Underground radio


Here’s one from the archives, the first QSL I created seven years ago after hanging my Hamtoons shingle.

The connection between the call sign and the cartoon is pretty obvious. Anybody else here have an underground shack? Anybody else here wish they had an underground shack?

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Buh-BAWK!

Chris, VO1IDX, wanted to squeeze a lot onto his custom QSL card: his farm, his chicken coop, his children, his antenna, and, of course, himself. Since simple is better at postcard size, I pared it down to Chris and his antenna, with the chickens surrounding his call sign. Chris then asked that a ham radio — a ham that’s literally a radio — be added. I did, and, voila, there you have it. (The chicken atop the “O” egg is wearing headphones and a boom mic, because what would a Hamtoons QSL be without a cute animal on it wearing headphones?)

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Dogs and cats hamming together

KK6DOA ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTAnyone who’s followed my work knows that I just love drawing cute animals. I also like putting headphones on them. (A friend once told me I don’t even need to sign my QSL art any more; if the drawing shows a cute animal wearing headphones, N2EST must have drawn it.)

Given all that, the request by Chuck, KK6DOA, that I draw his pets operating his shack was right up my alley. I resisted the urge to have the station go multi-op with everyone wearing cans; only Chuck’s German Shepherd, Maggie, gets headphones, in this case with a boom mic.

This was a fun one to draw. Want a QSL that shows your animals on the air? Drop me a line and we’ll design it together.

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Sawbones in Seattle

W7BMD ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTChris, W7BMD, is a Seattle physician who, according to his QRZ.com page, specializes in “bone strength, bone density, osteoporosis and fractures.” He’s literally a bone doctor — hence, his call sign phonetics, Whisky Seven Bone M.D.

Chris wanted all of that referenced in his QSL card, plus a picture of his home QTH. The challenge was tying it all together.

I started with the call sign itself. Why not build it out of bones? 

Next came the house. Chris sent several reference pictures, and I illustrated a cartoon version of it, with a cartoon version of Chris himself in the foreground.

Then there’s Seattle. What’s more symbolic of Seattle than the Space Needle? I drew that, too.

But … how do you tie it all together?

Chris solved the problem with a fanciful suggestion: Connect one end of his wire antenna to the Space Needle itself. 

It works for me. Any ham would want that kind of elevation for his antenna. 

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Dayton, Ohio — the birthplace of aviation?

N3DF ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTWhen Neil, N3DF, asked me to create a QSL naming Dayton, Ohio, “the birthplace of aviation,” I was a little confused. After all, didn’t the Wright Brothers first fly a heavier-than-air aircraft near Kitty Hawk, making North Carolina the birthplace of aviation?

The answer is yes and no. In fact, the Wright Brothers hailed from Dayton — Orville was born there — and developed their flying machine in Ohio. In 2003, the U.S. Congress honored this fact by officially naming Ohio “the birthplace of aviation.” (North Carolina had to settle for “first in flight.”) The Dayton Daily News makes a compelling case here for why aviation while always call Ohio its home.

Neil wanted his QSL card to convey that fact, with “perhaps a Wright Flyer circling a shack with a Yagi.” I gave it my best shot, and here’s the result.

 

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Tower climbing

KC3GUY ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTSome QSL cards — like this one — are pretty straightforward.

Eric, KC3GUY, kept it simple: He wanted to be seen climbing his tower, with a hex beam atop it. Initially Eric wanted to be shown holding a handi-talkie, but when we realized that it was hard to see at that size, we substituted a wrench that symbolized his profession as a heavy diesel mechanic. This is the result.

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County hunter!

N8OYY ham radio cartoon QSL back by N2ESTIf you like chasing counties, you’ll like this QSL card.

Ed, N8OYY, told me he enjoys “county hunting all 3,077 U.S. counties and driving from county to county making contacts from my SUV.” He wanted something to illustrate that, showing his specific vehicle, a Kia Sorento. I suggested conveying the idea with a faux map of various counties and his SUV wandering through it. Ed liked the idea, so I went to work.

The map I drew isn’t an exact representation, but it tells you what you need to know. The SUV, however, is definitely a Kia Sorento. (I’ve liked drawing cars since I was a kid, so it was easy to do it right.) I then added the call sign in 3-D and a burst with the words “county hunter!” … and there you have it.

