Category Archives: How To

Tutorial: How to call CQ as an HF QRP station in SSB/Phone


Many thanks to Susan who writes:

I am new – just about to start – portable, QRP operating. I’m just waiting for the weather to cooperate a bit.

Via phone, I have been looking around for the “proper” way to call CQ indicating either QRP or portable – or both! but I haven’t found that. I do see CW “calling CQ” samples. Can you give me that information or direct me to a site that might give some guidance? Not a big deal but I would like to start out on the right foot and sound like I know what I’m doing.

Thanks.

Susan

Thanks for your question, Susan! I’ll share, below, how I call CQ when QRP and portable:

Calling CQ Basics

There is no truly standard way to call CQ, but most CQs follow a certain pattern. Some are short, and some are long.

In general, if you’re calling CQ and simply want to work anyone anywhere and you’re open to a rag-chew (extended conversation), you might start by giving a longer CQ. Some operators will do CQ calls that last nearly 30 seconds, but I don’t personally do that. I use a call and repeat it leaving an interval of maybe 5-8 seconds between repeats. I’ll say something like:

“CQ CQ CQ, CQ CQ CQ, this is Kilo Four Sierra Whisky Lima, Kilo Four Sierra Whisky Lima calling CQ and listening.” 

I repeat until I receive a reply.

I’ll sometimes change the length of the CQ call and add/remove words when I repeat. I might use a variation like:

“CQ CQ CQ this is Kilo Four Sierra Whisky Lima, Kilo Four Sierra Whisky Lima calling CQ and listening.” 

then

“CQ CQ CQ this is Kilo Four Sierra Whisky Lima calling CQ to anyone, anywhere and listening.” 

Side note: If you’re doing a Park or SOTA activation and you’ve been spotted on one of the networks, then keep your CQ short. Something like:

“CQ POTA CQ POTA CQ POTA this is Kilo Four Sierra Whisky Lima calling CQ for Parks On The Air”

Calling CQ QRP or Portable

Again, there’s no truly standard way of doing this, but when I call CQ QRP–which actually isn’t often–I’ll say:

“CQ CQ CQ, this is Kilo Four Sierra Whisky Lima calling CQ QRP and listening.”

or

“CQ CQ CQ, this is Kilo Four Sierra Whisky Lima calling CQ Portable and listening.”

I’ve even been known to say the number of watts I’m running in the CQ call.

But it’s truly rare that I note I’m running QRP in my CQ call. Why?  I enjoy receiving and sending a good signal report then revealing “I’m running 5 watts into a dipole antenna.” I usually get very positive reactions and I believe I get more replies to my CQ when I’m not revealing I’m QRP until we’re in the exchange. But honestly? It’s all just a matter of personal preference.

Working stations: My favorite approaches as a QRP station

K4SWL portable VY2!

I’ve been known to spend the bulk of the summer in an off-grid cabin with my family in the Canadian Maritimes. I’m always QRP during these vacations and I love making contacts.

Here are a few approaches I use that I feel get the most contacts:

1.) Call CQ on a QRP calling frequency

When I’m operating QRP, I try to operate on or near generally accepted QRP calling frequencies–here’s a handy reference sheet. QRPers hang out there, so there’s a decent chance I might make a QRP to QRP contact on one of those frequencies. Again, I typically use a standard CQ call instead of identifying I’m QRP, but it’s also perfectly fine to say you’re QRP.

Also, when I’m at home and have a radio turned on in the background, I’ll often keep it set on a QRP calling frequency so I can answer a QRP call.

Click here for a list of QRP calling frequencies.

2.) Call or “hunt” other stations

Sometimes, the best approach is to reply to other stations’ CQ calls.

This is so effective because the station is listening carefully for someone to reply to their CQ. If your signal is a little on the weak side, they’ll likely still reply.

As a QRPer, I’ll often start my search by tuning to one of the QRP calling frequencies mentioned above, but if no one is there, I look for any stations calling CQ with no replies.

3.) Move to a band with less activity

I’m sure some will disagree with me here, but I enjoy moving to bands like 17 meters when I’m QRP.

I’ve had very good success in the past if propagation is reasonably stable (an important factor in making this work).

I love 17 meters because the band is typically quiet and the density of stations isn’t that of, say, the phone portion of the 20 meter band. When I’m calling CQ on 17 meters, I’m often one of only a handful of operators I hear on that band, so I stand out a bit more. In fact, I’ve worked some of my best QRP DX on 17 meters. The trade-off is you might call CQ a while since there are less people on the band. This is where a voice memory keyer comes in handy!

Have fun!


