It’s Ham Saturday for me, it seems. I have had email about Echolink (which I still haven’t gotten into… mea culpa).  And now this, from a reader…


I would like to know what your thoughts on including Catholic art on QSL cards is. I have begun receiving some in the mail, but need to design mine to respond; I was thinking of including some great Catholic imagery (possibly from St. Andrews Daily Missal).

For those of you who don’t know what a QSL card is, when people make long-distance contacts with other hams, they will sometimes exchange, by snail mail, a custom-made postcard which has their callsign and location etc.  It’s a good old-fashioned way to prove that you made the contact and also to build up your ego wall, a visible way to display your contacts to admirers who visit your station or ham shack.  “QSL?” is a short way of saying or clicking away if you are using Morse, “Do you confirm that you received my transmission?”

As far as I can tell (for I don’t have many), people like to include on their QSL cards little personal touches.  I can’t see the problem in including an image that says something about yourself, provided that it is decent and legal to use and send in the mail.

No, I haven’t made a QSL card yet.

N, I don’t think making contact with others here on this blog in the combox is the right moment to exchange QSL cards.

But… who am I to judge?

Elmer?  Anyone?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Knittycat says:

    My husband has expressed an interest in HAM radio for years. I’d like to actually get him set up on one, but I’ve got no idea where to start. Amazon has radios that vary from 50 to 5000 dollars! I don’t want to break the bank, but I also don’t want to get something that’s difficult to use or he’l ‘outgrow’ quickly.
    What’s a good jumping off place for someone with a very limited budget?

  2. Allan S. says:

    I think there would be two schools – one says that since amateur radio is an international fellowship of sorts, one avoids discussion of religion, politics etc. – especially since it may cause difficulty for those in nations where discussion could be interpreted by the state as unlawful proselytizing and end poorly for the ham there. The other says, as you did Father, that qsl cards are personalized items and a card is not an on air QSO – so go for it.

    Perhaps others may have a perspective informed by greater experience. I would be interested to hear it, as someone who selected his call sign in honour of Our Lady (***BVM).

    As for a first, inexpensive radio, I understand 409shop is a good port of call. Under $50 for a dual band VHF and UHF handheld transceiver.

  3. acardnal says:

    before you buy a radio for your husband, he needs to be licensed …if he wants to transmit.

  4. BMKoenig says:

    When I design my QSL cards, I generally try to make the image something that tells something about me or about the area I am from. My last design utilized an 1863 image of my town taken just after the Battle of Gettysburg. I also included a one or two sentence description of the image. I tend to think of my designs as a postcard from someplace your radio signal has “visited.”

  5. Allan S. says:

    I vote someone with control of an echolink enabled node schedule a “trad net”!

  6. Allan S. says: echolink enabled node

    I tried connecting with you earlier, but I think you were not on.

  7. plaf26 says:

    Mine have included a simple cross, and the logo of the old International Mission Radio Association. My name and address are a dead give away about the religious nature of my vocation and work. I designed another one with a cartoon smiling guy in a cassock and wide-brimmed hat, but never got around to printing it up. Couldn’t figure out how get samples in the comment box, so will send them to you by email. 73! de KC0GA

    [Here you go, Fr. Nice to hear from you!]

  8. i would begin by listening in on an inexpensive 2 meter radio. Of course until you’re licensed you cannot transmit BUT it’s a good way to pick up information you can learn from.Next,radio shack used to sell Gordon West books to prepare for the exams.I would grab the technician and general class books. it’s been so long not sure they still sell them.We also bought a small 4 quad antenna.Wish i could remember where we found that also.It was lightweight and portable;not to mention incredible for receiving and transmitting.In cases of emergency however,it is the one time when you are permitted to transmit w/o a license. I wish i still had these books.I’d have been glad to send them along to anyone who needed them. I passed both the tech and general class exams but i could not get through the morse code(CW)for anything. I don’t know if they even still require it but i had no knack for it whatsoever. Wish you success!!

  9. yes,Father,i have a zillion QSL cards both from packet(imho the precursor to the internet)and radio connections. You can purchase customized QSL cards but the homemade ones are more personal. If we still had the equipment and books i’d have been glad to give them to someone.Unfortunately we let our licenses expire and haven’t been into ham radio since.

  10. MWindsor says:

    If you design your own, where do you get them printed?

