ON5ZO – OQ5M

The link to the construction details of this antenna:

http://users.skynet.be/on4bai/VDIPHAT/4BAIVHAT_bis.htm

If you did a google query for such a specific antenna, that is the link that’ll probably drew your attention.

ON4BAI disappeared from the ham radio scene almost a decade and a half ago. Since you don’t find an email address to contact him, your second go to was probably me. Understandable.

Once or twice a year someone sends me an email about this antenna project. I decided to make my life simple and just refer to this here from now on. So read along.

About this antenna:

I guess that for ON4BAI it was an exercise in engineering, calculating and building. The object was to figure out a way to make a relatively small antenna work on a relatively large wavelength with relatively acceptable efficiency.

The process is:

  1. Determine how high you are willing to go above the ground compared to full size (i.e. no loading).
  2. Determine how much space you want to sacrifice for the capacitance spokes.
  3. Add loading coils at feed point for more loading when capacitance spokes are not big enough.
  4. Figure out hairpin to match all this to 50Ω as lossless as possible.

As a result: no it is not multi band. Everything is calculated for a single frequency. Bandwidth is not too wide either.

My opinion (nutshell)

  • If you want an engineering challenge and a complex antenna, this is the way to go.
  • If you want a SIMPLE and LIGHT antenna that works EQUALLY WELL or better, there are other options.

Elaborating on the subject…

At my first employer I got to know ham radio because of some co-workers that were either hams or studying for their test. That tickled my interest. Later on I started working for another company early 1999. One of my co-workers there was ON4BAI. He was very passionate about the hobby and his enthusiasm was contagious. I too passed the test and he was my elmer when I took my first steps in ham radio.

More ON5ZO history?

10 years as a licensed ham: from ON1DRS to ON5ZO

ON4BAI preferred the technical side of the hobby: designing and building. My XYL and I just bought a house and this OM was in need of some antennas. So Kurt designed and built this antenna and we put it in my garden. I used it from Spring 2003 to somewhere early 2006. I was very grateful for that as it brought me a good antenna for a nice band.

For some reason we never got the SWR acceptable: 3:1 if memory serves me well. It seemed OK at his place but not at mine. Ground conductivity? Interaction with my sheet metal garage a few meters away? I used the TS-850’s internal ATU to ‘fix’ this. I was running 100W only so no problem. It brought me DX so why bother.

My second problem with this antenna was actually that it took up quite some real estate and made lawn mowing difficult. Not only the capacity spokes were a danger to get poked in the eye. This antenna needs guying. The center is quite heavy: mounting plate, coils, balun and a coax attached.

Early 2006 I bought an amplifier which could not handle this antenna because we couldn’t get it matched to 50 ohm. This was more serious than the lawn mowing issue so I decided to take it down. I replaced it with a simple wire vertical on a fiber glass pole with two elevated radials in gull-wing configuration. This worked equally well but was much simpler to build and took almost no space. I put the fiber glass mast against the hedge and used the trees to suspend both radials in. Later on I replaced the fiber glass pole with the copper wire by some tapered aluminum tubes.

External images <here>  and  <here>.

In summer 2006 I decided that maybe there was a better option when I had the telescopic tower cranked up. For WAECW 2006 I suspended a full size wire vertical dipole slightly sloping away from the 21m high tower. While not a three element yagi this antenna seemed even better than the ground plane. But yet again a simple, cheap and lightweight high efficiency antenna that didn’t take up real estate. Clearly a winner again.

Later on a made an A/B relay switch and put up two of these. One towards USA and one towards JA with respect to the tower. They were not phased but I always thought of being able to ‘sense’ a subtle better performance in the favored direction. No measurements or tests to back up that hunch though.

I used this setup on 40m with much success until 2011. Then I installed a coil loaded rotary dipole which sits at 23m AGL when the tower is cranked up all the way. This is a KILLER antenna and can’t be beaten for its size, weight and simplicity.

Unlike Dan KB6NU my first project was successful.  Must be a case of Beginner’s Luck.

After summer I started a new job. I’m still teaching though. But new school, new subjects: mostly back to classic electronics and new stuff like Arduino. And my first hands on experience with 3D printing. And a link with ham radio to boot!

To keep my classroom tidy I was looking for a cable rack. Teenage students wouldn’t mind turning a few dozen test leads into a pile of spaghetti but I hate that. Furthermore when the cables are nicely arranged I immediately can look for test leads gone MIA and summon the troops to recover the missing items.

