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An Introduction To HF and the 10 Meter Ham Band
Also includes some suggested 10 Meter Ham Radios!

by Don Butler, N4UJW Hamuniverse.com

In 1988, I was first licensed as a Tech Plus operator during the peak of the 11 year solar cycle. My excitement of having the new "Ticket" and the privilege of being able to operate on the 10 meter ham band using voice and the thrill of not only talking around the area on 2 meters but around the world on HF was overpowering. I had wanted my ham license for over 40 years......and now I had it!

I "cut my teeth" in Ham Radio on the 10 meter HF ham band using an old Yaesu FT-107 that I had found on the used market from a local ham shop along with a homebrew 10 meter inverted V dipole I had built attached to a wooden fence about 15 feet in the air to the top of it.
I set myself a goal to try to work as many countries and states over a one year period.
As luck would have it, by the last day of that goal, I had worked over 100 countries and all 50 U.S. states in casual part time operating.
Alaska was my last state on the list...finally! All on 10 meter ssb.

Being a Ham since 1988, I can relate to your excitement now that you have been authorized to have as much fun as I did back then.......
Have fun on 10 meters and don't let your excitement of ham radio die!
Go further.....you can do it!

73 Don ~ N4UJW

10 Meter Fun for the Newbie!
Now that you have been authorized your new FCC privileges on the 10 Meter HF band, you can refer to this page for useful information to help you to start your fun and excitement on 10 Meter HF.

This page contains the 10 Meter Band Plan with your authorized frequencies, equipment info including some suggested 10 meter ham radios, simple antennas, modes of operation, band edge limits, operating hints, operating procedures, propagation info, DX chasing hints and more!

10 Meter Band Plan
Novice, Technician, Technician Plus classes:

Your band edges are:
28.000mhz thru 28.500mhz
Don't be tempted to go outside them except only to listen! You will be illegal if you transmit out of your authorized frequency band!

28.000 - 28.300 MHz: CW, RTTY/Data--
Maximum power 200 watts PEP

28.300 - 28.500 MHz: CW, Phone--
28.400mhz voice band center and used as the "calling" frequency.
Maximum power 200 watts PEP

Table of suggested operating frequencies by "Gentlemen's Agreement"

All frequencies in Mhz


QRP CW calling frequency

28.070 - 28.120


28.120 - 28.189

Automatically controlled data stations

28.190 - 28.225

28.300 - 28.500

See Beacon link below

SSB VOICE (28.400mhz calling)


QRP SSB calling frequency
(QRP = 5 watts or less)

Frequency Allocations for Technician Class hams:
For a station having a control operator who has been granted an operator license of Novice Class, Technician Class, or Technician Plus Class:

Wavelength bandITU Region 2Sharing requirements, see §97.303, paragraph Part 97 rules
80 m3.525-3.60(a) See Part 97 Download below
40 m7.025-7.125(a) See Part 97 Download below
15 m21.025-21.20
10 m28.0-28.5

NEW U.S. Amateur Radio Band Chart Download
(Effective Feb 23, 2007)

Always refer to FCC Part 97 rules for latest information!
Section 97.101(b) of the FCC Rules states that "Each station licensee and each control operator must cooperate in selecting transmitting channels and in making the most effective use of the amateur service frequencies. No frequency will be assigned for the exclusive use of any station.
" No one "owns" a frequency.

It's good Amateur practice--and common sense for any operator, regardless of mode, to check to see if the frequency is busy prior to transmitting. It is so easy to transmit "(insert your callsign....Is the frequency in use?)" Transmit it 2 or 3 times and wait for a reply. Remember, when the band is really open, your signal may be heard around the world, so listen intently for a reply....none heard....the frequency is most likely yours! Try again!

If you are there first, other operators should make an effort to protect you from interference to the extent possible, given that 100% interference-free operation is not a realistic expectation in today's congested Ham bands. It is also a violation of FCC rules to intentionally interfere with another Amateur station! If you can hear the other station, odds are he can also hear you!
Always use good common sense and good manners while you're on Ham radio! You represent the United States in other countries that hear your signal!

