It's been a fairly quiet 2 months in my shack, various chores have kept me busy, but I have made time for some operating. In particular, I made my first contacts on 10 meters about a month ago! When I first got on the air with my K2 the solar cycle was just starting to pick up. In retrospect I think it was a good time to become a ham, because I got some experience operating in conditions that were relatively poor, and have since watched them improve. I remember the first time 20 meters was open well after dark, it seemed impossible. Now that solar activity has increased it's a common occurrence.
When I was first testing out the K2 with my loop antenna, I found that I could tune it on 80 – 15 (it doesn't do 160 or 60). On 12m my tuner couldn't get a good match. On 10 it seemed to tune fine, but my old-ish RF wireless mouse would stop working whenever I keyed up. For the longest time I assumed I had some weird very high SWR/RF in the shack problem on 10, so I never used that band. Eventually for some reason it occurred to me to check what frequency the mouse uses – turns out it's 27.045, just 1MHz below the 10m band. I had been wanting to get a new mouse anyway, so I bought an Apple Magic Mouse, which uses bluetooth. Now I can operate on 10m with impunity!
On October 15th and 16th I made my first contacts on that band, including stations in Argentina, Japan, Hawaii, and eastern/Asiatic Russia, all on 5-10w! I guess that lends some credence to the understanding I have of loop antennas, which is that at greater multiples of antenna length to frequency their takeoff angle gets progressively lower. My loop is about 42m long, so on 40m it mostly radiates straight up. On 10 it's probably pretty good for DX. Of course, there's no telling what bizarre things are happening to it as a result of my mounting strategy.
Since getting licensed almost all my operating has been using data modes, especially PSK31. Often times I don't hear anything at the common data mode watering holes and think the bands aren't open, but then I tune around and hear Morse code coming in plenty loud. My attempts to learn CW have been pretty stop-start since the beginning, but lately I've been pressing forward with it and making good progress. I want to get to a point where I can copy all the letters at 25 wpm, and then start trying to make some contacts with forgiving hams who will send slowly. After I finish this post I'll practice some more.
I finally bought paper QSL cards for myself, with some birthday money. This may have been an ill-conceived move, because the minimum order was 1000 cards, and about a year of operating has only netted me 114 contacts. If I pass Extra, I would probably try to get a 2×1 call instead of my cumbersome 2×3. That would leave me with a lot of incorrect cards (though I could technically still send them out). Guess I'd better get cracking!
Last but not least, some slow progress is being made on my amp project. I'm not sure if I've blogged about this before, but I'm planning to build a home-brew amp, with help from Nick and Rob (AK6L). I'm going to use the HF Projects LPF kit and an the Communication Concepts AN-762 amplifier kit. I thought I had lucked out and scored the kit free from Nick's boss, who had one kicking around in his garage that he didn't want. Unfortunately it turned out that the one he had was the EB-63 kit, and the reviews of that one on eham.net are pretty negative; lack of sufficient bias on the output transistors leads to IMD and other issues.
The AN-762 is well-regarded by comparison, and has been the basis of many home-brew projects. Fortunately, it uses the same power transistors as the EB-63, so I still scored those for free. I now have both kits in hand, and I wound the inductors for the LPF Sunday night while watching the Abu Dhabi grand prix. Rob loaned me his L-C meter so I can verify those. Hopefully in the next week or so I can get both kits assembled and do some testing. I still need to decide on an enclosure. I had a great one picked out from Takachi, but then they wanted $50 to ship it from Japan, making the total price $130. Way too much for a box, but it sure looked nice. The options I've found domestically have been pretty weak by comparison. I haven't given up on finding something else that I like, but I'm getting close.
I'll take pictures and post more as the project progresses.