80m inv-v got stuck under the 60' 2m Yagi and had to be untangled but I was able to do that from the ground. In the wind I noticed the bottom 40m beam slowly turning (like 30 degrees an hour), the rotor controllers were off and when I turned it on the display tracked the beam position so it wasn't skipping teeth on the drive gear. TIC says that yes, apparently the newer drive motors that I put on the lower ring will do that. They recommended adding 'dynamic breaking' to the box, basically just shorting out the motor leads when the box is off to prevent the motor from turning. Kitchen remodeling is getting under way, the new appliances are here. The new range and dishwasher are staged in the living room and the new fridge is in the garage. I have started packing up stuff and moved the big glass front cabinet over to the corner of the dining room.

3/19 Set up for Russian DX Contest. Some good news... The 120' 20m Yagi is probably not bent, the wind blew it so hard that one side of the reflector snagged on the top guy wire. So it should be an easy job to go up and tip it a bit to free it.

3/21 Upgraded both Wiki's to latest software.

3/27 Set up for WPX SSB for NE1C M/M. The spare ring rotor drive motor is back from being repaired. All they found were some bearings that needed to be replaced, maybe there was some ice in them that froze it up.

3/31 Set up SO2R for SP DX contest and others coming up in the next couple months. Kitchen contractor started ripout.

4/2 Walked the Beverages. This is the best time of year for that, no hunters, no bugs, mud just dried up, stream is running a bit high to cross though. The N/S and NE/SW both had dead branches down on them, but were ok otherwise. Lots of dead branches still falling out of the trees from the Dec 2008 storm

4/3 Replaced pot on 60' ring on the 20m tower. The wiper was open on the pot itself. The rebuilt motor for the 1032 ring is much easier to replace the pot than the old ones, this one is right on top. The only special tool needed is a small Allen wrench to put the gear on. It is soldered in, but I changed that by cutting short pigtails and splicing them in the box.

Ripped out the old open shelves in the shed and installed the old kitchen cabinets. Cleaned up a bunch of junk, scrap wood, etc. Hopefully with the enclosed cabinets and drawers I can keep the mice and squirrels out of some of the stuff.






This is what is left of the kitchen and bath:


4/8 Electrician was back to bury the electrical cables to the generator. Unfortunately the plumber couldn't make it to move the propane line at the same time so the ditch will be open till next Tuesday.

4/10 Some problems do take care of themselves... big wind last night and this morning, I see the 120' 20m reflector has blown free of the guy wire. So cross that off the To Do list. Set up for JIDX CW for JA1BPA.

4/13 Propane pipe to generator replaced and buried, now its pretty well done: Image

4/16 Set up for Holyland Contest for N2KW.

4/18 Extracted some old junk from back in the woods. An old cast iron wheel from near the Beverage trails:


And a newer(probably) wheel and axle from near the north property line.


4/23 Got the DR mower start and cut some brush around the 150' tower. Set up for FL QSO Party for N0HI.

4/25 Fabricated replacement hardline connector for the 180' 2m vertical in case the commercial one is a pain to repair up the tower again. Cleaned up the shed a bit more. Cut some more brush around the 150' tower. Rolled up the ground screen under the 80m 4-square for the summer. Put the shack wall and drop ceiling back together now that the plumbing and electrical inspections are done on the kitchen job.

5/1 Set up for NEQP. Tested bottom ring on 10m tower, now its working. Went up to check connections in box and they all looked OK. I hate intermittent failures!

5/8 Set up for CQ-M M/S. Started preparing Lucky Dog for his job at the next picnic.



The kitchen is coming along, starting to look a bit like it might work now.



Nice day for cleaning up some more around the 150' tower perimeter. About 30f, 25-30mph wind, a bit of snow now and then, windchill in the low teens, but NO black flies!

5/17 Back from Dayton. Bought just a few things, some tools, a new camera, a couple books, and a mini vna. Below are the first pictures with the new camera...

The best of the Dayton flea market, an F-16 cockpit simulator:


The worst of the Dayton flea market, a cadaver storage tank with left over body parts:


5/20 Started playing with the miniVNA Pro I picked up at Dayton. First finding is that the 20m stub to notch the 10m harmonic was way short. Added a longer jumper to get it closer but it needs some more trimming.

