W1JKS's Ham Radio Blog

I'm always up to something in Ham Radio, sometimes I even blog about it!

A New Ham Radio Podcast from the TWiT Network

June 1st, 2011

HAM Nation is the new TWIT show about ham radio. Bob Heil, with various co-hosts and guests will cover the excitement and importance of ham radio – from tossing an antenna wire in a tree allowing you to talk to the world, to the importance of ham radio operators in time of disasters. HAM Nation airs live each Tuesday at 6:00 PT/ 9:00ET on http://live.twit.tv.

Bry’s Rube Goldberg Commercial

March 29th, 2010

Between this project and ongoing home improvement projects, ham radio has been on the back-burner.  Bry’s 6th grade science fair was a Rube Goldberg to dispense hand sanitizer.  The final facet of the assignment was a 55-60 second video commercial (a la Billy Mays!).  Watch, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this!


February 8th, 2010

Yes, imagine that! Pete, now W1VG, used to be W1JKS which is now my call sign, sent me one of his old W1JKS QSL cards! A very nice surprise indeed.


January 12th, 2010

Received a fun QSL card today from W5WW, a station I worked during the 2007 phone sweeps! This was back when I hadn’t yet achieved the Worked All States award so I send SASE’s for the 100+ contacts I made during the contest. Whiskey 5 Whiskey Whiskey…great call sign!

Desecheo Island QSL

December 4th, 2009

Finally received my QSL card from the 2009 Desecho Island DXpedition.  Thanks to Ron, WQ1Z, for bringing this opportunity to my attention with basically a day to spare.  It’s not very often they allow a DXpedition to set up a station here — less than once a decade!

Desechoe Island QSL

The Orgainizing of a Junk-box

December 2nd, 2009

Gathering all the parts that I’ve been able to is only half the battle.  It does absolutely no good if you can’t find what you’re looking for.  ”Phase-One” of organizing involved three sets of those little plastic drawers — actually each had 30 small drawers and 15 larger drawers.  While I did manage to get a lot of stuff into labeled drawers, the variety of parts far out-numbered the number of drawers available, so what to do now?  ”Phase-One-Alpha” — I had a pack of those little manila coin envelopes and found that the bottom two inches of  a cereal box worked great for storing those.  Even still, finding what I needed and knowing what I had was still not always easy.

On to “Phase-Two” — I had five plastic hobby boxes (clear plastic with dividers, about 14″wide x8″ deep x 2″ high).  I used these initially to sort out and inventory parts for kit’s I built last spring (Elecraft KPA100 and KAT100).  About a month ago I started using these instead of the coin envelopes.  I was bummed when I went back to Home Depot and found that they stopped carrying them. I finally figured out that the fishing section at Walmart sold similar boxes so I picked up some more.

I’m able to see what I have fairly easily and lay my hands on things pretty quickly. Now if I could learn to control the chaos of my workbend and assembly bench areas, I’d be in good shape!

The Gathering of a Junk-box

December 1st, 2009

I’ve been at this hobby now for over two years and have gathered a decent supply of “the basics” — that is, if I get the inkling to build some neat looking circuit that I’ve come across, there’s a fair chance that I have most of what I need.  Of course I have a variety of passives (resistors, capacitors, inductors, toroids, crystals, etc.) the basics in semiconductors (common small-signal transistors and diodes), and a few basic integrated circuits (power supplies, op-amps, 602/612 mixers, etc.).    I have a couple local options (Radio Shack and You-do-it Electronics) but most of this gathering has been from online sources such as:

  • The Toroid King – I’ve placed multiple orders here…toroids, of course, but also transistors, fets, mixers, varactor diodes, NPO caps and trim caps. Excellent service. PayPal used for payment.
  • Dan’s Small Parts and Kits – currently closed for a few months (so the website is effectively “shuttered”).  Dan’s offers a unique and always changing assortment of parts you might not find anywhere else and many of the basics that QRP homebrewers might be looking for.  The order process is anything but streamlined so be prepared to spend some time putting your order together.  But I thought is was worth the trouble given the uniques offerings made available.  Be sure and check out the “close outs and special deals” site as well.
  • Electronic Goldmine – lots of “grab-bag” style offerings.  A fun way to get a bunch of parts, though sorting them out took a while…and sometimes you’re not exactly sure what you got!
  • Hendricks QRP KitsPolyvaircons and magnet wire.  I also bought and built the BLT Plus Z-Match Tuner.
  • NorCal QRP ClubCrystals on the standard QRP calling frequencies.  Also bought and built the (now retired) Stinger Singer frequency counter kit.
  • Palomar Engineers – Ferrite beads that fit over RG-58 Coax — used for “choke baluns”

Probably a few more I can’t recall at the moment, but that certainly represents the bulk of it.  For me, this parts-gathering endeavor has mostly been done with no specific project in mind.  Only a general idea of what’s good to have around when the urge to melt solder strikes!

Learning CW

December 1st, 2009

Since even before being licensed in Spring 2007, I’ve been struggling to learn the code at a rate sufficient to be useful in real life QSOs.  I’ve been on-and-off using a software program called Just Learn Morse Code and I seem to have gotten stuck on the 31st character (out of 44 total — the letter B as it turns out) in my latest training push at 13 WPM with an 18 WPM character speed.  Not that the letter B is that hard to get down, but my brain just looses it with so many different characters coming at me.  I also have a bad habit of not letting go of a letter I don’t get instantly…which usually causes me to miss the next 2 or 3 letters that whiz by.

Today, I found a new piece of computer software called Morse Machine that takes a different approach.  New characters start coming at you pretty quickly, and before you know it, you’re up against the whole set of characters. Well at least that’s how it was for me.  Morse Machine is different from JLMC in that it doesn’t go on until you get type in the correct character, repeatedly sending if necessary.  After going at it for 5 or 10 minutes,  it becomes apparent (from the bar graph) which letters are shakier than the rest.  The other difference with MM is that the minimum character speed is 20…so right out of the gate, you’re hearing characters at real world speeds.

Anyhow, I’m determined to keep at it and get through this.  I want to join the QRP CW crowd, since homebrewing rigs and antennas is so high on my “favorite facets” list.

The Spin-Off Ham Radio Blog

November 30th, 2009

Up until now, I’ve only had one blog, blog.samolyk.com. That blog seemed to be morphing into a ham radio blog, so I decided that it was better to create an entirely new blog just for ham radio stuff.  The original blog will retain everything it has now (I’ve currently go no intention to try and migrate posts to this blog).  However, going forward, this is the place to find anything related to ham radio!


de W1JKS, John