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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

The PL259, a Tale of Woe

from Alan Applegate, K0BG on February 14, 2007
View comments about this article!


"Editor's Note: Due to the popularity of some of eHam's older articles, many of which you may not have read, the eHam.net team has decided to rerun some of the best articles that we have received since eHam's inception. These articles will be reprinted to add to the quality of eHam's content and in a show of appreciation to the authors of these articles."

The PL259, A Tale of Woe

I'm one of those guys who buys premium silver plated PL259s and pays upwards of $5 a piece for them. While some amateurs might believe that my connector phobia borders on Barnum's "A sucker is born every minute", I think not, and I'll tell you why.

It is my humble opinion the single most prevalent problem amateurs face is caused by the ubiquitous PL259. They typically are poorly or incorrectly soldered (if at all), the coax preparation is almost never done properly, and the material making up cheap PL259s easily corrodes or rusts adding insult to an already terse situation. These situations result in blaming all matter of station equipment and antennas rather than the real culprit; the PL259. So this treatise is an attempt to address the situation by making a few pertinent suggestions. First, there are a few do's and don'ts which need to be discussed aside from the quality issue of cheap PL259s.

Never, ever use a soldering gun! Soldering guns have very little thermal mass and as soon as you touch the tip to a cold connector what little latent heat there is, is drawn away. While you're waiting for the material to get hot enough to melt the solder, the core is slowly but surely being damaged beyond use. Proper soldering of PL259s requires two soldering irons (more on this later).

Never, ever cut coax with wire cutters! Doing so distorts the core and the center conductor making installation of the PL259 body rather difficult. If you don't have a proper cable cutter, a heavy-duty box cutter with a new blade is your best bet. Lay the coax on a scrap chunk of lumber and tap the box cutter through the coax with a small hammer. The cut needs to be clean and even.

0x01 graphic

Always use a coax cutting tool to prepare the coax for the PL259! The Cablematic® Division of Ripley Tools Corporation make the UT8000, a special coax cutter specifically for RG8U and RG213. (http://www.ripley-tools.com). The "First Cut" end cuts the coax outer jacket, shield, and core, but not the center conductor. The center conductor is cut to the exact length needed, 5/8".

Incidentally, the center conductor SHOULD NOT stick out of the end of the PL259 once it is installed, but just shy of the end (see picture below). This is the correct length! The "Second Cut" end of the tool removes just the outer jacket to the correct length, 5/8". Other companies make coax prep tools, but this one is the best. I've had mine 25 years and it has saved me countless hours in the mean time.

0x01 graphic

0x01 graphic

Always use good quality solder! I prefer Kesters 60/40 multicore because I know of its quality. That cheap stuff you buy from Radio Shack or Wal-Mart is not the solder of champions. I prefer the small .081 size but the .105 is okay too. Larger sizes tend to have too much rosin so I don't use them.

Now let's talk about the soldering irons. Two, count them two, are required. I use a Weller pencil type to solder the center conductor which incidentally should be soldered first. If you use good PL259s as I suggest, this operation takes about 10 to 15 seconds. Enough solder should be used to close the connector tip entirely to aid in keeping out moisture.

I use a modified 80 watt Weller SP80 iron to solder the body of the PL259. Big, ugly, but lots of latent heat to get the job done quickly! Its round tip is slightly flattened so it just fits into the groove of the PL259. I clamp the iron in the vise and rotate the work, not the other way around.

0x01 graphic

So we've got our coax prepped, our irons hot, and it's time to screw on the PL259. Remember slide the outer threaded barrel on to the coax first. I digress.

All too often I have seen amateurs cut the jacket away to the point the shield shows after assembly. This IS NOT the proper way. If you follow the cutting table listed in the ARRL Handbook, the jacket stripping length is too short, and on some PL259s, the jacket bottoms out before the core is snug against the back of the tip. Further, the jacket could cause contamination of the solder thus impeding its flow. Both good reasons for purchasing a proper stripping tool.

Make sure you put the threaded barrel over the coax and in the correct direction! Then carefully slide the PL259 body over the end of the coax and screw it down over the jacket. A small pair of channel lock pliers works well for this purpose. Once resistance is felt stop threading. And speaking of resistance, once you get connectors screwed on both ends is a good time to use your DVM or VOM to check for shorts between the center and shield.

With the center conductor should be just below the notch in the tip of the PL259, solder the tips with the small pencil iron and let them cool before soldering the shield. Again, enough solder should be used to close the end of the tip. Avoid slopping solder on the outside of the center pins.

Next solder the shields. If the soldering iron tip is well tinned, about 6 to 10 seconds later the barrel will be hot enough to accept solder. The solder should be applied just at the edge of each hole so it flows into the shield. Enough solder should be applied to just close the hole. Use too much and it could flow to the tip and cause a short. This operation should take about 20 seconds and requires both hands; one to apply the solder and the other to rotate the coax. Now you know why I clamp the iron in a vice. Once soldering is complete, it's time to recheck for shorts and continuity.