I was looking for a fast DYI solution with either wood or metal since I know how to obtain and work with these materials. But Google suggested another solution. From an amateur radio operator nonetheless! WA0UWH made a nice cable rack with a 3D printer. And he was so kind as to make the design available online.

This is what the full WA0UWS model looks like.

 

Since we also teach the basics of 3D design and printing to our students, we have everything available to edit WA0UWS’s design and have it 3D-printed. The original design was too wide to fit onto our printer’s bed so we removed a few of the branches making it narrower. We did not scale it down, we sliced away some of the fingers. My colleague showed me how stuff works and soon after I had the 3D printer going.

I now have a bunch of cable racks I can put up on the wall to keep the different types and colors nicely separated and untangled. Yay! To keep the number of holes in the wall to a bare minimum I screwed a length of plywood to the wall. I painted it white first to blend with the painted wall. Then I screwed the cable racks to the wood. Four screws in a brick wall is far less than 5×3 screws.

The finished product.

The finished product.

The finished product.

A quick search engine query reveals a lot of 3D designs for ham radio gizmos are ready to download and get 3D-printed.

I have a lot to learn (see also my Arduino affair). But just like when I got back into programming twelve years ago, this new knowledge can also be used in DYI projects. Read: HAM RADIO!

Arduino – I finally cracked

Status 04/11: I processed all cards in my possession for OQ5M and ON5ZO/P. I still have a bunch of cards for ON5ZO that need to be addressed. These are mainly for older QSO’s that I sent out cards for already.

There still is a very old shoe box full of ON5ZO cards. I wrote on top of the box: “ON5ZO cards – checked OK’. So I will take a few sample cards to see if I really already processed them. I surely hope so.

The last batch of QSL cards showed a big stack of QSL cards from WRTC 2014 (MA, USA).

Many cards for WRTC 2014 contacts

Many cards for WRTC 2014 contacts

I now need to send out about 700 cards for OQ5M. I decided to print labels and stick them on paper cards. That way I can get rid of the stock of cards I had printed in 2006. I don’t like them too much and the picture doesn’t reflect my actual antennas anymore. Good riddance!

The good thing of waiting a few years to reply to incoming QSL cards is that you can answer three different cards confirming each one QSO with only one card.

Old skool QSLing is not for the impatient. After being OQ5ZO (late 2001) I sent out a QSL card for ALL contacts. Rookie mistake. I made a QSO with a W6  station on 20/11/2001. I sent my card on 12/02/2002. I marked the contact as confirmed on 03/11/2018. That’s seventeen years after the contact. Oh my. OQ5ZO – my first encounter with calling CQ and running high rate (to my standards back then). Has that really been s-e-v-e-n-t-e-e-n years already? Time flies too fast, really!

Sometimes people make the QSL process more complicated than needed. There’s this JA station I have worked seven times on 15 CW. I confirmed four of those in 2015. Yet still there is another card for the same band/mode.

Or what to think of the station sending me a card with ‘PSE QSL’. So I sent my card. Then a few years later I receive another card for the same contact saying ‘TNX QSL’. A case of confirming the confirmation.

And so the QSL saga comes to an end. For now at least. ON4BHQ warns me that he has a considerable amount of buro cards waiting for me already – again…

Stop sending me QSL cards! Stop sending me SWL cards!

For years I’ve been haunted by the view of shoe boxes full of unanswered incoming buro cards. Hiding them from view doesn’t help. The mere thought alone that they’re there… I have a love-hate relationship with QSL cards. Actually all the love is gone (so sing a lonely song… was the phrase that sprung to mind). Right now I just hate those paper things. And instead of processing them I’m going to write about them. Because that seems a more satisfying waste of time. And because lamenting is another hobby of mine.

At first I QSLed each and every contact. Just like you probably. My first 1000 cards were hand written. Crazy: a whole weekend of writing QSL cards! The second batch was labeled. Sticking 2000 labels in a row is no fun either.

Just like any fresh DXer I was enchanted by those cards dripping in. My first USA card! Oh look: the first card from Japan. One night at a club meeting somewhere in 2001-2002, I was proud to hold my very first QSL card from the land of the rising sun. I believe it was ON5YR who grinned: ‘wait until you have a shoe box full of JA cards…’. Today is that day.

This DXer grew into a contester. I couldn’t care less about the commercial DXCC program. Although I still like to work DX. A lot. The magic of radio ever ceases to amaze me.

Then my activities moved to 99% contesting with a high volume of contacts being logged (statistics). That generated huge numbers of incoming QSL. At the same time we bought a house, had to run a household, then there were kids. Free time became scarce and inversely proportional with the stack of unprocessed QSL cards.

