Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winter Hike

Friday's winter storm dumped an additional eight inches of snow on the area.  It's been quite a winter here in Ohio.  More snow than we have seen in many years.  It will be interesting to know the total snow fall for the season once all is said and done.

In order to get out of the house for a while on Saturday Wyatt and I decided to go for a winter hike at Clear Fork.  In the 24 hours since the storm all the county roads had been plowed but none of the parking areas or pull-offs had been cleared.  My trusty Honda CRV has all wheel drive which works great but the vehicle's tires have ordinary street tread so I am very cautious in snow depths of 6" to 12".  The only place I felt confident enough pulling the CRV off the road and into the snow was a flat access to some hunting area along the North-West end of the reservoir.  Adding to our sense of adventure was the fact that I had not yet explored this particular area of the park.

During our trek we enjoyed looking at various tracks in the fresh snow.  We easily identified rabbit, squirrel, raccoon and white tail deer that had moved through the area leaving their sign behind.  I enjoyed teaching my son how to determine the direction of travel of deer.  In deep snow it is not always possible to see the imprint of the hoof to determine which way the animal was going as would be readily apparent in soft soil or mud.  After a heavy snow fall a deer's hoof tips will leave scrape marks on the surface of the snow an inch or so deep during it's stride that can be used by the tracker to tell which way the animal was going.    

Here is a classic white tail sign called a "rub".  In the fall a buck will rub his antlers on a tree trunk aggressively enough to remove the bark from the tree.  Deer are creatures of habit and these rubs can also be used to determine the route of a cruising buck.  Leading up to the "rut" or mating season the North American Whitetail will patrol his territory in a repetitive circuit rubbing trees in the direction of his path.  This behavior leaves a visual marker readily apparent by sight.  More importantly though the buck has scent glands on his forehead near the antler that deposit his scent onto the rub as a notice to any female deer that happen into the area. 

This shot from the North-East I have wanted to take for a couple of years now.  The reservoir in the background is only visible during the winter when the trees are bare of their foliage.  The area we hiked is just out of the frame to the right.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Insulator Post -- CD 122 Hemigray-16

Here is a common Hemingray CD 122 insulator in a more uncommon 7-UP green color.  I purchased this piece at the 2009 Mid Ohio Insulator Show and it remains one of my favorite Hemingray insulators.

Here is another picture of the same insulator in sunlight that really shows off the gorgeous emerald colored glass.

The Hemingray Glass Company (1848-1972) is the most well known and documented glass works that operated in America.  Having made their 1 billionth insulator by 1937 it is truly astounding to ponder the amount of glass produced by this company.  At the bottom of my post are links to several great websites devoted to this iconic glass works.

Nosing about the web I stumbled upon some excellent pictures of a salesman's sample insulator press at  These salesman's samples were miniature versions of real insulators handed out to utility companies as part of the sales pitch by Hemingray.  Even though the press is scaled down I think it is a fair representation of what a full size insulator press would have looked like.

Other Hemingray resources:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

40 Meter Vertical Antenna

I've decided to give my homebrew 40 meter antenna project a label of it's own on the blog so it will be easier to group together the posts that follow the progression of my first high frequency antenna.  By clicking on the label "40 Meter Vertical" located at the end of the post blogger will display only my posts sharing the same label.  Because I'm busy weeks or months can go by before I find the time to work on the next part of my antenna project.  Due to the technical nature I believe these posts are best viewed together for greater perspective.

This afternoon I used a doweling jig to drill holes though the base of the antenna mast and fix in place a fiberglass foot section.  The fiberglass tubing is the same material used to make the loading coil form at the top of the antenna mast.  The non-conductive fiberglass not only isolates the antenna from the mounting support but also provides the structural integrity required to keep the antenna in a vertical position once deployed in the field.  

The 19 1/2" foot section provides room for mounting the match box and in my case conveniently slips down into the steel mast pipe of my heavy duty tripod for portable use.  In a permanent set up the fiberglass foot section could be bracketed to a wooden post or attached with U-bolts and mounting plate to a standard metallic tube mast.

