Setting up our old F-250 for HF mobile ops

I have installed a Yeasu FT-2900R 2m portable radio in both Heidi’s old Hyundai and my old F-250 pickup. Its a great “bang for the buck” radio with 5, 10, 30 & 75 Watts of output available and a terrific receiver. Around where we live, we keep them at 5 watts and have no problem reaching local repeaters from any of the places we routinely go.

There will be times when we will be joining other members of the Amateur Radio Club of El Cajon up in the mountains or out on Fiesta Island to operate our various radios while set up at or very near our vehicles.  We will want to take along an HF Radio, batteries, maybe a folding solar panel, and most certainly need the capability to raise an HF antenna.  Talking to a few of the very experienced Hams in our club, I decided it would be smart to have the ability to attach an antenna mast to our truck in a very secure manner – and the best way seemed to be via that 2″ square trailer hitch receiver on the rear of it.  My preparations are a kind of combination of what the other folks are doing.

This is what we came up with to handle a mobile HF radio mast for our antennas:

Flagpole to Go Hitch Mount for large diameter flag pole - plus receiver extension to permit opening tailgate.

Flagpole to Go Hitch Mount for large diameter flag pole – plus receiver extension with step to permit opening tailgate.

 

Eureka, it works!

Eureka, it works!

 

Harbor Freight flag pole with 2.5" diameter base fits just fine.

Harbor Freight flag pole with 2.5″ diameter base fits just fine.

 

Harbor Freight Flag Pole extended to 20' - I plan to use a PVC "extension" double-pinned to top section.

Harbor Freight Flag Pole extended to 20′ – I plan to use a PVC “extension” double-pinned to top section.

We also have a 33′ MFJ-1910 fiberglass push-up pole that can be used for greater height. I will be adding a 4′ length of PVC with cap on bottom to protect the fiberglass from damage. (A good idea already in use by another experienced Ham).

When not in use, the masts/flagpoles will be collapsed and stowed in the locking toolbox, along with the Flagpole To Go hitch mount and our regular trailer hitch/ball.  We will probably just leave the receiver extension with step back there to ease getting in/out of the truck bed with the tailgate closed.

Edited: Several folks have asked where I got that hitch mount – it was via Amazon.com – don’t know how long this link will be good but here ya go:

Flagpole To Go Hitch Mount For Large Diameter Portable Flagpole

Update: Since I wrote this post, I see they have increased the price on Amazon by $12. 🙁

That extension, and another model without the step, can easily be found at your local Harbor Tool & Freight store – picked ours up with a 25% coupon so the total price for it was about $21 – good hunting! -dave

The Yeasu FT-817 for Portable Ops

After a ton of thought, I purchased a used Yeasu FT-817 radio on 2/2/2016 from another Ham and good friend. It required a minor repair as the power receptacle was damaged, but I was able to get the replacement part from Yeasu parts and service – then solder in the new receptacle to the circuit board and get it into operation.

Yeasu FT-817 and LDG Z-817

Yeasu FT-817 and LDG Z-817

The radio came with a LDG Z-817 Auto-tuner, new microphone, manuals and Nifty guide – connector cables and several handy peripheral connectors. Missing were the wall wart charger, rubber ducky antenna and it would need new internal batteries plus an external battery for extended field operations, but everything I needed was available from Amazon, Ham Radio Outlet and eBay to have a broad band, “do most everything” QRP radio for field operations of most any kind.  Yeasu has introduced a few upgrades to this venerable radio – and many consider them the “Ultimate” survival/preparedness/field radio.  Shoot – I just wanted it to have fun with! 😀

I’m probably never going to be a “contest fanatic” – shoot, that is more like work and I want to simply enjoy talking to folks in far away places in a bit more comfortable way than any kind of competition.  I do, however, dearly enjoy a challenge – and believe operating at low-power, (QRP operation), is going to be my “niche” for HF radio – particularly via CW, (Morse Code) – and that is where I’ll eventually be able to find the greatest satisfaction out of this fun hobby.  That doesn’t mean I won’t eventually buy a “full gallon” linear and operate at high power with a huge antenna array like I did back in my days as Chief MARS Operator on a few ships – but the thought of taking this little radio up in the mountains with some kind of ultra-light wire antenna and using it to talk to folks in other states/countries on just 5 watts, and battery power, just appeals to my personal sense of “right”.  For now, and as long as my health holds up, pretty sure I’ll continue to work toward that end.  Have already taken a few steps in that direction. 😉

Heidi and I love the mountains and the forest regardless. Put me there, or somewhere on a lake doing some fishing and I feel closer to my maker every time.  We don’t have to have a radio to go up there, but it sure seems a great excuse to get up and go – we will take our Shepherd with us of course.  Will see if I can’t incorporate some phase of outdoor cooking with each run.  Life is good and the future is bright!

