I have a webcam installed so that you can see the very latest equipment setup for my ham shack. This image will automatically update every few minutes.
I've learn from experience over the years how very, very important the antenna farm is. This plays a MAJOR role in ones ability to successfully receive and transmit RF signals. For perspective, here is my outdoor farm, from a distance, as well as from above as photographed by a quad-copter. In sections below I will discuss each antenna in detail.
Scott KB9YUC piloted his DJI Phantom II quad-copter on a beautiful, sunny, calm day to photograph my antenna farm in detail. Here he is flying the copter.
This is a video of my antenna farm from the rooftop.
Here is a video as taken primarily of the AN Wireless tower and antenna systems. The copter reached a height of 72', which is near the very top of my 2M/70cm antenna. You will see me rotating the Force 12 C-3 antenna. That was an afterthought, hence my cameo sprint into the house.
Would you like to watch Flybys of other ham antenna farms? We'll, you are in luck. Please visit my Flyby collection.
Here is a view of my primary ham shack, and the three power supplies that run it: Astron RS-35M & RS-7A and a 50 volt Ameritron power supply for my linear amplifier.
Much of the time I am on the air with a Kenwood TS-590S. Here is a view of me on 14.230 MHz for Slow Scan TV. When I use my amplifier, an Ameritron ALS-1300, I normally operate it at 500 watts, or about 40% of its total power output potential.
The heart of my antenna farm is found on a 50' AN Wireless commercial grade antenna tower, and the prime instrument is a seven-element Force 12 C-3 Yagi for 20-15-10 meter operations. I have two IAC Double Bazooka dipole antennas for 75 meters (mounted at 48') and 40 meters (mounted at 35').
I use PolyPhaser lightning suppressors for the four antennas and Hy-Gain Ham V rotor. The tower is carefully designed for strength. The pad has 16 cubic yards of concrete, a sizable substructure and plenty of rebar. You can read more about the planning and construction by visiting the Tower section of my site.
I also have a Kenwood TM-271 2 meter rig which I use primarily as an APRS i-Gate, WinLink and other digital operations. This typically feeds into a Diamond X-700HNA antenna. This 23' antenna can been seen at the very top of the tower. It reaches to a height of 75'. This is my best VHF/UHF antenna with 9.3 dB gain on 2 meters and 13.0 dB gain on 70 centimeters.
In order that I may constantly monitor the local 2 meter repeaters and simplex frequencies, I have a Kenwood TM-V71A on memory scan. I regularly use this rig to check into local nets. Most of the time I am switched to the Diamond X-300NA vertical for 2 meters FM operations. The antenna provides 6.5 dB gain on 2 meters and 9.0 dB gain on 70 centimeters.
First, I'll share a full view of my downstairs shack with several rigs each focused on a particular ham band and application. I will describe each one in subsequent sections, starting with the 6 meter setup on the left-hand side of this picture.
In addition, and out of view on another desk, is my Elecraft KX3 which I often use for CW on 40 meters. I also take this nifty little rig on the road for QRP work with an AlexLoop magnetic loop antenna, or with the Elecraft linear amplifier for activities like the Wisconsin QSO party. The paddle is a Begali key.
My father-in-law, Marvin KA0UKG, gave me his Kenwood TS-680S to use. This is what got me back into ham radio after a long break. I use it exclusively now for 6 meters.
I am continually scaning the SSB portion of 6 meters for any band openings. Also, on Thursdays our local FCARC club holds a rag chew net on 52.570 MHz FM.
I use the Dominator 6M vertical for both SSB and FM. This is a 5/8 wavelength vertical with very low SWR over the entire band. It offers 4.15 dBi gain.
I dedicate a Kenwood TS-2000 primarily for analog SSTV beacon transmissions every 30 minutes on 28.680 MHz. I run 50 watts into a PAR Electronics HF Rectangle omni-directional antenna. SSTV cam images are posted in the SSTV 20M section of this web site.
I use an Alinco DX-SR9T on 30 meters. It is often tuned to 10.132 MHz monitoring for Narrow SSTV signals and posting to my ham web site. I like the detachable head. It allows me to keep the portable box on the floor, and out-of-the-way, while I am operating.
The mainstay antenna on 30 meters is a Wolf River rotatable dipole, although I keep it in stationary postion.
I use this ICOM 7200 on 40 meters primarily for FSQ chat QSOs. This is fed into an IAC Double Bazooka dipole antennas for 40 meters mounted at 35 feet on my tower.
