June 25, 2009

Spiderbeam Update

Wednesday 24th of June found Ian G0VGS Chris G4LDS and Brian G0RDH in the beautiful historic village of Heysham for the second part of our Spiderbeam rebuild.

The Spiderbeam is a triband yagi made from fiberglass and wire and Sands ARCG have the three band version of the beam that once built will cover 20m 15m and 10m. The black cricket style bag holds twenty 4ft poles and the whole antenna weights in at an unbelievable 6kg or (12lbs). Here we are attempting to add a little excitement and wonderment to the afternoon and what do the members of the public do? turn their chairs around and totally ignore us...... I blame it on the shorts!

Our plans for today were simple, re-measure both the Kevlar and nylon lines. These lines are used to add rigidity to the poles and the correct measurement is crucial to putting the antenna up quickly and allowing for a unified tension across the Spiderbeam, in readiness for the wire antenna to be added. Our first task was to mount the center plate on the mast section we had brought with us.

Contrary to to what you might think looking at these pictures both Chris and I are working and have just finished a little teamwork putting the 4ft sections together. The final sections will be fitted just before the tensioning lines go on. Chris and Ian are just starting to lay the nylon tensioning lines out ready for measuring and adjusting the lines to the correct length.

You may be wondering where I come into this build again?...... Yes, Ian & Chris were wondering that too! Before we could do anything we all engaged in a spot of defankling..... Yep! we were so disgruntled putting the kit away on at a cold a blustery Sunday afternoon after accessing the damage to our beloved Spiderbeam caused by the "Great Storm" of 2009, that all the lines were just thrown into the bag.

Well you missed it..... I helped out with measuring all the lines to the correct length with Ian. Chris and Ian can now start attaching the lines to the Spiderbeam to give it the essential strength and rigidity.

One end of both Kevlar and Nylon line is placed over the center of the mast and the other goes just behind an O ring to stop it slipping.

All our planning and preparation was going really well, but disaster was about strike. You may remember from our last posting that the only way you could get some of the older poles to fit was to sand the collars down a little.

The effect of this was to prove devastating. As tension was applied to one of the fiberglass sets, there was a sickening crunch to be heard as one of the sanded sections broke. The factory set diameter is 35mm and this had been reduced by our sanding action coupled with possible micro fractures caused when the antenna came toppling down during the "Great Storm".

There is a bright side to all this doom and gloom...... despite the old darlings turning their backs to us at the beginning of the build.... A cook from Heysham's Curiosity Cafe
was sent over to find out what we were building, a lady walking her dog couldn't resist asking and a car with four young men in did a double take as they went up one of the side roads and came back for a closer look for 20 minutes or so.

The fault was found before we put the antenna up for the next contest in a few weeks time..... I know the whole group would have been devastated had this happened on contest weekend.

None of the effort and work put into this project has been wasted.

Replacement sections will not cost the earth and we should have everything ready to go for IOTA if not before.

Thanks to all who have put their time in so far: Ian G0VGS Frank G8BME and Chris G4LDS and of course Barrie G1JYB and his farmer, without whom we would have learned about the antenna's problems at a time we could least afford to.

Brian G0RDH

June 19, 2009

Last Night's 80m Club Calls

Tonight was the penultimate contest of the RSGB 80m CC SSB section, an interesting contest with mixed conditions but non the less very enjoyable... A small hiccup at this end made for a slightly late start, but it was not long before we were mixing it with the best, although getting no where near the three figure scores of some of the stations.

It was nice to have Mark M0DGK join me for the contest and we worked things nicely between us running 100w from the FT-1000 into my trap dipole. The Heil headsets worked a dream as always and we received many compliments on our audio through the night, a point that pleased Mark immensely not to mention yours truely neither of us have powerful radio voices..... It was almost like being on Jura again!

However we were not the only group members taking part..... Ian G0VGS operated his K3 to perfection along with Kev G6FKE and our paths crossed a few times as we tuned through the band allocation. Full kudos to Ian's station in holding the higher score of the night.

