ON4WW : Shack, Hardware & Antennas

Over the years, most hams undergo the discomfort of having to move their shack to different places. A discomfort, because with the years the pile of stuff to move, grows and grows.
It is not different with me, and I consider myself fortunate that I am now in shack number three, with shack number four upcoming, which should be the final destination. Eureka!
As for antenna installation, this is a continuing process, in search for the optimum combination for successful communications.
I had to compromise, for the regulations in our country have become too severe and intolerant for ease of erecting towers (of course except for the commercial ones, for cellular phones, the big bucks).
Nevertheless, although my antennas are technically too low in height, the ON4WW station seems to be getting through the pileups with relative ease. The plans for the 160m four-square still slumber. Hope keeps optimism alive.

Topband has my main attention nowadays. Following links show my up to date 160m score, with call signs of stations first worked per DXCC alphabetically, and Chronological in Excel files. The confirm field (CFM) shows N=not cfmd yet, Y=cfmd by that specific station and (Y)=cfmd by another station from that country. No surprise my brother in crime Peter ON6TT was my first ever DX topband QSO, when he activated C30EMA in August 1990. Perhaps your call sign is in my list? Thanks!
17 October 2005 : finished my WAS and WAZ by working KL7HBK on topband for my #242!

The actual station (October 2005) comprises of a Yaesu FT-1000MP, a fifteen year young KLM KT34-XA, a Cushcraft A3WS with 30m extension for the WARC bands, a quarter wave vertical for 40m, the 40m 4-square, the twelve meter self-supporting tower shunt-fed for 80m, and an Inverted-L for 160m with 80 radials. Weak signal reception on the low bands during summer time is with a K9AY array, completed with eight Beverage antennas in winter time.

After my nearly 20 years of contesting, Mr. A.C. Murphy was so kind to pay me a visit and write something about his own activities during the CQWWCW contest, edition 2005.

In June 2008 I participated in the CW Fieldday in a rather different way. I visited all 15 fieldday stations, and made one QSO from each station, using their callsign. This QSO had to be a new multiplier, so this gave me an extra challenge (and some stress near the end)! In total a distance of 1041 km was driven to visit all stations, big fun! The story is in dutch language, but you'll appreciate the pictures. Click here!

Below photographs give a general as well detailed overview of the station and antennas. Click on them to enlarge. Credit for some of the photo's goes to ON5TN and DL2CC.

73 - Mark - ON4WW.

