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Getting into amateur radio

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by Huntinbull, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    Getting started in Ham radio. Always thought it would be cool to do. Finally just asked myself, Why haven't I done it yet?!?! So I am.

    Friend got me a book by Gordon West. Read it and feel pretty confident. Figure to take the exam soon. Took a practice exam and got a 91%. Excited to get started.

    Figure to get a dual band, handheld for a first radio. Budget being what it is, I was checking out the Baofeng UV-3R. Is 2 watts enough power for the dual band radio?

    Thanks for any and all input.
    strunk likes this.
  2. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    2watts will get you into Most of the Repeaters in your area, and will give you a range of around 5 miles, for Handheld to Handheld. Vhf or Uhf will be about the same, for range as they are both LOS type Frequencies. Mobiles with 25-50 Watts will reach out better and give you around 25 miles, of range, and farther for High Elevation Repeaters. When you finally get on HF, I will be around for a chat, anytime. ..... YMMV....
  3. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    Might study for the general class test and take it as well. Two birds, so to speak.
    BTPost likes this.
  4. weegrannymush

    weegrannymush Monkey+

    How exciting for you, Huntinbull. It's something I've always wanted to do but never got around to it....always figured it was a) too expensive and b) too complicated! Another paver on my Road of Good Intentions, unfortunately.

    I'll be looking forward to seeing how you get on with it so hope you will keep sharing your experiences. It's great that there are folks like BTPost on the site who can give advice!
    TheEconomist likes this.
  5. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    I am setting up a Dipole antenna and grounding now for a SSB and Shortwave station. Btpost has been a big help in guiding me through the process that really isn't that complicated to do correctly, apparently but still has enough pitfalls to get you into some problems.
    I ordered a 32 Amp power supply yesterday and a lightening strike arrester for the grounding (we live in a very lightening prone area). Good luck with it.
  6. weegrannymush

    weegrannymush Monkey+

    I take it that one has to protect Radio Equipment from an EMP? I suspect a Faraday cage is not the answer here? Just how does one go about doing this? Just askin'.
  7. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    A Faraday Cage will certainly do the job, But this assumes that your Cage, has NO Electrical Connections, between the Inside and the Outside. Also your protected items are not touching the Cage, itself. NO POWER, or any electrical pathway, for the EMP to travel on, thru the Cage. Any Box, made from Conductive Materials, will limit EMP VULNERABILITY. By how much is the question. Is the Box Grounded, or does it have seems in the surface that are not completely closed, by conductive filler? Is it buried under one foot of earth? There many ways to increase the Isolation. Then where the EMP event comes from, your physical relationship to that event, in distance, and terrain, also makes a BIG Difference. ..... YMMV....
  8. weegrannymush

    weegrannymush Monkey+

    Forgive my ignorance, please.....then as I understand it, if you kept the Radio unplugged and unpowered EXCEPT when you were actually using it, it would not be harmed by an EMP? Of course, if you were using it, then you'd be up the creek without a radio if there was an EMP burst. But OK if you were unpowered?

    And if you keep objects in a Faraday cage and they dont touch the sides, does that include the floor? How does an item get placed in the cage - I mean, it cannot be suspended in mid-air so how does the floor come into it all. Sorry for these dumb questions (yes, I know there are no dumb questions, haha! but they sure seem dumb to me). We want to store our Emergency Radios, our Emergency LED lights and spare batteries etc. in a cage....is that correct?

    It is very difficult to surf the web and get simple answers to this sort of question....the answers always seem to assume that you know a whole lot of stuff already, lol. I have a book on EMP's and I understand a fair bit now but these little extras elude me still - they are not addressed anywhere.
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Unplugging is insufficient. The circuits are exposed, and act as antenna that can act to impose a voltage high enough to "burn" out the circuits. The power cord is just one long antenna so far as EMP goes. The whole ball of worms has to be inside the cage, the cage has to be continuous with careful design to the door to ensure continuity of the shield. Yes, the bottom must also be a shield. Put the device that wants protection on something that insulates it from the cage. DRY wood will work, and should be greater in dimension that the gadget that sits on it.

    There has been, and will continue to be, an argument whether or not the cage has to be grounded. Theoretically, no, because an induced voltage in the cage will collect on the outside, and eventually dissipate into the air. Until it does, anyone that touches it and is in contact with a ground is going to get zapped. Whether or not the zap is merely a tingle or if it knocks you on your tush has a lot to do with the size (surface area) of the cage. Safe and sure is ground it to conductive soil or something that gets there.

  10. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    UnPowered and unConnected will give you a Limited Immunity from EMP, Depending on, Distance from the Source, Intensity of the Pulse, Height of the Source, Above Ground, and Terrain. Inside a Faraday Cage, you would support the Items on shelving, made of insulating materials. (Fiberglass, Wood, Plastics, etc) Just so there are NO electrical connections between the Cage itself, and the Contents inside the Cage. The EMP will dissipate thru the Grounding System of the Cage, and stay on the Outside surface of the Cage as there is no Path thru the inside of the Cage. EMP ALWAYS follows the path of least resistance, just like lightning. .... YMMV....
  11. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    Ham radio can be as expensive as you choose to make it. Once you get to know the local Hams; there is usually someone with a tube finals rig or older transistor rig at a bargain price.
    I've had just as much fun with a few hundred feet of wire as I did a store bought beam antenna.
  12. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    I've been doing some looking into this wireless communicator bit. As near as I can tell money is one thing but the antenna is going to be the biggest problem for me. Deciding which band or bands to be chosen, then figuring out how to feed it look to be excellent places to stumble. I don't regard getting a "ticket" as an obstacle, that is brain work that takes only time, not money. (But it doesn't take long to realize the sky's the limit when it comes to hardware.)
  13. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    With antennas it comes down to what you can put up. I've worked a variety of antennas in the attic in Europe. A mobile antenna on a balcony in Israel.

