07072019 – ATS4b Build

ATS4b

Recently acquired a unbuilt ATS4b kit.

Finished

This is a miniature 5 band CW radio. A KD1JV kit. It is small, lightweight, and fairly rugged HF QRP Radio. It uses very little current on receive and is efficient on transmit.

Features;

  • 80, 40, 30, 20 and 15/17 meter operation
  • LCD display with back lighting
  • DDS VFO for wide tuning range with crystal stability, 50 Hz tuning steps.
  • Single step or auto increment tuning
  • Sensitive, 0.2 uV receiver with very low internal noise for exceptional S/N ratio.
  • Selective CW filter with 4 crystal IF filter and audio band pass filter
  • 7 to 12 volt supply supporting;
    • 4.5 to 5 Watt transmitter output on all bands (with 12 volt supply)
    • 2.5 watts output typical with 9 volt supply
  • 50 ma no signal receive current
  • 680 ma maximum transmit current at 12 volts
  • Small size, 12.5cm wide, 6.8cm deep, 2.5cm tall
  • Light weight, 178G.

This is a SOTA radio.

This kit was released 2011 so lucky to get my hands on one (Thanks Tyler and Bill). You can purchase an assembled similar radio being a LNR MTR4B (80,40,30 & 20) at 400US$ + freight. Given the declining AUD (thanks mining why does the need for foreign owned enities to profit override my desire to play radio ?)  it really has not been high on my list to purchase one. I jumped at the kit. This device supports 80m.

Have a mate in the US (Thanks Jason) and he was happy to receive and send on to me so ended up landing here at around $400AUD inc freight.

This is a part of the quest to reduct weight so as to pickup some of the more challenging summits. Whilst are not a long walk they will be a big effort given the terrain and conditions. This device will keep the radio and antenna equipment well under 1Kg and support 5 bands be it CW only.

Reluctant to go out without 80m. For the chasers as much as to ensure enough contacts to qualify. Not having issues getting CW contacts these days.

Had spent the morning soldering copper tubing for fire sprinkler system. This is using the gas torch, liquid flux and 3mm solder. The afternoon was to be different. Once it started to rain (the geese were happy) I decided to come in and get out of the mud and cook up a radio.

StartDayOne

This kit contains SMD components. Previous build of SMD based device was a KD1JV MTR v2. This went well with the only real issue being as a result of losing a component and replacing with the wrong type.During the build, you have to choose between 17m or 15m. I will go for 15m.

Day One

Having read the manual and check the parts it was time to start assembly. This is not a task to rush into but rather progress in an orderly manner.

First step is to add the IC’s. Decided to hand solder these as a single task as the idea of placing all the semiconductors, capacitors and resistors then melting the solder in one sitting did not sound like a good idea.

At end of day one I had the IC’s on ready to inspect. Completed page 15 of the manual.

EndDayOne

Day Two. Testing the rework device.

Was not filled with desire to start heating up the board yesterday. Decided to verify the hot air soldering process before going forward. Using Solder Paste from Jaycar which has the Chemtools ID on it. Found the spec sheet on Chemtools website.

Yes using leaded solder. Have had trouble with using unleaded solder and think by now I have enough lead in my system given the paint used when a kid and the years of soldering not to get too worried about it.

SolderPasteSpecs

Didn’t trust the 852d+ soldering rework station so checked the temp and tested with an old board from the shed. Yes the display was out so experimented until in the range and able to take caps off the S3 board and solder them back on in a timely manner. All good.

ReworkDevice

So think I’ve procrastinated enough so time to commit to melting solder, tomorrow caps ….

Day Three. Check and Check again.

Zoomed in on some components with a 2MP USB microscope from eBay checking.

Upgraded the lights above the table but basically my eyes are not what they use to be so need such a tool. Not the absolute answer but these microscopes are worth the $A30.

CloseUp 001

Mixed results. The microscope stand had to be extended to get a good view. It did expose issues (surprising number of joints that were missed) and they were addressed. Once checked and addressed went back with magnifying glass and checked again. If this was left it would manifest as failure in the field so keen to fix now.

Day Four. Capacitors Bottom Side.

Image 005

Capacitors went on well. So will check the board again to be sure.

Day Five. Through Hole Components.

Not consecutive process as well work and we went Wuthering Saturday. Checkout the video, thats us in the red to the left !

The SMD parts went well. Very happy with the result. Working through the through hole components now.

Wet and windy weekend to was able to continue work on assembly Sunday. I have been following the instructions carefully as aware may not get such a kit again and that components may not be available should I loose or break some.

