Category Archives: Hams

VO1DR’s Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the Icom IC-705

Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:


Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the IC-705

By Scott Schillereff (VO1DR)

St. John’s, NL, Canada     

Since getting my novice ticket in 1970 (WB9CXN) under the watchful direction of Charles “Rock”  Rockey, W9SCH (SK), I have been a dyed-in-the-cloth homebrewer and QRPer.  My one and only commercial rig before this year was a Ten Tec PM-3 I bought with paper-route money in 1971 (still have it).  Fast-forward to today.  I now live in Newfoundland, and Europe is as close as Georgia.  I continue to build my station components and antennas.  A recent sea-change though – I inherited some money and decided to splash out on a for-life rig that would serve well in the shack and on the road (RV or hiking).  After researching options, I settled on the ICOM IC-705.  A fantastic performer; a receiver like I’ve never heard before; more bells and whistles than I could dream of, and a form-factor like a….. delicate, expensive brick!

The 705 is not a sleek, trail-friendly radio.  It’s on the heavy side and, well…awkward to pick up!  But, man, what a radio!  So, my first step was to buy a Windcamp ARK-705 exoskeleton.  This protects the rig on all sides and gives you something to grab onto.  I don’t mind the weight and size; I want this rig to be working in 25 years.

My operating interests are home use, mobile in my 25 ft motor home, and portable on day hikes.  I’m new to POTA and SOTA but maybe that’s next, thanks to you, Thomas!

I’m genetically wired not to buy the luxury ICOM backpack; I prefer to build my own and integrate with my hiking gear.  With that in mind, I would like to share my field package system to move the 705 around safely with little risk of damage.  Also some other homebrew portable gear. Continue reading VO1DR’s Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the Icom IC-705

Bob’s new stainless key and stealthy speaker wire that snags serious QRP DX !

Many thanks to Bob (WD4EWZ) who writes:

Thomas,

Let there be no doubt that your speaker wire antenna is awesome! I have been licensed for 46 years but was inactive during much of that time. I finally pulled the trigger, largely on your reviews, on a new Icom IC-705, AH-705 and PowerWerx PS.

I live in a very HOA restricted area so antennas were my bane. I built your speaker wire antenna not expecting much, and for the first few days I got nada. The bands were terrible and the antenna was looped around my lanai.

On Friday I had an inspiration. I made a throw line, moved an unused bird feeder anchor post and got the antenna about 40 feet up into a tree. The wire is invisible from the street, and we have more latitude in the backyard. My wife likes it so much she wants me to just leave it there, and make another for POTA/SOTA.

Does it work? Oh my goodness… Last night I nailed 9K2BM in Kuwait on 20m SSB, and this morning the JAs were melting the face off my IC-705.

This antenna is a wonder. As is the 705, after a week of learning how to optimize the settings.

Joe, at HRO in Winter Springs warned me that the 705 had a learning curve, and I foolishly said ‘yeah, sure.’ I do this (computer science/IT/data science) for a living. Don’t worry about me.’ Wrong! A huge learning curve, but I’m getting there.

Also, my new paddles recently arrived. I love this little stainless paddle — the magnets are strong enough to hoist a car, and the price is amazing… $69 on Amazon [affiliate link]!

I am using a 4″ square steel forging plate I had from my days of making metal jewelry. (Too many hobbies). It works a treat.

Thanks so much for your writings and 73.

Bob (WD4EWZ)

Thank you for sharing this, Bob! Loads of readers have asked me about those stainless paddles, so it’s great to get a report on them. 

I also love how you’ve implemented the speaker wire antenna in such a stealthy way! And the DX you’ve snagged? Simply amazing.

Thanks again for sharing!

Brooks’ first Parks On The Air (POTA) activation

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Brooks (KO4QCC), a newly-minted  ham radio operator who asked to tag along on one of my POTA field activations. 

Brooks, it turns out, lives within spitting distance of a number of parks I regularly activate here in western North Carolina. He mentioned he was interested in observing an activation to learn a bit about deploying a field radio kit and, of course, to learn what it’s like to be on the air.

Brooks was also plotting the purchase of his first field radio kit and was very interested in the Icom IC-705 and MFJ-1988LP End-Fed Half-Wave (EFHW) antenna. 

Of course, I welcomed him to join me but since we both have busy family lives–and my schedule especially took some twists and turns in March–it took a few weeks before our schedules aligned.

I asked Brooks if he would consider actually doing the activation himself instead of simply observing or tag-teaming it.  I’m a big believer in hands-on radio time.

