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6.0 The Shack

There is no definitive rule about where or how to set up your operating position. The range of styles and sizes are infinite. In the end, it comes down to where you can find space, what you have to work with, and possibly what your spouse (the XYL) will allow you to use.

Some important considerations include access to whatever antenna or antennas you will use, access to power, access to a good ground (very important!), and the care of your equipment, among other things. You may need to consider securing your equipment from youngsters when you're not around. If you reside in the umpteenth floor of a high-rise building, your options are pretty limited, but thousands of hams worldwide have conquered this problem by their ingenuity, and they are willing to share via the internet. Many hams have the dreaded CCR's to deal with ... covenants, conditions and restrictions ... and there have been some pretty innovative methods of antenna construction and stealthiness to help here.

Keep in mind, if you're just getting started, that you don't need a large area to operate a modest station. Many use just a shelf or a small desk, and share it with others. Modern HF transceivers can be as small as a couple of books and need not take up a lot of real estate.

You can always start small and expand as you get more involved. Just start!

by KeysCapt See Profile

The bane of many a ham or potential ham, CCRs are a huge detriment in some areas to being able to erect an antenna suitable for your purposes. Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions are a fact of life, and may be enacted by condominium associations or town councils. In essence, they tell you where you can park your car, what color to paint your house, when to water your lawn, and most importantly, what you may attach or construct, including antennas.

In some cases these CC&Rs have become so restrictive that they have been taken to court, and some relief has been the result. Satellite television antennas must be allowed in most areas now, and the ARRL was successful at obtaining some relief from local government zoning restrictions via a bill called PRB-1. The bill provides for limited federal preemption of municipal land use regulations for Amateur Radio installations, but it certainly does not provide a blanket nullification of these restrictive rules.

At any rate, it is important to know what the rules are before you plunk down your hard-earned money to purchase that 8-element beam and the 100' tower to mount it on. On the other hand, it is also useful to know that a substantial number of alternative solutions have been created to allow amateurs an opportunity to get on the air via "stealth" antennas and others that are less obtrusive, even attic hideaways.

ARRL has posted a type of flow chart to explore this topic in more detail and help plan installations:

There are many innovative work-around ideas available, as noted. Here are some links:

Don't despair if you are faced with what might to look like insurmountable restrictions ... the creative juices have been flowing for years, and there is almost certainly a solution that will work for you.

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • Well, you can always use HamSphere.com which is based on the same principles of shortwave radio. Then you can forget about the CCR.

    2010-08-25 02:51:15

  • MFJ link is broken :(

    2009-04-07 13:40:46 (burner50 See Profile)

by KeysCapt See Profile

Proper and effective grounding in your station is possibly one of the most crucial aspects to safe and successful operation. It is a subject that is far too important and too extensive to be dealt with appropriately here, but the following is some preliminary and introductory information.

There are two basic types of ground associated with amateur radio stations:
  • RF grounds (with several variations) and
  • Safety or Protection grounds.
One does one job and the other does a different job. Your grounding system needs to be designed with this in mind, or one function may actually nullify or interfere with the other.

Safety Grounds
A safety ground is installed to reduce the hazard from lightning strikes to the antenna or "feedline" system, or from short-circuited AC power. A safety ground in its most basic form simply provides a better electrical path to ground than the person or equipment being protected. NEVER connect radios to ANYTHING inside the house for ground purposes.

Some important principles:
The current from a lightning strike won't turn corners, and basically travels only over the skin of what is conducting it, so large diameter wire is less effective than a conductor such as copper tubing (and the tubing is less expensive).
If your equipment is grounded to the AC mains or other existing house wiring, you risk propagating a lightning strike to your entire house, and maybe your neighbors as well.

Related links:

RF Grounds - Antenna

An antenna needs to be balanced. RF grounds are used to supply the "missing" side of an antenna so that it can work correctly.

One very popular example is the quarter-wave vertical antenna. The radiating side of the antenna is 1/4 of a wavelength long. Ground radials are used to supply the "missing" 1/4-wave side. This type of RF ground is called an antenna counterpoise or "virtual" ground.

The term "ground radial" is used to describe an antenna counterpoise that is constructed from many wires distributed in a star pattern outward (radial) from the center.

