A Move and a New(?) Event Calendar

Posted in Contests on 2016/12/06 by Pete Spotts


What a difference a year and a move make, along with them a too-long hiatus from amateur radio. My wife and I have settled into a new home in a new state — New Mexico. To celebrate that, I opted for a new-old call, WB5BUP, a nod to my Novice call WB1BUP. That makes me ex-WB1BUP, ex-N1ABS (twice), ex-KC1JB, ex-W1PNS (although the URL above might argue otherwise).

Then along came a request from a fellow member of the QRP Club of New England for an event calendar that focuses exclusively on contests, sprints, or other on-air activities around the world in which QRP or QRPp are the only permissible power levels. Presuming said member exhausted Dr. Google before making the request, the wish has been granted, and it’s available to the whole QRP community. You can check it out here:


It’s very much a work in progress. So if you see or hear of something that isn’t on the calendar or you see where corrections are needed, please let me know. Yes, I was the durn fool who volunteered to maintain this puppy.

A ‘QRP to the Field’ Outing to Lake What?

Posted in Contests, Portable operations, QRP on 2015/04/26 by Pete Spotts
A name so long it would only fit along the edge of an interstate overpass!

Welcome to Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, a name so long that the edge of an Interstate overpass is one of the few places it would fit!

It’s Spring! Daffodils and forsythia are blooming. And its the season for an annual ham-radio operating event, QRP to the Field.

This year, the event’s sponsors opted for a native-American theme: On April 25, operate from a location whose name has a native-American origin. “Piece of cake,” said I. Be it street, park, school, knoll, rock, river, or mountain, here in the Bay State you’d be hard pressed not to find one within a mile or two of any place in the state.

Perusing the possibilities a couple of weeks ago, I came across a reference to Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. It’s known to the US Department of Interior as Lake Chaubunagungamaug (to save ink?). Or, shorter still, call it Webster Lake.

The spot brought back memories of day trips I and my family took to Norwich, CT, back when my sister lived there. We’d pass the lake heading to and from her top-floor condo in a spiffed up, riverside mill. She long since had moved back to California, and I forgotten about the lake. But when it came time to pick a QRP TTF site, its name leaped from a list of native-American place names in the state.

The most credible translation of that incredibly long name (purportedly the longest place name in the US) goes something like this: Fishing Place at the Boundaries — Neutral Meeting Grounds. For locals, the more conversational version reads: You fish on your side, I’ll fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle.

The town of Webster, MA, has set up a well-kept lakefront park, and that’s where I thought I’d spend a quiet day at the radio swapping howdies with other QRP TTF participants. Quiet? Not so much!

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Torsion-bar suspension for a Morse code straight key?

Posted in Morse code keys with tags , , , , , on 2014/11/22 by Pete Spotts

Look Ma! No springs! It’s a new key from W1SFR that uses a torsion bar
to govern the key’s return to ready for the next code element.

I’ve seen and used some slick Morse code keys over the years, and collected several of them. When I read that Steve Roberts, W1SFR, had designed a new straight key based on a torsion bar, however, I scratched my bearded chin. My last exposure to the concept of torsion bars came in junior high school, when I dabbled oh so slightly in auto mechanics.

Well, I’m here to tell you that unusual though they may seem for this application, torsion bars work quite well for keys. The result, at least in Steve’s case, is one of the smoothest keys I’ve ever used. It takes a few on-air contacts, or a few minutes with a code-practice oscillator, to get used to it. The hurdle, I suspect,  is mainly psychological: Structurally, the key looks like it’s missing important elements found in typical straight keys, so it must not behave like one.

In fact, it’s missing nothing.

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Adding a brake pad to Elecraft’s K1

Posted in Projects, QRP with tags , , , , , on 2014/05/24 by Pete Spotts
What's that fungus sprouting from behind the tuning knob? That's no fungus. That's a brake pad!

What’s that fungus sprouting from behind the tuning knob? That’s no fungus. That’s a brake pad!

Last summer, I had the pleasure of building an Elecraft K1 — quite a relaxing change from the KX1, with its tighter spaces and height restrictions for some of the components.

Not so much with the K1. It has lots of space to work with. And once finished, what a quiet receiver! The AGC mod I made during construction (thanks for the info, Bruce, N1RX), substantially reduced the initial blast from strong stations. It’s a wonderful QRP radio.

But the 10-turn pot used as the main tuning control is too smooth by half. When trying to zero-beat on a station — tuning to match its signal’s pitch to that of the radio’s sidetone — it was too easy to overshoot or undershoot the correct setting.