5/21 Finally a nice climbing day, got up the 180' tower to fix the 2m packet hardline connector again. Was going to replace it but it was easier to repair this time, probably because it was warmer.

5/22 Stripped the antennas, feedlines, control cables, and rotor off the 60' tower. Lowered the mast down inside the tower to the base. The top vertical (that couldn't be reached without removing the rotor and lowering the mast), and the 2m Yagi needed repairs after the winter... I'm amazed the vertical was working at all, when I got it down within reach the shell of the PL-259 had slid out of the base and the screw holding the radome in place was missing so the whole thing just came apart. I had to tape it into a bundle to keep it from hitting the ground in pieces.

5/23 Took down the 60' tower, took off 3 sections with gin pole and then laid the rest over using the ground rod through the plate as a pivot. Had to use bumper jack to get the bent up ground rod out but otherwise it went pretty smooth. The 2m and 6m Yagis will be cleaned up and probably fixed SW on the 15m or 20m tower where there is spare hardline already in place.

5/28 Set up for WPX CW for k1mk.

5/29 Replaced brown shelves in hall with the short table from the old kitchen for the shack coffee pot. Put the old kitchen microwave on it also for downstairs.

5/30 Added new jumper for the spare hardline on the 15m tower to the VHF station.

Put 5 ele 6m Yagi that was on the 60' tower up at about 70' on the 15m tower pointing SSW. The hardline connector had a bit of corrosion and moisture in it, I cleaned it up as well as well as I could. It must not have penetrated down the foam very far as the resistance and loss readings were ok.

What is the picture below of? (answer in a few days, or when someone reminds me about it)


6/1 Construction of solar electric system started.

Ground breaking


Lots of broken ground


6/2 Solar system construction continues...

Wet Sonotubes don't work very well.


New forms out of REAL wood.


Another meter just for the solar system on the other end of the house.


Another box added for the solar system cutoff breaker to the left of the big generator transfer switch.


6/3 The foundations for the solar system were poured today.


The panels will be mounted on the horizontal pipe. There are 4 2'x2'x6' piers with galvanized pipe embedded in them.

6/6 The kitchen and baths upstairs are pretty well done now. The only obvious missing thing in the kitchen are the drawer and cabinet pulls.


This the the completed mounting frame for the solar system.


6/10 Replaced 120' 10m rotor box to fix the indicator again.

6/11 Cut more brush around 150' tower and around 80m 4-square.

6/12 Set up vhf station for June VHF contest... some day I should make up cables for the second SO2R box for the VHF station!

6/18 Set up for AA CW for W1UE.

6/23 Solar panel installation started.

The first panels on the framework.


The full array a couple hours later.


Hooking up the wiring between the panels and inverters. Each panel has its own inverter, the 4 rows of inverters are daisy chained together and tomorrow the 4 of them should come together in a box on the closest leg of the frame where the conduit goes back to the house.


6/24 Solar system connected and tested ok. Ran the SDR-IQ through the bands while standing next to it and had some hash up around 15MHz, but not sure if that was from the system or conducted from the power line. Will have to run more tests later, but seems relatively quiet.

6/25 Started setup for Field Day. Will run on generator power to see how it handles the amps and other stuff.

6/26 See statistics on my system at: PV System. It probably won't be running full time until later next week, we are just testing and getting the monitoring set up now. The project was designed and built by Pioneer Valley PhotoVoltaics

6/27 Generator ran well after one burp at the start. No problem with 4 amps on ssb. With 3 keying CW simultaneously at full power the voltage sags a bit and ups's start to beep.

6/30 Set up for Canada Day Contest for JA1BPA SO2R.

7/1 Finally got approval to operate the solar array. WMECO was quick, it took almost a week to get an electrical inspector here to sign the form off. Got VPN to W1KM for NU1AW operation up with all the stations.