G0VGS 73
M0SCG 64

Just 9 points in it. Never since the contest that shall remain nameless have we been so close. And the great thing is there are no losers because any group stations that work the contest have their scores added together towards the final overall score for Sands Contest Group, the point being were a team. The more group stations who take part the more overall points are gained..... The final contest in this competition takes place on Wednesday 15th July..... unless corrected, I think you can go out and enjoy the summer evening operating /p..... give it a go, it honestly is good fun.

Brian G0RDH

June 17, 2009

Heading Towards Summer

With repairs almost finished to beam and masts Sands now look forward to a busy few weeks ahead. Two of the major contest are coming up, the IARU 24 hour contest in 3 weeks, which we will run from the contest site and IOTA at the end of July. We will be active in IOTA from our usual spot at Sunderland Point for the fourth year running, thanks to the generosity of the residents there.
Matt M0MOS is hoping to air MS0SCG from the Isle of Arran at some point in July, more details nearer the time.
Mike M0PRL will be working in the Antarctic at Rothera Base towards the end of the year for a short while. He will be on air as much as his job allows and we will keep you informed what callsign he hopes to use as soon as we know. He hopes to run a blog/website whilst he is out there and will update via the Sands Blog also.

June 16, 2009

Sandpaper and Glue!

This afternoon was spent fixing the Spiderbeam. The centre fixing plate had been badly bent out of shape and needed some new parts fitting. Frank managed to reshape some of the damage but a new plate was fitted.

All that was needed to sort the spreaders out was to check the new sections but also sand some of the sections for a better fit and more grip (something that has needed doing for a while) Also labeled up all sections so we know what bit goes where at a glance!

Just the masts to look at now but that may be a job for another afternoon.

June 14, 2009

Social Evening.

Sands enjoyed a wonderful barbeque and social evening last night at Barrie's home.

This is the way to light a barbeque and have it ready to cook on in ten minute!

It was a lovely evening and the weather was superb!

A wonderful spread put on by Kathy and Stephanie

The evening draws to a close with a beautiful sunset.

Our thanks to everyone, particularly our hosts who made it a lovely occasion for everyone and sorry that some of our gang had to miss it due to prior comitments

June 10, 2009

Red Rose Rally

Members of the Sands Contest group went to the the popular WMRC Red Rose QRP Rally on the 7th of June, held at Formby Hall in Atherton, where they were in for a rare treat.

Although not a large rally, consisting mainly of two rooms, there was plenty to look at without being crushed, pushed or jostled

The RSGB had a stand selling well known books on various training stages for those coming into the hobby along with the usual antenna and project books. Our new RSGB President Elect Dave Wilson was there with his wife Kathy who is our RSGB Regional Representative.

It was also nice to meet up with Rev. George Dobbs who, with members of GQRP, were in attendance selling kits and passing on their thoughts and wisdom in answer to people’s questions.

Much like the GQRP rally held later in the year, the rally catered for basic amateur needs. It was so nice to be able to walk round a rally where just about any component you may wish for was a stand or fingertip away and there was plenty on offer for the radio collector.

It was a joy to see the old but true saying being fulfilled as we witnessed “One Man’s Junk becoming another man’s treasure”. Amateurs throughout the venue were rummaging and ruminating over objects they found in old cardboard boxes and thinking of the applications they could put them to and Frank and I were in the thick of it, each parting with money on items to add to our individual collections. As you can see from the picture above, just about anything was on offer from books to old meters, test gear and radios

Murphy 192 Radio

Its strange to think that many of us have been surrounded by old valve and transistor radios that we take for granted without realising just what a technical and design evolution commercial radios have gone through. The set below is a prime example and after doing a little research, it's inspired me to look a little deeper into this area.

The Murphy 192 radio was manufactured in 1952 by Murphy Radio Ltd at their factory in Welwyn Garden City.

Early Eddystone Receiver

The set in the blue case was an early Eddystone Receiver that had been restored. Unfortunately I don't know which model. I understand it took plug in modules for the bands you wished to use.

Eddystone Receivers

The two Eddystone sets on sale here are the Eddystone 640 and the 840A. The site of the 840A brought back some happy memories as this was my very first proper shortwave receiver back in the late 70's and early 80's and I spent many a happy hour shortwave listening around the world with it. I still have an Eddystone 640 in full working order that's displayed whenever I have the opportunity. The vender was selling these sets at £100 each and it was not long before the 640 was snapped up.