Edited:
Some time after writing the above, I ordered a FTDI USB Programming Cable Yaesu CAT FT-100 FT-100D FT-817 FT-817ND CT-62, (that link is to another Ham operator’s eBay Store – BlueMax49ers – one whom I’ve had excellent results with in the past, solely as a customer/consumer). Since the subject radio also covers the 2m and 70cm bands, I used the free, open-source, CHIRP software from DanPlanet.com to program its memories with all of the local UHF and VHF repeater settings, plus the simplex calling frequencies, etc., for each band. That FTDI USB cable worked like a charm.

Our Roll-up J-Pole Antennas

This one is picture intensive, I apologize if this page takes longer to load.

Last Christmas, several members of our Ham radio club were setting up over at Sprout’s Market in Santee, CA. to give customer’s children an opportunity to talk to Santa on a Ham radio. While Heidi and I couldn’t directly support the event, our eldest granddaughter went over to help steer the kids toward Santa’s Elf who had a portable radio set up. While getting ready, the “Elf” was having trouble communicating with the ARCEC 2m repeater – but our friends from Crest came to the rescue. They provided a Roll-up J-Pole Antenna to use in place of his mobile antenna and all problems went away. With the new antenna simply tied up next to a window – still inside, he was literally BOOMING into the repeater and for two days the event was a tremendous success and one Heidi and I fully enjoyed monitoring!

Quite naturally, I *HAD* to find out more about that Roll-up J-pole antenna. They can serve a great purpose as an emergency antenna for portable operation, you can toss a line over a branch and draw them up to a decent height out in the field, and even use one indoors!  Speaking to our friends off-line, I found that theirs were/are constructed from 450 Ohm ladder lead, rather than the 300 ohm stuff most folks use for this purpose.  Nothing wrong with the 300 ohm homebrews, but my mind kept going to that BOOMING signal and determined I would build two of them like our friends for Heidi and I.

Generally, I followed this design found  on hamuniverse.com:

The 450 OHM Ladder Line Slim Jim Antenna

By KE4NU – Alan Wilson, Victor, MT

However, followed some important recommendations by our friends to avoid the most likely points of failure, and added a couple of my own to gain even more durability.  I acquired our 450 ohm ladder line from the good folks at palmettoantennas.com via an on-line purchase and received excellent service. (They are also a great source for other Ham-related wire as I soon found out).

Hopefully this series of pictures will help if you want to try this:

Started by stripping wire at one end, then doing the same at the other end looking for a total of 58"

Started by stripping wire at one end, then doing the same at the other end looking for a total length of 58″

 

Slight modification - I left a tab sticking out that will have a hole for hanging the antenna

Slight modification – I left a tab sticking out that will have a hole for hanging the antenna

 

From the other end, will need to strip wire centered 4" from the end to provide for tunining/attaching coax

From the other end, will need to strip wire centered 4″ from the end to provide for tuning/attaching coax

 

I simply whittled the insulation off with a very sharp knife. This is a bit tedious.

I simply whittled the insulation off with a very sharp knife. This is a bit tedious.

 

Wires tinned, then soldered together at top

Wires tinned, then soldered together at top

 

More tinning and soldering

More tinning and soldering

 

19" up from bottom, cut a 1" gap on one side of the wire - that side will be for the coax shielding to be connected to

19″ up from bottom, cut a 1″ gap on one side of the wire – that side will be for the coax shielding to be connected to

 

After stripping off insulation, pushed down the sheilding mesh then used a large wooden pick to separate the wire - then worked the center conductor through that gap.

After stripping off coax insulation, pushed down the shielding mesh then used a large wooden pick to separate the wire – then worked the center conductor through that gap.

