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A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam

from Don Keith, N4KC on December 6, 2008
View comments about this article!

A Practical, 5-Band Homebrew Wire Beam -- the Upside-Down Umbrella

By Don Keith N4KC
http://www.n4kc.com/
http://www.donkeith.com/
http://www.n4kc.blogspot.com/

Experimenting with antennas -- God love ‘em -- is still one area of amateur radio where we can all test, concoct, homebrew, and then see the results of our labors almost instantly. For many of us, it is a real thrill to string some wire from some trees or bolt together some aluminum and noticeably improve our ability to snag signals out of the sky or fling RF into the ether.

Let’s all agree that there is little that is new in the area of antennas. And what there might be is probably beyond the reach -- technically, economically, and engineering-wise -- of most of us. But we can always borrow, filch, modify, and just plain steal from work that has gone on before us and adapt and develop antennas that meet our specific needs. Antennas that give us that thrill when they work better than whatever we were using before. Or teach us something if they are not.

So, I wanted an HF beam. My vertical, my G5RV, my skywire horizontal loop, and my multi-band dipole all do a reasonably good job from 160 through 6 meters. They enabled me to work more than 200 countries with only 100 watts since I returned to being active in 2005. But I yearned for more. And I craved a new project.

I actually purchased a used Cushcraft MA-5B mini-beam and planned to put it atop a 50-foot Rohn 20G tower I acquired. The MA-5 covers 10 through 20 with two elements on 10, 15 and 20 and is a rotatable dipole on 12 and 17. But the lure of building something on my own kept tugging at me. The MA-5 is still wrapped in the package the OM from whom I bought it shipped it to me. Instead, I decided to go out and build myself a “beam.”

Research:

I had a few specifics in mind when I started researching the various possibilities for building an HF beam antenna.

Some signal gain in a specific direction

Side and front-to-back signal rejection

Small wind load -- less than 10 pounds (the 20G is light duty tower)

As small a rotation radius as possible (trees, trees, trees!)

Multi-band capability, hopefully for 10 through 20 meters including WARC bands

Reasonable cost by using readily available materials

And the biggie, something I could build myself, since I don’t have access to a machine shop and I do have five thumbs on each hand

The Internet provides all the information one could want for researching various possibilities, plus there are many good antenna books that have suggestions as well. I looked at Moxons, quads, spider beams, vertical arrays, and more. Each had its good points and several of them seemed to be within my capabilities to build. Then, as I learned more, my interest returned to a particular antenna I had considered when I first returned to the air three years ago.

The commercial version of that antenna is called a “hex-beam” and it is manufactured by Mike Traffie N1HXA. (http://www.hexbeam.com/) The antenna gets very good reviews on the various ham radio web sites, as does the company’s customer service. They are manufactured in monoband and 5-band versions. Some of Traffie’s models are specifically designed for portable operation and are great solutions for those who like to operate from distant mountaintops and want a good directional antenna to carry along and quickly set up. The specs on Mike’s web site are quite interesting and seem to be honestly depicted. I see no reason to doubt their accuracy. The venerable Lew McCoy W1ICP (SK) wrote a glowing report on the antenna in CQ Magazine.


N4KC’s upside-down umbrella antenna, mounted at about 47 feet.

Well, the “hex” seemed to meet all my criteria. Now, I had to decide if it was something I could build myself or if I should start hinting to the proper people about what a great Christmas present Traffie’s creation would make.

As designed by N1HXA, the 5-band hexbeam consists of three pieces of wire for each band. Two of the wires are deployed as a center-fed radiating element and the other acts as a director, making it a two-element beam for each band on which it is designed to operate. The elements are strung around six Fiberglass spreaders that act as supports. The longest wires, the 20-meter elements, carry the tension and pull the spreaders up into a configuration that looks for all the world like an upside-down umbrella without the fabric covering. The shorter wires that make up the elements for the other bands are strung around the upturned spreaders, spaced a distance apart so there is little or no interaction between them. The 10-meter ones are at the bottom, about six inches above the baseplate that holds the bottom ends of the spreaders. In order to keep the turning radius as small as possible, the elements are horizontally arrayed in the shape of the letter W up and down the spreaders (See the graphic below that shows a top-looking-down view of the shape of the wire elements. The spreaders are not shown).

Note that the driven element is fed in the middle and offers about a 50-ohm load. The center of the W for each band’s driven element attaches to two points on a center post, arrayed from the 10-meter wires nearest the baseplate to the point near the top of the post that lines up with the 20-meter element. The antenna itself is fed from the top and Traffie’s version runs a feedline down the middle of the center post, connecting each band’s feed point together. Yes, the beam uses a single feedline for all five bands. Traffie’s reflector is also shaped in the form of a W, presenting a mirror image of the driven element. The point where the ends of the driven element and reflector approach each other is critical in its spacing and employs a spreader to help establish the correct distance and keep it constant.

