New Kit – QRP Labs QCX-mini 20m

I built a QCX-mini 40m last year and it is a incredibly well made kit, with some of the best instructions that I’ve seen from anyone.

Today a new package arrived from Turkey.

I liked the 40m version so much that I decided I wanted a 20 meter one as well.

Starting top-left and working clockwise around: GPS Receiver, metal enclosure, transceiver kit, TCXO option and toroids/misc.

I plan on getting started on this ASAP. If there is interest in seeing this get put together, please do let me know in the comments.

You can get yours at

POTA/SOTA Portable Pico Paddle Procession

Alliteration aside, with my recent review of N6ARA’s TinyPaddle I noticed that I’ve started a collection of small, portable paddles. I thought it might be useful to do a quick comparison post for everyone’s reference.

Each brings something to the table that the others don’t, while sharing many similarities beyond just portability.

I’ll focus on physical characteristics only – how a paddle feels to a user is subjective, I really like each of these for different reasons, and as such your particular tastes may or may not align to mine.

The Paddles

(left to right) N6ARA TinyPaddle, N0SA SOTA Paddle, American Morse Ultra Porta Paddle, and the CW Morse Lightweight Double Paddle. Note that each square grid is 1″ x 1″ (25.4mm x 25.4mm).

I have purchased each of these for portable use and keep 2 of them in my bag each time I pack things up to leave the house. They are all small and light enough that having a backup means that I don’t have to stop playing radio if something breaks (and to date none have – I’m just paranoid).

NOTE: I am using my cheap set of calipers and a kitchen scale, and as such all measurements are close enough but perhaps not precise.

You get what you get…..

N6ARA TinyPaddle

You can read my review of this paddle here.

This thing is TINY!


  • Weight = 0.3 ounces or 9 grams (without audio cable)
  • Length = 2.2 inches or 55.8 mm
  • Width = 0.6 inches or 17.7 mm
  • Height = 0.83 inches or 21 mm (with adjustment tool attached)


  • 3D Printed, PCB

Where to Buy

N0SA SOTA Paddle

Small, light, and expertly constructed


  • Weight = 1.6 ounces or 46 grams (w/attached audio cable)
  • Length = 2.09 inches or 53.1 mm
  • Width = 1.04 inches or 26.5 mm
  • Height = 0.94 inches or 23.9 mm


  • Aluminum and Stainless Steel

Where to Buy

There is no website. You can purchase by contacting N0SA directly.

American Morse Ultra Porta Paddle

A work of art, sturdy, small, and reliable


  • Weight = 1.9 ounces or 54 grams (w/attached audio cable)
  • Length = 3.14 inches or 79.8 mm
  • Width = 0.98 inches or 25 mm
  • Height = 0.92 inches or 23.4 mm


  • Aluminum

Where to Buy

CW Morse Lightweight Double Paddle

Lightweight, well constructed, and easy to use


  • Weight = 0.7 ounces or 21 grams (without audio cable)
  • Length = 3.87 inches or 98.6 mm
  • Width = 1.39 inches or 35.2 mm
  • Height = 1.06 inches or 27.1 mm


  • 3D Printed

Where to Buy

Funerals, Road Trips, and Navigating Changing Plans

While I did get a quick QSO in this last week, this post is less about Amateur Radio and more about accepting and navigating life’s changes.

It is of a more serious type and you may choose to skip this. It is long and rambling.

Your choice.

In late February of this year a close friend of our passed away, succumbing to her second bout with cancer. The day before she was admitted to the hospital for the last time, she and my wife were together discussing upcoming vacation plans and our two families plans to head out to Yosemite later this year.

Like us she was in her mid-40’s, and that day was upbeat, feeling good, and going strong.

Our sons are best friends, and I’m grateful to have known her through them over the last few years. She and my wife had very similar kinds of cancer, and seeing her recurrence hits home in very personal ways. They were able to connect in ways that many of us cannot relate to, and quickly became good friends.

The next day she was rushed into the hospital, sedated, and her family was gathered together to say goodbye.

Early the next morning she was gone, leaving her husband and two young children behind.

Plans made.

Plans changed.

The day after her funeral service – with some heavy thoughts in my mind – I hit the road with my two younger sons to visit their grandparents who retired to southern Utah.

It was a chance to refocus on family and things that matter the most.

Over 1500 miles each way is a long, but beautiful commute through some spectacular landscapes

The plan was to take one very long first day from Minnesota into Denver, CO., and then a shorter second day into southwestern Utah.

We left extremely early in the morning, hoping to reach Denver around dinner time and be able to relax and decompress from a long day in the car.

I brought my TX-500 and MPAS Lite with the hopes of even getting some on-air time along the way. Interstate Highway I-70 tops out at over 11,500 feet of elevation (3500 meters), and with multiple rest stops I thought I might be able to put an antenna way up high and see what I could do with just a few watts.

Plans change.

We headed south through Iowa, passing through Des Moines just a few hours prior to a pair of tornados passing through and killing 7 people.

Weather was mile during our time through that state and we didn’t have any knowledge of those events until much later.

Nebraska is my least favorite state to drive through. I don’t mean any offense to any residents there. It isn’t personal.

It’s just that it is a very wide state.

And mostly flat.

And the longest straight line of the journey.

It is a long, slow climb that culminates in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, with mostly farmland on either side of the road and the occasional smells of cattle.