There! You have my secret.

Alan Applegate, KØBG

Member Comments:
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The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KF4HR on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Alan. Thanks for another great article. I definitely agree with you about buying quality connectors and that putting connectors on incorrectly can cause a lot of problems.

Personally, I much prefer to use N-connectors whenever possible. But if I have to put on a PL-259, I use a slight deviation from the method you describe. I learned this method from the William Orr books years ago. In Orr's method the braid is slightly shorter than you show in your picture and the braid is tinned (minimal heat as required), prior to screwing the connector on the coax. I like this method for three reasons; 1) as you screw the connector on there is less chance that a piece of loose braid will break loose and create a short, 2) with the braid being slightly shorter than in your picture, it is nearly impossible to create a short, and 3) tinning of the braid makes it easier to solder the braid down through the four holes in the connector plus makes for a more solid electrical connection internally.

My .02 - KF4HR
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by NS6Y_ on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
As a general rule, make sure the strands of the center conductor are neat and then tin 'em before inserting into the connector - otherwise you risk the dreaded strand that doesn't want to go along with the rest and makes a loop that makes a short.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by NS6Y_ on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Kester doesn't make a multicore, that's Ersin's thing. Kester "44" in either 60/40 or 63/37 (also called "eutectic") is the way to go.

For the average solder-er, the types of soldering iron to consider are Weller, Weller, and Weller. Get a narrow 700 degree tip and a semi-narrow 800 degree tip for your PL-259s and you can't go wrong.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by AD4U on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I am too cheap to use silver PL-259's. The good old Amphenol nickel plated copper (or is it brass) ones work just fine for me and cost around $1.00. I might add one little tip. Use a small file to remove the nickel plating from around each of the four holes where the coax shield is soldered. This exposes the copper or brass base metal. Once this is done the nickel plated PL-259 connector will "take" solder just as well as a silver one.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K0BG on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
While I agree you can use cheap connectors by filing on them, but what isn't apparent when you do this, is what happens UNDER the solder holes. To make a long-lasting connection, you have to flow solder into the braid so it wets the inside of the barrel. If this isn't done, you end up with just a few spot welds, so to speak.

Alan, KØBG
www.k0bg.com
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W6IZT on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I only use Silver/Teflon PL259s. The siver plated shell is much easier to solder to. I don't have a coax preparation tool, but use a box cutter with good results. I use a 260w Weller Soldering gun, and it heats the shell wit ease
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W7KKK on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I use the silver plated Teflon connectors and they are great. And good quality solder is a must. Has anyone besides me ever found someone else using plumber's acid core solder on their gear?
Prior to retirement I worked for the US Navy as an electronics mechanic and I had tools to make coax connectors in my tool bag.
Now I too have the UT-8000 and it sure saves time.
For soldering the shields I use an soldering iron by Weller that is normally used for stained glass work.
It's the Weller WLC200. I put a slightly smaller tip on it and it solders the shield quickly without leaving the heat on so long it does damage.
We spend all the money on the equipment but many seem to scrimp when it comes to the tools and the work that we do with them.
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KD4KWQ on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Could one use a small butane torch successfully, or will this cause even more woe?
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by WA2KWP on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I checked on the Ripley web site and did not find the UT8000 coax cutter. They do have a model MSES 12-50, which is a mid span or end for wireless 50 ohm coaxial cable.

I do not have any idea about price.

WA2KWP
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by AD4U on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I did and do not suggest using "cheap" connectors, nor do I suggest using "cheap" coax, etc. By "cheap" I mean poor quality. I don't think genuine nickel plated Amphenol PL-259 connectors are considered "cheap" by most HAMs or by most commercial two way radio types. I imagine the silver plated connectors have much better solder flow characteristics, but for the last 40+ years filing the nickel plating from around the holes before applying solder to the shield has worked just fine for me.
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W8AII on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Alan...

Great article as always... In fact, I read it the first time and that was what prompted me to but the UT8000 and the UT5800 for RF-58... Unfortunately, have had not had the stellar results that you have with the tool. I ultimately end up going back to the box cutter and stripping the coax with the box cutter. I, at first, thought that it was the quality of coax I was buying but it didn’t seem to matter what brand of coax I bought, the results were always the same. I recently purchased a 1000’ spool of Alpha Wire 9213 RG-213 to re-coax all my antennas… Thinking that I had quality coax, I could use the UT8000, guess what, the UT8000 wouldn’t even fit over the outer casing of the coax…

So, until I can figure out why the UT8000 doesn’t work, it’s back to the box cutter for me…

Al, W8AII
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KC8VWM on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
KD4KWQ

Could one use a small butane torch successfully, or will this cause even more woe?

