As I am still dabbling with digital modes on HAM radio, I decided to try and step up my setup a bit, without costing too much money. Previously, when using my antenna that is a Broad Band Terminated Dipole which is wrapped around the roof line of my house, I was getting some good FT-8 reception from places like Hawaii and Russia. That’s not bad from Alaska, but I wanted to do a little more. I kept thinking that it might be my old TS-820s slowing me down, since it has no CAT control (computer control of the transceiver), but I may have been trying to justify buying a new radio. 😀
So, I decided to use some of the parts/pieces that I had previously bought and build a better antenna. I found a great design by AK6R that used a 9:1 balun and 500 ohm resistor, which I also had. You can follow the link to the design, or read more of his bio here. I did purchase a noise filter that he suggested as well, and got right to work on the antenna.
First, I cut several pieces of pvc pipe to 16 1/2″ lengths, then drilled holes in them 16″ apart so I could string the wires per the diagram. Essentially it was two wires, each 90 feet long. Using the spacers, I made two rectangles of 45 feet that get put together in the middle with the balun and resistor. Looking at it now, I realize that I could have made it with the balun on one end and the resistor on the other, rather than them being both in the middle. Theoretically it would have been electrically the same. I connected the two rectangles to the balun on bottom, and the resistor on the top to make one really big rectangle (now 90 foot long).
After I strung the wires and wired in the resistor and balun, I then used a roll of kite string to hurl a few nuts and a bolt into a tree. With the nuts and bolts tied to the end of the string, I could swing it around like some sort of roman sling warrior and cast it up into the trees over branches. It took a few tries, and I lost one set of nuts and bolts in a snagged branch, but eventually I got it done.
With the kite string now over a branch and back down to the ground, I used it to pull some 3/8″ rope over the branch and on one end attached a pulley. I screwed a cleat to the tree as a tie down for the rope and then I could hoist the pulley up and down from the branch about 25-30 feet up into the air. I then Used more 3/8″ rope to suspend the antenna. In the end, it was about 30 feet off the ground at the ends, and about 20 feet of the ground in the middle (due to sag). The antenna is also about 90 feet long.
It took me several hours, from building the antenna to stringing it up in the tree. All said and done, though, I got it done over the weekend while still watching a sermon from church, going to an airshow, and playing some games with the kids.
The final result was pretty good! Now I was receiving signals from not only Hawaii and Russia, but all over Europe and down into the middle and lower parts of Asia! The biggest thing I noticed was not just that I had so much more contact with other countries, but also that the noise level had significantly dropped. Before my waterfall was clouded with noise, but now it was almost silent except for the actual signals that I was looking for!
It did teach me one important thing, though: It’s all about the antenna. If you think you need a new radio, you probably don’t. You probably need a better antenna, because it makes all the difference.
Linux – keep it simple.