Antenna experiments

I’ve been planning for a while now to put up an antenna in the garden, but where is the question. I have a 20m wire and 9:1 unun to set up somewhere – ideally I’ll run this up the garden but that goes under the phone line, or actually the end of the wire would be under it. What stopped me was the impending changes for EMF as the unun would be mounted outside pretty close to our bedroom window.

So, for a laugh I got another unun to experiment with (yes I know I can make one but the ferrite I had is lost in the workshop moves). Looking at the ‘ideal wire length’ chart 36 feet comes close enough to the distance between the bedroom/shack and the hedge so I cut 36 feet of bell wire and launched it across the utility room towards the workshop as a measure. Tied to the bedroom window reached almost to the far side of the workshop. I reckon I can attach a pole there and attach the unun to the wall outside the shack – there is a convenient airbrick nearby. But, for a laugh I attached said bell wire to the unun, hung the unun on the window handle, ran about 6m of RG58 across to the tuner and tuned it up. The YT-1200 actually managed it right down to 80m (the loft fan dipole will not go longer that 40m).

But the FT450D was very unhappy trying to feed power in to any band under 20m. A string of clip-on ferrites cured that and I managed to be heard on FT8 in Eire and Germany on 80m plus managing FT8 contacts on 40m and 30m.

It is deaf – no surprises there. The bell wire is not taught so it almost touches the garage roof on the way down. A proper bit of wire stretched up may be better and I have a reel so more fiddling may be had yet.

The icing on this experiment was being heard, FT8 again in Finland on 60m and later managed an exchange with a French station – my first ever anything on 60m. Oh, yes, and I have that ‘Hold Tx Freq’ checked so it doesn’t stray outside our limits… worth remembering that because had it tracked up to the French station it would be out of our rage.

The downside is its getting very cold in the shack with the window open! 

Creed 75 progress

Work on the Creed 75 is slow at present and not helped by the fact the workshop is a mess since I moved all the valves in there and thus had to relocate all the other junk. Having recently reminded myself that 1/4 watt resistors do not generally like being expected to sink 3 to 4W (!) I have some decent resistors to ensure the PSU gives the required 20mA. So I have 80-0-80V from the PSU attached to the 444, I have 20mA (actually 23), the 75 types to itself locally, which is mechanical, but does not receive correctly.

I am generating code from the TDMS but Y comes out as Z and most other code combinations are unrelated to reality. I wondered if this was the result of the typehead not lifting correctly but Y and Z are on the same level. The ‘scope shows a reasonable waveform coming out of the TDMS.

So, currently I have two teleprinters and neither one reliably prints out what is sent to it. Nor do they talk any sense to each other. I can accept that with the 444 as I still need to strip it down but the 75 is all functional mechanically. The code combinations ‘sound’ reasonable too (if you’ve never heard a teleprinter you won’t know what I mean here) as with the motor off the clacking sound seems reasonable for the codes being sent by the TDMS. Very unscientific I know but it backs up what the ‘scope shows.

Some adjustment needed then… but really as I have yet to have any baseline in any of this it is a bit of a moving target. The TDMS will not send just one character but in theory, and with the motor off, given it sends the same character continually it should set the selectors correctly for me to examine them to see if Y as sent really is Y as received. That’s the next step, only the bench the teleprinters are on is too crowded to work on them.

The fine art of equipment repair

While viewing the UKuG webcast last night I lost the RHS sound in the headphones. Fiddling with the wire made no difference. The headphones in question are plugged into an audio mixer that connects the radios and PCs. Checking the speakers which are on a different output from the mixer showed the same issue, LHS sound only. As I wanted to watch the webcast I unplugged the headphones and plugged them directly into the MacBook, restoring the audio.

Today, I pulled the mixer out and checked all the plugs. Checking audio from the FT450D showed it, too was only LHS. Hmmm. Figuring out it was probably time to take the mixer apart as fiddling with the pan and level knobs and main slider made no difference I caught one of the push buttons and heard a crackle. Pressing this a couple of times solved the issue. I do like these faults, just fiddle with everything and swear at it to fix. Brings back memories of the house TV in ancient times that would sometimes need a good thump! Very scientific…

Now, do I bother finding the switch cleaner or leave it well alone and hope I remember which switch to abuse next time…


I finally got myself a handheld satellite antenna – an Arrow II. It packs away quite small and is easy to put together, albeit you need to remember the size of the 2m elements when waving it about if constructing indoors like I did first time. I got the one without the diplexer because I plan to use two handhelds for full duplex rather than acquire a full duplex radio.

