PsyOp’s Notes on Practical HF

My friend graciously sent his notes and kind words from our last regional test. Despite an angry wife and dirty looks from an uppity HOA (…tyrants…), he gets on the air trying new things; like all good soldiers, he seeks to constantly improve his position.

PsyOp here:

First off, I must thank BB and the others who have encouraged, assisted and act as sounding boards and advisors (Elmers) on my journey into EMCOMM/HF/VHF/UHF, it has been and continues to be both exciting and maddening… Many times I dream of this stuff, come up with crazy workarounds, ideas and theories, and can’t wait to try them out, much to wifey’s chagrin…This commostuff is part science and voodoo magic, trial and error, wash, rinse, repeat. My general background is in IT, so I get electrical/rf concepts and theory, and not afraid to test and tinker, as I have to do that for my day gig. While in the service I attended comm0 school at Ft Gordon and off to Ft Bragg, where I performed my MOS, 72E, along with many other duties, not unique to me, as any veteran will tell you…I was part of a team that ran the commo section, running everything from teletypes, to vhf rigs, (prick77’s) field telephone/switchboard systems to the new (at the time) satcom stuff that was (in our unit) mainly vehicle and/or base mounted w antennas the size of golf umbrellas.

We were tasked with “making it happen.” Period, end of discussion…That is my approach today, like a puzzle problem, trying to solve it. I always ask myself and clients: “what’s the goal?” as that will drive the systems/processes, etc., to achieve it. For me, as a covert suburban “prepper of sorts,” my emcomm goal is to be as self-sufficient, and low profile, given the fact I live in an HOA (I know, I know, talk to my wife) restricted community, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here. It is what it is, and I have to deal w the circumstances on the ground. With respect to HF, my goal is local/regional contact, I really don’t care about DX (long range) stuff or talking to folks in Komifornia/Europe/etc. I have SW rigs to listen. I need to communicate within a 300mi or less, radius of my home. Since I live in NC, this means VA/WVA/SC/GA/TN/KY, mainly. I picked up a used Alinco dx-sr8 at a local hamfest for 300.00, thanks to a buddies sharp eyeballs, in perfect condition, great newbie rig, sits on my desk. I have been adding various antennas from professional made kit, and even neighbors’ gutter system, (his dad was an operator) and yep, it worked too….Again, what is the goal? To get on air as quickly and efficiently as possible so that I can do, learn, and then unlearn, relearn, and redo it all over again. Most of my antennas are higher end, professional built and tested from reputable vendors. My next tinkering is home brew stuff, mainly various random wire units. I’ve been playing, literally, w various antenna options, from end feds, to long wires, to dipoles, and various mounting options, the attic, NVIS configurations, side of the house on 25’ pole, to slopers and others trying to find that “sweet spot” that is good enough, not perfect, but functional. I have found it by using a 5 gal bucket w concrete, some 2” pvc as a sleeve, and a piece of 10’ fence top rail. I then hang my dipole, a GV5R Jr from it, and tie of ends to tree trunks in front of home, approx. 7-8’ height. The feedline runs from that into my office/shack using some pvc and electrical boxes I mounted to pass thru into home….All do it yourself and functional.

When I want to setup, I simply connect feedlines, RG-8X, together using a barrel connector, and I am good to go. This connects to my LDG z-100 + auto tuner and then to my Alinco. Now, the set we used to communicate was the above set up out on the sidewalk, w safety cones around it, and my neighbors are friends and tolerate my nutty professor stuff…My next set up will be between the homes, same height and less visible, and conspicuous. This could be my permanent mounting option if it works as predicted. Once all is set up, one would never know that I have a full blown commo toc in the home, Kenwood tm-281 for vhf, a Uniden Home Patrol for LE/FLEA digi scanning, and an Arrow j-pole and Diamond discone in attic, with the ability to communicate and listen in locally, regionally, nationally and globally if need be, as the balance of my antennas are in attic and systems are modular, easy to set up and get on air. Not to mention my workstation w SDR ability…As a side note, I do have the ability to run all this gear off grid, using my mobile solar kits. I hear and read about folks that can’t get on air, no place to hang antenna, no space, no mast, etc., and if I can do this in my environment, and get on air, anyone can. Just gotta figure it out and realize that it doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect, just good enough. If it’s stupid and it works….

To BB’s point, we have to be willing to experiment, test and verify, then do it again, eventually a system will work, as mine has. After that, it is refinement, with the goal in mind, and be willing to pass that tested, verified and functional knowledge on, so that others may learn and have a reduced learning curve. Books/manuals are great to have, I have a library of commo related stuff, much of it suggested by this, and other bloggers whom I respect, but the one constant in all of them is: go do it live! If I can help others in similar circumstances, let me know I am more than happy and willing to assist and share my experience and knowledge. Thank you all for any/all comments/suggestions and to BB for his continued and ongoing friendship and support. He is a perfect example of leading by example and we are lucky to have him and his real world knowledge from actual experience.

