quinta-feira, 29 de abril de 2010

A piece of beauty

I needed a key to use at the control end of my remote controlled station. It had to be a key capable of withstanding being carried arroud a lot, along with the remoterig control. I've broken the paddles of some keys before, when travelling to operate contests, so something different was needed. The natural choice came to be the Begali Magnectic Traveller Light, a compact and rugged key, built to "survive the rigors of a roving life" as they state in their website. In contacing Bengali I came in touch with Bruna, Pietro Begali's daughter, who takes care of the administrative side of the business. She was very helpful and knowledgeable.

I placed my order using paypal, and after a few days I received an email form Bruna telling me that my key was on its way. The next day all traffic air in Europe was halted due to the volcano eruption in Iceland. Bad timing! Eventually my pack arrived, and what a joy! It's a beautiful piece of carefully crafted hardware. And it came with a nice plastic box, a cleaning tissue, the connecting cable with 0,35mm plugs at both ends, a 0,03mm metal gauge for spacing adjustment, and even some courtesy advertisement blank QSL cards. And for the more adventurous folks, it also comes with a strap designed to fasten it to your leg . All all carefully packed in a carton box filled with styro.

Here is the key strapped to my leg. Hmm, I'm starting to feel adventurous. Backpacking anyone?

Please note that the plastic top is clear. I did not remove the protective tape.

The appearence and craftmanship are really outstading, but how does it score on the functional test?

Well, it feels really great. The keying is smooth, due to the magnectic return mechanism. Contact is perfect, as contacts are gold plated. I was a little worried that the key, due to its own purpose, would be a little too much on the light side, I didn't want to chase it around the table while keying. But my fears went away as I first tried it. I went as fast as I could, and it remained stable even on QRQ.

This is my first Begali key, but I'm so happy with it that I can't help checking their website drooling over all those beautiful keys. Certainly other keys will follow.

Thanks Begali for such a piece of beauty.


terça-feira, 6 de abril de 2010

K1EL keyer kit

Kit building is a time proven amateur radio tradition. The golden era was during the days of Heathkit, a company that sold kits ranging from simple testing gear to complete transceivers.

The advent of large integration, surface mouted components and complex circuits somewhat cast this tradition aside but the recent times have seen a comeback.

The most emblematic case is Elecraft, that sells one of the best transceivers in the market today in kit form. But there are also other interesting kits on the market.

Searching for a way to transmit CW at my remote station using a key at my end, I was brought attention to a piece of software called wkremote by K1EL. It uses two winkey keyers on a back to back configuration, one at each side of the connection. I will write more about it on a future post.

Since I already have a winkey keyer at the radio end (a microham microkeyer II), I needed just one additional winkey keyer. here comes K1EL, who sells great keyers as kits.

I ordered a winkeyer USB kit and soon it arrived. The kit is complete and easy to assemble, I completed it on a sunday afternoon, and I am not a very experienced builder.

The keyer is great, with memmories and fully configurable. It takes power from the USB connection or, when used as standalone, from 2 AAA batteries.

The instructions are complete and detailed. The best of building it was the sense of pride when I first fired it and it worked perfectly.

Amateur radio at its best!