 

Twisted the sheilding, then stripped inner core back about 3/4"

Twisted the shielding, then stripped inner core back about 3/4″

 

Pre-positioned 1/4" shrink tubing around coax to provide strength - and 3/4" shrink-tubing that will eventually cover the connection. Note wires just twisted to provide for tuning by moving connections up/down.

Pre-positioned 1/4″ shrink tubing around coax to provide strength – and 3/4″ shrink-tubing that will eventually cover the connection. Note wires just twisted to provide for tuning by moving connections up/down.

 

After tuning, soldered for permanent connection.

After tuning, soldered for permanent connection.

 

Used heat gun to shrink tubing around coax.

Used heat gun to shrink tubing around coax.

 

Used a hot glue gun to bond coax to ladder line, (as recommended by our Elmers).

Used a hot glue gun to bond coax to ladder line, (as recommended by our Elmers).

 

Finished up with shrink tube covering entire area at the top - should be a lot more durable this way.

Finished up with shrink tube covering entire area at the top – should be a lot more durable this way.

 

Probably unnecessary, but put a bit of 3/4" shrink tubing over gap to add just a little extra strength.

Probably unnecessary, but put a bit of 3/4″ shrink tubing over gap to add just a little extra strength.

 

This is the bottom where the coax is now bonded to the ladder line - It really doesn't look bad at all.

This is the bottom where the coax is now bonded to the ladder line – It really doesn’t look bad at all.

…and that is it.  As I said earlier, I built two of these. One is rolled up, and placed in Heidi’s Go Bag – the other is currently hanging on the wall in our ham shack.  Any time there is a thunder/lightning storm coming through our area, I physically disconnect all of our antennas and connect the roll-up j-pole to our “base” two meter radio, where I can continue to monitor the local repeater and talk on it without fear of lightning.

Edited:  When our eldest grandson, Ryan, got his Technician’s license while on vacation out here from Florida, we sent him home with a new Yeasu FT-60R handheld radio, and Heidi’s roll-up J-Pole, (they have *lots* of lightning in FL).  So I made two more, one to replace Heidi’s, and the other to send to a good friend in Southeast Louisiana where they have a *ton* of lightning pass through.  Needless to say, all three of them are *very* happy. 🙂

The Copper Cactus Super J-Pole Antenna

After I had passed the General Ham Exam, then the next month the Amateur Extra Exam, and Heidi had passed her Technician Exam, it was time to actually use our new radio privileges. I had previously purchased a couple of, relatively inexpensive, Baofeng handheld radios and learned to program then, primarily with the CHIRP program, (which is another story). Those little HTs work quite well when out and about, walking, etc., however our own security camera system I had installed some time ago interfered with reception in our living room.

By this time, we were enjoying checking in on the our club’s “Donut Net” each Monday evening at 7 PM, but it was kind of cramped for both of us to cram into the little “Ham Shack” to do so – and I determined we needed to put up another 2 meter antenna, running the coax into our living room, so we could enjoy UHF and VHF operation from the relative comfort of our couch and/or love seat.

I spoke to our friends, (the Amateur Extra’s who live up in the community of Crest, CA), and they both suggested a Copper Cactus Super J-Pole, which is what they use – not only that, but if we would come on up, they would help us build it! (Offer you can’t refuse?) After a lot of experimentation with various j-pole designs, they homed in on one that was based on 3/4″ copper tubing. Most are constructed from 1/2″ tubing, but theirs seemed to be more wide-banded and worked very efficiently.  I had seen theirs on previous visits and was very intrigued, not only with the design – but how the heck to put it together?

Our friends already had most of the materials, and as they had previously built about 10 of these – *all* of the equipment and know-how.  All 4 of us gathered in their garage and it was a fascinating experience!  Each of us had a hand in the soldering and construction. When we returned home I couldn’t wait to get it mounted.  Took down an old Archer vertical antenna I had cut down for 10 meter operation over 10 years ago – and put the j-pole up in its place on the previously installed chimney mount, running new coax into our living room.

Tuning is accomplished on this one by simply moving the feed point. Ours is a flat match for both UHF and VHF. The looped co-ax serves as an "air-core balun".

Tuning is accomplished on this one by simply moving the feed point. Ours is a flat match for both UHF and VHF. The looped co-ax serves as an “air-core balun”.