PsyOp out.

22 thoughts on “PsyOp’s Notes on Practical HF

  1. Pingback: Brushbeater: PsyOp’s Notes on Practical HF | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. Great note! I am studying for my General (passing practice tests 80% of the time right now). I live in a non-HOA community and am still leaning towards attic-based and low profile antenna options. Opsec is very important on a good day, let alone on those bad days to come. I recently built a 1/4 wave 2m ground plane and threw it up in the attic to monitor local repeaters with a dreaded Baofeng in the garage/shack and upgraded my daily driver with a 5/8 wave 2m antenna to monitor 2m and 6m when on the move. I have also built a 2m/6m/10m dipole to string up in the trees for my mobile rig (a TYT-9800 quad bander). Recently the wife recommended I pick up a CB for the daily driver too. Last summer I got a SSB SW radio and am going to string up a long wire beverage antenna in the attic for it. Next up will be an HF rig like mentioned above and a 160-6m end fed with tuner, and some portable solar panels and deep cycle to power it. EMCOMM is a long journey and I only can hope and pray that I can get my skills up to snuff in time to put them to good use. I don’t have a strong electronics background, but if I can do it anyone can.

  3. B Woodman

    Just think….if you’re doing that good with RG-8x, think how great you’d do with TimesMicrowave LMR-240 coax.

    1. Actually there’s little difference on HF.

      VHF and up is where LMR’s lower loss comes in handy. I DON’T recommend using LMR for anything in the field; it’s brittle. RG-58 and 8/8x is much more flexible. 8x is my go-to for just about everything.

      1. B Woodman

        Times Microwave has an UltraFlex (UF) variation on their LMR cables, usually used for short runs from a fixed antenna coax coming into the shack, to the radio on the bench. Usually used where a stiffer (low loss) cable would push the radio off the bench.

      2. I know. I use it for my fixed VHF/UHF mast. It’s still not as flexible as 8x and the difference on HF is nonexistent on anything but very long runs.

      3. NC Scout is spot on target.

        LMR 240 UF and it’s better cousin, Belden 7808R are expensive, around 80 cents a foot to over a buck per foot retail. If you are using RG-8X on low band HF, say 1.8 to 10 mHz, and the runs are 100′ or less, it makes no difference, so why spend the money? Unless you can find a deal on it, and those can be had with a little effort.

        Lots of guys poo-poo the small hamfests that are struggling to get attendees, but every one I go to, for a 5 to 10 dollar attendence fee, I manage to meet some on the air acquaintance and broaden my network, AND I score some sort of really good deal. This month, I went to a very small local hamfest, and off in a corner, found a roll of Belden 7808R, which is their top-shelf RG-8X.

        I asked the guy what he wanted for it, and walked away with a 1000′ roll of the best RG-8X coax out there for $100. I could sell that on eBay for 5 times what I paid for it in a heartbeat, funding other projects. I’m not going to do that, I’ll keep that in reserve to help get antennas up for new amateurs starting out,

        More importantly, I met several on the air acquaintances, and talked portable operation, antennas, and NVIS for an hour.

        Two points-
        1)If you are experimenting with antennas, AND YOU MUST, you are going to need materials. If you find a deal on something worthwhile that you don’t personally need, you can always swap it for something you do need. I wouldn’t pay full retail for 7808R, because I don’t need the capability, but when I get it for less than 10% of retail, and a third the price of less expensive stuff, I grab it.

        2) Local, local, local. I now know a few more kindred souls in my AO a bit better, and they know me better too. My network of acquaintance has grown, and they’ll remember me as someone who has helped them.


  4. S6cnrdude

    Great read. My living arrangement is probably very similar to yours and I use QRP equipment and portable/low profile antennas. It is limiting but in some ways I think it makes me a better radio operator. I believe ability to operate on solar power will be critical in the days to come. Keep at it!!

  5. PsyOp

    To those who have commented, thank you….I appreciate the feedback and support…

    Antenna is in new location in between homes now, still at 10′ horizontal di-pole gv5r jr antenna and i am plodding along….

    Perhaps someone can answer this question: if i simply lay antenna on roof, at peak, 23′, so each leg of antenna is lower than the center line, and at approx 10′, basically a V, and allow ladder line to just hang down and be connected to feed line into shack, is there any issue w antenna just laying on asphalt shingles? Wire is all insulated

    I think S31 opined at one time just tossing a long wire over the roof and tuning it up…

    If that could work, i’m just at 100w max, that would be a very low profile, doable solution…

    I do believe that will have to be my next test config….

    Will keep all posted…..

    1. With low power and insulated wire, I doubt you’ll have trouble. Remember a resonant dipole is low voltage at the feedpoint and high voltage at the ends. if you are using balanced line, remember to keep it a foot away from any metal

      As regards performance, dry shingles will be fine, but I wonder how much RF you’ll lose when they are wet…..