Once you’ve made a few contacts on the bands, you’ll sort out your favorite CQ calls and what you include in them. Of course, learn from others you hear on the bands. Listening is always key.

My only advice would be not to do 30-45 second long CQ calls without leaving a break for a station to call back. Many would-be contacts will move on if they feel like they have to wait too long to answer your call. It is important, though, to send a few CQs and repeat your call at least twice anytime you’re giving a general CQ call on the HF bands.

Readers: What’s your favorite way of calling CQ QRP or Portable? What strategies work best for you? Please comment!

Frank builds the EGV+ Three Band QRP CW Transceiver Kit

Many thanks to Frank Lagaet (ON6UU) for sharing the following guest post:


The EGV+ Three Band Transceiver Kit

by Frank Lagaet (ON6UU)

Another EA3GCY kit has seen daylight.  The EGV+ is ready for you all.

It was beginning 2021 I got word a new kit from EA3GCY was ready and distribution could start.  After a successful build of the DB4020 I did not need much time to decide to buy this kit,  a week later the kit arrived at my QTH.  As weather was good I did not start immediately building but then winter kicked in, with snowfall and frost,  perfect time for some quality time and building the kit.

What do you get ? 

The kit has a general coverage receiver from 6 to 16MHz,  it has a keyer built in,  has RIT without limit,  requires only 0.25A on RX and smaller than 2A on TX.  Dimensions are 18x14cm and weight is 0.3Kg.   It is CW only, able to produce 8W on 40 and some 5-6 on 30 and 20.  The kit has an AB class amplifier.   Spurious is below -50DBc.  The receiver is a heterodyne type balanced mixer,  sensitivity is 0.2µV minimum and the CW filter is some 700Hz wide,  the AGC is on audio.   Furthermore the transceiver is equipped with both output for loudspeaker as for a headset or earbuds.

The kit arrived in a brown envelope and in that envelope I found a well-packed packet of plastic bags and the printed board well packed in bubble wrap.  Around that another layer of bubblewrap.  Safe!!

All plastic bags were checked,  all needed stuff was there, super,  well done Javier.

All components were installed in about 10 hours “relax max style”,  if you have built some kits already you can easily do this one,  all elements are far enough out of each other,  the board is not overcrowded at all.  Some attention is needed when soldering the IC’s and display but even that is a piece of cake.   Be careful when installing the SI5351 module.

Winding the toroids,  just follow what is in the manual,  it is not that hard to do,  I don’t understand what many find so difficult.  Just take your time and don’t rush into it.

I got the transceiver up and running quite quick. I didn’t install a speaker in the cabinet but decided to go for a transceiver where no speaker is in. If I want to use it on SOTA or GMA I don’t need the extra weight and can take earbuds with me.  So I installed the speaker connector on the board.

I made connections towards the CW key and CMD push button with jumper cables which fit exactly on the headers Javier supplies,  a little glue to keep them in place is also added afterward.  For easy operation I mounted the CW key connector and CMD pushbutton on the front of the transceiver.

Do to be able to withstand high power nearby stations,  I mounted the EGV+ in a homemade box which is made of printboard.  The box should be a Faraday cage to keep all QRM out.  If you buy a box, buy one in metal.  I added a laminated front and back which make the transceiver look kinda cool.   Now you can also buy a box from qrphamradiokits.

Alignment

The alignment is done on 40 meters:  crank up the volume and start turning the 2 coils (L1 and L2)to maximum volume.  Be careful to handle these with caution and don’t use metallic screwdrivers.  Connect an antenna after you’ve done that and do the alignment of the coils again for maximum volume.  Find a station on 40 and redo the alignment once more.  You should already have good results now.

P1 Set sidetone level to your liking.

P2 Set the hangtime of the relay after you’ve been on air–fast fingers will need a quick release. Set this to your liking.

P3 Connect a power meter between a dummy load and the transceiver,  set power on 40 to some 8 Watts.   Measure on 30 and 20 meters,  you should find some 6-7W there.  Don’t set the power to full if you want a long life for the final in the transceiver.  Mine is set for 6W on 20,  resulting in some 7.5W on 30 and some 8.4W on 40.  I think I will reduce even more.

P4 Set to max,  it is the RX-attenuator.

P5 Don’t pay too much attention to the signal meter,  mine is set at 6/8 of the potmeter’s range.  It is only an indication.  If you don’t want the S-meter then you can do a start-up sequence with the tuning knob.

These are in fact the alignments you need to do inside the transceiver.  You should also check Xtal calibration and BFO,  these are settings which you need to do in the set-up.  Don’t forget to write all down when you have maximised these settings. If you do a reset, all these values are erased too so be carefull.