What to expect from the 10 meter band
The 10 meter ham band can be very exciting with worldwide communications or more down to earth with just local QSO's. It mostly depends on the 11 year solar cycle and whether we are at the bottom, peak or on the way back down.

When the cycle is at it's peak, worldwide propagation prevails with very minimum power levels required. At times, 5 watts SSB can get you into Australia, the Far East, Europe and many other countries or just around the U.S.!

Even with minimum conditions at the bottom of the 11 year cycle there are random periods of "sky wave" propagation that are caused by temporary Ionospheric conditions. Some of these conditions are caused by Ionized particles that randomly occur as "clouds" in the upper atmosphere that reflect radio waves on 10 meters.
"10" can be a fantastic challenge or just plain easy as eating a piece of pie. If you're up for a challenge, then the 10 meter band is for you. If you like pie.......then 10 is also for you. It has something for all. Be patient.


Sky Wave
Simply put, "sky wave" is when radio signals are reflected back towards the earth from the ionosphere. This reflection can occur more than once between the earth and the ionosphere between stations. Sort of like light beams bouncing off several mirrors aimed properly at various angles relative to the ground and each other. Some operators call this "skip" propagation and wherever these signal returns to earth, they can be heard by a receiving operator. "SHORT SKIP" on ten meters is usually around 500 miles or less and normal skip propagation "Sky Wave" can vary from a thousand to several thousand miles and around the earth.

During the height of a sun spot cycle, signals can be heard both near and far for a large part of the 24 hour day. It is not uncommon to be talking to your friend 10 miles away at 9:15PM and with stations in Australia or New Zealand in a "roundtable" discussion or at 10:00 PM Japan may join in. Times vary from day to day and depend on lots of variables.

During the peak of the cycle, there seems to be a predictable pattern with Sky Wave. Early in the morning stations from the East...around Noon 
Southerly....Afternoon, mid afternoon and night mixed with the Australia, South and Central America then Westerly towards the Far East and if you have stayed up all night logging all that DX until the sun comes up, the pattern repeats all over again! It follows the sun. Go here for in depth propagation information.

Ground Wave (How far can I transmit?)
Ten meter ground wave (direct) propagation is much more predictable than "sky wave".  Local contacts up to 40 or 50 miles or more can be expected 24 hours a day and is very useful for local  communication. The higher the antenna, the better.
Using ground wave on 10 meters is much like 2 meter operation using repeaters without the repeaters. Strictly station to station.
  Comunications are more effective if both stations are using the same polarity with their antennas. Vertical to vertical, horizontal to horizontal. Cross polarization will work at very close range.

YES! There are several 10 meter FM repeaters located on the upper portion of the band in some areas......BUT....YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO TRANSMIT THERE. You are NOT authorized to transmit FM on any ham band below 6 meters without a General class license or higher!

Remember 28.500mhz is the upper band limit for Technician class operators. The repeaters on 10 meters are much higher than your band limits. You get access to these frequencies if you are a General class or higher! This should give you some incentive to upgrade your license to General.

Upgrade to General Class with the General Class License Manual!

Action on 10 meters

Lots of 10 meter buffs love to set up schedules, (skeds), on certain hours and days of the week with other 10 meter operators around their area or around the world during the peak of the solar cycle and just "chew the rag" in roundtable discussions that last for hours depending on band conditions. 
Local "drive time" sessions on 10 are frequent in metro areas using mobiles and base stations.

Lots of experimentation with
antennas goes on using the 10 meter band because their size is not as large as the lower HF bands. The 10 meter band can be a very good learning ground in the experimentation of building antennas and polishing your on the air skills for a higher class license.

When the band is "up" you may wonder what part of the world you could contact. This is where a good list of 10 meter beacons is extremely helpful.

