With autumn comes the shorter days and colder temperatures and that's when I like to start concentrating on radio operations.
Since I set up my station at my current location I've utilized an old TV tower on the side of my house as a support for my main antenna. I've hung various end fed half-wave wire antennas in this position using a tree in the back corner of the property to support the other end with great effect. I like the end fed wire antenna because it works well on my small lot and unlike a standard half-wave dipole which is fed in the center I don't have a feed line drooping down into the middle of the backyard.
Not long into my ham radio career I joined the SKCC or Straight Key Century Club. Through this outstanding club I ran into a couple Morse Code radio-telegraphy enthusiasts who happen to run a machine shop called LnR Precision located in Randleman, North Carolina. Back in 2010 LnR purchased the Par End Fedz line of wire antennas from Par Electronics and has been manufacturing them since.
"LNR will be far better equipped to manufacture and expand the EndFedz line of antennas" and "will have much larger manufacturing capabilities and thus amateurs will benefit from much faster order filling. I wish to thank the many thousands of amateurs who have bought EndFedz and whom I think of as friends." - Dale W4OP
A couple weeks ago I installed a brand new antenna from LnR called the EF-Quad. This is a unique wire antenna that can operate on four bands; 10, 15, 20 and 40 meters with a 200 watt power limit. My average power usage is about 50 watts or less for most of my operating so there's no danger of burning out the matchbox of the antenna where the coax feedline attaches.
Early in the spring I cut down the two Maple trees in the back of my yard because they had grown too big for the property. Because severe storms seem to be becoming the norm I decided not to push my luck with the potential damage risk the big trees posed and had them removed. I wasn't sure how I was going to like loosing my backyard shade but I've adjusted and found the benefits far outweigh the negative. I now enjoy a full view of the beautiful night sky and this fall I won't be spending hours raking up leaves. My neighbor was even happy with my decision because he noticed he was no longer constantly cleaning out small twigs, leaves and other detritus from his swimming pool.
The one problem I did have to overcome was loosing my antenna support. In the meantime I simply pounded in an 8' metal T-post and tied off the antenna support cord to it. This changed the orientation of the wire antenna into what we call a sloper in ham radio but showed little or no change to the performance of the antenna I had up at the time.
For a more permanent solution the RoadQueen helped me sink a 16' treated four by four in the corner of the lot to attached the support cord and raise the far end of the antenna up into the air a little bit higher than the T-post.
The matchbox up on the tower is at a height of about 38' and the end insulator is now at 17' above ground. Ham radio antennas work best when they're up as high as possible and in the clear.
At the top of the post I screwed in a stainless steel eye bolt along with stainless carabiner and pulley to make it quick and easy to lower the antenna for tuning or other maintenance. At about the four foot level I screwed in a cleat to make fast the support line.
The antenna was cut nearly perfect and was working fine right away. I made some contacts on 15, 20 and 40 meters but have not yet found an opportunity with 10 meters open to try that band.
Local stateside stations within about 1,000 miles boom in loud and clear due to the relatively low height of the wire. Working DX is not out of the question either and I had some good fun contacting a few foreign stations using the EF-Quad.
40m PA3BUD Rotterdam, Netherlands
40m OE3DMA Altenburg, Austria
40m VA3PAW Toronto, Canada
15m F1USC Chennevieres Sur Marne, France
15m CE4SFG San Fernando, Chile
15m YL3BF Liepaja, Latvia
20m R3GMT Lipetsk, Russia
20m UY2LA Kharkov, Ukraine
20m DG1LHM Berkenthin, Germany
Another recent addition to the station is this fine NT9K Pro-Pump Standard long lever Morse Code key also made by LnR Precision.
Here's a short blurb I wrote about the key for my QRZ.com bio page:
"This key is the latest addition to my key collection and is my first choice if I wish to send with a hand key. The Pro-Pump was built by LnR Precision of North Carolina, USA. Its design was inspired by and closely resembles the legendary Amplidan Professional Marine Key sadly no longer in production.
I enjoy straight key sending. I have tried many different keys and in my opinion the long lever design is superior when it comes to hand keys. Sure I've only been pounding the brass for a short six years and was never formally trained as a radio officer but I appreciate quality tools and fine craftsmanship. I know it when I see it. The precise and solid feel of the Pro-Pump allows me to send the cleanest code of all my keys. I use "arm off the table" European style of sending which I believe yields the most crisp and accurate code. Prior to acquiring this key I used the SKCC version of the NT9K Pro-Pump. That key was virtually the same but with highly polished brass and a decorative painted base. I prefer the more business like appearance of the Pro-Pump Standard model. A very handsome addition to my shack."
Last week I put the key on the air and had a blast participating in the 2-hour Straight Key Sprint held once a month by the SKCC. These short weeknight sprints are great fun and the speeds are a comfortable 15 to 20 words per minute just right for hand key brass pounding.
20m K7CHS Arizona
20m K7UM Washington State
20m W1LIC Florida
20m N0TA Colorado
20m W7GVE Arizona
40m K2HT Missouri
40m KA3OCS Virginia
40m N8KR Ohio
40m WN4AT Alabama
40m KK0I Wisconsin
40m K8TEZ Ohio
20m WB7EUX Oregon
20m N0CVW Kansas
20m AE5S Nebraska
So now with the function tests accomplished I'm all set for the cold, dark days of winter where I can sit cozy and warm by the glow of my rig and enjoy the fine fraternity of my amateur radio brothers around the world.