The complete CW 3 bander

Well,  you get a 3 band transceiver which you build yourself,  it has RIT and XIT,  has 4 memories on the KB-2 keyer,  speed of CW can be set between 0 and 50WPM and you can set the KB-2 as a beacon which can be handy too.   The EGV+ provides you with 3 bands which are almost for certain insurance for QSOs when going on SOTA,  GMA or POTA.

You may have noticed some resemblance with the DB4020. You are right as some parts are the same on the board.   The designer worked on the same platform to make two completely different transceivers.  The result is twice the fun for kit builders.

I made a box myself since, at the time of ordering, there were no boxes available,  here’s the result.

The naked printboard transceiver.

After adding a laminated front to the trx,  it looks now like this.  You can see it is not made professionally but I like it.

The paper which is between the plastic was first cut out for the display before placing it in the plastics so giving an extra protection to the display.

I have also made a retractable stand for it,  when folded back it is next to the bottom of the transceiver,  when folded out the stand is under the front of the transceiver,  the retractable stand is also made out of printboard.

It’s an easy-to-make stand–take some old printboard and solder it together.   The pictures explain it all, I think.

Meanwhile, I already made a lot of QSOs with this small (16 X 20 X 6 cm) QRP transceiver.   The power out is better than expected and even reduced so all bands are within QRP regulations.

Finally, I’d like to say that I’m not sponsored to make this kit,  I don’t have any ties with the kit producer, nor do I gain money with building it.   If people would like to have this QRP kit built for them I’m willing to help out in populating the board and aligning it.  A ready made box is available with qrphamradiokits.   This also stands for the DB4020 which I made earlier.

The kit comes for 125€ without shipping costs.  Many European countries will have no shipping costs at all.  The enclosure comes for 50€ all included. This means you have a complete 3 band radio for about 200€.  In my eyes, this is a pretty good deal.

Info about the kit can be found here :   Home – Página web de ea3gcy (qrphamradiokits.com)

And here : EGV+ Three band CW – Página web de ea3gcy (qrphamradiokits.com)

Henry directly pairs his lab599 Discovery TX-500 with the Elecraft KXPA100

Many thanks to Henry (K4TMC) who shares the following:

Thomas,

Rumor has it that you are considering selling your KXPA100. I offer for your consideration the following use – a solid support for a QRP radio. See the attached pictures. Something similar could be crafted for a KX3/KX2. Not exactly a good option for a long backpacking trip.

No…I did not use Alien Tape or Velcro to attach the TX500 to the KXPA100. I used longer Hex Key screws into a 1/8 inch aluminum plate.

Planning to use this during the upcoming Jan NA QSO Party SSB contest from Atlantic Beach, NC on Jan 16.

73,
Henry – K4TMC

This is brilliant, Henry! It’s as if you have a TX-500-100!

I have decided to keep the KXPA100 and, frankly, might even pair a TX-500 with it in the future!  Thank you so much for sharing! I’ll listen for you in the NA QSO Party!

Parks On The Air Pro Tip: Finding more park sites to activate

Many thanks to QRPer, Curt, who recently left the following comment on a recent post and noted:

I too was a NPOTA activator. My first HF contact ever was on 9/10/2016 and then I threw myself to the wolves so to speak activating my first park on 11/12/2016.

When NPOTA was over I went into withdrawal and I thought POTA was going to fill that void but here in Western PA there’s not much to pick from. We have a lot of parks but none that fall into the park list. One of the local parks I’ve been told not to bother because it’s in the middle of the city and the local police don’t seem to like any activations there for whatever reason.[…]

You’re right, Curt, and I totally understand.  Many local, county, and private parks are not included in the Parks On The Air (POTA) program. POTA tends to include parks that are on a state, provincial, or national level. Not always in every country, but it’s the general rule of thumb.

I don’t know the POTA scene in western PA well because I’ve never thoroughly researched it. With that said, I’m willing to bet there are more accessible parks in your neck of the woods than you might realize at first blush.

The only entry to this state park is very easy to find and marked well along the highway.

Historic sites and parks–both state and national ones–tend to have very defined borders with conspicuous entry points. They’re, in many senses, “low-hanging fruit” for POTA because they’re super easy to find and usually have picnic and camping areas.

You simply locate one on the POTA map, tell your smart phone to take you there, arrive, find a picnic table or parking area near trees, setup,…et voilá! You’re on the air and activating. Typically, a very straight-forward process.

I would suggest new POTA operators start with these types of parks to give their field radio kit a good shake-out.

Digging deeper…

There are so many other POTA entities out there, though, and the POTA map (while an excellent resource) can’t represent them well.

