Ice Tube Clock Kit

Ice Tube Clock Kit
Ice Tube Clock Kit

This is a Vacuum Florescent Display clock kit using a 9 digit surplus Russian tube with blue display and a pre-programmed micro-controller for maintaining time and date The kit has about 2 dozen different discrete components, along with two PCBs and the acrylic display case. The soldering requirements are intermediate, no surface mount stuff, but tight component placement on the PCB. The delicate VFD also requires a bit of care in handling to get it threaded into the interface PCB. Total build time was about 4 hours and I now have a nice clock on our entertainment center. You can buy the clock kit from MakerShed with great step-by-step directions located here.

Hueston Woods 2010

Hueston Woods 2010
Hueston Woods 2010

Our trip to Hueston Woods State Park in Southwest Ohio for Thanksgiving 2010. My family used to vacation at this state park in the 70's, usually a couple of times a year. We usually camped, but on one occasion we stayed at the Lodge. I told myself that one day I would stay there when I was older since it was such fun as a kid. Fast forward 25 years or so and I finally returned with my wife for a few days. The park and Lodge almost seemed to be frozen in time, much of what I remembered had not changed. While some might say this is a lack of progress, I found it quite enjoyable as a door way to some of the happiest memories of my childhood. The Lodge was warm and comfortable. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, and the food in the main dining room was fantastic. I think I may have to make this a new annual tradition.

NIce portable Yagi...wait, is that...tape measure?

The Fulton County Amateur Radio Club is holding a Fox hunt on July 31st. A fox hunt, for the non-HAM friends, is an exercise in radio direction finding (RDF). The premise is that one club member (the fox) will venture out into the county to an undisclosed location and transmit at routine intervals in a predetermined frequency. The hunters then use directional antennas and transceivers to triangulate the signal and find the fox. I have most of the equipment I need minus a good directional, portable antenna. I wanted one that would work for the 2 meter band and could be constructed easily. I found a few prefabricated antennas (arrow antenna's is a good source), but really wanted to try making one. I found many pages on-line describing a portable 3 element yagi using PVC pipe and a steel tape measure. The benefit is that it is small and light weight, has very deep null on the backside (for searching when close to the transmitter), and is very inexpensive to build. I think I have $11 in parts on this one. The director and reflector are solid lengths while the driven element is connected with a hairpin match. There is also an 8 wrap balun to choke out stray RF. There are much better sites on-line describing he construction and operation, just google "tape measure yagi".

Homemade Antenna Loading Coils

These are some loading coils I wound this afternoon to create a shortened 80m dipole antenna. The primary portion of the leg is 406" which should work well on 40m and 15m. The coil is constructed of 20 AWG enameled "magnet" wire on a 1.5" I.D. PVC pipe with the following specs:
Inductance = 101.236 uH
Form Diameter = 1-7/8" (48.26 mm)
Coil Diameter = 1-15/16" (49.199 mm)
Coil Length = 2-1/16" (53.076 mm)
Wire Type = Enameled
Wire Diameter = 0-1/32" (00.939 mm)
Number of Turns = 56.534
Turns Per Inch = 27.1
Turns Spacing = 0-1/32" (00.939 mm)
L/D Ratio = 1.08:1

I should have some time on Sunday to cut the 12 AWG lines for the various bands, but probably will not get it hoisted to test until next weekend, unless I get some nice weather this week when I can test it after work.


This is a really good site for calculating loading coils

weekend electronics project

This weekend I spent some time building a digital mode interface rig based on the designs of Clint Hurd, KK7UQ listed here and Ernie Mills, WM2U at DX Zone. I ordered my parts from earlier in the week and dusted off the soldering iron this morning. It is 4 separate circuits within the enclosure, audio out from the radio passes through to the laptop microphone/line in connector, audio out from the laptop passes through to the radio mic connector, RTS from the laptop serial port is sent to the PTT control on the radio, and last, DTR is used to toggle the keyer on the radio for Software CW. Optical Isolators are used from the laptop RS-232 for both RTS and DTR signals, and 1:1 audio transformers are used, along with 1K variable resistors for audio signals in either direction.