Brooks loved the idea!

On Sunday, March 27, 2022, a window of opportunity opened in our schedules and we agreed to meet at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861). I packed my:

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really a “YouTuber” so I’m not actually inclined to capture every moment on video, but it struck me that others may appreciate experiencing (vicariously) what it’s like to do a park activation for the first time.

Prior to meeting, I asked Brooks if it would be okay if I made a video of his activation adding that there was absolutely no pressure to do so–just a thought. I’ll be the first to admit that if I were in his shoes, I’m not sure if I’d want a camera capturing my first activation jitters for all to see. 

Brooks loved the idea–as he, too, saw value in this sort of video–so I brought my camera along for the ride.

In the same spirit, I asked Brooks if he would write up the field report and he wholeheartedly agreed, so I’ll turn it over to him now: Continue reading Brooks’ first Parks On The Air (POTA) activation

CW saves Leo’s POTA activation during a low battery warning!

Many thanks to Leo (DL2COM) who writes:

Thomas,

Today was crazy: when I woke up I thought it would be a good idea to attempt a first activation of DA-0171 in central Berlin after dropping off the kids at day care. So I grabbed my KX2 bag and jumped on my bike.

Shortly later I arrived at the park and pulled up my 40-10m EFHW and started calling CQ on SSB 40m.

It took me about 30 mins to realize that the KX2 was regulating the power down to 5W since both the internal and the external 4Ah battery I took with me were nearly dead.

I had one QSO with a German station and felt I wasn’t really heard anywhere. Then my KX2 started showing “low batt”.

It’s funny because attempting an activation isn’t really what one would call a very important thing, but I do develop quite an ambition if I have decided to get it done. So my only chance was using CW even though I am all but ready for that.

Having read your article about auto-spotting and watched many of your videos including POTA QSO style I didn’t think long and started calling CQ POTA on 20m.

OMG what followed was just amazing!

Fortunately I didn’t run into a classic pileup which would have been super overwhelming for me, but instead about every 2 minutes someone would reply to my call and in a very patient fashion – including one P2P QSO with an operator from Italy.

So all in all I completed 13 QSOs on a “low batt” warning of my KX2.

CW literally saved by butt and I am a very happy person. Without your work for the ham radio community this would not have been possible. So many thanks again.

On a different note: Last weekend (kit building seminar with the club) I had my first DX QSO. It was K3LU who picked up my call from my KX2 and a random wire 9:1 Unun antenna (L-Shape on a mast) with 28 and 17ft legs. I had to sit down and open a beer not able to do anything for about an hour but smile. Such a motivating event and I am happy he was such a great operator instantly QRSing with me and repeating his call. I am in touch with him and looking forward to receive his QSL card which will probably go in a frame.

I also finished the TR-35 and must say I am super impressed. It runs very quietly and the reduced concept is something I really appreciate. When will you take it into the field?

All the best & 73s de Leo (DL2COM)

Oh wow, Leo! I love this–thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience.

First of all, thank you for the kind comments–I’m honored to have even played a minor role in your CW activation. In truth, this is all chalked up to your determination and bravery! I’m guessing what you discovered is what I discovered during my first CW activation: not only is it not as bad as I had imagined, but it was actually fun and got the adrenaline pumping! 🙂 

I’m now happy to know that when I hit the Low Battery warning on my KX2, I still have some time left! In truth, the KX2 is so efficient, I’ve made six individual CW 5 watt activations on one charge of the internal battery without even hitting the low battery warning. 

Again, this story just makes my day. CW is such a fabulous, efficient, and magical mode! Good on you for diving in, OM!

I also think it’s brilliant that you worked Ulis (K3LU). You couldn’t have worked a better op for your first CW contact–he’s the real deal and a wonderful fellow. Not only that, but he has some amazing QSL cards!

And the TR-35? I couldn’t agree with you more. I did an activation with the TR-35 last Friday so a video and field report is forthcoming!

Thank you again, Leo! I hope others share their experience hitting CW for the first time (hint, hint!). 

QRPer Notes: QSO Today Expo This Weekend, IC-705 Current Drain Explored, and DX Commander Channel Removed from YouTube

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


QSO Today Ham Radio Expo, March 12-13, 2020

Many thanks to Vince (VE6LK) who reminds us:

QSO Today Ham Expo is THIS WEEKEND starting on Friday evening MT and early bird tickets are only $10 until the event opens Friday evening. Drop by through the weekend and find me in the Ham Radio Workbench Lounge in between presentations of course. Your entry fee gets you 30 days of video replay for those presentations you can’t see live.