------

I do it all the time. Blindfolded and while walking uphill in a snow storm both ways.

The trick is to use enough heat to make the solder flow quickly without melting the Teflon or plastic insulators on the connector. Also I don't worry about the length of the center conductor when stripping it. I figure if it's too long (which is much better than stripping it too short) then I can always cut it off after it's inserted inside the PL 259 connector at a later time.

Gee, speaking of walking uphill both ways in a snow storm, that reminds me, it's time to shovel the 10" of snow in my driveway here in Ohio today.

73 Charles - KC8VWM
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K0CBA on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Alan,

Great article...thanks.

Now, would you share any hints of how to do it if you are using reducers for RG-58 or RG-8X?
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K6AER on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Alan’s article is a great tutorial. I have found that careful trimming of the cable before inserting into a PL-259 is a must. Some cables are better than others and a cable manufacture with a braid that is not 100% covered will be harder to solder. Also a braid that is not shinny or has discoloration will be harder to solder.

This is where I differ from Alan, I have found a 140/200 watt soldering gun to do a superior job of soldering the braid in a PL-259. I use a custom tip made from 12 ga copper formed in a small tip to get into the solder hole and quickly melt the solder from the connector to the braid. The problem with high heat iron is getting the connector too hot and melting the center conductor isolation and the outer jacked insulation. You only need to solder the braid to the housing. With some of the plastics used in holding the PL-259 center pin you can deform the insulator very quickly with excessive heat.

If I had my way the PL-259 would be dropped in favor of the N connector. Available as a crimp on for only $2.60 each they are a superior connector. All of my station equipment has been converted to this connector. The only exception is the Pro III and after the warranty period it will be converted also.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W4LGH on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
There are many tricks to installing PL259's. Have seen and adapted many myself. Now if someone could tell me a good way to install them on the "Wiremans" cheap rg8x coax?? The one where the poly cover slides back after you get everything ready?

Guess that should teach you a lesson about buying cheap coax, but I only wanted to make some jumpers.
Never again! He does have a better quality RG8X that doesn't do this, but you have to watch him, as the cheap stuff is what he tries to pawn off on you!

And if the PL-259 is being used outdoors, be SURE to seal it!! Personally I like using 1/2" heat shrink, lot less messy if you have to change something.

73 de W4LGH Alan

http://www.w4lgh.com
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N3OX on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
"Now, would you share any hints of how to do it if you are using reducers for RG-58 or RG-8X?"

WB2WIK's comments on this:

http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/pdf/9512076.pdf

- - - - - -

I wonder something. I've been soldering all my PL-259's with a Weller 240 watt gun. Sometimes the dielectric reflows. It's never caused *me* a problem, but in reading WB2WIK's comments on soldering the small diameter cables, it seems like it can affect the breakdown voltage of the cable. I don't hi-pot test my cables, and I've never operated on the edge of the power rating of any of the cables I've used.

Have any of you guys seen a failure of a cable with PL-259's in amateur radio station use that was specifically related to changing the electrical properties or dimensions of the cable dielectric by melting it and having it reform? I'm sure foamed dielectrics melt and collapse but I've never had a problem at the 100W power level.

I know you can run into trouble with short circuits but this is not what I'm interested in. I never get a short circuit anymore with careful cable stripping and insulation, even if I do melt the dielectric. I just make sure I don't move the connector until it cools.

73,
Dan
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KG8JF on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Absolutely, use the eutectic solder. Eutectic represents the alloy of tin and lead that goes from solid to liquid without encountering a plastic phase. What this means that you will get liquid with a lower temperature on the iron.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W4LGH on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
N3OX writes..."I wonder something. I've been soldering all my PL-259's with a Weller 240 watt gun. Sometimes the dielectric reflows. It's never caused *me* a problem."

You must be using some really cheap PL-259's! Now I am not suggesting going out and paying $5 for a name brand of which I won't say the name, but ALL PL-259's are NOT created equal! Most of teh better ones have a hi silicone content in the dielectric, and you would have to get them over 600 degs to start to melt. Solder show flow around 500! There are also some PL-259s out there that have a bakelite type dielectric and they won't melt either, but will BREAK if pressure is applied wrong.

Another good piece of advice is to STAY AWAY from PL-259's from RadioShack!!! They are the KING of JUNK!
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KI7DG on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I have used a pipe cutter for years works better than a box cutter or pocket knife on preparing coax for fittings. This if you don't have anything else.
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W2NSF on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Alan, Agree 100% on that coax trimmer; it was the most satisfying purchase I've ever had!

FYI I have a friend, a very experienced old ham, who puts up his dipoles and feeds them with coax with a PL259 on the end - and NO STRAIN RELIEF! The full weight of the feedline was hanging on one very well soldered PL259!!

