Review: MFJ-1906HD telescoping mast

Ordered an MFJ-1906 fiberglass mast from DX Engineering over the weekend and it arrived at the house yesterday.

I ordered the 33′ hose clamp version of the mast, but what ended up at the house was the 38′ quick clamp version (MFJ-1906HD). Even the label on box said it was the hose clamp version. Factory labeling error I guess. Can’t really fault DX Engineering for sending the wrong item.

MFJ-1906 box label
MFJ-1906 box label

Instead of the expected six 6′ sections of fiberglass tubing inside the box, there were seven 6′ fiberglass tubes along with 6 quick clamps. It’s a pretty compact package. One 6′ x 2.5″ OD tube with all the others nested inside.

The quick clamps need to be glued to each mast segment so that they don’t come off while you’re extending each segment. The only suitable glue I had was epoxy, so I just used that.

Final assembly is just a matter of adjusting the quick clamps so that the tubes slide into each other and holds securely when the clamp lever is in the down position. I marked the bottom end of each tube at 12 cm (the instructions suggest marking them at 1 ft (~30 cm) as an indicator to stop pulling each tube out.

Final length is just over 2.1 m (7′) and fully extended (leaving about 12 cm nested inside the previous segment) the mast is about 12.2 m (40′) long. Leaving about 30 cm nested in each segment would bring the total length down to just over 11 m (37′), which is still plenty long enough for my purposes. Probably a good idea to leave the thinnest tube nested a little further inside for extra strength, especially on a breezy day.

The mast seems pretty sturdy, although I can tell that getting it up is going to be at least a two person job. At somewhere around 10 kg (~20ish lbs), the mast doesn’t weight a whole lot, but the length can make it bulky and unwieldy. The quick clamps should easily hold each segment well enough for the mast to support a wire or other light weight antenna.

The quick clamps seem like they’ll need readjusting, especially if they’re being locked/unlocked frequently. Don’t drag it on the ground while you’re carrying it around, especially on hard surfaces or you’ll end up grinding away the mast.

Now to figure out how to secure the dipole to the top of the mast.

8/10 stars. (10/10 for value in my case).

My first boat anchor!

I’ve acquired my first boat anchor radio!

One of my friends from the photography meetup I’m in messaged me and asked if I’d be interested in an old radio he was helping a friend of his sell.

I’m now the owner of a Hammarlund HQ-100 receiver that powers on, but will need a fair bit of restoration work.

Hammarlund HQ-100
Hammarlund HQ-100
Hammarlund HQ-100
Hammarlund HQ-100

I even got a speaker to go with it.

Hammarlund HQ-100 speaker
Hammarlund HQ-100 speaker

It’s a bit of a heavy beast, but not quite as heavy as it looks. Undoing two screws let me slide the cover off to look inside.

Inside the Hammarlund HQ-100, top view
Inside the Hammarlund HQ-100, top view
Inside the Hammarlund HQ-100, bottom view
Inside the Hammarlund HQ-100, bottom view

There’s a fair bit of dust and corrosion on the components, but except for the band spread dial, all the controls seem to work. Not sure how the radio spent the last few decades of its life. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to replace a few components, especially the mechanical bits. Smells like the previous owner might have been a smoker, but it’s hard to really tell.

This is going to be a fun restoration project to work on. It’s going to take me a while, but I’m going to enjoy working on it.

Field Day 2017

Another ARRL Field Day weekend has come and gone.

This year was a pretty good one. I spent a little less time at the radios this year than in previous years, but it was still busy.

Started out with getting the radio at home set up on battery power (2 SLA batteries that had been pulled out of my UPSs) and getting the antenna mostly up in the air.

Antenna setup
Antenna setup
Battery powered radio
Battery powered radio

I didn’t get to use the radio at home, but Connie was able to use it to make a contact Saturday evening. She started off at 5 W, but wasn’t able to break any pileups. After stepping up to a few different power levels, she was able to make a contact at 50 W, which the batteries apparently handled without complaint. The antenna setup is far from ideal, and I imagine most of the 50 W she had to use ended up warming up the sky overhead. But it still worked. Operating at reduced power is something we’ll have to work on.

