In one of my recent posts (the one about my attic antenna) I mentioned my tendency to feel obligated to give things a try, especially if someone has advised me otherwise. I don't know if its just stubbornness, or if its the desire to see it for myself, but it does seem to be how I roll. Well, I've gone and done it again - this time with a portable antenna.
If you know me at all, or if you've read other posts of mine, you're probably aware of my affinity for portable operations. My love of portable ops has introduced me to a great group of individuals, some of whom I volunteer with to help support Parks on the Air. The group of "tech admin" that work together to support the website, database, etc. for POTA meet virtually once a week to go over whatever things we need to, in order to support the effort. Because we're all hams, we often end up just "rag-chewing" a bit after we cover the "business" end of the call. During one of these chats, I happened to mention that I was disassembling a washer that had just gone bad so I could recycle the metal, and in the process, I ended up with this bit from a transformer:
I joked with the team that I should unwind it and make antennas, seeing as there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of feet of this tiny enameled wire wrapped around it. One of the guys - Thom, W8TAM, suggested that it probably wouldn't work out that well, being so small and a solid wire. He's probably right - I can't imagine how many times this skinny, solid, wire could be flexed, kinked, etc. before breaking, but the trap was set. He inadvertently set me on a mission of "well now I have to find out....." So, now I have this:
It's nothing fancy - just a random-wire end-fed with a counterpoise. The counterpoise I lay on the ground, and I think I cut it around 33ish feet or so. The antenna element (the one marked with the red tape) is cut at around 70 feet. Inside the box is a little 9:1 unun that I build a while back (I wrote about it here.) With my portable setup, I can tune this on pretty much any of the bands between 10 and 80 meters.
Now that it's built, the interesting bit will be to see how many times it can survive being deployed and repacked - so far I'm up to 3. But hey, even it only lasts for half a dozen deployments, I've got a whole pile of it that I can just keep unwinding more from as it breaks :-)
I recently acquired another piece of gear for my ham shack, which prompted 2 things:
So what is the piece of equipment that inspired these two things? Here it is:
I am certainly not an audio "buff" and I only have a very basic knowledge of audio equipment, but I had a couple things in my shack that I wanted to accomplish that I thought would be aided by adding a mixer. Primarily, I wanted an easy way to have the option for a couple different microphones at the same time so that I can accommodate guest operators (mainly my kiddos) and be able to route these to multiple radios. I also figured this would be a nice way to interface the same microphones and headsets with a couple different computers and phones for work conference calls and webinars that I do from my home office. I've only just grazed the surface of getting everything set up, but so far I'm liking it much better than my old "patch panel" and swapping plugs in and out for the different tasks.
Acquiring this mixer lends itself to sharing something on frugality, that I hope can be a help to younger hams getting into the hobby that might be new in their careers, without a lot of money left over for ham radio purchases, or even to older hams on a fixed income etc.
I love ham radio, but like many of you, I'm not swimming in piles of money to be able to spend on it. I have a good job, and make an ok salary, but a large percentage of what I earn is getting socked into college savings for my kids so they don't have to start their working lives in debt the way I did. Because of this choice, I am very fugal with my hobby. With that thought, here is my advice for enjoying ham radio on a budget, and for frugality in general:
This might seem like an oversimplification, but it is actually a very powerful practice. When there is something you want (like a new piece of ham gear, or a robot that mows your yard) put yourself on notice for at least month before making a purchase. In my experience this does 3 key things:
My new mixer is a great example of this. I decided several months ago that I wanted to purchase a mixer for my shack. Since I have limited "hobby" budget, I was dragging my feet, waiting to save up some cash, because mixers with the features I was after were all a decent chunk of change, even if looking for used ones on ebay:
While dragging my feet and doing my research, I stumbled across the mixer that I ended up buying. Basically, because I waited, I ended up coming across a sale on these mixers because the company that makes them has discontinued them. I presume that this is due to the move to digital audio, and less demand for analog mixers. Because I was being realistic with myself (i.e., I just want to have casual chats on ssb - I'm not a professional broadcaster) I was very comfortable buying something that is "discontinued" considering the fact that it only cost me $150, for something that was previously sold for $400 and up. Also, being "new" to audio equipment, learning with something relatively inexpensive made way more sense then shelling out hundreds of dollars.
So there you have it - I've got a new mixer that was pretty much as inexpensive as one can be had with the included features, and hopefully you've been encouraged to "be patient" when considering those big purchases - you just might end up finding something that does what you need, at a fraction of what you thought you were going to need spend!
Lastly, if you want another example of "Be Patient" Go back to Part 1 of my new shack build and check out the date that I started this whole adventure...it certainly didn't get put together overnight!
P.S. I'll be sure to share more about my thoughts on the actual mixer once I've used it for a while, but if you think the price sounds right, I found it at Full Compass. I can't give any official endorsement, and I get nothing from them if you buy one, but I figured I'd at least share where I managed to snag what seems to be a decent deal.
- N3VEM -
Welcome to my Ham Radio Blog! This blog was started primarily to share my two concurrent shack builds - my mobile station and my home station. Over time, this has grown to include sharing about my operations, and general radio-related thoughts that I have as a newer operator.
Proving that hams do indeed still build stuff!
100 Watts and Wire is an awesome community, based around an excellent podcast.