One day I asked him how he came to rely so heavily on the strength of his soldering a PL259 onto the end of his coax - his secret was: he always tins the shield before inserting the trimmed coax into the PL259 body. He says he's never had a "pull out." Amazing!

I've tried it, and although I do use some sort of strain relief, I feel more confident that my connectors will perform reliably.

Just thought I'd pass that on...
73
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N3OX on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
W4LGH says: "You must be using some really cheap PL-259's! Now I am not suggesting going out and paying $5 for a name brand of which I won't say the name, but ALL PL-259's are NOT created equal!"

I'm sorry, I guess I wasn't clear.

It's the CABLE dielectric that melts. I use mostly good Amphenol silver plated PL-259's myself... and some other silver/teflon ones from other manufacturers occasionally.

I'd like to know if anyone's experienced a cable failure other than a short circuit related to melting the *cable* dielectric...

Dan
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N0AH on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
The high end PL-259 from Radio Shack, since discontinued, we're the best for me on miles worth of coax.

The gold box, not the blue-

 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by NE4EB on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Two tips. First, when you solder the center pin, put the connector in a vice so that the open tip is pointing straight down. At first this may seem counter intuitive, but when you solder the center pin "up", the physics of capillary action actually does a better job of "sucking" the solder into the pin and makes a very good connection.

Second, if you're very careful and practice a little bit, you can actually "tin" the prepared braid prior to screwing the connector down with channel locks. Then, when you apply solder to the little holes, it will meld to the braid and form a much better mechanical and electrical connection. If you're not using the silver models, always use a rat-tail file to prepare the holes into little trenches prior to soldering.

John
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W4LGH on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Dan writes... ~"I'd like to know if anyone's experienced a cable failure other than a short circuit related to melting the *cable* dielectric..."~

Other than a direct short, this could cause a mis-match of impedance, if it was to move the center connector closer to one side. This should show up as a higher than normal or expected SWR.

And to strain relief...I always feed my dipoles with coax and it hangs directly from the PL-259. Now I do use a short jumper of RG-8X from my LMR-400 over to the antenna balun, as I don't want the additional weight hanging on the antenna. Since all of my antennas hang from trees..I also use a hi-quality 4' bungee cord, that will stretch to 10' on each end. This takes up the slack and keeps the antenna at the same tension.

73 de W4LGH - Alan
http://www.w4lgh.com
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N3OX on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
"Other than a direct short, this could cause a mis-match of impedance, if it was to move the center connector closer to one side. This should show up as a higher than normal or expected SWR. "

Probably not any worse than using a PL-259/SO239 in the first place, though, I'd expect.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KG6AMW on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Quote, "Could one use a small butane torch successfully, or will this cause even more woe?" I've tried it and its a mixed bag. I use a small flame, but oh boy it generates a ton of heat quickly, so much so that you can end melting the dielectric around the center cable along with the coax outer cover. Its very difficult to confine the heat in the appropriate area. Maybe some of you out there have had success, I'm still on the learning curve and having doubts.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W4VR on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I used to solder the shield to the barrel and always ended up melting part of the dielectric trying to get solder in those little holes. I was never sure if the copper braid was actually soldered to the barrel after the job was finished. What I have been doing for the past 30 years is folding the shield over itself one time which provides a very snug fit inside the barrel when you screw it on. I always leave a little extra shield so when I screw the barrel over the coax the shield slightly overlaps the outside coax covering to further ensure a good electrical connection between the barrel and shield. I have never had a problem doing my connectors this way and they last for as long as the coax does.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W2IRT on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting timing! I'd bookmarked the original article from April 2003 and was re-reading it about a week ago!

In recent months I've switched from soldering PL-259s to using a professional-grade crimp system, along with the UT8000 Cablematic tool (available from DX Engineering). There are four advantages to this method, IMHO:

1) Stronger and more reliable mechanical connections.
2) No risk of a cold-solder joint or a bad braid joint breaking free.
3) Much greater braid-to-connector contact area.
4) I can bang out a perfectly-made crimp connection now in under a minute if I go crimp-only, or a minute and a half if I solder the centre pin.

This is the Web page I picked up the process from:
http://www.bcdxc.org/pl259_crimp_on_connectors.htm.

73,
Peter, W2IRT
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by AA4PB on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Lets see. If the heat deforms 1/2-inch of the insulation that is 0.001 wavelength on 10M. I doubt that it will cause much of an impedance bump or high SWR. Coiling the coax to make a choke probably causes more of an impedance mismatch.

Now UHF and above is a different story but then you shouldn't be using PL259s there anyway.
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K0RGR on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I've had good success recently using a very sharp tubing cutter to prepare my coax. Spend a couple dollars and get the one with the replaceable blades. The cutter makes a nice, clean cut, like those illustrated here, and it has some advantages - it will work on almost any kind of coax, and it's cheap.