Click here to visit the Ham Radio Expo and register!


KU3X Explores IC-705 Current Drain and Battery Packs

Many thanks to Barry (K3UX) who writes:

Thanks partially to your feedback, I purchase the IC-705 and I am one happy camper.

Icom states the current drain on receive for this radio is between 500 and 800 ma. So I tested the radio.

At 13.8 volts of supply voltage, the radio draws 200 ma on receive. What? At 12 volts the radio draws 225 ma on receive and at 11 volts, like off of a 3 cell LiPo battery the radio draws 250 ma.

When I made these tests, I removed the Icom clip on battery. Now going down to 8.4 volts, the radio draws 335 ma on receive.

So here’s the fly in the ointment: At 8.4 volts from the external supply, the radio would not transmit. It would not transmit at any voltage under 10 volts.

Conclusion….. there has to be a boost circuit built into the radio that goes between the battery and the radio. So to boost the battery voltage you will draw more current.

I posted my findings on my web page.

Thank you for sharing this, Barry! Funny enough, I’ve never thought to check current without the battery attached, but that makes sense. This would give us data knowing the radio isn’t using more current to recharge the battery pack at the same time. 

Typically, the lower the voltage, the higher the current drain and vice-versa. Also, I believe you’re correct in that there would be some extra consumption with the voltage booster in play. 

Thanks for sharing this!


DX Commander channel (temporarily?) removed from YouTube

A number of friends and readers have reached out to note that the DX Commander YouTube channel hosted by Callum (M0MCX) has been completely removed from YouTube. 

Callum’s channel is incredibly popular and this removal has everyone scratching their heads, so it’s no surprise there’s wild speculation floating around out there. Don’t fall into that rabbit hole.

I fully suspect that this is simply an error on Google/YouTube’s part and that his original channel will eventually be reinstated. 

In the meantime, Callum has started a second/backup channel where he’s posting content. Click here to check it out.

When his original channel is reinstated, you’ll find it here.

Dan’s QRP journey and report on the Venus SW-3B

Many thanks to Dan (KE0ZAR) who writes:

Hi Tom,

I just finished watching your video on resonant/non-resonant antennas and ATUs. I enjoyed it a lot.

For context, I got my ticket in 2020 and got on the air at the end of July 2020. Since that time I have only worked QRP CW using a QCX (the original) on 20 meters and then after September 2021, I got a Venus SW-3B so I have done a bit of work on 40m and 30m now as well.

I really enjoy the challenge of QRP and in a bit over a year, I worked all states, as well as Japan, Canada, several Europe countries, etc, so with good band conditions, QRP really does work and is a lot of fun. My experience working /P stated when I got the SW-3B but I only got out 3 times as the weather up in the hills west of Denver got too chilly very fast; this spring I’ll get back to more /P. Continue reading Dan’s QRP journey and report on the Venus SW-3B

QRPer Notes: sBITX Prototype, Updated Icom Control Software, and Jim Stafford (W4QO) SK

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


sBitx Prototype

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who sends a link to this article on It’s Ham Radio:

Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE demonstrated Hfsignals upcoming SDR transceiver – sBitx today at Lamakaan Amateur Radio Meet.

VU2ESE was working on this SDR Prototype for some time now. sBitx is the latest iteration of the popular homebrewer transceiver Bitx series started a couple of years by Farhan.

Keynotes

    1. Raspberry Pi instead of Arduino – No more Arduino Code, sBitx code is written from the scratch for Raspberry Pi.
    2. Power Output: 40 Watt ~ 20 Meters, 15 Meters ~ 25 Watts, 10 Meters ~ 10 Watts
    3. Ditched IRF 510 for IRF Z24N for Finals
    4. $250 for global buyers. Indian buyers would have to wait for now.
    5. Display: 7″ Raspberry Pi Stock Display
    6. Easy Digital Modes – FT8, RTTY, Free DV etc. No extra wiring is required.
    7. Simple Integration with existing Linux Desktop or Remote Login via SSH or VNC

Here’s the Github for sBitx: https://github.com/afarhan/sbitx

Click here to continue reading full article.

 

New control software for IC-705 and IC-R8600

Many thanks to Markku (VA3MK) who writes:

Icom has released new Control software for IC-705 and IC-R8600 and it is available on their Icom Japan website now.

