Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series

What kind of antenna will you be using during the ARRL Field Day (23-24 June 2012)?

If you will celebrate the event by going to a club site on that Saturday and Sunday, you may be using anything from a tribander on a portable tower to phased verticals and everything in between.  One of the enjoyable aspects of Field Day is using antennas that you may never be able to afford or build.  Also, your club may be using state of the art transceivers, solar power, or even wind- generated power for this communications exercise.  One never knows what operating system will present itself when you take your place facing a new rig or a new logging system.  That is part of the thrill associated with Field Day.

I will be lucky this year.  The normal 2-day summer drag race set for that day has been shortened to one day, which means my tower announcing duties will be brief.  I will still have time to meet members of the Big Island Amateur Radio Club that Saturday night at Hilo’s Wailoa Visitors Center and get a chance to test my cw skills.  I will also be helping newly licensed hams at our GOTA (Get On The Air) station.  As in past years, the club will be able to borrow a tribander from one of our members and get the services of a truck with a “cherry picker” arm that will raise the beam above 40-feet.  Our complement of antennas will also include a 2-element phased vertical antenna for 40 meters.  With the vertical antenna’s radials running into a brackish pond near the beach at Hilo Bay, club members should get some decent contacts after sunset Saturday.

Club members will also try for a few satellite contacts and for the points associated with publicity, testing sessions, educational booths, and appearances by county officials.  I believe the Big Island Amateur Radio Club will be running in the 2A category, Pacific Section.  I’m not sure of the callsign to be used.  I’ll let you know later.  Over the past few years, the club has used the call of Dean Manley, KH6B, for Field Day.  Dean is one of the established QRP DXers on Hawaii Island.

Although my role will be minimal because of work requirements, I plan to use whatever time available to polish my operating skills and perhaps to get more antenna ideas.  Amateur Radio is a life-long learning experience.

Have a good week!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series

Happy Memorial Day to veterans and their families!  From one veteran to another, thanks for your service to our country and for covering my back during those dangerous times in Southeast Asia many years ago.  Also, thank you to the amateur radio operators who relayed thousands of health and welfare messages for our forces overseas.  Many amateur radio operators are continuing their service through MARS, public safety communications, and emergency agencies such as the Red Cross, SATERN, and civil defense. ‘Makes me proud to be an amateur radio operator.

With the ending of the school term last week, my xyl and I have some free time to pursue until the fall semester begins.  For me that means house repairs, the usual routine of daily errands, and, of course, spending some time launching rf into the ionosphere.  Among my projects this summer is a thorough cleaning of the venerable Swan 100-MX, which has served me faithfully since 1983 and a continuing effort to bring an old Kenwood TS-520 back to life.  I have most of the parts on hand to facilitate repairs, so there should be no excuse to avoid rig maintainance this year.

As for my “antenna farm”, the vertical dipole, the “upper and outter” vertical, and the 40-meter under-the-house loop antenna continue to work well.  I’ve taken the inverted vee down for repairs.  It seems rats and their related kin (i.e. mice) like to chew on wires and cable.  During a recent spot check on the inverted vee, I found the wires on both sides of the feed line connection pretty well chewed by our rodent friends.  This reminds of the stories some amateur radio operators tell about the damage done by squirrels and other animals.  So, it’s a never ending battle against the elements and the animals at my “antenna range.”

Along the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island, high winds, drenching rain, sun, and vog (volcanic haze) are the main dangers to amateur radio antennas.  When rain combines with vog, you get a weak acid that etches glass, erodes exposed metal, and even damages vehicle paint.  If one doesn’t wash and wax their car frequently, rust and corrosion will soon turn that prized set of wheels into a mobile junkyard.  Antennas can last a long time in the islands if you maintain them and keep moisture out.  Various products, such as “coax seal”, waterproof sealant, and even vinyl tape can help keep antennas healthy.  Coax takes a beating on Hawaii Island.  I’ve had better luck with balanced feed line when it comes to resisting the weather.  Even with balanced line, it’s important to wash off the salt spray and acidic residue from the ongoing Kilauea Volcano eruption.

I hope that your holiday was spent with friends and family.  It’s difficult to enjoy a break if you’re stationed in some isolated or extremely dangerous place.  My fondest “aloha” goes out to our service personnel and their families. I hope each of you return to your loved ones in good spirits with your mind and body intact. 

‘See you on the bands!
Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series


How would you like to make a simple, portable antenna that you can use on vacation or in your home?  Such an antenna would be useful for those in restricted operating environments.  I ran across an article by Craig La Barge, WB3GCK, while I was researching limited space antennas.  As you know, my antenna farm is confined to a small backyard, and limited space antennas are what I’m accustomed to using.  Anyway, the article called “The Up and Outter Antenna” gave me a few ideas for stringing up yet another skyhook to warm the ether.

La Barge used approximately 30-feet of light gauge wire attached to a long pvc pole with another 30-foot piece of wire running through his vacation home on the Outter Banks of North Carolina.  That wire served as a counterpoise for the vertical element.  He fed the antenna system with open wire to minimize losses.  La Barge said the design may go back as far as the 1920’s or 1930’s.  He cited work by famed DXer C.F. Rockey, W9SCH, who named the antenna “the upper and outter” to define its main elements.  La Barge also reference an article by Lew McCoy, W1ICP (SK), who published plans for “the limited space antenna” in the October 1960 issue of QST.  The late L.B. Cebik, W4RNL, published an article describing a coax version for 10 meters.  According to McCoy, the antenna covered 80 to 10 meters using open wire feed line.

Using La Barge’s and McCoy’s ideas, I quickly made my own copy for my backyard antenna farm.  I used an old 33-foot MFJ fiberglass pole I had in the garage for supporting the vertical element and 33-feet of #22 gauge hookup wire for the horizontal element.  The horizontal counterpoise was supported by  three wooden posts approximately 3-feet off the ground.  The horizontal wire ran through my garden, so it didn’t present a danger to neighbors.  Like my other vertical antenna projects, the fiberglass support could be lowered on a swivel to keep visual impact low and offer some protection from lightning.


This homebrew version of the La Barge/McCoy “upper and outter antenna” does fairly well, getting as many contacts as I normally get on the inverted vee on the other side of the garden.  The “upper and outter antenna” does well for local Hawaii state nets, with the horizonal element contributing some high angle radiation.  The vertical element seems to do well to the U.S. west coast from Hawaii Island.  Like the designs of McCoy and La Barge, the use of open wire feeders allows the antenna to cover 80 to 10 meters.  As is the case for many compromise antennas, performance will not match that of a tri-band beam on a 50-foot tower.  But, for my purposes, this limited space antenna is easy to build, can be hidden if necessary, and can be used for portable operations.  This antenna may be what you’re looking for.

Have a good weekend!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series

What do you do if you can’t erect an outside antenna?  You could just give up and let the CC&Rs,  HOAs, and space restrictions win.  But that’s not what creative amateur radio operators do to stay on the air.  I ran across this problem a few days ago when one of my younger amateur radio friends said he couldn’t put up an outside antenna because of the restrictions of his area.  He lives in a crowded subdivision with neighbors all around.  Besides the restrictions imposed by his CC&Rs, space around his home is very limited.  So, without getting into the sticky area of tenant leases, housing committees, and noisy neighbors, I offered to do what I could to get him back on the air.  Fortunately, my friend can operate mobile and portable from parks and other public areas.  At first I suggested that he continue that type of operation until I could find a few hints for indoor antennas.

While I’m not a strong advocate for indoor antennas, such antennas, if properly designed and assisted by a wide-range tuner and a suitable counterpoise, can perform reasonably well.   Like me, my friend lives in a wooden house with a galvanized roof.  I’ve fed my metal roof against ground with some good results.  Although this design works, results have been only fair.  Unlike my friend, I do have access to a good backyard, which can support an inverted vee or a vertical dipole.  While my results haven’t been in the same league as a station with a 50-foot tower and a tribander, I do get plenty of contacts.  So, the task ahead of me was to find an indoor design that could work without too much rf exposure or disruption of household electronics.

During my search for stealth antennas, I came across an article by Scott, K2ZS, called “An indoor HF Stealth Antenna”–a skyhook that could help my friend operate at home.  Basically, Scott strung a 60-foot closed loop around his apartment and fed it with a SGC antenna tuner.  He also fed the antenna with an old MFJ Versa Tuner he had in his shack.  Although the antenna was a bit noisy, he was able to make DXCC and enjoy many contacts around the country.  Scott says the SGC tuner will allow him to work between 3.5 Mhz through 30 Mhz.  Scott also included some of the indoor antenna designs from the SGC manual.  He also tried a small 3 X 4 closed loop with approximately 70 to 90 feet of close-spaced wire wound around 4 pegs in a wall.  The SGC tuner handled the load well, but results were less than those gained from the larger closed loop.

Since I had an old SGC tuner in the storage room, I decided to give Scott’s design a trial in my own house.  Earlier, I described the 40-meter loop under my house and said that my Drake MN-4 tuner fed into a 4:1 balun and 450-ohm twin lead handled the load very well.  My fulll-wave loop is basically a NVIS antenna designed to work local HF nets in Hawaii–a task it does well at power levels around 10 watts.  I strung about 70-feet of 22 gauge hookup wire around the living room as a closed loop and fed the antenna to my SGC tuner.  With 10 watts from the old Swan 100-MX, I was able to make a few DX contacts and quite a number of local qsos.  The antenna didn’t produce a sufficient amount of rfi to jam up my PC or home brewed audio system.

With my “experiment” done, I visited my friend and helped him erect a 70-foot closed loop around his living room and bedroom.  I had a spare 4:1 balun, some 450-ohm twin lead, and an old MFJ-941E tuner that he could use.  I suggested running his ICOM-718 with low power to see if any rf would interfer with his household electronics.  So far, so good.  He is getting contacts and seems happy to return to the air. 

Many thanks to Scott, K2ZS, for the suggestion.  Maybe you can use this idea for your station.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–a continuing series

The ARRL’s annual Field Day communications exercise is coming 23 June 2012.  Field Day is one of the largest operating events in the United States and Canada.  Whether you operate from a multi-station position or run emergency power from your home, Field Day will test your creativity, endurance, and ability to withstand the forces of nature for at least one day.

Since I’m commited to announcer duties for that weekend at the Hilo Drag Strip, my participation will be limited.  I plan to run class 1-C mobile from the Drag Strip using my emergency kit stashed in the Odyssey van.  While I camp overnight at the race track, I will set up the Yaesu FT-7, a few hamsticks on a mag mount with several radials, and a deep cycle marine service battery for several hours during the event.  This should be a good test under field conditions.

If the first day of racing finishes early, I most likely will meet members of the Big Island Amateur Radio Club at Hilo’s Wailoa Community Center for its 2A-PAC station.  The site is a few yards from the Wailoa River and the beach, so getting some low angle radiation from our phased verticals should not be a problem.  Last year, the club managed to secure a utility truck with a “cherry picker” boom from a private contractor for a tribander.  That arrangement worked well on 20 and 15 meters.  The phased verticals will be used on 40 meters.  The club will also be able to track a few satellites for extra points.  Since I’m the Public Information Officer, my responsibilities will be to inform the public about the event.  Fortunately, my former associates at the radio station I once called “my home away from home” will help me spread the word throughout Hawaii Island.

What kind of antennas are you planning to use for Field Day?  The June 2012 issue of QST has several interesting articles on simple antennas that you can erect without much trouble.  These antennas could also be suitable for areas restricted by CC&Rs, HOAs, and space.  Steve Ford, WB8IMY, has an article called “Whip It”, which describes a simple vertical comprised of a MFJ-1977 telescoping whip antenna with a 3/8-24 threaded stud at the base.  Ford attached the 12-foot whip to a clamp called “Jaws” which can attach the whip to just about any pole, rod, or wooden dowel.  Ford says the quickly assembled system “plays like a champ.”  For a compromise antenna, the MFJ-1977 seems to work very well.

If you want to get a few 2 meter contacts for Field Day, you may want to copy a 2 meter yagi made by Zack Lau, W1VT.  Lau’s article on p.39 of the June 2012 issue of QST describes what he calls a “Rear Mount 2 Meter Yagi” which can be constructed out of locally available materials.  The article has several easy to understand pictures illustrating the construction sequence.  The finished product can be used for Field Day contacts or for emergency use.

The June 2012 issue of QST also notes that ARRL members will be able to download a digital copy of the magazine and its historic archieve (dating back to 1915) by the end of this month (May).  This will surely reduce the incidents of missing paper copies which occasionally disappear in the mail.  The shift to digital issues is already underway by CQ Publications and numerous technical journals.  As the cost of paper and postage continue to rise, you will see more publications shifting to digital formats.  Once I can download and archieve QST, I will be able to give my printed copies to the Laupahoehoe Public Library.  Perhaps someone will become interested in Amateur Radio when they read copies of my old radio magazines.

That wraps up this edition for now.  Monday is another busy day at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  I have a few lesson plans to revise before retiring for the day.  I trust your weekend went well.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator

A few days ago, the good folks at ran a series of comments from amateur radio operators who used the MFJ 1622 portable antenna system.  The antenna consists of a tapped air coil, a 5 1/2 foot antenna, a counterpoise wire, a short length of coax, and a sturdy clamp to attach the antenna to a bench, railing, or other support.  I was gratified to see some positive reports on this compromise antenna, which, despite its faults, can get you on the air in a space-restricted environment.  The MFJ 1622 is a copy of an older design by B & K, which marketed the device in the 1970-1985 time frame.  I bought one of these when I was first licensed as a novice, used it with some success, and later stored it for emergency use.

Presently, my B & K system is located in my van, along with some coax, a spare ATU, about 100-feet of wire, a deep-cycle marine battery, and some pre-cut counterpoise wire.  My trusty Yaesu FT-7 serves as the rig.  Despite the 10 to 20 watts output of the old Yaesu FT-7, I have made many cw and SSB contacts from Hawaii Island on this antenna system.  So, while the MFJ copy has its limitations, it could be just the thing for those of you who must use stealth antennas to get on the air.  I believe the cost of the MFJ 1622 is $99.95 USD.

As for other emergency antennas, I’ve repaired and cleaned up an old Hustler mobile system.  The antenna in my storage space is the one with the 54-inch break over mast and coils for 40m, 20, and 15 meters.  The antenna came with a hefty bumper mount and a large spring which takes some of the abuse found in mobile operations.  I haven’t found a good place to mount this antenna on my Odyssey van, so I will keep the antenna for emergency home use.  Last week, I attached the mast and coils to my metal garage roof.  The antenna seemed to work pretty well.  I’ve even used a mag mount with “Ham Stick” antennas for home use.  No real outstanding performance here, but this arrangement will get you on the air.  Those of you with space restrictions may want to use a mobile HF antenna mounted on your vehicle for home operation.  You can alway attach a few radials to the antenna base to improve performance.

Eventhough it’s possible to run an amateur radio station with indoor antennas, I prefer to get my “skyhooks” outside.  I’ve used indoor antennas at qrp power levels (less than 10 watts) with some success.  However, I always seem to pick up more noise inside the house with indoor antennas.  There is also the danger of rf exposure if you run high power with indoor antennas.  If you have no other way of erecting a decent outdoor antenna, a carefully designed indoor antenna running at qrp power levels may keep you in the game.  Some of the digital modes, such as PSK 31, seem to work well at lower power levels.  The  ARRL and CQ Publications offer several books on stealth or hidden antennas that may help you keep active in deed-restricted areas.

That’s all for now.  Tomorrow is another day of teaching at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  Once I polish off a few lesson plans, it will be time to “hit the sack” for some sleep.  Have a good day!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator–a continuing series

This has been a very busy day.  My xyl and I were asked to help with the annual May Day Celebration today at Laupahoehoe High School.  The students put on quite a show with Hawaiian Hula, chants, stories, and local music.  In the course of the day’s events, several students asked about the antenna on the roof of my Odyssey van.  After I told them the antenna wasn’t for CB, but rather for amateur radio, they seemed more interested in seeing what my modest rig would do.  So, I selected a frequency for one of the FM repeaters on the island of Maui and had a good time introducing some students to my fellow hams.  I also showed them my emergency HF setup behind the final row of seats.  I didn’t have the HF antenna mounted, so I just let them look at the equipment (Yaesu FT-7), the huge deep cycle marine battery, the hamsticks near the sliding door, and the mag mount nestled under the last row of seats.  Too bad I wasn’t better prepared for a show, but the VHF demonstration seemed to capture their interest.  Depending where my substitute teacher position is posted next year, I may try to set up a small amateur radio station at my next school.  Of course, I would include basic license classes and a few old rigs I could lend the station.  This is all drawing board stuff–I’ll see what my posting shows in September.