  11. OrthodoxChick says:


    You can design your own on your laptop/desktop and then print them out at home on cardstock.

  12. pledbet424 says:

    Wait until your husband has enough interest to get licensed before investing in a rig.

    I’ve been licensed since 74, and I don’t recall ever seeing a QST with a religious theme, but the one above of KC0GA is very well done. Usually the QSL shows a shack, or picture of an antenna, etc.

  13. BMKoenig says:


    I have used KB3IFH to print my cards after I designed them. It was an easy process. I simply sent him the files and he sent back a proof for approval. About a week later I had cards. His website is:

  14. I second KB3IFH; I have used him for my standard QSL card, as well as my special event station cards for the 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg, as well as the upcoming 150th Anniversary of the capitulation of the South at Appomattox special event (both using N3S).

    As long as you don’t transmit, you can own a ham radio. It’s one way to listen and see if it’s for you. Dual banders range in price from 35. for a cheap Baofeng HT, to $700 for a Motorola digital mobile HT (DMR), with everything and anything in between from the Usual Suspects (tm, i.e. Kenwood, Yaesu, or Icom). Like all things, you pays your money, you takes your chances.

    But…just as an example, today, the crew of “Last Man Standing” (ABC, Friday Nights), a show with a peripheral ham radio tie-in, had a special event running under the callsign K6H, that was on HF and the DARI (Disney Amateur Radio Interconnect) system on V/UHF (I was a founding member of the NYC club back in ’77 while at the net…) making contacts from the sound stage of the show in LA. They have a neat QSL they’re sending out, so, it’s worth the stamp to send them one of mine (Father: I think I sent you mine…even though we’ve never QSO’d…;))

    Brag wall? You HAVE to have a brag wall. It wouldn’t be a ham shack without all those cards in holders tacked to the wall of your shack. It’s part of the fun.

    73 de WB0YLE

  15. JonPatrick says:

    I’ve been thinking about getting into HAM radio. I was interested in it back in High School but couldn’t as I wasn’t a citizen of the US. I became a citizen in ’68 but by then I was in college and got interested in computers. Then followed military service, work, dating, marriage, children, etc.

    However lately I’ve been thinking about how the Internet might not always be free and available; there is always the possibility of a TEOTWAWKI/SHTF type of event whether naturally occurring or social due to the breakdown of our post-Christian society, so some kind of a backup way to stay in touch with people becomes a necessity.

  16. RJD says:

    It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been a ham for 20 years now. It’s something I got interested when I was about 7…my dad was an elementary school principal, and he brought home a book for me from his school library called “Today I am a Ham.” When I finally got licensed 15 years later, I gave him my materials to study for the test; I thought it was something he thought father and son could do together. Turns out he had no interest – he pulled the book off the shelf at random. :-D

    Wish I could get my boys interested in it. They’re Boy Scouts (working on their Eagles). Unfortunately, I think the kids who would’ve been interested in it when I was younger are now attracted to the Internet. And frankly – who can blame them? We’re just a bunch of OF’s on the airwaves these days.

  17. LarryW2LJ says:

    BTW, Tim Allen from “Last Man Standing” passed his test yesterday and earned his ticket.

    Speaking of Amateur Radio and religion not mixing sometimes ……. My own blog is devoted to Amateur Radio and was picked up and syndicated by I’ve never been shy about my faith and have included some Catholic themed posts particularly around Christmas time and Easter. Needless to say after got some complaints, I have been informed that they will not mirror any of my posts that have religious content.

    Like that’s going to stop me! They don’t want to carry ’em, that fine with me, but it’s not going to change who and what I am.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Since bitstreams are 1’s and 0’s, there is an analogy between Morse code and data sent across the Internet. Although I know a lot of people like the Wild West idea of the Internet, professional telegraphers in older days before radio, who used to send dots and dashes (0 and 1) across wires, needed to be licensed. In my opinion, the single biggest mistake the National Science Foundation made when they started to lease their Internet backbones (servers) was in not requiring something like a driver’s exam for anyone who wanted to travel the Information Superhighway. It would, certainly, create minimal best practices and would, probably, keep pornography and other vile activities down. Yes, there would need to be highway patrols, but I’m fine with that, as long as they are above board (unlike the NSA).

    The Chicken

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