Using known beacon frequencies, you can tune your receiver to one of the beacon frequencies for a particular part of the world and if you can hear it, the band is usually in good enough condition to that part of the earth at that time for you to be able to make contacts.

Beacons are operated, usually around the clock with the transmitter always on and never in receive, by Amateurs from all over the world and are mostly very low powered CW only signals containing the ID of the station transmitting and sometimes small bits of info about the station. If you have studied Morse code enough to understand at least the callsign of the beacon, then you have identified it to a particular location on the planet! Some beacon stations from different parts of the world are on the same frequency, this is another reason why you need to learn Morse code to identify the station, hence, it's location! Beacon stations are usually automated....don't try to contact the beacon...it does not hear you!

Here is an excellent source of up to date HF beacon information: (It is off site, please return here when done)
Including 10 meters!

Equipment for operating on 10 meters
Radios ~ Antennas
I really can not recommend any particular brand or model Hf radio or antenna for you. There are just too many variables involved.
One item of interest is that you should consider that there are usually two types of rigs available to you....all solid state......or tube types with some hybrids containing both still around.
If memory serves me, there are no longer any "all tube" types being produced. Solid state electronics, surface mount technology (SMT) and microprocessors have taken over newer ham radio equipment.

Used HF rigs can be had in both...solid state or tube types. Prices vary according to market demand and can be as inexpensive as around $150 to $200.00 for an oldie in fair condition but working. Get a seasoned ham to help you check them out.
My old Yaesu FT-107 is one of the first all solid state rigs and is very easy to repair. All components in it are large and easy to replace with normal techniques. No SMT devices in it! All standard size components and no microscopes required to see them!

Tube type rigs are usually much easier to repair especially if you have the training...but tubes produce lots of heat, are expensive to replace when they burn out and the physical size of the radio is huge in most cases but they are built like a tank and will last for years if well maintained!

Newer solid state rigs as a general rule are smaller, lighter, very difficult to repair by the average non-technical ham and more difficult to use with large fingers, but offer many more "bells and whistles" in their functions. The operator manuals sometimes can be difficult to understand due to language translations, loaded with pages, and the multifunction menu driven controls can be frustrating to some people.

The bottom line with buying a rig is that both solid state and tube types have good and bad points...it's simply your choice to make.
With radios, (transceivers, rigs), the best thing for you to do is to stick with a known name brand such as Kenwood, Yaesu, Icom, Alinco, Ten-Tec and a few others out there that have excellent reputations.  New or used is strictly your choice based on your buying habits, bank account, etc.
There are many good used transceivers out there from individuals, ham dealers, website auctions, estate sales, etc. Let the buyer beware! Shop around and ALWAYS try to get some sort of warranty to go with it if possible. Unless you have seen and heard the rig operate with your own eyes and ears.....be careful about putting out that hard earned money to a "stranger". This is just common sense.
If you've done your research and have almost decided on a particular brand and model......look at reviews by other hams who have owned it...check out the Product reviews on

New and Used Ham Radios
You can spend literally thousands dollars for a brand new top of the line transceiver with gold plated bells and whistles and get an operator's manual the size of the New York city telephone directory that comes with it! It's sole purpose is to get your signal to the same location as the old used "boat anchor", that may be hard to get parts or repair, for a couple of hundred dollars versus thousands! There are numerous models and brands to chose from that are less expensive under $1000.00. It all depends on the extras that you want to pay for that you may not want or need. Remember, your station IS NOT A COMMERCIAL BROADCAST STATION! All of those fancy bells and whistles may just get in your way and slow down your learning and operating time. Many have a very difficult menu driven operating system with many submenus to deal with just to make simple changes!

New Ham Radios on the "Cheap"! Easier on your bank account.....

One good inexpensive and simple way to get on the air on 10 meters with VOICE on the ssb mode without going the high priced "do it all" type radios route mentioned above is to use mobile type radios designed for the upper hf ham bands only.

