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MountainTopper Radio
radio : by Tommy - February 16th 2016, 10:25AM
It's been quite a while since I last made a post but this is one I have to mark the occassion for. For the better part of the past 6 months I've had my eye on the MountainTopper Radio. It's a small QRP CW radio designed by Steve Weber, KD1JV, and sold by LNR Precision. The model I got is the 3-band version. (At the time of this writing there are rumors stirring about an upcoming 5-band version. Since I'm really only active on 40m and 20m, I'll pass on the 5 band model.)

The radio is very small - about the size of a deck of cards. There's no internal antenna tuner or battery. The volume, RF gain, and filter settings are fixed so there's no need for adjustment knobs. Nor is there a tuning knob. Tuning is done by two push buttons (UP and DOWN) that nudge the VFO up or down 50Hz. Holding down the button will change the frequency in 100Hz steps at a rate of 10 steps per second.
The elimination of knobs on the face of the radio allows the radio to pack very small. It's so small in fact, I was moved to get a Micro key from KK5PY. It has to be the smallest paddles I've ever used. To match the small size, the MTR can be powered by a 9V battery or a small 12V LiPo battery pack. Pack in some earbuds, a wire antenna, and a paper logbook and the whole kit fits into a small padded, zippered case ready to go. It's a radio meant for travel! I can't wait to take it on the road with me.
I've been using it to make QRP CW contacts each day for the past week and I'm going to try to get QRP Worked All States on 40m CW.

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tags: ham radio qrp cw

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Elecraft KXAT1 Antenna Tuner
radio : by Tommy - April 19th 2009, 06:50PM
I recently added the KXAT1 antenna tuner kit to my Elecraft KX1. The antenna tuner allows me to automatically tune up any non-resonant antenna quickly. Construction took one evening. As usual, winding the toroids was perhaps the most tedious part, but "zen-like" while I was doing them (as I heard it put by someone). I did have trouble with the transformer. It can be tricky and I'll warn other kit builders to check out this thread if they have trouble. I also found some pictures from a japanese ham helpful, but I've since lost them. :(

After building and installing the tuner, I purchased 40ft of some "silky" 26AWG wire from TheWireMan as suggested by Elecraft. I cut the wire to give me two lengths. One length is 24ft and the other 16ft. The 24ft length is my radiating element and the 16ft acts as my ground. The tuner quickly finds a nice 1.1-1.0 match and gives me full KX1 power out (~4W). It makes for a very lightweight, field-portable antenna. I can also use my crappie poles to elevate one end if trees are unavailable.

I use a BNC-to-binding post that I purchased at EPO in Houston. While at EPO, I also picked up a small 12V 1.3Ah gel cell battery. The UB-1213 is about 3.8" x 1.7" x 2" and provides adequate power for portable QRP work. If I was going to operate for very long, I may go with a little larger capacity gel cell, but for now this makes a very lightweight and super portable setup that allows me to get one the air quickly.

tags: ham_radio qrp kx1 kit

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Elecraft KX1
radio : by Tommy - April 5th 2009, 06:27PM
About two weeks ago I completed construction of my Elecraft KX1 ham radio kit (serial #2182). It wasn't the easiest build I've done, but definitely the most fun. The purchase was funded almost totally by referral bonuses from Dreamhost. When anyone signs up for an account with my referral link I get a kick-back. I had let the bonuses build up over time and eventually had enough to cover the radio, but I digress.

The KX1 is a "trail-friendly", portable CW ham transceiver. There's plenty of other sites that will give you more detailed information about this gem of a radio. I finally got to use mine yesterday for more than a couple of minutes and I must say I totally love it. The receiver is great, the noise floor is low, the filters are tight, and the features are really packed into this tiny radio.

My antenna was a random wire made from speaker wire with one end elevated to 20' using a BnM Black Widow 20' Crappie Pole purchased at Bass Pro Shop in Shreveport, LA. The antenna sloped down to my BLTPlus antenna tuner which tuned the random wire without any problem. I had the tuner hooked into the KX1 with a short piece of BNC cable.

In short order I was copying stations on 7.030Mhz (40m QRP) and trying to copy the faster stations lower down on the band. I had to tighten up the filters because of the sheer number of signals I was able to pull in. I wasn't able to raise any station due to my diminished transmit power. (I was running off of internal AA batteries because my gel cell hadn't been charged in quite some time.) I was also impatient due to the strong wind, fading daylight and biting insects.

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tags: qrp ham_radio kx1 kit

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Rockmite 20m
radio : by Tommy - December 22nd 2008, 12:57AM
After almost a year of procrastination I got around to finishing a Rockmite 20 radio kit. The Rockmite is a single-frequency crystal-controlled ("rock-bound") low-power CW HF radio. Say that 10 times fast!

I bought the kit sometime last year and just never finished building it. I had all of the components soldered in, but I never mounted the board in any enclosure. W5USJ, Chuck, Don, K5DW, gave me a metal enclosure during a North East Texas QRP Club meeting. It wasn't until last Friday that did anything with it. I knew the Rockmite needed a home, and here was a nice case for it. I drilled some holes in the cabinet, more or less eyeballing it. They're not perfectly aligned, but pretty close. So now the little radio is mounted, all of the connectors are soldered in and the radio is functional.

It only puts out about W at 14.060MHz, on the 20m amateur radio band, but because I mostly operate during the afternoons, 20m is my favorite band for now. I may need to boost myself up to a "full gallon" QRP and get a 5W amplifier like the one Chuck designed, which I might get from QRPme.

Also on my "to do" list, is to add a PicoKeyer chip to the radio which greatly adds to the experience of using it.

update: I got the PicoKeyer chip installed this afternoon. I love the features it provides. The Memory Keyer is vital for QRP work and the hands-free "Tune" feature is great for field-portable antennas. Most of the other features I don't use, but I still think the chip should be incorporated into the original design.

tags: qrp ham_radio kit

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