As I researched farther, though, I learned that several hams had been experimenting with their own homebrew versions of the beam. Steve Hunt G3TXQ had been modeling and building versions of it for some time and had been generous enough with his work to publish it on the Internet (http://karinya.net/g3txq/hexbeam/) as well as in some amateur radio publications. He had also done considerable work in an effort to get even better front-to-back ratio and increase the already broad bandwidth of the Traffie’s hex-beam. Steve had found that by making the reflector a broad U shape around the outside of the spreaders instead of the mirror-image W shape, and by changing the dimensions of the elements, he could make considerable improvement. From his models, the antenna achieved a less than 2:1 SWR throughout all the design bands. 10 meters did not quite manage less than 2:1 across the entire band but it was within reach of the internal tuner in most rigs. The only compromise was that the turning radius increased from about 9 feet to a little less than 11 feet and added a pound or so to the weight.

Back in the USA, Leo Shoemaker K4KIO was taking Steve’s modeling results and developing techniques for turning them into a real in-the-air antenna. In addition, like Steve, he was willing to share his detailed construction recommendations on his well-done web site. (http://www.leoshoemaker.com/hexbeambyk4kio/general.html) The more I studied Leo’s site and read the results of his experimenting, the more excited I became about trying to string this baby together and see how it played. I already had some of the parts I would require including wire and rope. I needed some of the rest -- paint, liquid electrical tape, liquid nails, wire lugs, tie wraps—for other projects anyway -- including some which are decidedly non-ham-radio in case the wife reads this.

By the way, there is a very active hex-beam Yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hex-beam/?v=1&t=search&ch=web&pub=groups&sec=group&slk=1) that talks about the commercial version as well as the homebrew types. The members were encouraging and helpful. And the way Leo described things, building one of these things actually seemed doable.

Doable and worth the trouble! This is not a four-element, wide-spaced mono-band beam. It will not work miracles. It won’t blow holes in pileups. Anyone who thinks it will perform as well as a SteppIR or a full-size Yagi is due to be disappointed. That being said, the thing does appear to do a very good job, considering its size, weight and cost. Many claim it will do far better than it ought to, but I don’t know.

It also seems forgiving of being deployed at low heights and even performs best for most applications at around 50 feet above the ground. Its wind load -- as built following K4KIO’s suggestions -- is less than 6 pounds. Since it is a uniform size and weight and circular in shape, it is not nearly as wind resistant as a conventional beam. As typically constructed, the broadband version of the six-spreader wire beam weighs in at around 20 pounds. That makes it possible to launch it on a push-up mast and rotate it with a light-duty rotator.

On his web site, G3TXQ does an interesting comparison between his broadband antenna (as modeled), the Cushcraft MA-5B two-element beam (like the one still in the shipping package out in my basement), and the HyGain TH11DX, which is, by all accounts, a fine HF antenna. He shows the following comparison measurements for 20 meters and also takes a look at their turning radii, weight, and wind load (commercial beam specs based on material published by the manufacturers, prices the lowest I could find advertised for each):

HyGain TH11DX

G3TXQ Broadband Wire beam

Cushcraft MA5B


Gain (dBd)


6.4


3.8


1.5

F/B (dB)


27


22


22


2:1 SWR B/W (khz)


350


350 <1.7


90

Turning radius (ft)

22

10.7

8.8

Weight (lbs)

88

22

26.5

Wind area (sq ft)

12.5

6

3.2

Price

$1160

$500

Well, much as I would love to have the gain and front-to-back ratio of the HyGain, I simply do not have the area to rotate it (remember my trees, trees, trees?). I am also not quite ready to invest in a tower that would safely hold it. Though there are no antenna restrictions in my town, I still want to remain relatively transparent to neighbors. Being stealthy is another plus of the upside-down umbrella (see below). By the way, some builders maintain the gain of the hexagonal wire beam is somewhere north of 5 dBd on some bands. But even at G3TXQ’s modeled gain predictions, the upside-down umbrella has considerably more gain than the 2-element Cushcraft (especially on 17 and 12 where the MA5B has NO gain…it IS a dipole). It certainly appeared to me that the antenna was worth building.

Preparing for Construction:

Okay, I admit it right here in front of everybody. I am not that handy. Not only have I always been a klutz, but an auto-immune neurological disorder I contracted a few years ago left me with limited fine motor skills. I have trouble holding things like nuts and bolts. Still, looking at Leo’s suggested construction notes, ( http://www.leoshoemaker.com/hexbeambyk4kio/broadhexbuildingnew.html) I decided I could do it. I started gathering the additional stuff I needed.

Two areas had me just a little skittish. One was the spreaders. Some have used PVC pipe, which is cheap and readily available, but they found it tended not to be able to maintain the umbrella shape of the beam. PVC also needs lots of paint to protect it from UV rays. Others have tried cane poles but they, too, have trouble holding up under the strain of maintaining the distinctive shape that keeps the wire elements optimally spaced. On his site -- and for no compensation -- Leo mentions Max-Gain Systems in Atlanta. (http://www.mgs4u.com/index.html) I will also mention them -- for no compensation -- because they offer a fiberglass spreader kit, already specifically cut to the dimensions recommended by K4KIO. That also saves money on shipping. You may be able to find another source for lower price, but this seemed like a reasonable deal to me. I see the Max-Gain guys at hamfests and know they offer good quality merchandise, so I decided to buy the fiberglass spreaders for this project from them. They arrived as promised two days after ordering, all nicely cut and fitting together perfectly. I also have a bunch of 4-foot fiberglass sections left over for other projects, too.