This ham station which covers 160 meters through 70 cm, using an ICOM 706 MKIIG as the core rig. This is a mainstay in my shack for JT65 and Winmor WinLink operations on 20 meters, a monthly 2m SSTV net and occasionally as a SOTA Chaser. Inside are:
When operating HF, I feed into a Wolf River Otophone that is tuned to 20 meters. This reverse inverted-V is mounted at 18' and features two Wolf River Coils in a dipole arrangement with accompanying whip antennas approximately 12 feet long.
Head over to my Pontiac Vibe and you will find installed a nifty Yaesu FT-857D which covers 160 through 10 meters, plus 6, 2 and 70 cm bands. I am equipped with the Yaesu ATAS-120A screwdriver whip antenna for 40-6 meters. I have a separate Diamond MR77 for 2M & 70cm coverage.
If you check out my car roof, you can see three antennas, all magnetically mounted. For 2 meters, I use a pair of Diamond MR77 (2.15 dB gain on 2M & 3.4 dB gain on 70cm) antennas. The one on the passenger's side is dedicated to APRS transmissions. Another antenna on the driver's side is connected to my Yaesu rig for local FM contacts.
For my 40-6 meter work, I have a Yaesu ATAS-120A active tuning antenna. This integrates exceptionally well with my transceiver. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the tri-magnet mount would allow me to create a solid signal into Sao Paulo, Brazil for my first 10 meter contact with my Yaesu FT-857D transceiver.
Finally, for contacts on 75 meters for Wisconsin ARES, I obtain very reliable results with the MFJ Ham-Tenna. This is tuned for low SWR at 3.967 MHz. When mounted on my Vibe, this whip reaches a height of nearly 12 feet! I trimmed trees in my drive to prevent the antenna catching the lower hanging limbs!
I use a Kenwood TH-D72A for portable operations. This 5 watt hand-held covers 2 meters & 70 cm. I use it for ARES work. Also, I send packet transmissions via APRS. You can visit the APRS section to see my most recent APRS location.
I also have a Baofeng UV-5R which I use for around-the-home monitoring of 2 meters. It also comes in handy for volunteer work at Triathlons and other local events.
SOTA, or Summits on the Air, is a form of sport radio. We pack and travel to the top of a summit or mountain in Wisconsin and 'activate' the summit with a minimum of four contacts. Ham friends, Scott KB9YUC and Tom KD9BMD, often accompany me.
Most of the time I operate VHF+ on 2m, 125cm, 70cm and 23cm, while my friends are making QSOs on 20 meters. That means I need to pack separate antennas and often climb a lookout tower to get above the tree line to improve my chances for contacts via tropo-scatter.
I am pictured with my backpack weighing 27 pounds and antennas weighing 23 pounds. I am able to tote this without difficultly to some remote places. One of my greater challenges was a 1/2 mile hike to the top of Gibraltar Rock. This 311 foot ascent, the equivalent of a 30 story building, took 25 minutes.
Once I am set up, I operate the ICOM 7100 (sometimes assisted by a transverter), which was carried by me in the backpack. I have now placed the equipment in a case to help protect against the elements if we get an unexpected shower.
Here is an example of my setup at the High Cliff State Park lookout tower with only the 125cm ELK log periodic antenna installed. This sturdy mast is equipped to support four VHF+ antennas, including coax switching for rapid band change.
When I want a simpler, single-antenna solution, I use the mast pictured on the right.
I am operating here on 20 meters for an activation at Sugarbush Hill. On the right, a Wolf River vertical is tuned to 40 meters for an activation at the Blue Mounds state park summit. I use two, light-weight 50-foot tape measures as the ground plane, arranged in an X-pattern which is handy for some of the harsher environments we are faced with for tight-spaced setups. Each tape has a hole at the 25' mark which is attached to the base of the vertical.
I also conduct SOTA activations on VHF, UHF and microwave frequencies. My previous SOTA rig was an ICOM 706 MKIIG. Here I am sending CW during a 70cm QSO with Karl WD9BGA.
I have two possible keys to use for CW transmissions. Mostly I send code with the Palm Radio Mini Paddle. I use the Code Cube Keyer when I wish to send some automated code, such as CQ SOTA de WA9TT. If I need to slow down, I use a Morse Express collector's straight key. Mine is the 2015 Christmas edition shown here.
I use the Theodolite app with my iPhone to set the azimuth for the station I plan to work. This convenient app also provides my altitude (here at High Cliff State Park at 1,011 feet ASL) and I can snap a picture and immediately email it.
When VHF band conditions are really good, we can experience some tremendous DX.
Sometimes I use the Atkins tropospheric calculator to determine a communications budget for an activation. For normal band conditions, this tool can be pretty accurate and useful. Here I have calculated the path loss and SNR between myself at Timms Hill and Karl WD9BGA at Blue Mounds State Park for our two 70cm stations on CW.
