[handiham-world] Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 02 October 2013

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 2 Oct 2013 15:08:51 -0500

Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 02
October 2013

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Kenny Handiham
System <http://handiham.org> . Our contact information is at the end, or
simply email handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx for changes in subscriptions or to
comment. You can listen to this news online.  

MP3 audio:

Get this podcast in iTunes:

RSS feed for the audio podcast if you use other podcasting software:


Welcome to Handiham World.

The vertical bites the dust

HF9V vertical antenna, broken from metal fatigue

Last week we shared our summer antenna woes, detailing the demise of the big
olive tree that held up one end of the W0OXB double extended zepp antenna at
W0ZSW.  This past Monday we had some pretty brisk winds out of the south. I
thought it was pretty breezy when I took Jasper out into the back yard that
morning, but it wasn't the sort of wind that felt unusual as the seasons
change here in southern Minnesota.  When I took a break around Handiham
Echolink net time, I peeked out the kitchen window and there it was:  the
Butternut HF9V had folded over, its top pointing northwest and its lower
portion propped onto the wooden protective fence surrounding the base of the
antenna.  Jasper and I went out to take a look, and while he took care of
his business, I inspected the damage to the vertical.  It had broken at a
junction, about 4 feet up the mast from the ground.  At that point there is
a fiberglass rod insulator that separates the base section of 1-1/8 inch
aluminum tubing from a middle section. The bottom section of aluminum is
slotted at the top opening so that the solid fiberglass rod can slide in and
be secured by a stainless steel hose clamp that fits around the slotted
tubing.  The failure occurred when the top slotted section broke away,
weakened by almost 20 years of wind and weather - some of it very severe
weather.  Metal fatigue had set in and the antenna could not remain standing
in Monday's modest winds.  

The good news is that no one was hurt - the antenna is out in a large space,
away from anything or anyone.  And the other thing is that this antenna
really doesn't owe me anything.  20 years is a good run for an antenna like
this in an extreme climate like Minnesota's that includes plenty of strong
winds, snow and ice, heavy rain and thunderstorms, hail, and just about
anything else the weatherman can pull out of his hat.

This is actually the second HF9V to fail in this location.  The first one
was destroyed in a weather event so severe that it took a heavy redwood play
set out of our yard and deposited it in a neighbor's yard several lots to
the east. The house to our northeast lost one entire side, so it looked like
one of those doll houses where you can look into one open side and see all
the furniture.  The power was out for days, so that's when I acquired my gas
generator, which I still keep fueled up and ready to go.  The winds rushed
in during the middle of the night, the house shaking and the sound of the
wind  like a roaring freight train.  After the wind died down, I found a
flashlight and looked out the back door.  Pink insulation was raining down
from the sky, debris from damaged homes around us.  When it got light enough
to venture out, I found that the protective fence around the base of the
Butternut vertical had failed in the wind and sheared off the antenna at its
base.  That one was a goner, so I replaced it with the current one, and now
after a long and strenuous life it too has gone to that big antenna farm in
the sky.  This has certainly been the year for antenna failures at W0ZSW and

I got to thinking:  About how long should antennas last?  Five years?  Ten?
Twenty?  Longer?   The worst antenna ever installed at W0ZSW, when it was
located in Golden Valley , was a VHF log periodic from a commercial antenna
company whose name I won't mention.  Its design was such that the elements
were solid aluminum alloy rods with threaded ends that mounted into a square
tubing boom. Within a year, most of the elements had fallen off and were
lying around the base of the tower.  You can see that antenna in this photo
of K0CJ on the tower.  It's the one at the very top.

