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Showing posts with the label Amateur Radio Amateur Radio Antennas

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

Those of us forced to use compromise antennas brought on by limited real estate, restrictive CCRs, and HOA (home owner associations) may have another way to enjoy amateur radio without worrying about the neighbors.  The May 2012 edition of "QST" has several interesting articles about HF digital operations.  I was most interested in an article by Steve Ford, WB8IMY, called "Who's on JT65?"  Despite its limitations, this mode for moonbounce communication developed by Dr. Joe Taylor, K1JT, is becoming more popular as the year rolls on.  Ford says, "the key to JT65's burgeoning popularity is found in the fact that you can use it to make contacts over great distances with a few watts and just about any antenna.  As you can imagine, hams confined to indoor operating have embraced JT65 with a passion."  Ford goes on to describe the experiences of Ron Kolarik, K0IDT, and Sergey Kohno, UR3CTB, in Ukraine as models of what this mode can do.  There are limita

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

Have you ever thought of installing a small, portable HF rig and collapsable antenna in your vehicle for impromptu or emergency operations?  During the past week, wet weather and sometimes marginal road conditions got me thinking about what HF radio system I would use should a traffic emergency arise where I couldn't get home or where cell phone coverage would be unusable.  Along the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island, cell phone coverage is spotty and there are many areas inadequately served by this handy communications device.  Geography plays a big role in limiting cell phone coverage, with mountain peaks and ridges often degrade the signal available. So, last week I decided to make a small upgrade in my mobile capability with the creation of a small, easily portable HF system to complement my bare-bones 2-meter capability (HT with mag-mount antenna on the rood of my van).  I selected my old, trustworthy Yaesu FT-7 (10 watts output), a large marine, deep cycle battery in the garag

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

One of the joys in making your own antennas is to discover what others have done in similar circumstances.  A visit to the antenna forums on and can give you a lot of useful information, particularly if you must operate from a deed-restricted area or from a small backyard as I do.  I am amazed at some of the clever antenna designs that my fellow amateur radio operators have used to get around HOAs, CC&Rs, and lack of space. Another good source of ideas for those of us in space-restricted areas are books and articles dealing with small antennas, stealth antennas, and concealed opertions of various sorts.  Although most of us can get by with the antenna books published by the RSGB, ARRL, and CQ Communications, there are a few sources I would recommend from personal experience. The first book on my list would be "The Short Vertical Antenna and Ground Radial" by Jerry Sevick (SK), W2FMI.  This small volume offers several useful and effective designs for t

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

While I was searching through some boxed electronic parts in the garage this afternoon, I discovered an old Hustler mobile mast, bumper mount, shock spring, and coils for 40 meters, 20 meters, and 15 meters.  When I first became an amateur radio operator back in 1977, I used the Hustler system on my then almost new 1976 Toyota Corolla.  That was a very small vehicle and I had to be creative in placing an old Swan 260 Cygnet transceiver in front of the passenger's seat.  Fortunately, the Toyota had a metal bumper which was able to hold the mobile mount and antenna.  After I bonded all the body and engine bolts with copper braid and installed special spark plugs, the system became a cumbersome, but successful mobile installation.  When I moved to my present location in Laupahoehoe and bought a new car, I cleaned and stored the old mobile antenna in the garage and gave the old Swan transceiver to a new ham who didn't have a rig.  Since that time, I haven't done much in the way

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

Thanks to a Good Friday holiday and some decent weather, I've been able to re-erect my "antenna farm" in the backyard of my small lot.  Both the 40-meter vertical (with its tuned counterpoise) and the 20-meter vertical dipole went up without problems thanks to the fiberglass poles I used for masts.  The antenna was was replaced because of storm damage.  Fortunately, I had some wire left over from a studio rebuild at my former radio station.  So, I didn't have to make a 30-mile trip to Hilo for wire and connectors.  The under the house 40-meter loop survived the storms and didn't require any repairs. Once I got my skyhooks in the air on Thursday afternoon, I decided to try 15 meters, since that band is usually busy around 2100 hrs UTC in my location.  As luck would have it, conditions were only fair with considerable QSB and other annoyances.  However, I heard a CQ from Dick, W8PW, in Las Cruces, New Mexico and decided to hit the transmit switch on the old Swan 1

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

It's been awhile since I jotted down a few notes about antennas.  This is one of those cases where "one should be careful about what you wish for."  Until March, most of Hawaii Island was gripped in an extended drought which began 3 years ago.  Although West Hawaii (including Kailua-Kona) has been struggling with a prolonged dry spell for several years, those of us living on the windward usually received sufficient trade wind showers to stave off any water shortages.  Until March, many East Hawaii residents got by with diminished water supplies, hoping that the weather would change.  March has turned out to be quite wet on the windward side, with rain totals in Hilo exceeding 25 inches for the month.  All of this moisture was accompanied by strong 20 to 30 mph winds, mudslides along major highways, and several power outages.  As April Fool's Day approaches, the weather is improving and only scattered showers will herald the arrival of our spring season. During the p

