The Creekside Bobtail: Part 2

The 40M Bobtail will be perfectly aimed for Bouvet Island

Elevating the antenna 10′ offers a lower takeoff angle and makes it easier to install hanging from 2 trees that can support the height

It just so happens that I have two trees where I could get the Bobtail up off the ground about 10′. Switching to all wire elements changes the geometry a little – the elements need to be a little bit taller, but with the same spacing.

Forget about NE and SW directions – there are deep nulls in those directions

This is probably OK at the bottom of the cycle, and certainly good for Bouvet – which is the only ATNO I will have a chance at working for the next 2 years from Orinda. I don’t even worry about more than 2 years any more in my planning – I might not even be at this QTH after that. This is also the last time I will have a chance to try this – so I will do it – probably in late May / early June, when the grass is dried out and I can weed whack and move around more easily than now.

This is the center connection – with a possible elevated counterpoise (not sure yet)

I will definitely use the Stepper Motors and drive them with either an Arduino or Raspberry Pi board and Stepper Motor drivers. I will also go for memory settings for multiple bands. The antenna is only a mono bander, and a cloud warmer on other bands – but for checking into the nightly Mission Trail Net on 75M, it will be fine.

My remote tuner that will be driven by Stepper Motors

I have scaled this for 30M, and while it fits in my lot much better, I think 40M is just a much more productive and interesting band – its by far my favorite. I also can use the KWS-1 on 40M (it is a pre-WARC rig)

The U.RAT – the forerunner to what I will do this time

The Collins 180S-1 – the absolute perfect antenna coupler for this application!

OK – this is a very cool project, and I am again excited to have an antenna idea that I can squeeze in my lot. I have to try this once. I was able to talk to an East Coast Ham who swears by his. Its a leap of faith – because the DX Engineering DV-40P has been so excellent – but I get to try to push the limits one more time while I am still at this QTH – so now my idea finally is justified . . .



The “Creekside Bobtail”

Google Earth still shows my old N6BT DXU-32, which was one of two best antennas I have ever had as far as DXing, performance and convenience are concerned. Convenience is relative – that was one big antenna, and I am kind of surprised it did so well on top of a military mast – the AB-577. A testament to the engineering feats of military grade hardware. It actually scared me when I took it down – I realized how dangerous that was – if anything happened and the antenna crashed onto the roof. Yikes!

Anyway, this post is not about that – its the only place I can squeeze a 40M Bobtail Curtain – along the creek that defines the hypotenuse of my property line. It would end up being just fine for ZS and 3Y0B entities, and that means in the other direction, JA. It would have a deep null in the NE polar path and SW, so that kind of kills Glorioso – but I’ve been fixated on trying a full size 40M Bobtail for some time now.

I know even a dipole up 70′ would be better, but that isn’t going to happen. The 2 very large trees that used to be available (on my two neighbors properties and which I did secretly use without then ever knowing) have been cut down – they were “weed trees” – Monterrey Pines, which suck as far as trees go – they get tall and very dangerous as they get old. They were meant to be along the coast – not 20 miles inland where its too hot and dry for them.

Anyway, I’ll have to think about this a while. I sure wish I could talk to someone who has had experience with a 40M Bobtail. W8JI thinks Bruce Arrays and Bobtails and Half Squares aren’t all that great – but I have had very good experience with the Bruce Array – when I had a 4 element at my old Lafayette QTH, and here in Orinda, the DX Engineering DV-40P has been a solid performer.

If you have had experience with a Bobtail Curtain – let me know what you think.

Cycle 25, Bouvet and Glorioso

This graph is from a very interesting web site –

I know that we have already had a Cycle 25 sunspot, so it will be interesting how long the minimum will be between Cycle 24 and 25. This graph shows how unusual Cycle 24 was at its bottom. It was deeper and longer than the past three cycles.

This is one of the better web sites to check out if you are wondering what might happen between now and the peak of Cycle 25. One big take away for me is just how abnormal the bottom of Cycle 23 was, and that the bottom of Cycle 24 might not be as deep or long as Cycle 23. How high will Cycle 25 go? That is too hard to tell – but I remember how ridiculously all over the map the predictions were for Cycle 24, so this is a “just wait and see” thing for me.

I am now convinced that I will get one last chance to work Bouvet (I am sure the 3Y0I guys will try again – all of their pride is wrapped up in this, and I have learned from “driven” DXpedition leaders that once they fixate on such a project, it does happen). My only hope is that the 3Y0I and some of the 3Y0Z guys would work together and also do a proper fund raising. Go next October and make it a success. I think its time for everyone to join forces, and that the clubs and foundations need to support whomever goes. But for that to happen, the 3Y0I and 3Y0Z teams need to put aside some of their attitudes.

I also expect that the French Team will activate Glorioso – but that it will be the last time that entity is activated in my lifetime. This means I very much expect that if you started DXCC today – the probability is you won’t make it to Honor Roll #1, and I even think making Honor Roll wouldn’t be possible. I knew things were trending this way, and the numbers aren’t there to support these activities moving forward. There are just way too many entities that are too expensive or environmentally hard to access. Just as important is that the number and age of “well healed” DXpedition Teams is dwindling. More will have to come from non US countries, like 3Y0I, but without US Foundation and Club Support, good luck.

I’ve decided after visiting my neighbors awesome ham radio shack (and having some fun socializing at the same time) that ending my Honor Roll #1 pursuit at another shack is what I will do. I’ve worked all the rest from my own shack, and sure – I will also try to work these from my shack, but also won’t do what I did with FT5GA – suffered without a peep from them at my shack while others ran up to the Stanford ham shack and worked them. I don’t need this purist BS any more. I’ve moved on to just having fun – DXing definitely started feeling like work and not fun – so that’s the reason I decided to move into a new area – the vintage gear space.