7/2 Fixed the feed point on the south end 160m inverted L. Its down to its last inch of braid, the next fix will probably require soldering on some more. While testing 160m I found some new strong unstable birdies. Did better scan of the solar array, while there is some broadband hash when the SDR-IQ antenna was just about touching it, there were no distinct birdies. Used SDR-IQ with short vertical to DF and found it was the LED bulb I picked up at Dayton to try out. It must have a switching regulator in it, very ugly spectrum. It was in a no-name box with part number JB-P50W-A3x1W AC85-265V. Its probably the wide voltage range that required the regulator. It also ran warmer than another one that is marked for AC-110V only.

More on generator noise. When running unloaded for test it has a very regular sweep from about 1815-1845khz and a raspy noise about 1864khz. When loaded the sweep is weaker and less regular, this is probably the voltage or frequency regulator. When it is in standby there is a wider raspy noise, probably a switching supply for the battery charger and control circuit around 1850 which moves up in frequency above 1900khz if the generator mode switch is set to off. If the battery charger breaker is opened the noise goes away. I submitted a query on the kohlerpower.com web site to see if they have modifications to filter those out.

7/3 Made a risky early morning climb to 60' on the 20m tower after only 1/3 of my normal morning caffeine consumption to align the ring indicator. Also adjusted the boom brace and leveled the elements a bit better. There is a worn spot in the coax jumper to the beam down to the braid right at the corner where it goes from the ring truss support to the boom, taped that up.

Full image of mystery picture above...


I learned this way of storing long ropes from KC1XX. This way there is no twist to the rope like if you coil it. It is also easy to take out and store, you just put the bin at the bottom of the tower and it pulls right out. You do have to be careful when packing it that the rope isn't wet and that you distribute it in the bin so it doesn't make a big lump in the middle. In this bin I had room for a 600' lifting rope and a shorter tag line also on top.

7/9 Setup for IARU contest as NU1AW. Wireless adapter died on hub computer, fortunately I have empty ports on the new hub I just put in for the solar array communications.

7/12 180' packet antenna off the air again.

7/17 Setup for CQWW VHF and NAQP RTTY. Repaired the Diamond f300 from the tower that was taken down and put it on a mast above the weather station for Packet network.

7/24 The annual picnic is today, pics below courtesy WA1ZAM, WA1ZHM, and maybe KA1HSP...




While there were some showers the tarps held most of it off, and they did cool it off a bit.


W1RM, N1MM, and W1WEF's nametag in the shack avoiding the showers.


There really is a W1WEF attached to that nametag.


After the showers the Tour de Towers starts off with neck stretches on one of the shorter towers.


It swings around the pond past the 40m 4-square and on towards the 80m 4-square in the background.


The Tour de Towers faces a stiff uphill stretch with Lucky Dog in the lead by a nose.


From the other direction passing the 180' tower and heading toward the 150' tower and solar array.


A quick stop at the Beverages with some beverages in hand.


A look behind the solar array showing the micro inverters.


The always interesting cable entrance, now including the solar array generation meter.


N2KW on 20m operating the IOTA contest.


KK1W on 40m, WA1ZHM on 20m, and someone without much hair on 15m.

7/30 Finally got a nice morning to get up and replace the hardline connector for the packet antenna at 180'.

7/31 Spent all morning and into the afternoon digging up and replacing the perimeter ground. The old one was made up of salvaged pieces of 4/0 braided aluminum lightning rod cable. It was broken by the backhoe when they installed the solar array, and in doing a temporary fix for that I found it had rotted off the rod connection at the NE corner of the house. It has been replaced with solid #4 copper and all new hardware, including the connection to the wx station tower, a connection to the solar array emt, and a cleanup of the service entrance ground.

8/7 Set up for NAQP CW SO2R for K1MK. Mostly been doing stuff around the house recently, changed dining room light, built bigger patio for Lucky Dog to stop his digging under the steps, cleaning out the garage, cut grass, etc. Also set up temporary real time scoreboard since getscores.org hasn't been finished yet.

8/13 Set up for WAE CW. Bottom 20m ring isn't indicating the right direction again.

8/20 Set up for SARTG RTTY.

