Monday, June 21, 2010

Patio Portable - Father's Day 2010

This Father's Day was a pleasant and relaxing day. I called my Dad to wish him a happy Father's Day around lunch time.  In the afternoon I finished up the backyard projects with the pool.  For the remainder of the day while Wyatt was swimming I brought out the KD8JHJ portable 40 meter QRP rig to test out on the patio.  I drew power from the AC mains so a steady 5 watts output was assured.
QRP is so much fun.  I made two contacts that answered my call on the second go-round.  I'm no longer suprised when a station returns my call while transmitting with the MFJ 9040 transceiver.  Also it seems I don't have to send endless streams of CQs. 

My first contact was Bill KB2RAW in Sidney, NY.  Bill was using a cootie key.  I could not tell it as he was sending very good code. He reported my RST as 589.  Knowing that I was operating QRP (5 watts) Bill finally asked "What model is your rig I want one?"  I told him the model was MFJ 9040.  He said "Well it sounds great and would never have known you was QRP."

The second QSO was Rick K4UFS in Rainbow City, Alabama.  Rick was using a vintage Collins S-line which back in it's day was top of the line tube gear that many a ham lusted after.  And what a testament to Collins quality that after all these years they are still alive on the ham bands making contacts.

A third contact was Bill W9ZN in Chicago, IL.  Although he sent a 589 signal report there must have been signal fading or some problem because we lost contact after a couple of minutes.  Occasionally it happens.

One part of my portable kit I had not tested out yet was using the Bushwhacker Paddle and K-5 keyer to drive the little MFJ rig.  The supplied patch cable between the keyer and transceiver has a 1/4" inch jack but the key socket on the MFJ is 1/8"  I picked up the phono to 1/8" mono cord at Radio Shack and upon hooking up the components I found the paddle-keyer was not working.  As soon as I plugged in the cord the rig keyed up transmitting a steady tone.  A quick continuity check revealed that the center pin on the cord was open.  I took a gamble that the problem was the 1/8" plug so I cut it off knowing I had a new one in my spare parts box ready to be soldered up.  Once I had bare wires exposed I checked continuity again and found that the phono plug at the other end was ok.  I soldered on the new 1/8" plug and function checked the whole setup and it worked great. 

The keyer and paddle is extra gear to take out but I wanted the capability of using the memory keyer to generate my CQ calls if by chance I ever don't get an answer after one of two calls.  The Nye Speed-X straight key will continue to stand by as a backup or will get plugged in if I ever run the MFJ QRP rig for a SKCC event.    


  1. I have two hams here in Arizona who have been telling me that I should buy that MFJ rig. I think whats keeping me away is code. I know, with heading drooping, I'm a Ham and I should know code. No Excuses! I could always tell you about the money I will have to come up with the recover from the leak in the kitchen, above what insurance will cover. I could always tell you about what needs to be done to our van. I could................

  2. Looks like a really nice portable setup Mike. What were you using for an antenna? If it works as well as it does now at the low end of the solar cycle, imagine how much fun you will have when conditions get better!

  3. Hi Guys! I have two 40m end fed half waves. For portable I used wire with white insulation so it will be a little easier to see. For these latest contacts I was using the end fed that is up 30 feet at the home QTH.

    Yes I can't believe how easy it is to make contacts with that little 5 watt rig. I might have to downgrade to a 400mw rockmite or a tuna tin to get more of a challenge. :) I think 20 meters would be a hoot as well if we got some serious sunspots. I'll probably build a rockmite for 20 meters in the future. I went with the MFJ 9040 because I didn't want to be rockbound on one frequency. I think that would make it much more challenging. With the MFJ I can run from 7.025- 7.125 and I love tuning with the old school VFO.

    Hey Norm- CW is the cheapest way to get on the air. Everyone is different but now after a year and a half of practice I can honestly say I am relaxed and comfortable using the mode. While you are building back your station funds why not download G4FON and check it out. I have it on my office computer and I set it for random words and now I have the speed at 25 wpm. It runs for an hour then needs reset. Sometimes I will have 4 or more hours of quiet code playing in the background. (I'm sure my co-workers think I'm nuts!) I used the Koch method that is detailed in the program while I was studying for my ticket. So even if your first piece of gear is a VHF/ UHF rig why not start some practice with cw now so that later on when your set up on HF you'll have another tool in the toolbox. I hang around 7.050 and 7.110-120 MHz. Lots of slow coders. Not until recently have I been venturing down to the lower end were the faster ops are.

    Thanks for the comments GL -- 73