    There are a bunch of different kinds of stealth antennas. Where do you believe you could hide one?


  14. weegrannymush

    weegrannymush Monkey+

    Great replies, everybody! Thanks so much - I actually can understand what you are talking about, believe it or not! I am still puzzled, however, so here is another dumb question......I promise (well, maybe not!) not to ask any more. OK...there has been an EMP and my Ham radio equipment was safely stored in a cage. EMP has finished...no electricity anywhere, so Radio is at that point useless. Can your Radios be battery operated in such a case? But if so, would the range not be much diminished by the relatively low power of batteries? Or is the plan to have the Radio hitched up to a generator? I don't quite see how it would all come together, you know? After the EMP, I mean.

    I know that my Emergency Radios etc. will function on batteries. It is only the Ham equipment I am querying.
  15. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Yes Granny, most of the Ham Radios can be run off of Batteries. They are mostly designed to be powered by 12 Vdc, like a Auto Battery. All of my Radio run off of a 12 Vdc Buss that is powered by a pair of L16HDs, (2 each, 6 Volt Batteries connected in series) and charged via a !20Vac to 12 Vdc Regulated Power Supply, when ever the Genset is running.
    weegrannymush likes this.
  16. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

  17. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    I've a bit of leftover lingo from years ago, including what I remember of the 10 and Q codes. Very useful between two or more of the knowledgeable, but useless to the newb. (And to me as well after all these years, not enough retained.) Until I get back up to speed, there's much study to be done and decisions to be made. I'll make use of that link, thanks for finding it.

    In the meantime, one thing we don't want is to have a new prepper scared of a subject for lack of being able to understand the jargon. It ain't that hard. (At least that's what I keep telling myself.)

  18. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    I think it won't need a lot of hiding up here, nonetheless I don't have the assets or inclination to put up a 60 foot tower with something that will stand the wind, snow and ice loading seen here. (On my wish list all the same, 10 to 160 meter rotatable quad.)

    As a practical matter, it looks like I have about 60 feet or a skosh more on the top of the roof (have no accessible attic) where I could use two satellite TV dish mounting masts and string a wire that would stay above the roof snow in mid winter and be pretty sure to de-ice itself readily. (Those masts will be on the back side of the peak, that way, tho' visible, they won't be as obvious from the road. The wire will be essentially invisible. And, I can get my roofer to mount them when the roof is redone this year.) Long wires being what they are, I'm pretty sure the house layout isn't optimal for monkeyland operations, bearing is about 45 deg magnetic. Have to be end fed by coaxial cable and brought thru a window on the (more or less) south end of the house. Reception isn't critical across all bands; but for transmission, length is a lot more important. ( I say that, not for patronizing, but for potential SWL folks.) I think, but do not know for sure, that the 60ish feet will do for 40 and 20 meters fairly well. Have to confirm that with more study. Also don't yet know what I'll need to do for balancing/tuning.

    A mobile (whip?) is another possibility, and almost certain to be added to the pickup at some point. Might just start with that as I did back in CB days using a rain gutter for the ground plane.
  19. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    These are rough dipole Total length (end to end) Calculations for the common Ham Bands.

    80 Meters 3900 Khz 120Ft
    40 Meters 7100 Khz 66 Ft
    20 Meters 14000 Khz 33 Ft
    10 Meters 29000 Khz 16 ft

    You would need roughly 120 Ft of space between a couple of trees, or Poles, with the Center Insulator, or Balun, centered near the Coax, or Ladder-Line entrance of the house. If you use a Antenna Tuner, either manual or auto, you would cut the dipole lengths to for the Lowest Frequency you intend to use, and then have the tuner match that antenna to any of the Higher frequencies, that you plan to use. This is basically what I have used here, for 3 decades. I have one dipole strung up between a Tree and a tower, that is cut for 80 Meters, and use a tuner for all the other frequencies. It has worked very well for Me. dipoles are fairly OMNI-directional, except for about 5 degrees, directly off the ends, and even those directions are not attenuated by much. .... YMMV....

    ..... YMMV.....
  20. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    I have trees aplenty, but most are whippy thin, grow densely around here, and not particularly suited for use as a mast because of that. (Not to mention my lack of interest in climbing them to hang a pulley.) The ones that are big enough to take the load are subject to getting knocked over in wind, it happens pretty often up here.

    I can make the 66 feet on the roof, I think, including insulators, so 40 meters is within grasp. IIRC, that would make 40, 20, and 10 meters usable (80 if I can get it to behave as a 1/4 wave) and resonant. (Discounting anything wanting a repeater; like as not those will be unavailable/useless when SHTF.) Orientation is what it has to be, and end fed by coax is almost necessary since there's no way to hang a center feed ladder in the middle of the roof. Practical consideration to be sure, but still the "best" way to go if proper balance can be achieved.

    One thing else I need to study on is the range that on board antenna tuners can manage. If they are wide enough, I should be able to get by without a balun if I understand all I think I know. Highly doubtful, that.
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