8/23 A dull and drippy night and interesting question about what I do for QSLing resulted in this reply: I used to send DX 100% via buro from every contest, then that got too expensive. Now my policy is this: 100% to LOTW, and 100% for SASE. As far as filing, in the first year or two of contesting when I was doing paper logs and QSLing by hand I kept a DXCC checklist and sorted cards by country into a big shoebox. Pretty soon I realized that DXCC wasn’t for me, I would rather see how many countries I can work in a weekend than track all that stuff for life. So the shoebox is now in the bottom of one of the dozen or so file boxes of unsorted cards sitting in my crawlspace. I figure some day if I break a leg I’ll sort the cards into 2 piles, those with naked women on them, and all the others.

8/28 Set up for SCC RTTY. Got up to troubleshoot 60' 20m ring rotor, the motor shaft is bent so on part of each revolution the indicator drive gear disengages making the indicator gradually loose calibration.

9/3 Set up for Russian RTTY contest.

9/10 Finally wired up cables for the YCCC SO2R box for the TS-2000's to do VHF contests properly. Set up for ARRL Sept VHF contest.

9/12 DL9DRA, DL8DYL, and son visited for the night in an RV on the start of a New England tour.

9/18 Started brush mowing around the 80m 4-square. Got about half of it done this morning. Cleaned up some stuff in the garage and shed to make room for parking. Stored away the flea market junk in the shed for now.

9/21 Cut more weeds around 80m 4-square until I bent the mower chassis on a stump. Got about half of what was left done.

9/22 Beat the brush mower back into shape and mowed just enough to get the screens rolled out before it bent more and slipped the belt again. Its about had it this time I think.

9/24 Set up for CQWW RTTY M/M. Cleaned relay on 80m amp.

9/29 Welded on some reinforcement on the DR Mower chassis. Seems to be cutting as good as ever now. Cut rest of weeds around 80m 4-square and started around pond... until I broke the drive chain doing wheelies in reverse to stop the slide down the bank into the mud around the edge of the pond. The pond is very low due to lack of rain this summer so thought I would cut back the brush before it rained.

This is the mod that added plates on each side of the chassis to support the mower deck tilt plate after both of the bent pieces of tubing bent and cracked at the point where they go into the chassis.


Modification from last year that added a piece of rebar to support the back end of the exit chute skid. The skid kept getting caught on stuff while backing up which then would also break the front brush pusher.


Modification from last year that added an angle bracket to reinforce the front end of the exit chute skid and the brush pusher. There just isn't enough metal there to take that force. The big bolts are ends of a cable clamp that was used to pull in the skid bar before welding, now its just a part of the weld mass.


9/30 Replaced drive chain with bigger old chain. Of course now that I'm ready to cut its pouring rain! Set up for SO2R for W1UE to do CQP.

10/1 Cleaned tr relay in 80m amp, again. Nothing like 5" of rain in 5 days, 2" just today, to dampen things a bit.

10/2 Started trying to figure out audio problems on vhf SO2R setup. Something is strange with power I think, there is odd feedback that is related to power output but also from computer. Finished brush mowing between 40m tower and pond. Lost idler pulley on mower for a while, found it partially buried where it must have come off, and spring not far away. After repair, cut brush between 15m and 40m towers.

10/3 Finished cleanup of the VHF SO2R station. It is now really SO2R with everything switched through the YCCC SO2R box. I did have to keep the RigBlaster between the computer and mic input on the SO2R box because I was getting some odd feedback, probably something strange with the TS-2000 mic input vs the computer sound card output and the power supply ground. Even though all the grounds are connected there must be something, probably in the computer, that is floating where it shouldn't be.

Also cut the weeds and brush between the 15m and 20m towers and trimmed the entrances to the Beverage trails. Had to get a medium size branch off the NW-SE Beverage and replace a couple insulators. This was yet another of the branches broken almost 2 years ago that is finally coming out of the treetops.

Rolled out the 80m 4-square supplemental ground screens.

10/7 New TIC ring is here to replace the 60' 20m one.

10/8 Did more brush mowing. Got the area behind the PV system cleaned out, the skiing trail, the path back to the north end of the high 80m inverted V, and around the far guy anchor for the 15m tower. The area by the north end of the high 80m inverted V needs some chain saw attention to get branches off a downed pine tree that are blocking mowing.

