Way back in the late 1970’s, when I was a newly licensed ham, The Drake TR-4C was my dream radio. It was WAY to expensive for me, being newly married with a mortgage and car payment. (Adjusted for inflation, in today’s dollars a TR-4C would cost about $3400.)  I had to settle for a used Heathkit HW-100 that was already tired when I bought it.

Fast forward to today.  I’m 65.  I’m in a new house out in the country, 50 miles north of Phoenix in the Bradshaw Mountain foothills.  No HOA. No antenna restrictions. Nice big man cave with an 8ft bench along one wall.  My Kenwood TS-590s serves me nicely, but it would be fun to have a TR-4C.  I was browsing the classified on QTH.com and discovered a TR-4C and RV-4C remote VFO for sale by a guy just 45 minutes from my house.  Furthermore they had been gone though by WB4HFN, the well-known Drake repair and refurbishment guy.  The seller’s price was high but not unreasonably so. Bottom line is they came home with me.

I bought a Heil GMV microphone and am getting good reports.  To round the station out, I want to add an MN-2000 tuner. My Hy-Gain AV-640 vertical’s SWR is well below 2:1 on all band so I don’t really need the tuner, but it will make for a well-rounded station.  And who knows, there may be other antennas in my future.

Right now I have the Drake and the TS-590s connected through a Daiwa cox switch to the AV-640. At this moment I have the TS-590s scanning 40, 20, and 15 meters.  Since the 590 has a connector on the back for a receive-only antenna, I’m thinking about rigging one up so I can have both radios connected to an antenna.

Since I still have the SG-230 SmartTuner sitting in a box and this house does have rain gutters, I’m also thinking of turning those rain gutters into an antenna.  There are a few hams around who work 80 meters and it would be nice to join them.

September 16, 2018
Categories : Drake

I have recently discovered Tamitha Skov, the Space Weather Woman. If you have an interest in solar phenomenon and their effect on HF propagation then you really want to subscribe to her channel.  The style and format is much like the weather segment of your local TV news program.

She makes it interesting, entertaining, and understandable.


Solar Weather Woman YouTube Channel


September 13, 2018
Categories : propagation

I’m getting the itch to get on 6 Meters.  The band has been open recently, so I’m starting to gather up what I need to put up a small 6M beam.  My neighbor gave me a 30ft telescoping TV mast for absolutely free. I’ll start looking for a used rotator.  I’m thinking of starting with this DiamondA502HB 2-element beam.

It’s such a please to be living in a place with no antenna restrictions and neighbors that don’t mind.

July 7, 2018
Categories : Antennas

I’m VERY pleased with my Hy-Gain AV-640.  It’s mounted on a 15ft mast at the side of my single-story house.  I have a Kenwood TS-590s and I usually run 50 watts.

Today I was scanning 20 meters and I heard 4B4B.  That’s a DXpedition to Revillagigedo Islands (Socorro) in the Pacific. There was a small pileup but I punched the XMIT button and gave my call. He answered. About three weeks ago the same thing happened with F6KHM (France).

Both stations came back to me on my first attempt to make contact.  Coming from years of sub-optimal antenna configurations, this is a new experience for me. And I’m loving it.

March 18, 2018
Categories : Antennas

More changes here at the new QTH.  It’s always been somewhat of a pain to get Win500 and other ham radio programs to run in a VMWare Fusion virtual machine and connect to my radios.  I’ve had a Dell laptop running Windows 10 just sitting around, so I’ve decided to put it to use as the official Ham Shack Computer.

One of the first things then was to find a new logging program.  I’m trying out HRD right now and it seems to work seamlessly with my TS-590 via the USM cable.  I’m really using only the logging and rig control functions as this point, but the fact that it connected to my TS-590 right away without any fiddling is a good sign.

I’ve also got Win500 running to control my GRE500 scanner. (I’m presently using it to monitor a local 6M repeater.) That also connected flawlessly.

February 25, 2018
Categories : Stuff

I have not had much opportunity to get on the air for the last week or so, but the Hy-Gain AV-640 vertical seems to be working well. Contacts in the past week:




I each case I answered their CQ and they came right back to me.

The contact with F6KHM was this morning during France’s REF contest.  It was the easiest DX contact ever.


February 25, 2018
Categories : Antennas

My Hy-Gain AV-640 vertical is finally up!

This article is really about the assembly and erection of the antenna.  I will cover my operating experiences in a later post.

In the adjacent photo you can see it next to my house.  That’s my wife’s 2001 Toyota Tacoma in the photo (boy that is a great little truck).

