The Charlotte Amateur Radio Club - W4CQ is a general interest radio club serving the Charlotte, NC area. We generally meet on the first Saturday of every month at 10:00 AM at the Salvation Army Divisional headquarters, our served agency. We're located at 501 Archdale Drive in Charlotte, NC. 28217, near I-77 Exit 4 (Nations Ford Road).

Check our Calendar of Events for changes and additions to the meeting schedules.

Feel free to come by and meet the members. We have a working club station on site with active HF, VHF and UHF equipment. This is a secured facility, please arrive no later than 9:35 AM to assure access.

From my very limited optic there are many “classification’ levels of Hams. I’m not talking about license level but rather the individuals’ demonstrated technical breadth and depth of electronics and communications knowledge, skills and abilities. In case you’re wondering, I’m at the bottom of this totem pole!

First, a little personal history. I served in the Navy between 1970-76 as an avionics electronic technician. The day after my honorable discharge I promptly forgot all of my training and left behind any desire to pursue electronics as an avocation. Fast forwarding 10 or so years I was now supporting our Governments Intelligence Community (at least they were intelligent then). I was charged with recruiting then hiring electronic technicians and engineers, communicators and computer security officers. I did this for two or three years before I assumed other duties within the Community.

My bride (Jo Marie aka Jo aka Joma) and I relocated from Washington, DC to Denver, NC in November 2012 after my third retirement. It seems like we had just settled in when our only daughter pleaded for us to come to Richmond, VA to assist with her first baby (our first grandchild). Knowing that fish and company all start to smell after three days, in May 2019 we purchased and moved into a 40’ fifth-wheel in Richmond. For a little over a year, we lived in Richmond, traveling back to our home in NC about once a month to retrieve mail and make sure our house was still standing.

During our year in Richmond I needed something else to do with my free time (yes there was a little free time) so, I purchased my first radio – a Baofeng.

I always seem to get the cart before the horse! Over a period of months and before I became a Technician I purchased a Kenwood TH D-74 HT and two Icom ID-5100A’s. I installed one of the 5100’s in my truck and “listened” every time traveling and the other 5100 was installed and “listened to” in the fifth-wheel. My fifth-wheel antenna was a Chameleon CHA DB VHF/UHF. To round out my fifth-wheel system I added an OpenSpot-3.

In May of 2020 I tested for and passed my Technician exam.

We have a building (often referred to as the cottage or boat shed or shop or train room) next to the house. I did a little rearranging, commandeering, building and painting and violả, my ham shack! With the shack area identified, I started assembling my General Class station. Over the last year and one-half I’ve added:

Icom IC-7300
Samlex SEC-1235M Switching Power Supply
LDG AT-600 Pro II Tuner
Daiwa CN-901 HP SWR/Watt Meter
Heil PRAS
Heil HPS-5
Icom SM-50 Microphone
Icom IC-705
Icom AH-705 Tuner
W2HVH Enclosures Icom 705 Go-Box w 4.5 Ah Battery

Living in a HOA and being married to a very, very did I say very particular young lady I’m limited regarding externa antennas. In addition to the Chameleon, I’ve added the following and these seem to open all bands for me.

Comet CP-45 Mast
Comet YS-45 Tripod
Comet GP-3 Antenna (VHF/UHF)
ZeroFive 30’ Commercial Flagpole Antenna (HF)
TN-07 – MyGoTo Antenna (HF)

Before you ask, the flag below our American flag is the flag of the Choctaw Nation. I am a card carrying member of this Indian tribe.

Hopefully, I’ll test for and obtain my General Class license very early next year. If I can’t make it happen then watch for my shack on the “Traders Net” Laugh Out Loud!

My final thoughts:
First, You don’t have to have a thousand dollar shack to be a Ham. All you need is desire and a Chinese knock-off or Motorola HT.
And second, every Ham should be an Elmer. If you’re not willing to step up to this plate then disconnect your mic and just be a listener!

Listen – Learn – Laugh!

73’s
Carl
KO4DQO

Folks often say that they “only” have a technician license. I have had mine less than two years and my amateur radio journey has been really fun. From learning basics on VHF/UHF, 220, program my radios, repeaters, APRS, DMR, hotspots, and the Technician portion of the 10 meter band it has all been a blast.
My shack is not very intrusive and almost on stealth mode. Living in an HOA my VHF/UHF antenna lives in the attic and connected to a Vero N7500 radio. On the photo you can see a cheap cell phone that connects via bluetooth to that unit. I can walk around the house cable free and TX with 40 watts of power.
Next to my wireless access point I have a hotspot to access DMR, I use WPSD to run the hotspot and monitor from the computer and talk using a Retevis RT3S running OpenGD77 firmware.  All in all a very simple setup but faily efficient for what I want to do.
73,
Jose “Pepe” Chavez
Certified Interpretive Trainer

The Early Blank Canvas

I think it’ll be fun to start with the shack from its early days before seeing how it has evolved over the last few years.

Here’s the first operator’s desk at this QTH:

The space was not prewired, so I ran an 80 amp sub panel, multiple quads, and added two 220 circuits for the amplifiers. Each wall has a separate circuit so there is more than enough power to go around.

Designing the Shack

The challenge was to design and build a station that would have enough space for desk mics and a keyboard, offer some lighting, allow for multiple monitors, and still have enough space for multiple radios within arm’s reach.  I also wanted to be able to do a little actual work in the shack as I find a change of scenery refreshing.