The Foot is made up of two pieces of tubing that telescope smoothly into each other and together make a strong unit.  A single stainless steel bolt will connect the two pieces and also provide a stop once the foot section is inserted into the tripod.  A close inspection of the image below shows the precision of my cuts.  The mating surfaces of aluminum and fiberglass meet up perfect.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Recumbent Breakout!

Today the Temperature hit 55 degrees so I busted out of work early and perpetrated my first road ride of 2011.  An oppressive wind of 15 mph was blowing directly from the west so I proceeded in that direction.  I looped around through the rural flatlands and entered town from the south.  The ride was uneventful but just being out on the bike on a relatively warm day with bright sun was just what I needed. 

Ride Time:  1:43
Distance:  19.25 miles
Average Speed:  11.1 mph
Max Speed:  23.6 mph   

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Downhill Skiing with LeeAnn

For Valentine's Day my wife took me on a romantic getaway to Seven Springs in southwest Pennsylvania.  (Yes, she is awesome!)

Although an avid cross country skier I wasn't to sure how I would fare on a real hill.  It's been fifteen years since I went alpine skiing and I am happy to report that it is much like riding a bike.  Within a few minutes I was gracefully carving turns like I had not missed a beat.

We arrived Monday afternoon at the resort to fierce wind and sideways blowing snow.  We made a quick mutual decision to skip the Valentine's dinner and proceeded directly to the lift after renting my equipment.  After a couple hours of night skiing in near blizzard conditions we retired to the lodge and had a well earned meal of gourmet burgers and fries.

Fate smiled upon us and the next day was sunny and perfect.  The air was clear and calm even at the summit 2,994 feet above sea level.  More than once we heard the locals commenting that "It doesn't get any better than this."  I have to agree.

Seven Springs terrain park with insane big air ramps and world class half pipe has been recognized "The Best in the East" by snowboarding publications.  And no, I didn't even think about it.  This is as close as I got and that was only to take the photograph.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

News from A.R.S. KD8JHJ

Another SKCC Week End Sprint has come and gone.  Higher than usual solar flux has contributed to excellent band conditions on the HF radio spectrum.  I know things are in great shape when I recieve a 599 signal report from Bert, F6HKA in Limoges, France using 100 watts and 33 feet of wire as my antenna.  During this event I just took my time and searched out an operator in a different state for each qso.  I used the NT9K Pro-Pump straight key for 100 percent manually generated Morse code.

February SKCC Week End Sprint

Green-  3.5 MHz  (80 meters)
Blue-  7 MHz  (40 meters)
Red-  14 MHz  (20 meters)

7.108     N0UMP     Missouri
7.106     K0LUW     Nebraska
7.117     W7GVE     Arizona
3.549     W9HLY     Indiana
3.551     N9ODY     Wisconsin
14.047   W4CU      Florida
14.057   F6HKA     France
14.050   NE5DL     Texas
7.108     N3MVX     Pennsylvania
7.120     KD2JC      New Jersey
7.108     W1DV      New York
14.050   N6DIT     California
7.107     Ko1U      Massachusetts
14.050   AB7KT     Nevada
14.047   N0TK      Colorado

January SKCC Week End Sprint
(January 9, 2011)

During the January edition of the Week End Sprint I was a running station on two occasions.  These runs can be noted by the group of contacts all on the same frequency.  The first being on 3.550 MHz and the second on 7.121 MHz.  Running is the most exciting part of radio contesting.  This requires a sharp ear as the next call sign comes in right after the last.