I should add here, that POTA is an international radio activity and I do not know the various types of parks and POTA entities in other countries. There’s a lot of variability.

Here in the States, aside from parks and historic sites, we have other POTA entities like:

  • Game Lands
  • Rivers
  • Trails
  • Wildlife Management Areas & Refuges
  • Recreation areas
  • Conservation areas
  • and Forests

These types of public lands can be vast with many possible parking areas and entry points. Some have multiple, disconnected tracts of land and the POTA map only typically represents them as one clickable geo point because it would be incredibly difficult to represent them otherwise.

It requires the POTA activator to do a little planning and research.

One example

Here in North Carolina, we have a lot of state game lands and they’re some of my favorite spots to activate.

Some game lands may only be a couple hundred acres large, others may encompass hundreds of thousands of acres.

Case in Point: Nantahala Game Land is only one entity on the POTA map, but it is located in no less than six western North Carolina counties–dominating the majority of them, in fact.

Check out this map of Nantahala Game Land from the NC WRC website below:

Click to enlarge.

There are probably hundreds of spots where you can find public access to activate this particular POTA park.

Trails are another POTA entity that should not be overlooked. They often snake through areas and have multiple trailheads where you can easily find parking and ample room to activate.

Here’s how I find the more elusive POTA parks…

Being a bit of a map geek, I actually love this process!

1. Take a close look at the POTA list

The POTA map is amazing, but as I said, it simply can’t display the size and geographic shape of each park.

Start with the complete list of POTA entities in your location.

An example from Pennsylvania.

Click here to display a list of all POTA entities at your location.

If you have lived the majority of your life where you are now, you’ll likely recognize some of the names associated with the park entities in this list.

Regardless, comb through this long list carefully. Do an internet search on the park names and you’ll quickly discover roughly where the land is located

2. Make a spreadsheet of potential parks

A sample of my park spreadsheet from early last year.

On this sheet make column headers for at least:

  • The park name
  • The POTA designator for that park (K-6937, for example)
  • The travel time to the park
  • The geo coordinates of potential activation spots

I also added

  • How “rare” the park might be (how many times it’s been activated)
  • How easy access to the park might be
  • If it could potentially be a two-fer (meaning two POTA entities overlapping)

3.) Find an activation site with Google Maps satellite view

Now that you’re developing an activation plan (via your spreadsheet), and you’ve located all of the nearby parks, game lands, wildlife management areas, trails, refuges, etc. it’s time to research each entity and find activation sites.

Most states (and provinces, counties, regions) have sites that will help you find access points to public lands. Each state is different–some (like North Carolina) have amazing online resources, others may not.

If you can’t get the details you need online, don’t hesitate to call those public departments in charge of the lands and ask them about access points. They’re experts on the subject and often your taxes pay their salary. 🙂

To find game land activation sites in North Carolina, I first go to the WRC Map and click on a site. The WRC site will offer up maps and even indicate obvious parking and camping locations.

I then find public roads in/around the game lands and do a Google Map search (you can pick your favorite mapping tool).

I compare the WRC map with the Google map (side by side) and search for parking spots using a satellite view.

Here’s how to find the satellite view on Google Maps using a sample POTA site:

Find the park area based on public roads, then click on satellite view:

Now you’ll be able to see a bird’s eye view of the land:

When you zoom in, you often can identify a nice parking spot:

Using the satellite view I can zoom in and see that there’s a parking space with trees surrounding it. Score!

That’s how I do it.

Important note: of course, it’s incredibly important that you compare public land boundaries with your activation site and make sure you will, indeed, be on that POTA entity when you activate. While there are no POTA police–nor will there ever be–I personally want to be 100% sure I’m activating entirely within the boundaries of my chosen park. Google Maps can’t be trusted to indicate unit boundaries–one needs to compare the state or federal maps of the unit to be sure.

Next, I take those geo coordinates (map links) and embed them in my POTA spreadsheet.

Later on, when I decide to activate that park, all of my research is done! I simply grab my gear and go.

That’s it!

If you’re like me, you may be surprised how many potential activation sites there are in your region when you take a closer look at public land boundaries and access points.

I found at least five POTA sites within a 90 minute drive of my home that were ATNOs (All-Time New Ones) that no one had activated.

How do you research parks–?

I probably should not call this a “Pro Tip” because I’m not a professional!

There are many different ways you can find great POTA sites within your region. Please feel free to share your POTA procedure with us in the comments!

Curt builds an Icom IC-705 control interface for his Elecraft T1 ATU

Many thanks to Curt (WU3U) who recently contacted me and mentioned he had built an IC-705 control interface for his Elecraft T1 ATU. This is a homebrew project based on others’ work and uses the FT-817 control port on the side of the T1 tuner.