WARNING! There are many out there on the used market designed specifically for 10/12 meters or 10 meters only for sale, but a word of warning, warning, warning, no, that is not a typo....when you get a used "10 meter" radio from an unknown individual or CB shop on the web, you may be getting a radio that was specifically butchered to put it on 11 METERS illegally!

Many are butchered so badly that they are worthless as a ham band transceiver! Freebanders and other "CB" operators and other "mod shops" are notorious for modifications that are usually not reversable without a large repair bill to get them back on their intended 10 meter ham band...You should be especially cautious if you find "bargins" from CB shops on the internet who may be attempting to get them out of their store before the FCC finds them.....many if not most, are illegal to sell, advertise or even market to CB'ers in the U.S. by FCC LAW!...they are not certified by the FCC for use on the 11 meter band to begin with and if you happen to have one that has been modified to operate on 11 meters in your possession....you may have to explain to the FCC why you have it!!!!........so you have been warned!

By FCC rules, you, as a licensed ham radio operator, are allowed to use most any type of radio transmitter under your license class restrictions as long as it meets the rules and regulations of Part 97 which you fall under.

One excellent source of brand new 10/12 meter ham radio transceivers that are perfectly legal on the ham bands, (within your license class) are the Ranger series RCI-2950DX and the RCI-2970DX models which get good reviews and are very popular. They can be purchased online for HUNDREDS of dollars less than the multiband, multimode, full blown hf radios costing an arm and a leg. You can even get them with up to 150 watts of power!

So if your interested in getting on 10 meters voice and save hundreds of dollars at the same time....then check out the suggested 10 meter ham radios by Ranger and other good brands at the link below:

Hot Selling 10 Meter Radios on Amazon.com!


Build your own....this says it in a nutshell!
You don't learn anything about antennas by buying one except that as a comparison, homebrew antennas will most likely outperform that whizz bang store bought over priced conductor of RF and will be many times less expensive!

I realize that some of you that are new to Ham radio may not have the experience to build a suitable antenna for 10 meters but the more simple types like dipoles or verticals are very easy to build from materials you may already have laying around or that can be purchased locally from Lowes, Home Depot or a hardware, electrical or plumbing supply store. MOST ARE MADE FROM WIRE!
If you feel like saving some money that could be put into your station equipment, then check out the HF section of the
antenna project page on this site. You are on Hamuniverse.com by the way....see...I snuck in a commercial on you! Also look around the VHF side of the page. There are a few there that can be modified to work on 10 meters easily.

Look for dipole types or verticals that can be easily used on 10 meters and have fun building your own! Later, after some experience under your belt, you can get into Yagi's (beams). When you use homebrew antennas you will get the satisfaction of knowing that your signal is coming from something that YOU built and you saved some money in the process!

Comparing antenna sizes between 2 meters and 10 meters!
When you operate on 2 meters, one wavelength is about 80 inches long.

At 10 meters, an antenna that is one wavelength long is about 33 feet long!
About 5 times as large.


Some simple operating procedures for 10 meter voice!
Tuning SSB
One major difference between HF and the higher bands like 2 meters and above is the fact that FM (which takes up more spectrum) is not allowed on HF except in the higher class license portion of 10 meters which you are not authorized.
The SSB voice mode is the primary voice mode used on HF for voice communications due to the much more narrow bandwidth of the signal and the efficiency of SSB. AM is sometimes used on the lower HF bands.
Remember....you are now on HF...not VHF or UHF.

Unlike FM, the SSB voice mode is very different and a bit more difficult AT FIRST to tune if you have never used it. It is a communications mode, not Hi Fi Stereo like FM Broadcasting! Don't expect it to be crystal clear like a good FM 2 meter signal. The bandwidth of SSB voice transmitters is much less than good FM.
Just selecting a frequency with your VFO and expecting it to "be on frequency" every time may not work in all cases due to variances between some ham transceiver calibrations.