 

The copper cactus design we constructed is a dual band antenna – works for both 2 meter and 440 MHz – that copper loop serves as a kind of coupler/isolator between the two sections of vertical antenna.

 

Installing a rather tall antenna by yourself is challenging, fortunately I have very strong hands, even at this age.

Installing a rather tall antenna by yourself is challenging, fortunately I have very strong hands, even at this age.

 

The copper will darken and weather over time, so it will not be quite as "visible".

The copper will darken and weather over time, so it will not be quite as “visible”.

Our home is South-facing, so the lion’s share of our solar panels are on that side of the roof.  Had to be very careful up there not to slip and damage anything inadvertently. 😉 The end result of our day’s endeavors were nothing short of excellent. We can literally use any repeater in the area we wish to.  Generally we are found on the ARCEC 2m repeater though.  Its kind of like “home” for us these days.

Initially, I used an adapter cable and simply plugged it into one of the little Baofeng HTs, but you get what you pay for, and putting a stronger antenna to them opens up that receiver to interference from any strong signal nearby.  In April, 2016, I replaced the Baofeng with a little Yeasu FT-60R which has a much better receiver and the ability to protect itself and most of the interference immediately went away.  Life is good!

Discone Antenna for HF Receive and full 2 Meter operation…

Not too long after becoming a HAM, (Amateur Radio Operator with Technician license), back in 2004 – I “discovered” my old Radio Shack Discone antenna that I had been using for very wide-band reception on virtually all bands with a scanner, was also an excellent transmit/receive antenna on UHF, (2m), and worked pretty well on VHF, (70 cm), which I was then licensed to be active on. It worked well indeed to communicate with other Hams all over San Diego County and beyond, via local area repeaters – I particularly enjoyed the OTAY repeaters back then.

My old Buddy, Clif, was also a Ham and we kind of inspired each other to pursue the Hobby, even regularly checking in on some of the local area scheduled “networks”.  Since he lived in the next town over, we were tickled to find that we could communicate “Simplex” between his house and mine and would do so kind of routinely – deciding that would be a good thing if we had a power outage bad enough for local cell towers to go down, (as they did on 9/11/2001 in NYC).

Although I was fully retired by that time, Clif was still  working and kind of a “Road Warrior” at that, so our QSOs (chats) became fewer and farther between – also there was a terrible rash of intentional interference going on with the primary OTAY repeater that didn’t seem to be being addressed.  Feeling my blood pressure rise with each negative experience, I grew farther and farther away from Amateur Radio operation – eventually quitting all together after Clif moved to Louisiana.

I was away from Ham until last year, 2015, and in the interim the old antenna had been taken down prior to a solar panel installation project, and was accidentally damaged – 2 broken radials.  Heidi was bugging me pretty hard to get back into it last summer.  Fortunately, I was able to locate a new Discone of the same model down in the South part of the County, and used parts from it to effect repairs on the old one.

After repairing and reinstalling - put two velcro ties coming down the little mast to keep the co-ax from "flapping" in the wind.

After repairing and reinstalling – put two velcro ties coming down the little mast to keep the coax from “flapping” in the wind.

Located my old ICOM V-8000 2 meter mobile radio, hooked it up to a power supply, connected the co-ax and was back in “business”.  Spent the next couple of months doing a lot of listening to local repeaters and re-programming the old radio to handle some new repeaters that had come into operation over the last 10 years or so.  Everything worked *really* well, and it turned out only the old antenna needed any repair.  (Needless to say, I was elated to learn that “Mr. Smith” had finally been dealt with in the interim and was long gone from the airwaves).  I found myself gravitating to the Lyons Peak repeater and the El Cajon repeater – enjoying the “flavor” of conversation on both.  Bottom line, I was enjoying Amateur Radio again – even more than ever before.

On the occasion of my birthday in 2015, (turning 70), I decided it was time to get serious and go to work on upgrading my Amateur Radio License to General – and in the process, expand my privileges on down into the HF arena as that was a kind of an original “dream” back in 2004.  As a “motivator”, my birthday present was an ICOM IC-718 HF Radio from Ham Radio Outlet – now all I had to do was go get licensed to actually *use* it. 🙂

Powered up for receive testing, connected to the old Discone antenna, and it worked quite well. Note: Mike unplugged - not yet licensed to transmit.