Adding the Low Pass filters (Page 20 in the assembly manual), which states that “These all go onto the Bottom Side of the board” whilst the picture on same page shows C73,C74 and C75 mounted from the top. I soldered C74 was per the instructions and whilst checking noted the discrepancy created by the picture. Removed C74 and placed in on the top of the board as per the picture. This caused conflict in my head and went checking out pictures on the web and which show them mounted on the the bottom.

See no reason to tempt fate de-soldering and moving C74 again so leaving as is on the top. Also have enlarged the hole to support a BNC connector for the antenna. Files the hole so it was slightly higher so as avoid the board. As you can from a dry run it will fit without causing grief.

EndDayFive

Working through the toroids now, again carefully and without time constrains.

Day Six. Final Assembly.

Well actually 10 days in total but have to go to work and other things….

After winding and installing the toroids its a case of assembling the hardware and connectors.

She did not come up on the first test and this was quickly traced back to a faulty 9V battery connection. Found another in my sons junk box and away it went.

From here it worked as described. The DDS came up on 10Mhz exactly.

Outputting 2w on the 40 – 15M 9V with 80M around half that. I took note of the torrid winding (loose for even and tight for odd) but there is not a lot of room to move for L12 & L14.

Connected to the home antenna and turned the receive to peak noise.

P7160244P7160246FirstTestJPG

The unit is operating so ready to take out onto a summit.

I see no value in disassembling and trying to refine the windings on 80M. Ok yes did chase this device for 80M but its a fall back frequency. Let’s get out on a summit and see how it works before playing with the number of turns.

10062019 – VK3/VC-030

10062019 – VK3/VC-030 – VKFF-0982 In – You Yangs Regional Park 

Another close walk up the summit activation.1.7K each way for 190M elevation gain. This is the busiest summit I have found. Worse than Mt Hotham in summer.

Here is the summit marker, worn out from the traffic,

FlindersMarker

Having been here before I was expecting the crowds so took HT to activate on FM. Did post 40M CW alerts but once there, the people and grey sky made the decision to proceed with HT only easy.

An advantage to such tight summits is the car in the carpark caught and resent the APRS from the HT with no issues. Serured the summit with  5 contacts on FM. Did not secure DMR contact as it appears still have not got the correct config for simplex. 

APRSView

‘Device: Yaesu: VX-8G (ht) Last path: VK3ARH-7>SW41R5 via VK3ARH-1,VK3CV-1*,WIDE2-1,qAR,VK3RSA-1 (good)’

Proposed 2019

Deal Island 2019

Parks Tasmania has approved the use of Deal Island for the International Lighthouse weekend, 17-18th August 2019

DealIsland TASPBH30015409

Basecamp

 

VK3/VE-075

Post winter.

NewImage

02062019 – VK3/VC-024

02062019 – VK3/VC-024 Mt Beckworth

Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve not in WWFF ? Why not ? well because its (SCR) Scenic Reserve. Any way its close and has a great SOTA summit so no WWFF for you but a quick run for me.

This is a contuniation of my current plan of finding a good walk and test equipment during winter plan.

View001

Easy access to the summit but ignore the GPS to get to the park. From Coghills Creek road, turn into Fentons Rd then right into Mountain Creek road. Turn right towards Manna Gumms camp ground. I park just before Manna Gumms in a clear open area as the track up to the summit has easy access from here. Follow the track up to the ridge line. Noting where you need to turn off once on the ridge. Its a good short (1.6Km walk for 216m height gain) walk on clear tracks but still has challanges if wet due to the rocks. Once on the summit you are presented with an open flat area with log benches. Perfect for a bit of SOTA. Deployed the double again with excellent results. Maybe having the ends off the ground is worth the effort !

AntDetail

Rolled out and setup cleanly. Watching the antenna carefully as not convinced it will be a rugged as the end-fed but so far the SOTABeams wire is standing up to the demands. Here is a detail view of the feeder and choke.

Received good signal reports Cant be sure if the antenna is as big a factor as propagation but these were on 5w. 

SOTALog

The rain was looming so once secured Steve decided it was time to pack up and head home. The KX3 is a ‘shack in a box’ but a shack with leaky roof so need to keep out of rain.

19052019 – VK3/VS-011

VK3/VS-011 Mt Abrupt in VKFF-0213 In – Grampians National Park

DownSerraRange

Serra Range to the north. The seasonal burns are in full flight thus making the area smoky. In the valleys so wont be an issue accessing the summits.