First shack
The first shack in 1988. Simple means don't necessarily give small results. Ten thousand QSOs were made the first year. Yep, that's a Commodore C64. And a Kenwood TS-430S radio
Second shack
The second shack, also inaugurated in 1988. Dad went under the roof when son was born. Notice my first 286 PC, courtesy ON4AMI. The picture was taken in 1990, an upgrade to a TS-940S radio was made
Third shack
The third shack. We moved houses in 1993, and dad was confined to the garage. After eight years, and two years of waiting for a building permit, there is hope for a final and decent shack
Another view of the third shack. History now. Still can't find space to put the car inside. In 1997 I bought an FT-1000MP from the VK0IR expedition. Later on an amp (the LK-800 from Amp Supply) was added to the setup. Mind you, my first 300 entities were worked barefoot (even though evil souls will tell the contrary, ha!)
Shack to be
Yes, right, I can't wait for this bl..dy permit to get here ! A 3 by 6m shack all for myself, waw ! The canon coming out of the ground, is actually for underground feedlines, which will enter directly in the shack
Lots of hair
This is the amount of hair I had before trying to get this shack building permit, now two years ago
Less hair
See me now ! I pulled out most of my hair, how can one have to wait for two years to get a building permit ! Life's too short for QRP, but also for this nonsense
Jabbadabadoooo....some concrete has been poured
After two and a half years, the building permit came. This is how things stood in January 2003
Getting there...
Inside the work can start
Starting to compose and assemble the bits and pieces of the new shack
Cabling under the radio table. Good labeling from the start is important (so dude, where is the labeling?)
Final painting was done September 2004. Notice the two dualband vhf/uhf antennas on the side walls, used for packet radio and local voice operation
New shack inside
End 2003, the new shack is finished. The LK-800 amp has been replaced by another amplifier, see the horror story on that one here (note: as I learned that the ownership of this amp manufacturer will change in the near future, I decided to leave out the company name)
Celebrating the fourth shack, a couple of beers, notice the books ? Right, DL2CC and ON4UN visiting...
The masked man versus ON4UN in a flycatch fight
31 December 2008. Luc ON5UK was successful in restoring my old TS-940S radio (tnx buddy!). I decided to put the radio back into play, and here's how the shack looks like nowadays. Notice the OM Power amplifier, a trustworthy piece of equipment!
Antenna overview
Left to right : KLM KT34-XA with Cushcraft A3WS on top, 40m quarter wave vertical, vhf/uhf antenna
KT34-XA and A3WS
Close-up of KT34-XA and A3WS. March 2004, a 4 element 6m yagi has been installed in between those antennas
Ham IV and RCS-8V switch
The Ham IV rotor is mounted at the bottom of the tower for ease of service. It will be replaced by a heavy duty rotor. On the left is the Ameritron RCS-8V Remote Coax Switch, to which the five transmit antennas are connected
Close-up of the RCS-8V. This remote coax switch is 14 years old, and guess what, after all those years not only does it still work flawlesly, the sales price is still the same, would you believe it !!! Way to go Ameritron.
Somewhere in 2003 the Ham IV rotor was replaced by a Yaesu G-2800DXC
Steel tubing to top
Heavy steel pipes go from the rotor all the way to the top
These cables come both from the shack, and from the field to the shack, and pass through this cabinet near the tower. Thanks ON4MA for the new cabinet ! Need to sort it out a bit...
80m Shunt-feed
The vertical shunt-feed wire for the 80m vertical, slopes towards the series capacitor in the cabinet, here an air cap
vacuum varicap
The 80m shunt-feed series capacitor is DC-motor driven and can be tuned for low SWR across the band. The air cap has been replaced by a vacuum varicap and a coaxial fixed cap in parallel
The coaxial fixed cap has been replaced by high voltage caps
This is the final setup, with a heavy duty vacuum varicap, which replaces the previous one
Oops, never say final. Here is the (probable) final setup, with the heavy duty vacuum varicap, which is driven by a simple screw driver. Works like a charm
The base of the 160m inverted-L. Inside the cabinet is an LC matching network. August 2005, this simple antenna yielded 241 countries so far. End 2008, the total is 277 entities. You can find more info on this simple and effective antenna right here
Chicken wire ground system
At the base of the tower, chicken wires are used instead of a layer of radial wires. Works for me, for the time being
radials
In 2004 we re-did the garden, and 44 radials are permanently underground. In wintertime, another 40 radials are laid out on the Beverage field, as can be seen on the picture. The chicken wires finally got company !
The 40 winter-radials rolled up in springtime
A view down from the tower, I'm working on the 40m quarter wave vertical. The vertical has been moved from the garden to the field
40m vertical ready for sunset
Base of the 40m vertical

Close-up of the 40m vertical base. With one chicken wire and ground rod, SWR was < 1.7:1
Adding five radials of 5m length each, brought SWR to 1.2:1 on the entire band (7-7.2 MHz)