The second concern was the baseplate, the device onto which the spreaders are mounted. This is the true “heart” of the antenna, where the spreaders spread out from, and where the center post passes through. Some hams use plastic-type or tough polyurethane plates or even plywood. These can work, depending on the amount of stress the spreaders and mast put on it or how much weight it adds to the antenna. However, I did not feel that “cutting board” type plastic would be sturdy enough and plywood would eventually succumb to the weather, no matter how much paint I used. I located a supplier who sold aluminum, cut to any shape I wanted, but I had no idea how I would drill out the holes. I only have a cordless hand drill, and I suppose I could have accomplished the task with lots of patience, bit replacement, and battery recharging, but I was worried about getting the holes in the right place. I really wanted this crucial part of the antenna to be precise and tight.

Enter Ron Mott W4RDM. (http://hexkit.ronmott.net/) I saw on the Yahoo hexbeam reflector that he was offering a pre-drilled aluminum baseplate and all the U-bolts and hardware a guy needed for K4KIO’s version. That included a pair of floor flanges that Leo discovered that nicely reinforce the point where the center post runs through the baseplate. (Some people only use one of the flanges but again, that seems like a pretty crucial point for the antenna and two is better.) At first blush, I thought the cost for Ron’s plate and accessories was a little high. Then I priced aluminum plates -- before doing all that measuring and marking and drilling -- and the big-box-hardware-store prices on U-bolts, floor flanges, and the bolts, washers, and nuts to do the job right. I quickly got on Ron’s web site and ordered a plate before he realized he was selling them too cheap. He was kind enough to deliver the whole package to me at the Huntsville, Alabama, Hamfest to save shipping.

(Max-Gain now offers a parts kit (http://www.mgs4u.com/hexbeam-kit.htm) for this antenna that includes pre-cut fiberglass spreaders, wire, and rope. WI4USA (http://www.wi4usa.com/) is selling a full kit and instructions for building the G3TXQ version, too. I have not tried either kit so I can’t give recommendations, but they certainly seem worth checking out if you don’t want to gather up all the necessary parts yourself.)

Building the Beast

Once I had everything gathered up, actual construction went very quickly. The wire elements are attached to the center post and the feedline using bolts and nuts that are stuck through holes I measured and drilled in the Fiberglass. Getting those nuts poked through the holes, using K4KIO’s coat-hanger idea for sticking them through from inside the pipe, proved to be a bit tough for me. I did better when I got a stronger coat hanger to use and got it done, though.

The antenna also uses a single coax feedline and short coax jumpers are employed to connect the center-post bolts where each set of driven-element wires are hooked up to be fed. I made my jumpers from RG-8U since I planned on running some power at some point. Getting them cut to the exact length and bolted in place was quite a challenge. RG-8X would have been much easier but I wanted to use the bigger coax.

Otherwise, following Leo’s suggestions and photos, I had no trouble at all putting the beam together. I married and glued the three sections of each spreader one rainy day inside the basement. I also did the center post assembly that day. When the rain stopped, I sprayed everything with primer and black paint, the better to make it disappear in the trees.

Then, on a beautiful late-summer day, I got an early start and attached the spreaders to the baseplate, measured, cut and attached the antenna wires to the center post and spreaders, and cut and tied the support ropes. The antenna was basically built and shaped, the elements connected and checked with a volt/ohm meter, and set up in about eight hours. Upside-down umbrella or not, it was a beauty to behold!


My upside-down umbrella, seen from my backyard. The tower is bracketed to the house at the 20-foot level. The bracket is lag-bolted through the exterior wall through a 2X6 board on the opposite side of the studs in the attic. With the beam and rotator mounted, it is solid and has practically no sway.

One suggestion: if you follow Leo’s plans, pay attention to his notes about the importance of 128 inches. He offers a nice little geometry lesson on his website. If the spreaders and the 20-meter wire elements are in the correct positions, each dimension from center post to the 20-meter element and between each spreader end will be close to 128 inches.

I built the antenna with the center post mounted on a 5-foot mast that I stuck into the center hole (for the umbrella) in a metal patio table. I had the table in a clear spot in the backyard, hopefully out of sight of neighbors. I piled rocks and other weight onto the table to make sure it did not turn over if we got some wind. That made stringing the antenna wires and support rope relatively easy. A neighbor’s young kids came over and, after watching me work and staring at the beam for a while, they asked me what it was.

“It’s a rose trellis,” I told them. I hope that they relayed the lie to their parents. I told another curious kid it was a digital TV antenna. That’s not totally a falsehood. I guess it could pick up a TV signal, though maybe not efficiently enough to be used for that purpose.

Once the beam was built and everything tightened down, I wanted to get it a little higher off the ground so I could look at the SWR and do any tuning that might be necessary. I lifted the antenna out of the patio table “stand” and placed it gently on the ground. Although it only weighs about 20 pounds as I built it, nd can easily be lifted by anyone of average strength, it still is a little unwieldy and should be handled by the baseplate, not the spreaders or wire elements. I inserted a 10-foot mast into the center post, drilled a hole through mast and center post, and inserted a bolt. Then I tightened on a nut to keep the antenna from turning freely on the mast. I then proceeded to try to lift everything -- antenna and mast -- and poke the end of the mast down inside the middle hole in the patio table. I intended to simply walk it up and drop it down into the table.

