Friday, July 22, 2011

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio operator, part 3

The inverted 40-meter "vee" described in my previous post is performing well considering the severe space restrictions at my qth.  I would prefer some nearby trees to support a 40-meter dipole at a decent height (around 40 to 50 feet), but those living antenna supports are a few hundred yards away, so I will work with what I have. 

As I examined some of my earlier antenna notebooks, I discovered a few antenna designs that may prove useful in your situation.  When I first became a novice in 1977, I used a random length wire approximately 50' long tacked to the ceiling of the teacher's cottage my xyl and I called home.  I stretched out the wire as straight as I could and ran the antenna in and out of two bedrooms and the living room, which served as the operator's position.  The wire was attached to a homebrew tuner and a 50' counterpoise was attached to the tuner's ground screw.  The counterpoise wire snaked along the house's baseboard.  A low-pass filter was placed before the tuner to reduce any TVI that may be generated by my old HW-101 transceiver.  I hoped that running low power (around 20 watts or so) would eliminate any "rf" bite on the microphone and reduce the impact on any nearby electronics.  I was lucky.  I received no complaints and my television reception was unaffected.  I managed to get quite a few contacts with this less-than-optimum arrangement.  If you find an indoor antenna to your liking, you may want to look up an interesting an article by Zack Fruhling, KD6DXA, called "How to make an indoor random wire antenna."

As you can imagine, I didn't get many 599 reports (except for statewide contacts).  At the time, a 559 to 579 report was enough to keep my amateur radio interest alive.  I soon discoved the obvious--an outdoor antenna is better than one enclosed room, and an indoor antenna is better than no antenna at all. By November 1977, I retired the old inside-the-house random wire for a small, top loaded vertical helix in the backyard of the teachers' quarters.  I ran 16 radials of varying lengths around the lawn and under the cottage.  This antenna was a lot better than my indoor skyhook, but the bandwidth was quite narrow.  Now I was getting a few 599 reports from the west coast of the U.S. mainland.  As you suspect, I have a preference for cw.  I'm on the radio station microphone 12-hours a day, so I look forward to giving the voice a rest.  Anyway, I later connected a length of 300-ohm television twin lead to the vertical helix and found I could work 40-meters through 10-meters.  Nothing outstanding to be sure.  But I now had an antenna that allowed me to enjoy serveral bands.  Later on, I purchased a few antenna books from the ARRL and the RSGB and started a program of self education on antennas.  Now, there are many antenna modeling  materials that make homebrewing antennas a real treat and a real time saver.

The whole point of this retrospective review of my many antenna blunders and occasional flashes of understanding is to realize that ham opertors learn by doing.  Armed with good theory, basic tools, and a williness to learn, you can accomplish much of what you once thought impossible.  When I first was licensed by in 1977, there were no other hams in my neighborhood, so I read a lot and joined the Big Island Amateur Radio Club, where I found several seasoned hams who were willing to help this rank novice.  Since those early days, I have tried to help as many new operators as I can...afterall, we were all beginners at one time.  Thanks to by background in commercial broadcasting, much of the theory supporting amateur radio  was already known and practiced.  That gave me an edge when it came to advancing up the amateur radio licensing ladder.  By the time I finally, reached Amateur Extra in 2005, I had enough experience to be dangerous.  I spent 15 years as an Advanced Class because of work requirements and a stubborn bit of laziness.  But, that's another tale for another time.  Procrastination can be a real impediment to progress.

In sum, don't ever give up, be it in the amateur radio realm or in your daily life.  Work for a goal whatever your station in life.  As for antennas, build your own if you can.  I get satisfaction from designing and building my own equipment, be it an antenna or a small, low-powered transceiver.  For me, such projects help relieve the stress of a newsroom job and allow me to reconnect with the rest of the world.  Don't be afraid to build a simple vertical or dipole...you may be surprised at the results from both a technical and financial point of view.

Aloha from Hawaii-the Big Island.  KH6JRM.