Postcard Field Report: Pairing my new-to-me Palm Pico with the TX-500 at K-6856!

I finally snagged one.

In the world of lightweight, super-compact QRP radio kits, there is one key that is, essentially, a legend: the venerable Palm Pico.

The Palm Pico has a stellar reputation because it’s super lightweight, can retract into its housing to protect it in transport, and can be directly attached to various radios with a specific mounting assembly or via Velcro or magnets.

The Palm Pico has been out of production for some time now and, they’re so highly desired, they often fetch the original purchase price or even higher on the used market. Truth is, so few Pico owners are willing to sell that very few of these keys ever enter the used market.

I was very lucky, indeed, when a long-time Patreon supporter reached out and offered to sell me her Palm Pico and Palm Mini paddles along with a KX2 mounting assembly. She had noticed how my eyes lit up when Josh (KI6NAZ) showed me his Palm Pico paddle on an HRCC Livestream in February.

The price she offered was amazingly low. She told me that she favored some of the other keys in her collection and wanted to give me the opportunity to own them. They were like-new with all original boxes and accessories.

How could I resist? I’m so grateful.

I really look forward to using the Palm Pico and Palm Mini this year. I’m especially eager to hook up the Palm Pico directly to the KX2 with its custom mounting bracket.

I decided to take my Palm Pico on a maiden POTA activation at the Vance Birthplace on April 18, 2023.

Postcard Field Report

I’ve got a load of videos in the pipeline and to keep from falling behind publishing them, you’re going to see more of my slightly shorter “Postcard Field Reports” for the next couple of weeks during my travels.

These postcard reports contain all of the core information, just less wordy.  (In theory!)

Zebulon Vance Historic Birthplace (K-6856)

I arrived at the Vance Birthplace and checked in quickly with the park staff. There were no picnic shelter reservations that day but there was a family with children eating a picnic lunch when I arrived.

I asked if they would mind it if I set up my gear at the other end of the shelter and, of course, they didn’t mind. In fact, they were already in the process of packing up.

I decided to deploy my MM0OPX EFHW in a tree next to the shelter while I waited for them to clear out. Even though I prepared my antenna in a spot far away from the shelter and mentioned to the family that I’d have a wire stretched out on the ground near the edge of the woods, one of their kids immediately bolted straight through my antenna wire and got it tangled around his legs. He was probably 5 years old and I helped him get himself untangled. No big deal.

40 Meter EFHW Love

I should mention here that I chose to take the TX-500 and a 40 meter end-fed half-wave because one of my readers reached out the previous day asking about the best wire antennas to pair directly with the TX-500. He was on a budget and didn’t want to invest in an external ATU yet (plus, the Elecraft T1 has a very long lead time).

I mentioned to him how much I love a simple 40 meter end-fed half-wave because it’s not just resonant on 40 meters!

If you trim the radiator to resonance (and wind the toroid) properly, a 40M EFHW will be resonant on 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters.

If you later add a good ATU to the mix, you’ll find you can typically match it from 80 meters and up.

I deployed this antenna with the idea that I would start on 10 meters and move my way down the band without employing an ATU. Note that I used my MM0OPX EFHW, but you can also build an EFHW for a few dollars!

Once the family drove off, I finished connecting the antenna, setting up the Discovery TX-500, and connecting the Palm Pico Paddles!

Time to hit the air!


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On The Air

I started on 10 meters where I worked a couple of stations, then moved to 15 meters where I logged two more (including G4IVV in the UK!).

As always, I was running five watts. Gotta love QRP DX!

Next, I QSY’d to the 20 meter band which was in pretty good shape!

I logged a total of 22 stations in forty minutes; 18 of those were on the twenty meter band. One massive highlight was working my dear friend Vince (VE6LK) P2P as he was running the VE6RAC special event station from VE-6094 in Alberta!


Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click to enlarge).

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Pico Fun!

I do like the Palm Pico and am so pleased that it can now be a part of my field radio adventures!