Of course, the first order of the day was to try to bounce APRS off the ISS, in which I failed while waving said antenna about the shack. I received APRS easily enough but it was just too hard to try to track the ISS from the shack. I missed the good pass because the FT2D was refusing to see the GPS and I had not stored local coordinates – I have now.

So, day 2 and I assembled just the 2m elements outdoors. Turned the FT2D on and it found the GPS almost immediately. I wonder just how much lead paint is on the shack walls! After figuring out where the ISS was on what was quite a low pass for us I picked it up and, finally got a call in. The following are screenshots from

The actual ‘raw’ data as reported on was “20210414100126 : M0RVB-7]USUPTS,NA1SS*,WIDE2-1,qAU,DB0NU-10:`w?pl [/`Hello from IO93_(“

Next time I will try to reply to APRS ‘calls’ but this time was just a trial run to see how many arms you actually need. I can well imagine the complexity of tracking and calling through a LEO satellite, and logging as well. Anyway, this harness, which came via Amazon and was only just over £8 may work… not properly adjusted yet but seems to fit the bill:

New toy

So I now have a functional Creed 75 teleprinter. The person it came from had done a first rate job at cleaning it up and getting it to function. Thus far all I have done is put it in the workshop waiting for me to make some time and space to have a play. I also need to get my head around it as I have never had a 75 before.

And here it is. It is in good shape given how old it is and I hope eventually to be able to sneak this into the shack, aka the little bedroom. There is just no way the 444 would hide in there but there is almost a 75-sized hole.

The innards do look neat and care has been taken in getting it working.

More to the point though it prints just fine, a stage I have yet to reach with the 444.

The first order of play is to get some volts onto it via the TDMS and make sure it receives as well as sends. Ah, that means I need to fix the TDMS which has stopped working. This also means I need to rearrange all the valve collection as this is taking up half the workshop right now. Snowballing…

23cm groundplane antenna

I thought it would be a useful experiment to make up a 23cm groundplane antenna. There is a useful guide at

Using some 2mm copper wire from a supplier on eBay plus a N-type female socket the construction was fairly simple. Using the dimensions given above plus a bit for fiddle room I soldered the vertical element to the centre conductor of the socket. For the radials, given it was copper wire I decided to press my jewellers anvil to work and flattened the end of each element sufficiently to drill a 2.5mm hole. Using 2.5mm bolts each was secured to the respective mounting hole in the socket, and then the excess thread was cut off with a Dremel.

Bringing it all indoors – the heavy stuff like drills and hammers live in the workshop – I calibrated my NanoVNA and gave the new antenna a go. It was a bit off but then each element was too long. Trimming each gave a fairly flat SWR where I wanted it. Well, almost, but near enough to stop cutting bits off!

But does it work? Yes, I can open up GB3WC from the shack holding the antenna up inside the window. It’s about two S-points down on the Yagi, or anyway two of whatever the divisions are on the signal strength meter on the FT2D. Surprisingly I can get into the repeater with the antenna on the desk, albeit only coming alway up the signal strength bar and very hissy. It was the same when sitting the antenna in an old bottle as a support – at that altitude there are a lot of houses and trees between us and the repeater.

For a bit of copper wire and a socket it was a fun little thing to make. I actually planned to make a collinear and may still,  but this was nice and simple and quick.

QSL cards

Got a surprise through the door today, 12 QSL cards to my 2E callsign, various dates from February 2020 up to November 2020. Almost all want return cards, absolutely no problem and all part of the fun. I am not a big QSL’er other than eQSL but I always send when asked. Actually, I always planned to sort of back peddle on QSLing until I got the M0… now all I need is a decent design rather than the generic one I had on the M6 and 2E.

