Monday, February 20, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Hawaiian Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

Those of us who are forced by circumstances to operate with compromise antennas may be interested in a new self-published book by Tom Schiller, N6BT, called "Array of Light" (3rd edition).  I found a review of the book in the February 2012 "CQ", p. 74.  Tom is a co-founder of Team Vertical and, along with his father, co-owned and operated Force 12 Antennas.  Tom's basic idea is that "everything works" to some degree in the antenna realm.  A quick review of the July 2000 issue of "QST" quickly refreshed my memory about Tom's seemingly outlandish experiment using a 150-watt light bulb mounted on a 4-foot fence post as an antenna.  Using his Kenwood TS-850S, he proceeded to work the world using the light bulb as an antenna.  The project was good enough to land Tom a "Cover Plaque Award" for that issue.  Tom easily convinced me that "everything" does "work", even in such a crude model as a light bulb.  Tom goes from the light bulb to laying the foundation for installing meaningful antennas to increase your enjoyment of the ham radio hobby.  He also contributed an article to one of the ARRL antenna books covering the light bulb antenna.  Tom says even a marginal gain of 2 dB can improve your enjoyment of on-air operating.  I will most likely buy the book, since most of my antennas are "bare bones" structures that can use any help available.

As mentioned earlier, property restrictions, the proximity to power lines, and marginal television/cell phone reception in my area have forced me to be creative when it comes to antennas.  For the past few years, I've been relying on simple verticals, dipoles, and loops for my antennas.  My antennas can be raised or lowered depending on the weather and concerns from my neighbors.  I've found that indoor antennas can be used, but their performance is marginal compared with outdoor antennas.  My ultra simple 40-meter homebrew vertical is tucked away in the backyard with only a tuned counterpoise to keep my Drake MN-4 ATU and Swan 100-MX happy.  I could use a few more radials.  I would have to zig-zag them around the yard because my lot is very small.  The 20-meter vertical dipole is at the other end of my postage stamp sized lot.  It performs well, considering the limitations faced in my neighborhood.  My 40-meter loop is strung under the house about 4-feet off the ground (the qth is built on a post and pier system).  The loop is basically a NVIS antenna which provides strong signals out to 200- to 300 miles--perfect for the afternoon 40-meter interisland net.  So, I'll read Tom's new book and perhaps pick up a few new ideas.  I don't know if I'll duplicate his light bulb antenna experiment, but, if all else fails, there is a post on the side of my property and a spare150-watt light bulb in the garage that could be pressed into service.

I suppose it all comes down to what will get you on the air and keep your interest in Amateur Radio.  I'm just happy to have some room to put up simple antennas.  Others aren't so lucky, of course.  I have a close friend who uses his van as a radio shack.  He parks it outside of his townhouse or in a nearby park when he wants to operate.  Those facing deed and HOA restrictions have a more difficult time of getting on the air.  The ARRL has republished a book on stealth antennas which may prove useful to those facing such situations.  The ARRL has also released a book on "Simple antennas for Small Places".  This publication may be ordered from the ARRL.

I hope the week will find you fully engaged in the world's greatest hobby--Amateur Radio. 

Until next time, get on the air , have some fun, and build something that will extend your knowledge of ham radio.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM
Laupahoehoe, Hawaii--along the beautiful Hamakua Coast