Powered up for receive testing, connected to the old Discone antenna, and it worked quite well. Note: Mike unplugged – not yet licensed to transmit.

There are a *lot* better radios than the IC-718 on the market, but for a *lot* more money.  After a lot of research and conversation I decided it was simply the best “bang for the buck” for my first HF radio, even though it lacks digital and FM modes.  Later on, I should be able to sell it, and put that money toward an upgrade – but it will serve well in the mean time.

The very next month, when Hurricane “Patricia” came ashore just south of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico – I was listening to their newly activated emergency network for a short while. (All Mexican language naturally).  Listened to several other conversations before calling it a night.  By this time I was totally “hooked” and got very serious about studying for my General License – (read “off to the races”). 😀

Heidi had already helped me clean out our smallest bedroom in the back of the house, and we started setting up a “Ham Shack” back there.  I continued to study, and in the mean time made several good contacts on 2 meter repeaters who had great recommendations and were all for my rapid progression into the rest of Amateur Radio Operations.  Two operators, a man and wife, were particularly helpful and, well, just plain “nice”.  It turned out both were licensed as Amateur “Extras”, and Volunteer Examiners.  We were tickled to discover they were members of the ARCEC (Amateur Radio Club of El Cajon), which holds its meetings about a mile from our home – and which both of us wound up eventually joining.

Spring Has Sprung, I’m Still Here…

Had quite a bout with pneumonia in February and March, then spent most of April trying to get back to what passes for “normal” these days. 😀

Being ill put a bit of a hitch in my endeavor to learn/master CW, but am now fully back at it. Still using JLMC and our weekly code practice sessions on the ARCEC 2 meter repeater. While I was “off-line” it didn’t stop me from planning, and setting goals – one of which is to try my hand at portable QRP (low power) operation this year.

Heidi went along with me setting up a little “temporary” work/soldering station in our living room while still recovering.  Immediately went to work building us a pair of “roll-up” J-pole antennas for portable use. (More on this in a later post).  Heidi’s is in her go bag, and mine is hanging on the wall in the little room we are calling the “Ham Shack”.  Both have been tested and work perfectly – having one in the office, I have used it 2 meters during thunder/lightning storms with all other antennas disconnected.

Purchased a used Yeasu FT-817 “QRP” radio in need of minor repair and have since finished – simply soldering in a new power receptacle to the circuit board. Dreaming of taking it out for portable operation up in the mountains to the East of where we live before this year is out.

I started looking at what I would do for a portable antenna, and finally homed in on using a 33′ MFJ-1910 push-up pole for a mast – and ordered the kit from England to build a linked dipole SOTABEAMS multi-band wire antenna for HF operation, (I also ordered a guying kit and extra wire-winders along with the antenna kit).  Have used various other sources for plenty of 22 gauge wire, RG-174 coaxial cable, connectors, etc.  Still haven’t decided whether to go for 3 or 4 band construction – will know more when I have 3 bands assembled – then will make the decision as to whether to add the 4th band.

Much, much more as the year progresses – needless to say, both Heidi and I are now having fun with Amateur Radio.  Life is good!

A HAM I AM…

Well, a few short months ago, (as I approached my 70th birthday), Heidi went to work on me saying I should get back into Amateur Radio.  (I passed my Amateur Radio “Technician” license back in 2004 – after reflecting upon the unpleasant surprises associated with the 2003 “Cedar Fire” that swept across the North and Eastern sections of San Diego County).  Broke out a couple of our older pieces of equipment, including an old ICOM V-8000 2 meter radio and a power supply, hooked it up to an old discone antenna on the roof after a bit of repair on it, and was back in “business”.  There is an extreme number of 2 meter repeaters that can be used from this location, well over 30 that I can participate in on low power, (5 watts).  That old V-8000 will go up to 75 watts, but a good HAM always uses the lowest power necessary to communicate.

Decided to “go for it”, and go to work on upgrading to the “General” license which would permit me to operate on the rest of the H.F. frequency band.  As a “motivator”, picked up an ICOM IC-718 radio from HRO.  On the first weekend of November, 2015, (first Saturday), passed my General License exam, and decided to stay on a roll and work toward my “Amateur Extra” license.  We also decided to join the Amateur Radio Club of El Cajon, (ARCEC), after kind of “shopping around” and have been *very* happy with that decision.

