How often have you gone for a drive in the country with the family on the weekend only to find yourself parked at a scenic location with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside and thought – “wow what a great location to try for a Microwave Contact”!
Sadly, this I suggest happens all too frequently and an opportunity goes begging because your microwave station is “hardly portable” and the family would certainly object to having the car loaded with that “radio junk”!
I think I may have an answer to this age old dilemma but before I go any further I must ask the obvious question and if the answer is “YES” then you may be having that Portable Microwave contact sooner than you think!
The obvious quest is; would these five items fit in the boot of the car?
If the answer is YES then I am sure the family would have little complaint and yes you guessed it you too could be operating portable on one of the Microwave bands from that idilic location.
Many questions have been asked of me as a result of this microwave series of posts on my blog but none more often than “How do you put a portable microwave station together easily, quickly and with repeatable performance”.
This post focuses on putting all of the components of a portable microwave station together simply.
I know there are many articles on the internet that have shown portable microwave stations but I found they didn’t seem to provide a solution for me.
The following outlines the way I went about assembling a portable microwave station that is easily transported and simple to assemble and operate. In addition the assembly provides a place for everything and every thing in its place.
I am sure the creative among you will no doubt have alternative methods to solve this problem but to coin a phrase “I have done it my way”!
In developing this project I was determined to work with a minimum number of components that were simple to assemble and transport. I also wanted to ensure that all the pieces fitted together so that when operating the Portable Microwave station the operator didn’t need to be an octopus! Further when assembling the station there was no need to have equipment perched precariously while trying to establish a contact. I was also determined that the portable microwave station would be free standing with no dependance on vehicles or surrounding objects.
The initial five pieces shown above have been selected to meet all of these goals.
To begin with, I decided to select a photographic tri-pod to support the entire station. The tri-pod that I chose has a “quick release” section for mounting a camera that clips into the top. I removed the wing nut assembly from the centre of this unit and replaced it with a 1/4″ galvanised bolt that attaches to the angle bracket at the base of the transverter.
The next component to be selected for my Portable Microwave Station was a 12 volt 40Ah sealed battery to which I fitted a polarity sensitive, o/l protected distribution housed in a PVC Box that provided a number of 2 pin screw connectors, four sets of Red and Black Terminals in case I needed 12 volts and a cigarette lighter socket, in case I need to charge my Cell phone while operating portable.
My next thought was focused on how was I going to mount my YAESU FT817ND so as not to have it balancing precariously making operating difficult.
For those of you that have one of these transceivers you will be aware that they don’t have a cradle and therefore mounting is difficult. My solution was to make an aluminium cradle system that utilised the two carry strap bracket mounting screws at either side of the transceiver at the front and anchor the rear of the cradle using the earthing screw at the back of the radio. However if this was to be successful then I would need to provide a cut-out in the cradle to ensure that the sound from the FT817ND speaker was not baffled. Once I had the cradle, I then needed to work out how to mount the Transceiver onto the tripod in such a way as to provide easy access to the controls and a clear view of the dial. An additional requirement was to provide a mount for the microphone because as all of you who have operated portable will know, the microphone is always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or just simply dangling from the transceiver.
When operating Microwave Portable there is one other piece of equipment that is indispensable; a Handheld Transceiver for liaison!.
In reality the solution to the problems outlined turned out to be quite simple.
I manufactured a bracket from aluminium that solved all of the issues! A place for the Transceiver, a means of locating the Handheld Transceiver right at the operating position and a microphone clip that was easy to use.
The final assembly relies on the fact that the tri-pod I selected has ferrules, that control the extension of the tri-pod legs at a suitable hight for mounting the Transceiver. By forming the bracket with a “fork” at one end that is covered with heat shrink tubing for protecting the paint work on the tripod. On the opposite end of the bracket it has just one leg of a fork with the second leg formed by a slide that locks the whole assembly together.
The Transceiver bracket is set at an angle that allows the cradle to slide onto a tongue that gives a perfect viewing angle for the Transceiver screen.
The last task was to make provision for charging the Handheld, the FT817ND and powering the microwave transverter. This entailed assembling a distribution system that provided correct polarity for the equipment and overload protection for the battery. It is controlled by a single switch which will only turn of the supply to the equipment if the polarity is correct. The connectors are all polarity keyed and provide a screwed connection.
To this was added a series of cables that were labelled to indicate their purpose and to provide speed in assembly of the station. (Power for the Transverter, RF / PTT from the Transceiver to the Transverter, Charging for the Handheld and charging for the FT817ND)
To ensure that nothing is left behind all of the cabling, the Yaesu FT817ND, the distribution System and the Handheld transceiver all fit nicely into an aluminium case for ease of transport.
The system works flawlessly with a set up time of about 10 minutes.
The capacity of the battery ensures many hours of trouble free operation.
This Microwave station has been a lot of fun to develop and even more pleasing to operate. I have further developed the idea to cover a number of the Microwave Bands all with equal success.
I hope this post will give someone the incentive to have a go at operating portable on one or more of the Microwave bands from one of those fantastic locations that often get visited when taking that leisurely drive in the country.