News from the shack

Keeping the shack in some semblance of order has always been a challenge for me. But the battle continues. Maybe a year ago or more I went through my shelves and transferred the vast majority of the contents that had been stored in a collection of totes and cardboard boxes to a fairly standardized set of see-through storage totes. During the holidays I went through these totes again to actually sort through the items to (1) see what I actually have and (2) attempt to organize and group items in some sort of systematized fashion. And now I am just about there.

Here is a list of small projects I have been working on or hope to soon:

(1) I have an EchoIRLP node that is connected to my shack’s TM-D710A. Previously when someone connects to my node, my only indication is to hear the fan start on the TM-D710A. I have an old, unused and gathering dust, Uniden Bearcat BC245XLT scanner that would be perfect to monitor my nodes frequency from inside the shack. The battery pack that supported the BC245XLT had long expired. Now that all my Anderson Powerpole items are organized I was able to find the correct 12v cable with fitting connector to power up the scanner sitting on the shelf. Now if someone connects and I am in the shack, I will certainly hear them.

(2) There is a lot of excess gear in the shack. Stacks of stuff I really do not need and am not going to use. Now it is time to part with it and send it to a good home. And now I can figure out what I have and what I can sell.

(3) Clean up my J-38. I have checked out the key, it adjusts well and I have used it for some QSOs. I have ordered a base for it from Wally, W6PPP, who has an eBay store that sells a variety of sturdy bases for straight keys as well as knobs for keys.

(4) Adding the sidecar (formally called an attendant console) to my Hamshack Hotline connected Cisco SPA525G2. I can use the sidecar to load up speed dial numbers for connecting to RF nodes, a constant stream of Art Bell shows, or the BBC. If you have a Hamshack Hotline, give me a call: 6100000065.

(5) When the weather clears, I hope to get some work done on the dipole as well as replacing the Davis Vantage Pro2.

Getting the J-38 into the fight

I have an old J-38 that I bought a few years back and it has remained in a storage container in the shack for too long. I got the key out today and connected it to the rig – it works, but is not much to look at. The goal is to get her to look good as well as sound good. Lots of advice concerning how to clean a J-38.

K6IX offers up the following:

Here is the method I use to clean my J-38 keys. Some key collectors believe that keys should be left exactly as they are found, but considering the construction, materials, and ubiquity of J-38 keys, I think that carefully and gently cleaning them is appropriate. Do not, under any conditions use wire brushes or other highly abrasive methods.

1. Disassemble the key. Look carefully for, and set aside, the positioning pins in the binding posts (if they are loose) and all of the fiber washers. Put the bakelite and hard rubber parts in soapy water. Put the metal parts in ammonia. Let both soak overnight. Don’t panic, because some of the metal parts will turn black.

2. Carefully wash off the bakelite/rubber parts. If the two knobs are very dull I sometimes us black shoe polish on them. The bakelite you can carefully clean with Flitz (see below) if it is still dirty or discolored.

3. The metal parts I clean first with “Nevr-dull”. It is a “wadding polish” product that I get here in a hardware store, but I think it is also sold in boat stores, grocery stores, auto stores, etc. It is manufactured by The George Basch Co., Inc., Freeport, New York, 11520, USA.

4. Then I clean some of the larger metal parts with “Flitz”, which is a metal/fiberglass cleaner made in West Germany and packaged in the USA by Flitz International, Ltd., WI 53185. It is available in boat stores, and I buy it from West Marine on the internet (www.westmarine.com). Just get a very small tube of it–it goes a long way. Flitz protects the metal from corrosion.

The most important step is #1. The soaking makes a big difference!

Another recommends soaking the metal parts in ammonia overnight and then the grime wipes off the next day.

Here’s another write up where bore cleaner (apparently ammonia-based) was used and met with good results.

Before I get too far along, I need to make sure all the adjustments and springs are still in working order.

More to follow.

News from the shack

     I have had my Elecraft K3 for almost ten years. But I have been remiss at keeping my firmware updated. As part of my effort to square away the shack, I updated the K3 and KAT500 tuner. Elecraft supplies the utility application, which includes a nearly effortless linux version. The K3 update took place through my microHAM USB Interface III connection between my shack computer and the rig; although I had to shutdown fldigi first to allow the utility app to have full access to the USB connection.
     The KAT500 is connected through a 3.5mm stereo connection on the back panel. This took me by surprise, as I would have expected a RS-232 serial connection. The cable for this job is the KXUSB. 3.5mm plug at one end and USB into the computer at the other. The Elecraft utility for the KAT500 worked just as seamlessly.
     The KPA500 requires a serial connection to update the firmware. At first I looked around for a RS-232 serial cable. For years I had a tub full of serial and parallel cables, sitting and gathering dust. Apparently I got rid of the tub and didn’t even keep one. Then I realized I could just use one of the serial to USB connectors I have, which worked great. Updating the KPA500 went as smoothly as the tuner and rig.
     To exercise the rig and the newly organized shack, I have been trying to get on the air. The first way I have tried to do this is through checking into the OMISS Net. I joined OMISS a few years back, but hadn’t checked into a net in a long while. It has been fun making contacts on their 80m, 40m, and 20m nets. With the large number and geographically distributed net participants, it gives me a great idea on how my antenna is performing as well as how propagation is impacted by frequency and time of day‚Ķ as well as the fickle whims of the HF gods.
     The other opportunity to get on the air has been the Kansas Weather Net. They meet twice a day on 80m: 0700 and 1700 local time. Its a directed net that runs off a set list, but they allow all comers at the end. It is good practice passing a message and allows me to check my equipment for 80m. I’ve made up a “cheat sheet” that gives me the blanks to fill in for my own weather report as well as tracking those participating in the net.
     Participation in the weather net also serves as a reminder that I need to repair/replace my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station. My dream of using Xastir to run an APRS, including weather data, seems possible – although setup will include many hoops to jump through. At a minimum, I want to be able to pull all my weather report data from my station. Right now, that is not possible.
     Part of the shack cleanup has been offering up unused equipment for sale. So far I have been able to hand off a pair of Bencher paddles, an MFJ combo of a code oscillator, Morse pocket tutor, and set of Skilman Morse training CDs. I’ve also parted with some kits that I didn’t think I’d ever actually build. There is more to part with and I need to keep the pace. It may help fund a replacement Vantage Pro2.