Using the Yeh forumla result, my SNR was predicted to be 9.39 dB and Karl would receive me as 17.84 dB. On the day of activation, Karl gave me an RST report of 449 and I had him at 539.
I learned during an activation at Peshtigo Harbor that I needed to protect my delicate equipment in the event of rain. So I packaged an ICOM 7100 in a brief case. This includes a LiFePO4 battery, mike, CW paddle, Heil headphones, 1296 MHz transverter, HTs and cables. This fits very neatly into the backpack pictured above.
The Peshtigo Harbor experiment involved a 'low-to-high' activation where I was at the shoreline of the bay of Green Bay looking over an unobstructed, multi-mile expanse of water to the horizon over to a high location 173 miles away where Karl WD9BGA was on a lookout tower at Blue Mounds State Park.
From Gibraltar Rock one can see clearly over to Blue Mounds State Park. Here the 23cm loop Yagi is mounted, with transverter situated behind, and a 2m ELK on a mast positioned on rock and supported by a tripod. Off to the side is the case with the ICOM 7100 ready to operate.
On many occasions I operate well above the tree line with an open view to the distant horizon to minimize radiation takeoff angle and maximize potential troposcatter. This activation took place at the highest summit in Wisconsin, Timms Hill.
I can operate on many bands. Here is my Cushcraft 3-element 6 meter beam. It has 8 dBd gain and I drive it with 100 Watts. I don't use this often, but it does come in handy for a VHF contest.
When it comes to 2 meters, I transmit 50 Watts. The versatile 5-element ELK 2m/70cm log periodic antenna may be mounted horizontally (for weak signal SSB or CW) or vertically when I wish to make simplex FM contacts. It has a gain of 6.6 dBd on 2m and 7 dBd on 70cm.
I use this antenna for 2m WECOMM or 70cm WIN communications during every activation. These inter-connected repeater systems blanket the entire state of Wisconsin. That makes it easy to use for backbone communications as we coordiate pre-scheduled QSOs on selected VHF+ bands. I can easily connecd to a regional repeater using my Yaesu FT2DR 5 Watt HT.
When I choose 1 1/4 meters, I use a 4 Watt transverter, which is driven with IF from the 10 meter band. I deploy a 6-element ELK 125cm log periodic antenna. It has a gain of 7.3 dBd.
Normally on 70cm, I will use an Olde Antenna Lab 10-element Yagi for 11 dBd gain and I run 35 Watts power.
Moving on up to 1296 MHz (23cm), I deploy a 14-element Directive Systems antenna with 12.9 dBd gain, driven by a 2 1/2 Watt SG Laboratory transverter.
Karl WD9BGA and I made history in August, 2016 with the first North American 2.4 GHz summit-to-summit contact. We completed it with MESH stations running 79 milliwatts, ie, 19 dBm, into 24 dBi grid parablic dish antennas. I was on Gibraltar Rock and he was located 33 miles away at Blue Mounds State Park. We used an IRC data mode with Pidgin sofware to complete the QSO operation. Link Quality at my station was 28%.
On occasion I participate in VHF+ contests. A choice location in my area is at the shoreline of High Cliff State Park. This works because I have a long, clear lake open to me to the south, west and north to help with tropo-scatter propagation. Here I am set up to operate in the 70cm Sprint.
Fox Hunts can be fun. There can also be a serious side when it is necessary to track down a rouge operator, perhaps someone interfering with others. Here is my Byonics MicroFox nesting by my squirrel feeder!
I have a Ramsey DDF1 doppler direction finder. Mounted on top of my car are four telescoping antennas in a quadrilateral array. They are electronically 'spun' by the DDF to create the doppler effect to help pin point the hidden transmitter. This unit is useful when the Fox is a considerable distance away. I typically connect my Baofeng UV-5R for the 2 meter VHF receiver.
Closer in, a world-class VK3YNG Sniffer 4 is exceptionally sensitive. Attenuation is provided automatically in steps of approximately 15dB each time a particular signal strength threshold is reached. For example, a display value of zero indicates maximum sensitivity, where a value of 9 indicates a very strong signal that requires approximately 135dB of attenuation!!
Signal strength indication is provided by an audible tone that increases in pitch with increasing signal level. This is done because the human ear is a much more sensitive to changes in pitch than sound level.
I couple this with a 'tape measure' Yagi, and I am set to find the Fox. This unit is so sensitive that it can sniff out the direction of a hidden transmitter from just a couple feet away!!
This Yagi resonates at 146.250 MHz with a 1.1:1 SWR, and has a 2:1 SWR band width from 143.000 to 148.350 MHz.