Set up for M/M for Makrothen RTTY.

10/9 End of brush mowing for this year. Broke another part and wore out my last belt while cleaning up around the 80m and 40m 4-squares, under the 160m inverted L radials and around the pond.

10/14 Installed new Zoom x6 ADSL wireless router. Used current phone line filter and wound extra power cord through 2 of the 1" toroids I use all over for stuff like that. Had new blinds installed upstairs. Got some new relays to replace the open frame ones in the HF-2500 amps. These are Shrack rp710012 spdt sealed units, they are pc mount so I'll have to make up a little board to mount 2 of them on for each amp. They were purchased from Palstar who is using them in their updated version of the HF-2500... they may also be the ones that Pat was using in his high speed switching board or later models.

10/15 Set up station for SO2R for next weekend. Tested Zoom router for susceptibility to RF and generated noise. No problems noted. Even though the NWS dropped the winter storm watch I still put the snow blower on the tractor.

10/16 Added special outlet for Solar Array monitoring box directly off it's meter. PLC signal is much better and it can plug in directly to the router now.

10/17 Sorted out parts for new bottom 20m ring rotor into the order I want to lift them. This is another different design for the ring. There are no adjustable bearings in this one, the whole triangular frame adjusts to clamp the ring in place... interesting idea, will have to see how easy it is to adjust up the tower. Also all 3 bearing plates and 2 of the triangle legs are already welded together so there is only one side piece to install.

Cleaned up and reorganized the shed. This is kind of like one of the little puzzle toys with the sliding tiles where you have to keep sliding them into the one hole to rearrange them... except in this case its a 3d puzzle and none of the blocks are the same size. Still, I ended up with more room to move around than I started with so it wasn't all bad.

Took the chainsaw for a walk in the woods to cut down a couple of trees that had been hanging on the wires of the SW/NE one back at the beaver pond crossing. Dog leashes make nice quick slings for carrying chainsaws without needing your hands... an important thing when crossing a not so solid beaver dam.

10/21 Tried to install new UPS for server rack, but it doesn't work.

10/22 New UPS is going to be replaced, but won't make it till next week.

Built replacement relay board for the 80m HF-2500. This is made from two sealed Shrack RP710012 SPDT relays I purchased from PalStar. Since they are PC mount type pins I mounted the two of them on a piece of a small Radio Shack project board.

The old relay in place. The relay is mounted on a screw on the back plate of the case between the coax connectors.


One of the new relays.


The two relays mounted on the board. The one jumper on top is just to make it cleaner underneath to connect to the two relay coils. The two coils in parallel draw less current (110ma) than the old one did (120ma).


The bottom of the board. The mounting screw is used to ground the center pins by wrapping the lead from the kickback diode around the hole to the other relay and soldering it down. The power to the relays comes in the outside terminal and through the jumper on the top of the board.


The new one in place. The small purple wire is the relay power. The RF Out is the big cable on the left side, the RF in is the small white one on the right under the board that disappears into the input network box at the bottom of the picture. I did have to replace the old wires from the connectors because they were a bit too short.


10/23 Moved new ring to shed and tied it up for lifting. If its not raining in the morning I'll probably start putting it up.

10/24 Started installing the new ring rotor at 60'. Got the frame and ring up but the motor doesn't fit the backing plates that are supposed to clamp it to the frame.

10/27 Installed new UPS for the server rack. Its noisier than I would like with its own fans, but it does replace the other 2 small UPSs, one of which was starting to die. I may move this one to the crawlspace and just run outlets into the shack for it.

10/29 Setting up for CQWW SSB M/M.

11/6 Replacement motor for ring is better, but still not right. There is interference from the welded corner bearing brackets on the backing plates and the gear is too high which allowed the ring to slip under it on first rotation test. Pictures sent to TIC and they have promised a replacement will be sent.

11/12 Set up for WAE RTTY SO2R for NP3D. Cut down 3 pine trees between the house and garage.