I had not anticipated how heavy 20 pounds gets out on the end of a ten-foot mast. I almost lost it a couple of times but finally got it into the opening. I then walked it up until the pipe slid down through the umbrella hole to the ground and everything was upright. The fellow from across the street came running up about then and said, “I saw you doing the Iwo Jima thing and tried to get over here to help!” So much for not letting the neighbors see what I was up to! At any rate, he was fascinated to learn that this was an antenna that could talk to the world. Or at least I hoped would! This particular neighbor knows I am a ham so I spared him the fictional use for all that wire and Fiberglass.

Testing

I checked continuity of the feedline and element connections to the center post and to the coax pigtail I was using to feed it while the antenna was on the ground. Now that it was marginally higher in the air, I was anxious to check SWR. I had about eight feet of the pigtail RG-8U hanging down from the feedpoint (at the top of the center post for a number of good reasons) and I couldn’t wait to hook up my MFJ 259B antenna analyzer and see what I had. Very high SWR would indicate a serious problem somewhere. Or that Leo and Steve were exaggerating how broadbanded the antenna was.

Well, I was impressed. The antenna was mostly better than 2:1 across all bands. 20 meters was a bit high at the upper end of the band. Still, I thought that was acceptable considering that the antenna was only about ten feet off the ground, five feet above the deck, and seven feet above a metal patio table.

Without expecting much, I hooked up my 100 feet of RG-8X that I keep on a run from the shack to outside, just to try out various projects. Then I went inside to give it a whirl on the air. Well, I could easily see directionality and front-to-back. On some signals, it was already the best antenna, but on others, one of the wires or the vertical did better. Still, it seemed to work on all five bands without sparks or smoke. I worked a couple of stations, just to make sure, including the Slovak Republic on 17 SSB barefoot and Croatia on 20 SSB with 600 watts.


Stealth? Can you see the hexagonal beam and tower in this photo, taken from my driveway, almost in my neighbor’s yard? Hint: look straight up from the area between the two windows. You can also see the tip end of one of the spreaders just sticking out from the upper left quadrant of the tree.

Performance

I compare antenna performance to the first time I saw color TV as a kid. I was perfectly happy with my old black-and-white TV picture until I saw the Tournament of Roses parade on my grandmother’s new RCA. Never mind that the “colors” were mostly red and green and the picture was swirling all over the place. It was so much better than what I had before that I thought it was the best it could possibly be.

Anecdotal evidence of an antenna’s performance is shaky, too. If we spend thousands of dollars on a sky full of metal, we tend to think it is the best aerial ever erected by man. Same if we bleed and sweat building something from scratch. Still, I have really tried to remain subjective, and to compare my homebrew hex to the other antennas.

On a dreary October day, we raised the antenna to the top of the 43-foot tower (I decided not to use all the sections I had and mounted a damaged section in the concrete base for a base section.) I hired a ham who is also a professional tower guy to help me. We raised it with a pulley and rope with me pulling from the ground and him guiding it up the side of the tower and preventing it from snagging. This is a relatively delicate operation, so have help who know what they are doing. Standing on the rotor plate (and with his climbing belt safely attached to the tower), my friend lifted the beam up and set it down onto the original five-foot mast. He replaced the bolt beneath the baseplate, through the mast and center post, and bolted it tightly.

I use a Ham IV rotator, which is very much overkill, but it happened to be the one I had. The installation as I did it puts the baseplate at about 47 feet and the 20-meter element at about 50 feet.

So, does it work? Absolutely! I used the beam as much as I had time to in the CQWW SSB contest, listening to stations with the beam and then switching, in turn, between the G5RV, the vertical (ground-mounted Hustler 4BTV with 85 radials under it), the skywire horizontal loop, and the ladderline-fed dipole. The beam, when properly aimed, beat the latter two antennas every time on 20 through 10. The G5RV was typically 2 to 3 S units below the beam on 20 and 17 but not even that close on other bands. The vertical was about the same as the G5RV on 10, 15 and 20 for DX but was considerably below the beam stateside and into the Caribbean and South America.

I had been trying to snag the VU7 in Lakshadweep since they first fired up but had not even been able to hear them well enough to work them. With the beam, I got them on the second call on 17-meter CW. Better propagation? Maybe, but I still could not hear him well enough to work him -- much less break the pileup -- on any of the other antennas. The same thing happened with VK9DWX on Willis Island in the South Pacific. When I log a contact, I note which antenna I’m using and whether or not I’m running the amp -- 600 watts PEP SSB, 400 watts CW. On the entry for VK9DWX I wrote next to “Hex” the note, “Thank goodness…could not even hear him with other antennas.”

I have also had several very nice ragchews with stations all over Europe. I know propagation has been better lately, but again, I checked the other antennas and the wire beam was better -- both ways, transmitting and receiving. Just today, as I was writing this article and in the middle of the day, I heard VQ9RD on Chagos Island in the Indian Ocean on 20 meter SSB. There was a pretty good pileup already but I called once and got him.

Seems like that happens more and more lately. My imagination? Maybe. But some of it has to be my funny-looking rose trellis digital TV antenna.

So there’s the hated “anecdotal” report on the antenna’s performance. It seems that many of the guys who build this antenna become almost evangelical about it, and I’ll avoid claiming it to be any more than a small, two-element compromise antenna. But somehow, it does seem to perform better than it has any right to do, considering its size, weight, cost, wind load, and ease of construction.


