I do not have a lot of space for antennas. So i have to get creative when possible to be able to work the bands of interest for me at this time, 40 and 20m. I have a low slung dipole for 40m in the tiny space called our backyard. Which leaves doing something for 20m.
I have had this old station master CB antenna sitting in my workshop for a while that i planned to use on 15 or 10m. Well, nothing much is doing on either of those bands other than some E’s so i have reconfigured the station master into a 20m 1/4 wave.
Its about 4.5m to the base of the antenna and the 5m of radiator on top of that and 4 radials to bring the feed impedance up to 50 ohms.
The fact that the 2:1 bandwidth is 2mhz kind of tells me that i have made a high quality dummy load. I am still unconvinced that its not a dummy load even though it does radiate.
This is the FT8 map from today. It certainly hears better than the portable dipole and reports are about the same so it is doing something.
Not to be outdone, reverse beacon reports similar reports around the pacific region. The jury is still out and I might still yet pull it all apart and start again to see if i can get that swr bandwidth narrower. For now, its what I will be using on 20m.
If you have not been living under a rock and look now and again at internet forums or other social media, you will have come across many discussions about how FT8 is going to be the death of Amateur Radio and that DXCC is now worthless because someone can do it automatically with a bot and get dxcc in a week.
Now having played with the mode for a few weeks and sat here at the desk for a few hours watching paint dry while i click the buttons to make WSJT work, I have come to the conclusion that this easy mode dxcc in a week is not only kind of bullshit, it is actually bullshit. Let me explain.
Most of us have very modest stations. A couple of dipoles and run low power. The above map is where I was being heard last night on 40m running 10w into a dipole. Yes, 10w. The max power my license allows in digital modes is 30w. The main thing you will notice about that map is that there are not 100 countries that are hearing me. More like 15. And then you have to get passed the wall of Japan.
I was being heard by equal numbers of US and JA stations, but that does not mean I am going to work WAS in a week either. I made 4 contacts with the USA and 30 with Japan. I am fresh meat and the JA’s are big on working everyone and sending out QSL cards. The same goes for Indonesia.
So maybe if you are in the EU or North America and have a Kw station, FT8 might be an easier path to DCXX, its not like that for everyone. In fact, most people are not running high power or have big antennas and for those of us like that means that we can work some DX during the bottom of the cycle which keeps us interested.
I have had this antenna sitting under the work bench in the garage for some time. My initial plans were to use it on 15m by making it a little longer and going to town to get it close to a 50 ohm match and hope like hell it worked ok.
So, being the bottom of the cycle and not much doing on 15m at all and that i can tune the 40m dipole up on 15m and it will work ok, and 10m is pretty much a bust, I figured i would turn this thing into a 1/4 wave on 20m.
After a bunch of false starts and I want to smash this with an axe moments 🙂 I got to doing what was needed to make it kind of work. First part was to bypass the tuning coil as it is not needed, its about 5.2m long, a bit on the long side i know, but without going at it with a hacksaw it was not not becoming shorter LOL.
Put it on the vna and it looks kind of ugly. But We can fix that I hope.
A couple of radials later and its starting to look more like what it should. 2:1 swr across the whole 20m band. When i can be bothered to add another 2 radials that should come down even more.
Fired up FT8 and it seems to be working as good as the dipole. I dont think its any better, but it is certainly not worse. That gives me 20m at home now in a more permanent way until I can be bothered to buy a tri bander.
So I have upgraded my license from cornflakes packet to Standard License. And while I do plan on keeping the call VK4FFAB if it is possible, it will not be getting used anymore. So i am finalizing logs and sending out bureau cards and officially putting the call into retirement. Oh and the reason why i intend on keeping the call is so i do not have to change domain names and muck about updating my webserver email and the like.
So after exporting the log from HRD and uploading it to all the usual places QRZ, Clublog, EQSL, LOTW etc,The final statyistics were 111 DXCC entities worked, 75 confirmed on LOTW. Not bad really for a 2 band bandit with 1 antenna, a 40m dipole sitting 8m in the air. Yeah nothing fancy but i managed to do ok. So now its onto VK4HAT and a new era of working DX and homebrewing. Bring on the christmas break I have so many projects in the cue and not enough time to do them all.