Question about how to start with CW

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KB1PDK, Oct 29, 2019.

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  1. KB1PDK

    KB1PDK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have a question about what band it would be good to start out with when trying to start out with CW and not have to spend a lot of equipment money on equipment if it makes any difference what band you choose or if not how you can avoid spending a lot of money on a transceiver. I had a 25 watt receiver transceiver and I couldn't make any contacts with a. I just want to try cwo long this time does the CW transceiver. They have those pixie transceivers but I don't know how far they would transmit. I want to be able to reach my brother about 60 miles away. I admit that I have an extra license but unfortunately I have had very bad luck getting experience and I don't know the answer to a lot of these questions I don't know how to get started. Can somebody steer me in the right direction? My brother is going to pay for the equipment but we have to save money.
    W9RAC likes this.
  2. N5CM

    N5CM Ham Member QRZ Page

    You might consider looking for a used 100-watt transceiver from Kenwood, Yaesu, or Icom.

    When I got back on the air last year, after 10+ years off the air, my only choice for an HF transceiver was my old Kenwood TS-440S/AT. I unboxed it and the power supply, checked the voltage on the power supply, connected the power supply to the 440, and fired it up. No smoke. Life is good.

    I've worked all states on the old 440 and well over 100 countries since last year, all on CW, and all with 100 watts and wire antennas.

    Used equipment is fine... mine is well-used:)
    W9RAC likes this.
  3. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I sure agree a used 100W level transceiver, which can often be found in the $200-$250 range (especially for the older stuff), is a far better choice than a new QRP rig.

    And "success" depends not only on the "radio," but also the antenna(s) in use, plus operator skill and timing. Skills take time to develop, but learning "timing" -- as in what frequency band to use at what time of day to allow contact over a specific distance -- can be determined pretty easily by just listening for activity, as well as focusing on those frequency bands your antenna(s) will actually work.

    For a distance of only 60 miles on HF, 40m and 80m will definitely be your best bets. 40m all day long can support that, although it may be difficult as the sun goes down and then after dark. 80m may support that distance more hours per day. The "higher frequency" bands like 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10m will not support this via ionospheric propagation, but can support it if you both use sufficient power and very good antennas oriented towards each other, via "tropo," which does not rely on the ionosphere at all. But that's pretty challenging. I can make 60-mile contacts on those higher bands, using a kilowatt and a beam on a tower -- if the other station is also so equipped. With 100W and a simpler antenna, it usually wouldn't work. 40m and 80m will, just using 100W and dipoles.
    K8AI and K7TRF like this.
  4. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    In terms of bands I'd suggest 40 meters for late afternoon through night time operation and 20 meters for daytime operation. You could add 80m to that mix but it's usually easier to string up decent 40m and 20m antennas and they're the two most active bands right now during our lull between sunspot cycles.

    In terms of rigs I'd second the recommendation to get a decent 100 watt transceiver ideally with a narrow CW filter built in. It doesn't have to be the latest or greatest to be a very good CW rig. Many come to mind, but if you could find a Ten Tec Omni A/B/C series rig in good working shape you'd have a great CW rig. As posted previously just about any rig made in the last twenty years from the big three (Kenwood, Yaesu, Icom) with narrow CW filters(i.e. CW filters in the 600 Hz range or narrower) would also work very well.
    KA3CTQ, K0GOV and W9RAC like this.
  5. W4ZD

    W4ZD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I second K7RTF's recommendation. 40 has always been my favorite band, and to lesser degrees 20, 15, and 10. Virtually any 100-watt transceiver-- new or old --will give you coverage of those. I would recommend 40 to start. Most of your contacts will be local, and you can actually chat with the other guy, good for honing CW skills. Seems like the majority of DX contacts consist of sending your call, 5NN, and maybe TU. Gets old after awhile.

    For honing copying skills I would recommend the ARRL code broadcasts. When my fist is feeling rusty, I pull out any book on the shelf and start sending (keyer only, of course). Practice makes perfect. :)
    W9RAC likes this.
  6. W9RAC

    W9RAC Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    George I'm on CW a fair amount each day, a hour or two sometimes more in the winter. Since I did not see you mention your skill level I'm uncertain where to tell you to listen for additional experience. I did notice you mentioned "starting out" so I will presume you are at a slower rate, say 10 wpm. So, consider getting some on-air practice on 40, as others mentioned. Mostly 7.110 to 7.120 ish. You will find many Ops in this area just starting out OR looking for a slower exchange. Many rag chewer here so its great practice.

    Concerning your brother at 60 miles, day or night matters, I am considering you are desiring to use HF frequencies, with a dipole? Daytime with your 25 watts is a EZ trip on 60 OR sometimes 40 meters. In the wintertime you can use 75
    OR 160 meters almost anytime, day or night at that distance. Not hardly a day goes by George I do not get a CQ answered by a QRP station... or two or three. 5 watts OR less and 1000 miles is not uncommon. Many are in HOA's condos, high rise building in NY city yesterday I talked to, 1 watt, stuff like that. So 25 watts is not the problem. I generally am running a bit of power while calling CQ's. All my antennas are at 85' flattop except the Hex, 20/17/6 m. So at 85' and 400W I get many calls. Lots of the QRP stations are ones who are using compromised antennas. They hear that signal very EZ so the return. I enjoy chatting with those guys. Gives them a chance to use the rig. The other guys have mentioned a few great rigs for you to use so I will not expand on that. Hope you could use a tip or two here George. Best, 73 Rich
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
  7. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Start on 40m.

    With a modest station, you'll get the most coverage of the most hours of the day, and the most predictable DX, as well.
  8. KE4OH

    KE4OH Ham Member QRZ Page

    40m, all day, all night. 40m is always open to somewhere. Lots of CW activity and lots of operators who will slow down for beginners or are slow speed themselves. Look into some of the large CW operator clubs like SKCC and FISTS.
    W5TTW likes this.
  9. N1BCG

    N1BCG Ham Member QRZ Page

    You've got some great info here already, and once you're on, you can use the Reverse Beacon Network to check how your station is getting out:

    Try a few CQs then put in your call, or anyone else's, in to the search. I've seen some remarkable results using just 4 Watts. Perhaps your brother could try this to evaluate his station in the meantime. While it shows where the CQ call was received, it still relies on band conditions.
  10. KB1PDK

    KB1PDK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Should I consider any other range beside the high frequency range? Can CW be done on any other ranges?

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