      Keep up the good work, PsyOp!


  6. Old Grey Guy

    To build an outside hidden antenna, find some 3M copper tape made by their Electrical Specialties Division in New Zealand. Tape it to the soffit at the end of your house.Feed it in the center at the peak with 300, 450, or 600 ohm ribbon or open wire. This will make an inverted “V”. If a flat soffit, feed it at the end like an end fed Zepp. If you can not find the copper tape, use the aluminum tape used by the HVAC guys to seal duct work. Paint to match the soffit so it is not visible. Paint the ribbon wire in the same manner. Your neighbors will never notice it.
    Licensed 58 years.

    1. flighterdoc

      Which rather proves a point: On HF, almost anything will work well enough to make contacts, most of the tim. Too many Hams obsess over trying to find the perfect solution, BEFORE they ever get on the air.

      Just get on the air, however you can. Once you have some experience, you can start maximizing that experience.

      1. Old Grey Guy

        It’s an outside dipole. QRP doesn’t care. Remember QRP (5 watts) is only 13db down from 100 watts. an “S” unit is 6db by convention. A QRP signal will be 2 “S” units plus 1db lower than 100 watts. Therefore an S-9 signal with 100 watts will be an S-7 signal with 5 watts. 90+ percent of hams do not understand decibels. Radio engineers think in it. Don’t worry about the extra1db. It’s less than the width of the “S” meter needle.

      2. Yes, QRP does care.

        If you’re running a 50% efficient antenna, which is 2:1 SWR without a tuner, then your 5w becomes 2.5w Radiated. dB gain or no, outside, inside, in freespece, you’re losing efficiency. Period.

        To be ‘licensed 58 years’ as you promulgate, you should know this.

      3. Old Grey Guy

        So? That’s 1/2 of an “S” unit at the receive end. Don’t forget that the formula for power is 10 log P1/P2 but the formula for voltage (what is at the antenna terminal of the receiver) is 20 log E1/E2. And yes, I’ve been licensed since 1958. Stop thinking in terms of watts and start thinking in terms of DB’s Doubling of power is 3db gain. but Doubling of voltage is 6db gain. To double the receive voltage you must QUADRUPLE your power. How much power you put out doesn’t matter. What matters is how strong your signal is at the receive end. If he can’t hear you you can’t communicate. If he can, so long as your signal is understandable, how much power you are running doesn’t matter. The extra signal is called the fade margin.

      4. ERP absolutely DOES MATTER.

        DB gain is irrelevant when taking into account fluctuating atmospheric conditions causing issues such as absorption, diffraction, and path loss. You DO understand that dB gain is a by-product of effective power radiation, yes?

        For someone who’s so experienced (so you continuously promulgate) you should understand this. Now if you wanna argue with the wall, go back over to QRZ.

      5. Any antenna THAT YOU ARE *USING* beats a perfect antenna existing only in your mind. I have an acquaintance who has gotten DXCC and 5 band WAS using a stealth end-fed wire at 10-20′ AGL and 100 watts from an entry level cheap transceiver, using mostly SSB, with a few 5 wpm CW contacts and some digital mode contacts.

        He doesn’t bust any pile-ups, and he doesn’t use the spotter network, because once the station he wants to work is spotted, he’s not going to compete, and he hasn’t got the filters in his rig to work the pileups anyway.

        He will freely admit that his CW skills need work. He can’t run 35 WPM. On a good night he can run maybe 8 wpm.

        His sideband technique is decent, but he’s never learned how to “run” a frequency if he’s the station folks want to work, because his station won’t allow him to do that.

        He will freely admit that his station is very modest, and he’d love to have room for more antennas, but like a lot of us, he works a very busy full-time job, has a long commute, he’s married with children, he’s living in an HOA bound space, and radio is one of several expensive hobbies.

        But, he has spent many, many hours in front of his radio, and he has learned operating tricks and techniques to make the most of what he’s got. He knows about propagation and knows what band(s) to use any time of day to make contacts anywhere he wants to. He knows how to set up a portable station, too, and he can set up his QRP rig and get on the air in a few minutes with field expedient antennas.

        I’m glad I know him. Come the day TSHTF, he’ll be on the air, listening, and he and his neighbors will be well informed and able to reach out and communicate if and when they need to do so. In that situation, whether or not he knows how to run a frequency will be irrelevant; his other skills will be MUCH more useful.

        It isn’t about the equipment; antennas, rigs, towers, listening antennas, etc, are USELESS if you don’t have the skills and knowledge to effectively use them. Mistakes are inevitable. Accept that, learn from them, and move on.


  7. Homer

    I have my full sized g5rv mounted on my roof about 2 feet above the apex with the wires extending out to trees on either side of the house. While the wire is not laying on the roof the ladder line is almost all laying flat on a lower roof. The antennas still performs quite well. Hope this helps answer your question some.

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