Once in a while I would force myself to work my way through a batch of incoming cards. A few evenings in a row for a few hours. But the satisfaction is gone. A pure sense of duty. The cost of these stupid cards is only one factor and not even my biggest beef. It’s the hours of free hobby time that it takes. And for what? Haven’t you worked Belgium before? Sure you have because it’s already the THIRD card you sent me for 40 SSB or 20 CW! So I have sent you at least two cards before. And admit it: my card I sent you is somewhere in a carton box or plastic container among thousands of other cards that you haven’t touched after letting it slide into the box…

Sometimes I consider to stop replying to paper buro cards alltogether. Not that I prefer direct QSL cards, but the volume is much lower. In recent years, after making a note on my QRZ.com space, people would send me an email requesting a buro card. I then mark that contact in my log to be QSLed. But it still takes a long time until I think I have enough contacts flagged to send out through GlobalQSL. Sure: I can use GlobalQSL for a single card too, but I’m just too lazy for that.

I remember a decade ago, maybe longer, when Scott W4PA was an active blogger. One day he told the world that he took all of his QSL cards to the recycling bin. I was shocked. I guess he had reached the stage where I am now. But he had the balls to do it. Actually I don’t want to throw away the QSL cards I have. I just want to stop the flow of new ones coming in.

My main problem is that I feel the duty to reply because QSL cards are a deeply rooted tradition in our hobby. I like (some) traditions and I like the classic old school ham radio where operating skills and good manners are key. And not replying to a QSL card is just rude.

Yesterday I processed a 5cm stack of cards. That’s just a small fraction of what’s waiting, a drop on the proverbial hot plate. Every other card I asked myself: why? Then I had visions of hams all over the world, growling at me:

So we’re good enough to call you and increment your sacred rate meter but you don’t even reply to our card?

Then my Nightmare on HF Street scenario continued:

Don’t think we’re ever gonna call you again the next contest! That’ll teach ya.

And so I dutifully plough my way through a handful of cards, knowing there’s hundred handfuls more waiting. That’s just here in my house. And then there’s ON4BHQ who always tells me that he has another stack of incoming cards he took home from a meeting I didn’t attend. And one year and a half ago, I got a phone call from the guy who used to be the QSL manager for the club I used to go to before moving to here. He did a big cleanup himself after a house makeover and found a shoe box full of incoming QSL cards just for me. I guess those cards have been at his place for almost five years now. So it’ll probably be for contacts from a decade ago. I think I’m going to just throw these into my own plastic container (one of three already – remember?).

So I really would like to know how to stop the buro QSL volcano from erupting without offending anyone and more importantly: without much time spent on my side.

  • Ignore incoming cards?
  • Just do what I do now: let the pile grow and spend many hours every so many years trying to come clean with my ham radio conscience?
  • Could OQRS be an option?
  • What else?

I came up with an idea: what if I process a bunch of cards every day? Not too much, just a few – say 15 minutes tops? Could I clean the table by the end of 2018?

Philosophical contemplation:

Those FT8 people having their PC suck the ether dry and log every mW or µV of RF 24/7, do they send out paper QSL for each and every QSO? If so the QSL printing business has a bright future ahead.

Anecdote – true story. During the early 2000’s there was an SWL in my club who sat down behind the packet cluster screen and just handwritten copied the cluster data onto his SWL card. No RX, no antenna needed. That’s a fact. The following needs to be confirmed: I seem to remember he got one of his alleged SWL cards back, with a note: ‘Station not worked, just spotted on the cluster’. Karma’s a bitch.

This guy is what I always think of when I get SWL cards. BTW the number of SWL cards seems to be on the rise?

Finally a non-exhaustive list of things that drive me mad when processing incoming QSL cards simply because it lowers the processing rate (yes this too is about rate):

  • NIL!
  • Timestamp way off (say by a few years?).
  • The call says JA1*** but my log says JA1***/8.
  • No callsign on the backside so I need to flip the card.
  • QSL card for several calls with a checkbox, but no box is checked.
  • Send a QSL for a QSO from 2005 when my log says I already sent you my card in 2006. Why?
  • For US cards: state is in fine print or county not indicated. Yes I keep track of that. But why?

Bottom line: Stop sending me QSL cards! I’m on LotW, eQSL and Clublog. I like my communications’ mode antiquated but my QSLing 21st century style. A case of having the cake and eating it too.

