Fall 2019 OCRA Club Construction Project

by Steve KZ1X

A few months ago I conducted an email ‘straw poll’ to gauge the interest in a club construction project.

It has been quite some time since the last such project.

The target date proposed for this project is the October 14, 2019 OCRA meeting.

This year’s idea was to build a very simple, but great quality and low cost Morse tutor keyer kit, and to back it up with over-the-air Morse lessons at some later date.

Response

The interest level in the kit itself was rather high, approximately 21 persons, and then others responding in ways other than via email. Some persons responding are DFMA members, as the email went out on the joint mail reflector.

Perhaps half the responders expressed concern about their electronics assembly skills.

They either were interested but felt it might be too complicated, many have never done anything like this before, they lacked the tools, were worried about success, or how to troubleshoot, needed help, and so forth.

Morse classes

The interest level in the Morse lessons was also high, higher than I expected. Some people wanted to get more proficient at their existing Morse skills and others wanted to learn from scratch. Still others already have Morse skills but just wanted to build the little kit!

Addressing the Concerns

To address the kit building concerns, at least two and possibly several more assembly workstations will be set up at the OCRA club meeting site, which for this session could start 30 minutes earlier than normal. The extra time would allow for everyone who wanted to, to get a chance to assemble and test his or her keyer.

Plenty of experienced builders are in the club and plan to attend this meeting, so there will not be any shortage of assistance.

To make sure the vendor can get the kits out in time, do not wait until just days before the event to order yours!

Project FAQ

  • Who makes this kit?

A small New Hampshire firm headed up by K1EL, a very well known ham whose call is almost synonymous with Morse keyer accessories.

  • How do you get a kit?

Order it from the link below.

  • How much does it cost?

The price currently is $22 plus shipping. The vendor is selling the kits quite near his raw parts cost, to assure it stays popular among newcomers to Morse. Another product sold by the same vendor, with similar functionality, costs almost 5 times this price.

  • How long does it take to get the kit?

About 4 or 5 days, here in NC. It comes USPS.

  • What else do you need to make the kit work?

Three AA size alkaline cells.

  • What tools do I need?

It is best to have needle nose pliers, a small flush cutter, solder, and a temperature-controlled soldering station. These links are just high-quality suggestions, for those wishing to equip one’s own new workbench. There will be tools available at the club meeting.

  • How long does it take to build?

Between 15 – 45 minutes, depending on skill level, equipment, pace, etc.

  • Are there any surface-mount type parts in the kit?

No.

  • What happens if it does not work?

That is not likely to happen, if you build yours at the club meeting there is a near zero chance to have this kit not work.

  • Can I get my kit and build it myself before the meeting?

Yes, of course, and then you can help others!

  • What do you get in the kit?

All the parts needed to make one complete keyer assembly, except for the AA cells.

The vendor also answers many of these questions, of course, including a complete description of what the keyer does.

Check out the kit web page at this URL:

https://www.hamcrafters2.com/K16tutor.html

Here is a picture of the box as it comes from the vendor, located in New Hampshire.

The keyboard and mouse are shown for scale.

Inside the small white box are the circuit board and a bag with the parts needed to assemble the unit.

Here is what the unpopulated circuit board looks like, as you get it. (Yes, the AA cell holder is already mechanically attached, but NOT soldered.)

The bottom side of this circuit board, where the soldering takes place, looks like this:

There are approximately 54 individual solder connections to make.

Here is the bag of parts:

and when assembled, it looks like this:

The assembly manual is available from the link above, and there is a button to click to place your order.

Please post any questions you may have to the OCRA-DFMA reflector.

Looking forward to the October 14, 2019 club meeting and the construction project.

Steve KZ1X

OCRA Membership Meeting – July 8, 2019

Dave, W4SAR, club president opened the meeting with introductions, the topic for tonight’s meeting being Field Day results and call for officer reports.  In attendance tonight were 8 license-seeking candidates, one of our largest membership meeting testing groups.

Dan, KR4UB, treasurer reported 73 members are current with their dues with 26 members needing renewal. Club treasury balance is in line with ongoing expenses.