I asked Curt if he could share a little more about his tuner to post here on QRPer:

Hi Thomas, I can’t take credit for the interface, as a guy in Japan designed it. When I built mine the entire instructions and notes for code for the PIC controller were in Japanese. I used Google translate to translate all of the information and I was able to successfully program the PIC chip and build the circuit. He has since released the details and code in English.

There are two designs: one with an on/off switch, and a newer version without an on/off switch that has auto power save. Both circuits are the same but the software for the PIC chip is different. If you build the one without the on/off switch there is a very specific sequence of connecting and disconnecting the device and it’s my opinion that the one with the on/off switch is the version that makes more sense to build. It shouldn’t matter which order you connect everything up and you simply throw the on/off switch to turn the device on and off.

Building the interface takes an understanding of a fairly simple electronic schematic and acquiring the parts. You also have to have a PIC programmer and the software to write his .hex file into the PIC controller chip.

The parts for the interface are all very common parts. The resistors are standard values. My build cost me about $30 in parts but I had to buy many of them in bulk from Amazon like the enclosures, switches and 3.5mm jacks and circuit boards to name a few. Individually the parts were $30 but my bulk order cost me much more. I also had to buy a PIC programmer for $25 and figure out what software I needed to download to program the PIC chip with the author’s code. It takes an experienced builder about two hours to build the device but it’s not out of the realm of a semi-novice as long as they can get the PIC chip programmed.

Here is the original code using the on/off switch. Everything is now in English:
https://amateur-radio.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2020/11/post-1eb3cf.html

Here is his newer version with the same circuit design eliminating the on/off switch by using a different PIC program allowing the interface to have auto power shutdown (low power standby) but there is a specific order for connecting and disconnecting the interface. With this version there is still drain on the battery but the designer thinks that drain is less than the normal self discharge of the battery. I feel that any discharge combined with the self discharge of the battery will be more discharge than using the design with the on/off switch.
https://amateur-radio.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2020/11/post-591d17.html

Video

I think this is a brilliant project and certainly one worth considering for those of us who already own an Elecraft T1 ATU and would like full control from the IC-705.

Thank you for sharing these details, Curt!

 

Parks On The Air 101: Some real-time, real-life videos of a typical POTA activation using the Icom IC-705

On Monday (October 19, 2020) I received an inquiry from Dale (KI5ARH) only an hour or so before packing up my radio gear to activate Lake Norman State Park (K-2740).

Dale is interested in using his recently acquired Icom IC-705 to get involved with Parks On The Air (POTA) and play radio in the field.

What’s in my field kit

Dale was curious about all of the components of the field kit I use with the IC-705, so I made this video:

Equipment links:

Since I had already set up my phone to record the video above, I decided to make a couple more.

I thought there might be some value in making real-time videos showing what it’s like operating CW and SSB during a POTA activation.  The videos have no edits and haven’t been trimmed.  It’s as if the viewer were there at the activation sitting next to me at the picnic table.

Operating CW with the IC-705

After setting up my station, I first started on the 40M band in CW. I meant to start the camera rolling during tune-up, but forgot to hit record. The video begins after I’d made a few CW contacts, but shows what it’s like changing bands and relying on the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) to pick me up then the POTA website to auto spot me.

Note: to be automatically spotted by the RBN, you must schedule your activation via the POTA website in advance, or have been already spotted by yourself or someone else, so the system will know to look for you.

My video cut off abruptly due to a low battery message. I had to give my iPhone a quick power charge to make the next video.

Operating SSB with the IC-705

After operating CW for a while, I plugged in the hand mic that ships with the IC-705 for a little SSB action. My main goal with this video was to show how I call CQ and use the voice keyer memories in order to manage the field “work flow” process.  I also speak to how important it is to either self-spot or have a friend spot you to the POTA network while operating phone.

I spent so much time setting up and running the camera, I wasn’t actually on the air for very long, but I easily managed to achieve a valid activation and had a lot of fun in the process.

I’m not a pro “YouTuber” as I say in one of my videos. I much prefer blogging my experiences rather than “vlogging,” I suppose.

Still, I think I’ll do a few more “real-time” videos of POTA activations and speak to the various techniques I use to activate parks. Since these videos aren’t edited for time, they may not appeal to the seasoned POTA activator or QRPer–that’s okay, though. My goal is primarily to assist first-time POTA activators.

Have you been activating Parks or Summits lately?  Do you have any advice or suggestions I failed to mention? Or do you have suggestions for future topics? Please comment!