Ireland 2009 Road Tour Day Five:

As before, the map to the right links to photos we took during the drive. As an added bonus, here is a panoramic view of the town of Leenane framed by the mountains in Connemara (It's too wide to import into the main photo album). We woke up in Galway on Thanksgiving day and had a wonderfully decadent Irish breakfast at the Marriott Hotel. Todays excursion was a driving loop around the Connemara region (County Galway and County Mayo). Connemara is the name given to the western portion of County Galway, which lies between Lough Corrib and the Atlantic, highlighting the rugged beauty of The West of Ireland. We picked up the R336 outside of Galway and had a scenic drive along Galway bay with beautiful views of the Aran islands. The weather was a mixed bag, with a little sun and a little rain, sometimes at once. Before 11:30 AM we were treated to no less then seven intense rainbows along our drive. We stuck to the coastal route, switching to the R340 and R341 before eventually reaching Clifden. Right in town you will see roadsigns for "Sky Road", a short driving loop that climbs high along the rocky terrain, offering stunning views of the Atlantic and surrounding land. There is a great car park near the highest point, and is definitely worth the short detour. We rounded the lower road and headed back to Clifden for a quick lunch before moving on.

Ireland 2009 Road Tour Day Four:

For the impatient, click the image to the right to proceed to a photo tour of Day Four of driving tour. We woke up in Killarney on day four, packed our gear, had breakfast and hit the road for another scenic drive. This days destination was ultimately Galway, with a quick diversion to the Dingle Peninsula. In many ways, this is probably one my favorite spots in Ireland. The terrain combines sandy beaches and rocky coastlines with amazing mountains and lush green fields. There are loads of ruins to explore and quaint towns to visit. It's very manageable in a half day visit, but on a future visit, I think I would prefer to spend a day or two there. Leaving Killarney, we picked up the R561 to the Dingle Peninsula. Along the way, we stopped at Inch Beach (probably not proper any longer since Ireland is on the metric system). It was a bit blustery, but it was a nice stop to stretch our legs and stare out at the Atlantic for a bit. We continued on towards Dingle Town (not sure if they call it that, but it seems to have a nice ring to it) where we picked up the Slea Head driving loop (the R569). The Slea Head loop hugs the southwest coastline with fantastic views of the Great Blasket Island and the Atlantic. We took advantage of a break in the rain and enjoyed the view before moving on to the ruins of Kilmalkedar Church. The last time we saw the ruins, it was the pretty well covered in scaffolding for renovation. All of that had been removed, and a nice sunny afternoon allowed us to get some great pictures. We touched our thumbs in the ogham stone (thus renewing our marriage vows) and looped back to Dingle Town for some lunch and light shopping. Leaving Dingle, we headed north up Spa Road to Connor Pass. The pass goes just east of Mt. Brandon, and has spectacular views looking north and south.

Ireland 2009 Road Tour Day Three:

The heavy rains from the low pressure system over Ireland were with us once again on Tuesday. We awoke to overcast skies and blustery winds with the occasional rain pelting the window. Not the greatest day for a drive, but still better then a day in the office. We had breakfast at our new hotel (they had a wonderful selection of Irish cheese as well) before packing up the vehicle and hitting the road. For the benefit of those who have not had the thrill of driving the N71 between Killarney and Kenmare, try to avoid it in the rain. The road is narrow and winding, with a ridiculously fast speed limit which the Irish are sometimes intent on achieving. All that aside, the views are spectacular near Lady's View and Moll's Gap before crossing over on the downward drive to Kenmare. I've often wondered on how tour buses can manage to navigate the curves in the road on this stretch, I had a difficult enough time with our little Kia Sportage. We arrived in Kenmare and continued on to Glengariff at the southeast end of the Beara Peninsula. We did not have the time to explore the Beara the last time we were in Ireland, and I only wish the weather would have been more cooperative this time around. There are many quaint villages on the drive around the rocky coastline, and it can easily be done in a few hours. We eventually looped back to Kenmare and stopped for a very tasty lunch at a local B&B/restaurant.