On the first Saturday of December, passed the Extra exam – but more important to me – on that same morning Heidi took and passed her “Technician” exam.  I was absolutely elated!  I immediately filled out an application form to become one of the San Diego Amateur Radio Counsel‘s Volunteer Examiners for El Cajon, CA.

On the first Saturday of January, 2016, I served as a “VE” for the very first time.  It felt great, and is my way of “paying it forward” to those who helped me along the path.

January, 2016 is about to close as I type, but need to also mention that, after passing that Extra exam, went right to work on learning Morse Code for what is called “Continuous Wave” or CW operation on the ham bands.  Now that I am licensed to use *all* of the Ham frequency bands, it was just the next logical step.  Have to mention here that my old Dad was part of the Army Signal Corps during the re-taking of the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska during WWII.  He could copy telegraphy over HF radio like nobody’s business, so its something I’ve always wanted to accomplish – and it WILL be done.  I am getting a ton of help from CW Practice sessions on the ARCEC 2 meter repeater every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, plus a free computer program called “Just Learn Morse Code“, (JLMC).

WHY? Because its a hobby and one that I am having a lot of fun with.  There is a more serious side to Amateur Radio – emergency operations – and that is what initially attracted me to it – but if it wasn’t fun it would just set there.  Right now, this old boy is having a blast!

Life is good!

dave

NOTE:  I haven’t “named names” of the folks who have helped us progress on into the various aspects of Amateur Radio over these past months – and won’t do so without their permission – just the same, have had an absolute ton of help and direct assistance, let alone inspiration.  Those folks mean a lot to Heidi and I and are dearly appreciated!

Has it really been almost a year???

…..Since I last updated the old Blog?

Wow…

Going to have to fix that.

We haven’t really done a lot with outdoor cooking that wasn’t a repeat of previous posts, but did a LOT of it.  Our Son and family visited from Florida this summer and we had a GREAT time.  At one point, I eyeballed my teenage grandson and noting that an investment was made in him during the summer of 2014, got things going on the grill and simply turned it over to him, sat down and made little “suggestions” here and there.  He cooked a GREAT meal for us!

Heidi’s Mom is now 90, and joins us for Sunday dinner almost every weekend.  She really appreciates our cooking and it is a pleasure to hear her favorable comments.  My last effort on the grill was her favorite – Rib-eye steak, grilled asparagus and portobello mushrooms with olive oil and just a hint of powdered garlic. Old “Ma” was in Heaven.

After 10 years, have recently decided to get active again on Amateur Radio – passed my General Class examination a couple of weeks ago, and am now working on preparing for the Amateur Extra class.

Much, much more to come – just need to find a bit of time.

Dave

Another Thanksgiving, Another Spiral Cut Ham on the Grill…

We had one of those late November Santa Anna conditions roll in just in time for Thanksgiving.  Probably had the warmest Thanksgiving Day we have experienced here around the old Pondee – I KNOW it was hotter than the “official” 91 degrees for our area.

Won’t be going into a lot of detail with this post – did a pretty full one about 4 years or so ago here:

That old post gives a better explanation/procedure – but the principles of using indirect heat are the same regardless of what you are baking on a grill.

This time, I simply used an aluminum insert for my 14″ Dutch Oven as a cooking pan with a “dome” of aluminum foil, reinforced with a very old stainless steel cooking tray to keep the bottom from folding due to the weight when I removed it from the grill later on..  They say to heat these at 350°F for 10-14 minutes per pound.  Ours was never frozen, so starting at refrigerator temperature, I calculated about 80 minutes on the grill before removing the dome, then another 20 or so after basting.  The end result was pretty good!

Had the left burner on full – then one next to it on low for about 10 minutes – then shut that 2nd burner down and left the other on full to sustain the baking temperature.  Throughout the next 80 minutes the hood thermometer read 400°F but I figure it was 325-350°F under that dome.

Late in the process, removed foil "dome", basted heck out of the ham, then used toothpicks to place pineapple rings everyplace I could.

Late in the process, removed foil “dome”, basted heck out of the ham, then used toothpicks to place pineapple rings everyplace I could.

