New Shack

I recently relocated the shack from the old location in the garage into a closet in the front guest room.  You read that correctly… a closet!  The prior shack (pictured in 2014 NAQP SSB results) was out in the garage and left a lot to be desired.  Factors leading to my decision to rebuild the shack included lack of heat, inadequate power, and (cuts both ways) it was pretty far removed from the main part of the house.

My girlfriend and I live in a 3 bedroom 2000 ft² house.  The master bedroom was off-limits – enough space, but we don’t even put screens in there… computer or TV.  The other two rooms are my kids rooms.  They primarily reside in the midwest, so the rooms do double-duty with guests.  My younger daughter, a budding HF contester, agreed to share her room with my hamshack.  I wanted to leave her room intact and let her obscure it, when it’s not in use.  Hence, the closet!

We’d recently moved for a few months to complete a major home remodel.  The shack was originally going to be completed during that, but with the massive overhaul and our desire to get back into the house, it didn’t make it.  During the remodel, I had the foresight to have the contractor install 2 x 20A 110v circuits and a 30A 220v circuit in the closet, as well as CAT6 strung from the garage.  We moved back in, and this to took a back burner to organizing and re-nesting in the house.

I made due with a couple IKEA tables in an L configuration in the closet.  You can see from the pic below how sad this state of affairs was.  I briefly flirted with the idea of building the desk myself, then realized that I’m a) not that motivated and b) not that talented.

Temporary... and messy closet shack.

Temporary… and messy closet shack.

About a month back, I finally got time on the contractors calendar to build a desk and install some shelving in the closet.  We met and discussed requirements for the install.  I had him lift the AL-80B and said, “there might be two of those on the desk, plus a couple power supplies and those 30″ monitors.”  The “wings” of the closet make perfect space for shelving and storage.  I wanted some matching, but moveable hutches to give me an opportunity to stack two layers of gear.  I wanted little cable pass-through notches routed out of the desk and the shelving.  After taking notes about my wishlist, he disappeared for some time and a few weeks later, I got a call asking for a good weekend to do the install.


Closet Before Install

He arrived with a super burly desk constructed from multiple layers of 1/2 ply and topped with white laminate.

Desk, Pre-Install

Desk, Pre-Install

After the better part of an afternoon, I was left with the desk installed and 3 extra shelves on each side of the closet.  I spent a little time futzing about trying to figure out how to position everything on the desk.  I opted not to mount the monitors on the wall, as previously planned, as they were just at the upper edge of usability… wall mounted, I’d be looking up too much.  I decided to leave the “standard” shelf in place for extra storage.

In order to accommodate both older 30″ monitors (both are Dell U3011s) sitting on the hutches, I needed all 4.  Add a single 30″ 5K monitor to the wishlist.

Test fit of KPA500 and KAT500

Test fit of KPA500 and KAT500

I was really pleased with the build quality of everything he produced.  A few on-site adjustments were required, but nothing that could have been foreseen.

Shelving, before painting

Shelving, before painting

I painted the original top shelf white and, after waiting for it to dry, began moving in.  Given that I had two Elecraft K3 transceivers, I tried a test fit of both with both the KPA500 and the AL-80B on the desk.  I headed down the path of “geez, I could run SO2R”.  More about this in an upcoming series of posts on antennae and the tower… but I decided to jump on a much bigger tower and antenna and save the SO2R experience for a later stage.

Test SO2R Setup

Test SO2R Setup (shelf still not painted)

I set about tidying up the buckets of crap I had lying around my daughter’s room and organizing little IKEA tubs of random parts.

Ample storage!

Ample storage!


Over the course of the next week, I installed WireTray-branded cable trays, some LED lighting, RIGRunners for DC Power distribution, some Stanley AC power strips, a copper bus bar for grounding (and ground straps), and generally making stuff work.

WireTray Cable Raceway

WireTray Cable Raceway (and messy AC jacks)

Heil PR-30 On Flange Mount

Heil PR-30 On Flange Mount

Bus Bar and Cable Raceway

Bus Bar and Cable Raceway (before tidying up)

Closet "Wings"

Closet “Wings” (Still in temporary SO2R layout)

Overall, I’m incredibly happy with the build quality and how it turned out and some nice LED lights have rounded out the “finished” look of the install. There’s still a lot to do, but I’m glad I finally moved the shack.  I’ve been on the air a lot more, recently.  It’s nice to have a comfortable, heated, indoor location to operate.

I’ll post some more glamour shots when I’m actually settled in and the spurious wires are cleaned up.

Recently Built Shack Desk

Recently Built Shack Desk


The Back 40

The Back 40, after clearing

As I’m sure is true for most hams, since I was first licensed, I’ve dreamed of huge gain at huge elevation (above ground). Imagination pushed the bounds of what’s possible… maybe a local replica of the epic Radio Arcala OH8X 160m beam?  A flex mounted way up the tower with WiFi and AC power for remote access?

In November of 2014, I bought a Trylon T200-80, 80′ self supporting triangular tower from KZ1W.  In May of 2015, my friend Jean (KG7NJQ) and I picked it up from Grant’s place.  I added 4 more sections to it from AG7N and had illusions of gain at elevation… life took over and I’ve basically not gotten around to it.  Fast forward to mid-December and I finally got around to clearing some land (pics attached).  I realized I had lots of options for where to put the antenna.