K0CJ atop the Golden Valley Tower at W0ZSW 

That design failed for whatever reason, and it was far short of our
expectations.  When I mull over the life span of antennas, I guess I'd say
that absent severe weather or other catastrophic event that damages other
structures, a reasonable expectation is at least five years.  I've seen beam
antennas survive for over 30 years, while others fail within 10 or 15, but
the failures are sometimes minor - perhaps only a single broken element.
Coaxial feedlines also fail, but usually not in such a way that the failure
is instantaneous, though of course that can happen too if a cable is cut or
if a connecting point fails.  The biggest culprit is water intrusion, which
causes the copper braid to oxidize and which also changes the dielectric
properties of the cable.  Loss increases as the cable ages, and this is not
as easily spotted as a broken antenna element. Vertical antennas and antenna
supports like towers with hollow legs can also suffer water intrusion
damage.  Water can flow into the hollow tubing, collect, and then freeze,
expanding and splitting the tubing.  Many antenna designs use insulators of
some sort, and the insulating material can deteriorate with age.  The point
at which insulators are part of an antenna structure can also be a
failure-prone part of a design, as was the case with my vertical.  Beam
antennas with traps can fail in similar ways at the trap junctions.  

Wire antennas are pretty diverse.  They vary in length and construction, and
have different kinds of supports. Trees can fall down, wire can break under
the load of ice and wind, and the constant flexing can eventually separate
joints and break connections. The robustness (is that a word?) of your wire
antenna can be increased by using the right construction techniques and
choosing wire that has a breaking strength higher than 100 lbs.  If you have
flexible tie-off points for the wire (like tree branches) make sure that
there is enough slack in the wire to accommodate the shifting of the
branches in the wind.  Secure the feedline well, soldering all connections
and then weatherproofing them with non-acidic sealers.  Special sealing
compounds and tape products are available to seal water out without
corroding the connection.  Remember that some kinds of silicone sealer have
acetic acid in them.  You can detect the sharp smell of acetic acid when you
use these sealers.  I don't like acidic sealers directly on the copper wire
or on the solder connections, so if I do use this kind of sealer I make sure
the connection is already encased in another layer of sealing tape or
sealing compound.  If the feedline is heavy coax, you should support it in
some way so that it does not constantly pull down on the wire element of the
antenna.  The point at which wire loops through eyelets on a center
insulator can be protected by "thimbles" that are a sort of protective guide
for the part of the wire that bends through the eyelet.  Some operators like
to install strain relief at the ends of wire antennas, but in any case the
wire should not be stretched so tight that it is apt to break if it
contracts in the winter cold or if the supports flex in the wind.  I have
always liked the "inverted-vee" dipole configuration which allows for a
sturdy center support for the feedpoint and the heavy coax, with the ends of
the wires trailing off at a downward angle.  The wires can help guy the main
support in an inverted-vee system.  Looking at it from the side, this
configuration makes use of triangles for stability!  You can run several
inverted-vee dipoles for different bands from a single center insulator,
turning the system into an efficient multiband antenna.  I recommend a 75
meter dipole, a 40 meter dipole (which will also tune on 15 meters), a 20
meter dipole, and perhaps another dipole for a band of your choosing.
Properly trimmed, this antenna will tune without an antenna tuner, and its
stable, sturdy design will last a good long time. 

Next time:  How long should electronic gadgets last? 

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Courage Kenny Handiham Coordinator



The big news this week is the shutdown of the Federal Government here in the
United States.  Several web resources used by amateur radio operators are

Library of Congress shuts down LOC.gov

The US Government shutdown claims another website, LOC.gov, as the Library
of Congress shuts down operations. The only remaining Library of Congress
sites that remain accessible are the legislative sites:


We are asking blind users to monitor and report back to us on the status of
the BARD website, operated by the LOC to serve members with blind-accessible
audio books. As of this morning, it appeared to be on line. If there is a
status change, please email wa0tda@xxxxxxxx with your report. Here is the
official announcement:

Due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government, the Library of
Congress is closed to the public and researchers beginning October 1, 2013
until further notice. All public events are cancelled and web sites are
inaccessible except the legislative information sites THOMAS.gov and

FCC.gov shuts down

The FCC website is reduced to a shutdown page. Generally, during a shutdown
all FCC activities other than those immediately necessary for the protection
of life or property will cease. Suspended activities include, among many
others: Consumer complaint and inquiry phone lines cannot be answered;
consumer protection and local competition enforcement must cease; licensing
services, including broadcast, wireless, and wireline, must cease;
management of radio spectrum and the creation of new opportunities for
competitive technologies and services for the American public must be
suspended; and equipment authorizations, including those bringing new
electronic devices to American consumers, cannot be provided.

