Foundation – a beginners guide

You’re new to the world of amateur radio and your only real experience of operating on HF and VHF was at the club or during your practical assessments. The radios, antenna and power were all provided for you.

Where do you begin?

My advice is to have a think about which elements of the hobby you are interested in. You will need to consider:

  • Budget – how much cash you have?
  • Space – room for gear and antennas.
  • Growth – think about where you want to be and plan ahead.
  • Safety – this was covered in the Foundation syllabus, now you have to practice what was preached. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Passing further exams – permits you to an increase in power, while enhancing your level of knowledge and understanding.

It is not necessarily true that you need lots of money to get on the air OR lots of power to make long distance contacts. Second hand HF and VHF gear can offer good value for money. Dipoles are cheap and easy to make out of wire and coax. Handhelds for VHF/UHF have never been cheaper. However you may wish to spend your money on new gear – that’s fine!  Vintage transceivers still perform well especially on receive, what many don’t have is Digital Signal Processing (DSP) capability to help reduce local band noise that the more modern compact ones have.

Where do you start?

  • Use your club; it has hundreds of collective years of knowledge and can inspire you in many different ways. Things that may seem complex to master, with help, can be relatively simple to overcome. You are learning and not alone.
  • Don’t beat yourself up over failures, learn from them.
  • Above all be SAFE!

Where can you operate?

A lot of amateurs have restricted gardens; partners that do not want gardens to become antenna farms or give up house space for ‘gear’. However there is still much fun to be had:

  • If you have a car – consider operating mobile (not whilst driving).
  • If you like walking and hiking; consider SOTA (portable operation with a modest set-up)
  • Consider Morse, it’s not the antiquated mode you may think it is. 1 Watt can go thousands of miles.
  • Research all types of antennas – multiband dipoles, verticals and end-fed. Beam types include; Moxon, Yagi, Hexbeam, Cobweb etc.  11
  • Above all be SAFE!

So much material out on the web, I would have to write a book to get it all in – an array of links below to help you get started.  I have to disclaim them as they are offered as examples and a starting point only. You have resources at your disposal – exploit them.

Hardware: brackets, poles and all associated bits to mount/hoist your antenna up Barenco . For good quality connectors and cable Westlake.  Sotabeams for SOTA working.. G-Whip and HyEnd antennas for various wire antenna. These are just a selection of suppliers and many more exist. A good website for kit reviews http://www.eham.net it covers a multitude of radio and accessories (but some reviews can be a bit over the top so read the good and the bad).  Do your research!

Some radio suppliers (there are others):

Waters & Stanton

Radioworld.

Moonraker

YouTube Research links

Low power (QRP) working

Building a multi-band dipole

Inverted V for 40 meter working

SOTA (Summits On The Air)

PL259 and BNC how to solder

T and K wall brackets for antenna installation

I think this is enough to get you started. Once you delve into YouTube you can spend hours and hours researching.

A few hints and tips:

  • You get what you pay for?  eBay can be a great source for bargains but there are some  items of questionable quality.  £20 pound, 30 amp switch mode power supply may sound a bargain but the level of induced mains hum on your transmission may render it useless. Check!
  • Use good quality PL259 nickel plated connectors as they solder well and have consistent 50 ohm impedance at frequencies you use. N type for UHF (70cm).
  • Use good quality coaxial cable – cheap coax or the regular RG58 may be okay but check the quality. Remember for maximum power transfer, 50ohm to 50ohm is needed. Avoid having too many connections (losses all add up). For long runs use RG213 or equivalent (its not cheap).
  • Do your research
  • Antennas that work well in some gardens, may not work that well in yours. Nothing beats a resonant antenna; get it as high as possible. If the antenna does not tune, it could be too close to the ground and or other objects/buildings. If the antenna wire is too long fold wire back on itself first and check before cutting off any excess.
  • Accept life is about compromise – Ham Radio is the same.
  • Above all be SAFE and enjoy this great hobby.

 

73 de M0AZE