After the ham was done, wrapped tightly in foil until Heidi was ready for me to start plating it up.

After the ham was done, wrapped tightly in foil until Heidi was ready for me to start plating it up.

It stayed pretty juicy in my opinion - and of course there will be tons of leftovers!

It stayed pretty juicy in my opinion – and of course there will be tons of leftovers!

Ma is ready!  Her presence at our table is reason enough alone for Heidi and I to be incredibly thankful in 2014!

Ma is ready! Hard to believe Heidi’s Mom is 89. Her presence at our table is reason enough alone for Heidi and I to be incredibly thankful in 2014!

Now we will be hoping all of our friends and family can enjoy a wonderful Christmas in 2014.  You can bet we will do our best to enjoy every moment!

DIY – Portable Hammock Stand & Schwenker

Well, we had a wonderful summer – cooking, camping, grandkids visiting, and now winter has finally arrived. I’ve decided to add another category to the blog, “Do It Yourself” – and will add some of the DIY projects that interest me over time.  This post will be the first installment of that new category.

Over this past year I’ve lined up several projects and recently started gathering the rest of the materials needed to bring one to fruition – building a “portable” Hammock Stand & Schwenker, (think German BBQ).  I could have used that Hammock part this summer while we were RV Camping with the 5th Wheel over at Santee Lakes.  Since one of the parts, (the ridge pole), is just over 10 feet long – the portability is a bit at question, but I could just toss it in the 5th wheel until we set up camp.  (“Portable” is a relative term?)

Background

I got the original idea for this some time ago when I heard of TurtleLady’s Bamboo Stand over on the HammockForums.net web site.  (I don’t post there – just “lurk”).  Later on, in the summer of 2013, user “Banana Hammock” posted a stand which also used two tripods with a ridge pole suspended between them which I found fascinating because his design used 3/4″ steel conduit.  His innovation was inspired by the German “Schwenker” design as seen in the article Heavenly Schwenker: German Recipe and Grilling Style.  (If you follow that link, you will see some pictures in the construction that heavily influenced my own efforts).  Unfortunately, all of Banana Hammock’s images showing his own creation have been removed and I can no longer find them – but the description and those pictures of the German BBQ were enough for me to proceed.

3/4″ Steel Conduit is available locally from Home Depot in 10′ lengths. I also picked up a couple of 3/8ths inch spring links, several carabiners, and a couple of Nite Ize Figure 9 Carabiner 150 lb. Black Rope Tightener.  (I was frankly surprised, pleasantly so, to find the latter at Home Depot).

1/2″ x 4″ eye-bolts with 9/16ths nuts on them were located on Amazon.com – National Mfg N221-309 1/2 x 4-Inch Zinc Eye Bolt – Quantity 10.

There are a few other things you would need, obviously a Hammock if you are interested in doing this – or if you are like me and already have one, you probably also have most of the other “accouterments” you would need.

That screwdriver and big old ball peen were originally my father's tools.  I think of him a lot any time I run into a project that requires a lot of patience.

That screwdriver and big old ball peen were originally my father’s tools. I think of him a lot any time I run into a project that requires a lot of patience.

None of the pictures available on-line presented a good way for spreading a half inch eye bolt far enough to accept two others - so this evening I just used a lot of patience and made it happen, (twice).

None of the pictures available on-line presented a good way for spreading a half inch eye bolt far enough to accept two others – so this evening I just used a lot of patience and made it happen, (twice).

Had to keep re-setting that big old screwdriver - its face is 1/2" - same as the eye bolt diameter.

Had to keep re-setting that big old screwdriver – its face is 1/2″ – same as the eye bolt diameter.

Eventually, having spread it as far as it would go driving straight into the eye, had to turn things to the side to spread it further.

Eventually, having spread it as far as it would go driving straight into the eye, had to turn things to the side to spread it further.

Take it easy Dave - - "patience" I can almost hear my dad whisper.

Take it easy Dave – – “patience” I can almost hear my dad whisper.

I considered using a steel splitting wedge to spread the eye open farther, but instead just used my hand for a clamp and gently tapped another eye until it seated inside the other one.

I considered using a steel splitting wedge to spread the eye open farther, but instead just used my hand for a clamp and gently tapped another eye until it seated inside the other one.

Then repeated with a 2nd eye-bolt - this looks just about right.