3.551     W4CUX      Georgia
3.549     WA3SLN    Pennsylvania
3.554     W3NP       West Virginia
3.554     K3Y/0       Missouri
3.550     NT8P       Ohio
3.550     WD0ECO   Missouri
3.550     K4NVJ      Alabama
3.550     WA0BGV   Missouri
3.550     W2HWW   New Jersey
3.550     WB8ENE   Ohio
7.111     W4CUX     Georgia
7.115     K5KV       Louisiana
7.116     W4TMW     Georgia
3.555     N4RE       North Carolina
3.556     W3OKC     Pennsylvania
3.561     K3Y/7       Washington
3.555     K3Y/5       Texas
3.555     K0LUW     Nebraska
7.111     K3Y/9       Wisconsin
7.109     K2VT       New Jersey
7.114     K4BAI     Georgia
7.122     NY3C       Deleware
7.107     K3Y/0       Missouri
7.116     KB2RAW   New York
7.121     N4FI        Virginia
7.121     W1HFF     Massachusetts
7.121     KB3LNP   Pennsylvania
7.121     N1ZS        Indiana
7.121     KM5IT     Georgia
7.121     K0KEX     Missouri
7.115     N2JNZ     New York
7.113     K3Y/1       Massachusetts
3.553     K4BAI     Georgia
3.556     KB4QQJ     North Carolina
3.558     W4KRN     Virginia


PL-259 Connectors

Today I stopped at the Mansfield Mid Winter Hamfest & Computer Show and picked up some connectors.  These silver plated connectors ideal for use at high frequency wavelengths are great looking as well as an excuse to get out the soldering iron.  One of the four chassis mount sockets will be used on the matchbox of my homebrew 40 meter antenna.  With two of the connector plugs I plan to make a new 100 foot coax feedline for portable operations.  The rest of the pieces will go into my parts box.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Insulator Post -- The CD Numbering System

The out of doors is still blanketed in snow so when the skies are clear and the sun comes out bright natural light pours in through the windows.  These are optimum lighting conditions for displaying glass insulators on window sills.  This photograph shows my California collection and a few baby signals from the last insulator post.

I have long debated whether I should bore to death what few readers I have with more obscure technical details of my various interests.  Because I use the medium of photography and this blog itself to document the physical details of my insulator collection I think that I cannot any longer neglect to mention the incredibly useful Consolidated Design system created by Mr. N.R. Woodward to categorize the style and general usage of the glass insulator.  This system is used by collectors and historians to identify the hundreds of different kinds of insulators in existence. 

Every four years a new edition of John and Carol McDougald's "Insulators A History and Guide to North American Glass Pintype Insulators" is published with the data arranged by CD number.  This book is a great resource that provides mechanical drawings showing shapes and dimensions as well as embossing details and fair market values.  I picked up a copy of this book shortly after becoming interested in glass insulators and I am looking forward to the new edition which is due out soon.

From right to left:

CD 102 C.G.I.Co.

CD 160 B  No 32 (Brookfield)


Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Sunday afternoon while I was waiting for the Superbowl to start I decided to set up my MFJ 9040 qrp transceiver on the kitchen table and see what was on the amateur airwaves.  From this operating position I could see the television in the other room and keep an eye on the pot of ham and bean soup simmering away on the stove.  Sunday afternoon multi-tasking at it's best!

After my second set of CQ calls WA4WMN in Robbins, TN answered my call.  This was my first qrp contact of 2011.  This was also the first time I have used the Vibroplex Iambic paddles to drive the internal Curtis keyer that I installed in the MFJ rig last year.  The combination worked great and I have really come to enjoy operating this little battery powered rig.

Monday evening after dinner I was scanning around the lower end of the 40 meter band and came across a strong signal calling CQ.  I answered the call and promptly established contact with K0JVX in Olathe, Kansas.  John who was 648 miles away sent a signal report of 579.  We enjoyed a half hour chat before I signed off as John's signal was slowly getting weaker and weaker.  High frequency radio propagation is always changing and a good op will be mindful of conditions and draw to a close a QSO if conditions deteriorate. 