I am a blasphemer when I solder cables. I usually tin the braid very lightly, but evenly, being careful not to distort it's shape or flow solder through it. This makes the braid a tight fit in side the connector. I then solder one hole, only. These cables work well for me, and seem to be more reliable than the commercial ones I have acquired. I always try to use high quality connectors.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N3OX on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
"Lets see. If the heat deforms 1/2-inch of the insulation that is 0.001 wavelength on 10M. I doubt that it will cause much of an impedance bump or high SWR."

What about voltage breakdown?
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by AA4PB on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I suppose if you move the center conductor off center then the voltage breakdown would be lowered. How much are you melting it? I would think with the coax straight and the center conductor held centered by the connector pin you wouldn't have any problem unless you turn the insulation to liquid. Softening it a little shouldn't cause the conductor to move off center.

I have always used a Weller 325W gun on PL-259s and have never had a problem. I lightly tin the shield and then cut it with a small pipe cutter. With the tinned shield, a clean connector, and a clean tip bolted tightly into the gun I have no problem heating the connector quick enough to solder it without liquifying or deforming the coax insulation.

 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by AA4PB on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I might add, you can't do that with foam insulation because it melts a too low of a temperature. The RG-213 type coax is okay.

 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KC8NTP on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Alan:

I am going to have agree with you. However, I don't think that the corrosion problems with standard PL259s would be much of a problem here in Nevada (less than 10' of precipt a year), but I am not going to take that chance.

I am from Michigan, and I will tell you that with over 30" of precipt. and sometimes as much as 60" - with upwards of 18' of snow a year - I learned that standard PL259s just did not cut it; you also learn that you seal every connection with silicon.

I found some of this out the very hard way. It isn't fun to pull down stacked 8 element 10m Yagis (44' booms) that the bottom one is at 60' and the top one is at 77' - all because my phasing harness wasn't sealed; it had about 1 cup of water in it. This will ruin your day, well 3 days.

John KC8NTP, north central Nevada
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K7ICU on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Why use UHF connectors at all?

People in industry get a good laugh out of the "hobby types" in the ham community doing this sort of thing. Why are hams not phasing out this connector type?

The UHF connector isn't quite 50 ohms, which means higher insertion loss and higher VSWR. It sucks up water like a sponge. It leaks RF. It WILL handle a bit more power than an N connector, but so can other connector types (7-16 DIN?) without the above problems.

The N connector is truly 50 ohms with low loss and good VSWR up to 11 GHz. It can handle 300W up to 1GHz. The center contact is self-wiping. It screws down fairly tight to air, water and RF leakage.

Of course, you can find lousy clamp-on, solderless, nickel-plated junk in both varieties, but the UHF connector is doomed by design.

The calls for a proper ROUND cable cutter are right on. You can find a pair for all of $10. Box cutters???
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KC8VWM on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I prefer using the N connector myself.

Now only if there was an easy way to install them yourself on Anderews Heliax cable.

An effort in futility at best...

73 de Charles KC8VWM
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N6AJR on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!



One other thing, and the most important, remember to put the screw on shell on the cable before soldering the connector... oops


 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KC8VWM on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
hahah.. yes Tom, you are absolutely correct.

I hate it when you do a great solder job on a pl-259 connector only to find out later that you forgot place the outer barrel or reducer sleve on the cable beforehand.

I hate when that happens!!

I think we do that a few times as part of the learning process and even though I have soldered 100's of them together, I **still** catch myself doing it on occasion.

73
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K3WVU on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
K7ICU wrote: "Why use UHF connectors at all?"


Have you looked on the back of any HF or VHF transceiver lately? Yep, that's a female UHF connector (SO-239). kind of tough to get a 'N' connector to mate to that.

I suppose when industry starts using N connectors as standard below 70 CM, the rest of us will change.

73

Dwight
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by AA4PB on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
People in industry get a good laugh out of the "hobby types" in the ham community doing this sort of thing
-----------------------------------------------------
Funny, many commercial marine and land mobile radios use SO-239/PL259 connectors for VHF and UHF. Why, because they work and they are inexpensive - the same reasons most "hobby types" use them.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K7ICU on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, a lot of radios come with a UHF jack, but in most cases it can be changed out with a female N. Worst case, use the UHF jack at the radio and a real connector outside.

UHF connectors are only cheap until you spend countless hours and dollars tracking down noises and replacing damaged connectors, transmission line and equipment.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by NO6E on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
The tutorial is beautiful to look at and very
informative. I've noticed the problem with
the center conductor bottoming out, and I'll be
drilling out my prep tool, too.

Charles - I sympathize about the difficulty of
attaching connector to Andrew cable. But if
you haven't tried it lately, you might want to
try again. The new "Ring-Flare" series connectors
are much easier to install than the old L44
series.

