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Author Topic: Where to start in HF  (Read 3835 times)
KI4YIK
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Posts: 23




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« on: July 30, 2011, 08:13:55 PM »

I have my general license but still haven't left the world of 2 meters, not that there is anything wrong with two meters, but I really want to dive into the world of HF.

What suggestions does everyone have about equipment and antennas?  I'm on an EXTREMELY limited budget as I am a newlywed, and I also live in an apartment townhouse so I will need to operate relatively stealth.

David Taylor Jr.
KI4YIK
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KI4SDY
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Posts: 1452




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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2011, 08:31:14 PM »

I would suggest trying to find a used 40, 20 or 10 meter MFJ transceiver for about $150. They work great, are simply to operate and don't require a large expensive power supply. You can operate SSB and CW with them. You may be able to use the power supply you have. Smiley

Dipoles in the attic or better yet, outside hidden in trees can work well. You might also want to try experimenting with wire loop antennas and ham sticks with wire ground radials added. Outside antennas will always work better than an inside antenna!  Wink

Good luck! Hope I talk to you on the air!  Grin  
« Last Edit: July 31, 2011, 07:38:52 AM by KI4SDY » Logged
WA8FOZ
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Posts: 193




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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2011, 08:36:32 PM »

Welcome aboard! We will need to know much more about your QTH to talk about antennas and the like. So only some general comments.
1. Do you have a local elmer to consult with, about antennas, gear, operation, and other stuff?
2. When you acquire (or borrow) a rig, plan first of all to LISTEN to different bands and modes. See what you like.
3. 40 meters: pretty much always open, DX at night, local contacts during  the day, not extremely competitive, antennas can be reasonable insize.
4. Digital modes and CW do not require great amounts of power or big antennas for lots of fun.

Good luck and 73,
Bill WA8FOZ
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KJ4I
Member

Posts: 111




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« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2011, 08:45:12 PM »

Their are a lot of good starter radios out there that can be had pretty cheap. Depends on what your budget is and whether or not you want new or used equipment. I had an Icom-718 for a while and it wasn't a bad radio to start with but the noise blanker was lacking a little in mine. I haven't looked at the price of them in a long time but they were somewhere in the $500 to $700 range brand new. You wont get a lot of the filters and features of a more expensive radio but for the price that would be expected. Of course that's just one suggestion. Theirs quiet a lot out there to choose from and some good used radios can be had for maybe $300 to $500. I couldn't help you much when it comes to hiding your antennas coz luckily have not been in that situation but their are lots of creative ways hams have come up with to do so. I'm sure someone on here can give you some good ideas there.

Good luck and have fun. 73,

Jason
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W5FYI
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Posts: 1046




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« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2011, 08:49:24 PM »

A used radio and a wire antenna shouldn't set you back too much. Even a decades-old transceiver will get you on the air, even though it might not have all the bells and whistles that newer radios have. All you really need is SSB and CW on two or three bands, and almost all of the older rigs operate on the five most popular bands. The problem is, apartment living is fraught with RFI from neighbors' TV sets, computers, aquarium heaters, etc., etc. As such, it's best to get your antenna outside somehow, maybe up into a nearby tree, rather than inside in an attic. In a pinch, a wire dipole can be stapled to the top of your inside walls, or you could experiment with magnetic loop antennas. One ham in Europe claimed good success with a loop hidden behind a framed picture on the wall of his poured concrete walls!

Consider a small portable rig that you can take to the park or use while mobile--to get away from the high RFI conditions in the city.  An inexpensive 108-inch CB whip can be matched to any ham band, with homemade networks, and is an inexpensive way to operate mobile. And you can make some half-wavelength antennas fed at the ends with quarter-wave sections of coax for tossing up into nearby trees when you need to.

Talk to local club members, and maybe one has a rig he's willing to loan you, or let go real cheap, and can help you set it up. GL

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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2406




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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2011, 12:27:18 AM »

Quote
Consider a small portable rig that you can take to the park or use while mobile--to get away from the high RFI conditions in the city.  An inexpensive 108-inch CB whip can be matched to any ham band, with homemade networks, and is an inexpensive way to operate mobile. And you can make some half-wavelength antennas fed at the ends with quarter-wave sections of coax for tossing up into nearby trees when you need to.

Talk to local club members, and maybe one has a rig he's willing to loan you, or let go real cheap, and can help you set it up. GL

A Yaesu FT-817 isn't cheap, but it will do all-bands / all-modes at 5 watts.  Operating from a picnic table in a park, with a wire strung from a tree (or using a JacKite 31' windsock pole) can be very rewarding.   The noise level is low, and (with a full-size antenna) 5 watts will go a long way on 20m.

The problem with apartment operating is setting up a decent antenna.   If you have a balcony, see if you can put a "flagpole" on it (the flagpole can be made of aluminum), and use the metal balcony railing as a counterpoise.  With 100 watts and a tuner, that setup works reasonably well.

One of my club members has just given up on HF -- she's in an apartment, and the noise level is just too high to hear much.  Try to borrow some gear and see how noisy your environment is.

            Charles
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AD6KA
Member

Posts: 2238




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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2011, 12:34:46 AM »

Welcome to HF.
I just wanted to say that at this point in your ham career I would
definitely NOT limit myself to a QRP radio, or a one band 25 watt
radio (like one of those cheesy 10m only rigs). Sure, Yaesu FT-817's
are great, but QRP can be frustrating & disappointing to new hams.

Save up the money for a used 10m-150m 100w rig.
Decent used ones can be had for $300 to $500.

It may take longer to get on the air this way but you'll
be glad you did. Monoband rigs and QRP rigs are often a frustrating
match for new hams with antenna limitations.

