Amateur radio

How would the hackerspace feel about me setting up a amateur radio station (ham radio) at the hackerspace? I have a spare HF transceiver that will allow me to send both speech and morse code around the world. However, I will need to install an antenna or multiple antennas on the roof as well as have a designated area to set up my gear.

While you need to be a licensed operator to use the equipment, I am allowed to let other people talk around the world using my equipment, just so long as I am driving the thing. While there is the obvious tasks of hooking us up to amateur radio operators worldwide, there is also the possibility of allowing RF experimentation at the space. This includes receiving aeroplane beacons and plotting their flight paths around the hackerspace, hooking up to the packet radio network and watching cars and boats navigate the brisbane area, receiving weather satellite broadcasts as well as even communicating with astronauts on the ISS when they decide to hop on the radio.

I was thinking of setting up in either the room beside the lasercutter room or optimally in the classroom.

So, what do you guys think?


the room beside the lasercutter room or optimally in the classroom.

The “room beside the lasercutter room” is currently under the responsibility of the “Digital Fabrication” cause, and is being used for 3D printers and small/desktop/pcb routers ( the non-messy kind).
The “classroom” is currently considered a “common area” and is being regularly used to run classes.

I’m not sure a (semi-)permanent instalation of a HAM station is going to integrate well in these particular room/s… but I’m not against the idea in general. Maybe you should start a “HAM” or “RF for fun” cause ( get 4 other interested peeps, etc ), and then take formal responsibility for an area…? Maybe the room currently referred to as the “games room”, as it’s got a bunch of stuff in it, but no cause that I’m aware of. :slight_smile:

P.S. there are at least 2 other members I know of that are also HAMs, so maybe part of the to-be-a-CAUSE rules would be “must be a HAM, or under the direction of a HAM, to operate X equipment”. :slight_smile:

There’s some room spare on the electronics bench isn’t there?

Fair point. It’s been suggested to extend the electronics workbench anyway to allow for more room to solder. Might just do.

Alright, I’m now in the position where I have all the equipment to implement this thing. I have a HF transciever, antenna tuner and antenna insulators spare and ready to put at hsbne. I’m planning on taking up the space next to karl’s pile where the window is in the green room.

This will involve stringing up the antenna in the courtyard. I’ll be putting up a 40ish meter (10m/side square) loop antenna which will be pinned to the roof’s of the main building and the workshop building.

The setup will look something like this:

If anyone has any concerns about this, please let me know.

Will this be a permanent setup?
Just wondering if we should inform the landlord first.

This is relevant to my interests…

I have a amateur radio licence. Only a Foundation license at this stage. I have started a number of times to upgrade to ‘Standard’ and will actually get it one day.
An idea about antennas. I think these sort of lighting stands would be a good way to run antenna’s outside when someone wants to ‘play radio’. Could run one out in each direction then come back into the ‘shack’ in the middle.
They push up to a pretty good height.

I have a couple here at work that a very likely to be surplus to our needs but they aren’t too expensive to get more. I also have roll of coax which might be handy.

I’m a fan of satellite stuff too and have an Arrow II antenna which is fun to do handheld AMSAT stuff with :slight_smile: The issue I have is that I only have a handheld 2M transceiver, and scanners, and always borrowed other equipment. My wife also aint a fan of radio so having somewhere and some people to do radio stuff with outside of the house would be a big plus for me… No need to join and amateur radio club… just be a member of HSBNE. This is also a cause which could definitely run courses. We could eventually run foundation courses to get other people licensed. This is pretty easy. Also down the track could become affiliated with the Wireless Institute of Australia which might allow us to apply for grants and so on. There are also local amateur radio operators and clubs which I think would find working with HSBNE interesting. I think ham stuff/hackerspaces are a great combo because there are lots of complimentary skills and resources at HSBNE such as people that can help radio amateurs learn to work with metal for antenna construction, people that are experts with electronics and electrical theory, tools and workspace that most clubs don’t have and so on. So many synergies in my opinion. Its a hobby that has been around in Australia for more that 100 years and its also a way to introduce it to new people to keep it alive beyond the lives of many of the ‘old timers’.

-Nathan B

Nathan, good to hear that someone else is interested in amateur radio. I’ll be setting up an old kenwood ts-520s transceiver at the space along with its own antenna tuner/swr meter combo unit. The idea is to string up a full wavelength loop for 40m or 45m. The idea being it’ll be resonant on 160, 80, 40, 20 and 10m, but if it is made slightly longer, it won’t resonate on any of those frequencies but will be close enough to allow for 15m and 30m operation along with the rest.

As for higher frequencies, I have a kenwood tr-9000 all-mode VHF transceiver and some folded dipoles that just have to be stuck up on a pole with some new coax. I also have a UHF folded dipole yagi-uda with far too many directors that would be good for working something like the the ISS or your satellites. I personally haven’t given hitting satellites a go, at the moment the only radio I have coupled to an antenna is my UV-5R, so I feel your pain in wanting a station with a decent size antenna.

Those stands might be good if the landlord doesn’t want to allow the big antenna to go up as a base for some vertical small loops. They would also be useful for portable operation for competitions or for using with SOTA. I don’t know whether they would be useful as a base for a dipole, usually they have to be up pretty high so that ground loss doesn’t affect it too much.