Another stealth photo. See the beam? It is to the right of the house. This is the view from the top of my driveway at the mailbox.

Let me make this suggestion, though. If you want a good, light, small antenna that offers excellent SWR, good front-to-back and side rejection, and decent gain over a dipole or vertical across five ham bands, and one that will not have you standing at the window, breathlessly watching it every time the wind blows, then consider this one.

If you don’t feel like building one, read the reviews on the Traffie Hex-beam and decide if it is for you.

If you want to build one yourself, go to the sites of K4KIO for instructions and G3TXQ for the theory behind the antenna.

If you don’t have any of the parts and want to buy a full kit, visit the Max-Gain or WI4USA site and learn more.

If you have or can acquire everything else and want to get a good deal on spreaders and/or baseplate, visit the Max-Gain or W4RDM web sites. If you want to gather the stuff together yourself, do not hesitate.

Put one of these things together, put it up on a push-up mast or light tower, rotate it with a TV rotator, and join the rest of us “hex nuts” having a blast with our odd-looking, upside-down umbrellas.

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N7YA on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent, Don. This looks like just what i needed too. I enjoy building antennas and have been wanting to do a wire beam, but i didnt have my heart set on any one design...this one looks great. Solid presentation as well, i always apreciate that you put all the essential details into your posts, plus the little ones like "can i see it from the road?"...that helps. Im almost exclusively a DXer, any edge i can get is a good thing.

As always, great job, i look forward to more from you.

73...Adam, N7YA
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by KY6R on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Great article, practical and pragmatic.
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by K0UA on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Don, Excellent presentation, I have the MA5B up now for about 4 months, and it works very well, but I learned about the hex beam after already purchasing the MA5B or I would probably looked into it. All of the hex beams I have worked seemed to have great signals. Check back in with us in a few years and let us know how the hex is holding up to the weather. Again thanks for the great article!
James
K0UA
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by ON7RU on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Great article.

I did some research myself and read the postings on the yahoo reflector.
I was convinced by some audiosamples to demonstrate the f/b perfomance :
http://www.leoshoemaker.com/hexbeambyk4kio/broadhexcomparison.html

A couple of weeks ago I dediced to build one myself.
The centerpost is ready, I hope to finish the rest of the project during the xmas holidays. My wishlist for santa claus this year is only 6 crappy fishpoles ;-)

http://www.on7ru.net/hexbeam.htm

 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N4PIQ on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Great article.
For those having reservations on building one, I have built 6 so far for myself, and friends. All have performed great even at heights of only 20 ft.
If one follows the directions given by K4KIO and G3TXQ, it will make a worthwhile project.
I have used both pvc and fiberglass for the spreaders and aluminum and plastic for the base plate.

The fiberglass/aluminum is the way to go for a stronger installation.

Steve N4PIQ
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by KC8RPD on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Nicely written, and illustrated. Some months back I machined a few baseplates from somewhat heavier stock than what most have been using (1/4" aluminum plate), mostly because 1/4" was less expensive from my supplier. Since that time, I've been considering doing another run as the inherent strength of the heavier version has me considering a 40/30m version, with the 40/30 and 5 band mounted coaxially, back to back. For those wondering, including 30 and 40 on a Classic, making a 7-band version, was rejected as impractical, there was some discussion of this on the Yahoo group. For those who may be interested, watch the group this spring for more information.
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N7BUI on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Don,

Thank you for an extremely well written and VERY interesting article.

Eham...I think you've earned my support again. The quality of articles being posted has vastly improved recently. Thank you and keep up the good work.
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N3QT on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Nice write!

Tks Es 73, John de N3QT
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N0AH on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Super job...........
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by G0GQK on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
A really professional presentation of your antenna and how you made it.

Mel G0GQK
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N3OX on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
"On a dreary October day, we raised the antenna to the top of the 43-foot tower"

43 foot tower? It must work AWESOME!

43 feet is a MAGIC NUMBER

;-)

Nice article, nice beam ...

73,
Dan
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by KD7YVV on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
It's just a little more than the answer
to life, the universe, and everything. 42.

Very nice article.

--KD7YVV, Kirkland, WA

 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by K6AER on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I think next week I do an engineering exposé of a 4 element beam with moving elements. In the article I’ll point out how with certain materials you can produce an antenna just like the SteppIR beam. Now, no one will be able to obtain all the materials needed for their homemade SteppIR beam so you will need to just call up the manufacture and order one already made up.

This is the most thinly disguised effort to advertise for Traffie Technology hex beam I have ever scene. The information is the same as they hand out ever year at Dayton and the test results are purely antidotal. Comparing S units to other antennas in an uncontrolled environment is unscientific smoke and mirrors at best.

Strip away the fluff and color pictures from the article and there is nothing there. It is just a 2 element linear loaded wire beam that can be rotated. No better and maybe worse than the 2 element Moxon design.

I can’t believe the folks at E-Ham let this one through.

Better yet lets have all the manufactures do a review of all their products and we can post it them the articles section.
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by WB2WIK on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Good deal, although the article was too long to keep my interest.

The Traffie Hex Beam works well for its diminutive size, and the article is basically describing one.

Homebrewing a Hex Beam is a nice project, although the commercial version is reasonably priced and it probably comes out about the same, overall.

