The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Around the Shack

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everybody. Boy, I hope summer is over soon. Here in southeastern Oklahoma, it's not only hot, but it's humid. It's a very wet year, and outside feels like a perpetual sauna. And, for you folks up north, I am very happy. I'm happy that you're there and not here. Okay, so much for the weather and humor.

A couple of days back, Fern posted a picture on the header of the blog and I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about some of the radios. Also this week, I received an email from Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, the author of the No-Nonsense Study Guide manuals. I will include the entirety of his email and my response further down in this post. But for now, let's talk radio. Fern likes the picture, as did I. She kind of likes the pictures with the sunlight in the background and the rays coming through. I guess it kind of adds a feeling of freshness and purity. These are the things we deal with in life.

Starting at the top left. You can't see the entire radio, but it's my old 300 channel scanner. I say old, it's probably pushing around 20 years. It was made by Radio Shack, and it will scan all 300 channels in 1 second. It has 10 bands, 30 channels in each band, and each band has a priority channel. Which means, while scanning, it will go to each priority channel and see if any signal is there. So, if you're listening to the police scanner, and you have set up another frequency as a priority, and your buddy calls to tell you the football team just scored, then it will interrupt whatever you're listening to and bring you his message. It's an analog scanner, because there was no such thing as digital when it was made. It is a Radio Shack Pro-2050. It's a good little scanner. It's got some nice features.

Next on the list, right directly underneath the scanner, is a VHF/UHF radio. It is the Alinco DR-635T. It is a ham radio, but it's one of those ham radios that can be easily modified to broadcast on the frequencies that it advertises it will receive on. It's a good little radio.
It's respected in the ham world, but it is a ham radio. In the very near future, it is going to be replaced with an AnyTone AT-5888VU. The reason for this. The AnyTone is a commercial radio which will work fine on the ham frequencies, and it will also work on search and rescue frequencies, which, with permission, these frequencies are legal. It is not legal to use a modified ham radio on the search and rescue frequencies, even with permission. Are there many people out there using modified ham radios for search and rescue? You bet there are, lots of them. It's up to you.

Just to the right of the VHF/UHF, is my trusty CB radio. You see folks, I like CB radio. I know the talk can get a little trashy at times. In this case I have chosen the Galaxy 979. It is your standard 40 channel CB radio with SSB, single side band. It has no modifications, and it's pretty. It is a good solid performing CB/SSB radio. I have listened to and talked to people in various parts of our great nation with this CB radio. But you've taught, CB is line of sight. And it is. But if the atmospheric conditions are right, it will bounce off the atmosphere, just like any HF radio will. Because CB falls between the HF 10 and 12 meter bands. CB is sometimes referred to as 11 meter. If you're looking for a good CB with SSB, check out the Galaxy line.

Next. In the center we have an ICOM IC-718. It is an HF radio. It is considered in many circles to be the bottom of the line, but it is a solid performing radio. It will cover 160 meters to 10 meters with the proper antenna. Sitting on top of it is an LDG IT 100 tuner. The tuner matches the antenna to the radio without going into any great detail. Do you have to have it? In my case, yes. But, some people don't use them. On top of the tuner is an old Radio Shack speaker I have had for years. 

This 718 will listen, or receive, from 3kHz up to 30 MHz. That means, you can receive all of the HF ham frequencies. You can also receive all of the shortwave radio frequencies. And that also means you can listen to and receive the Citizens Band or CB frequencies, because right outside the CB frequencies, a lot of guys do Free Banding. This way they can avoid all of the traffic on the usual 40 CB frequencies. It's not a legal practice, people all over the country do it. If you modify your 718, then all of the frequencies I've just mentioned, you can also transmit on. Remember, it's not illegal to have a modified radio. Let's take 60 meters for example. This radio will not broadcast on 60 meters. Can you modify it to where it will? Yes. Is it legal to broadcast on 60 meters? Yes it is. But for this radio to broadcast on 60 meters, then it must be modified. When you make that modification, can you then broadcast with this radio on the CB frequencies? Yes, you can. Is it legal? No, because it has not been approved by the FCC to do so. Do people use these radios to broadcast on the CB frequencies? Yes, they do. There is a group of radios called 10 meter export radios. The vast majority of these radios are used to broadcast on CB frequencies. Are they legal to do so? No. But I'd bet half of the truckers in this country have 10 meter/Export radios in their trucks, and use them on the CB bands. Remember, to broadcast on any ham frequencies, you need a ham radio license.

On this 718 a couple of nights ago, I talked to a gentleman in Oregon on 17 meter. There was a contest going on, and I run the power that comes out of the radio, which is 90 watts. It'll actually run 100 watts, but I stay at 90. I know some of these boys out there run a whole lot more power than I do, but I got through. I heard him and he heard me. Then I listened to people talk to each other from Vermont to just north of L.A. on 17 meter, using my A99 CB antenna.

Okay. Speaking of antennas. Look just beneath the CB to the back wall. What you see are three sets of switches. Since my CB and my HF radio can use the same antennas, I have them both come in to the first switch on the right that you see. Coming into this switch is the A99, which is a CB type vertical antenna. Also coming into this switch is a dipole antenna rated 160 to 10 meter. I also have my first antenna, which is a 40 meter dipole, which I made out of 12 gauge house wire, coming in to this switch. So, there are three antennas going into this switch. The coax coming out of this switch and going to the one just to it's left, goes into the center of the switch. Out of that switch, the coax goes to my CB radio and to the HF radio. This way I have a choice of three different antennas, going to one of two radios. Kind of confusing, I know, but it works. These switches also help provide lightening protection. There is no 100% way to provide total lightening protection. These just help.