I have some HF radio gear barrett 850 etc and a stainless antenna would this be useful at the space. I will need to pack it up this morning if anyone thinks it will be useful.

Decided to pack it anyway. 100w Barrett 930 hf with antenna and 400w amplifier. Should be able to broadcast halfway around the world with it.



Never seen a channelised HF transciever, so that’s rather curious. I take it this was from a commercial setup.
But that amp is BEAST. So beast it actually far outstrips my current antenna tuners, let alone that poor 100w MFJ portable tuner. I’ve seen people broadcast around the world with 4W, let alone 400W.
Yeah, we should be able to make use of this.

Also, as soon as I can be bothered to get off my ass, I’ll be buying in a bamboo pole to put up in the courtyard to string some antennas off of, probably use some metal strapping to attach it to the courtyard undercover area. the pole will be 10m long, which is double in hight of the undercover area.

What kind of antenna do you have for that unit?

I give you all my help in seeing that up!
I badly want to try and speak to the ISS. That should be enough juice, shouldn’t it?


Hey Sven, I’m sure juice isn’t the problem haha I just don’t know if the ISS communicates over HF. I think they use VHF and UHF but I could be wrong. The 100W set-up will have a usable range of 3000km but more on a good day. I think HF bounces off the atmosphere and that’s how it travels epic distances, I don’t know if it can make it into space though. @merseyless?

The antenna is a long wire, I think it’s about 16 metres long. The radio has 20 channels and an auto tuner, I think it can be connected up to the amp directly, I’m sure 100W should be enough to get us started :wink: I will bring the gear in on Tuesday night, maybe we can rig up the antenna then.

@Svenska, the ISS is up on the higher frequencies, looks like they use VHF. My little handheld would be able to reach them with a less crap antenna, which I also may actually have…

@BraisedBunya, A long wire antenna won’t work for where we are. I gave it a shot myself not too long ago and you only end up zapping yourself because there is no way to get a decent ground from the green room. I’m still looking at putting up a giant bamboo pole with a dipole on it, just need to be bothered to drive up to the plantation and fetch it, plus the small matter of buying some decent ladder line ($$$) and a proper antenna tuner to run it all from.

Then again, we have quite a few options as to how we do antennas and transmission line (open wire feeder vs coax, monopole vs dipole vs loop), each having its own advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I’m leaning towards a 40m resonant dipole with ladder line feed for low-loss multi frequency goodness. Plus 40m will probably be popular in the coming solar minimum. We would still need different antenna’s for anything beyond 20-40-80m operation, but it at least covers the basics.

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Just thinking about how to do this, ladder line is expensive but you can make 600ohm open wire feeder fairly easy, just need some non-conductive spacers. We could 3d print them and paint them white, but I REALLY don’t want to have to go and replace them after they melt in summer. Each side of the dipole will be 10m in length and we can assume a 20m run from the top of the dipole to the radio, so that’s 60m of wire on each side. House wiring would do the trick but something actually rated for UV would be nice.

As far as antenna tuners go, I’m FAR too poor to buy a proper one to handle 500w PEP for us to play with. Hell, I can’t even find one that is that high power. So I’ll need to build one. Probably make that a later project as I do have a 300w capable tuner to use on either the ts-520s (200w) or the barrett 930. For future reference though, one could be made with a combination of this variable capacitor set and this inductor tapped at the right points, when following these instructions.

Before I go off buying parts, Is anyone opposed to the idea of sticking this up? The bamboo pole would be twice the hight of the undercover area in the courtyard (10m total), strapped to one of the I-beams. There would be wires running from the top of the pole down to the green room looking something like this, which (when in operation) would have 500Vrms HF AC going up to the dipole at peak, which would develop stupid voltages on the ends of the dipole. Luckily, the dipole tips will be WAY out of reach (ceramic insulators connecting the tips of the dipole to decent rope leading to the top of the main building and the warehouse building).

Main risk is people standing too close to the ladder line and exceeding the regulations on how much RF you can stand in. Technically there should be no danger unless you touch the wires but we will be required to make an exclusion zone outside as the open wire feeder will need to be spaced from the building as it goes up and away to avoid the metal gutter. Other than that, just the concern of the bamboo pole snapping in high wind, but there should be fairly low wind loading as it will only have some wire hanging off. Some kind of (low impedance) ground will need to be made to suppress atmospheric electricity buildup and to strap the wires to when not in use in case of lightning strike, so we will need to bust a hole in the concrete outside and drive a stake into the earth.

This might sound bad, but in reality the biggest risk is the bamboo pole.

how big would the spacers need to be?
can we make them out of treated timber?

The only issue I see is the height with regards to planes. (I may be worried over nothing though)

If planes are that low around us we have bigger problems


The pole will still be shorter than the giant lights we have next door, so it should be fine. Not sure if it’ll need guy-wires, the wind does get pretty strong here.

In the past for ladder line; people cut dowels up, boiled them in paraffin, and bound them to the wires somehow. So wood can be used. However, the same effect can be achieved with plastic spacers, general idea shown here and here.