*Any* beam is definitely better than no beam! Those who think their dipole, G5RVs, Windoms and so forth can work as well are in for a big suprise if they try a real beam antenna of almost any design.

Nice effort and photos.

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N9WW on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

Don, great article.

I was wondering when a pompous ass comment would be posted. Now I know...

73,
Jim N9WW
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by K0AP on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
WB2WIK:
Good deal, although the article was too long to keep my interest...

Steve,
some of your articles are quite long too but they still kept our interest...

WB2WIK:
Homebrewing a Hex Beam is a nice project, although the commercial version is reasonably priced and it probably comes out about the same, overall...

Steve,
You can build your own HEX beam for the third of the price of Traffie beam so you are wrong...

73 Dragan K0AP
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by PLANKEYE on December 6, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Good deal, although the article was too long to keep my interest.

The Traffie Hex Beam works well for its diminutive size, and the article is basically describing one.

Homebrewing a Hex Beam is a nice project, although the commercial version is reasonably priced and it probably comes out about the same, overall.

*Any* beam is definitely better than no beam! Those who think their dipole, G5RVs, Windoms and so forth can work as well are in for a big suprise if they try a real beam antenna of almost any design.

Nice effort and photos.

WB2WIK/6

_______________________________

PLANKEYE:

You spit in his face and then tell him it was just a Sneeze.

Nice effort, but it didn't work.





Plankeye

 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by OZ6ABM on December 7, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Built one of these with the fantastic help of Leo and Steve. Excluding the mast and coax that I had before, the antenna cost me less than 100 US$ in materials. Nearly 2 years on this antenna is still up and it rocks! I have no problem working any continent and that's using 100 W and up at about 40 feet. To see pictures and more visit the yahoo group.

73
Robin
5P5R/OZ6ABM
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by G3LBS on December 7, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I can't see it's much more trouble to build a spider quad?
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by OZ6ABM on December 7, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Space requirements for a spider beam are greater. Can't recall the exact values, but the radius of a 5-band beam as described is approx. 3 meters.

Robin
OZ6ABM
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N4KC on December 7, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
G3LBS: the diameter of the hex as described is about 22 feet/6.7 meters. I don't know what the dimensions are for the quad you mention. I would suspect a two-element quad would be bigger if it included 20 meters, and, with the spreaders necessary, would be heavier and more of a wind load, but I admit I don't know. The Moxon would be bigger (25.5 feet across the front and 9.3 feet deep) and more unwieldy, especially if you try to make it multi-band. The performance doesn't appear to be that much better (on the order of 25 dBd front-to-back and 5.5 dBd gain).

More "antidotal" words on the beam's performance: I worked KH8/KK6H in American Samoa on 20 SSB yesterday at 1820Z. I copied him about S7 on the homebrew beam. He gave me 59, but he was also giving other stations less at times. He was just above my S3 noise level on the vertical -- possibly workable but I didn't try on that antenna.

It was a new country for me. And I got it.

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
www.n4kc.blogspot.com
(A blog dedicated to rapid technological change and
its effect on society, media and amateur radio)


 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by G3LBS on December 7, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
A spider quad is approximately an 18 ft cube.
It has optimum spacing all bands. Its performance is better f/b and forward gain and it is wide-band. The spreaders are 15ft.
It weighs about 35 lb.
If, as most of you claim, you have the facility to put your beam at 40 ft or so, you also have the facility to do the same for a spider quad.
But there, a spider quad separates the men/women from the boys/girls.
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by VE3TMT on December 7, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
WB2WIK:

Article too long to keep your interest..talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

I thought it was a great write, the photos documented everything perfectly. I have been considering building a Hex style beam for a while myself and when I see articles like this it really does make it seem easy.

Excellent article, keep up the good work.

PS Steve, you forget to mention once again how you have never had antenna problems at any of the 16 houses you've owned.
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by KE4NU on December 7, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Don, you wrote a very nice article. Too bad there always has to be some assinine comments made on any and every article posted here. The BBHB is a viable alternative to spending a bunch on a commercial beam. I live on a budget as many people do especially these days and this is a homebrew antenna that is affordable. You don't have to have a tower nor a heavy duty rotor as most monster beams require. I've built a 4 band version of the BBHB and have it at 40 ft and it works great. I've got maybe $200 invested in the beam. I had a hybrid quad for several years and managed to work a lot of DX but this antenna makes it a lot easier. I don't even have to use the amp anymore. Don, thank you for sharing your experience with your antenna. Maybe your article will inspire someone to build one. Isn't that the purpose of the article anyway? 73, Alan
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N6TZ on December 8, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

I have been using a Traffie Hex 5 band beam for about 7 years or so. It is a great performer and well built. Traffie is a great dealer to do business with. Yes they cost a bit, but look at some of the advantages:

About 26 pounds so you can put them into the rotator with one hand, and use a lighter weight rotator and tower. Don't use a cheap TV rotator.

One feedline with good SWR on all bands. 9 1/2 foot turning radius.