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The art of the rag chew

If you’re reading this, you probably know the boilerplate elements of a standard ham-radio QSO: signal report, QTH and name, generally followed by your station equipment and maybe a word about the weather.

A lot of hams never go past that, and that’s fine. But what if you want to have a real conversation — a “rag chew,” as we hams call it?

Amateur radio long-winded QSOThese illustrations, taken from the late Doug DeMaw’s “W1FB’s Help for New Hams,” first published by the American Radio Relay League back in the 1980s, accompanied some very good advice. (The book is out of print but easy to find via Amazon and other online booksellers.)

For one thing, keep it short and to the point. There’s nothing like dueling monologues to kill a QSO. DeMaw wrote:

Some hams are so enthusiastic about the prevailing conversation that they tend to “windbag” when it is their turn to talk. Excessively long transmissions may annoy the other people in the QSO, especially if they have never met you before.

Amateur radio boring ragchewAnother thing is not to belabor the obvious. Better yet, why not ask the other ham a question to engage him? DeMaw suggested asking your contact about, say, his signal strength to get the ball rolling, writing “(Don’t) bore him by repeating dull information about that may be of little interest to him.”

Are any topics off limits? As a matter of law, very little is forbidden. Still, common sense ought to guide you. DeMaw wrote:

I recognize and honor our 1st Amendment rights, but I feel that coarse language, profanity and bigotry have no place in Amateur Radio … An important part of our amateur credo is to promote good will rather than animosity. Even though the FCC allows the use of several unsavory four-letter words on the air, you will fare better and earn greater respect by “keeping it clean.”

He added:

Restraint, in general, is an excellent rule with regard to the tone of your conversation during a QSO. Although each of us has the right to discuss such topics as politics and religion, some points of view and statements may seriously offend others with whom we chat … Certain frequencies in our HF bands are regarded by some as cesspools, because of the language that’s used and the suggestive nature of the conversations. It’s best to avoid involvement with these groups in the interest of avoiding guilt by association.

Amateur radio profanity on the airRemember, unlike social media, where to some extent you can restrict your audience only to friends who agree with you (or at least tolerate you), amateur radio is essentially a party line. Anybody can listen to you, at any time. You have to assume anybody, licensed or not, may well be listening — and what you say may represent the entire hobby to others, even if it’s only your personal opinion.

Even though I discuss politics vigorously on my personal Facebook page (I’ve worked as a journalist and have drawn editorial cartoons in the past, so I’d like to think I know whereof I speak), I really value amateur radio as neutral turf. Some aspects of the DeMaw book are dated — does anyone actually tune up their transmitters these days? — but other aspects are timeless. How to conduct a rag chew, in my opinion, still rings true.

 

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New rig fever

Gordon West Tech new radio watermarkHere’s another illustration I drew for Gordon West’s study guide for the Technician license, about buying your first radio. It’s easy to be swept away by something with the most bells and whistles — it sure looks shiny — but it’s not always the wisest purchase.

What’s my rig? Currently it’s an Icom IC-718, which fits my present budget just fine. Even though it’s marketed as a beginner’s rig, the IC-718 has almost every feature I need. Back when I got my first license in 1973, I would have killed for a radio with that many features.

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Bigfoot sighting

K7QI ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTEver seen Bigfoot on a QSL card before? Me neither. Until now.

Jim, K7QI, lives in the Pacific Northwest and wanted something unique to his region. Bigfoot reputedly lives there, so why not put Bigfoot on Jim’s QSL card?

That’s exactly what I did. He’s sitting there sending CW on a cartoon approximation of Jim’s Elecraft rig. And because Bigfoot sightings are rare, I drew a squirrel in there to take a picture of him. Now you know what that Summits on the Air station from Washington looks like …

K7QI ham radio cartoon QSL back by N2ESTThe back of Jim’s card is as personalized as the front. I offer two report forms: a generic one that fills only half the card and allows mailing your QSL as a postcard, and a more complete one like this. Most clients go for the more complete report form. It includes a state map with your QTH marked, complete QTH information, your call sign set in a style that matches the art where possible, and whatever logos you care to include. Most clients go with the ARRL diamond and perhaps their home club’s logo, but Jim went for logos that highlighted his military experience and his involvement with the National Rifle Association. If it fits, I can give you any logo you want — and it’s included in the price of your card.

 

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