73,

Andy NO6E
Lafayette, CA
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KC8VWM on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the tip Andy, I will check it out.

73
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K6IHC on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I use this method

http://www.amphenolrf.com/products/assemblyInstructions/274.pdf

for RG-8/U and RG-213 type cable. Weller 140W gun, Amphenol 83-1SP connectors.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by WA1WLA on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
The last time I used a PL259 was 25 years ago.
N type are easier to install have no impedance bump and are water tight.
Some guys consider N type expensive so they hook up their multi mega buck transceiver to GR8U with PL259.

Constatine WA1WLA
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N6AJR on February 14, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
http://www.sunsetenterprises.com/series.asp?CODE=6187&C=Installation+Tools&S=Stripping


these guys have the UT8000 tool also, nice folks and lots of toys..
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by G3LBS on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
50 years of ham radio and I never had a problem with PL-259 and coax, using a file on the barrel and a Weller soldering gun.
However I have learnt that it is best not to use either PL-259s or coax but always to use twin feeder or open-wire line.
'Buffalo Gil' W2/G3LBS
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W2NSF on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Erik (K6IHC) thanks for the Amphenol RF reference. Nice to see thay recommend tinning the braid and center conductor before assembling. That's what made it finally "click" for me when putting on these connectors. 73 Jim
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by AA4PB on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I've been using PL-259s since the mid 1950's. Some of the connectors out on my tower have been there for almost 20 years. I've never had any problem and have never spent hours tracking down any intermittents or noise problems. I submit that if you are having this much trouble with PL-259 connectors then you are not installing them correctly.

For outside, I use some silicon grease, cover with a layer of good electrical tape and cover that with coax seal. I've opened these up after 10 years of weather exposure and found a bright, shinny connector - no corrosion.

Every rig I own has an SO-239 on it. All of the linear amps I've had used SO-239 connectors on them. Most of the coax switches have SO-239 connectors on them. SWR meters, low pass filters, watt meters - all with SO-239 connectors. The risk of damage by trying to install N connectors on all that equipment is much higher than the possibility of a bad connection on a PL-259.

I suspect, for the average ham, the risk of an improperly installed N connector is much higher than the risk of an improperly installed PL-259.

Yes, N connectors are better connectors. For 440 and up I'd certainly consider them. For HF and VHF they just don't provide any significant advantage.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N3EF on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Well, I have 30 years experience as a marine electronics tech and have installed hundreds of PL-259's. They are not waterproof as some people will tell you. It is rare for me to find one done properly by others, including marine electronics dealers. Occasionaly I will use one of the clamp type connectors. I wonder why they never became popular. Pictures show more than words, so here's a few.

A clamp type PL259 that I sometimes use:
http://home.comcast.net/~fairbank56/pl259clamp.jpg

A properly soldered PL259:
http://home.comcast.net/~fairbank56/solderedpl259.jpg

My method of weatherproofing:
http://home.comcast.net/~fairbank56/wxproofing.html

A different method of soldering the braid:
http://home.comcast.net/~fairbank56/newpl259.jpg

A different way to solder the shield when using a reducer:
http://home.comcast.net/~fairbank56/pl259.html

Eric N3EF
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K4WH on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Nice to see this article again.

I just have to ask. Many years back I started drilling out the solder holes on the PL 259’s, to a bit larger size. For me, it allows a more solder, to flow onto the braid, and also fills the area quicker. The tip I use is just able to fit between the collars of the area where the holes are, so it heats up quickly.

Good idea, bad, or doesn’t matter ?? Seems to work for me.

And yes Alan, I think it’s time to buy a cutter.

Lance L k4wh
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KA5SIW on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Several times I have bought used antenna tuners, watt-swr meters only to find out the coax jumper was bad. I am amazed how many hams don't solder the outside shield on a PL-259. Most of my coax jumpers have lasted well over 10 years, because I take the time to do the assembly right. I use a 300 watt Weller soldering gun. Get the tip hot, apply the tip and solder never more than a three seconds. On, RG-8 coax I trim the braid 1/16 to 1/8 back from the end of the dielectric, I use a smaller soldering iron to tin the braid. Yes, use good solder always, Kesler or Multicore. This is a instance where a "GOOD ELMER" can keep a new ham from possably damaging his/her radio equipment.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by AH6RR on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I found the UT8000 for 32.95 on this page.
http://cell-phone-accessories-wholesale.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=20502
I saw a used one go for $42 here in eHam classifieds.

Roland AH6RR
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N3EF on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
W4LGH wrote:"Other than a direct short, this could cause a mis-match of impedance, if it was to move the center connector closer to one side. This should show up as a higher than normal or expected SWR."

Coax cable impedance isn't affected much by the eccentricity of the center conductor. It can be off as much as 50% and only lower the impedance by about 10%.

