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New Year's Resolution - get a ham license!


(Chris) #1

So one thing I’ve always wanted to do is to gain a HAM radio foundation license. I’m hoping to do this in the next few months :slight_smile:

I have to admit that sadly I don’t know a lot about amateur radio, only that I have an appreciation from afar of the various intriguing technical aspects of it all, from antenna design to RF theory (bouncing signals off the moon sounds fantastically fictional to me!).

I’m hoping that a foundation license and the ability to transmit will give me a firm foundation from where to start. Of course I’d like to do the intermediate and full licenses too, but that currently seems like a distant objective. I’d like to be able to understand what I’m doing with SDR, rather than wombling my way through frequencies trying to find something interesting to listen to, and perhaps do some fun projects like making antennas or talking to the space station.

I’ll update this thread with my progress!


(Mike Bookham) #2

Chris,
Having taken the foundation & intermediate exams a few years ago, here are some pointers.

Have a look at the RSGB website, in particular, here for the full details of what is the various exams entail and links to training & exam resources.
There are RSGB publications for each exam, though if not buying direct from the RSGB make sure that you have the latest version & don’t waste your money on the exam secrets book for the beginner or intermediate exams.
The next time myself or Nathan are at the SHM. we’ll try to bring the books that we used for you to see the content of the exams, though I suspect they have now been superseded by now.

The easiest way is to contact a local HAM radio club (see RSGB website for details) and sign up for a course with them, though the foundation exam is extremely easy and it should only take a weekend at most to absorb the syllabus. Myself and my 2 sons signed up for courses with the HDARC Horndean and District Amateur Radio Club not having any background in Ham Radio. There are pros & cons with self-learning and classroom based learning, however the foundation course is so easy that with hindsight we didn’t need to do this as the RSGB book was sufficient with a few on-line practice exams.

The intermediate is slightly different in that it has a practical elements that need to signed off before you take the theory exam, so you will need to get in touch with a club for this part but again the theory exam part is not particularly taxing and believe that you would have no trouble just reading the RSGB book and neither is the practical section (though those that have never soldered before might find it a little tricky). All that is needed for the soldering section is to build a rudimentary circuit (i.e. tone generator kit) using some of the components you learned about on the course, I hadn’t soldered for over 30 yrs and that was self-taught as a teenager so I decided to make my life difficult by building the RSGB Centenary PSK31 Receiver which might still be available on the RSGB shop (though there might be issues obtaining the crystals) which worked after a short was located.

There is usually an annual Bath Buildathon at the beginning of the year (contact Steve Hartley, G0FUW by e-mail: G0FUW at tiscali.co.uk), this might be the ideal opportunity for you, however I think that you need to have passed the foundation exam before you can get signed off for the Intermediate practical assessment, though I could be wrong. Also looking at last year’s Bath Buildathon kit for this would have an ideal starter into SDR for you.

I have one very important hint:
Do NOT read ahead on the training books, i.e. only look at the foundation exam until after you have passed the foundation exam then and only then open the intermediate book. The reason is that the questions on the foundation exams are directly geared to the foundation book.

I have not looked at the full licence, though I have heard that there is a significant step up in knowledge required for the full licence exam, however it does seem quite common for people to complete all 3 in a 12mth window even for people with no or very limited electronics or radio background.


(Chris) #3

Wow, thank you @MikeBookham for such an excellent and helpful reply. :slight_smile: Lots of fantastic tips here, I really appreciate it.

So far it’s very early days yet - I have the small foundation pamphlet now which is quite handy, and I have also signed myself up to Essex Ham’s Online Learning Course which looks to be very good. I spend a lot of my time working with my company’s online learning, and for me it’s a very practical way to learn. I’m quite keen on trying this out.

They also do the FrequencyCast series, which seems very informative - I’ll be listening to this later today and I suspect it’ll be a good way to start picking up some things.


(Mark Hanford) #4


(Mike Bookham) #5

I forgot to mention a radio, the best option here is to buy a Baofeng UV-5R (there might be a newer version out now) which are somewhere around £30 (possibly cheaper if imported) but make sure that you get a programming cable for it because it is a right pain trying to use the keypad whereas it’s quick and & easy using the software interface.

A point that I should make to anyone reading this is that it is you must be licenced to transmit using this (or any) radio and even then you must ensure that only the relevant bands are used as defined in your licence, though it might be possible to use the UK unlicensed PMR446 band if the power can be programmed to a max of 500 mW.

Have a look at these URL’s in relation to the Baofeng:

I seem to remember that we could communicate from the top of Butser Hill to the Portsmouth & Fareham area which is approx 15 miles as the crow flies, however I think that we did use a high gain whip antenna with it instead of the included rubber duck antenna.

If you want a mobile or home multi-band transceiver then you’ll probably be looking upwards of £500 for a used one.