Ireland 2009 Road Tour Day Two:

After a night of much needed sleep, we had a wonderful Irish breakfast at the hotel before getting a cab to the rental care depot. The car rental was a bit too far of a walk, and it was not even an option since it was raining that morning. The cab driver was a pleasant enough person who seemed to enjoy talking about current events in Ireland. Specifically, he (and the rest of the country) were up in arms over a recent soccer match between Ireland and France, which had a bad call causing Ireland to lose. He stated that they had done everything short of declaring war on France. My comment to him was "they (france) probably would have surrendered if you did that". That made him laugh for quite a bit, so points for making an Irish caby laugh. We were also updated on the recent flooding issues in areas we were intending on visiting. As I understand it, the floods in the Shannon river valley, Galway, and Cork had never happened before in recorded history. There was an option on our route for a trip the the Blarney castle in County Cork, but being unsure of the road conditions, I opted to stick to Cashel and Killarney. After getting the rental, I found it actually quite easy to slip back in the mode of driving on the left side of the road, it was not nearly as bad as our first time Ireland.

Ireland 2009 Road Tour Day One:

We are back from a week in Ireland and Amsterdam. The trip was fantastic, with lots of new experiences and sights. As a recap, I wanted to do something adventurous and exciting for my 40th birthday this year, so some kind of road trip seemed like a good idea. I worked with my travel agent on some various ideas after being pretty dead set on a drive up the Pacific Coast highway. He made some initial estimates for time and costs, and presented me some various options. After reviewing those, he also gave me an option for a self guided driving tour of Ireland which came in considerable less then the Pacific coast idea. Knowing Ireland is a hot button for me, my dead set intentions quickly crumbled and I started to get excited about Ireland instead. We had visited Ireland a couple of years ago, but there was still more of the country I wanted to see. Combined with an extra day in Amsterdam on the way home, that pretty much sealed the deal. The tour package we used was the Independent Irish Spirit package courtesy of .C.I.E. Tours, a pretty big travel agency in Ireland for guided tours. The reason it was such a good deal was because November is largely considered very off-season for tourism in Ireland. This means many major sites have limited hours (if any at all), colder weather, and around 8-9 hours of daylight available for driving. So I planned as best possible with these caveats in mind, and took advantage of the three major cities we would be staying in: Dublin, Killarney, and Galway.

Some lathe time after a week with the cold from hell.

After being knocked senseless for over a week by the cold from hell (I'm blaming my office co-workers), I finally had a weekend where I did not have any major scheduled events and I felt healthy to play out in the shop. I have a few new kits I've been wanting to try lately, and one special project I needed to get done this weekend. The pens from left to right include: A Slimline Pro gel-writer pen and pencil set dressed in Redheart. The metal finish is silver satin and the mechanism for both instruments is a click style. The Slimline Pro design is similar to the standard slimline with a slightly wider body and clean straight line design in the clip. The wider body allows for a gel-writer cartridge versus standard ballpoint. The pencil features a .7mm mechanism with an eraser behind the click cap. The finish is BLO/CA with high speed three wheel buffing. The second pen was a request from my wife. She wanted a turned pen small enough to fir comfortably in her pocket. There are several different kits available in a shortened format, I opted to try the Credit Card Ballpoint style. The pen features a twist mechanism mini-ballpoint reload with Silver Satin plating and dressed in Bolivian Rosewood. The width is comparable to a standard slimline ballpoint. The next pen is a 2-Way Tech 24kt Gold Twist Pen with Bethlehem Olive Wood. This pen is actually for me.