If you also have this little key, I’d love to hear your comments!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this activation!

I hope you enjoyed the postcard field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them. In truth, this turned out to be a pretty long “postcard” report, but there you go…!

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me!

Have an amazing weekend!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

8 thoughts on “Postcard Field Report: Pairing my new-to-me Palm Pico with the TX-500 at K-6856!”

  1. I’m fortunate to have both the Palm Mini and Palm Micro, the Mini gets used routinely with my Sky-SDR and the Micro attached to the side of a LNR MTR3B. There really is something special about these keys, the consistency and smooth nature of operation make them a delight to use. No they are not as good as a Begali, but much better than most. If you get chance to buy a good used one, I’d highly recommend.

    Richard M0RGM

  2. They are sold out of the Palm Mini, and can see why from your comments. At our April QRP park event friend had the TX500/Lab599. Very nice rig. I worked with it, made 2 CW QSOs and one phone, both on 20m using Buddi-StickPro short vertical. Took some learning to operate the TX500, but once got a few items down was easy. However, do need good eye site, there is lots on the screen and much is rather small print and the LCD makes it somewhat lighter. I was taken back how thin the rig is. Is a nice package. Still dont like the connectors, but understand they used them to keep the rig water resistance. I prefer my IC705, but not by much. 73, ron, n9ee

  3. Folks that have the Palm paddles certainly like them. I’m wondering if someone like CWMorse might arrange to restart production under license, there would certainly be a ready market for them.

    Thomas, any further thoughts as you’ve had more time with the TX500? The price has certainly jumped and I’m wondering if at the current price point the radio offers (beyond excellent power consumption and rugged construction) any particular benefits over similarly or lower-priced competitors?

    Thanks as always for another great report – David

  4. I own two of the original Palm Mini paddles and I love them. I traded my Palm straight key for the second paddle. I am also fortunate to have purchased the companion Code-Cube Keyer that plugs directly into the back of the Mini paddle (too big for the Pico). I use the Palm Mini and the keyer mostly with my Xiegu Rigs (X6100 and X5105) with their internal keyers turned off.

    The Code Cube comes in handy for POTA activations as it has two programmable buttons and a small “flywheel” for speed changes. The message memories in the XIegu rigs are not easy to use so one button on the keyer calls “CQ POTA” and 2nd is setup to just key the rig and send a carrier which makes re-tuning my Alex Loop a lot easier (no need to change modes or fiddle with paddle settings on the rig to send a brief carrier). The flywheel allows for very quick speed changes to slow down to the speed of slower calling stations (always a courteous thing to do) and then back up again to call CQ.

    Michael VE3WMB

  5. Mike VE2TH ,

    Another nice activation,
    WOW, you are very lucky, TO SNAGGED ONE…

    I’m still looking for a SINGLE LEVER and in the same family, the straight key too.-

    I look on most flea market from time to time, so never know when the luck shall come!!

    Thanks for sharing

    Mike VE2TH

  6. It was fantastic to make that QSO Thomas, made my day!

    I was so surprised to hear you as 15m was pretty quiet over here at the time. I had the bug plugged in – normally I need to do a warm up to get the bug working well but no time in this case, so my CW was a bit wobbly at the start!

    Your videos got me started relearning CW after a long break and you also helped get me hooked on portable operating & QRP for which I will always be very grateful.

    Well done on finding a Palm Pico, they are getting pretty rare over here now.

    72 & many thanks,
    Jon G4IVV

    1. It was an honor to log you, Jon! I hope log each other more often this year and perhaps even a P2P! 🙂
      Thank you for the kind words.
      K4SWL / M0CYI

  7. Anyone who got TX500 at old price, got a good radio, although it was already on the pricy side. Now with the current price I would strongly suggest looking at other radios with way more features. Waterproofing can be easily added and power consumption is not such a step difference to matter that much at the cost of less features and premium price tag. You really can get a better rig that costs as much.

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