Aluminum tubing dipole up 20 ft. 6 m loop antenna above the top of the mast.
Lots of excitement from FM07 in the last week.
I decided I just wasn’t real thrilled with the performance of the longwire on 17 m. There were signals there, I could work DX, but the levels just seemed anemic compared to my last QTH.
So I put up an experimental quickie wire dipole in my trees and tried it out. Sure enough, it performed just as well as the longwire for many stations. That seemed encouraging, so I thought “what if I double the height with two masts and put a dipole at 20 ft?” And that’s what I did.
I had this aluminum dipole from 10 years ago when I used to have it mounted to a mast on a 50 ft crankup tower in DM42 (Tucson). Back then it worked wonders for me and I loved it. In fact, I apparently loved it so much that the parts have endured 6 or 7 moves since then and I still had them! So, I pulled them out, made a trip to Home Depot for a few inexpensive parts (hose clamps mainly), and put it back together.
The boom-to-mast plate is fashioned out of a piece of wood left over from my workbench hutch project. The wood was just going to sit around and do nothing useful, so might as well press it into service and make some QSOs. I painted it black with paint left over from my mailbox tuner project (all these leftovers are sure useful).
The masts are 2 10′ sections from Radio Shack that have a nice tapered-down end for the next section to fit on. The elements are 4 sections of aluminum tubing, two of which telescope inside the inner-two larger ones. If I recall the larger is around 1″ diameter.
What I found before when working with these types of antennas was that the tubing gave a much broader bandwidth at low VSWR than did a wire antenna. And I was once again not disappointed. In fact, the 17 m dipole also works just fine on 15 m (less than 1.5:1 VSWR). So I got two bands for one and no traps or tuning needed. Nice!
So that was a fun and rewarding project. The setup looks a lot like some type of field day setup, and it kind of is. I need to be able to easily remove everything in 2-3 years when we move again, so concrete was really not an option. It’s also not very high. I would love to have that antenna at least another 10 feet up to clear the roofline of the house, but doing so might upset neighbors or landlords and also represents more risk if it were to fall (right now, if it falls it just lands on the grass). I’ve learned to tread cautiously with these things. Even now, it wouldn’t surprise me if some sort of complaint comes along. So I feel I’ve done the most I can do with my situation. And it certainly gets me heard on HF.
Almost as an afterthought, I boosted the height of my 6 m loop antenna from about 12 to around 23 feet. And as soon as I turned on the rig with the new setup, there was a big 6 m e-skip opening! What perfect timing.
The antenna worked like gangbusters. I collected my first grid squares from this location, getting 5 total. I worked into EM48, EM29, EN40, EM49, and EM28. More than one station commented that they were surprised I wasn’t on a beam or running power. I worked two guys who were just experimenting with a mobile setup, not realizing the band was open! That was pretty funny. One guy was mobiling down a highway and trying different settings and suddenly he’s talking with me, a couple hundred miles away. So, obviously on 6 you can get by with minimalist setups when there’s an opening. I myself have operated from the mobile with just a simple whip and 100 W and even scored DX during the previous cycle peak. I do think this loop is better than the whip and is just shy of a small yagi, and for the level of operating I do on 6 m it is more than enough till I get my own home again and re-install some towers.
It feels good to be slowly reconstituting elements of the station I had a decade back. Finishing these QRP and tuner projects are a part of that too, just lots of unfinished ham business that is wonderful to finally accomplish.
The antenna farm work has delayed me from my SW40 kit rig I planned on whipping together quickly. But for me, antennas always come first. I see them as paramount, my eyes and ears to the world. I have however unearthed the printed instructions for the kit and I really should be able to start on that in the next week.
Finally, an appeal to my vast readership. All the antenna tinkering has also generated a lot of logbook entries, and I’m almost done with my current paper-based log. I’m wanting to move to an electronic logbook program from here on out. If anyone has suggestions for what they like (and don’t), please leave some comments below.