Related links:

RF Grounds - Using the Earth as an RF Ground Plane

The surface of the earth is also an RF ground plane. The height of an antenna above the earth can affect the antenna's radiation pattern.

RF Grounds - Ground Planes in Electronic Circuits

A ground plane on a printed circuit board is a layer of metal, typically copper, which provides a conductive path back to the source.

RF shielding is one way to use a ground plane.

When the RF wavelength is very short (microwaves- about the length of a resistor), ground planes can be used to guide the signals. Examples of signal guiding techniques are microstrip and stripline.

Electronic circuit boards often combine RF ground plane with power supply grounding techniques.

Related links (all on Wikipedia):
Ground planes

Also see this thread in our forum:
»The Science of Effective Grounding...

by GeekGirl1 See Profile
last modified: 2011-01-14 17:11:57

Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD)is a free computer aided tuning (CAT) application written for Windows 2000 or higher (XP, Vista). Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher is required. Digital Master 780 (DM780) is a multi-mode program supporting the most common digital modes such as PSK, RTTY, and MFSK. DM780 is part of the HRD software suite, and is designed to work with Windows 2000, XP and VISTA, also integrating nicely with HRD above. »hrd.ham-radio.ch/ Freeware.

See this thread for images and more HRD info:
»HRD - Ham Radio Deluxe

TRX Manager is an original and innovative control and logging program that operates under any 32 bit or 64 bit version of Windows (NT3.51 excepted). »www.trx-manager.com/ Shareware ($79 US to register).

MixW is a multi-mode multi-functional software for every day logging and contests. It has many useful features that make your QSO logging process almost a 100% automatic procedure. Windows 9x, ME, NT4, 2000, or XP required. »www.mixw.net Shareware ($50 US to register).

by SteveCon See Profile edited by KeysCapt See Profile
last modified: 2007-11-16 22:33:15

From an excellent post in the forum by KA3SGM See Profile, these tips on how to install connectors on 9913 Flex Coax cable:

I included some examples of Thread-on and Crimp Type N connectors, with a ruler to reference the proper strip lengths.

Old Fashioned Twist-On PL259(Solder braid and Center)

Same Idea as the PL-259 Here, Only an N connector, the center conductor gets shortened as the Gold Pin makes up the connector.

Crimp PL-259, Finished with Hot Melt Glue type Heat Shrink Tubing

I usually stick with the crimp type PL-259 (crimp body, solder pin), then follow it up with a good length of heavy duty heat shrink (the type that has the hot melt glue inside) to seal up the back end of the connector.

To seal the entire connection, a wrap of silicone (mocap) tape, then coax seal followed by a good outer wrap of electrical tape (Scotch 88).

PL-259's with the Teflon Dielectric are recommended; the heat from soldering the center pin tends to start to melt the non-Teflon type connectors.

I have found that the LMR400 type coax is easier to work with, permits a much sharper bend radius, has better loss characteristics, and doesn't have the hollow dielectric like 9913 which means it doesn't include the possibility of accumulating water inside the cable, thus ruining it.

The following procedure shows installation of an N-Connector with a no-solder(auto-seizing)pin, onto the LMR400 coax:

The fancy stripping tool is good, but it is just as easy to strip the cable with a good utility knife.

The strip dimensions for the PL-259 are slightly different, so you will need about 5/8ths" bare center conductor, because an N connector has a full length pin, but the PL-259 requires the center conductor to reach the end of the center pin to be able to solder it.

The chamfering tool can be substituted by a small file, just to de-burr the center conductor tip so it can easily slide through the center pin.

The crimp tool with the .429 crimping die works with RG-8, 9913, and LMR-400 alike and is a good investment for a ham to make, unless you can find a friend to borrow their crimp tool.

This depicts an N-connector install on LMR400, but this would be the same as installing a PL-259 onto any RG-8, 9913, 400,(.405" diameter) type cable:

For UHF and up, the LMR 600(Bottom) has alot less loss than the LMR400(Top)

by KeysCapt See Profile
last modified: 2008-08-07 06:32:45

Ground Impedence Calculator

This is a .zip file containing a spreadsheet in MS Excel, courtesy of Splitpair See Profile.

by KeysCapt See Profile

Practical RF Soil Testing

This is a .pdf file containing an article from QEX Magazine, written by Eric Von Valtier, K8LV and submitted by drjim See Profile.

by KeysCapt See Profile