Classic EKHO radio

A nicely veneered wood cased radio, it's lovely to see all the places listed on the dial some of which may no longer exist with their original name. There are a series of preset buttons on the right-hand side of the set so that you could tune more quickly to your favourite stations.


Another nicely veneered radio that would grace any home in its time.

Vintage Morse Key

I was tempted to buy this key but had something else in my sights..... However as we were leaving the rally a nicely bearded man was leaving the rally with a smile on his face and his prized possession tucked firmly under his arm.

American Signal Corps TS-174/U frequency meter

More sought after equipment

Finally our purchases of the day.

Grundig Music Boy 160

Frank has been interested in Grundig radios for some time and added this battery powered radio to his collection. A Grundig Music Boy 160 that was in need of a little tender care on the outside but nothing that could not be done to bring it back to its former glory. I spoke to Frank on Monday and he's most of the way through the process of cleaning it up. Frank tells me that the radio is around 30 years old and in lovely condition inside, and works beautifully with excellent reception audio and tone.

Hallicrafters Sky Champion S-20.

My purchase was the Hallicrafters Sky Champion S-20.
This set had a short production
run between 1938 and 1939 so is very rare. I bought the set complete with the Hallicrafters SM 18 "S" Meter, another rarity. The S20 has four band selectors and covers

540 kc to 1.800 mc
170 kc to 5.75 mc
5.62 mc to 18.40 mc
17.00 mc to 44.00 mc

This set is fully operational and I look forward to putting it through its paces over the next few weeks. Many who know me won't be surprised to learn that this set will be on display at the next Norbrek Rally along with other exhibits both old and new. A more detailed look at the radio will be placed on on the Sands site including more detailed pictures and information relating to the set.

The more common Hallicrafters S 20R went into production in 1939


Refreshments were available in the form of pie and peas with optional gravy, salt, pepper & tomato sauce, helped down with a nice cup of tea or coffee and somewhere to eat and enjoy food that was very reasonably priced. There was also a bar for those able to enjoy a little of the amber nectar.

It's often forgotten that rallies around the country take time to organise and at the end of the day packed down by teams of dedicated amateurs. Thanks to all involved in organising this event it was a real pleasure to attend and thanks to the traders for varied and interesting stands


Brian G0RDH

June 09, 2009


Meet my new SOTA mate, he looks about as happy as me with the thought of a bumpy quad bike ride. The first time I took him off road he jumped off the thing and hared down the track, I had to abandon the bike and chase after him, the boy wasn't for getting back on. However he has now got more used to it although he does prefer the Car.Ahh well, I will still have to keep looking for a sexy young lady to ride pillion with me, it's not easy, they all want Porsche Cars to ride around in,I may have to trade it in later in the year.

Evel Knievel xxx
Barry G1JYB

June 04, 2009

Quick Service

The replacement parts for our masts and Spiderbeam arrived this afternoon. Very quick and efficient service from the Spiderbeam manufacturer in Germany, the order only went in on Monday. Repairs should not take long and all looks present and correct.
Chris and Bex went back to Coventry today after a few days up here in Morecambe. Chris now has his PhD and can go home a bit more relaxed after his final interview (Viva) He hopes to get his HF dipole sorted out again so he can take part in some of our contests.
This weekend was planned to sort the beam out at Barrie's QTH but at the moment the weather forecast is a bit grim so it may have to be put back to the following weekend combining a bit of a "working party" with the barbeque.

June 03, 2009

While I'm Here.....

Chris takes the opportunity to sort out some of the guys and ropes! Its a job most of us try to avoid but it's nice to know somebody likes to have a tidy ship!

June 02, 2009

A Good Meeting

Last night we had the pleasure of having Chris M0DWK visiting the group. Chris is our former Chairman who now lives down in Coventry due to his work. He is up here for a few days whilst he has his Viva at Lancaster University. The meeting was very well attended last night and it was time for Chris to meet a few new faces and catch up on news in general.
In other news replacement parts are now on order for the damaged masts and beam. These will have to be sent over from Germany but should be here well in time for the next contest.