It's seldom we get a nice sunset at this QTH, but this one will do
And this is the nicest rainbow ever, doubled up by a faint second rainbow touching the yagi's...wonders of nature
Beverage fields
In winter time, these fields are used to deploy eight Beverage antennas of each about 170m length, spread every 45 degrees.
These are the - almost indispensable - tools for successful topband operation
Beverage snowy fields
Snow in Belgium, doesn't happen too often anymore.
The Beverages in winter make for nice views in the early morning hours, when the wires are covered with ice
XYL Katrien inspects the icing on the Beverage wire. Great picture, and her coat is compatible with the weather elements. The 0.8mm Beverage cupper wires don't appreciate the icing, but only few have been overstretched due to the weight and broke
North and South Beverage
All Beverages are supported by 2m tall bamboo sticks. Going straight ahead is the North Beverage, and to the left is the South Beverage
flooded Beverage field
Flooding end of December 2002 in Belgium. Half of the Beverage field is covered with knee-deep water. Here I'm repairing the Northwest Beverage which was lying partly in the water after a duck or goose flew into it
wet boots
Knee-deep water and inappropriate protection, makes for wet boots and socks, and freezing cold feet !
on4ww on raft
Okay, let's try do things better. Mark junior quickly made this raft, tested it the day before, it works great. The white spot in the background, is the furthest away Beverage box, which I need to reach. This is the Southeast-South Beverage box, it doesn't work. Probably the coax cable is damaged while government officials cleared the stream of mud
on4ww stranded
Oops, I got stranded. The water flood is frozen overnight, I need an ICEBREAKER instead of a raft ! In the background is the tower with KT34-XA and A3WS
Here is Katrien, testing the raft, somehow. When she married me, she told people she knew 'she was marrying my radio as well'. Anno 2004, we've been together for 24 years. Life is beautiful, so is she. Quite a woman, to put up with me!
Beverage eye bolts
Eye bolts (such as used on cattle farm land to hold the high voltage wires) are easily attached to a bamboo stick and guide the Beverage wire. The lower eye bolt is used when two Beverage wires cross each other
In the 2008-2009 winter season, I added eye screws to the eye bolts, in order for the Beverage not to jump out. That happened from time to time
Beverage spooling tools
An easy system makes for quick Beverage deployment and take down
Easy Beverage spooling
The electrical screwdriver connected to the spool with the Beverage wire. This setup is used when taking the Beverages down. Easy spooling makes for a time of only just over an hour to take the eight Beverages down in a neat way
Beverage unwinding tool
Deployment is even faster. For unwinding the Beverage, this simple hand tool makes for a time of 35 minutes to installl the eight Beverage wires. However, getting all bamboos in place takes a bit more time. It takes about 4 hours to install the whole system.
First relay box
Depicted is the first relay box near the tower, in which a split is made towards the three Beverage relay boxes
NW-W-SW Beverage box
This is one of those relay boxes, with NW, W and SW directions. For ease of removal during summertime, note the 'eye' connections attached to the end of the wire. The Beverage wires also have such an eye, and both are fastened with a small stainless steel bolt and nut
Beverage box inside
Nothing much to it, simple component circuitry makes for long-life reliability of the setup. This system has been used by ON4UN for many years, and now at my station too
Beverage termination ground rods with resistors at the top. The rods to the right were in use for about 10 seasons. The ones to the left too, but they have just been cleaned before the picture was taken. Necessary! During the 2007-2008 winter season, I noticed my Bevs were not having much F/B anymore. This was the reason why!
K9AY array
In summer time, the K9AY array gives sufficient opportunity for reliable low-band reception. Some bamboo sticks rapped together make for a quick and simple support for the wires
K9ay array switch box
The K9AY array switch box
K9AY box inside
Inside of the K9AY array switch box, very easy to construct
Gary K9AY and xyl Nancy visited our home in mid October 2004. It was a pleasure having them here and showing them bits and pieces of the city of Ghent. What a lot of fun Gary has given to a lot of lowbanders !!
Beverage and K9AY control boxes
Beverage control box on top, K9AY array control box below
New beverage controlbox
January 2009. On top of the ft-1000mp, one can see the K9AY control box, old Beverage control box and the Ameritron coax switch. On the foreground is the newly designed Beverage control box (by Luc ON5UK). I can now switch instantly from e.g. East to Southwest, pure luxury during contesting! Thanks Luc!
