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Monday, March 24, 2014

Simple Ham Radio Antennas: The Ghost of Antennas Past. Post #267

Humans tend to collect things.  Amateur radio operators are no exception.  In my 37 years as a licensed amateur radio operator, I've collected enough electronics-related material to fill most of my garage/radio shack at my new home in the Puna District.  Fortunately, I've managed to keep things organized, more or less, with plastic storage bins and some old filing cabinets.

During the ongoing moving process, I discovered antennas, books, logs, and parts once given up for lost.  Such was the case Monday, 17 March 2014, when I reorganizing some of the material brought to the new QTH.  I found several well-sealed boxes containing some of my successful antenna projects.  All the antennas were dipoles built during my over three decades of "warming the ether" with a variety of old tube rigs long since gone to to the great capacitor in the sky.  After I finished using these antennas, I had the foresight to clean and store them for future use.  Also along the back wall was my first HF mobile antenna--a Hustler antenna system with the old 54 inch/137.16 cm foldover mobile mast, coils for 40, 20, and 15 meters, a bumper mount, and 12-foot/3.65 meters lengths of  RG-58 coax with "pigtails" for attaching to the bumper mount and mast section.  That antenna system rode on my old 1974 Mercury Comet sedan.  Unlike today's cars, that vehicle had a real metal bumper to attach the mount and shock spring.  Back in 1977 when I was first licensed, that mobile system spoke to the world with a venerable Swan-260 Cygnet.  Ah, those were the days!

What could I do with the old Hustler antenna system?  I didn't want to throw it away because the metal and coils remained in excellent condition. I already had a magnetic mount "Hamstick" HF mobile antenna system for my Odyessey van, so the old Hustler antenna had to find a new role on my "antenna farm."

After deliberating a few moments, I decided to convert the old Hustler antenna system to an emergency antenna for my QTH.

Fortunately, I had a 6-foot/1.82 meters tall  chain link fence running down my south property line for a distance of approximately 50-feet/15.24 meters.  I would use the fence as a support for the bumper mount and as part of a ground radial system for the mobile whip.  Once I secured the bumper mount to the fence with the 54 inch/137.16 cm mast and the appropriate coil and tip, I would connect the 12-foot/3.65 meter coax with the pigtails to the vertical mobile whip, with the center wire going to the metal mast and the braided shield  being attached to the metal fence with a small battery clip.  I also attached three gently sloping radials measuring 33-feet/10.06 meters each to the braid as well.

I next attached 50-feet/15.24 meters of RG-8X coax with UHF connectors to the shorter piece of RG-58 coax affixed to the antenna.  The RG-8X coax was then connected to the patch panel in the shack window.

A short piece of RG-8X coax (6-feet/1.82 metes) ran from the patch panel to the Drake MN-4 ATU.  Short pieces of RG-8X coax interconnected the dummy load, low pass filter,and the venerable Swan-100 MX to the Drake MN-4.

By adjusting the wire tip at the end of each coil, I was able to get a SWR of 1.7 to 1 on 40, 20, and 15 meters without the ATU.  With the Drake MN-4 in the antenna system, I was able to get a SWR of 1.2 to 1 on those above mentioned bands.

Performance was good, considering the compromise radial system and the low height of the mobile antenna.  I was able to make local, statewide, and some mainland DX contacts during the late afternoon.  Most of my SSB reports averaged between 54 and 57, with CW responses varying between 559 and 599.  Not too impressive, but I did get contacts.

When the sun came out late that afternoon, I set up a card table in my front yard, positioned the old Swan-100 MX, Drake MN-4, the dummy load, and the low pass filter on the temporary support.  I dragged out the solar-charged deep cycle marine battery and enjoyed a few pleasant hours operating outdoors.

When I was done for the day, I just disconnected the temporary radial system (including the attachment to the chain link fence), removed the bumper mount from the chain link fence, and stored the mast and coils in the garage for another day.

I was glad to see the old mobile system get a new lease on life.  No sense throwing out something that works.

And, yes, I'm trying out all of my old dipole antennas.  They still work very well.  They are "ghosts" of my early ham past which continue to "haunt" me today.  Some "spooks" are worth keeping.

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Aloha es 73 de Russ (KH6JRM).

BK29jx15--along the beautiful Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.
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