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It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part II)

August 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

About 18 months ago, I wrote a blog about passing the Technician’s test and obtaining my Ham Radio License. That was certainly a big milestone and today there was another one: I now have a beautiful eight-foot Diamond X-200A, a dual-band vertical antenna, proudly standing beside my house and reaching toward the heavens.

Were it not for RASON (Radio Amateur Society of Norfolk), my ham radio license would be just another document, sitting at the bottom of a desk drawer and gathering dust.

I can’t imagine trying to navigate the complexities and nuances of radio equipment and antennas and power supplies and grounding rods and frequencies and on-air etiquette and more, without the ongoing support, patient tutelage and constant guidance from these experienced members.

Based on my real-life experience and a little research, most Ham Radio operators are hyper-intelligent, well-read, sagacious and perspicacious male baby boomers who built their first ham radio from a Heath Kit in the 1960s.

Generally speaking, I’m a smart cookie, but when it comes electrical systems, I’m a bit of a dullard.

After procuring my first ham radio, (a hand-held Wouxun transciever), I needed help with a couple things, such as turning it on and turning it off. And changing from one frequency to another. And plugging in the antenna. And removing the battery so it could be recharged. And putting the battery back after it was fully charged. And everything else.

And I mean everything.

When I told RASON president Mike Neal that I was ready to put up a “real” antenna at my house, he graciously offered to help me with the whole project. And wow, did he help. He provided specific guidance on everything from finding an ideal spot in the yard to measuring the length of wire needed for the new antenna, and he even provided me with a detailed shopping list, showing every piece and part I’d need.

When the antenna and associated components arrived, I excitedly emailed Mike and asked him for help installing the new antenna.

“Help” is an interesting word choice here.

The word “help” implies a partnership of sorts. In fact, I merely watched in amazement as Mike went to work assembling this thing. (Despite having read the assembly instructions several times, I was still not convinced that Universal Radio had sent me the correct order. I was feeling a little befuddled.)

I watched in silent, reverential awe as this Japanese-manufactured mass of stainless steel pieces and parts and pipes was transmogrified into something resembling an antenna.

Less than an hour after Mike arrived, the antenna was assembled, installed and ready for its first test. (And that 60-minute time frame included Mike’s muffin and coffee break.)

The antenna is - in my humble opinion - a thing of beauty and a joy to behold. The signal it produces is strong and clear.

Thanks so much to Mike and RASON for holding my hand and walking me through these very first baby steps as I enter the world of Ham Radio.

The learning curve for a late-comer like me is massive, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun ride.  :)

To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V of this series.

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Mike Ham

I paid close attention as Mike assembled the antenna but most of it was a high-speed blur. Diamond Antennas should hire this man to create an online tutorial on how to put an antenna together because he makes it look so darn easy. And to us neophytes, it's not "easy."

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Heres a picture of the stick antenna I used prior to this. Again, it was made (and supplied) by RASON and with this little antenna (and my five-watt radio), I picked up Kilmarnock from my sunporch. According to Google maps, Im about 90 miles from Kilmarknock.

Here's a picture of the "stick antenna" I used prior to the installation of the exterior antenna. This magical little device was made (and lent to me) by RASON. With this little antenna (and my five-watt radio), I picked up Kilmarnock from my sunporch. According to Google maps, I'm about 75 miles from Kilmarknock.

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The mast for the antenna

The mast that supports the antenna was purchased from eBay. This mast is made up of several army surplus tent poles (fiberglass) and measure 40" per length. They're ideal for mounting Ham Radio antennas. Again, Mike and RASON were the source of this information.

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I have a vague memory that something about grounding rods was on my Technician License test. Fortunately, Mikes memory on this topic was better than mine.

I have a vague memory that something about grounding rods was on my Technician License test. Fortunately, Mike's memory on this topic was better than mine.

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The connection point into my sunporch was very neat and tidy.

The antenna's connection point into my sunporch/radio room was very neat and tidy.

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close

A close-up shows how tidy this connection really is, thanks to Mike's supervision and guidance.

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Tidy

Close-up of my "equipment," which is a Wouxun transceiver KG-UV6D. The wing chair is the official "Rosemary is playing with her new ham radio so please don't disturb her" chair. It's quite comfy.

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The best part of the instructions was the Engrish translations.

"Do not use iron ladder." Are those popular in Asian countries? Because I think they'd be pretty darn heavy. And the Japanese must be far more social than us Americans. Throughout the text, the phrase, "Ask your friends for help" appeared eight times. Apparently installing a Ham Radio antenna is a big social event over there.

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Out

And now the beauty part: The antenna itself. I'm not sure how tall it is, but I think it's about 28 feet to the top of the antenna. That Holly bush (center of photo) may have given its life for this project. It was hacked down to 30% of its original girth to make way for the antenna installation.

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Another view of that dandy antenna.

Another view of that dandy antenna.

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Darn

Reaching for the heavens, baby...

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From the front of my house, this antenna is nearly invisible. Can you see it?

From the front of my house, this antenna is nearly invisible. Can you see it?

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Now

How about now?

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To read part one of this blog, click here.

To learn more about Ham Radio, click here.

Click here to learn more about Radio Amateur Society of Norfolk.

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