23cm first FM experiment

Since my last post about the SG-Labs 23cm transverter I realised I have several handhelds all of which have low power settings. Time to try some FM and get a better frequency readout. 144MHz did indeed produce 1296MHz (and some small change) on the frequency counter. Time to get adventurous – GB3WC in Wakefield is about 15 miles away and pretty much line of sight and so would make a good test.

With the transverter in repeater mode with a -6MHz shift (jumpers 1 and 3 on) and the FT2D programmed for 145.375MHz simplex (WC transmits on 1297.375MHz) – the transverter does the shifting – and the necessary 82.5Hz tone I can open GB3WC and receive it at S9+ on my 8 element 23cm Yagi. In the true spirit of let’s get this new shiny box working this test entailed the use of a microphone stand, some wire and some clamps. But it works.

Only a quick test today as the battery was nearly out on the Yaesu and it’s kind of hard to talk into it where it is. Somewhere I have a headset for it which will make life easier until I figure out how to site it properly. The tricky thing with the transverter is to get it back to simplex means taking the lid off and altering the jumpers, not particularly easy if it’s up in the loft where things are easier to leave in place.


I’ve always been interested in microwaves and 23cm is one band up from where I currently have kit (well, ok, apart from the QO100 setup) so I got an SG Labs 23cm transverter from eBay. I thought I may as well have a play before The Powers That Be trash the band as seems threatened. Nice little box. Of course, it gives me a problem now and having just spent an hour cobbling stuff together I am a way away from being able to actually use it.

But I wanted to make sure it worked, not that I suspected otherwise but it’s a new (to me) shiny box and I want to play with it. So, how to feed it… I grabbed the TR-9130 that had been relegated to the workshop since I got a 144MHz transverter and let it acclimatise overnight. Apparently this puts out 5W on its minimum setting which is borderline for the SG Labs kit. Fumble around for my attenuators – but those are F-types.

And of course I had no patch leads to hand… but I did have some useful crimp PL259s to quickly make a lead up.

Running the VHF set through a SWR/power meter into a dummy load confirmed the 5W, of actually more like 6 but SSB should be fine if I don’t shout. I have a short 23cm Yagi so seemed all set for a test. But… something missing… ah yes, what do I receive it on? Ugh.

Ok, run up CubicSDR on the Mac and use the SDRplay box with one of the baby antennas that came with the Pluto. The desk is now covered in bits of kit and wires. Can’t find the signal in CubicSDR. I have a handheld scanner which goes up to 1300… but impractical to slowly run through the band hoping, and anyway it does not do SSB. Setting the TR-9130 to FM caused the transverter to whinge via it’s red LED showing far too much input.

Ah, the frequency meter then, that goes to 2.7GHz. Finally I can see output in the form of a fleeting count on the counter. Getting a BNC cable and the baby Pluto antenna so the antenna is close to the Yagi and I could get a more accurate reading of 1296. Good. Now I can tune to it in CubicSDR and finally see a signal, which saves me from figuring out how to do it all properly in CubicSDR!

And that’s as far as I can get. I need an attenuator so I can run it via the 144MHz transverter which puts out up to 10W, or so I can use FM on the TR-9130 – ok make that two different attenuators. Not that I will get very far with an 8 element Yagi on the desk but in theory, and perhaps using a handheld I should be able to open up GB3WC from here as it’s pretty much line sight.

Lots of faffing around then for an incomplete result… but then, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Nextionising the pibox

I gave the pibox a present today in the form of a 3.2″ Nextion display. It came with a bezel which I wanted because I could guarantee not to make a neat hole in the panel. Oddly, the bezel was black in the advert but came unfinished…

The screen runs off a USB port on the Pi via a CP2102 USB to TTL dongle, and the wires that came with the Nextion just reach the dongle which in on the far side of the box. It was surprisingly easy to set up, albeit I had to wrestle the Windows PC to set up the Nextion editor as I did not have a spare SD card to download the HMI file directly to the Nextion. Of course, this exercise was very much a ‘got a new thing, must get it working immediately’ type job and I will take time now to read up on it all and maybe find different displays, but it has at least turned a boring blue box into a blue box that appears to have a purpose!



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