Latest beverage controlbox
October 2010. Luc ON5UK designed yet another beverage controlbox. This is the ultimate lowband contesting beverage controlbox. Touch (not press) any heading with your fingertip, et voila. But there is more to it. Check out this short video. Cool eh?!
And what do you do when a new interference source pops up ? Right, jump on the bike, and find the offender. Here I am using a 160m direction finding unit, and a Sony ICF-PRO80 receiver. How do I find these interference sources? Read all about it here.
CQWWCW 2005. Target : a new European record on topband. Culprit for not succeeding : this sign for Dior, making the NW direction unuseable until Sunday 1730z, together with snow static for hours and hours, making six out of eight Beverages unuseable !
DCQ : Deliberate Contest QRM
CQWWCW 2005. Both stations in this audio file were requested to QSY. They refused. One is some hundred Herz up of my frequency (sounds like SSB squeaking), the other with bad keyclicks is 500 Hz down.
Heavy duty connectors
I've had it with PL259 and N-connectors. What do you think of these babies ? There is a piece of RG213 with a PL259 and N-connector for reference
Heavy duty connectors
This is how the connectors look on the inside. Aaaah, you gotta love the size...
November 2012, a new project is born. I am replacing the Beverages by an 8 element receive system manufactured by Hi-Z. Read all about the 8 circle array here.
on4ww_sp5ewy_on4un
Lowband addict Rys SP5EWY, visiting our home with his XYL Joanna and son Janek on 31 August 2007. We went for a ride and visited John ON4UN, where this picture was taken. Meeting Rys in Friedrichshafen is always a pleasure, but having him here at our home was the icing on the cake!
k2uo
On 23 October 2008, George K2UO was once more in Belgium. This time he was going to play the CQWW contest from ON4UN's station, and prior to that George paid me a visit. It was from the late eighties or early nineties I met George in my previous QTH. Great to have you back here, George!
om3tzz
On 29 November 2008, Jaro OM3TZZ paid a second visit to our home. During his first visit in 2005, I forgot to take a picture, not this time! You may remember Jaro from his SU9ZZ-days (1999-2001). Jaro and his family live and work in Brussels, I am looking forward to meet this contest and cw buff more often!
ey8mm
On 25 October 2009, Nodir EY8MM visited our home. In 2002 when working in YA and AP-land, one of my flights made a stop-over in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Too bad I didn't get to visit Nodir at that time! Nodir is a top notch topband operator, always keen on exploring the edges. While here, he listened to his 14 year young son Zaur, who was working the CQWW contest as EY8CC!
pa3fqa
On 14 and 15 January 2011, top-notch DXer Dick PA3FQA visited our home. We go back a quarter century and have been seeing eachother from time to time at the hamradio fest in Friedrichshafen, always big fun! We never visited eachother's homes, until now. An evening and a morning were not enough time to exchange all our 'hamradio war stories' that happened during the 25 years we know one another, a week would be more appropriate!!
N1DG
On 31 August 2011 my good friend Don N1DG paid a visit to our home. I know Don already from the days when his WB2DND callsign kept on appearing in DX Bulletins, and finally met him in 2000 when we were together in Bhutan for the A52A DXpedition. I don't think Don needs an introduction in the DXers world, everybody knows this great character. We went around to visit John ON4UN and for a touristical tour in the city of Ghent, where we shared many stories over a cold one. Great to have had you come over, Don!
OM2TW
On 2 June 2012 Jaro OM3TZZ brought his friend Rich OM2TW, aka OK8WW along to help out during fieldday (yes, our local club now has the advantage of superb OM operators helping us out!).. Rich is one of those (few) hams that are active from 136 kHz till the end of the known spectrum, very VERY high up! What a character! And being such an adventurer on all parts of the radio spectrum, he was in total disbelief when he noticed my 160m inv-L. IS THAT ALL YOU GOT? Rich couldn't believe it and held his head in his hands. Glad to have had you over for a quick BBQ, Rich! And tnx Jaro for the saucages and veggies!
G3SXW
On 20 June 2012 one of the finest globetrotter DX-peditioner and DX-operators finally made it to our home. I met Roger G3SXW for the first time at a Flanders DX meeting in the late eighties. Little did I know at that time how good an operator he really is. And what a character! We often find ourselves with a cold one in the Friedrichshafen beergarten, chatting along about DX and trying to improve the world. Well, this year we got a 10 hour chat in the car on our way to F'hafen! Always a pleasure Roger, come back soon for another cold one on the terrace...

Send Comments and Queries to: