Friday, March 23, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

I haven't been able to do much antenna maintenance because of a full-time class schedule at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  My xyl and I have been substitute teachers for several months now and we manage to keep busy with students from kindergarten through 12th grade.  Most of my free times is on the weekends, so I try to squeeze in a little operating and station maintenance on Saturday and Sunday.  All of this makes for a full week.  I don't mind--the routine keeps me busy and frees me to do some creative work with students, especially those in special education.

Over this past weekend, I was tidying up the shack and monitoring 20-meters when I found two old antenna books that may prove of some use for you, especially if you are on a tight budget.  The first book is one of my modern "classics"--"Lew McCoy On Antennas.  Pull up a Chair and Learn from the Master."  This compact volume is still in print from CQ Communications, Inc.  The late Lew McCoy, W1ICP, writes in an easy style and makes technical data understandable for even the beginning amateur radio operator.  The book covers topics from transmatches to multielement antennas and feed-line radiation problems to the complexities of standing wave ratios.  McCoy makes the amateur radio operator comfortable and anticipates most of the questions any operator would have.  This book would be ideal for a new operator or for those who wish to brush up on basic antenna theory.

The second volume I found in the old radio bookcase was "Easy-Up Antennas for Radio Listeners and Hams" by the late Edward M. Noll, W3FQJ.  Noll's book is available from MFJ Enterprises, Inc.  The book is a comprehensive  handbook that contains key antenna designs, construction tips, techniques, and tools you need to build effective, inexpensive antennas that work and stay up.  Many of the illustrated designs (most with photographs) can be adapted for both shortwave listening and amateur radio use.  The book covers basic, do-it-yourself antennas for shortwave broadcast, FM broadcast, medium wave applications, long wave reception, VHF/UHF uses, and various ham radio antennas.  I've tried several of Noll's slopers, verticals, and horizontal loops and find that they work and are structurly strong.  As in the book by McCoy, the financial outlay for these antennas is modest--some of the basic materials, such as pvc pipe, light gauge wire, and basic tools you may already have in your garage or in your "junk box".  If you lack some of the materials described in either book, a trip to the nearest hardware store or home improvement outlet can supply you with most of the items you need for these simple, effective antennas.

There is no need to spend a lot of money on antennas if you can build them yourself.  I'm not criticizing the commercial antennas now on the market.  Most of them are effective, sturdy, and well-designed.  Once in awhile I get the chance to operate from a shack with a 3 or 4 element beam atop a 15-meter tower.  That can be quite an experience, especially if you succumb to the wonders of an Alpha amplifier.  There is nothing quite like breaking a pileup with a commanding signal.  However, once I return to the reality of my small lot, modest station, nearby power lines, and curious neighbors, I transform myself into "stealth mode" and the low visibility operator.  I've become accustomed to lowering my verticals during the day and running low power most of the time.  Despite this self-imposed limitation, I manage to enjoy the hobby and get immense satisfaction from "rolling my own" antennas.  The antennas I use aren't fancy, but they do work.  And most of all, they are cheap to build and maintain.  So, if you are into making your own skyhooks, the books by McCoy and Noll can give you an antenna building experience without the breaking the bank.

And truth be told, I really want to build a decent tower and run a 4-element beam on 20-meters.  But that dream will have to wait until the xyl and I build our new home.  We have enough land to erect a variety of antennas, and I hope to have that dream materialize in the future.  Meanwhile, I'll continue to read, experiment, and build.  All of this activity keeps me home, which makes the xyl happy.  Besides, as a semi-retired commercial radio guy, I can't stay away from rf very long before I sense something is missing.  I guess it's in the blood.  Besides, if you don't keep busy, your mind has a tendency to rust.  So, it's back to the soldering gun, connectors, and ladder line.  After that, it's time to work a few contacts, prepare lesson plans, and correct tests.  It could be worse--I could be organized!

Have a good weekend.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--along the beautiful Hamakua Coast--BK29jx