I tied the reflectors at the center together with 12 guage wire and bonded it to the tower so that the reflectors would give more Top-Loading for my "all lower bands" shunt fed tower. You can see my system at:
http://earthsignals.com/N6TZ (url is case sensitive)

I love the antenna,

Hal, N6TZ
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by G3LBS on December 8, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Looks like a mutual admiration society here to me. Or an ad. I will gracefully retire with my spider quad -sorry guys I can't get through to you with some measurements since this is a qualitative discussion group. Don't forget that Sir Arthur Eddington, the great cosmologist and a fellow countryman of mine, said 'anything that can be measured is infinitely nore valuable'.
Buffalo Gil W2/G3LBS
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by KM6CZ on December 8, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Mike,

This article is for real. I built this antenna and it works. Clearly, its not a STEPPIR, but the reference information has nothing to do with Traffie. The beam being discussed is actually a broadband version of the Traffie's hexbeam. The beam is much closer to an X beam than a moxon. The antenna is a compromise over a full size or even a trapped yagi, but is quite effective. A 30/40m hexagonal beam will fit within the same footprint of your STEPPIR and provide some gain and F/B over the dipole element. Give it some thought, lightweight, low wind loading and no moving parts.
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by KE5DFK on December 8, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Wonderful job on your build and article. As someone who likes to tinker and build antennas as best I can I found the writeup interesting and informative.

One thing that shines through in your article is the excitement and pride in building your own beam and seeing it work and making the contacts you could not make before.

Keep up the wonderful work you are doing and don't let anyone keep you from it. There will always be those that support your work with interest. Then you have those that will slam it no matter how good.

Great work again.

Carlos
KE5DFK

 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by WD6S on December 8, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article - it mirrors my experience building a hex beam from Leo Shoemaker's directions. I too used the pre-cut fiber glass poles from Max Gain and the aluminum base plate from Hex kit. Mine tunes up on every band in the 1:1 to 1:1.2 range.

I haven't installed a tower yet, but even at 10 feet I have worked Russia, Japan, and Europe from San Diego. It is a fine antenna design and a fun project to build, though it takes quite a bit of time.
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by K4KIO on December 8, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article Don. I don't think you made any claims for the antenna that weren't justified.

One more bit of info; the G3TXQ broad band hex beam can now be purchased at www.wi4usa.com.

 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N6TZ on December 8, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

For G3LBS - Buffalo Gil:

Even though I wrote my comments giving great praise to the Hex beam, I agree that the Cubical Quad is a better antenna.

At this QTH, the standard quad would not fit on the lot without over-hanging the neighbor’s lot. So the 9 1/2 foot radius is an important factor in deciding on the Traffie Hex.

I have had both the single spaced quad and the spider quad and they both work very well. It is hard to realize the difference between the two when it comes to on-air operation in my opinion.

I had the Gem quad in the 70's and the problem was the sun baking the fiberglass to a crisp. That is when I went to the Cubex with the better mechanical design.

There was a spider quad made in the 60's called the Maco quad, and it was a far superior mechanical spider quad than the Gem design. Unfortunately the Maco did not stay in business. I remember that design and it would not be hard to re-create one of those by using the Cubex fiber arms.

Hal, N6TZ
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by G3LBS on December 9, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
N6TZ wrote -
'At this QTH, the standard quad would not fit on the lot without over-hanging the neighbor’s lot. So the 9 1/2 foot radius is an important factor in deciding on the Traffie Hex.'

But surely a 20m quad is an 18ft cube with a turning radius of only 9ft.?

Did you lacquer the GEM quad fibergass tridetic spreaders?
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by G3TXQ on December 9, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
>>By the way Steve, my first inclination was to email you or Leo about this, but didn't want to make a pest of myself. <<

Feel free to "make a pest of yourself" either here, on the Yahoo group or by private eMail - I enjoy helping fellow hexbeam enthusiats achieve a succesful "build".

73,
Steve
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N6TZ on December 10, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

For G3TXQ,

Not to beat a subject to death, but a cube would have a turning radius based on the hypotenuse of a length of 1/2 the length of the element spacing and a length of 1/2 the quarter wavelength of the lowest frequency length of the reflector....or about 10+ feet.

But I would not think of erecting a non-spider quad in the box configuration, but would only build the diamond configuration. Many reasons for this, including better structure strength and coax attachment, and also ease of tuning by working on just the bottom spreader points for lengthening or shortening the elements. Remember the lower spreader will be right near the tower. With a diamond configuration, the turning radius is about 13 1/2 feet - - and this is for a short two element spacing of 8 feet between elements. I have a 3 element to put up some day.

Think of a single element of the quad as a bent dipole, voltage feeding another bent dipole stacked above it in a manner that the two outer ends of the dipoles meet. It is kind of a pair of stacked two element beams. By bringing the element tips of the dipoles together, the Q of the entire system is dropped. Therefore the high impedance with high voltage at the point where conventional dipoles (beam elements) came to their tips does not exist. This cured the corona discharge at the hight elevations with moisture in Equador where the quad was developed at HCJB by Clarence Moore, W9LZX.

See: http://lists.contesting.com/_towertalk/2002-11/msg00393.html

Does anyone remember the Hy-Gain company’s all aluminum quads of the 1960-70s ? They were diamond configuration with the horizontal aluminum spreaders broken up with heavy duty fiber glass or some other material. Each driven element (only 3 bands then) was gamma matched, and only one coax fed the system. Each gamma looked like a poor impedance match to the frequency which was not intended for that element to operate on. That was good engineering. There was still one of these in the air in Phoenix, AZ about a block from Bethany Home road and 35th avenue as of about a year ago.