Eric N3EF
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KI6LO on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Besides all the great ideas and suggestions already listed, one that I have found to work good for me is when twisting on the body of the PL259 onto the coax jacket, a small dab of silicone grease lightly applied to the jacket ONLY will ease the process and also prevent moisture from trying to wick up the joint if the connection isn't securely wrapped from the environment. Wipe off the excess if any and it's all set.

I also use a jewelers file to rough up the surface around the holes on JAPAN Finished (non-silvered) plugs and tin the shield prior to installing body. Helps make better solder connection between body and shield. Tinning the center conductor also keeps individual strands from 'getting a mind of their own'.

Been doing it this way for 30+ years and have never had a single failure due to installation methods so I guess it works. Putting on N connectors or working with hardline connection is a whole different ballgame.

Gene KI6LO
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by G0GQK on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
The big problem in Britain is finding decent quality PL259's. There just aren't any these days, at any price
The ones always available are those cast things which are produced somewhere in the Far East, not like those little gems which were made during and after WW2

G0GQK
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K5UJ on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I've been reading the comments here with interest. Regarding the UHF plug (a.k.a. PL-259) let's look at the costs and availability of the two types made by Amphenol and available from Mouser (www.mouser.com):

Mouser part no. 523-83-1SP-1050 (Amphenol 83-1SP-1050) is the PL259 with nickel plated body and silver plated pin. One of them costs $3.26 and ten are $2.63 each (prices U.S. dollars).

Mouser 523-831SP (Amphenol 83-1SP) is the PL259 with silver plated body and silver plated pin. I am pleased to see that these are still available. One of them costs $3.88 and ten are $3.13 each.

Not taking anyone to task here but you fellows who are using the nickel plated plugs are not saving that much unless you are using hundreds of pl259s a year. For five dollars more per 10, you can buy yourselves less problems with drilling, filing and all your other prep, plus more reliability. I know that with shipping, especially internationally, the cost adds up but perhaps some of you can work out a deal with other hams in your areas--maybe splitting an order of 100 four ways? A local club order? For 100 of the 83-1SP the price drops to $2.43 each. 25 are $2.71 ea.

73,

p.s. to those who sneer at the humble UHF plugs/jacks, I'm waiting to hear about how you punch out your rear panel jacks and bolt on flanges to mate with your rigid nitrogen dialectric line. why stop at N connectors?
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by HOTROD1972 on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I am a marine electronics tech. My boss K5LQL passed away 2-15-07. The first thing he taught me was if your going to do it, use the good coax and connectors. I use the silver/teflon/gold or gold/teflon/gold depending on avalibility due to gold price. I throw Amp connectors away because i have seen too many that people tried to install and could not get solder to stick, or ones that were 2 years old and corroded so bad that you could not remove them. I am currently doing a clean up of all antennas and coax at the shop. The coax that i am removing is 20 years old and the connectors still come off easy and look good. I in my opinion, go for the good stuff and be done with it for years of worry free use.

BTW. I go for my Tech and General test on 2-24-07. I will pass it!!!
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by HOTROD1972 on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
correction. he passed away 2-8-2007... it's been a long week
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K9KJM on February 15, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I agree that the type N connector is far superior to the PL-259 type. But I am not that much of a fanatic that I am about to change out the connector on the back of a brand new radio to a type N...........

I also agree that the Silver/Teflon Made in USA PL-259 is by far the best to use. MUCH better than the (Higher priced) Nickel Amphenol connectors.
(These silver/teflon connectors used to sell in a bag of 10 for 10 bucks not that many years ago.... I see now they are pushing 4 bucks each!)

Over 25 years ago I was shown the "professional" way to install PL-259 connectors by stripping off about 1 1/2 inches of the outer insulation from the coax, Applying a heavy tinning of solder to the coax braid, All the way to the end. Then WAITING at least 10 or more minutes for the coax to cool down, Then taking a sharp handy knife and cutting thru the tinned shield and the dielectric, Pulling it off, And screwing on the connector. (After making SURE that the barrel part is on the coax first!) Then soldering the center pin and shield holes. NO chance of tiny shield wires shorting out the assembly this way.
After having done hundreds of them with this method with no failures, I am sold on this method.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KG6OMK on February 18, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I'm coming into this with some experience in marine electrical systems. In marine wiring on boats, where wires, vibrations and saltwater mix, no one advices using solder for anything. Connections are always terminated by crimping.

A good crimped connection is 100% "gas tight" that mean no oxygen can get between the wire and connector and the connection can't oxidize. Marine wire comes pre-tinned. It has fine strands (each strand is tinned before it is twisted into wire, so the tinned wire is flexible) the the connectors are tinned. The crimp makes a same metal joint.. Solder makes the wire hard and it can raise stress and crack. In a good crimped connection the wire strands are welded together and there is no airspace between the wire strands.