I consulted with a local tower installer (also a ham) on tower placement.  He mentioned that he had a line on 80′ of Rohn 55G and my gears started turning.  Having a new shack and a bunch of excitement about getting back on the air, I weighed bigger badder tower (and the ability to put more aluminum in the air than my one used tri-bander – M2 KT36XA) and I decided to set the SO2R plans aside, for awhile.

I’ll get some more land cleared this weekend (roughly off to the right of the skid steer, here).  UPDATES SOON!


The Brush Monster

The Brush Monster

JR1EMO – memorable calls

I just worked JR1EMO on 15m JT65.  Working Japan from here isn’t terribly notable.  This one was.  Why?  Because JR1EMO was my first HF contact 15 months ago.

JR1EMO on 15m JT65

JR1EMO on 15m JT65

June 27th of last year, right after I got my General ticket, I transmitted on HF for the first time after JR1EMO called CQ on 20m PSK31 (14.070).  I fumbled around to figure out what macros went when, how to make it stop transmitting, and then did a victory lap around the garage-shack.

It’s amazing to consider how much I’ve learned since then and how much joy the hobby has brought me.

After the house remodel/new shack setup is complete, I’ll find a prominent place to frame the QSL card he sent me after our first QSO.

More Awards

As I said back in April, I hadn’t planned on becoming a paper chaser. Now that I’ve started to track my “accomplishments,” it’s become kind of fun to chase the states I’m missing. I’d already gotten hooked on chasing DX and had been tracking the unique entities I’d contacted, but recently I’ve been paying attention to domestic contacts, too.


In the past four months, I’ve been awarded mixed phone and mixed digital and I’m much closer on several band-specific and mode-specific awards. I’ve got all 50 (but haven’t applied for the award) on 20m phone and I’m only missing Idaho on both 20m digital andfor mixed JT65. Aside from Idaho, I need Hawaii, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and New Mexico on 20m JT65. Theoretically, the right five LoTW confirmed contacts and I can apply for 5 more WAS awards.

Open Letter To The ARRL DX Awards Committee

What follows is an email I sent to the DX Awards Committee representative for the Northwest. This is largely in response to the July DXAC committee report.

First, thank you so much for your service to this region. I also really appreciate the ARRL and all it does for all aspects of he hobby of amateur radio.

In short, I am largely in support of the spirit of the DXAC’s recommendations (section 1.9 in the July committee report). I believe additional clarifications are needed, in order to make this understood by the amateur radio community.

My two concerns are: 1) I want to ensure this does not impede my remote use of my personal station for DXCC credit. 2) I want to ensure that this does not unintentionally impede my ability to work qualify for DXCC credit while portable, distant from my home station. I urge the DXAC to seek input on other use cases outside the two types of remote stations outlined in the recommendation.

I feel that the commercial operations really do have the ability to change the relative difficulty of obtaining the DXCC awards and I’m strongly in support of finding ways to add some limitation to the use of remote stations.

What follows is my best attempt at describing why this concerns me.

By way of introduction, I’m a new ham, licensed as a Technician in Everett in January of 2013 and upgraded to General in July. I work at a large local software company and have always been a bit of a hacker and tinkerer. Amateur radio was a hobby that “felt like home” when I started reading. It’s a vast and varied hobby, with huge amounts of technical depth that I’ve enjoyed immensely. The crossover between technology, atmospheric conditions, and basic RF theory has been amazing. I’ve connected with local hams and am peripherally involved in our EmComm efforts, I’ve built an HF station I’m proud of (and learned a ton in the process), and I’ve become a dedicated DXer and even dabbled in contesting a bit.

Something I tried very early on (as a technician) was remotely monitoring and operating my home station. I cobbled together a set of CAT controls, mechanisms to remote my desktop, and back-haul my audio. One week, I checked into my club’s Thursday night net by remotely operating my VHF rig from Hyderabad India. I was thrilled with the possibilities.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve worked to improve the reliability and function of my station both while “at the rig” and while remote. In May, I was awarded a Mixed Band/Mode DXCC, followed quickly a Mixed Band Phone DXCC and I’m prepping an application for a handful of others. Having a milestone to work toward has been fun and has become part of my involvement in the hobby.

I’m an avid digital user and the ease of working PSK, JT65, or RTTY from literally anywhere with internet access has shortened many an airport layover. I have an HF phone setup that is reliable enough to ragchew with my (/7 local) friends on 40m, while I’m in a hotel room in Beijing China. While I don’t usually try to break through a pileup while remote, I certainly have confirmed contacts from DXCC entities. Some of these were obtained while I wasn’t even in the US. None of these were new confirmations for me, I’d have been disappointed to have a new one disqualified from my DXCC standings, solely based on how I’m using my station.

I’m also a fairly active portable operator, largely QRP and battery-powered. I take a small station with me when I travel to the east coast and operate from parks. Similar to my remote usage, I don’t have any unique DXCC confirmations from my portable operations, but I don’t feel if I did, they should be credited, as they were within the US.

The DXAC’s recommendation, as I understand it, hinges on the definition of “home station.”

  • If interpreted to mean “the operator can only be <n miles from the station” it limits the use of my station in confirming DXCC entities while I travel.
  • If interpreted as “all qualifying contacts must be made from within n miles from a single home station” this has the potential to impede my portable operations.

I urge you to seek additional feedback and clarify the definition of “home station” before the ARRL codifies the recommendations into formal rules.

Again, I really appreciate all you do for the ARRL and for the hobby!

73, K7ADD