About halfway through that long haul we hit some weather. Wind blown snow began to cover the road, and ice started to build up on the pavement.

Cars began to pile up along the road side as too much speed contributed to too little traction.

Choosing safety over speed, we inched along at about 1/4 of our planned speed.

Arriving in the city of North Platte, we stopped to fuel up and stretch our legs.

And were promptly stuck in a long line of vehicles trying to get into a gas station, blocked by a big rig stuck in the slush and ice.

We sat for about 40 minutes as crews worked to get it moving again, all so that we can get into the parking lot and off the road.

Our planned timeline slipped further and further away.

Plans change.

When we finally got back onto the highway, we saw the remnants of some big crashes that were in the last stages of being cleared. Had we been able to continue as planned, who knows if we would have been caught up in it or not.

Plans change, but sometimes it is for the better.

We arrived very late into Denver, getting checked into our hotel and settled in for a late bedtime and a very early morning.

The forecast was for snow flurries, with little accumulation.

We awoke to thick blowing snow, and this next leg was the start of the climb into the highest parts of our journey.

Roads were caked with snow, the wind was blowing, and it was a slow procession of vehicles up the canyon.

To make an already long story a wee bit shorter, we did arrive at our destination safely, but it was altogether a very different journey than we planned for.

And needless to say I didn’t get any POTA/SOTA contacts along the route, nor did I get to see what propagation is like at 11,500 feet.

Weather moved in again a couple of days later and instead of leaving on the date we had planned for to get me back to work on time, we had to push our departure out a day, move plans with work accordingly, and adjust ourselves to the new reality we faced.

Plans change.

The point of this post is that we cannot foresee what will come both now and in the future.

While what happens in our lives is of great importance, it is our ability to navigate those changes and impacts that matter the most.

We can succumb to the changes and let them overtake us, or we can choose our responses and take ownership of the new direction.

That isn’t to say that we control the directions we are sometimes forced to take, but we can control our response to events and work to figure out how to grow through the process.

In spite of all the challenges and changing of plans, we enjoyed spectacular views and wonderful time with family.

We learned, my sons and I, that adaptation is part of the journey of life. No plan survives first contact with reality unchanged.

Plans change, and so do we.

Now some photos.

N6ARA TinyPaddle-Jack

I spent the last week on a road trip that took me 3000+ miles (4800+ kilometers) round trip from Minnesota to Utah and back.

Upon return I found a new item in my mailbox.

N6ARA makes what has to be – at least to my knowledge – the smallest CW paddle around.

I mean, this thing is really, really small.

The N6ARA TinyPaddle-Jack next to another popular 3D printed paddle from – seriously awesome paddle that is also well constructed and great for portable use

Even having seen images online, it didn’t convey how truly tiny the TinyPaddle really is. I’m almost scared to lose it.

So what is the TinyPaddle-Jack?

The TinyPaddle-Jack is a kit or preassembled backup or ultraportable iambic paddle. It is smartly designed as you will see, and superbly constructed.

The assembled paddle consists of the paddle and audio port (one piece), a 3D printed holder body (black in the images), a 3D printed holder cover (orange in the images), and an adjustment tool that clips onto the holder cover.

The holder cover allows the paddles to be protected in transit, and then by flipping the paddle around it becomes a holder extension that allows for one hand to hold the paddle in position while the other hand sends those glorious dits and dahs.

Some photos that hopefully do it justice.

Removed from the holder cover. You can see the audio jack at the top left of the paddle body.
Audio jack side of the paddle
Closeup of the working end of the paddle. Note that each side is labeled “DIT” and “DAH” so that you can quickly ensure that you’re holding it right.
I would say that I have average sized hands for an adult male, so you can see how the paddles are quite small compared to my finger and thumb.

N6ARA has an overview video you can watch here.

Coming in at a svelte 0.3 ounces or 8 grams without the audio cable, it disappears into your kit and won’t weigh you down.

N6ARA also publishes STL files so that you can print your own parts for building or replacing pieces as needed.

You can find the STL files at

Shipping was quick and communication was timely and great.

You can pickup your assembled version for an extremely reasonable $24 USD, or a kit to build your own for only $15 USD.



I haven’t had this out and on the air – yet. I have spent quite a bit of time with this on my Morserino to get used to the size and make sure it is adjusted to my liking. I like to do that instead of making other operators suffer through my fist.

The size does take some getting used to. Again it is really small, and like most portable paddles requires the use of both hands to be effective. I’m not even sure you could mount this with Velcro or equivalent and still be able to keep it still. There is just too little surface area for me to be confident of any mounting solutions, though I have not tried any to date.

Having said all of that, I do like the feel of it. It is responsive, and after a couple of tries I found myself able to consistently send characters correctly at 20-22 wpm which is my current upper limit on other small paddles. Cranking things up to 25 wpm I started to hit enough errors that I wouldn’t go on the air with my skill level where it is with this paddle.

But that is more my personal failing and not the paddle.

Your mileage may vary.

Lab599 TX-500 Firmware v1.12.08

Looks like another firmware update dropped for the Lab599 Discovery TX-500 transceiver.

From their change log located here:

v1.12.08 (2022.03.01)
- Beacon mode fixes
- Fixed Iambic A/B mode
- Extended CW tone frequency range
- FM mode output power increased
- User menu optimization

You can grab the firmware file from here, and the flashing tool (available for Windows and Linux) from their downloads portal.