The bulk of my Field Day was spent at the USS Yorktown. Once we got the operating positions set up, it was just a matter of waiting for the festivities to start at 1800UTC. We had our usual operating locations off the port side of the flight deck.

WA4USN operating locations
WA4USN operating locations

We also had a lot more visitors to our Field Day operation than in past years. The lady in charge of the overnight camping program at Patriots Point brought groups of Scouts and other campers by every now and then, so we got to show them a little bit about what amateur radio was about.

Our digital station was set up on a dipole mounted on the starboard side of the flight deck but it wasn’t performing very well, so it ended up getting replaced by a Butternut multi-band vertical that was stashed away in the club room. After some assembly, we got the dipole down and the vertical up and everything was performing beautifully.

Assembling the Butternut
Assembling the Butternut
Assembling the Butternut
Assembling the Butternut
New antenna in the air!
New antenna in the air!

One of the things that makes doing Field Day from the Yorktown so great is the view. It’s pretty hard to beat.

Sunday morning, the alternate power source was pulled out of the club room and put to work.

Alternate power
Alternate power
Alternate power
Alternate power

It’s an old exercise bicycle with an alternator attached to the front wheel via a belt. It actually works well enough to power a radio. Unfortunately, the load on the alternator when the radio transmits makes you feel like you’ve suddenly hit a wall while pedaling and the radio shuts off because you’ve stopped pedaling. Entertaining, but not very effective.

Overall, another excellent and fun Field Day with CARS/WA4USN. I think next year I’ll try to do a bit more of Field Day from home.

Field Day 2017 plans

2017 ARRL Field Day
2017 ARRL Field Day

Field Day is coming up in a few weeks! As usual, this year I’m planning on spending most of Field Day weekend down at the USS Yorktown playing radio as WA4USN.

In addition to that, at home I’m also going to set up the antenna on my temporary PVC mast and run the radio off a couple of lead acid batteries that I took out of some UPSs. I’ve made up a wiring harness that will let me connect the two batteries in parallel to the radio. I tested it earlier to make sure they would power the radio, but I haven’t tried transmitting with it yet. I figure the batteries should be good for operating at QRP levels for a couple hours. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a few contacts.

Museum Ships Weekend 2017

Had a blast playing radio in the NJ2BB Museum Ships Weekend event this weekend. I think this was the first time I’d done any significant radio since last year’s Field Day (I really need to get that antenna up in the air…).

This year two of the ships at Patriot’s Point were activated: the Yorktown (WA4USN) on Saturday and the Clamagore (NJ4DU) on Sunday.

Although there was a lot of QSB on 20m both days, there was still some decent propagation into the northeast, midwest and out west. Lots of contacts in the New York/New Jersey area, a bunch of contacts in California and Michigan/Illinois/Ohio. Texas was a big hot spot of contacts.

Unlike last year, we got some pretty good pileups going, and I was able to work on a pileup for a solid hour on Saturday before taking a break. I had a few other pileups going earlier, but that was the longest one I worked. When I left for the evening, I think we were up to just over 400 contacts for the day for WA4USN.

Sunday I wasn’t able to play radio for as long, but it was the first time I had operated as NJ4DU. Interesting little tidbit:the NJ4DU call sign is derived from the ship’s naval call sign, NJDU.

We got a few small pileups going on 20m before the band got too crowded. Took a bit of a break to look for some other ships, and then found a decently clear frequency to run again. Had a nice little pileup going before I had to call it quits for the day and let someone else take over.

Unfortunately, this may be the last time the Clamagore gets activated for Museum Ships Weekend. Because of its deteriorating condition and high cost for restoration, it looks like it is destined to be sunk for a reef off the coast of Florida.

It may not be the last time NJ4DU gets on the air though.

Next up: Field Day 2017.