Thursday, September 29, 2011

News at Amateur Radio Station W8MDE

It's been rainy so I've been getting on the air.

W8MDE is my new amateur radio call sign.  My old call sign was KD8JHJ.   

Call Sign CW Weight Results
Call sign    Weight
KD8JHJ    82
W8MDE    54
K8MDE    54
N8MDE    50  (shortest)

Weight is determined by the number of dots, dashes and spaces that make up a call sign in Morse code.  The lesser the weight the less effort and time expended during sending.

Check out my new bio page at  put my call sign in the search.

Some recent activations:

September 2011  SKCC Week End Sprint
(last wes under call sign KD8JHJ)

7.057    00:47    N2WT    MD    John    4965T
7.109    00:57    KB2RAW    NY    Bill    6539T
7.111    01:01    W4NA    VA    Nate    5262T
7.112    01:06    K9SKC    NY    George    2836T
7.110    01:19    N0UMP    MO    Bill    659T
7.058    01:25    WA1lWS    MD    Hans    1933T
7.056    01:35    AC8JD    MI    Joe    8107C
7.054   01:40    K1LEE    CT  Lee    7246
7.052    01:43    W3OKC    PA    Steve    7186T
14.053    01:55    AD5VC    LA    Dana    1555T
7.057    02:13    NW3K    NY    Dean    7330T
7.055.5    02:25    W1LVT    VT    Len    3932T
7.052    14:15    WQ9Z    IL    Roy    325T
7.055.5    14:20    N4PGJ    NY    Ron    6869T
14.046    15:26    F6HKA    FRA    Bert    6069T


Crawford County Amateur Radio Club 
50 Years of Service Special Event

I consider it near sacrilege to not activate a cw (Morse code) station at my club's 50th Aniversary Special Event.  The weather forecasts called for rain and storms but we got lucky.  I set up in the open and enjoyed an afternoon of rare sunshine.  Went home and changed into shorts.

Whiskey 8 Bacon And Eggs

7060    14:45    N8KZH    WV    Ron
7060    14:51   KB3LGO    PA   Walt
7060    14:55    AB8EL    OH    Don
7060    15:26    WB3BIQ    PA    Rick
7060    16:00    W8DP    WV    Dallas
7060    16:30    KD8OTT    MI    Bryon
7060    16:44    K3PR    PA    Joe
7060    17:41    K9LWA    IN    Bob
7060    18:57    K8JV    MI    Jim
7061    19:30    KC9SNC    WI    Don

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2 Sides Primed

A break in the weather allowed me to get a coat of white primer on two sides of the shed.  I was looking through my painting supplies in the basement this morning and found nearly a whole gallon of exterior white primer and a full gallon of exterior latex house and trim paint so that saves me about 40 dollars.  With two sides done less than half a gallon of the primer is left so I may have to break down and buy another can.

This is the reason I went crazy with the gravel.  The day the shed was built it rained on and off for hours.   I took this picture the next day 24 hours after the rain had passed.  The photo is a great example of how wet the back end of my property can be even days after torrential rains.  

This is the shed of my next door neighbor Frank Horton.  Frank's shed is over 20 years old and still looking good.  A World War II veteran in his 90's Frank stays active still mowing his own grass and puttering around his property enjoying his retirement.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shed Construction Complete

At 6:45 am this morning before it was even light the shed crew showed up to assemble the components of the 8' x 10' storage shed.  These two young men worked as a well oiled machine completing the building and off to their next job by 8:15 am.

I ended up needing two additional tons of limestone to complete the base providing a level surface for the construction.  This brings the grand total of stone to 8,180 pounds or just over 4 tons.  Every last shovel full transported by hand the 80 feet from the driveway back to the construction site.

The last task which only requires a couple sunny days will be a bit of caulking and painting of the exterior surfaces. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Urban Loop

A little time to kill on a Sunday afternoon.

Ride Time:  53:54
Distance:  10.04 miles
Average Speed:  11.1 mph
Max Speed:  22.3 mph

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Rolling Stones

View North
View South

After a good soaking of rain I used the human powered roller and noticed that the limestone settled even more from just four passes.  The back of my yard to the East has a very slight downhill grade.  I decided that my shed base would follow this contour allowing rain gutters to drain the same direction as the surrounding ground.  An extra two feet of gravel on each side of the shed will aid in runoff if I decide not to use rain gutters and spouts.  