11/13 Nice morning for a climb. Went up the 180' tower to see if I could see why the top ring froze up when it got cold, and also for the fall inspection. Replaced a missing nut on the 70' ring. Took apart the power connectors for the top ring and cleaned them and filled with noalox type gunk then sealed up again. The top ring has some damaged teeth (see picture below) probably from when one motor froze and the other was trying to turn. Took a bunch of pictures, click on the low resolution one to see the full resolution (6MB) version if you want.


L-R 20m tower, solar array, house, BIG, garage.


Damaged teeth on top ring.


One of the top ring motors (note this is an older design.


The old beaver pond in background, top of 15m tower at bottom right.


Neighbors, Cummington regional ATC radar dome on top of hill in background.


More neighbors. 120' 10m Yagi at bottom, 40m 4-square in clearing to left of pond, line just to left of pond is rope for 160m inverted V.


10m tower.


White thing is packet 2m vertical, to the right of the pond is the 80m 4-square.


The only tower in Peru higher than I am.


L-R house, garage, shed, spare aluminum rack, guy wires.


One of the lower ring motors, note they are fully enclosed now.

11/14 Removed the rest of the old 32" ring rotor from the 20m tower.

11/17 Moved the new UPS for the server rack to the crawlspace... ah, the quiet now. Since the rack was only using about 20% of its capacity I also ran a cord over to power my desk computers from it.

11/18 Finished with new UPS installation. My whole desk is now powered from it, as are all the Webcams. So that should cover all the stuff that is used for something other than contests. Note, the VHF radios and accessories are not powered from it, they are still on the normal power... though they could probably get powered from it if needed. That makes 5 separate small UPS's that have been pulled out of the room now and replaced with the one big one.

11/19 Big winds the last couple days brought down lots of dead branches, broke off a 6" ant infested pine near the 150' tower and tipped a 40' tall pine down into the pond. Checked south Beverage that didn't sound too good last night, it is all up ok, sounds better today.

Collected up all the parts of the old 32" TIC ring(click on image for full resolution 6mb image):




11/20 Set up for SS SSB M/S. Cut up the pine tree that was blown down into the pond. Walked the Beverages, had to take a good size chunk of rotten pine off the NW/SE one near the end, but otherwise everything looked ok. There were some new blowdowns and lots of branches down though.

11/21 Put on replacement drive motor on the new TIC ring and now it works nicely.

11/25 Walked Beverages again after big winds again the last couple days. The trees must be running out of weak or dead branches now as there were only a few small ones down today.

11/26 A little bit of ice this morning, but not bad. Setup for CQWW CW. The 15m sub-vfo knob seized up, replaced it with the spare radio. Found broken ground on 40m beverage cable on the phone plug going into the filter.

11/27 The top 40m rotor would only turn CCW, went up and moved the south-east leg motor off the ring and swapped the cables so the south-west motor would drive and also run the indicator. Got the 15m sub-vfo pretty well freed up. Removed the main, sub, and rit encoders from W1TO's fried radio.

12/3 Replaced one of the motors on the 180' ring with a refurbished one from TIC. The other one caught on the ring and the ring was too low on that side. So it is running now with only one motor and I'm going to limit rotation range to 90-0-270 degrees.

12/5 Walked Beverages again, no damage found. Shadow from house peak seems to just be nipping the west corner of the solar power array.

12/14 Well, we avoided a threatened ice storm, and I lived through carpal tunnel surgery again, but now the 180' 160m inverted V seems to be dead, and the 180' 10m beam is also gone. Will have to check with the TDR later to see just where the problem is, but I was able to confirm its not at the shack end of either one.

12/18 Walked Beverages, only one section down from a branch in the N/S one. It has warmed up, both the 180' 10m and 180' 160m antennas are reconnected. I'll have to do something with both of those hardline connectors I guess.

12/19 Sunrise over the Solar Array as pretty close to the winter solstice. The big shadow to the left is the peak of the house, it moves down and off the bottom by just about 9am. The shadow on the right side at the start is the pine tree by the shed.