Hal, N6TZ
see my 5 band shunt fed tower at: http://earthsignals.com/N6TZ (address case sensitive)
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N6TZ on December 10, 2008 Mail this to a friend!

I mislabeled my last posting. In stead of directed to G3TXQ, it was meant to be directed to G3LBS.

Hal, N6TZ
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by G3LBS on December 11, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Hal what about the relative polarizations?
And why can't you have a diamond spider quad - I can just turn mine round in the vertical plane?
You are correct and I was incorrect - the turning radius of a spider quad is about 10 ft not 9ft as I said, but that is insignificantly more than the antenna which is the subject of this article.
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N4KC on December 11, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I feel the need to mention again that the upside-down umbrella is AN alternative, not THE alternative to anything else. It's relatively easy to build, raise, feed and use.

At my age, I'm all about "easy."

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
www.n4kc.blogspot.com
(A blog dedicated to rapid technological change and its
effect on society, media and amateur radio)




 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by KK0DJ on December 11, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Wow... K6AER... you may not know this, but not everyone has a BSEE with 35 years of experience as you do. Neither are many hams professionals in the field of radio. Remember that we are called Amateurs for a reason. We are not professionals. If building a beam gets someone to purchase one of Mike Traffie's beams, then all the better - we are Capitalists after all. Not sure why you are so embittered by Don's work. It may be well for you to do a story on your travails as a tower engineer for the wireless company you work for? If you do, I will take a look to see if someone is a short and curt with you as you have been of Don - we can hope otherwise so that we remain civil to each other. Cut others some slack man! You don't even know Don and you crucify his effort! Merry Christmas OM! or is it Bah Humbug?
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N4KC on December 11, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Dennis KK0DJ, thanks to you and others for having my back but Mike's comments didn't hurt my feelings. Writing articles for eHam is a bit like running naked through the mall. You open yourself up for all kinds of feedback and accept that some may not appreciate what you do. I'm not sure what rubbed K6AER the wrong way about my article. I usually enjoy his posts here. But I have not given his comments a second thought.

Of course, the article was never intended to be an advertisement for Mr. Traffie's aerial, as K6AER charges. On the other hand, if he had actually read it, he would see that it may well cost Traffie some sales if people view the resources I cite as being available for homebrewing one. I have never met Mr. Traffie nor have I seen or used any of his products. I have talked to guys using them on the air, and I read the reviews here on eHam and visited his web site when I was considering antennas. That was the basis for my positive comments about the commercial version of the hex.

My goal was to make folks aware of an antenna that might fit their needs as the broadband hex did mine. And one that could be built relatively easily with readily available materials and using some darn good construction suggestions found on the Internet. From 95% of the comments I've seen here and in my personal email, it appears I succeeded.

I'm happy.

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
www.n4kc.blogspot.com
(A blog dedicated to rapid technological change and its
effect on society, media, and amateur radio)
 
RE: A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by W5WSS on December 11, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Hello, Don nice showcase and article. Over The past many years all the antennas I have used have been home made except one. I am doing home made improvements to that one anyway, I appreciate your efforts and can relate to your writs. Your evaluations are reasonable with respect to offsets that are indicative of comparative differences of antennas at differing heights,polarity etc. Your explanations help to keep confusion that often abounds here in these forums to a minimum. That of which I am not to sure I am very well off in that department..My compliments to your work!

Oh and hey Steve seems like they are really burnin' you huh? he he. Regards 73
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by VE7BDO on December 11, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Don,
Great job and they really do work very well! I went through precisely the same search/process as did you. For weeks I took measurements, made little paper models of various antennas and put them over a lot/house plan to see what might work in my location (without the XYL or the neighbors shooting me).

I settled on Steve's design and Leo's very practical and well-documented build website.

The antenna has performed wonderfully well and "given" me several new countries. I have even started working QRP with my hex at appropriate times and have worked several VK's and ZL's on 5 watts with the hex. $/watt = pretty darn good!

The other thing that I've noticed is how quiet the antenna plays.

I'd joined the Yahoo hex group before building and have posted my pix with the group.

Great article and while long, it's well-written and presented. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Cheers and 73!
Robert
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by WJ1R on December 14, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Great article! It is very helpful that you listed the web addresses for obtaining the base plate assembly and fiberglass tubes.

Best,
Jim
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by W4RDM on December 16, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
Until I got interested in the Hex Wire Beam I thought that homebrewing beams was pretty much dead. But, with the work done by Steve G3TXQ and Leo K4KIO this antenna can be built by pretty much anyone. The cost of the material is less than what the rotor cost to turn my 3 element SteppIR. Antenna building is one of the final frontiers for amateur radio homebrewing. It is good to see someone like Don - N4KC to take the time to write about his antenna homebrewing experience.

73's

Ron W4RDM
 
A Practical, 5-band Homebrew Wire Beam  
by N5ELK on December 20, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I thought the article was very good. It kept my intrest mainly because I have been to about every website I have been able to find on Hex antennas. I dont have a lot of room so I am using a Hy Gain Hy-Tower. For a verticle I dont think it can be beat.....Anyway I want to try to build one of these Hex antenna's. We will see what happens...Thanks for all the great info!! Dennis N5ELK
 
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