Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Advice for Beginners

eHam Do’s and other opinions:

1. Do buy good used equipment. You can get good used equipment from the classified section on QTH.COM, local hamfests, on Eham, and from other amateur radio operators that you know; especially from members of your radio club.
2. Do join a local radio club or two or three of them! I belong to 4 radio clubs. Why? First, I feel an obligation to help reimburse the club operating the repeater(s) that I use on a frequent basis. Also you will meet many experienced hams and get to know them. They will help you if you ask with just about anything related to the hobby.

Hams are a pretty vocal group when it comes to equipment reviews and operating techniques. You will hear many “opinions”, just remember that each experienced ham has probably already tried what you are doing right now. Use their experience as a guide with your station setup, equipment purchases, antenna selection, and operating procedures. The club membership fee is a very small price to pay for immediate access to EXPERIENCE.
3. Do think ahead! For example, you may be operating at 100 watts right now. But what if you decide to buy an amplifier somewhere down the road. Plan ahead and setup the station so you will be able to operate “full bore”. This requires a little bit of thought when selecting the antenna, feed lines, and antenna tuner. A legal limit antenna tuner is not much more expensive than one rated for 200-300 watts; especially if you are buying good used equipment.

Also put up the best coax you can afford. My personal opinion is nothing under 213 for HF and LMR 400 for VHF-UHF. That RG8 might be OK for 100 watts HF but what about 1000 watts HF? Usually the total cost difference might be no more .40 cents more per foot between RG58 or RG8 and RG213. (cheaper if you buy on-line from reputable sources.
4. Do plan out your station for easy comfortable operation. An example would be a desk microphone or suspended boom microphone and a foot-switch. Much more comfortable, no hands, station operation; also put the most used equipment like the antenna tuner and radio(s) where they are very accessible. A shelf over a desk can make your station bigger, to accommodate more equipment, without actually being WIDER- GO UP higher with your equipment.

5. Do buy patch cables of the same quality as the main feed lines. Do not use RG58 patch cables from Ebay or of unknown quality; use the same ones as the main feed line ( LMR400, or RG213) made by yourself or from the same source as your main coax lines; and use good connectors. I did not do this originally and now I am replacing all the patch cables with better quality lines. It would have been cheaper to have done this originally.
6. If you have the room, Do buy the best highly rated antenna(s). In my case after several attempts, I am now using a Comet GP 9, and a commercial end fed long wire called the QSO King. A good J pole or Diamond vertical will also work just fine on VHF-UHF if you are not far away from the repeaters you want to work. Good recommendations can be found on-line at or from your local radio club members.

The QSO King I use can be installed nearly invisible in restricted HOA areas. The wire has worked very well up to now and has permitted me to make contacts as far away as Russia and New Zealand using 100 watts during band openings. It is also rated for legal limit so I have continued to use it with my ALS 600 amplifier. Recently I completed WAS on both LOTW and on Eqsl, using just this almost invisible wire antenna.
I also purchased an Alpha Delta 4 band dipole DXCC, which I intend to put up later this year. I have not decided just yet as it would also make a good portable antenna using my tripod light stand-mast and two trees. Again buy good highly rated equipment and you will be a happy ham. The antenna is just as important as the radio you use and some would say more important. I must say that I have a preference for long wire antenna designs; however I am now completing the ham shack equipment by installing a tower and Mosley 33 tri-band beam. Again, buy good highly rated equipment and you will be happy.
7. Do share! with other hams. That’s right you remember your mother told you this! Share your knowledge, loan your equipment, and offer to help, other hams. You will be rewarded with multiple friends and remembered long after you have disappeared from planet Earth.

8. Do use the internet as a resource for knowledge. There are great videos about all aspects of the hobby on Just search for “ham radio”. Also I can recommend all of the weekly Ham Nation videos on Youtube. Again just search for “ham nation” on Youtube. This is a weekly video podcast AND you can listen in and check-in LIVE on HF radio.
The forums at are also a good knowledge resource along with the forums on
9. Do jump into the 21st century. Use your computer and get setup on, and Learn how to use the ARRL log book of the world LOTW. All of the contacts you list there can be backed up to your personal logbook on your computer. I have heard some ham’s say that they don’t use them because the logs can be lost if they go out of business. This is just not true. A complete copy of your log can be stored locally on your computer and backed-up so you will always have a copy. I do answer real QSL cards with a return real QSL card that I designed on my computer and print out as needed. This is the proper thing to do with hams that have sent you a real card. However I have a binder with over 150 Eqsl cards ( 4 of which are real) in only the last 12 months of operating on HF. On a monthly basis I upload my log to LOTW. This keeps me current on the ARRL logbook. Easy to do!

10. Embrace new technologies, the digital modes, Dstar, Echolink, SAT communications, a Raspberry pi; if you are getting to be a "bored" ham radio operator branch out into new modes of communication. The hobby has many ways to communicate long distance and has already merged the radio with a computer. This usually appeals to the "geek" inside most everyone in the amateur radio hobby.

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