Jim Stafford, W4QO SK

Photo of Jim (W4QO) from his QRZ page.

This week, we learned that Jim (W4QO)–a noted fellow in our QRP world–passed away.

Jeff Davis (KE9V) wrote a wonderful tribute on his blog. Jeff writes:

Jim Stafford, W4QO became a Silent Key yesterday. That news wasn’t unexpected, I had been closely following the North Georgia QRP mailing list these last few weeks dreading the announcement that arrived yesterday morning.

I had known Jim for more than 20 years. We first met in the late 90’s during a Four Days in May event back when the conference took place at the old hotel south of Dayton. I think we hit it off because we both were native Hoosiers, but his infectious enthusiasm for the hobby made everyone want to be around him.

He became my guide into the world of low-power radio and over the following years we regularly renewed our friendship on the air, via email, and in person almost every year during FDIM at Dayton. [Continue reading on Jeff’s blog…]

E21EJC and BG7XWF: Voice CW on RS-44

Many thanks to Dan (VR2HF) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

This is just too funny to keep to myself. My good friend, who I call Mr Satellite, Kob, E21EJC in Bangkok apparently was too bored to work BG7XWF on normal CW via the RS-44 linear (SSB/CW/FT-4) satellite again, so, they went to “voice CW (SSB).” You can even hear them adjusting for Doppler shift. 

E21EJC and BG7XWF Voice CW on RS-44:

Ain’t ham radio great!🤓😁

Yes it is, Dan! Ham radio is great!

This gave me a good chuckle–thank you for sharing!

QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo this weekend!

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who shares a reminder that the QSO Today Ham Radio Expo is this weekend.

I missed the last QSO Today Expo and heard that there were numerous technical glitches. Eric Guth (4Z1UG) has repeatedly described that experience as one of the most stressful in his life. He is making sure that this Expo will run smoothly by keeping all of the presentations and experience on the same platform. Eric is an amazing fellow and has gathered an outstanding group of speakers (over 90, I believe) and has made it so that if you can’t attend live, you can watch the presentations, on demand, for 30 days. Here are a few details from the QSO Today Virtual Ham Radio Expo site:


QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

Opens: August 14th, 00:01:00 UTC or August 13th, 5:01 PM PDT

  • Full Registration is $10.00 US – includes full access to the Expo, including presentations, 12 subject video lounges,  and to the 30 day on demand period.
  • Full registration will increase to $12.50 at the door when the Expo opens.
  • Free Registration is limited to lobbies, exhibition hall, exhibitor booths, and prizes offered by exhibitors.  If you already have a free ticket, you can upgrade with the button below.

Click here to check out the presentation line-up and register early!

Dan’s clever chalk line homebrew EFHW antenna

Many thanks to Dan (KQ8Q) who writes:

Hi Tom,

I discovered something you might have an interest in for your wire antenna deployment. Years ago when I was a building contractor, we used chalk line for floor layout. It has a very high tensile strength and is very light weight. After reflecting on this, I recently bought a 100’ spool of braided 1 millimeter chalk line and used it for a field deployment. I attached my “throw weight” to it and easily launched it about 60’ into a tree. You can see it in the attached photo holding my homebrew EFHW to my Jeep.

This link is what I used: Tajima PL-ITOL 100 ft .04″ Bold Braided Replacement Chalk Line New | eBay

Click here for full parts list (PDF)

The magnet wire was scavenged from a HUGE transformer from a neighbor’s discarded light fixture.

Lug Nut Throw Weight: left hand threaded from a 1966 Plymouth Fury

I did the new installation for him and he gave me the old one. I promptly disassembled it and collected miles of 14 and 20 gauge magnet wire 😊!

I haven’t added the capacitor to this antenna yet because it is sufficiently resonant and broadbanded on 40, 20, 15, and 10 Meters. I did some testing with the capacitors though on my previous build which was the PVC tube EFHW transformer. I believe I may have sent you a photo of that in a previous message. It too was resonant in the same places, but adding the capacitor smoothed and widened the acceptable SWR range.

The attached photos are my complete antenna assembly: matching transformer (49:1), 65.5’ speaker wire, 100’ braided 1MM chalk line, and throw weight (epoxy filled lug nut with short paracord pigtail).

Compact and lightweight.

Dan/ KQ8Q

I love this, Dan! I also like how self-contained and compact it is. What a professional job, too, with heat shrink, proper connection points and tie-offs.

Brilliant work!

Do you have an antenna or radio project you’d like to share on QRPer.com? Contact me!