GM0LVI and the Czech Army Pump Key


Just about five years ago, in June of 2011, I was re-introduced back into amateur radio. For the first two years I used my Technician’s privileges at outdoor public service events.

I had never done any HF and was unaware of its mystic power. That all changed in February of 2013 when I saw a Morse code demonstration put on for a small number of Boy Scouts.

Since then I’ve traveled far down the amateur radio pathway with a great friend who’s helped me become an HF operator who enjoys Morse code. A few years ago I sat for the General exam and recently I was fortunate to earn my Extra privileges.

Each day I’m discovering more happiness and magic that’s out there in the ether. A tiny wire high above my roof snags it and delivers it into my radio at the speed of light.

Last night was one of those nights. It was just before dinner and I was finished working for the day. I decided to turn on my radio to try to get three QSOs completed before it was time to bound down the stairs from my man cave / ham shack.

I’ve been attracted to low power, so I adjusted my IC-7000 to five watts and started calling CQ on 14.060 MHz. I tried for three minutes and pretty much gave up. The reverse beacon network report was pretty dismal.

About twenty seconds after stopping, I heard a faint station calling me! I clearly heard his call sign the first time and sat straight up. It was GM0LVI.

I scored a nice DX contact with the amount of power the night light in my hallway puts out!

The QSO was not too long and there was some fading. I signed off and sent Dave a quick email thanking him. Here’s what I got back minutes later:

Hi Tim,

Just a quick email to say thanks for the QSO this evening. It may not have been anything special for you, but for me it was the first time I’d used a pump key for about 20 years. No doubt it showed too!!

The key was a Czech army key about 50 years old that arrived today in the original wax packing and I’d just finished adjusting the gap and tension and decided to give it a try. I still need a good few hours to get back to where I once was on a straight key, but will keep plugging away.

You were a good 559 on peaks, but QSB and latter QRM made things a bit difficult. I was running 5 Watts from a KX3 to a 2 el Quad.

Anyway, thanks for an historical QSO!!!

73,72, – Dave GM0LVI

First and foremost, I feel emails like Dave’s add so much to the overall radio experience. They often fill in some very important details one might never know that are surrounding the dits and dahs or voice QSO you might have.

I felt quite special to be the one-in-a-million operator that would make the historic QSO with Dave. I had never even heard of a pump key before.

How much magic is out there to still to experience? My guess is more than you’d ever expect. Here are two photos of that special Czech army pump key Dave was using.

Thanks Dave for allowing me to publish your photos!

Czech pump key Czech pump key inside


Saint Gaudens NPOTA SSB Activation

Yesterday Dave Benson – K1SWL, Jim Cluett – W1PID, and myself traveled once again to the peaceful Saint Gaudens National Historic Site. We were there just over a month ago when the harsh New Hampshire winter was interrupted by a warmer day. CLICK HERE to read about that adventure.

The large white house on the right is where the sculptor lived. We operated in the parking lot about 300 feet to the right of the house. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

The large white house on the right is where the sculptor lived. We operated in the parking lot about 300 feet to the right of the house. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Typically it would be 41-43 F in early March here in this part of the Northeast. It’s not uncommon for 2 feet of snow to be on the ground. Yesterday there were just small patches of snow, mostly in places where it had been plowed into piles or shaded from the increasingly intense rays of the sun. Believe it or not, the temperature climbed to 70 F by mid-afternoon.

We decided to work 20 meters and do phone or single sideband. Our last time we did CW and it was thought it would be nice to give the phone, or voice, operators a chance to score a relatively rare location on the NPOTA list of activation sites.

Dave registered us on the NPOTA page telling the world we’d be there operating between 16:00 – 18:00 UTC. We decided it was best to use his call sign so as to not cause confusion.

We used Dave’s 1/4-wave antenna made with a Buddipole collapsable whip attached to the end of a fiberglass painter’s pole with two dandy bare copper radials sloping down at a 45-degree angle. The tip of the antenna was a good 27 feet up in the air and it worked well. We were able to log chasers all across the USA and into Europe. All told we had 92 QSOs, almost all of them SSB.

About two weeks before this activation I had taken delivery of a very nice 12-volt 15 amp-hour lithium iron phosphate battery from It’s very light and we wanted to see if it would power Dave’s ICOM 706 100-watt radio. We only transmitted at 25 watts and the battery did a magnificent job for the one hour and fifteen minutes of hard work.

Here's the great Bioenno battery and Dave's IC-706. CLICK the image to BUY Bioenno batteries.

Here’s the great Bioenno battery and Dave’s IC-706. CLICK the image to BUY Bioenno batteries.

Dave was on the air first and being a pro he marched right through the pileup we knew would happen once Jim spotted us. Dave’s been an operator for decades and it shows.

I didn’t operate the last time we were out and I’ve done very little HF phone work so far in my amateur radio career. This would be a first for me.

The chasers calling us were very patient and I only stumbled from time to time using Dave’s call sign instead of mine. I can tell you it’s very important to have a good logger with you and as the control operator, you should be writing down the call signs of those stations you’re working. That helps you confirm the chasers’ call signs.

Left to right: Jim Cluett - W1PID, Dave Benson - K1SWL and Tim Carter - W3ATB Photo credit: Canon S-95 on flat sign post with 10-second timer

Left to right: Jim Cluett – W1PID, Dave Benson – K1SWL and Tim Carter – W3ATB Photo credit: Canon S-95 on flat sign post with 10-second timer

Many chasers are taking this event seriously and within 18 hours of Dave posting our log on Logbook of the World (LOTW) we already had 62 chasers confirm QSOs. That’s remarkable!

I like to add a little spice to conversations and at the end of one of the short QSOs with a man who lived in southwest Indiana, I said, “Thanks and  keep growing corn for us!”

Jim got an odd look on his face and said, “Corn?”. It became the joke of the day. Corn was on my mind as it was the topic of discussion as Jim and I drove to the Saint Gaudens site. We were wondering about imitation and real kettle corn. I’m tasked today with trying to discover the first use of the phrase kettle corn.

That’s what these outings are all about. They’re supposed to be adventures, they’re supposed to be filled with laughter and they’re supposed to be relaxed.

We scored on all three yesterday. Realize we can still get snow here in New Hampshire this time of year, but with it being March already it’s just an annoyance as the sun will send it back to the ocean in no time. The warming rays of the spring sun are much anticipated here in New England and believe me we soaked them up.

We’ll be activating more sites here in New England as the year progresses, but any in Massachusetts will be sans Jim. He doesn’t like going south, unless of course you want to go north to Maine.

Yes, that’s another inside joke and nice-to-know information, not need-to-know. There’s nothing more to see here, so kindly move along.