Remote Switched Coil for 80m and 160m with a 43′ vertical.

As many of you know, I have a Zero-Five 43′ vertical that I–in concert with the Alpha 9500–managed to set on fire. My 43 foot antenna works OK on 80m (good worldwide DX) and even decent range on 160m, but I have a terrible VSWR on 80 and 160. My Palstar and Ten Tec 238 manual tuner can handle it even at 1500, but rather than have such terrible losses in my 150 feet of coax, I decided it would be a fun project to build a remote-switched coil setup that will work with my UNUN for the rest of the bands. You can read more about the project from the website of Phil Salas, AD5X. Phil has a great website with articles describing his work and analysis of the 43 foot vertical.

Normally I stay away from MFJ gear, but Phil listed them as a source for the coil for 80 and 160. As this is just a single coil with no moving parts, I figured I was safe in using the MFJ part. 🙂 I ordered the coil and insulators from MFJ last week. I need to get the relay from Array Solutions and some parts from Mouser.

I will still need a tuner with this for 60 – 10 and for that, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Alpha 4040 4KW auto antenna tuner. It is shaping up to be quite the box.

I will update my site as I progress through the project along with some pictures. Fall is a great time for antenna projects in Florida and what better than getting ready for winter DX on 80m and 160m?

Finally….toning cables…

After many years dealing with telecom (and using other people’s toning tools), I broke down and got a nice Fluke cable tester and tone tool. The tool is a Fluke Networks MT-8200-60A IntelliTone Pro 200 Kit . This started because I have to tone out a bunch of coax cables from the back of the house and I tend to do those things as time allows without anyone else around. The tester has an F connector on it so I can hook up an F connector to N female patch cord to connect coax cables. It also have alligator clips to allow hooking to bare wires or even a jack that will check RJ45/RJ11 connectors. Once I get it on Tuesday I will give it a try and report back.


Visiting with Jacek and a Clean Shack!

Jacek SP5APW and his wife came over last night for a visit. Jacek is here in Florida on holiday. It was certainly nice meeting them and having a chance to talk about his ham radio travels. Jacek’s trip also gave me the incentive to get my shack cleaned up and organized a bit. The header picture of this block is a panorama shot I took with my iPhone.

The equipment from left to right is as follows:

  • Alpha 9500 HF Auto-tune amplifier
  • Palstar AT-2500 Antenna Tuner (while I await the Alpha 4040).
  • Ten-Tec Orion II HF Transceiver (on bottom)
  • Icom 775 DSP HF Transceiver
  • microHam MKII Keyer Interface
  • Paddle on desk in the Lexan is a Begali Stealth Limited (#42)
  • Then, Icom 9100 HF/2m/440/1.2 Transceiver (used for VHF/UHF and satellite work).
  • FlexRadio Flex-3000 SDR HF Transceiver

The right side of the desk is all work stuff.

Yes, there are 7 monitors in the picture. The plaques on the wall are as follows:

  • 5B Worked All Continents (WAS)
  • Worked All States (WAS)-mixed and digital
  • ARRL Life Member Plaque
  • ARRL Diamond Club Gold certificate
  • UPARC Affiliated club charter.
  • DXCC Award (150 country endorsement)

Not shown are the QST Cover Plaque Award for September 2012.



Who was W4AFC?

The Upper Pinellas Amateur Radio Club callsign of W4AFC was a vanity callsign obtained to honor Marion Shields–one of my mentors/elmers when I got started in amateur radio (along with Don Pablo Bostrom, KI4FI). He was a spanish teacher in Dunedin High School and a great influence upon me to look at things rationally and consider my actions. He was active in the Dunedin VEC program where many people successfully passed their code test using the great headphones in the Dunedin language lab. You can read more about Marion here. Both Marion and Paul were beyond helpful in making sure the hams in the high school radio club had radios to operate and the antenna party to put them up. Marion also had a Commodore 64 in his classroom which helped lead me to programing–and we all know how that turned out :). I am so glad that W4AFC became available and I was able to secure it to continue amateur radio activities in north Pinellas county.

Thanks to Jeff, WA4AW, I found out about the original holder of W4AFC. He was Ralph Hollis. He was on the USS Arizona when it was struck in Pearl Harbor. He, along with his comrades, was lost on that infamous day. More about Mr. Hollis here.

Installing Icom DSTAR Gateway Software

Well, I am starting the process to install the DSTAR gateway software on a server for the W4AFC repeater system. I have read different things about this process. Some have said that I should avoid the Icom software and use ircDD ( I think that’s the name). From what I read, there might be some issues with the installation, but honestly, I have to see for myself if that is an issue of people not being able to follow directions, or an issue with the software. I guess I will give it a try.

I found the directions above on the following website:


D-STAR Gateway Configuration and Operation (from

Fun with Heliax Connectors

I finally took the time to learn how to install connectors on Heliax LDF4-50A 1/2″ hardline. I have the Positive Stop right angle connectors as well as older style “solder the tip” connectors. I also have a CPT-L4ARC tool that hooks to my drill. The automatic stripping tool ended up being the most trouble to learn the right way to use that. I learned that the solder connectors are not going to be the easiest ones to use in the field, but they do make a nice joint.

The secret to learning was I took a 2 foot piece of cable and 2 hours to try the installation multiple times until I became comfortable with it.