And in getting into the vintage space I have made new ham radio friends. I love the passion in each of these genres – they are like their own little worlds, and they are all interesting and fun to check out – kind of like going to your favorite amusement park when you were a kid. Lots of fun rides – my favorite amusement park was the Boardwalk at Wildwood at the Jersey Shore . . .

I do expect that I will get serious about QRP and CW – that is waiting in the wings after I get the KWS-1 on the air. Of course, I am always dreaming of antenna projects, but there is only so much you can do at your QTH – and I know I won’t be buying any big properties when I retire, so in a way, what I am doing now at my QTH is about the speed of what I will be doing when I do leave Orinda. I will certainly make sure I don’t move into a place with HOA’s and CC&R’s that preclude at least a flagpole vertical or a wire up in the trees. But the plan will be to bring the US Towers ALM-31 Crank Up tower and SteppIR UrbanBeam.

Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer” and a Surprise!

The keyer, as expected – in great condition, however, I will recap it and also test the tubes.

And, look what followed me home:

The surprise? A Central Electronics MM-2 “Multiphase RF Analyzer” – which is a 3″ CRT based oscilloscope. This model has the capability of monitoring both the KWS-1 transmitters waveforms as well as the 75A-4 received signals.

The gray Vobroplex Bug, this TO Keyer and this MM-2 were all sold in 1960-ish, so they are the same vintage and about 5 years “younger” than the Gold Dust Twins.

More classic gear from the Gold Dust Twins “era”, and more fun in the KY6R shack!

KY6R Mic and Key “Shootout”

The three microphones L-R are the Astatic D-104, probably the #1 mic that hams used with the KWS-1, the Shure 51B “Sonodyne” – used mostly by recording artists like Nat King Cole, Turner 99 – the oddball of the three, I don’t know what it was used for in its day.

The three keys L-R 1960 Vibroplex, 1943 Vibroplex and Begali Intrepid bug.

I am going to guess that the Sonodyne and 1943 Vibroplex will win the contest. The contest will be which mic sounds best on air with the KWS-1 and which bug feels the best keying the rig. In a little while I will pick up the Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer”, and so maybe an Iambic paddle will win over the bugs. Since keyers weren’t yet available commercially in 1955, the Gold Dust Twins operators who did use CW probably used a Vibroplex Bug.

Whatever I don’t end up using I will sell – all are very marketable – especially since I cleaned them up and restored what could be restored. I’m not a pack rat and like to have one good “representative” set of gear for its time period.


The Pursuit, the Journey, the Reward

Mushrooms. No particular reason why I used this photo except it looks cool.

My friend Tony, K4QE wrote a nice note to me regarding this blog, and it occurred to me that the Pursuit, the Journey and the Rewards are the best reasons to have a hobby. I like the word “Maker”, and I’m sure it comes from the German word Macher. My wife Kat makes beautiful things on her 1930’s Gilmore Look, so Maker fits any avocation or hobby that is “hands on”.

Most of my best ideas have happened when I have some time to reflect, to think a while without interruption. Sometimes that happens in the man cave (Ham Shack), sometimes on my bike, or sometimes just sitting in the living room furrowed down in my old green comfy chair with a cup of coffee.

With my ham radio hobby, I get to call the shots. I am the CEO and The Big Cheese. It’s the one time during the day where I can do whatever I want and (almost) whenever I want.

When I try something new, it unlocks new thoughts and ideas and gives me new perspectives. I always first learn that no matter how many times I think about something, I usually add to my knowledge base and many times see something I missed the first or second pass.

Learning something new every day is a great goal, and it is perhaps the biggest motivation for me at work and at play. I guess it really is a “journey of the mind”, because many times thinking about even just one topic, like let’s say a Vibroplex Bug and modern Iambic keys and keyers. This one thought unlocks a whole world that I can get lost in, like the history of Morse code, digital communication, various devices and inventions created along the way, the Victorian Internet, etc, etc.

Sometimes such rambling thoughts become a meditation of sorts.

They say the award / reward is the journey, and I do agree with that.

My next journey – the journey for today will be picking up and playing with a 1960’s Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer”. Yesterday’s journey was looking at the work Howard, W3HM did on my KWS-1, and continuing thoughts about a 40M Bobtail Curtain and whether or not I can really fit such an antenna on my property.

It’s another day, and another fun adventure!

Collins KWS-1 Serial Number 1572

Only 1600 Collins KWS-1 transmitters were built in 1955 or so, and just after these were produced, Collins went on to define modern rigs with the “75S” series transmitter and receiver pair – followed by the legendary KWM-2.

The fact that mine is #1572 is a real honor. Half of these were destroyed by the US Army after they had their need for them.

When I (totally unexpectedly) got into these restored rigs – I learned that Howard Mills, W3HM was the “legend” who has restored more rigs than anyone. I had read that he is getting older and maybe will only be doing these restorations for a little while longer. He has just finished my KWS-1 and I will get it back in a week or so. My 75A-4 was also restored by Howard, and I have purchased this receiver from a friend, Bruce, AH0U locally, and again by accident. I was inquiring about the National SW-3 receiver and Bruce told me about his Collins 75A-4 that he decided to sell. I wasn’t really looking for the KWS-1, but one “fell in my lap” at a great price. The restoration cost from Howard is very reasonable – so this has been a great experience.

So, this is a project to preserve a piece of radio history, and I’m having a blast sponsoring this. More to follow . . .