After upgrading to General in December, I could finally join the so-called “real hams” (whatever) on HF. However, since I live in a condo, the antenna situation somewhat limited me. After thinking most of the winter, and silently sneaking a ground plane outside to see if any of my neighbors would complain (they haven’t so far, but we’ll see what happens when more people venture outside during the spring), I decided to go all in and find a antenna that I could set up outside my office.
I knew that a permanent setup was out of the question. I also new that I was rather space limited. I also had a slight issue that I didn’t know anything about antenna design. Thankfully I knew I was more or less out of luck until spring time as I didn’t want to go around stringing up an antenna trudging through a foot of snow. So, I just read up and asked stupid questions in #hamradio and #amsat about what I should be doing. Thankfully, everyone in both channels were extremely helpful.
As April rolled around, I finally decided it was time. I had a few requirements:
- It had to be cheap
- It had to be easy to set up and break down
- It had to be simple
- It had to not require a tuner
Number 1 and Number 4 basically limited my options severely. I would have likely gotten hit if I approached my wife to buy another thing for my “static box” that cost more then a few dolalrs. So, after doing my research, the only option was to build a resonant dipole.
Last Saturday, my way-more-mechanically-inclined friend Steve, KB1MEH came down and we set out to build and antenna. Steve had some 18AWG wire at his house so all we needed at Home Depot and Radio shack was some PVC for the insulator and T connector, along with soldering supplies (Have I mentioned I never soldered before? I haven’t.), and some PL-259 connectors. My only other investment was a cheap SWR meter for HF, courtesy of eBay.
The afternoon was spent cutting wire (the 18AWG wire was in a three conductor wire, so it had to be cut open and removed), soldering (Hey! This is easy!), drilling holes, and listening to the Scituate repeater.
Finally, around 4PM, the antenna was finished. We strung it up outside and plugged it into the SWR meter. Flipping my TS-120S (who hasn’t transmitted once since I got the thing back in 1996) I saw a S4 noise floor. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Tuning around, I heard two or three signals way down in the noise, but nothing really intelligible. I now braced myself and hope my radio didn’t explode. I IDed myself, calibrated the SWR meter, and checked the SWR. Hmmm… 1:1.4… Not Great, but well within tolerance. We’ll fix it later. Tuning up and down the band there was nothing really on. I had heard the regulars on Scituate mention that the band was dead, but they were also talking about a Beirut station that were all trying to work. I nervously tuned to an open frequency and called a few CQs… No response. Uh Oh…
A few quick diagnostics yielded no amazing results. Disheartened, Steve and I took the antenna down and he left for the day. I hoped that the band was just bad today and that I had not screwed up the antenna somehow.
The next day I had a free afternoon, so I set up the antenna again. I was pleased to see only a S3 noise floor that day, so there may be a small bit of hope. I nervously tuned up and down the band and stumbled across a Georgia station, K4HYB, coming in S9+. Working some kind of contest, I waited him to exchange his information and hear him say:
“This is K4HYB, QRZ?”
I nervously keyed the mic… “November One Whiskey Bravo Victor”
“November One Question Mark, K4HYB”
Holy @#$^!!! Me? Did it work? “November One Whiskey Bravo Victor”
“November One… Again?”
“November One Whiskey Bravo Victor… November One Whiskey Bravo Victor”
“November One Whiskey Bravo Victor. You are 5 by 9 in Spartanville Georgia. Your location?”
I gave my location we parted ways. I was elated that the antenna worked. I quickly tuned around looking for someone, anyone to talk to. After some looking, I was rewarded with EA1JJ calling CQ North America. I worked him my first try rewarded another 5 by 9. After some waiting and trying, I also worked Ken, G0IBS in England and had a brief QSO. Unfortunately, he faded away into the ether, so I had to break it off.
So, the Antenna is a success. I still need to trim to see if I can get better SWR, but I can fold it up into a 1′ round circle for storage, and can have it and functioning in about 5 minutes of work. It also cost me peanuts. So, if you want to work on 20m some day, drop me an e-mail!