Sunday, January 14, 2018

QRP: NA QSO Party with KX2, Norcal 40a

This was a fun little 12-hour contest with high activity levels, a 100-watt power limit and (surprisingly) good propagation. Excellent ingredients for QRP participation.

I started out on 20 meters with my KX2 in full contest regalia, or, less dramatically, hooked up to N3FJP's contest software and a Winkeyer - just like real contesters do with their Big Rigs. Ditto for the Norcal 40a. I think this Big Rig treatment gave these tiny boxes extra mojo & boosted their self-esteem. They, in turn, rewarded me with easily-made QSO points.

Familiar old callsigns were heard and worked, mini pile-ups for North and South Dakota were fun to engage in and all the while, I pondered the two ends of the Wayne N6KR design timeline I was using and how well they both performed.

Some numbers:

20 meters - 36 states/provinces - KX2
40 meters - 22 states/provinces - NC40a
80 meters - 35 states/provinces - KX2

207 contacts x 93 SPC's = 19,251 points
4 hours total operating time

The Norcal 40a is a bit sentimental to me. I built it over two decades ago, fresh out of the Navy and back into ham radio after a 10-year hiatus. It got me into QRP and fully engaged me into the concept of outdoor operation. My girlfriend-at-the-time (now wife) and I went on a 3-day backpacking trip of the Appalachian Trail and,  geek that I am and was, this little rig was along for the adventure. I wrote about that trip and it was published in a Belgian ham radio magazine a few months later.

It was good to see the rig works as well as ever.

The Wilderness NC40a hasn't been available as a kit for years but a group of its fans, led by Chuck Adams K7QO are mounting their own remedy to that and you can follow along with their progress here.

To whet your appetite, here is my old classic in the heat of battle:



  1. John,
    It would be great if you described your set up in detail. How are you running the Ncal 40 A with the keyboard?

    1. N3FJP's software allows configuration of an external keyer (a Winkeyer USB in my case). The keyer is connected to both the computer and the radio. Macros are set up in the software to allow the F keys to send contest exchanges: name, state, etc.

      I programmed F5 to send my callsign and F6 to send my exchange once a station acknowledges me. The F1-F3 key macros are configured to allow me to initiate calls rather than respond to them.

      The whole thing is easier done than said!

  2. Nicely done John. Looks like you had a lot of fun with good results. A fair amount of contesting power in a small package. I should have built a NorCal40 when they were available. Thanks for the tip on the K7QO effort. I've ordered a set of boards has he's indicated. I'll add it to the list.



    1. Hi Tim - It was a fun contest and I wish now that I'd devoted more time to it. The KX2 was amazing on 80m, working them with ease as if it didn't know it was a QRP rig ;-)
      (And btw, that usb soundcard did the trick).

      FB on your incoming NC40 board - that will make for some great reading on your already interesting blog.