SideView

Mt Abrupt is on the southern end of Serra range in the Grampians National Park. There is a defined track for access from the front. It not as bad as it looks. 6.6Km return along a busy track. Head out of Dunkeld down Victoria Valley road turning right into Grampians Road. There’s space for cars to park on Grampians Road, roughly 5km from the park sign. The track starts on the left side of road and is marked by a sign and steps. The track starts off easy and after crossing the washouts heads up to the ridge line. Straight forward walk but still raises a sweat.

You can access Signal Peak from this track. There is a marker now where to turn (54HXD1977439156) Whilst there no track to Signal Peak its a case of stay left of the ridge line and there may be tape markers left from the The Serra Terror held on June long weekend to confirm your insanity. Anyway I have been on Signal Peak previously and not interested in it so continued to Mt Abrupt.   

There were two goals for this activation, first being the short but solid walk up and second to test a doublet. 

HF Doublet

DoubletOnAbrupt

Obviously not a new design of mine. First saw a doublet in action with Tony VK3CAT.  There was some debate as to the use of coax and a bolt to stabilise the feeder but it proved to be a effective antenna combined with the KX tuner securing contacts from 80 down. From my version I now believe the bolt and coax was acting as a choke stabilising the performance of the antenna.

I decided to stick to the 88f length radiator. Its is proving to be a reasonable compromise on summits tight for space.

So this is a 26.8m (88 foot) radiator with 7m feeders ‘all band’ antenna. Ive had poor signal reports from the 26.8m end fed which has been attributed to coax losses. The end fed has a coax run to get the feed point some height. Reducing the length of the coax lead from 9 to 2m lead to RF issues and poor tuning (lack of counterpoise) so now has a 5m run. The end fed is maintaining contacts on 80 and 40 but according to the licence I have to experiment so hence the doublet. The idea of the doublet is the reduction of feeder losses and the vertical run brings the length of the antenna to ~40m. The run to the KX is heat-shrunk twisted pair with a 1:! current choke. The spreaders are dripper line with zip ties as seen on Warren VK3BYDs version. Simple cheap and worked a treat.

There is conflicting dialog on the web as to the role of the feeder in these antenna. The total length being the single length of feeder plus total length of the radiator (26.8 + 7 = 34.8m) implying  the feeder plays a minor role in radiating or length of the entire  feeder and radiator (26.8 + 14 = 40.8m).  I’ll let those smarter than me to debate this but given int is a non-resonate antenna I like the idea of 40m of wire in a compact deployment following the view of ‘as much wire in the air as you can get’. 

DoubletOnWinders

This unit tuned up on 80m find using the tuner in the KX and worked a treat.

Rolled out fine with double winders. This summit was selected given the space available the ends ended up draped on the top of the bushes when the tying failed with no noticeable impact to performance. Maybe we are getting a bit precious as to deployment given the height ?

SOTALog

anyway the results are in with three P2P and solid signal reports I’m a fan of such an antenna. 

11052019 – VK3/VW-003

VK3/VW-003 Mt Rosea in Grampians National Park (VKFF-0213) 

Mount Rosea, is at the northern end of the Serra Range. It is my favourite summit in the Serra Range not just because if has good defined access but Mt Rosea gives 360 degree views from the lookout at the summit into the Grampians. 

Mt Rosea was selected to gain practice for Alpine activations as features rock outcrops, slopes and close to home.

NewImage

Was looking at another summit (VK3/VE-075) in the Alpine however we received 96mm rain (recorded at my rain gauge) in the previous week (48mm over Easter) so decided to stay closer to home and try to avoid the water. 

This was not to be. Whilst drier that around home it was wet in the grampians. Whilst the weather cleared up the further north you headed, there were clouds looming and masking the summits. Drive up was clean and parked at the carpal off  Silverband Road. This is accesses from Mt Victory road as one way from Grampians road. No concerns with the weather, dressed accordingly once there and headed off.

Easy walk on the track. It was very wet with water courses running and wet rocks when heading up. Took under 2 hrs to cover the 4.8K to the summit.

It was a challenge to setup the end fed given the wet rocks on the summit. Also very busy with several walkers going to Mt Rosea and a couple walking through to Borough Huts so headed away from the lookout.

IMG 2658

40M was alive. Qualified the site in 10 min on CW including a S2S with VK1MCW on VK1/AC-048

Went off and chased the park activators picking up 2 P2P contacts (VK6MB in Heathcote-Graytown National Park (VKFF-0624) and VK4SMA Mount Barney National Park (VKFF-0338)) Spent an hour on the summit for 10 contacts and happy to pack up and the drizzle was starting to annoy me. Carefully packed up as the rocks were very slippery and I didn’t want to slip. Have to stay sharp on the way back as easy to miss a turn and end up coming out in the valley. Not a biggie as you will hit the road eventually but would be very wet in these conditions and hard going so best to stay on track.