Nick, KA1HPM, stated two towers near Lowes hardware in Chatham County exist with antenna and feed-line.  Steve, W3HAL, and Dan, KR4UB, would assist in assessing the possibility of usage.

Field Day Results:

Dave, W3SAR, provided a Field Day point breakdown, and will post final results on this    website soon.  The unofficial count was 2997 QSO points, with 1727 QSO points awarded multipliers for a total of 14,985 points.  We had less points this year, but propagation was poor, except for 40 Meter.

Steve, KZ1X, proposed running 100 Watts rather than 5 Watts next year. While QRP, or low power…5 Watts, gets you multipliers, 100 Watts would allow more stations to hear, which would be more fun. Additionally, if sun spot activity is nearing a null, then 100 Watts may a sound strategy for the next couple of years.

Wilson gave thanks to Steve, W3AHL, for doing a great job on the N1MM network.  Steve, W3AHL, stated the 10 dedicated computers along with static IP addresses provided more resiliency and up time than last year. Wilson also appreciated John, KM4MDR, for doing a wonderful job managing the food preparation and service…at a’boys!

Additional Notes:

Dan, KR4UB, stated Phillips High School still has an antenna and transceiver used from an earlier ISS contact needing reclamation.  If interested in assisting, please leave a reply!

Finally, Dan, KR4UB, will present FT8 at the next DFMA meeting!

Point me in the right direction

Dan KR4UB accepted the satellite challenge for Field Day, a noble challenge indeed.  Aiding his effort, Dan reclaimed and repurposed available parts and materials to build an industrial strength satellite antenna boom…materials and instructions follow.  Nicely done Dan!

  • army surveyors tripod non magnetic construction, no ferrous metals added below to disturb compass reading.
  • left over 2″ PVC electrical conduit and elbow..
  • some ironwood strips inside the PVC to take the floppy/flexy out and balance out weight of antenna.
  • wood doweling, epoxy, brass screws to reinforce compass support elbow butt glue joint onto PVC elbow
  • good quality surveyor’s compass bought to rough out new boundaries when  purchasing adjoining land some years back
  • section of left over central vacuum cleaner return pipe (near perfect fit over PVC electrical pipe).. rotates for quick antenna polarization adjustment.
  • Brass  screws (where used) so no ferrous metal near compass
  • Arrow VHF/UHF gamma matched antenna. The foam covered handle fits perfectly inside the end of the 2″ dia PVC electrical conduit used as the boom.
  • powered by arm-strong…..

OCRA Board Meeting – July 2019

Attendance:

Steve W3AHL, Dave W4SAR, Karen KD4YJZ, Wilson W4BOH, Dan (KR4UB), Dee KU4GC, Keith W1KES, Lad W4ORD

Treasurer Report:

The checking and saving balances are in line with ongoing expenses. The pre-pay meal approach proved again very successful with 47 dinners and 34 breakfasts.  The more accurate head count for purchasing and preparing meals left little food with a net income of $93.

Field Day:

A big thank you to Wilson W4BOH and his family for hosting, John KM4MDR for providing Friday lunch and facilitating meal preperation, and all the other OCRA/DFMA members who assisted with set up, operation, and tear down.

Notable events:

  • Weather was very extremely favorable throughout the event
  • Computer network was reliable, thanks to Steve W3HAL efforts
  • The digi stations has some difficulty operating from the garage.  Will need to identify opportunities for another location next year.
  • Progation was very good with contacts made in Washington, California, and Hawaii
  • Satellite proved difficult as power overload from a few sites made contacts difficult for others
  • Consider using FT8 for kid contacts to avoid “mic fright”
  • Estimated contact points was 15,160, with bonus points was 17,310.
  • Further discussion need regarding Friday’s lunch as pre-pay

Please add your Field Day pictures and comments to the site.  We would enjoy sharing in your special moments.

Steve purchased automated external defibrillator (AED) battery and pads, which should be good for the next couple of years.

Nick KA1HPM secured call sign KAM for a special event station to honor Hiram Percy Maxim 150 birthday, co-founder of the ARRL.  The two day special event will take place September 2, from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  Mark your calendars now!