The weather this afternoon was bright and sunny but cool.  56 F / 13 C is nearly a 50 degree difference in temperature from the start of my shed project.  I have to find my hat.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shed News

After three trailer loads I now have 4,180 pounds of number 57 limestone spread out for the base of my shed.  It looks as if I will need another ton to raise the grade to the level I want.  The wheel barrow has proven it's effectiveness in transporting every last pound from the driveway back to the shed site.

A sharp eye will spot fossilized remains among the gravel.

This cool tool is a human powered lawn roller that came with the house when we bought the property.  I  use this 300 pound steel roller to smooth out the ground before erecting the swimming pool and flattening lumpy turf in the springtime after the ground has thawed.  I noticed that it works exceptionally well for compacting the stone of the shed base.  Walking on the rolled limestone feels more like a paved surface than a loose pile of stones.  After spreading out the final load of rock I will roll it some more and the result should be a very flat and stable foundation.

Things are progressing on schedule.  I will order more stone today for delivery on Friday leaving me the weekend to complete the final preparations before the shed's arrival next week.


Monday, September 12, 2011

American Tower Company

Because I am an amateur radio operator I am always interested in towers, antennas and other apparatus that sticks up in the sky that I encounter during my travels.  Not far from where I live I noticed a strange installation made up of six sections of tower each spaced few feet apart in a row paralleling a state route.  Adjacent the array of towers is a parking lot and a large industrial building.  I have been by this site many times and have only gotten away with a quick glance as I was always at the wheel and passing at 50 mph.

I've been meaning to stop and check out the towers and this past Saturday morning I had a little spare time so I grabbed my camera and headed to to the location.  I have long surmised that the tower stubs must be part of a sales display of a tower distributor.   

Affixed to each tower was a nameplate with a model number and nomenclature that read "American Tower Company"  Sure enough when I returned home and Google searched the name I found that the place was not just a distributor but the site of the actual manufacturer.  
American Tower Company
located in Shelby, Ohio makes everything from the lowly residential TV tower to gigantic commercial structures. 

American Tower Company product display

As it turns out the tower attached to my house has seen better days and I fear it will soon require replacement.  A couple factors have helped me to decide that when the time comes this may be the place where I spend my money.  First and foremost my money would stay in the area helping the local economy.  Just as important is the shipping issue.  Four ten foot sections would easily fit on my flat bed utility trailer for the short 15 minute trip home.

A nice tower is every ham's dream or at least it should be.  The antenna system is the make or break part of part of an amateur radio station.  My current tower works fine for hanging wires from but the top pipe that holds the mast is shot and cannot hold the weight of even a small antenna.  So if I wanted to experiment with any kind of directional antennae I will certainly have to put up a new tower.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Design on the Fly

As is often the case when I am busy on a project other problems always seem to come along requiring solving.  While I was building the retaining wall for my shed base I was realizing this space is going to hold a lot of stone.  Using the bending brake at work to form simple corner braces for the retaining wall got me thinking what else these custom made aluminum parts might be useful for.  

My utility trailer is a 2000 Nu Way (A Division of Martin Industries - Florence, AL) kit that I built myself ten years ago.  I have used this trailer for a multitude of tasks hauling sea kayaks, camping gear, dirt, mulch, stone, lumber, furniture, firewood and even a motorcycle or two.

My end use design of this 1300 G.V.W.R. trailer was modular in nature.  I used a 3/4" X 4' X 8' pressure treated plywood panel with rails screwed around the perimeter as a flat bed cargo deck.  The side frame rails have numerous holes where I attached U-bolts for cargo strap connection points.  On a second sheet of 4' X 8' treated plywood I constructed a double cradle rail system to support two 15' sea kayaks side by side. The plywood deck is secured to the trailer frame by six bolts making it fairly easy to reconfigure the trailer to another purpose.  The kayak deck went with the boats when we found that the structure swapped smoothly over  to the kayaks new owner's trailer.  These days my old trailer has mostly been relegated to more utilitarian duty and the cargo deck has remained bolted in place.