It is not a channelized mode. It is a variable frequency mode meaning that you can adjust the transmitter frequency continuously without interruption from one end of the ham band to the other. Your receiver tracks the transmitter frequency so you are listening and transmitting on the same frequency. (as long as both are operating properly and are aligned to factory specifications) The term VFO stands for Variable Frequency Oscillator.

Upper or Lower sideband?
On HF starting with the 160 meter band and continuing thru 40 meters, the LSB mode is used by gentlemen's agreement except 60 meters (USB only).

Beginning with 20 meters, the USB mode is used up thru the higher bands.
Here again, by gentlemen's agreement. There is no FCC regulation that states that you must use one or the other of the SSB modes on any band with the exception of 60 meters. Both stations, yours and your contact, must be on the same mode to communicate. You can't be on USB and your contact on LSB or the other way around.....just won't work! (Actually there is a way to do it but not practical for most hams with limited budgets using different transmitters and receivers).

A good way to learn to tune SSB (single side band) is to practice by just playing around the lower HF bands (listening only of course) like 20 meters in the USB mode. If your antenna is a monoband antenna for only 10 meters, you may still hear the stronger stations on the lower bands. Put your receiver on 20 meters. If you have a "clarifier" control which allows you to fine tune the receiver...TURN IT OFF.
Just tune your VFO across a station using USB mode and tune his voice until it becomes more natural sounding. You will notice that at some times the voice will tune from a high pitch "Donald Duck sounding" to a lower pitch or vice versa depending on whether or not you are going up in frequency or down in frequency with your VFO. Stop at the point where the voice is the MOST natural sounding to you.....now your receiver and transmitter are on his frequency plus or minus the accuracy of your ears and understanding that you may not know exactly what his voice sounds like in person. You will get used to the way sideband sounds when tuning and you will get to the point where the voices sound perfectly normal by fine tuning the VFO. Remember, ham radio is not broadcast quality, it is communications quality.

Now that you have practiced tuning SSB, your antenna is in the air and you have tuned it to perfection ...homebrew hopefully...and you have fired up the rig, the band selector is set for 10 meters, USB mode, clarifier off, volume up......your VFO is set to 28.4mhz.....you listen.........nothing......you adjust the VFO up and down the voice portion.......still nothing but background noise, hiss and static!

Don't get alarmed....remember you are on 10 meters. This band is full of surprises and may be open and everyone is doing the same as you.....listening. This is no joke...it happens very often, or it could be "dead", meaning that the ionosphere is resting for another bombardment of 10 meter operators!
If you should happen to be in the downside of the 11 year cycle as referenced above in this article, you have a choice......just keep tuning around....listening....waiting....more waiting....listening................or,
CALL CQ! (Means "calling any station' and internationally recognized on HF)

Making A Call!
On HF, it is proper procedure to listen first for several seconds to make certain that the frequency is NOT in use. Then get on the air and ask "Is the frequency in use?" several times.....saying your call sign at the end..........hearing no response...then call "CQ CQ CQ.....CQ CQ CQ........CQ CQ CQ" say your callsign phonetically slowly, ie, NOVEMBER FOUR UNIFORM JULIET WHISKEY.....(Please don't use my callsign...HEE HEE), just insert yours and then unkey....listen for someone to come back to your call.

If the 10 meter band wizards are with you, someone may answer your call!
Don't get discouraged if they don't....just keep trying.....then when you least expect it...........you may hear your call sign coming back to you from another ham from around the world or around the block! Don't be shy....this is what you have been waiting for.....go back to him with his call sign and again identify your station...say OVER and wait for his response. PLEASE DON'T SAY OVER, OVER, OVER, OVER....THIS SOUNDS LIKE A BROKEN RECORD and wastes your time and theirs.

Just remember that if we are at or near the bottom of the 11 year cycle, band conditions can only get better and better over the next upward swing of the cycle, peak out, and then start back down in the continuation of the cycle. As this article is written, 2007, we are at the bottom and starting back up!
Get ready over the next few years.....fantastic things to come from 10 meters with conditions slowly improving as each day and month passes!

