Amateur Radio VE3CWO & VE3HQH

Doug was licensed as VE3CWO during the summer of 1959, while still living in the Ottawa Valley. The first station consisted of a small seven-tube Hallicrafters mantle radio, an S-85, which offered the regular broadcast band and general coverage up to about 30 Mhz, and a Heathkit DX-40 transmitter. The first antenna was a type of windom, off-centre fed, using open wire line and Heathkit 4 to 1 balun coils.

The first several months were spent mainly on 80 and 40 CW. After a period of six months, my ticket was endorsed for phone privileges on the 10 metre band. The DX-40 had a form of grid modulation. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have become a ham at that particular time. The years around 1960 were arguably the best few years of ham radio ever experienced. I built a 3-element wire beam, the elements being supported with bamboo fishing poles. The driven element was a folded dipole using TV ribbon. It was easy to work all corners of the world on the ten metre band those days, with just a few watts of power. The "tower" was a couple of joined 20 foot water pipes with "armstrong" pipewrench rotation.

I moved into the central part of southern Ontario, Keswick near Lake Simcoe, in the fall of 1960. Over the many years, there has been a wide range of radio equipment used in the station. My first tower was homebuilt, and wooden, about thirty-two feet tall complete with a small TV style rotator turning a ten-metre beam. My favourite vintage equipment remains the Hallicrafters SX-115 receiver, and its matching HT-32B transmitter. I still have them in our shack.

I married in the fall of 1964, a young lady ( I was young then too ) who within ten years was also to become a ham operator, VE3HQH. She upgraded to Advanced after the obligatory year of waiting, and still prefers CW operation. In recent years, due to many other interests, and a couple of grandchildren, she is not spending as much time on the air. Heather is a member of YLRL and the treasurer of CLARA, the Canadian Ladies Amateur Radio Association.

Heather - VE3HQH and Doug - VE3CWO

We moved to our present location on Maple Hill in the summer of 1971. This is a rural setting, where we have about three acres of land along the crest of a ridge that is about 250 feet above the level of Lake Simcoe. We have room for a couple of towers, a twenty metre four-element monobander, and a homebrew two-element three-band quad for 10, 15 and 17 metres. Also there are some 60 foot wooden poles supporting dipoles on 40 and 80 metres. These antennas have served us very well over the past 37 years or so.

Recently I have had an increasing interest in working lower frequency DX, and so have been considering adding more antennas for 40-80-160 that will be more effective than dipoles. I have just begun to experiment with a modified Gieskieng antenna, built for forty metres. I plan to use it during the fall and winter months as I evaluate it and compare it with my dipole antenna.

New entry - March 2006:
Well, I have used the antenna a few times over the winter months. It tunes and loads very well. However, I have not been really impressed with its performance compared to an ordinary dipole. I found this a bit surprising, since I was expecting its lower angle of radiation to outperform my dipole on DX contacts. It didn't seem to work out that way.

New Entry - Spring 2007:
Late last fall a friend and I strung up a large, rectangular-shaped horizontal loop about 35 to 40 feet above ground, and about 1000 feet in length. This does quite well on 160 metres, but being such a low antenna, is not much good for DX. It did give respectable "local" coverage in about a 1000 mile diameter circle. Fed with homebrewed open-wire line, it can be pressed into service on some of the other bands if need arise.

The Modified Gieskieng Antenna on Forty metres

Also, during 2008, I worked at upgrading and rebuilding our "Studio" that is nestled in the lower reaches of a basement corner. Below is a recent photo of our station (circa 2008 - 2009).

Above - A full view of operating console - Below - View of TS850 transceivers

Some of the main pieces of radio gear include two Kenwood TS-850SAT transceivers, Alpha 91B linear amplifier, Vectronics HFT1500 coupler, a computer with quite a bit of ham radio related software, including soundcard operation of PSK31, RTTY, Hellschreiber, SSTV, and so on, as well as logging software which includes radio control functions. Of course, we have an Alfa Spid rotator on a fifty foot Delhi tower, turning a four element monobander on twenty metres. A Ham II rotator turns a hombrew two-element three band quad for 17 - 15 - 10 metres. Also an Icom 706-MK-IIG with an autotuner for portable and mobile operation, and a few two metre rigs for packet cluster, and for use in the vehicles.

Just for fun, and since I had two radios, I designed and built an SO2R switch, including designing and etching a double sided circuit board - I call it my "seven-pack", since there are seven possible antenna choices. It resides in between the stringers of my basement shack, very close to the exterior wall. Five feedlines currently come through the wall to this switch. I can have one rig using one antenna, while at the same time be monitoring activity on a different band with one of the other antennas. Wiring is such that the two rigs can never be switched to the same antenna. First rig to an antenna locks the other rig out of that choice of antenna. It works well while running low power. If I am running the amplifier, I usually do not have the second radio operational.

During the summer of 2009, after parting with one of my treasured TS850s, I just had to fill the vacant space with another rig. With the recommendation of a couple of my close "ham radio friends" I chose an ELECRAFT K3. This is the first rig I have owned that has DSP (digital signal processing). All I can say is WOW. What a great receiver this rig has. It fits right into my station beautifully.

Then, in late November 2010, another addition to the station. The newly released Kenwood TS590SAT. Every time I turn this radio on, I am almost amazed with its capabilities. Although not considered a "competition grade" rig, it certainly can hold its own against most of the rigs out there.

It was also around this time, after having been a licensed ham for over fifty years, that I started watching for a "two-letter call" to become available. I was rather fortunate, after keeping watch for many weeks, staying up until a few minutes after midnight to see what was becoming available in two-letter calls, if anything. My patience and preparedness was finally rewarded when I managed to snag VE3VS, which had previously belonged to a former QCWA member of chapter 73, where I was also a member.

More recently, I have acquired the Elecraft KPA500 solid state amplifier. Now I can operate QRP (up to 5 watts), low power (100 watts), medium power (500 watts) or full power with the Alpha linear amplifier.

And, even more recently, I have added an Elecraft KAT500 auto-tuner to the lineup of equipment. This makes it very much easier for Heather, VE3HQH, to change bands as needed to work other CLARA contacts, or to do some general operating. The manual tuner that I also have in the station was not very convenient for her purposes.

Below is a snapshot of the station console circa February 2015. While doing some other improvements to the console, I also built a more integrated antenna switching unit. It is the large panel on the right-hand side of the middle shelf of the console. With two transceivers, I can readily select the transceivers to be on different antennas on any two bands at the same time. This is still a manual arrangement, but I may automate much of that in the future.

V E 3 C W O   /   V E 3 V S       and       V E 3 H Q H