When the xyl and I arrived home after the May Day festivities, I had a few hours to kill before dinner.  Once we got our daily walk and jogging routine complete, I decided to set up the emergency station I had so carefully placed in the van.  With a 40 meter hamstick, a mag mount, and four, 32-foot radials attached to the mag mount, I had an antenna that produced some good contacts.  The large capacity deep cycle marine battery was heavy, but I managed to wrestle it into a good position to power the old Yaesu FT-7.  After about an hour, I put everything back in the van, convinced that the simple system worked and would be easy to set up during an emergency.

A system similar to mine could be used by those who face restrictive covenants, HOAs (homeowner associations), and other limitations to their radio pursuits.  I have several friends on the island of Oahu who regularly operate portable because of restrictions at their home qth.  Speaking of restrictions, the FCC is still collecting information from amateur radio opertors who have had their operations restricted by CC&Rs, HOAs, and other factors.  The FCC will then brief Congress on what it found.  For more information, you can contact the ARRL.

That’s about all for this late Friday night.  Have a good weekend!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators–a continuing series


In my last post, I described a simple inverted vee that could be built and erected by one person at a modest cost.  In my case, I had enough wire and and pvc mast sections to build this 40-10 meter antenna without going to the nearest hardware store.  Fortunately, I also had a hundred or so feet of 450-ohm twinlead, a spare 4:1 balun, and a good ATU (Drake MN-4) to finish the job.  With each leg of the “v” 33-feet long, you have an antenna that can work from 40 to 10 meters.  If you want to explore 80 meters, make both legs of the “v” 65-feet long.  These measurements are approximate–you may have to trim each leg a few inches to make a better match.

If you don’t have twin lead, you can also use approximately 40 to 50 feet of coax to feed the antenna.  Of course, the coax will feel happiest on one band and its third harmonic.  That characteristic makes it possible to use a 40-meter inverted “v” on 15 meters.  The match will be a little off for 15 meters and may put the best match a little near the upper limit of 15 meters.  You can either let your ATU smooth out the mismatch or you can add “outrigger” wires with clip leads to produce a better match on 15 meters.  Some amateur radio opertors have also attached capacity hats made from stiff wire to the 40 meter wire to help lower the SWR.  Most antenna books published by the ARRL explain the process.  If you want to use 20 meters on your coax fed 40 meter inverted “v”, it might be best to add another, separate 20 meter inverted “v” to the antenna.  This additional length (approximately 16-feet, 6 inches for each element) should be run 90 degrees offset from the 40 meter wire elements.  You could also modify a “fan dipole” for this purpose, with separate wires running beneath the 40 meter wire elements.  There will probably be some interaction between the elements, so be prepared to trim antenna elements as needed.

As for the coax connection to the apex of the inverted “v”, I’ve found the Budwig coax connector ideally suitable for this application.  Fair Radio Sales in Lima, Ohio markets this type of connector.  When it comes to coax, any type from RG-58 to RG -213 would be suitable.  I’ve found RG-6 (the type cable installers use) can be used without much difficulty.  Although this cable is designed for 75 ohms impedance, my Drake MN-4 has no trouble tuning out the slight mismatch.  RG-8X could also be used.  However, with the smaller diameter coax cables, such as RG-58, one should probably keep power below 100 watts.  RG-58 also has more loss than RG-8 or RG-213.  In most cases, I avoid coax altogether, since I prefer 300 and 450-ohm twin lead for most of my hf antenna work.

The important thing is to build your own antenna with the resources you can find locally.  I’ve seen some homebrew antennas that rival the commercial products in both construction and effectiveness.  While none of my simple antennas can compare with those available in the commercial sector, they do work and get me on the air with a minimul of fuss and cost.

That’s about all for this segment.  Good luck on designing and building your next antenna.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM–BK29jx15.

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