WORKING DX! (DX = Distant Transmitter or Transmission)
When you operate on 10 meters during and around the peak time of the 11 year solar cycle, you are in for some fantastic fun working stations not only in your local area, and the U.S., but from around the world! The entire 10 meter band comes alive with activity sometimes lasting into the wee hours of the night and then starting back up very early in the morning.

If you are a DX chaser, then 10 meters is your band during it's peak. You can talk to stations all over Europe early with lots of  English stations, Spain, etc in the morning, South and Central America around midday and then continue your adventures with Australia, New Zealand and the Far East, not to mention Japan, and of course U.S. stations sprinkled all throughout the day.
You will hear stations from other countries that are sometimes difficult to get for other Hams and these stations create what we call "Pileups" on HF with hundreds of other Hams from all over trying to make contact with them at the same time. Sounds like hundreds of people talking all at once and it is! Most of the hams can not hear each other but they can all hear that rare DX station. This is where operator skill, signal levels, good antennas with good side and front to back rejection and forward gain may come into play. A good DX operator in another country can take control of the "Pileup" situation and ask for specific calls from specific locations or call signs beginning with certain letters, certain states, countries, etc. This way there is some order to this confusion.......be patient and keep trying!  YOU WILL MAKE DX CONTACTS!
The preferred method of making a call when chasing DX is to say "CQ DX, CQ DX, CQ DX" then your call sign. Or if your looking for a contact in a particular country you can say CQ Australia about 2 to 3 times then your call sign and the word over if your looking for hams in Australia.

The standard "CQ" call is telling everyone listening that you are literally calling any station. When you use "CQ DX", this tell the local stations within your country that you are trying for OTHER countries.

Identifying call signs from other countries 

Identifying countries by call signs can be a very confusing situation for the new ham on 10 meters who has been talking just locally on 2 meters or the upper bands above 10 meters.

Other countries use prefixes in their call signs just as we do here in the U.S. to identify the country of origin. Here is a link to a very complete list of prefixes for other countries that will be very helpful to you in trying to determine which country has what prefix:

List of Country Prefixes Click the link, save the page and print for later use.

Lots of DX chasers trade QSL cards between far off stations. A QSL card is a written confirmation of a contact between two Amateur Radio stations in the form of a "post card" sized card with the important information that each station would like to know about the other station. It usually contains the station call sign, date, frequency, signal report, time of contact, and other information about the contact that confirms the contact between the stations and is usually signed by the operator. You can design your own QSL cards and have them printed up at most good printing shops or order them in a pre-designed format over the internet. Over a period of time you can line the walls of your shack with confirmation QSL cards from all over the world. A word of "warning"....... this can get expensive with the postage to other countries but can be very rewarding in the long term years later when you look back on them with good memories. Many worldwide friends have been made with the exchanging of QSL cards.

Don't give up chasing that DX or those locals....keep trying....there is only about 11 years between each solar cycle.....so you have plenty of time...........before the next peak, or a local could call you when the band is dead.........or if you want more HF excitement than 10 meters can offer then there is another option for you to pursue to get more action on HF...........,

Start studying for your General Class ticket while waiting for someone to answer your call !  After you study for a while, get on 2 meters, make a sked with someone and meet them on 10 meters, remember they have 10 meter privileges just like you......or.....study for your General ticket......or study for your General ticket......hey....I'm repeating myself when I say study for your General ticket........have fun!
Study for your General.............you are only 35 questions away!
There, I repeated myself again.......YOU CAN DO IT!

I hope this article was of some help to you! Good luck!
73 Don ~ N4UJW Hamuniverse.com

Hot Selling 10 Meter Radios on Amazon.com!

More good 10 Meter information for new hams:

Good Operating Procedures, tips, hints, tricks

W5JO 10 Meter Information

General Class License Manual!



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