8:30AM Local:


8:45AM Local:


9:00AM Local:


12/23 When I first built my SO2R setup I bought two Model 419 switchable bandpass filters. When everything was first hooked up and I started testing inter-station interference there seemed to be way too much crosstalk between the stations. I started isolating things and finally figured out that it was going through the power and control lines from the 419 filters. Examining the internals showed that the control wires and power were not well bypassed and the power actually ran parallel to the RF signal path around all the relays. They did attempt to bypass with capacitors at the rotary switch in the front, but the wires from the relays went to the back connector first then to the front switch, and the power was inadequately bypassed at either end. If you have my book there is a description and pictures in there of that modification.

Now I have started to have problems with dirty relays on one of the old Model 419's. Since the relays are in plastic covers that are attached to the circuit board I'll have to cut them apart to clean them. But I had a 419B that I had picked up for using on a spotting station but never used. So I pulled it out and checked it, and sure enough it doesn't look well enough bypassed either. But now I have one of those nifty little miniVNA Pro network analyzers, so I figured I might as well try to measure the isolation and see just how bad it is. The test setup below is measuring the transmission between the radio input port and the power and control wire connectors.

Pictures of the modification. All the green capacitors are the ones I added, they are all .1uF. (click on images for full resolution version ~6MB!)

Unmodified. On the back panel from left to right are the fuse holder, the power jack, and the din jack for the control inputs. The RF input is behind the relay on the left and the output is on the right. The 80m relay is the one closest to the output jack on the right side.


Closeup of the back of the din jack... not much room to work in there.


First, from the radio input to the center pin of the power connector. This doesn't seem too bad. There is a new inductor in this box in place of the diode that was in the older one. That probably helps it a bit.


This is from the radio input to the 80m control input which seemed to be about the worst one. This is more like what I was expecting, only 23db isolation around 15m. So if you are transmitting 100w on 15m, about .5w of that would be going out on that 80m control wire, back to the relay driver which is probably a transistor, and probably back into power supplies and other places you don't want rf... and if two of these boxes share power supplies and other control circuits that is not a good thing.


This image just overlays the traces from the 6 input pins. It is interesting that there seems to be some kind of resonances around 10MHz, 20MHz, and 21.4MHz. I never could totally get rid of those, especially the one at 21.4MHz, there must be some coupling between the power and RF busses that just isn't broken up by adding capacitors.


The 6 capacitors in place. in doing that I also connected the ground lug of the power jack directly to the din jack ground instead of letting it go through the case.


This one compares the unmodified response with the response after adding capacitors to the 6 control line inputs only. Its interesting how this seems to make the 21.4MHz coupling stand out, but that at the 10MHz point there is very little improvement.


Side view of the capacitors from each relay control line connection to the circuit board. Note that the control lines come up through the grommet from under the chassis, but the +12v is on the copper strap running just below the copper strap that connects the RF from relay to relay. At the Right end i also connected from the +12v strap to ground. And just visible behind the 10m capacitors is one from the common +12v bus to ground where it goes to the relays on the other side. The far side has the same 4 capacitors on it's relays and at the back end of the bus.


This is the final response with the capacitors added to each of the relay ends and to the power bus on top of the chassis. Now that 21.4MHz peak really shows up, but its at least 44db down. This result is similar to what the modified 419 came out as, it's peak was 43db down at about 22.5MHz.


12/24 Installed modified 419b on the SO2R station. Did some cleanup and indexing of old maintenance blogs.

12/27 EPRI is closed this week, and last night into this morning we are having a blizzard. Time to do some work around the shack. Defrosted the shack fridge yesterday. Cut the top off of the 40m relay that needed cleaning in the older Model 419 filter. Cleaning seems to have fixed its intermittent attenuation problem, I'll monitor it for a while then put it in storage as a spare.

12/31 Retuned the bandpass filters on the Beverages. They all needed a bit of adjustment, they were all a bit high in frequency so the loss at the bottom of the cw band was as much as 6db. Now all of them are better on cw with loss around 2db at the bottoms of the bands. Took quick climb up 15m tower to replace a rope that broke on the 60' European beam that let it blow to the South East. Also adjusted the 90' ropes so they are both pointing a bit more into central rather than southern Europe.

It was such a nice afternoon that I went cross country skiing around the Beverages. There was another big dead branch down at the 80m 4-square laying on one of the radials that needed moving, otherwise it was pretty clear.