The down side is the cost of the tools to crimp wire terminals. You need to by the tool, ends and wire all from the same company so it is all a precision fit.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by HOTROD1972 on February 18, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
All of my solder joints are covered with Ancor heat shrink with the adhesive that seals them and acts as a stress releif. I have connections in bilges that are 5 years old and are dry as a bone when i cut them open to replace a pump. I refuse to use crimp connectors on coax. but, on wiring, i will use them if they are the heatshrink type. I use the good stuff or i don't do it.
Shawn

5 days til test day
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K4CC on February 20, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
The quality of the connector is not the only issue but the quality of the workmanship is. Good job all the way down the line. Great comments.

I see high quality N and 7/16 DIN connectors botched all the time by "professionals" who charge cellular companies big bucks to do the work. Most of us cannot afford large volumes of these connectors. Price a 7/16 Din for 7/8" Andrew hardline and figure you need at least 10 in an average shack. Ouch!

Quality workmanship and good weatherproofing is the key! Quality materials help though.

Again great article and comments.

Cary
K4CC
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by W8KX on February 22, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
While I'm sure K0BG's article will provide a suberb connector. I also have to admit that I'm tired of the absurd, almost anal, obsession that many individuals have with the alleged right and wrong way to assemble the PL-259.
Basically I use a sharp electricians knife, a pair of diagonal cutters, a soldering gun (horrors)and a file for the 9913 class cables. They key is experience and knowing what might go wrong, and using good quality connectors and cable to begin with. After 40 years, I rarely get it wrong. Really, the connector is very tolerant and if you screw it up, they are cheap enough to throw away.
W8KX
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by M5RFD on February 23, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
I must admit I have started using the Greenpar pl-259's. These are like a BNC connector where the screen is clamped by a ferrule and doesn't require soldering. Makes for a good connection. Yes they are more expensive than the standard '259's but I reckon its worth it.
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KD4KNR on February 23, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Maybe it would a great help if people would "video" themselves installing a Pl-259 and post it on the internet(youtube.com)

It would help alot of younger hams trying to learn this important skill..(that don't have an elmer handy)

Steve

 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by KB3HSY on February 24, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Great article, I have played with various PL259 connectors and do see a difference, a good solder is great to use but I also like using my Pace sensatemp iron, these units are far batter then any weller (in my opinion), they keep the temperature at the tip accurate and it usually takes me a second to get it to flow without potential melting. If interested, look into the Pace systems, very good and great deals on fleabay.
 
The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by K2WH on February 24, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
Alan,

These two statemtents are a joke right?

"Never, ever use a soldering gun! Soldering guns have very little thermal mass and as soon as you touch the tip to a cold connector what little latent heat there is, is drawn away. While you're waiting for the material to get hot enough to melt the solder, the core is slowly but surely being damaged beyond use. Proper soldering of PL259s requires two soldering irons (more on this later)."

"Never, ever cut coax with wire cutters! Doing so distorts the core and the center conductor making installation of the PL259 body rather difficult. If you don't have a proper cable cutter, a heavy-duty box cutter with a new blade is your best bet. Lay the coax on a scrap chunk of lumber and tap the box cutter through the coax with a small hammer. The cut needs to be clean and even."

I have never used a coax cutter and I always use a soldering gun, ~ 125 watts. I have been for 40 years without nary a single error even using RG-58u. I do have to admit however, to graduating to a box cutter in recent years. Nippers are good for the removal of the outer jacket and then maybe you can finish the job with a box cutter. Soldering with a solder iron is a piece of cake and I never had the inner core distort or melt even while flowing solder through the little holes. Nicking the outer shield is not a problem with a few lost strands.

I know your article is/was about your "Secret" way of preparing PL-259's for installation, but you never went into the non-constant impedance problem of these connectors which start to fail at around 300 mhz and should never be used on 440 mhz and higher. But, that's another story.

K2WH
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by WB9JTK on February 25, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
For those that have never soldered their own PL259, here is a video showing how.
http://ravenas.razorstream.com:80/eve-service/player.jspx?enc=F3279gTsYGs%3D&h=240&w=320
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N1XBP on March 1, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
"I also agree that the Silver/Teflon Made in USA PL-259 is by far the best to use. MUCH better than the (Higher priced) Nickel Amphenol connectors. "


Anyone have a particular US made brand name? I thought Amphenol were US produced. I also seem to come across a lot of cheap-os made by "Hi Watt"
 
RE: The PL259, a Tale of Woe  
by N1XBP on March 1, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
"I also agree that the Silver/Teflon Made in USA PL-259 is by far the best to use. MUCH better than the (Higher priced) Nickel Amphenol connectors. "


Anyone have a particular US made brand name? I thought Amphenol were US produced. I also seem to come across a lot of cheap-os made by "Hi Watt"
 
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