For the other two walls, I wanted spaces for a workbench and pegboard, as well as another sit-down bench where I solder and work on electronics.

I painted the floors battleship grey and planned to add switchable white/red overhead lighting to mimic a naval vessel operation’s center.

Chief of all shack elements was the operator’s desk. What I came up with was very basic, over-built (I can jump on this thing and it won’t even creak) but functional space to allow me to start unboxing some of the radio gear from the move and make a few more contacts.

After a few weeks of use, I realized that the desk design and overall space could be improved by adding cabinets.

And by this time, I began to unpack more shack-related gear. This includes a box of the clutter gremlins which escaped and trashed my shack.

The station was coming together and functional, however, a tinker’s job is never done. Note the safety vest. Safety first. Always.

Here is what the operator’s location looks like today while we are working. Notice the additional riser to support the amp over the tuner.

In the upper left under the cabinet, I have mounted the Yaesu FT-8800, which is used for a VHF Allstar Node that bridges my station with one in New York. It uses a Raspberry Pi 3 running HamVOIP and the DMK Universal Radio Interface. Unlike other digital mobile radio standards, the audio passed through the Allstar network is mostly indistinguishable from analog radio. This is it’s biggest selling point imo.

On the top shelf, from left to right, is the Astron VS-70M power supply which runs all DC devices.

The speakers are ICOM SP3 along side the IC-9700 and IC-7300. Atop are two tuners, one for VHF and the other for UHF. The 7300 is now re-purposed strictly for VaraChat. On the right is the ACOM 1000 amplifier and Drake Watt Meter used with the primary HF station.

On the bottom, from left to right is a Comaire 6m/2m balanced tuner (rare and to be in service soon!), BCT 15x scanner, a very messy USB hub, the IC-9100 that is mostly used to monitor 6m, and the main HF rig, which is an IC-7610. Finally, below the amplifier on the right is the Palstar AT2k tuner.

All radios are using the stock hand mics, save for the IC-9700 and IC-7610, where I use ICOM SM-30 desktop microphones.

Lighting The Shack

I’ve seen many examples of shack and desk lighting and had a good idea of what I wanted.

I first had red bulbs in the overhead, but they cast too many shadows being mounted on the ceiling. I knew that if I wanted it to look and provide light, I needed to bring the source closer to the operator’s position.

I had some space under the riser shelf, so it seemed natural to add lighting there. This involved running adhesive LED strips under the shelf and behind the monitors. This helps to illuminate the radio buttons, which is useful for rigs without backlit buttons.

Both overhead and desk lighting are controllable via remote. There is even a party mode, however, I usually run red at night, which I find easy on the eyes and pairing nicely with my astronomy hobby (red light favors the preservation of night vision.)

With everything on at the desk, she casts a ton of light; almost (definitely) too much. Although it is not as bright as it seems in the picture (the phone’s camera compensates for low light.) I turned the monitors off because they are bright enough to kill the whole mood.

The LED strips and power supply do not produce any measurable RFI or hash (amazingly) on any band. The strips are made by Good Earth Lighting and were available at Lowes or online.

Once I found out that these lights were “radio quiet,” they started going up everywhere, although I usually don’t run more than one or two lighting schemes at a time. With all of them set to red at the lowest brightness, it presents a very muted red hue, and makes it feel like I’m operating in the CIC of a naval vessel or Air Traffic Control, which was a theme I was going for.

Since the lights are controllable; I can easily switch to any color. If I’m doing work at the benches, I run everything white, which does a great job at eliminating shadows in the room; especially at the work bench on the left and electronics bench in the middle.

On a final note, there are a ton of improvements that can be made. The design is not without faults. Cable management is a real pain, and getting behind the desk is impossible. Plus there is still vertical room on both sides of the desk that can be utilized for storage, scanner racks, and other gadgetry. Maybe I get around to painting… But I may want to combine the electronics and radio desks into an L or U shaped high cubicle, however that’ll be a big project, and a topic for another time.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed the tour!

-73

N4LMM

P.S. If you got ideas, I’d love to hear them. Give me a shout on W4CQ.

And show us your shack! I’m happy to post your shack if you send me (my email is good on QRZ) your pictures and a description.

IC-9700 on left mouse/monitor/mic and IC-7610 on the right mouse/monitor/mic.

Both radios are available direct via IP, allowing me to use them from my Amazon Workspace, and by USB cables connecting directly to my PC.

The IC-7610 Has a mouse and keyboard and monitor connected directly, whereas the IC-9700 uses a software client on the local PC for Control, Waterfall, Etc.

I use Kasa power outlets to switch the elements of my station remotely.

Remote Power and Remote Control together let me run my entire station (amps and all) from most internet connected devices, including my phone.

This is the IC-7610 remote from my phone running 250w of FT8.

Click here to see a video of the IC-9700 running remote on a $30 Intel Atom Micro PC.

Here is the whole mess of it! (Q-R-Pinot too)

Now that I have shown you my shack, show me yours!

Send me photos and a description of your shack to have it featured here!

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Upcoming Events

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01May2024

W4CQ Trader Net

W4CQ Trader Net

From 7:30pm until 8:30pm

At W4CQ Repeater 444.450mhz +5 / 82.5 tone

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04May2024

Monthly Club Meeting

Monthly Club Meeting

From 10:00am until 12:00pm

At W4CQ Radio Room @ Salvation Army Community Services Bldg.

501 Archdale Dr Charlotte NC 28217

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04May2024

License Testing

From 11:00am until 3:00pm

At Must Make Reservation!

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