September 2017…


While wasting valuable operating time reading the funny things Ham's have to say on Twitter I came across Alberto (EA3GKY) a new (to me anyway) CW Key maker (Alberkeys). He had some great straight keys and paddles so I wasted no time dropping him an email and putting my name on the list for one of his paddles. A few weeks later he emailed me to let me know he had made a new batch and mine was ready. A PayPal transaction later and my key was with me in a few days.

I don't think Alberto has a website but you can find him on;

I love the key and my only gripe is that they don't use proper electrical contacts relying on the basic key fabric (steel?) as the contacts. This can be prone to oxidisation.

Alberkeys Paddle

"It's so ... black!" said Ford Prefect, "you can hardly make out its shape ... light just seems to fall into it!"
Zaphod said nothing. He had simply fallen in love.
The blackness of it was so extreme that it was almost impossible to tell how close you were standing to it.
"Your eyes just slide off it ..." said Ford in wonder. It was an emotional moment. He bit his lip.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams

K16 Keyer

Back in January Chertsey Radio Club had run a virtual Build-a-thon, a group building session via Webex (bit like Skype). In this Build-a-thon we build a custom kit put together for us by Dennis at Kanga, a Foxx3 CW transceiver with the super powerful K16 keyer integrated (see

K16 for Build-a-thon

I had come to realise that the keyer in my Kenwood TS480 didn’t suit my style of sending (Iambic mode A I think) so when I received the new paddle from EA3GKY I knew I needed a keyer that suited my sending style…then my brain slowly put 2 and 2 together and I immediately tore the K16 keyer out of the Foxx-3 and investigated what would be required to make this into a fully functioning, stand-alone unit.

The unit as shipped for the Build-a-thon was slightly cut down as that was all that was needed. To complete this small PCB to open up all its features I would need to add some resistors, extra connectors and buttons and a sounder (useful for setting up). 

 I also opted to add a ‘speed pot’ to make the job of matching the speed of the person calling you much, much easier. Many of my radios require a delve into the menu to change CW speed and this is a pain when someone is calling you.

The job was surprisingly simple and I shoe-horned the whole thing into a tiny Hammond aluminium case. The results looked great and worked perfectly although I’m not going to lie…mastering the menu system of the K16 is challenging but once it’s set up you don’t typically have to change anything.

The finished K16 - Front
The finished K16 - rear

The K16 keyer and Winkeyer are available from Dennis at Kanga UK.

Cobwebb 5 band HF aerial

Summer is coming to an end so I thought it would be a good idea to drop the telescopic mast at ‘POT Towers and perform a little maintenance to the aerials. While it was luffed over I reassessed my use of the 6m/2m/70cm co-linear and eyed up a rather bedraggled 5 band (20 – 10m) Cobwebb which has been leaning up against the shed for some time. Although the higher HF bands are pretty flat at the moment I’m more likely to get joy on 20m than 2m so I opted to swap out the co-linear for the Cobwebb.

Cobwebb Aerial on mast
Mast with Dipole and Cobwebb


As the days start to cool I’m thinking about how I may want to adapt my SOTA operating to cope with the colder weather. I decided to make two investments; A rather swanky Helinox Ground Chair and an Esbit Stove.

The Helinox is the bee-knees when it comes to lightweight, pack-down-small comfort. They’re not cheap but they are very well built, ultra-light, small and super comfortable. 

The design with bars along the bottom rather than legs performs better in muddy fields as they don’t sink in although it’s worth noting that if you throw yourself into it with too much gusto you will (and I speak from experience here) go straight over the back and end up rolling around on the floor. I bought mine from an outdoor supplier but I note that SOTABeams now stocks them (and has a rather fetching picture of me demonstrating it) and I like to support small Ham businesses so get over to and check them out.

The Esbit stove is basically a small metal container in which to burn solid fuel pellets and a metal cup with a lid. Each fuel pellet boils one cup of water/milk. It’s perfect if you don’t want the faff, weight or impact on backpack space of a flask. There’s something quite satisfying about heating up a coffee on a cold summit.

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