Elecraft K1 with Schurr Einbau Wabler paddle

Cast Your Signal Upon the Ether

My name is Mark Paley, my amateur radio callsign is K8LD and I like to communicate using five watts of power or less. There is a certain joy in calling CQ, running only 5 watts or so, and wondering who you are going to meet on the air. You never know who you'll hook up with: a ham who restores steam locomotives, someone who has built his own bi-plane, or perhaps a veteran of World War II. Calling CQ with a set of paddles gives me the same kind of feeling I had when I was a kid listening to far-off AM stations with my cat's-whisker crystal radio. There's somethng magical about it. And, of course the medium is CW, or more commonly referred to as Morse code.

I recently built an Elecraft K1, a low power, or Qrp transceiver. It contains the four band module option (40M, 30M, 20M, 15M) and is capable of putting out 7 watts. Building it was a lot of fun, and, as it turns out, it is a very sophisticated rig. One of the options I built is the KAT1 internal tuner. More about the K1 later.

The thing about sending good code is to be a little creative with the spelling conventions. As the Bard once said, "Brevity is the soul of wit." So in that spirit one frequently abbreviates, or uses alternate spellings of words or phrases. Said becomes "sed"; with becomes "wid", etc. And of course the "Q" signals are most helpful. And, by the way, let me clear up a misconception about expressing laughter with CW. Most hams believe that the word hi , (four dits followed by two dits) sent in CW denotes laughter. This isn't true. This notion comes about from the original ham who couldn't copy poorly sent code. The actual word would have been, hee (four dits followed by a dit,a space, then another dit). After all, some people actually laugh saying hee-hee, but never hi-hi!

So let's go back some fifty years or so: when I was a teenager back in the early fifties I would pour over all of the ham radio magazines and marvel at the ads featuring the holy grail of rigs, the Collins S-Line--the stuff dreams are made of! It was always a matter of putting these rigs in the category of "ultimate dream radios" while at the same time realizing it would be many years until I could afford such legendary perfection.

Well, several years later I did manage to buy a few "dream rigs" along with a linear amplifier or two. Ham radio was fun but it started to bore me because it lacked a challenge. After all, if one had the money, one could buy a large tower with several multi-band beams, the latest linear amplifier, not to mention an Icom 7800 or some such awesome rig.  Then it was only a matter of getting on to the internet, checking out the various DX cluster sites, and having at it.

In 1999 I had a chance to get in on the ground floor with the construction of the Elecraft K-2 (serial number 250) and the Elecraft K1 (serial number 117) a few years later. I really enjoyed those rigs, and, if it had not been for the sudden need of cash to pay some unexpected bills, I would not have sold them. So, it's good to have another K1 to operate. In addition to the four-band frequency board, the KFL-4, I added another two-band filter board covering 80 and 17 meters, pictured below.

80/17 meter board

For me the Qrp community has injected a lot of newly found enthusiasm into amateur radio. Of course, it's always fun to build one of the many spiffy Qrp radios seen on the internet. Because they are compact in size and weight they are at home on the trail or campground. You'd be amazed at the number of QSOs I've had with folks on the trail, on their bicycles, or even pedestrian mobile. If you want to see a beautiful K1 site showing a lot of building photos check out K1 Builder, OZ9AEC.

The Yaesu FT817ND Transceiver

The most recent addition to my shack is the classic QRP rig, the Yaesu FT-817ND pictured below. This rig has all the bells and whistles and makes backpack radio an enjoyable experience. I won't add much here to the details of this great rig--you can google "Yaesu FT 817ND" and learn about all of the features of this rig. I will add that the possibilities are endless since this rig covers all of the HF bands (even 6 Meters), as well as the VHF and UHF bands. Think about it--you can be heard on any band using all of the modes running 5 watts or lower. That's what I call a flexible rig!

Yaesu FT817ND

To match the FT817ND to my antenna I use the LDG Z817 tuner. It is made specifically for this rig and comes with a CAT cable interface for easy, perfect matching. Along with this I use the Oak Hills Research WM2 QRP wattmeter. No QRP operation should be without it!

Z817 atop FT817ND     Oak Hills WM-2

This just in!! My newest addition to my shack is a classic Qrp rig--the ARK-40 by S & S Engineering.

It was ahead of its times with a frequency synthesizer board and some retro tuning wheel switches. The extruded aluminum case makes it rugged and suitable for portable operation.

Breaking news...

I have just sealed the deal on an Elecraft K2 10 watt version with all of the accessories. This will be the second K2 I own and I can say that this time I will not sell it. Now it sits atop my Icom 735. Now I won't have to be switching band modules in my K1...

I will be using ACLog by N3FJP, which is an easy, intuitive program to use. In the foreground is my HP Mini netbook-style computer. I use it to run the K2 and use the computer keyboard for sending CW since my K2 has a RS232 interface. Looking forward to once again having perhaps the best Qrp rig around!

Click here to see the Norcal 40A build.

And now for something completely different:

This is the classic Tentec Century transceiver--a 20 watt CW only transceiver which has a direct-conversion receiver in it. I used to own two of these rigs about twenty years ago and ended up trading or selling them. As with all of my ham radio gear I regretted selling them and have been looking for another one to keep! I finally found one and am looking forward to many years of use.

Check out my N3ZI digital dial. If you have an older radio that has an analog dial you can replace it for as low as $35 in the form of a N3ZI kit. The enclosure is a Radio Shack project box which runs about $4.99.

Other Qrp Resources:   Juma kit radios     Milestone Technologies

This QRP Web Ring site owned by Mark Paley.
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