A present for Jen

I have turned lots of pens in the past few years, some of which are promptly confiscated by my wife for her collection. It's all good though, I'm always delighted that I can make something that she will like and get some use out of. This year I decided to try a high end kit for her birthday. The kit I went with was a Majestic Black Titanium rollerball dressed in a stabilized non-dyed buckeye burl. The buckeye burl was 7/8 inches square and that did not leave a whole lot of room for errors. Being a stabilized blank, it turned a lot like a typical acrylic, which also meant I could finish it using micro-mesh. Some of the features of the pen are: A rhodium-plated clip that includes a sparkling Swarovski clear crystal; All exposed accent rings, bands and caps include elegant custom hand-carved 3 dimensional designs; Components are cast, polished then plated with extremely durable Black Titanium plating. The rollerball assembly includes a rhodium-plated pen nib with a premium Schmidt steel cartridge refill with a ceramic point. This is a massive pen. The overall length with cap is 6 inches, 5 inches with the cap removed. The width of the pen itself is about 5/8 inch with the cap at a very large 3/4 inch. The cap is non-postable, but that works out pretty well given the total weight of the pen. With the cap removed, the pen is fairly well balanced and is quite comfortable to hold. After finishing the pen, I realized that the local Woodcraft store did not have a case big enough to fit it.

Barrister Style Bookcase Version 1

After consolidating our home offices, I wanted to have a cabinet I could keep personal treasures in. I wanted to not only display items and woodworking projects, I also did not want to have to dust them. Since we have a rabbit, fur tends to get on everything, and living out in the country does not help either. I considered a couple of different designs like swing out doors, and sliding glass doors, but ultimately decided on a barrister-style hinged door. The base for the project was a standard multi-position, heavy duty shelf system bolted right to the wall studs. I decided to build off of one of the 48in x 12in shelves. The material for the build was 3/4in aspen planks and 1/4in clear birch plywood. Aspen provides a nice clean face, cleaner then most pine on the market, it's cheaply priced, but requires a heck of a lot of post cleanup. It's not only a soft wood, but also very "wooly". Most of the joinery is routed tongue and groove, and the front door is fitted with some salvaged plexiglass temporarily (until I get single pane glass cut at the local hardware store. The pictures listed are obviously raw/unfinished wood. I am going to try to stain to match the laminated base which is American Cherry. The mechanism is pretty simple and only takes a little care when drilling the holes for the dowels which slide in the track.

Dog Days of Summer

Summer has finally arrived in Northwest Ohio. We have seen humidity and temps on the rise for the past couple of weeks, and this weekend was no exception. I can do a little woodworking in short bursts, before it gets a bit too miserable to stand in the garage in 90+ degree heat. I started a small turning a week ago from a chunk of maple a co-worker gave me last year. Never having turned common maple, I did not know what to expect. This particular species is a bit more loose grained with a tendency to splinter quite easily. I spent 20 minutes sharpening and honing my skews, any sharper and they probably would have cut a hole into a separate reality (see Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife), but it still fought being turned every step. Thank goodness for sandpaper. Even after buffing, it still has some flaws from tear-out. But then (as the website says) flaws add character, and this one has a whole lot of character. The cannister pictured is about 4 inches in diameter, and about 5 inches high.

Among other accomplishments from this weekend include installing a Comet GP-6 dual-band VHF/UHF external antenna. I am using this with my Yaesu VX-7R, which is only a 5 watt radio, but still can drive a signal west to Bryan, OH, and East to Oregon, OH. Finally having an external antenna is a good thing!

Is July really over?

With what seems to be a blink of the eye, July is history and we are into August. So here is some random thoughts in no particular order...

Amateur Radio:

I have found this odd sense of accomplishment with studying and taking tests lately. Something I though I would never enjoy or want to do again after college. When I started out in Amateur Radio several months back, I was skeptical as to how well I would like the hobby. Knowing very little about it, other then the excitement of my good friend Brian who got me interested in the hobby, I started out with a study guide and managed to get my technician license before I even had a transceiver. At the end of July, I tested and received my Extra Class rating, the highest level of Amateur operator class one can get. I really have quite enjoyed the learning process once again, and I hope it continues into other areas of life as well. I'll probably stick with my call sign for now (KD8KBU) rather then apply for a vanity call, but that may change in the future. I feel fortunate to be involved with the Fulton County Amateur Radio Club, the members are more then willing to help you with the hobby by providing guidance, years of knowledge and experience, and the occasional part you might be missing.