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NEAR-Fest: Feting friends and finding gems

Posted in Gatherings with tags , , , on 2013/10/29 by Pete Spotts
Lionel J-36 bug

A hidden gem: a 1942 Lionel J-36 bug. Lionel started to produce these for the military during World War 2, when the bug’s designer, Vibroplex, couldn’t keep up with demand. I came across this near the end of the day at NEAR-Fest, after bemoaning the lack of interesting keys to add to my collection. It’s not as far-gone as it looks. It will need a new label, but it will clean up nicely. After 71 years and who knows how much abuse, it still has a smooth action.

Shorter days, trees cloaked in orange and russet and yellow and scarlet, a warm glow suffusing the sky at sunset as days shorten — it’s fall in New England. For the ham-radio crowd in the region and beyond, few events say fall like NEAR-Fest, the New England Amateur Radio Festival.

NEAR-Fest, held twice a year at the Deerfield Fairgrounds in Deerfield, NH,  has a spring edition as well. But it fits best with fall. Perhaps it’s because New Hampshire in May is monochromatic. Greener than winter, for sure. But the colors are all subtle or not-so-subtle variations on a single hue.

Fall brings out a richness and variety of color that matches the variety of the people and wares at the event. NEAR-Fest celebrated its 14th event the weekend of Oct. 12. But it has a richer, deeper history.

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A nutty new entrant to the annual QRP-event line-up

Posted in Contests, Portable operations with tags , , , , , , on 2013/09/27 by Pete Spotts
Here's one way to get your peanut whistle into the field!

Here’s one way to get your peanut whistle into the field — air mail! If Steve, WG0AT, can use goats to schlep gear, why not…oh never mind.

How could I have missed this? A new QRP operating event, and it’s coming up Sept. 29. They call it the Peanut Power QRP Sprint — first annual, even!

“They” in this case is the North GA QRP Club. The event runs from 2000 to 2200 UTC Sunday, or 4 P.M. to 6 P.M. EDT. And while you don’t need to run low power or take it on the road, operating low and portable helps.

The event has five categories. Goobers (those are good things, or the “prestige” category, according to the club’s rules on this event) run 1 watt or less CW (2W PEP or less using SSB) and operate as portable stations. At the other end of the spectrum, you have your Raws, who run more than 5 watts (10 PEP) from the comfort of their own shacks or portable.

By the way, for this event portable can mean your own backyard, as long as the antenna you use is a temporary antenna. Temporary as in “set up for this event,” not temporary as in “it’s only up until we move to a new house.”

You can operate CW and/or SSB, and it helps to snag a peanut number (154 here). You’ll be worth more to the folks who contact you.

Reserve a number by sending an email to Jim Stafford, W4QO, at qrp@bellsouth.net. This is not a live email link, so you’ll have to copy and paste the address into your email form. You have until midnight Sept. 28 (EDT) to request a number.

Whether you operate from inside or out, high power or low, it’s nice to see another QRP event in the fall, especially one that encourages portable operations and takes place while there’s still enough daylight at the event’s end!

Planters anyone?

QRP Afield, Chowdercon, and summah’s end

Posted in Chowdercon, Contests, Portable operations with tags , , , , , on 2013/09/18 by Pete Spotts

Checking out the QRP spotting page from Four Tree Island during Chowdercon/QRP Afield 2012. It's ba-a-ack!

Yours truly checking out the QRP spotting page from Four Tree Island during Chowdercon/QRP Afield 2012. It’s ba-a-ack! (Image courtesy of Bob Schmeichel, N1RXV.)

Get ready for the final QRP portable operating event of the summer, and it’s taking place in just under the wire this year. You might call it:  QRP Afield, Autumnal Equinox Edition.

It’s run by the New England QRP Club, and you have no need to sign up for numbers. You don’t even have to leave that ultimate in ham-radio torture: The Comfy Chair! But if you do, boy, will you will cop some major QSO points! Here’s the breakdown. You earn:

10 points per contact if you are QRP and operating from a field or mobile location.

5 points per contact if you are QRP (5 watts or less) and operating from a permanent location.

2 points per contact if you are QRO and operating from a field or mobile location.

1 point per contact if you are QRO (above 5 watts) and operating from a permanent location.

The event runs from 1500 Sept. 21 to 0300 UTC Sept. 22 (11:00 A.M. EDT to 11:00 P.M. EDT Saturday). For the record, the autumnal equinox occurs on Sept. 22 at 20:44 UTC.

For the full set of QRP Afield rules, visit the visit the NEQRP web site, here.

But wait! There’s more!

But in these parts the third Saturday in September has a lot going for it for another reason — Chowdercon, a day-long operating and food fest organized by Carl Achin, WA1ZCQ, a longtime NEQRP member. Carl is well known for operating from woods or shore, and he always manages to find a way to work great eats into the schedule.

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