First, this thing has a bazillion parts. A long time ago I had a GAP Challenger DX and this AV-640 seems like it has 20 times the parts to be assembled. And Hy-Gain is owned by MFJ Enterprises and has seemingly adopted the same policy of leaving the last ten percent of Quality Control to the buyer. Hoping to save some future buyer of the AV-640 some grief, here is a list of my discrepancies:

  1. Instruction Manual: Pages 10-15 , page number missing
  2. Instruction Manual: Pages 16,17 are numbered ‘1’
  3. Instruction Manual: Pages 19- end, page number missing
  4. Instruction Manual: Task VI refers to Figure G for mounting location of Matching Unit, It’s really on Figure H.
  5. Parts Bag #1, 705-1032S Should contain 10-32 nuts. They were 8-32 instead.
  6. 6 Meter stub 810-0640-19 incorrectly threaded.
  7. Hole in one Single Stub Insulator 737-8100 drilled too small

It’s amazing to me that I’m reading reviews that are several years old complaining of a mis-threaded 6 meter stub, and they have not corrected the problem. Having inherited my late father’s tap-and-die set, I ran a 10-32 die down the 6 Meter stub and corrected the mis-threading problem. The missing 10-32 nuts were no big deal except that it was a 50 mile round trip to Ace Hardware.

There are times during the assembly when a second pair of hands would have been helpful.  Specifically when adding the rods for the capacity hat and counterpoise. One pair of hands could hold the end of the rod into the rings while the other pair of hands tightens the screws/nuts.

The footer is a concrete-filled hole that is 15×15 inches and 30 inches deep. The Hy-Gain support guy said that 2-3 cubic feet of concrete would be a sufficient footer, so mine is a little bit of overkill. The ground here is HARD. I could dig about three inches at a time.  I would then fill the hole with water that would take about 4 days to soak in.  Then I could dig another three inches. I therefore spent weeks digging the hole.

Embedded in the concrete is a 4-foot steel pipe that is 2 inches in diameter.  I then attached a Hy-Gain ATB-75 tiltover to it.  I’m getting too old to be climbing to high places to adjust antennas.  The AV-640 is mounted on top of a 15 foot mast that also is 2-inch diameter steel pipe.  The result is that the top of the antenna is at 40 feet.

Quick initial SWR measurements with my MFJ-269C analyzer:

7.2 mhz: SWR 1.4
14.1 mhz: SWR 1.8
21.3 mhz: SWR 1.5

I coud ‘easily’ tilt the antenna back to horizontal and tweak the 20M length but for now it’s good enough. (The tuner in my TS-590s seems to have no problem with it.)

February 19, 2018
Categories : Antennas

When I was a young and very broke ham, I lusted for the Drake C twins. One of my Elmers owned a set and I probably got drool all over my shirt every time I was in his shack.

Yes, I know that my Kenwood TS-590s will run circles around the old Drake gear but it is time. The plan is to find and buy the gear one piece at a time and restore it.  A ham on QTH.com is selling a nice clean non-working R4C for a decent price. This is the beginning of what I hope to be a pleasant adventure.

December 17, 2017
Categories : Drake, Dreamin

Now that the VHF/UHF antenna is up, it’s time to start putting up the Hy-Gain AV-640.

Hy-Gain tells me that a footer of 2-3 cubic feet of concrete should be sufficient. I’m digging a whole about 18 inches in diameter and a little over 2 feet deep.  That will be 3.5 cubic feet of concrete.

The ground here is HARD and progress is slow. I can dig down about 3 inches.  Then I fill the hole with water.  It takes several days for the water to soak in.  Then I can dig another three inches. So far my hole is 16 inches deep.

December 17, 2017
Categories : Antennas

My permanent VHF/UHF antenna is finally up.

Antenna is a Diamond X200A mounted on a 10-foot mast.  As you can see in the adjacent photo, I have a 2-inch steel pip that is four feet long, with 2 feet of it set in concrete.

Attached to that is a Hy-Gain ATB-75 Universal tilt-over.  The 10-foot mast is attached to the ATB-75.

One difficulty of note:  The ATB-75 instruction say that you can use “tube bases or mast pipes up to 2 ¼” OD”.  They neglect to provide a minimum diameter. So I promptly bought a steel pipe 1.25 OD and set it in concrete, only to discover that the U-bolts on the ATB-75 would not accommodate a pipe that small.

AAAARRRRRRGGGGGGG! Yes, I know, I should have done a trial assembly before pouring the concrete.

I dug the pipe and it’s concrete out of the ground, Bought a 2-inch pipe and some more concrete, and after much cussing I was ready to continue.

From that point on the project went smoothly. The mast is also secured to the eaves of the house using a Rohn WM6S Wall Mount

I live in a small rural community in Arizona called Spring Valley, nestled in the foothills of the Bradshaw mountains. I keep the Wildflower Mountain repeater (145.350) on in the shack all the time and thanks to the broad coverage of it, I’ve made friends all over the state.

December 17, 2017
Categories : Antennas