Morse code activity

Though my skills with Morse code are not as strong as they used to be, it doesn’t stop me from leveraging it with my other hobbies:

Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to play World of Warships — sometimes with my son who lives many states away. Besides being a challenging, multi-player naval simulation, WoW often provides some history on the ships and men it is based on.

Their latest background post had just a bit on the background of Morse code and its use by the various Navys of the world  – Squall line: Morse code.

It can be strange how various parts of your life can intersect.

The portable ‘shack’ in the field — and the need for a keyer

I took the completed portable shack that I’ve been working on into the field last weekend. It was all setup and working in about 15 minutes. I was on for about 4 hours on 17 meters and talked to about 15 contacts across 3 countries on SSB. I was focused more on playing with the settings and options than actually making contacts so I was pleased with the performance, overall.

I did realize there was one thing I wished I had and that was a disposable iambic keyer. I have a nice keyer at home for sending Morse code, but there was no way I was leaving it in my portable shack box or (more likely) forgetting it at home so it wasn’t there when I need it. Once again, it was time to call on the 3D printer.

keyI came up with a design fairly quickly that used about a dollar’s worth of spare parts I had lying around and half a hacksaw blade. I printed out a couple of samples to refine the model. By the time I had the second one done, I declared victory and now have a small iambic keyer. It is a simple keyer without squeeze functionality, though there are some designs out there that do that. The only real refinement I’d make is to create a tunnel in the base to run the wire through, rather than using a zip tie on the post where I screw down the hacksaw blade. We’ll see if it is ‘good enough’ in the field, next time. I’ll likely screw it into my clipboard.

If you are interested in the iambic keyer design, I uploaded it to: thingiverse

Some people probably find it hard to believe that there are still folks that operate CW, but it has its own challenges and can get the message through when little else can. I used to operate CW a great deal, but am a bit rusty now. We’ll see if having a keyer like this helps.

#amateurradio #hamradio

HF station in a box – bringing it all together

20160926_054601I looked for a number of different cases that I could carry around all my materials to operate portable and after a few trips to the hardware store, I settled on a mobile tool box from Stanley. The 3-in-1 mobile work center was not the sturdiest tool box I could find but it did have wheels. extended handle and a separate compartment for the battery.

I was able to configure the 3-in-1 to contain just about everything I would need to operate for a weekend.

20160926_054422When I started working with the tool box, my first concern was a safe place to put the battery where it could be secure and not move around. Since it is the heaviest component of the setup, it had to be on the bottom.

I choose to create a set of X-spacers (out of wood) that would both keep the battery stable as well as ensure that there was sufficient clearance over the battery to protect the cables. It did waste some space, but since I’ll still have access to the compartment, I can use the space if I needed.

20160926_054521Though it is a bit hard to see, I also 3D printed a shim that keeps the battery wedged in there tight.

On top of the battery layer, I created a shelf that held the circuit mentioned in last week’s post as well as the radio itself. The shelf was also fashioned out of wood. The most difficult portion of this part of the build was figuring out how to wire that voltage/current meter, since it came with no instructions and the wire colors were a bit non-standard. I figured it out after watching a youtube video and a bit of trial and error. Overall, the installation came out about as well as I could have hoped.

The shelf can be quickly removed, so I have access to the battery, when it needs to be charged – since I was too cheap to address that issue yet.

radio-mountIn order to mount the radio securely, I 3D printed some brackets (shown in the photograph above, as well as the model on the left). Although these were made out of PLA plastic, they seemed to be sufficient for the job. One of the nice things about PLA is that it is relatively easy to warm up the nuts and then sink them into the plastic, so the nuts are held in place when you bolt them down.

20160926_054623The top section of the tool box contains the antenna analyzer, radio head, headphones, computer and all the other materials required to operate. I definitely need to work on getting that equipment organized, since right now I just threw it all in the box.

I should get a chance to operate this weekend and give the setup a real endurance test.

My next post should be about that operating experience and the computer I used (assuming I get a chance to operate digital modes and the conditions are right to compete in a contest).

#amateurradio #hamradio

Printrbot Simple Metal has arrived

Other than having a few issues with the initial calibration, it is working great. I ordered some additional filament from MCM Electronics (since I was ordering other stuff anyway), so I should have some color options soon. Overall, the quality is improved and the reliability is significantly better than the previous generation of printer.

I’ve printed a number of items more reliably and with better finish than ever before.


The first is a fairly detailed print of my daughters monogram and the 2nd is a phone stand.

So far, I’ve still been using Repetier and Slic3r to generate the g-code and drive the printer.

PrintrBot Simple Metal

simple metal silverI’ve owned a PrinterBot LC for a number of years now and have extruded some interesting and complex models. After years of calibration, modification and tuning, it functioned well, printing reliably. I’ve decided it is time to sell it though and purchase a newer (capable of slightly larger output) model 3D printer, a PrintrBot Simple Metal.

This one I purchased assembled, since I’ll soon will not have much free time (more about that later) and wanted to get some experience while I could. The LC came in literally thousands of pieces, this one is definitely a much more streamlined design. I’ll definitely be writing some posts about the unboxing and calibration experience here. Fortunately, I have numerous calibration models I’ve made over the years, as well as a great deal of experience (and sweat and frustration) to bring to bear on challenge.

3D Metal-printing robot builds a mid-air bridge

I’ve been interested in 3D printing for a very long time. When I came across this article on a metal-printing 3D robot that can build bridges I was intrigued about the possibilities, and the engineering issues.

In any 3D printing project, crossing an unsupported span is a bit of an issue, but having the span support the printer at the same time is really a feat, and fun to watch.

HaloLens – my interest is peaked

Augmented reality has always interested me and I finally got around to signing up for Microsoft’s HaloLens community. I used to do quite a bit of work with Microsoft (somewhere around here I have a crystal cube for the ‘lasting contributions’ to Visual Studio 2005) but I’ve not exercised those skills in a while – so HaloLens seemed like an ideal opportunity.

The hardware shown looks powerful and flexible. I’ll need to come up with some use cases that can exercise its capabilities. I am sure that somewhere between ham radio, data analytics, 3d printing and my other interests there must be something.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that I’ll make it to a build event but hopefully I’ll get my hands on one somehow.