Sparks 31 Down Grid Comm class 7 August 2016

Sparks 31 held his final Down Grid Communication class last weekend, on Table Mountain, NE of Dubois, at the site of the defunct airport:


Image shamelessly stolen from an attendee.

I counted ten adults and two adolescents.

The material was similar to the last class I attended in April, but abbreviated. Emphasis was given to signals intelligence, communications intelligence, team building, and team responsibilities.

Plenty of time was given to scanner types and their use for gathering information, QRP radio,  and hand held communication radios.

We broke for lunch, which was provided by two attendees, and was delicious.

Shortly after lunch the class moved to a location in Dubois, as there was a storm cell coming that provided plenty of rain shortly after we left the mountain.

At the “in town” portion, more equipment was discussed: SWR meters and dummy loads, and a Lander vendor displayed some dual band 144/440 mHz radios and handheld radios. Sparks 31 demonstrated the use of an MFJ-259B antenna analyzer on the CB radio install on an attendee’s Jeep, checking two different antennas.

It was an excellent class, and well worth the trip, even though I’ve been to one previously.




The Anderson Power Pole post

Recently, I purchased a Powerpole Bag. It includes a Powerpole 150 piece terminal kit and a Tricrimp crimping tool. While I was at it, I bought a set of dies to go with it, as well as a small roll of 12g red/black zip cord.

This post is my analysis of these items.

The terminal kit contents are great, and unless you’re doing hundreds of Powerpole terminals a month, I’d recommend the smaller size.

Right off the bat, I saw a small problem- the box that the parts come in is pretty lousy quality. Every time I tried to dig out a terminal, the removable  divider walls would come out of their slots and allow the parts to mix. I dove the my local Mega Lo Mart of sporting goods and picked up a couple Plano Stowaway boxes, one for the terminals, and one for the crimper and dies:

Neatly sorted

I threw the divider box that cam with the kit in the trash, where it belonged. I suggest you consider doing the same, if you buy the kit.

I put the dies in the other Stowaway box, and dug out my Pro’s Kits crimpers:

Their crimper vs. Pro's Kits

When I called customer service at last month, they told me that I’d need THEIR crimpers to properly crimp the terminal ends to the wire. That just isn’t true. My Pro’s Kits 902-337 open barrel crimper works perfectly, and the Pro’s Kits website calls it a Powerpole/open barrel crimper now. The Tricrimp dies fit my Pro’s Kits crimper as well, so it wasn’t a complete loss. If you own a different brand of open barrel crimper, I suggest you at least TRY it on these terminals before you purchase the Tricrimp. The worst you can do is ruin a terminal.

Both crimpers stack neatly in the box:

Another case

With room for extra dies. ¬†Here’s a photo of the top of the box:

The Plano info.

The bag is all right, but nothing special. I’d probably buy something else if I’d read a blog post like this one first, though. It’s not as sturdy as I’d like.

The bag

Everything stows neatly in the bag:

It all fits neatly in the bag

The Tricrimp is a bit different from mine in that it has a little attachment on it, presumably to help you hold the terminal end:

The Powerwerks crimper, close up.

Another view

The back side.

I don’t find it the least bit necessary, and in fact a bit of a hindrance for the 15A¬†and 30Ag wire slots. Maybe it will prove to be useful for the 45A slot. I’ll let you know when I try assembling 45A terminals.

The bottom line is that while Powerpoles have become the standard for ham radio power termination, some of the accessories leave a bit to be desired, at least for me. Seems like lots of ChiCom stuff is used, which gives me pause about the Powerpoles themselves. Time will tell. YMMV.

Edited to add:¬†Powerwerx also offers a tool for disassembling terminals, but it’s a lot of money for what you get. A very thin screwdriver or a penknife works just as well.

Into the 21st century

Several years ago, I installed (poorly) a Blue Sea 5029 fuse block¬†in place of a cheap RV fuse block on the firewall, in the engine bay. It never occurred to me back then (it was the early ’90’s) that the right way to do it was to protect it from the elements, until I installed a similar one inside the camper. Today, I fixed that, and more.

The impetus was my purchase of an Anderson PowerPole terminal assortment, crimper, die set, and carry bag. I’ll be writing a detailed analysis of that purchase as soon as I can get some quality pictures posted. Look for it in a week or less.

I installed the old fuse block under the glove box, on the firewall, inside the truck:

Fuse box, moved inside the cab

Don’t look too closely, as it’s installed temporarily-I’ve ordered Blue Sea 2201 and 2201 feed through terminals, and I’m going to replace the box with a Blue Sea 5026¬†fuse block with negative bus. This one will¬†work for now, and the redneck cobbled ground is temporary, I promise.

I rerouted and reconnected the AM/FM radio and CB, and I’ll take care of the driving lights soon.

It looks way better with the cover on:


But still nothing to write home about.

I’ve also installed a PowerPole panel mount in place of the cigar lighter outlet:

No need for a cigar lighter...

It’ll give me a good spot to plug in the radio when going mobile. The terminals were preinstalled the the ARES/ RACES configuration, which I recommend everyone use as well.

Naturally, I needed to test the new outlet, so I plugged in the cheap inverter I’ve had for years:


I installed a set of PowerPole terminals on it two nights ago, and it works perfect. Tomorrow, I’ll install terminals on the Yaesu.

I wish I’d done this a long time ago.

Finally found a radio

I’d contacted a fellow in Texas, and he called me back to offer me this:


It’s a Yaesu 857D, and it has the fancy MH -59 microphone. The seller was kind enough to include longer cables for the head unit and microphone, so I can mount the radio remotely if I want to.

I fired it up last week while camping by connecting to my CB antenna and setting it to 10 meter frequencies, but I was in a bit of a valley and didn’t pick up much. I won’t attempt transmitting until I can get my hands on an antenna tuner- I’m considering an LDG YT-100 or an MFJ 945E, but I’ll consider other tuners, and I’m open to suggestions.

I’ve purchased a Poles and Holders 22 foot flagpole to use as a mast, and I’ll use it to hold a long wire antenna, and maybe a Yo Yo antenna.

Naturally, I received calls from Main Trading and Associated Radio on Wednesday and Thursday telling me that they had received a shipment and were ready to ship me a new Yaesu, but I decined. I hope they go to good homes.