Nice clean activation. Mt Rosea is the pick of the summits in the Serra Range. You can add (VK3/VW-009) Near Sundial Peak and (VK3/VW-007) Near Boroka Lookout if you were in the area but I was on a mission as wanted to be home to cook tea.

Will return for (VK3/VS-011) Mt Abrupt soon enough as a great site with a good walk up.

25042019 – VK3/VE-046

25042019 – VK3/VE-046 The Governor in WWFF Alpine National Park (VKFF-0619)

This was my second attempt for this summit. Previous was with Tony VK3CAT and David VK3IL coming across from Eagles Peak. We hit Cat 5 conditions and when combined with temp decided it was not worth chasing. 

This attempt will involve a longer walk but avoiding cliffs. Planned to take two days with the first spent travelling up and walking in over the first hill to camp at a site with water in the valley. 

Headed off 9:30an Wednesday and drove to Mansfield to head down to Howqua Hills. Turn right through SheepYard flat and follow  Howqua Hill track.

The path is marked ’to Castle Rock’ and ’To Upper Jamieson Hut’ (7hrs, seams optimistic). The 4km walk in steep to start with then down hill to the valley for Lickhole Creek.

NewImage

 The plan was to camp at the base of the first (55 H 443431 5880186) hill securing water as didn’t want to carry two days water in. Should the creek not be running I intended to head back and bring in water. Either way intended to camp at this spot leaving 7kms to the summit.

Camp

WateratCamp

Found a suitable place for the tent above the creek and setup before the light rain. Slept on dark surprised as the the amount of dogs in the park. You could hear at least 4 different howling. I don’t know if they were wild or from hunters. have heard the wild dogs and cats in the Cobberas but not in the Alpine before.

Up at first light and headed off at 7:00am to the Governor.

Left the tent up only taking radio, jacket and first aid gear on the walk to the summit. This reduced the load from 20kg to around 8kg with 4l water. Glad I camped as planned as whilst you could hear the water as you walked up Lickhole Creek but the blackberries got thicker until access would be  prohibitive. Whilst you could walk down the track with a good touch, there were not the camping opportunities along the way. This was a good plan and had margins for a slow walker like myself.

The track was easy to follow despite the blackberries encroching. I would not recommend walking down here in shorts. There were a couple of red triangles to reassure you’re on track but essentially a case of following the track as it weaved up the valley heading to Mt Darling. Leisurely walk that  picked up once at the base of Mt Darling. 

Once clear of the valley and the blackberries, the going was uphill so slow but a case of keep plodding. Turned and headed accross to the saddle hitting a ‘track’ to the Governor. Continued and once in the zone and in a clear area I setup the ended and started calling. 40m was not behaving, nor was the phone. Expected phone service from Buller but it was patchy and  as a result unable to get a SMS spot out. However after waking for 5 hrs I was not leaving until qualified however apprehensive and only had an hour allocated on the summit to get back in day light.

Finally qualified with 20M ZL, 40M CW and SSB contacts to finish up heading back at 13:30. 40m was hard going and we have been spoilt with spotting and the number of chasers these days.

The walk back to camp was quicker as basically down hill. Followed the track out and across to Mt Darling to head back down Lickhole Creek track. Straight forward operation. Nothing like the stress involved with heading from Eagles Peak. Made it back to my camp to be left with the final 4Km back to the car under full pack with limited day light. Made it back to the car with torch in the dark on good tracks.

No issues but will declare I was tried and had sore legs but safe and had successfully qualified a remote summit. The weather was perfect. Light rain in the night, overcast morning with clear sky around 20 max.   

Not happy with the SPOT devices coverage. Whilst a ‘OK’ message got out the night before I failed to have any tracking on the next day. It was overcast and the device was in a pocket but this was ‘normal’ usage. Recently paid the $300AUD annual subscription. This was has seen 20% increase over last 5 years and with the falling AUD$ has brought the running cost into the range of an Iridium subscription. 

Also surprised with the lack of animal life in the area. Only saw a single wallaby, one Kookaburra, a lazy lizard and two pigeons.  There is more animals at my place these days. I could hear dogs at night and there was evidence (scat) on the track so I hope the ferals haven’t killed all natives in the area. 

Overall very happy with the activation. Can recommend this as an access route. Longer than from Eagles Peak but ‘easier’ . Easy access to water at the start and trousers are essential.

Ok now there are another two summits in the area that demand respectful planning to gain….. next.