I decided to start right at the beginning of the contest. No sleeping, just watch some TV and relax. I went upstairs around 0.40 AM local time. I parked my butt in the chair. Everything was still on from earlier that evening. Twenty minutes before the start of the contest. There was little activity on 80m SSB (or should I say 75m?). That’s cool: I could pick a sweet spot and reserve a place. There was a 9A also doing a dry run and we had a short chat about the contest. ‘See ya in a few minutes’ he said. Sure thing. Ten minutes or so to go. I listened and during his next QSO he openly realized that the contest actually started one hour later: 00.00utc is still 2AM. So we both overlooked that. I quickly went back to him and we had a chuckle. Almost eighteen years in the contesting business and then this… I calculated that the contest would end at 1AM local time – winter time. That’s why that 1 AM was on my mind. But the start was still in summer time, being GMT+1 = UTC+2 = 2AM. I decided not to leave the shack anymore and worked some American / Caribbean guys on 40m SSB.

Then a spot passed for VK9XG on 80 CW. Sure enough: audible. Not even that weak. But a bit QSB. I think it took less than a minute to get into the log. Definitely a new one. With an antenna resonating on 75 meters. I only have VK9X on 20 SSB and 15 CW. Maybe I should try 40 too before they shut down. Too bad I have nothing for 30 up. But the plan was to work a contest.

I called CQ and worked a few guys to secure a space to start the contest. Around 23.59.55 I did a two mouse click move to switch my DX log to the WW SSB log I had prepared. Two seconds was all it took for TM3Z to start CQing unannounced right where I had been working stations for over ten minutes. I announced after the last QSO that I would change logs and start the contest. I’m sure it was on purpose. I’m not sure why though. Anyway I didn’t move and he went away after half a minute.

The first hour was good. Too good. I knew that on 80m SSB this is unsustainable in the long run. The contrast with CW is huge. Soon the rate dropped and I got bored. Very according to the predicted scenario. It wasn’t so much a propagation issue. I guess it was a lack of activity. Modest highlight after two long boring nights: 115 Americans. But not deep into the USA. Only east coast. Not even central Americans.

Picture >> 1000 words

Time for the annual stating of the obvious: No cluster spot = no rate.

Sunday morning I decided to close the night with a run on 40m. That was a bit of a disappointment. Just over 100 Q in one clock hour. Too late for USA it seemed. Again: the contrast with CW on this band too can’t be bigger.

Just a reminder: why SB80? Because motivation lacks for 48 hours of SSB. Because we’re missing two bands (15+10). Because SSB on 40 in CQ WW is HELL. Because 80m is supposed to be ‘not an easy band’ so any outcome is good. If it’s good it’s super good. If it’s bad then… hey it’s eighty meters – waddaya expect? This leads to the annual conversation with the XYL:

XYL: How’s it going?
OM: Well you know…
XYL: What does that mean?
OM: I’m not putting down a score, I’m just in it for the fun.
XYL: And are you having fun?
OM: No, not really.
XYL frowns. I raise my shoulders and head back to the shack.

Sunday afternoon the time had come for the real fun. The Fresh Meat Experience. It seemed that on 15m there were only vegetarians. Or was that band in poor shape? I developed high hopes for 14 MHz.

Oh yes baby. I found a clear spot high in the band. Clear meaning only two layers of running stations on top of each other. A few CQ, a few QSO and a cluster spot. BANG! The starting shot of a nice USA run. See the graph. This is what makes me tick in SSB: running Americans like crazy. Following the beat of a metronome: tack – logged – tack – logged – tack – logged. Never gets boring. A few years back we could do that a whole weekend by hopping between 20-15-10. Sunspots: please come back soon. And bring your whole family and friends!

After an hour and a half I thought that The Deserving had had enough time to put me in their logs. SSB Contest Blues struck. VP6D was on 20 and 15 CW so I gave them a call (or two or three but not more) and they were so kind as to reply to me.

I did try some more 80m but since I wasn’t on an award winning track there, I took it easy. Shining in absence: the far east. After my sunset there were a few spots: JA, VR and something I forgot. They were audible but very weak. Biggest problem: splatter from nearby running stations rendering good copy impossible. Too bad. Again: this would have most likely been worked in CW. A few local mults showed up (TK, 4O…) and it seemed everyone had run out of things to work because the cluster pile ups were heavy.

At 2232 utc I decided I had enough. I was falling asleep and it wasn’t worth it anymore. QRT.

Was it fun? Not by CW standards. Not by far. But a major contest is a major contest. So of course I will be back next year. Maybe for a relaxed ‘no pressure’ all bander again?

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