(Mike Bookham) #6

@Jagmills You might find this of interest, the BITX40, a $59 40 meter SSB transceiver module kit with digital control, have a look at Randy’s (K7AGE) unboxing & Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE the founder of HFsigs and the man behind the Bitx40 on Amateur Radio Roundtable 1 3 17

Here is the technical spec from the website:

  • The Raduino The new BITX40’s Raduino is an Arduino Nano powered, small, hackable board based on the rock steady Si5351 synthesizer with a clean 16x2 frequency display, free and open source code, 6 analog ports, three oscillators and six digital lines.
  • Receiver The listen to the very clean, crisp and quite receiver. The front-end has a triple tuned circuit that cuts out-of-band signals. The diode ring mixer front-end makes this a crisp receiver that doesn’t overload easily. The all analog signal path to your ear provides outstanding signal clarity that is to be heard to be believed.
  • Transmitter 7 watts of low distortion SSB provides you with enough juice to have thousands of contacts on 40 meters, daily rag chew and occasional DX chasing. Any common 2 ampere 12 linear volts supply will provide enough juice for this transceiver. Or you could simply run it from a battery!

(Chris) #7

Great - that looks like a well thought out bit of kit (plus the manufacturing source seems to be well thought out, that’s nice too).

Will give the video a good watch tomorrow. I have a few updates to add to this post, too!


(Chertsey Radio Club) #8

Hello, We bumped into a few of your team at the Egham raspberry jam on Sunday.
We are a small Ham radio club based around Chersey / Staines area, however 80% of what we do is on-line.
If you are still interested in getting a license we are happy to help you out and get you on your way. You can also use the club license and equipment for your testing and experiments under supervision too.
We are not the old fashioned typical UK club, hopefully a bit more light hearted and more on the lines of come have a god and enjoy.
Our blog is at http://chertseyrc.uk and we are on twitter @chertseyrc you can contact us by e-mail chertseyradioclub@hotmail.com

Maybe we could do the practical session at the boiler room one evening, the foundation practical is fairly easy and we could get several people through and signed off quite quickly (1 hour tops) obviously no fee involved for that.

Exams we can run, but that does have a fee from the RSGB and would need a quiet room to use.

Any questions ham radio or not please reach out always very happy to help,

Cheers

James Preece M0JFP
Chertsey Radio Club (MX0MXO)


(Claire Lonsdale) #9

Hello! Good to see you here already :slight_smile:


(Claire Lonsdale) #10

This was talked about recently - @chertseyRC would you like to come along to the Makerspace sometime and discuss workshop ideas, etc?

Claire


(Chertsey Radio Club) #11

Hi Claire,

We would love to come and have a chat about ham radio and the license etc.
It would also be a great excuse to come and see what you all get up to.

Give me a few dates over the next month and will see what we can do.

Cheers and catch up soon

James / @crc


(Claire Lonsdale) #12

hi, there will usually be someone in on Tuesday or Friday evenings (though it may be useful to find out when @Jagmills is likely to be about, since he started this discussion).

Today and next Tuesday we’ll largely be getting stuff ready for a big event next weekend (though you are still welcome to come and chat) - I think the best approach is to work out which Tues/Fri suits you, and post to this forum to double-check on the day someone will be about, then head over.

We are at the Boileroom in Guildford - use the back entrance and if security asks, say you’ve come for the Makerspace upstairs - head upstairs and we are just past the tattoo parlour.


(Chris) #13

Hi @chertseyRC! Sorry for the… radio silence, I have been travelling so have unfortunately been unavailable for some time.

(Don’t worry, @JulianWarren turned to violence in compensation for that awful pun).

I will be at the space both Tuesday and Friday next week, away for a week, and then back to hopefully a routine schedule of being there all the time. We’d love to have you come visit, I myself would be very interested in the ham stuff and I’m sure we could discuss your ideas as well.

Cheers!

Chris


(Andy) #14

Hi Chris,

I’m another Chertsey RC member and have been chatting with James about popping over to you guys to chat ham stuff if you’re still interested? I’m pretty local to you guys and have been meaning to look in on SHM for some time (shame I couldn’t make the Raspberry Jam the other week… although I did send a couple of guys from work!) - this thread is a great excuse to make that happen!

Friday looks good for me, are you about?

If we’re quick about it we might even tick off that resolution of yours :wink:

Cheers,

Andy
(G7UHN)


(Chris) #15

Hey Andy!

It would be great to meet you both, but sadly I am off on a short weekend break this Friday so won’t be around I’m afraid.

I will be there tomorrow evening and will be there Tuesday and Friday next week if that at all works for you. I’d love to go through with my resolution, I got close but still no license yet!

Cheers

Chris


(Andy) #16

Bah, I can’t make Tuesdays for a while and I have a Xmas party next Friday… I guess the earliest we can meet up is Friday 15th?

In the meantime, how far have you got? What are you interested in radio-wise? There’s so much great stuff to play with these days it’s difficult to know where to start! :grinning:

Andy


(Andy) #17

Yo Chris, are you still planning on being at the Makerspace tomorrow evening? If so, what sort of time?

Andy


(Chris) #18

Hey Andy,

I most certainly will! Should be there by 6pm at the latest. Hopefully see you there?


(Andy) #19

Cool! Looking forward to seeing what you guys have got there. Entrance is through the garden, right?


(Chris) #20

Hi Andy, yes it’s through the garden. Sorry I’ve been running very late - just walking to the space now :slight_smile: