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 – June 10th, 2019

Dave W4SAR, club president opened the meeting with introductions, the topic for tonight’s meeting being Field Day Planning and call for officer reports.  He reported that at the last VE Session on June 8th, 6 candidates were tested with 5 passing the exam earning their license.

Dan, KR4UB, treasurer reported 74 members are current with their dues with 25 members needing renewal. Club treasury balance is in line with ongoing expenses.

Dan also covered the need for attendees who plan to have a Saturday dinner or Sunday breakfast meal from the field day grill to pre-pay for the food to be purchased on their behalf. Costs for some food items have increased as much as 15% from last year and we need your help in keeping the cost per meal low.

Nick, KA1HPM made an announcement of a request he had made to the ARRL via Carl Bowman, Section Manager requesting that an ARRL contest be organized to celebrate the 150th birthday of Hiram Percy Maxim on September 2nd, 2019.  The ARRL responded with an alternative option of a Special Event Station be set up to celebrate the event. Nick made the call for volunteers to set up and run such a station, using his call sign KA1 H(iram) P(ercy) M(axim)  on September 2nd from 8am to 8pm.

Next, Dave W4SAR began the planning discussion for the 9A class battery powered 5 watt station operation for 2019 OCRA/DFMA Field Day to be held at the Wilson, W4BOH QTH on   3117 Moorefields Road , Hillsborough.

Starting Friday morning at 8am focus will be on tower setup and all other outdoor ground activity to get as much as possible done prior to mid day heat.

Stations and Band Captains are as follows:

  • CW Stations – Bruce N1LN Captain – 3 stations located inthe MCU covering 80 -10M CW operating antennas onf 3 towers. 2 sets of headphones are on each radio so interested observers can listen in on the operation. Operator slots are available.
  • 80M SSB Station – Steve, W3AHL Captain – located in the W3AHL motorhome using two 75M dipoles. Typically band conditions mean 75M is a 6pm to 6am operation. New operators are welcome.
  • 40/15M SSB Station – Joe, K4SAR Captain – located in an air conditioned trailer using a 3 element 40M wire beam and 3 element 15M beam. Joe needs operators to sign up.
  • 20M SSB Station – Lad, W4ORD Captain – located in an air conditioned trailer using tower mounted team, solar power charged batteries.
  • 10M SSB/Digi Station – Dave, NA4VY Captain – located in the air conditioned “red barn”  using a Moxon beam.
  • 40/20M Digi Operation – Dave, W4SAR & Sherri, WB4OSU are co-captains operating PSK-31 and maybe FT-8 located in the handicap accesible garage at the food area.
  • 6M VHF Station – Doug, KA5ETS principle operator also located in the “red barn” building.
  • Satellite Contact: Dan KR4UB & Bill N8BR will be out on the grounds at the scheduled times for satellite overflights.

Additional operators are needed on all stations.

Bonus Point areas were covered next. Volunteers signed up for the various areas are listed OCRA website home page.

Bruce, N1LN then gave a presentation and demo of the N1MM logging software to be used at field day. The presention is available on the OCRA website home page.

Steve, W3AHL discussed the networked logging setup using the pre loaded and configured laptaps that will be available to each station.  All stations need to be ready to participate in the isolated WiFi network setup test at 9AM Saturday morning.

Scroll down for further detail for Field Day planning in the next article.

Dan, KR4UB filling in for Keith, W1KES club secretary.

OCRA Board Meeting Minutes 04/22/19

OCRA Board Meeting Minutes 4/22/19

Attending:Wilson W4BOH, Nick KA1HPM, Lad W4ORD, Karen KD4YJZ, Dave W4SAR, Steve W3AHL, Dan KR4UB, Dee KU4GC.

President, Dave W4SAR, called meeting  to order at 7:00pm

Treasurer: Dan KR4UB, gave the current treasury balance and membership status. The checking and saving balances are in line with ongoing expenses. 68 member’s dues are current with 28 members needing renewal. He suggested dues renewal be focused on at the next club meeting. 14 new members have joined the club over the past year.

Then Dan gave the Annual Financial Report for OCRA.  It showed a modest increase over the previous year. Insurance, PO Box and safe deposit box rental were regular unavoidable expenses. He also noted that pre-pay worked well for both Field Day and the Christmas Dinner.  We came out ahead for Field Day and came out about even for the Christmas meeting except that the club paid for the Exchange Club rental. A motion was made and passed unanimously to accept the report.

Dan presented the report using a brand new video projector.   There had been plans for the OCRA and DFMA clubs to jointly purchase a projector for meeting use.  However, Jimmy Dixon KF4KHU, made a gift of a brand new projector to DFMA and this was the first shared use of this great new asset.

It was reported that the aborted Bouvet DXpedition gave a partial refund to donors.  (Both clubs had sent $410 with each club’s treasury providing $200 in “matching” funds and respective members providing $210.)  OCRA’s net (PayPal charges deducted) refund was $192 or approximately 47%. Donors can request a 47% percent refund or they can leave their share in the club treasury (thank you!).

Dan also discussed using the web site and its database capabilities for hams to list their interests, any areas needing assiatance and participating in the joint OCRA/DFMA Field Day. Provisions have been made for members of both clubs to enter their information.

In addition, provision has been made for currently licensed, non DFMA or OCRA members to participate who meet one of the following criteria:

  • Current or future planned participation in OCRA, DFMA or Chatham AuxComm training and emergency exercise activity.
  • Current or future planned participation in the combined OCRA/DFMA ARRL Field Day Event

Licensed amateurs, not a member of the OCRA or DFMA, but desiring to list their interests may do so by by attending the next OCRA or DFMA meeting and complete an interest/assistance needed sheet and if desired an OCRA/DFMA Field Day participation sign up sheet. This can also be done on the OCRA website by clicking on “Members, Interest Registry Signup to Apply for OCRA Interest Registry Listing.

Hamfests: Dee KU4GC reported on the club tables at RARSfest.  He expressed some disappointment in participation in the club table from both clubs  Main income to OCRA was from the gift of a non-member. With rare exceptions people did not bring anything to sell. (A large part of DFMA income also was due to a gift from a non-member).  The net income to OCRA after paying for the tables was $34. (There is yet one big item from the gift to be sold that could provide additional income.)

Dee announced DurHamFest is on May 25th, the Saturday of  Memorial Day weekend. Dave W4SAR has registered the VE session and will again coordinate that.  Wilson, W4BOH will again produce delicious BOH-burgers on the grill. MK W4MKR and Dee KU4GC will take care of food logistics.

Auxcomm/ARES: Steve W3AHL announced that the Tar Heel 10 Miler had no ham involvement this year.

Repeaters: Nick KA1HPM, reported on activities in Chatham county.  There will be a ham antenna at 230’ on the 300’ tower. Provisions for ham antennas have been planned for all coming towers.

Dan KR4UB reported that OCRA has an almost new Comprod 2M antenna (never installed) which could be sold at a good price to an interested party.

Field Day: Dave, W4SAR reported that nice laptops were donated for Field Day use through the efforts of Adam Caudill WX4WNC. They are Lenovo T440’s with 128Gb SSDs.  The Windows 10 systems still need update to the Bios and Drivers.  A general discussion about Field Day computers and logging ensued.

New Business: Lad W4ORD asked if we want to continue to use the  Exchange Club even if we go to a potluck format. The consensus was “yes”.

Meeting Adjourned (~ 8:30pm)

Submitted by Dee KU4GC

Technician License Classes Coming Up

Nick, KA1HPN, will be teaching a Tech License Class Saturday mornings in October. Basic information: Technician License Classes
  • Get your first Amateur Radio License – the Technician Class
  • Three class sessions:
  • 9:00 AM to Noon
  • October 6, 13, 20
  • Chatham County Emergency Operations Center
  • Exam session
  • 9:00 AM, October 27
  • Chatham County Emergency Operations Center
  • Open to class attendees and walk-ins for all classes of Amateur License exams.
This classed was organized for the Chatham County CERT Program, but all persons interested in amateur radio are welcome to attend this course. Contact Nick, KA1HPM, by email at KA1HPM at ARRL dot NET to register and/or get more details. Nick, KA1HPM; 9/28/18

August Gathering at Virlies

The weekly amateur radio confabulation at Virlie’s Grill in Pittsboro this Saturday morning was enjoyed by eight stouthearted hams who overcame the local audio QRM to exchange pleasantries and repartee.

Jesse, KM4AMR – a new member of the breakfast club – flies drones for fun and profit. With a straight face he informed the group that there was now a drone that can pollinate crops to ameliorate the decline of the honey bee population.

Bill, N8BR, gave an impressive description of DX Engineering’s four square antenna for 160 meters as well as a practically comprehensible explanation of the role of catalysts in the building of complex proteins.

John, KX4P, waxed nostalgic upon his recollection of acquiring his Red Ryder lever-action BB gun as a lad. He still keeps it locked and loaded behind the door. Squirrels beware.

Roy, WA2JLW, remarked on the irony that the Hawaii QSO party was this weekend while they were getting pummeled with Lane’s rains.

Roger, KS4VX, solved the SWR problem on his Butternut vertical … cable. He reminded those assembled that the only free cheese is in a mousetrap.

Nick, KA1HPM, offered to email Jesse some programming info for his HT. He also mentioned that he would like to see an OCRA program on repeaters. Many heads nodded in either agreement or lack of caffeine.

Dave, W4INN, has five boxes of radio junk, about which his wife has given him The Ultimatum. He has made the right choice.

Herb, N4HA, unable to hear half of what was said, made most of this up to encourage your joining us some Saturday, around 8:30 for the fun of it.

By reading this newsletter, you are agreeing that any misstatements, fabrications, and/or typing errors are not the responsibility of a superannuated septuagenarian.

Posted for Herb, N4HA by KR4UB