Last on the list is a little hand held radio, bottom right hand side. I did a post on this radio a short time back. It is an HT BaoFeng UV-5R+. It is a hand held VHF/UHF commercial radio, that costs less than $40.00. It's not a tremendously sophisticated radio, but it will provide you with a basic VHF/UHF full functioning radio. This particular radio comes in multiple colors, red, yellow, blue, black and camo. You say, "Why the different colors?" Some rural fire departments use these little radios, and it's a whole lot easier to find a bright yellow dropped radio, than it is to find a black dropped radio. Fire sights have a tendency to be a little wet, hoses leak, tankers leak, and it's easier to find a yellow radio than it is to find a black radio. You notice, mine are camo. Great little radio for the price.

New Alinco commercial radio
So, these are the basic radios that are in my shack today. As mentioned above, I will be trading out the VHF/UHF for an easier to operate commercial model. An editors note here. I have already bought the AnyTone radios to replace the Alincos. But I noticed a couple of days ago that Alinco has now come out with a VHF/UHF commercial radio. They have it at Universal Radio's site. Check it out. 

So, these are the radios I use daily, well, almost daily. I keep my scanner going most of the time. I use a CB maybe once or twice a week, just for fun. And that's about the same amount of time I spend on the HF rig, two or three nights a week, maybe 30 minutes to an hour. If you'd like more information, check out some of the previous articles and I think you'll find some interesting information. As I've said before, there is something in radio for about everybody. If you're the competitive type, there is contesting. There is search and rescue for those that like to get out and play in the dirt. There is shortwave listening. You can spend lots and lots of money, or you can do search and rescue with a $40.00 radio. I do radio for survival practice, because I think I can see what is coming. None of my equipment is high dollar, but it all does the job. If you want to buy high dollar stuff, it'll work too. I hope you enjoyed the little tour. You might have noticed that I don't use a computer doing ham radio. Can you? You bet you can. It's just one of those things that if you choose to use a computer, you can.

Now, next on the list, I'd like for you to read an email from Dan Romanchik, KB6NU. And then, I'd like for you to read my response. 
Thu, Sep 4, 2014

Hi, Frank:

Thanks for plugging my study guides on your blog. I wonder if you could make a couple of changes, though:

1. I like to refer to my study guides as KB6NU's No-Nonsense study guides. KB6NU is a lot easier to remember than Romanchik. :)
2. Please use the link instead of linking directly to the PDF file. That link has links to all my other study guides as well as the Tech manual.

Thanks & 73!


Thank you for your manuals. I know when I first investigated ham radio, I was introduced to your manual and used it extensively along with QRZ to get my Technician's license. I am in the process of working on my Extra, and I have purchased your No-Nonsense manual for the extra class. I'm also using the ARRL Extra book, and Hopefully, in the near future, I will be able to enjoy all of the bands.

It was an oversight on my part to not include your webpage. As a general rule, on many of the posts where I have mentioned your manual, we not only include the pdf to the manual, but also a link to your webpage. Everybody I know just calls you Romanchik, or some variation of that. (-:  I will certainly make the change to your call sign in my next mention, which will be very soon.

I personally want to thank you for the time and effort you have spent in writing your manuals. I do not know of anyone that has not used your Technician and General manual. Again, I thank you.


Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to be able to write these articles, I hope you find them enlightening, a little bit challenging, motivational to a certain extent, because this is what I do. Radio is a part of my life, it's a part of my preparations for the future. If somehow it fits into your scheme, then please use any information provided here. We're all in this thing together, and when it rains, it rains on all of us. So, take time to get ready. I hope you find a place for communications in your process of getting ready, because folks those dark clouds are getting closer and closer every day.

We'll talk more later. 73, Frank



  1. Thanks for the great post Frank. Good luck on your extra exam.

    1. Terry, thank you for reading, and thank you for the best wishes on my Extra.


  2. Frank, I used all your suggestions including KB6NU's guides and yesterday I scored my General class ticket. Thank you for your lead along the way. I love this informative article along with all your other posts. I am sending them to friends for encouragement. I really look forward to them. Now on the extra exam. Good luck
    Denver Ham

    1. Denver, Congratulations! That is really cool. And I really mean that, too.

      As a general rule, the articles that we write about ham radio, seldom get a comment. Now, if Fern had written an article about grape juice or squash, there would be numerous comments. That's why your comment is so special. I can look at the stats and tell that many folks are reading the ham/radio posts, so it's really great to get a comment like yours.

      Please come back often, let me know how you're doing, what equipment you're running, your successes and your failures. We can all learn from each other. Congratulations, again.

      73, Frank

  3. Hi Frank. I remember my grandpa was a Ham radio operator. K8SYI, Baroda Michigan. I remember nights when he'd be down in the basement. He also worked for Heath Company. I remember him making HeathKits on the kitchen table. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. That was sweet.

    1. Hi Jules, you are welcome. Have you considered following in your grandpa's footsteps? Thank you for the nice comment.