Thursday, September 16, 2010

News from Amateur Radio Station KD8JHJ

With the summer season winding down I have not been very active with radio.  Lots of outdoor chores and of course 2-wheeled recreation have taken up major portions of my time.  As the colder temperatures and shorter days of fall arrive I am looking with enthusiasm to ramp up my amateur radio operations.

For the first time in nearly 3 weeks I generated some signals this past weekend participating in the September SKCC Week End Sprint.  I had fun and made contact with several club members for the first time.  I took about four hours on Sunday to go for a bike ride so my score suffered from that absence.  But hey on a sunny blue sky day this time of year the bike has priority.  There will be plenty of time for full days at the desk contesting later this winter.

It's been about six months since I had a working 20 meter antenna and this was my first opportunity to use the 20 meter end fed wire during a Week End Sprint.  I have color coded my contest log to show which QSOs were made on which band.    

 Blue for 7 MHz (40 meters)   Red for 14 MHz (20 meters)

  1:17  WB4OFT    North Carolina
  1:28  K8LJG        Michigan
  1:37  WA0BGV   Missouri
  1:46  KB2RAW   New Jersey
  1:57  WD0ECO   Missouri
  2:11  N1DN         Connecticut
  2:19  N0JL           Iowa
  2:26  K0LUW      Nebraska
  2:34  W6UT         California
  3:00  WA5TCZ    Louisiana
  3:27  W7GVE      Arizona
  3:37  W0MSM    Missouri
  3:45  N6EV         California

14:08  W3RT        Pennsylvania
14:31  W4CU       Florida
15:15  WA0YEI   Texas
15:20  K5FAL      Oklahoma
15:37  W7GVE     Arizona
15:48  N4QLB      Alabama
15:58  N3MVX    Pennsylvania

22:18  F6HKA     France
22:36  K5YQF    Texas
22:48  K4FP        Florida
23:16  W5ZR       Louisiana

The time is shown in UTC so remember the sprint starts at 00:00 UTC which is 8:00 PM my local time.  I divided the list into blocks that represent my operating periods.  Even though this is a meager collection of data it plainly shows that 20 meters supports longer distance communications while 40 meters works well for regional contacts.  However with the coming of the sunspots and the resulting increase in solar flux, propagation is enhanced on all the HF bands.  This is evident by my two contacts with California stations on Saturday night.  I rarely hear any western US states on 40 meters. 

One of the benefits of contesting from a research standpoint is how it illustrates propagation patterns or "openings" to different regions based on stations heard and contacted.  Granted the more contacts logged the more clear the picture of radio wave propagation becomes for a given period of time.

My 25 contacts placed me 51st out of 135 entries in the 5-100 watt category and 61st out of 171 entries all power categories combined.  I've already got my sights set on next month's sprint and I plan to put in a little more on air time and see if I can raise my record QSO count.

A New Key at KD8JHJ

The NT9K Pro-Pump SKCC Club Key 2010

Yesterday I received my new club key.  This big brass beauty weighs in at four pounds and feels very solid and precise.  This is my first experience with a long lever straight key.  The 2010 club key was designed by Bill Crosier NT9K with features acquired from several well respected long lever key designs.  Possessing only a small collection of keys myself I am by no means an expert but I can comment after a couple live QSOs I am really impressed with the feel and the quality fit and finish of this telegraph key.  The Pro-Pump is manufactured by a new-comer to the telegraph key market.  Key Concepts U.S.A. is located in North Carolina and judging by this first offering I suspect they will have no trouble selling many of these fine instruments.  When first launched demand from club members was so great the company had to ask that 4 to 8 weeks be allowed for delivery until production could catch up.  

Lastly I would like to thank my wife LeeAnn for the use of her photography studio props and lights that allowed me to showcase this fine key with the class it deserves.



  1. Looks hefty. Is that a marble/stone base? Very nice, although, I still prefer your home made side-swiper to this one. With your sprint scores, I bet you could really give people a run for their money if you were at your desk all weekend. On the other side of that, I imagine a fanny-fatigue factor would come into play. Enjoy your new key.

  2. The base is powdercoated steel. Nice job they did with it. The middle picture shows how glossy the surface is. I worked two stations so far with it. Austin, Texas and Twin Falls, Idaho.

  3. I couldn't help but notice that you had a couple of contacts here in Arizona. There is still hope if I just get off my b - - -, and spend the money and buy some gear.

  4. Hi Norm, Band conditions are improving. Worked several California stations lately even on 40 meters. Saturday night worked a Route 66 Special Event Station in Barstow, CA on psk-31. Pretty Neat!

  5. Interesting key there...I've only used the "basic" keys and wonder about the "BIG keys" or the "magnetic iambic keys". Sure wish there was somewhere to get one in my hands and experience it before buying one of them.

    Why did you decide to get one of the big ones? Did you get to operate with it before the purchase?

    John N8ZYA

  6. Hi John, To make a long story short I like history so I have spent time reading about keys and the evolution of Morse code and its equipment. I find it interesting that different countries adopted radically different designs. Besides I like machines and tools so It's pretty tough to resist. Once I started using different keys I noticed that they all do feel different. I got the Pro Pump because I did not have that long lever style of a key in my collection. And with this key based on the Amplidan Key from Denmark I was dying to try it out. If you don't know about Amplidans watch for them on the auction sites.

    The Pro Pump is heavy and solid but very precise. It has the straight key spot on my desk. I look forward to using it in the club sprints. My comfortable copy speed is 16-18wpm and the long lever key seems to like that range.

    Lastly I do want to send the best code code possible when I transmit. I know that perfect key is out there somewhere. Maybe this one.. Wait a minute! where have I heard that before?

    Keys are very subjective like brands of cars and of course any old key will work the circuit but I am glad I can support the little shops new and old making keys. No I had no idea what this key would be like but I'm happy I got it. I will write some more about the NT9K Pro Pump after I have spent some more time pounding the brass.

    73 Mike

  7. Thanks Mike...I use an old Brunnell Key that's about 100 years old. It was given to me through the estate of a silent key. (there's a long story about that on my blog). I worked a station a few months ago that was using a Swedish pump key. Another large key and they really really liked it. I see others on the market but never used one. I'm always curious about them so appreciate your explanation.

    I see some beautiful iambic paddles and some are "magnetic" There's an Italian company that makes a really nice one. (Bengali) Sure wish there was some way to "test drive" one before making a purchase.

    Thanks again for your information.

    btw/ Nice bike. Mines's a ATB Panasonic. Can't do those long rides anymore but love the C and O Canal in Maryland. I've done it three times.

  8. Yep, Piero Begali is quite a craftsman. Never seen or used a Begali but I hope to own one someday. My favorites are the Simplex series and the HST single lever. I like to go to the website and just gaze at them. Probably the only way to get your hands on one would be to go to Dayton.