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 McC

Simple Antennas for Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

It's been a busy week of teaching for me and my xyl at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  As substitute teachers, we have a variety of assignments ranging from special education to agriculture.  Variety is the spice of life at this rural school on Hawaii Island.  Both of us enjoy doing something positive for our community in our "sunset years."  Now that the school week is over, I can focus my attention on amateur radio and my favorite aspect of the hobby--building antennas from commonly available materials.  A good, effective homebrew antenna is what you need to join the ARRL International Phone DX Contest, which begins 03 March 2012 at 0000 Z and ends 2400 Z on 04 March (this weekend).  I plan to do a lot of listening and get what contacts I can as a QRP station. My limited contest participation will rely on the homebrew 20-meter vertical dipole in back of the garage and the trusty 40-meter inverted vee along the hedge line fronting my neighbor's house.  I p

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 f

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

This has been an exciting two weeks.  First, my long-term substitute teaching position has been confirmed until June.  Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School is converting to a charter school, so many faculty associated with the state of Hawaii Department of Education may be transferring elsewhere.  So, until the new school board gets in place, there will be no new hires, and that means substitute teachers such as I will be in demand until the change over at the end of the school semester.  So much for an easy retirement.  The work with special education students is demanding, but, on the whole, very satisfying--especially if a student finally "gets it" and begins to learn on his/her own.  During the past few weeks, I haven't been able to run the old Swan 100-MX very often, with the possible exception of a few hours of cw late at night. And second, the weather has been unusually warm and dry these past three weeks--a perfect time to work on antennas and maintenance.  Du

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

This has been a busy teaching week at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  Eversince I landed a long-term substitute teaching position at the school, there hasn't been too much time to chase radio signals.  My position involves working with several special education students--a real challenge.  My heart goes out to parents who are trying to bring their special needs children into the main stream of education.  The job is frustrating at times, but I get a lot of personal satisfaction helping these students get an education.  So much for an easy retirement. As for amateur radio, I manage to get on late in the evening after lesson plans are done and student progress reports are compiled.  The time before my venerable Swan 100-MX and Kenwood TS-520 provides a way of escaping the pressures of the day.  I find cw relaxing.  I never thought I would look at cw that way, but, after all these years, the old J-38 key has become a real tension reliever. On the antenna front, I found an

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

While I was perusing the 03 January 2012 update to, I came across an interesting article by Bob Raynor, N4JTG, entitled "Where do we go from here?  Some thoughts on your first HF Antenna."  Bob does an excellent job of explaining the basics of antenna design that even techical neophytes such as I can understand.  Bob belongs to the school of "homebrew antenna design" with a goal of getting on the air with basic, cost saving, and easily built antennas.  I'm all for that, considering my reduced income as a new retiree. WHAT TYPES OF ANTENNAS ARE AVAILABLE AT A LOW PRICE/ Bob explores the design and building of several simple, yet effective antennas that are suitable for the space and financially challenged (that means me and thousands of other hams who are living in antenna restricted areas).  Included in his short article (with pictures) are the familiar center fed doublet fed with twin lead, the fan dipole, the basic dipole and inverted vee, and the

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

Happy New Year's Greetings from Laupahoehoe along the beautiful Hamakua Coast.  This was the first day I could spend some extended time with my favorite pursuit--Amateur Radio.  There are no obligations until I return to the classroom on Thursday.  With that in mind, I checked out the "antenna farm" in the back yard and ran a few contacts in the Straight Key Night event hosted by the ARRL.  I found the 40-meter inverted vee did an excellent job on 40 and 15 meters.  It's good to see some propagation after several years of marginal conditions.  Before breaking for lunch today at around 2057 UTC, I decided to drop in on a "New Year's Net" hosted by Neal, AE1P up in New Hampshire.  His signals were excellent, running between 57 and 59.  It so happens I need New Hampshire for my QSL collection, so I just dropped my call into the roundtable, hoping a puny 5 watts could make the trip.  Wonder of wonders, he and a few others in the net were able to copy my ol

Simple Antennas for Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

I trust that Santa Claus was kind to you this holiday season.  I didn't get the new Elecraft K3 I promised myself, but I did enjoy a wonderful break from the classroom and my former responsibilities as a newsman at Pacific Radio Group.  This has been the first time in many years that I didn't have to rise and shine at 0230W and drive through the darkness to Hilo.  Although my former role as a broadcast journalist (and I use that term very loosely) was a thoroughly enjoyable job, I now relish time at home with my better half, working for my local community as a school teacher, and, finally, getting to spend some more time with amateur radio. Presently, I'm preparing to dive into the ARRL's "SKN" (straight key night) on New Year's Eve.  This should be a fun event with little of the contest pressure that dominates other events.  About the only thing old I'm bringing to the effort is myself, my trusty J-38 key, and the old Kenwood TS-520 and the venerabl