NOAA.gov shuts down

Due to the Federal government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated web
sites are unavailable. Only web sites necessary to protect lives and
property will be maintained. See Weather.gov for critical weather
information or contact USA.gov for more information about the shutdown.

This information from http://governmentshutdown.noaa.gov 

Demo video on RT Systems programming software

For those interested in a method of programming lots of the popular amateur
radios with your computers there is a speech-friendly set of software
packages to do just that. John Abbamont KA2HOI and I have produced a Video
and audio demonstration of programming amateur gear with speech using the RT
Systems software and the free NVDA screenreader. It is available on YouTube
at the URL below. It is interesting to note that NVDA is the only
screenreader out there that works with the RT Systems software.  


Dave Marthouse N2AAM


Handiham Friend Raleigh "Lee" Shaklee, W6BH, SK

Long-time friend of the Handiham program Lee Shaklee, W6BH, is a silent key.
ARRL is reporting that he died September 23 following a brief illness. He
was 91. Lee was an avid DXer and built a remote station on a mountain so
that he could operate his station from his QTH in Newport Beach, CA. Always
helpful, Lee was a practical-minded guy who knew how to get things done.

He found out about us and stopped by Handiham Radio Camp at Camp Joan Mier
in Ventura County, CA one year long ago. He has been a good friend ever
since, and we will really miss him on the air and as part of our Handiham
community of supporters.

Lee has a website, which contains a bio and information about his ham radio
career. I recommend it for some good reading and views of the antenna farm.


Read the ARRL article about Lee here:

Best 73, Lee... and good DX!

Your friends at Handihams

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Courage Kenny Handiham Program


Practical radio

pliers and wire

Cheap tools

Are they any better than expensive tools?  

That's a good question - and one that every ham radio operator who tinkers
with antenna projects, homebrew circuits, and projects around the house
might well ask.  Of course a "tool" can vary from a steel wrench to a
sophisticated piece of software these days, depending on what the job to be
completed might call for.  

Here are a couple of anecdotal stories about tools:

1.      The Globemaster wrench set:  When I was a teenager in the late
1960's I got into ham radio and decided I needed a set of wrenches to work
on antenna projects.  I found a bargain bin somewhere - probably a
department store - that had sets of cheap, imported wrenches.  There were
three to a set, exactly the sizes I needed:  "Globemaster - forged in
India".  You don't have much of a budget when you are a teen, and I could
afford these wrenches much more painlessly than brand-name tools.  Over the
years these wrenches accompanied me on many antenna projects, endured being
dropped from the top of towers, and even graduated to work on some
automotive projects. As cheap as they were, they managed to hold up
beautifully, and guess what?  I still have them!  In that case, cheap did
not mean poor quality.  
2.      Software for recording audio:  When you need a software tool, the
same strategy applies.  Check out cheap early on in the game, because cheap
does not necessarily mean poor quality.  I had cast about, using paid
software for some time before finally settling on the free open-source
software Audacity as my recording tool of choice.  It works great - and the
price is right!  
3.      LDG TW-1 Talking Wattmeter:  I mention this tool - really a test
instrument - because I want to make a point about accessible tools.  LDG
made a limited run of these talking wattmeters and they are no longer
available, but that doesn't stop people from calling us looking for them.
Over the years I have seen many accessible devices come onto the market,
only to enjoy a brief lifespan before being discontinued.  The LDG meter
wasn't instrument-grade quality, but it was priced right and easy to use.
We had one (as usual) at the main HF station at Minnesota Radio Camp this
past summer and it still worked well.  My point is that some tools -
especially ones that are blind-accessible - usually do not stay on the
market as long as other tools intended for a wider user base.  If you find a
"must-have" tool like this, don't dither and dawdle - buy it!  The issue is
not cheap or expensive, it's that it's available at all!