Hope to hear you on the air.
73, Ken  AD6KA
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AD4U
Member

Posts: 2179




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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2011, 06:46:39 AM »

Spend $400 - $500 for a good (new or used) all band 100 watt rig - NOT QRP.  Then build a 1/2 wave coax fed dipole for 40 meters.  Put the dipole up as high as possible, but at least 30 feet.  No "tuner" needed!  For now forget verticals, forget OCF do everything antennas, forget long wires, and DO NOT believe all the advertising hype on magic HF antennas.  Use a dipole.  When starting out there is no need to make things complicated.

I recommend 40 because there is ALWAYS activity there on SSB and CW 24/7.  Not so on the other bands.  After you get used to HF on 40, then expand your horizons to the other bands and use other antennas and buy "tuners" and amps and all the other gadgets that many think you need in order to radiate a signal.

Dick AD4U
« Last Edit: July 31, 2011, 06:51:47 AM by AD4U » Logged
KI4YIK
Member

Posts: 23




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« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2011, 06:53:37 AM »

  An inexpensive 108-inch CB whip can be matched to any ham band, with homemade networks, and is an inexpensive way to operate mobile. And you can make some half-wavelength antennas fed at the ends with quarter-wave sections of coax for tossing up into nearby trees when you need to.


How would you setup the CB Whip to work on the bands?  Are there mods needed?  I don't have a lot of experience working with antennas although I have built a couple of J-Poles for 2 meters and 70 cm.
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KI4YIK
Member

Posts: 23




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« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2011, 07:01:21 AM »

Welcome aboard! We will need to know much more about your QTH to talk about antennas and the like. So only some general comments.
1. Do you have a local elmer to consult with, about antennas, gear, operation, and other stuff?
2. When you acquire (or borrow) a rig, plan first of all to LISTEN to different bands and modes. See what you like.
3. 40 meters: pretty much always open, DX at night, local contacts during  the day, not extremely competitive, antennas can be reasonable insize.
4. Digital modes and CW do not require great amounts of power or big antennas for lots of fun.

Good luck and 73,
Bill WA8FOZ

I am in Rock Hill SC, I live in a Town House.  We have two floors, the good news is that we are on the end and not in the middle.  We have a back patio with a storage closet and a small-width privacy fence.  Not really any trees around though.

Thanks for all the advice so far everyone.
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W8JX
Member

Posts: 6475




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« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2011, 07:04:43 AM »

Spend $400 - $500 for a good (new or used) all band 100 watt rig - NOT QRP.  Then build a 1/2 wave coax fed dipole for 40 meters.  Put the dipole up as high as possible, but at least 30 feet.  No "tuner" needed!  For now forget verticals, forget OCF do everything antennas, forget long wires, and DO NOT believe all the advertising hype on magic HF antennas.  Use a dipole.  When starting out there is no need to make things complicated.

I recommend 40 because there is ALWAYS activity there on SSB and CW 24/7.  Not so on the other bands.  After you get used to HF on 40, then expand your horizons to the other bands and use other antennas and buy "tuners" and amps and all the other gadgets that many think you need in order to radiate a signal.

Dick AD4U

Best advise given here so far. QRP is not way to go for a beginners. It is very rare when 40 does not work making a it a good starting point. From there then 20m. Banking on 10m can be disappointing as it is because still pretty dead most of the time except for scattered openings.
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K7PEH
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Posts: 1124




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« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2011, 09:47:37 AM »

Another possible solution is to operate only "in the field".  Of course, lots of CW QRP operators do this all the time.  I have done it myself.  You put together a portable station, it does not have to be QRP, and then you build up your skills on setting up "easy" temporary antennas.  Dipoles strung between different elevated mounts is best but verticals are good too.  I know of a guy who has a small 100 watt transceiver and a small portable generator.  He sets up in a park that has trees around to string up an antenna.  He has one of those covered patio things to stand over his card table.
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N6AJR
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Posts: 9921




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« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2011, 11:02:40 AM »

My thought would be a good used radio, Like a  yaesu ft 857 d or an icon 706 mk II g, or such.  you should be able to find one under 500 bucks used.  you will also need a 20 to 25 amp  12 volt power supply, and some coax and an antenna or two.  you can buy or make antennas all day.  google home brew antennas, and stealth antennas and so on. 

you can use the small mobile radio as a base unit at home then make a mount for it in the car and run it mobile.   a used screwdriver antenna can be had for $100 or so, and you can operate mobile from top of  a lagre hill or mountain peak or even neat the ocen, mobile, and make lots of contacts.  there are lots of ways to go here and you can figure out which way you want to go.  My biggest  problem is figureing out which way I want to go in ham radio, I do some dxing, contesting, mobile and fixed  and elmering, I belong to sevral clubs, and buy 95 % of my gear used.  I also try to help local hams  buy loaning them or even selling them  cheaply some radios, and often I give away spare coax, small accessories and such.   go have some fun.
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2E0OZI
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Posts: 270




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« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2011, 11:09:49 AM »

For your situation I could not more strongly recommend the book "Stealth Antennas" by Steve Nichols G0KYA. Its full of great suggestions and ideas for apartment dwellers like yourself. There might be a review of it somewhere, even on eHam, but I would give it 10/10.
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell
W8JX
Member

Posts: 6475




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« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2011, 11:12:49 AM »

My thought would be a good used radio, Like a  yaesu ft 857 d or an icon 706 mk II g, or such.  you should be able to find one under 500 bucks used. 

For about 600 there is Kenwood 570's with built in tuner and 400 to 500 for a TS-450 and 300 or so for tried and trued TS-140. I would steer away for small mobile radios for first base radio as they can get hot fast at 100 watt output and in digi modes too.
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