Which bands for beginners??

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KC6DXN, Jan 27, 2016.

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  1. KC6DXN

    KC6DXN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello there,

    I have been a general-class operator for 5 years now, since receiving my ticket back in 2010. I have decided I am not as chatty on the airwaves as I once was. I am 50...therefore I am NOT retired / have not had my hip replaced / do not take blood-pressure medication -yet. So, I do not seem to have a lot to chat about, compared to what I usually hear on the morning rag-chews & such. This is why CW has been of increasing interest to me. I do have the equipment:

    • Begali HST mated to an IC-7200 or TS-850 SAT for home, speaking to a G5RV in an inverted-V.
    • QRP field kit, with a Vibroplex Brass-Racer mated to a very old K-1 (s/n-391), speaking to a JPC-7 (buddypole clone).
    My question is what seems to be the best bands to take CW baby-steps on? I am primarily concerned with my K-1, since it has fixed bands. It is currently configured for 15m & 80m...which is a bit odd. I am looking to have Elecraft send me out a new KFL1-2 board. Their options are: 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15. I would just swap in the new board as a permanent solution; choosing not to keep the other board.

    Sooo, any advice is appreciated!! If 80m & 15m is good, then I am set. If not, then would like to hear what your opinions are. Thanks!!
    VK5EEE likes this.
  2. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    80 isn't bad at night, especially now in the winter. The neighborhood around 3.540 to 3.550 or so can be good. I see you're located in Dixon, CA. Be aware that there's a slow speed Northern California Traffic Net at 3.533 (+/- QRM) every night at 9:00pm local time. It's a very friendly and helpful group that will keep things slow and easy, and forgive mistakes. They do use standard traffic net prosigns, which can be a bit different from what you normally hear in a standard two-way QSO.

    But I'd say 40m has got to be one of the best places for CW learners. The neighborhood around 7050 is a popular SKCC watering hole, and you'll often hear CW operators calling CQ at 10-15 WPM there (or if you don't feel free to make a call yourself). The area between 7.100 and 7.125 is the old Novice band, and though it sometimes has some digital traffic, it also gets a fair bit of very slow CW.

    A group from my local club does a weekly very informal CW learner's net on 7.107 every Wednesday at 7:00pm local time. You're about 50 miles away from us, and should probably be within range. Though sometimes, we go down to very low power, since some of us very close neighbors and reach each other with less than a watt -- other members are separated by ridges, and we need to use a bit more power to communicate via NVIS. If you can, feel free to listen to us, and give us a call when you can. Drop me an e-mail using my address from my QRZ profile if you want more info.

    And 20m during the day is another very popular band.

    If I could rank the bands in order, I'd say 40m, 20m, and 80m would be the top three. But it does depend on what time of the day/night you operate, and what your antenna situation is. The higher frequency bands are better in the daytime, and they can work well with smaller antennas.

    There's no "wrong" place for beginners, and you should feel free to call CQ at any speed that's comfortable for you on any band. But if you want to find more operators and thereby increase your chance of making contacts and/or eavesdropping on other slow speed QSOs, I'd put 40m right up there..
    VK5EEE, KA2CZU, KD5DVM and 2 others like this.
  3. K7MH

    K7MH Ham Member QRZ Page

    When I was a novice, I spent most of my time on 15 and 40. I would definitely want 40. There is almost always something going on there most any time of the day.
    I don't know why Elecraft doesn't have the 4 band board for the K1 any longer. Glad I got one for my K1. I also have a 2 band board for it so I am pretty well covered.
    Since it is just a CW rig, I would also want 30 meters. Whether 30 is a good choice for you, I don't know. For me I would HAVE to have 20 and 40 but I have been around a long time so have different desires than you might.
    I'd sure keep an eye out for a 4 band board! Maybe advertise for on on the Elecraft K1 reflector.
    VK5EEE and KD5DVM like this.
  4. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    My suggestion would be: 3.710 +/-, 7.040-7.056, 7.110 +/- 30-meters anywhere, and 14.060-14.065 LOTS of slower folks there. But anywhere further up the dial from the .025 boundary should be fine except during CW contests of course.

    I agree with your first comments - I've always said that CW is a great mode for folks that don't have that much to say but what to take some time to say it :)

    VK5EEE, KA2CZU, KD5DVM and 2 others like this.
  5. W4KJG

    W4KJG Subscriber QRZ Page

    I would fully agree with using 80 meters during the dark hours. Right now there isn't much going on during the daylight hours, but it sure is fun on cold clear nights.

    These days, forty is very good early to mid morning and again for a few hours from before sunset, and just after sunset.

    Night time on both bands can really be fun this time of year. No need to worry about being chatty, or even highly proficient. CW on these bands is not like a lot of the SSB QSOs you hear. It is civil and friendly.

    These are great bands for working a lot of stations, especially ones that are just there for the fun of making contacts without kilowatts and super antennas. You will run across a lot of QRP stations without egos.
    VK5EEE and KD5DVM like this.
  6. KN3O

    KN3O Ham Member QRZ Page

    In my limited CW experience, I have found the most helpful people on 7.110 +/- , but have also had some luck on 20, 30, and 80.

    If I had to choose 2 bands, I would go with 40, and then either 30 or 20.
    VK5EEE, KD5DVM and W5BIB like this.
  7. W5BIB

    W5BIB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I also would go with 40m & 30m. The 5-10 watts output with the K1 isn't going to do much for you on 80m, especially with Spring / Summer thunderstorm QRM around the corner.
    7114 +/- khz is a good frequency for "slower" QSO's. (as mentioned: 7050 +/- 10 khz is also good)
    As you already have 15 meters, a forty meter dipole will let you work 40m & 15m (when it's open). If you have a tuner, you can also work 30m.
    Have fun !!!

    Steve / W5BIB
    VK5EEE and KD5DVM like this.
  8. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Meant to add: a big part of the reason I personally like to run those frequencies is because I love to use various hand keys and I really don't care to send over 16 WPM or so with a hand key, so it's a natural fit - especially around 14.064 - that's actually my favorite HF watering hole for casual CQs / yakking. 7.047 +/- is really good too whenever W1AW isn't doing code practice - reason? A lot of folks still use the W1AW practice sessions and often keep a receiver parked there waiting for it to start. I find that a CQ at that frequency at about 15 WPM will almost always result in a QSO

    N7ANN, W5BIB, VK5EEE and 2 others like this.
  9. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Most bang for the buck IMO for CW at this point in the cycle and also going forward for probably 5-6 years to come would be 20m, 30m, 40m.

    80m is a good CW band but only at night, and better if you have a really good antenna for it (especially with K1-type power). The G5RV sorta works on 80m, but it's better if you ditch the coax and run ladder line all the way to the tuner using a good balanced tuner or a good single-ended tuner into a very good balun.

    30m is a wonderful CW & digital only band, no QRM from phone ops. Courteous ops, very good DX band.

    40m always has CW activity day and night.

    20m lately is more of a "daylight hours" band, although anything can happen and if there's any propagation at all, there's always activity.
    VK5EEE and KD5DVM like this.
  10. KC6DXN

    KC6DXN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I actually paid a visit to Elecraft in Watsonville, CA yesterday to find out why. They are in my neck of the woods. Their reasoning is pats sourcing. Apparently , there are some caps on there with very specific values and tight tolerances. Their source no longer produces these capacitors and they have been unable to find a suitable substitute. Thus the 1-4 board production has been discountinued.
    VK5EEE and KD5DVM like this.

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