The seminal work "Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur" suggests in subsection II.8.1 to perform tuning only on a dummy load.

Sometimes before transmitting it is necessary to tune (adjust) the transmitter (or antenna tuner). Tuning should in the first instance be done on a dummy load. If necessary, fine tuning can be done on a clear frequency with reduced power, after having asked if the frequency is in use.

My understanding is that a dummy load matches the transceiver impedance so tuning is probably a) not necessary and b) without any predictive value for how the actual antenna will work with the tuning parameters. What am I missing?

  • $\begingroup$ The document "Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur" is in good need of updating, and several sections, of which your reference is one, is in need of revision, to truly be brought into the 21st Century. It's ridiculous to think that you need to tune to a dummy load, because that defeats the entire purpose of tuning. $\endgroup$
    – Noji
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 23:25

3 Answers 3


The text you refer to seems to be (emphasis mine):

Sometimes before transmitting it is necessary to tune (adjust) the transmitter (or antenna tuner). Tuning should in the first instance be done on a dummy load.

This is not referring to the use of an antenna tuner, whether integral or external. Rather, it is referring to tuning the final output stage ("finals") of a vacuum-tube-based transmitter (or external power amplifier). These are also impedance-matching adjustments, but involve elements internal to the transmitter/amplifier rather than exclusively the transmitter to the antenna. (The antenna impedance is also involved, so in some cases there could be some amount of antenna matching, if not as much as a dedicated antenna tuner. Or so I understand — I'm not an expert on this part of the technology.)

Solid-state radios operate differently and do not require these adjustments, so the recommendation you read does not apply. However, there are other uses for transmitting into a dummy load — for example, checking if your microphone is working, you're not over-modulating, or even that a computer-controlled transmission is correctly controlling your radio's frequency and PTT.

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    $\begingroup$ Vacuum-tube based external power amplifiers are still in wide use, which require similar tuning, so the advice isn't obsolete. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 2:37
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    $\begingroup$ @user71659 Good point. I've edited to refer to separate amplifiers and not say "obsolete". $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 3:43
  • $\begingroup$ The text says "tune (adjust) the transmitter (or antenna tuner)". So contrary to what you wrote, it seems it is (at least sometimes) referring to the use of an antenna tuner. I think you're giving too much credit to what's really just a bit of silly advice. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilFrost-W8II I can't think of any interpretation of the phrase "in the first instance" other than referring to the "tuning the transmitter" case as opposed to "tuning the antenna tuner". If it's not making that distinction, I don't see any other distinction for it to be making. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I see. I was not interpreting it that way. I was interpreting it as "First, tune to a dummy load. Then switch to the antenna and tune a second time." $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 16:02

We use a non-radiating dummy load at first so that we minimize the chance of interfering with others.

When our tuning adjustments are as close as they can be using that, then we can switch over to our antenna and make any needed adjustments.

The HF bands are full of annoying carriers because hams perform their entire tuneup procedure into their antennas.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, this is what puts it in the ethics section. Don’t do your rough tuning on the air. $\endgroup$
    – CCTO
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 4:15

There are two ways the text could be interpreted:

  1. First tune to a dummy load. Then, switch to the antenna and tune again.
  2. First tune your transmitter for a 50 ohm load, using a dummy load. Then tune your (separate) antenna tuner to present a 50 ohm load to the transmitter.

The first case, which is how I first understood it, doesn't make any sense unless you know the antenna is 50 ohms.

In the case where you have a transmitter that requires tuning (common for tube equipment) and an antenna tuner, then the second sense makes sense.

Though in either case I have a better solution: make a mark where the knobs should be set for a 50 ohm load: then you can return to this setting without any dummy load at all.

Here's what you need to know about tuning:

  • Try to do it on a clear frequency. Avoid doing it on recognized calling frequencies.
  • Do it at low power, if possible.
  • Keep it short by writing down the approximate settings for each band beforehand.

More generally, I think half that document is absurd, and I wouldn't take anything it says too seriously. Consider the first sentence of http://www.hamradio-operating-ethics.org/:

Over the past decades, and not surprisingly together with the introduction and growth of the Internet, the behavior of the radio amateurs on the bands has significantly deteriorated.

Kids these days, am I right?

I would call it not so much a "seminal work", rather than an overbearing, 68 page tirade by a couple people upset that not everyone does everything exactly how the authors do it. Half the work has legitimate information on basic procedure, but the other half is common sense or just the author's particular operating habits presented as authoritative procedure.

For example:

Some subjects which are a no no in amateur radio conversations on the air are:

  • religion
  • politics
  • business (you can talk about your profession, but you cannot advertise for your business);
  • derogatory remarks directed at any group (ethnic, religious, racial, sexual etc.).
  • bathroom humor: if you wouldn't tell the joke to your ten year old child, don't tell it on the radio;
  • any subject that has no relation whatsoever with the ham radio hobby.

People use ham radio to talk about the weather, their health problems, or to make plans to meet friends. I don't know what these things have to do with the ham radio hobby.

Another example:

Saying 'CQ from Victor Romeo two Oscar Portable' is not very clear. Either VR2OP calls SQ using an incorrect spelling phonetic, or VR2O/p calls CQ and omits to add the expression 'stroke' while calling CQ. This can lead to a lot of confusion.

This is what's called a false dilemma. There's a 3rd possibility: VR2O is portable. That's how I understand it, anyway. Sometimes people even say "mobile" instead of "portable", but I don't find it confusing at all.

Call CQ: ‘CQ from G3ZZZ, G3ZZZ calling CQ, golf three zulu zulu zulu calling CQ and listening’. At the end you may say ‘...calling CQ and standing by’, instead of ‘...and listening’. One could also say: ‘...and standing by for any call’.

I just assume anyone calling CQ is standing by for any call. I just end with "calling CQ", but reading this document makes me feel like I must be "doing it wrong" and the ham radio procedure police are probably going to arrest me.

If signals are not very strong and if the readability is not perfect, you can spell out your name etc. Example: 'My name is John, spelled juliett, oscar, hotel, november ...' Do NOT say '...juliett juliett, oscar oscar, hotel hotel, november november'. This is not the way you spell the name John.

I have never once heard anyone doing this. Reminds me of four shalt thou not count...

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    $\begingroup$ Downvoted for sarcasm, and general tone. Sorry. This is more of a rant than an attempt to answer the question $\endgroup$
    – Scott Earle
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ I think, "the document you cite is ridiculous" is a perfectly valid answer. Over. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ It’s a perfectly valid comment. But it’s not an attempt at answering the question as asked. $\endgroup$
    – Scott Earle
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ Sarcastically. It’s the tone of the answer I downvoted. $\endgroup$
    – Scott Earle
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ If I might add some comment on why I chose "seminal" as a description for the work: it has been translated to a ton of languages and has been widely disseminated so it seems to have struck a nerve. It is most definitely not a rant of some blokes nobody takes seriously. It also seems to have started a debate of how one should behave on the air and that's a good thing in my opinion. $\endgroup$
    – xmjx
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 20:14

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