I just got my first HF receiver, a Lafayette HA-800B, on loan from K4GR (thanks very much), and I can’t wait to get a good dipole antenna constructed and put up so I can listen in. I don’t know that much about the HA-800B but I am learning as fast as my fingers can turn the knobs through the bands. My current shack, as of this writing, only consists of VHF/UHF type equipment, I don’t have any “real” HF antennas in use at the moment, so the first thing I wanted to do was run out and put up an 80 meter dipole antenna, or anything to get that S-unit needle bouncing around with the sound of call signs and CQ’s. Of course, I just ordered the The ARRL Antenna Book and since it has yet to arrive, I had to improvise.
What I did do for the sake of time was try to put up a random wire antenna (*def) that was fashioned from a trailer wire lighting set, which I had sitting around in a box of saved “wires of potential”. This kit consisted of a single 25 foot, four wire insulated (about 12 AWG) set, with a standard trailer connection and a small white ground wire on one end (both of which I quickly hacked off with my knife) and a clean factory cut at the other.
*When it is not practical to have a 1/2 or 1/4 wavelength long resonant antenna… a random wire antenna can be used. A random length of wire attached directly to the receiver, put out in any manner possible. This antenna is not intended to be resonant on any particular frequency but should be resonant at some frequency. It is a multi-band antenna and the radiation pattern is very unpredictable, but will work with varying results. [ARRL General Class License Manual 2007; C6, P6-6]
Not having done this before, I wasn’t quite sure what the “correct” way to run this new fangled antenna was, but I quickly figured out it doesn’t really matter. You just need to try something, anything, and if and when that doesn’t work you can just try something else. So, standing on the roof, in our 100+ degree afternoon, I grabbed the four wire set and began to seperate it into 4 individual 25 foot wire sections. I saved one wire for a ground (sounded like a good idea), and stripped off the insulation at the ends of the other three wires with my wire cutters and proceeded to splice them all together into a perfect looking green and yellow 75 foot random wire antenna that any homeowners association would be proud to display.
I thought I should do a quick tape job on the spliced wires and I just happen to have this new weather and heat resistant type of electrical tape I had won as a door prize from our club meeting (the EAARC) the day before and just knew I would have a use for it soon when my number was called that night. So, I pulled out the new roll that had now heated up to about 125 degrees and proceeded to roll out some, now tape goo, around the spliced wires and wallah, a completed antenna.
I curled up the 75 feet of wire like a rodeo rider with a rope, and from my position on the roof, sweat dripping profusely now, tossed it up into the adjacent tree to get that good antenna height I knew would make the difference. After a few tries it wrapped around a branch like a fishing lure, and not where I wanted it to stay. I gave it a little yank and my tape goo released its grip on the last 25 foot section, and I now had a 50 foot random wire antenna. No problem I thought, the last section was green anyway, blends right in with the tree and probably wasn’t resonant at a good frequency anyway. Another toss and it was good enough for the time and temperature of the day and now it sits at 30 feet or so resonating and radiating.
The second thing I tried to do after I got home with the radio was to look for a manual for the Lafayette, and so far, no luck other than ones that have been scanned from the original manual, and now offered for purchase (I don’t have a problem with this at all, I just didn’t feel like buying a manual for a radio I was not going to keep). Without a manual I took a visual inventory of the knobs and switches [dial cal, tuning, cal on/off, anl on/off, ant trim, band sel, rf gain, volume, fine tune, and function] and proceeded to flip through the squeal of white noise and high pitched whines.
My dog started howling from the high pitched whines coming in and out as I spun through the bands. Beyond that, I heard lots of loud squalls of white noise in between the whines but no recognizable audio at all. Guess it didn’t work? What else was there to do. Oh yeah, shoot off an email to my Elmer and find out what went wrong. I explained the whole setup and process and he said, sounds good, you should be able to hear something… anything. So I went back and tried again, turning the knobs with both hands like some submarine operator setting coordinates for a launch and then I found that the slower I moved the more the whines turned into Charlie Brown’s school teacher.
Success at last I thought, and that was good enough for my ears (and my dogs ears) for the day. I don’t know what most of the knobs do, but I am learning, and I am told somewhere on there a BFO knob should appear for using the SSB/CW function but at this point I haven’t a clue where.
Anyone that owns an HA-800B I would love to hear from you, especially if you have a manual.