Then repeated with a 2nd eye-bolt – this looks just about right.

If you can do it once, and you are patient enough - you can repeat the process.  Later on I closed the two "open" eye-bolts with the ball peen.

If you can do it once, and you are patient enough – you can repeat the process. Later on I closed the two “open” eye-bolts with the ball peen.

"Fixin to get ready" - tape measure, cutting grinder tool, set up to clamp down 3/4" steel conduit, currently in 10' lengths.

“Fixin to get ready” – tape measure, cutting grinder tool, set up to clamp down 3/4″ steel conduit, currently in 10′ lengths.

Six pieces measured to 91" and marked for cutting - all I need is Heidi to come hold the ends.

Six pieces measured to 91″ and marked for cutting – all I need is Heidi to come hold the ends.

Good to go for the first cut.

Good to go for the first cut.

Heidi lay down an old towel to catch the filings - bt this is a grinder so there are no "steel splinters".  All six pieces cut to the same length with her help.  Marked the cut ends - I'll be driving the eye-bolt nuts into the other end of each one.

Heidi lay down an old towel to catch the filings – bt this is a grinder so there are no “steel splinters”. All six pieces cut to the same length with her help. Marked the cut ends – I’ll be driving the eye-bolt nuts into the other end of each one.

Gently tapping the 9/16 nut in using Dad's old ball peen.  After several false starts I settled in on sinking them about 3/4" into the pipe.

Gently tapping the 9/16 nut in using Dad’s old ball peen. After several false starts I settled in on sinking them about 3/4″ into the pipe.

This is the beginning of a tripod.

This is the beginning of a tripod.

This is sorta-kinda what it looks like put together.  I am considering re-closing the gap on the open one so I don't have to worry with it.  Doing it this way, one leg will always be just a little bit long, but since each leg is 7.5' long, its not enough to worry about.  I also put an eye-bolt in each end of a 10' section of steel conduit for the ridge pole.

This is sorta-kinda what it looks like put together. Doing it this way, one leg will always be just a little bit long, but since each leg is 7.5′ long, its not enough to worry about. I also put an eye-bolt in each end of a 10′ section of steel conduit for the ridge pole.

After tapping dents in the ends of all the conduit with eye-bolts driven into them to keep the nuts from sliding back out - decided to put things together for the first time.  Missy is very interested.

After tapping dents in the ends of all the conduit with eye-bolts driven into them to keep the nuts from sliding back out – decided to put things together for the first time. Missy is very interested.

Each tripod has a loop of 550 paracord looped down from one of the eye-bolts - here a 3/8ths inch carabiner - the 10' "ridge pole" attaches to that.

Each tripod has a loop of 550 paracord looped down from one of the eye-bolts – here a 3/8ths inch carabiner – the 10′ “ridge pole” attaches to that.

Hammock with "Snake skins" retracted.  Hooked up at about a 30 degree angle but I can tighten it just a bit.  Missy is trying to figure out how Dad is going to get in there...

Hammock with “Snake skins” retracted. Hooked up at about a 30 degree angle but I can tighten it just a bit. Missy is trying to figure out how Dad is going to get in there…

I want the ends of the ridge pole to be more or less "centered" under the tripod.  All forces are pulling "down" and serving to keep things tight.  Missy got to see me lay in it for just a few seconds..

I want the ends of the ridge pole to be more or less “centered” under the tripod. All forces are pulling “down” and serving to keep things tight. Missy got to see me lay in it for just a few seconds..

Those "Snake skins" are great - just slip them back over the hammock - roll everything up into a tight bundle and drop it into a bag or whatever.  Good stuff!  Next will be to rig a tarp for shade.  That also has Missy's approval.

Those “Snake skins” are great – just slip them back over the hammock – roll everything up into a tight bundle and drop it into a bag or whatever. Good stuff! Next will be to rig a tarp for shade. That also has Missy’s approval.

 So what about the “Schwenker”?

Well, I was going to combine it with one of the tripods for the Hammock Stand – but now that I’ve constructed it and know it was relatively easy – I am considering building a 3rd tripod specifically for the Schwenker grill.  Have just about decided that is the way I want to go – and already have a light duty winch, pulley and cable to support that project, (I’ll be over-building heck out of that one).  More later. 😀