Remember, "Practical Radio" is what works for you!


Handiham Nets are on the air daily. 

If there is no net control station during any scheduled net time, just go
right ahead and start a round table discussion. 

TMV71A transceiver

We are scheduled to be on the air daily at 11:00 USA Central Time, plus
Wednesday & Thursday evenings at 19:00 USA Central Time.  A big THANK YOU to
all of our net control stations!  What will Doug, N6NFF, come up with for
his trivia question tonight?  I guess we'll just have to tune in and listen!
Tune in and see how you do with the question this week, or just check in to
say hello.  

We maintain our nets at 11:00 hours daily relative to Minnesota time.  Since
the nets remain true to Minnesota time, the difference between Minnesota
time and GMT is -5 hours.  The net is on the air at 16:00 hours GMT.   

The official and most current net news may be found at:


October Events - On the Air

Autumn is definitely my favorite time of the year. The clean, cooler air and
the gorgeous colors that the season brings just make me happy! And, if you
add in some amateur radio activities and good friends, you truly have
something to celebrate. I was very surprised to see eight pages of Special
Events on the ARRL website for this month. There are some highlights at the
end of this update. But, you may want to log in for yourself to see if there
are more events that catch your interest. Enjoy the beginning of autumn and
get your radios active!

Until next month..

Laurie Meier, N1YXU

Read the Events Column Here: 
http://www.handiham.org/node/251 <http://www.handiham.org/drupal2/node/251> 


A dip in the pool

Pat shows off his new Plantronics USB headset!

It's time to test our knowledge by taking a dip in the pool - the Amateur
Radio question pool, that is!  

Let's go to the General Class pool and examine a question about wire

G9B05 asks: "How does antenna height affect the horizontal (azimuthal)
radiation pattern of a horizontal dipole HF antenna?"

Possible answers are:

A. If the antenna is too high, the pattern becomes unpredictable
B. Antenna height has no effect on the pattern
C. If the antenna is less than 1/2 wavelength high, the azimuthal pattern is
almost omnidirectional
D. If the antenna is less than 1/2 wavelength high, radiation off the ends
of the wire is eliminated

This is an important concept, because it can help you understand how to
locate your antenna system on your property.  Many new hams assume that a
dipole radiates perpendicular to the wire, and so it does - but only if the
antenna is somewhere near a half-wavelength up off the ground, or higher.
If the antenna is closer to the ground, it begins to radiate about equally
well in all directions, so that means if your 75 meter dipole (1/2 wave =
125 feet) is up in the air only 40 feet, you really don't have to worry
about whether the antenna runs north-south, east-west, or whatever!  On the
other hand, it is easier to get a 20 meter dipole (1/2 wave = 32 feet)
higher relative to a wavelength on that band.  So at the same height of 40
feet, the 20 meter dipole will have pronounced directional radiation
broadside to the antenna and if you want to favor a particular direction,
you have to plan for it.  

Thus, the correct answer is C: If the antenna is less than 1/2 wavelength
high, the azimuthal pattern is almost omnidirectional.

Please e-mail handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx to comment. 


This week @ HQ

Cartoon robot with pencil


October digests are ready for our blind members in the members section.
Digital NLS cartridges are already out.  (Ours, not the Library of
Congress's since their services are shut down for now.)

If there is a protracted shutdown at BARD, we will consider recording QST
for October.  

Remote Base News

W0EQO station in the server room at Courage North.

Both Handiham Remote Base internet stations W0ZSW and W0EQO are on line.
W0ZSW still needs antenna and power supply work.  160 meter transmit is
disabled for now. 

Outages: Outages are reported on

Band conditions: As of this writing, conditions on HF are fair with
disturbed conditions predicted.  Check
http://handiham.org/remotebase/station-status/ for a current HF conditions
report from G4ILO. 

