Good Times with HF

This is the story of a novice, rather than that of an amateur.

I think I mentioned at one point that I had a dipole in the attic that runs both 20m and 40m with coils. I’ve been listening in and a little shy with the mic. The few times that I did reach out, I was either not getting heard or there was a pileup and I was losing out.

Or so I thought.

I’ve recently gotten my hands on a portable antenna for use on HF and I wanted to get an analog SWR meter to have on hand in case I wanted to use it with one of the kits that is still sitting on my workbench in some degree of assembly. I plugged that in to the 7100 just to see how I was doing and WOW! That was enlightening.

It turns out that the manual for the 7100 and its built-in SWR meter were things that didn’t click for me. I clearly didn’t know how to read the manual and as a result, the meter wasn’t telling me what I needed to see. And what I needed to see was: THE ANTENNA WASN’T WORKING.

So I went up to the attic. I put my dummy load everywhere that I could and finally got to the point where I couldn’t find fault. It was time for a screwdriver.

I opened up the T-bracket that holds the antenna connector to see if I could just steal the T and use it for a home-brew with some 14 gauge wire I had lying around. Ya know what? If the antenna isn’t connected to the connector that goes to the coax, well, your SWR is going to be pretty bad.

I won’t lie. There were some foul words that flew out of my mouth whilst in the attic that evening. I took the antenna down. I removed the T casing. I got a stretch of wire and measured it to make a 20m antenna. I fired up the soldering iron and wired it up to a coax connector.

Note: My dad (AC8NT) is right. I need a 100W iron for those connectors. It’s on the list.

Note 2: It’s much easier to say that my dad is right now that I have kids of my own. I’m sure that’s unrelated.

I hung my home-brew antenna in the attic with some staples. Look, my wife hates the wire in the attic enough as is. It needs to be out of the way. Amateur radio is all about compromise from top to bottom.

I measured the SWR the right way with the 7100 and my analog meter.

I cut the wire.

I measured again.

I cut some more.

I measured again.

Whoa. I mean… Wow. 1.1 at the middle of the band. That seems like just what the doctor ordered!

Because life is life, the 20m band is only good during the day, and I work, I didn’t get much of a chance to try talking on the radio for a while. But last night, I fired it up and there seemed to be a lot of people calling CQ. The bands were good and I had some time. I managed to have a QSO with a gentleman from Vermont. I was coming in 5×9 and life was good! That was my first HF contact and it was exciting.

This of course gives rise to other projects. I need to get the 40m coil antenna fixed and figured out. I think I want to make either a fan dipole if I can swing it to get 10m or 6m or just hang another chunk of wire. All of this means I probably need the coax relay project from the Ham Radio Workbench guys. This truly is a hobby made up of hobbies.

I have to say, it’s not like I’m reinventing any wheels. I’m simply making my own for the first time. Maybe that’s what this hobby does best: it gives us the opportunity to play. To try, fail, try again, and succeed. That’s what teaches us to learn and to be open to the world around us. We need that.