The rectangular wooden structure pictured in the photographs is the latest modular add-on I have come up with to make my loose cargo hauling tasks easier.  In the past ten years I have carried thousands of pounds of gravel on this trailer.  My procedure was to spread out a poly tarp over the trailer and then have a load of stone dumped onto the deck.  I would then gather up the corners of the tarp and tie up the whole package as if it was a giant bag of candy.  Just to be sure I ran a couple cargo straps across the bundle.  While this method worked it made me very nervous.  I took it real slow imagining the fiasco if the tarp broke open in a turn spewing gravel out on a quiet residential street.

While I was locked in mortal combat with maple tree roots in the backyard a plan materialized in my mind's eye of an idea I've decided to call the gravel box.  The next day I called my local lumber yard  and ordered four pieces of 2" X 12" treated lumber cut to a specific size.  Later that afternoon I fabricated the .063" aluminum corner braces and stopped by the hardware store for fasteners on my way home from work.

 Wyatt assisted with the final assembly.  He has noticed that his dad is always creating and building things and asks if he can help in some way.  Needless to say I go out of my way to make sure he is included. 

  Removal of the gravel box from the trailer is easily accomplished. After loosening the four turn buckles and removing the bolts and lock nuts all the parts can be broken down to individual pieces for storage.  The total cost of the materials for this newest revision of my handy utility trailer amounted to about $50 dollars.  The satisfaction derived from a little shade tree engineering -well worth it.

1,290 lbs

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

Shed Site Preparation Continues

My trusty ax purchased in a hardware store in Banff  Alberta, Canada 1993 for $15.

For us working stiffs who have projects at home Labor Day Weekend is aptly named.  I spent the second and third day of my shed project in an epic struggle with the elements.  On Saturday the temperatures soared into the upper 90's.  I toiled for seven hours with shovel and ax stopping only once an hour to drink a pint of ice water.

Two big Silver Maple trees grow on each side about 15 feet from my shed site.  I knew the ground would be intertwined with root networks from these two big old trees each with trunk diameters of 3 feet.

.060" Aluminum corner brackets
I fabricated these brackets at work and picked up some 1/4" zinc plated bolts and fasteners at the hardware store.  These will keep the corners of the retaining wall perfectly mated.  My experiment with this arrangement is to test how the composite decking material stands up to burial in a very moist area.  The boards are made of recycled wood fiber (sawdust) encapsulated in recycled polyethylene, the plastic that gallon milk jugs are made of.

The decking material is termite and rot resistant and carries a lifetime warranty by the manufacturer (when used as decking of course).  I've got a feeling it will work fine for my application.

If you've never had the pleasure of digging roots your missing out on a real treat!

I used a chain saw to facilitate the removal of a big 5" monster root.

By 4:30 PM I had all the roots finally removed from the space and the dirt excavated to a uniform 5 or 6 inches of depth.  Luckily the clay layer begins about 6 inches down so I should be in good shape providing a study and solid base for my new shed.  The next step is to fill the hole with gravel.  I purchase  limestone locally and use my utility trailer to haul it home.  The trailer has a capacity of about 1200 pounds and I am estimating I may need two or three loads.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Shed Project Underway

Over the years I've amassed a small collection of bikes, tools, camping gear and other assorted equipment that simply no longer fits in a one car garage.  The car hasn't seen the inside of my garage in years.  That space is too valuable to waste on something as mundane as an automobile.  As a result circumstances have finally forced me into constructing a storage shed on the back of my property.  I want to get the lawnmower, rakes, shovels and other messy tools out of this prime real estate to make room for more important tasks.  

In the picture above is a 12 foot square area that my son and I dug by hand.  After clearing the tree roots to a depth of about 5 inches I plan to construct a retaining wall made of composite decking material to contain the limestone that will be the base of my shed.  If there is not a physical barrier between the gravel and adjoining sod the grass and weeds will quickly grow up through the stone.  

The structure will be an 8' X 10' shed very similar to my neighbor's in the background.  The 12' X 12' gravel base will give me plenty of room around the perimeter of the shed.  This part of the property is the low ground and always wet during the rainy season so I wanted to make sure the building is up high and dry.   

Unfortunately the project is not allowing me much free time for fun stuff like bike riding but fall is just around the corner and I am now forced to work under a time table.  It's not all bad though -digging, chopping tree roots with an ax and hauling around wheelbarrows full of gravel is a full body workout so the return on the investment is fitness.  Besides a little hard work builds character.

Stay tuned for more exciting shed news!