Operating tip:  Find out how to tell if the remote base station is already
in use if you are using JAWS: 

*       Listen to the tutorial:
*       Read the tutorial in accessible HTML: 


Pat holding up NLS digital cartridge and mailer 
Don't care to download Handiham materials via computer? This digital
cartridge and mailer can bring you Handiham audio digests each month, plus
we have room to put the audio lecture series or equipment tutorials on them,

*       If you have trouble logging in, please let us know.  
*       All Daisy materials are in zip file format, so you simply download
the zip file you need and unzip it so the Daisy book folder can be accessed
or moved to your NLS or other Daisy player.
*       Tip: When in the Daisy directory, it is easy to find the latest
books by sorting the files by date. Be sure the latest date is at the top.
The link to sort is called "Last Modified".  
*       You can also find what is on a web page by using CONTROL-F.  This
brings up a search box and you can type a key word in, such as "September".
You may find more than one September, including 2012, but you will
eventually come across what we have posted for September 2013. 

*       Our thanks to Bob, N1BLF, Jim, KJ3P, and Ken, W9MJY, for reading
this month.  Look for these DAISY materials in the members section.

Digital mailers are important: If you do mail a digital cartridge to us,
please be sure that it is an approved free matter mailer. Otherwise it will
quickly cost us several dollars to package and mail out, which is more than
the cost of the mailer in the first place. We don't have a stock of
cartridges or mailers and not including a mailer will result in a long delay
getting your request back out to you. 

DAISY audio digests are available for our blind members who do not have
computers, playable in your Library of Congress digital player.  Handiham
members who use these players and who would prefer to receive a copy of the
monthly audio digests on the special Library of Congress digital cartridge
should send a blank cartridge to us in a cartridge mailer (no envelopes,
please), so that we can place the files on it and return it to you via free
matter postal mail.  Your call sign should be on both the cartridge and the
mailer so that we can make sure we know who it's from. Blank cartridges and
mailers are available from APH, the American Printing House for the Blind,
Inc. <http://www.aph.org>  

Digital Talking Book Cartridge Catalog Number: 1-02610-00, Price: $12.00 

Digital Talking Book Cartridge Mailer Catalog Number: 1-02611-00, Price:

Order Toll-Free: (800) 223-1839.

The Library of Congress NLS has a list of vendors for the digital
cartridges:  <http://www.loc.gov/nls/cartridges/index.html> 

Get it all on line as an alternative:  Visit the DAISY section on the
Handiham website after logging in. 


Stay in touch

Cartoon robot with cordless phone

Be sure to send Nancy your changes of address, phone number changes, or
email address changes so that we can continue to stay in touch with you. You
may either email Nancy at hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or call her at
763-520-0512.  If you need to use the toll-free number, call 1-866-426-3442.

Handiham Program Coordinator Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, may be reached at
handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or by phone at 763-520-0511.  

Mornings Monday through Thursday are the best time to contact us. 

The Courage Kenny Handiham Program depends on the support of people like
you, who want to share the fun and friendship of ham radio with others.
Please help us provide services to people with disabilities. 

Call 1-866-426-3442 toll-free. -- Help us get new hams on the air.

Get the Handiham E-Letter by email every Wednesday, and stay up-to-date with
ham radio news. 

You may listen in audio to the E-Letter at Handiham Weekly E-Letter in MP3
format <http://handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3> 
Email us to subscribe:

That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Kenny Handihams!
Coordinator, Courage Kenny Handiham Program
Reach me by email at:

Nancy, Handiham Secretary:

ARRL is the premier organization supporting Amateur Radio worldwide. Please
contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to help you
fill out the paperwork!

ARRL diamond-shaped logo

The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating
information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is
available to everyone free of charge. Please email
handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  for changes of address, unsubscribes, etc.
Include your old email address and your new address.


JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image

GIF image

GIF image

JPEG image

Other related posts:

  • » [handiham-world] Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 02 October 2013 - Patrick Tice