Tuesday morning found me at the kitchen table enjoying my coffee and sending out some CQ's.  My normal procedure when calling CQ with the MFJ is to send:  "CQ CQ CQ DE KD8JHJ KD8JHJ K" (pause) "CQ CQ CQ DE KD8JHJ KD8JHJ K" (pause) "CQ CQ CQ DE KD8JHJ/QRP  KD8JHJ/QRP  AR".  CQ means "calling any station", DE is a telegraphy abbreviation for "This is..." and the "K" on the end stands for "Go Ahead" or please respond now.  Every third call I amend my call sign with /QRP to denote to any stations that happen upon my signal that I am operating low power at five watts or less.  The AR at the very end of my transmission stands for "End Of Message"  These abbreviations or "Prosigns" are a long standing and handy tradition of telegraphy.  Because every letter of every word must be manually keyed into the transmitter the prosigns make sending traffic much easier and less work.  After a short time an operator becomes used to these codes within the code.  Another useful Q-signal is QTH which means "My Location Is".  The distinctive three letter signal warns the receiving operator to get ready for incoming information.  With use prosigns become instantly recognizable buzz words that help the telegraphy operators keep on track and ready for what is coming next. 

After sending my first three calls station W2ZRA located in the north-east end of Long Island, New York answered my call matching my sending speed perfectly.  The operator's name was Kevin and he sent back a 589 signal report from his QTH 540 miles away.  I am proud to have our QSO in the log.  It turns out Kevin was a U.S. Coast Guard radio operator aboard the USCGC Hamilton serving in the North Atlantic during the early 1970's.  Although he was a licensed amateur during his Coast Guard years Kevin was off the air for 33 years until he re-applied for his license last year.  Kevin said he had no trouble re-establishing his sending and receiving skill and gives credit to his USCG training from decades earlier.  To me his cw fist was spot on and a pleasure to copy. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Insulator Post -- Brookfield Baby Signals

Here is a pair of Brookfield Baby Signals I recently acquired from an online vendor. 

These insulators got the nickname "Baby" because they are the smallest of the signal style shape.  These two pieces produced sometime before 1922 stand 3.125" inches tall and both have an outer diameter of  2.875" inches.  Of the many glass houses that made the baby signal I now have examples from Brookfield, Hemingray and the California Glass Insulator Company.

Embossing- front skirt:  BROOKFIELD
rear skirt:  NEW YORK

Embossing:  No 32       B

I took advantage of the clear skies and set up in the back yard using the late afternoon sun to illuminate the glass.  Although I was hurrying due to the temperature of 25 degrees and a bitter cold breeze I think the pictures turned out fairly well.  An interesting effect is the shadow which adds a little depth to the images.

What looks like a chip in the glass at the base of the No 32 B insulator is actually a smooth underpour.  There was not enough molten glass to fill the mold at this particular area so the glass settled and dried with a smooth radius.  A small flaw like this would pass quality control inspection as it would not hinder the insulator's ability to do it's job. 

Another feature in the photographs are the serpentine "straw marks"  or shallow grooves visible on the dome above the shoulder on each of the insulators.  I don't know of the cause of this phenomenon but my guess would be that the curvy channels were carved out by escaping gasses while the glass still thousands of degrees was forced under pressure to take on the shape of the mold.  Details like this add uniqueness and character to these colorful pieces of telecom history . 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Establishing a Bass Line

'99 Fender Precision Bass

While the Great Blizzard of 2011 ran it's course outside I stayed in and generated some low frequency sound waves to keep warm.  When I started "playing" the bass a few years ago I discovered what a great tool it is for picking out chords of songs without tabulature or sheet music.  By playing along to a recording I can flush out the root notes of a song without too much difficulty.  The human ear can differentiate low frequencies much better than higher ones and I think this explains why I don't have near as much luck when trying to guess chords with my six string instruments. 

Last night I unintentionally learned a new song on my bass by the Velvet Underground called "Oh Sweet Nuthin' ".  Slow tempo three chord songs are right up my alley.  To be honest I had never heard this song before but The Black Crowes recently covered it and put on on their DVD "Cabin Fever".  I noticed the simple groove and after a couple run throughs I had a rudimentary base line established and playable either up high or lower on the neck.

Just like pounding out Morse code on a telegraph key the bass guitar requires a steadiness and a precision sense of timing.  That is if you want to sound good at it.  Speaking of telegraph keys, my post about Vibroplex nameplates last month reminded me of this excellent embossed and filled nameplate on the grill of my bass amp.  Here is an example of a well established company that wants to project a "vintage" quality in their product right down to name badge on the front.  The sound quality side of this company's product speaks for itself.