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

Merry Christmas to all!  I trust that Old Saint Nick left a few presents under your Christmas Tree. During the holiday season, I've been  busy with various household chores, visiting friends, and just relaxing until the new school term begins on 04 January 2012.  I'm sure the coming year will be exciting both in the classroom and out in the real world.  The holiday break is also giving me some time to do basic antenna maintenance and general shack clean up.  The December weather has been quite wet along the Hamakua Coast with over 13 inches recorded at the qth since 01 December.  Despite the recent storms, Hawaii Island rainfall totals are about 30 % below normal.  The Kailua-Kona area on the west side of the island  is even more parched, with most leeward areas getting less than 50% of their normal rainfall. SIMPLE ANTENNAS FOR NEW YEAR'S EVENTS Three major operting events remain as this year morphs into 2012.  The 2012 ARRL Straight Key Night is set for 01 January 2

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operator, a continuing series

East Hawaii begins to dry out After nearly two weeks of rain, East Hawaii skies are clearing.  Although the island is about 60 percent below normal rainfall, this rainy period seemed longer than it really was.  Most of the days were highlighted with heavy showers, flooding, and occasional lightning.  Evenings were mostly wet with scattered thundershowers and lightning--not really an ideal time to be on the radio.  Despite the heavy rains, the modest antenna "farm" in the back yard escaped damage.  The verticals were nested near ground level on cinder blocks 1-foot high, just enough to escape the run off.  The only antenna pressed into service was the 40-meter under the house loop.  Since the sun was mostly absent during this period of storms, the solar cells didn't do much to charge my batteries.  So, I generally stayed off the air and kept things out of harm's way.  Radio time was spent in maintenance and repair of my aging rigs (Swan 100-MX, Kenwood-520, and the t

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 15

Antennas--a cautionary tale While reviewing the latest edition of, I ran across an interesting antenna "classic" by Don, W8AD.  "HF Antenna installation hints", originally published on 12 November 2006, offers many useful installation tips for those of us facing space retrictions, HOA and CC & R problems, and nosey neighbors.  Don provides a review of slopers, dipoles, antic antennas, and site locations for the intrepid radio amateur.  The follow up comments are also worth a read.  Don has written a good, basic primer for those of us a little rusty on the design and limitations of our "antenna farms." Halloween is past and all of winter lies before us This Halloween at the qth was wet, windy, and dangerous for those brave enough to do the "trick or treat" routine.  A cold front passed Hawaii Island Monday afternoon bringing several inches of rain, wind gusts of up to 40 knots, and generally dangerous driving conditions.  Many f

A contest weekend and other assorted trivia

CQ WW DX SSB contest I've never been much of a contester.  Before I retired, there just wasn't enough time to fully engage in one of the exciting phases of amateur radio.  There was always something that restricted my time at the old Swan 100-MX.  Now that I've removed myself from the daily routine of getting up at 0230 hrs local time for my news shift at Pacific Radio Group, time has been more generous.  With the CQ WW SSB contest in full swing, I tried my hand at a few pile ups...not too successful, but I did manage a few contacts with my modest station.  Running around 10 watts SSB into an inverted "v" and a homebrew 20-meter vertical dipole surely made for some frustrating moments, but I enjoyed every minute of my limited exposure to the contest.  The October 2011 edition of "CQ" had a nice article on contesting by Geroge Tranos (N2GA), who showed how emergency responders and contesters share many of the same attributes.  This is an article worth r

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 14

Final step completed--new career awaits After 3 weeks of intensive study and three exams, I finally finished my substitute teacher course and submitted all of the necessary paperwork.  In a short time I should be getting my certificate and the opportunity to end this lifetime as a teacher.  It's sort of ironic.  Before I became an amateur radio operator back in 1977, I started out as a teacher.  Life took its inevitable twists and turns, with work ranging from an air force officer to a radio newsman and broadcast engineer.  And now, I've come full circle.  I'll end my days as a teacher.  The circle is closed. More time for Amateur Radio Between teaching assignments, I can devote more time to my main diversion all these years--Amateur Radio.  I hope to get on the air more often and build more antennas.  Speaking of which, I was reading a 1978 edition of "The ARRL Antenna Anthology" and came upon a simple ground plane antenna that should fit in my small backya

Simple Antennas for Hawaii Amateur Radio Operators, part 10

HOLIDAY IS OVER...IT'S BACK TO AMATEUR RADIO Now that the Labor Day weekend is over, the news room can return to the normal mix of devious politicians, economic confusion, and the usual helping of local crime, prep football, and the ongoing financial crisis in Hawaii County.  Sound familiar?  It seems as if every community in the nation is facing pretty much of the same thing.  Add a few natural disasters such as raging fires in Texas, drenching rains along the Gulf Coast, hurricanes in the Atlantic, and typhoons in East Asia and you have the ingredients for keeping news people employed.  Welcome to the new definition of normal--whatever that is.  With a return to the normal work schedule, I can allocate some more time to Amateur Radio and the reheating of the ionosphere. ANTENNA IDEAS REVISITED During my lunch break, I paid a visit to and its always fascinating forums.  An antenna article by Craig LaBarge (WB3GCK) caught my eye.  In the middle of his website was a s