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HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band

from Dale Kubichek, N6JSX on April 2, 2012
View comments about this article!

HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band
(A how-to for 18AVT, AV-12/14, 5/4BTV resurrection)

by N6JSX /8, MS-EET

I bought this used Hy-gain 18AVT 5-band (80/40/20/15/10m) vertical in the mid 80s. I mounted it 12 off the ground in California, it sort of worked but I was NOT impressed with few DX contacts. Now with +40yrs of HAMing, all the Internet articles, and QSOs that continue to tout HF verticals being the theoretical best antenna for DX it was time to resurrect my mothball from the rafters. Here is what I did to restore my 18AVT, making it one of my NEW FAVORITE HF antennas at my Ohio country home.

First, I refurbished the antenna making all joints shine, again. Applied liberal amounts of Penetrox to all joints, replaced all clamps with stainless steel clamps, made new top hat radials (using copper coated steel brazing rods bird strong), cleaned up the 80m coil and re-hot glued it back together. I replaced the old stinger cut for 3925 with a new stinger cut/tuned for 3800 (what a hassle that was to buy from MFJ/Hy-gain). Course adjusted all traps to cover my SSB selected centers; 28,500, 21,275, 14,220, 7,180, & 3,800. Mounted and retuned all traps starting at 10m working down to get a 1:1 on all selected centers using a MFJ-269. Its a lot of up-down work (why I use wing nuts on the U mounts) but worth the time. I use nylon guy rope for added stability due to serious open county Ohio winds.)

I dislike ground radials due to all the required work to install properly; so here is where I was going to experiment. I mounted the AVT to the fence post of our new chain-link fence. { Recently we installed a fenced area behind our house-garage to allow our Jack Russell Terrorists free but controlled roaming then installed doggy doors to the area. One of my better home improvements that bought me favorable accolades from my XYL! } The 5 chain-link fence is mounted at 4 height (burying one foot into the ground for anti-dog dig-out). The near house section is 18 long (up to the side gate) where the AVT is mounted.

Ive read about the attributes of the Ugly-Balun, here was my opportunity to test it.

My Ubalun is made on 4 PVC with 26 wraps of RG-8x (~30 of wrap), used hot glue at the holes and electrical tape on the ends easy. Bent up some mounts and attached it to the fence high enough to insure the lawn tractor misses it too. The fence has an added bonus of providing a nice off ground coax run to the house.

The Ugly-Balun really made my vertical a performer. I now got into EU, Med, Africa, and Asia (as well as all points North America). This vertical NOW impressed me and was living up to vertical DX claims. Using my IC-746P and MFJ-989c I was making solid DX contacts even during flaky band conditions. I only need to use the tuner for 75m outside 3725-3875 and the extreme edges of 40m SSB due to >2.5:1. The recheck of my ATV center frequencies showed all to be 1:1.

But I was still not happy with the 18AVT as it is only five-bands (80/40/20/15/10m), my favorite day time band is 17m.

On the internet Id come across articles on how to add-a-band to a vertical. These articles were so oblivious and easy to do, I had to try. I made the brackets (adding my own touches to improve mechanical strength).

Thick-wall 1 PVC insulating bracket & 1.25x1.25 aluminum L bracket

I only use this string-pulley to tune in the quarter wave 17m (starting at 13.5) element length and pruning it down to get 1:1 VSWR @ 18.135 MHz. I replaced this string with a SS spring between the PVC and egg insulator, adjusting the PVC mount position to apply only moderate spring tension. Once again, I rechecked all other bands for 1:1 VSWR at my selected center frequencies and found no affects or adjustments needed.

In theory, the actual element connection point is at the aluminum hole in the L, but I ran the stranded copper 14AWG Radio Shack antenna wire (with soldered eye-lug) to the mounting clamp to insure conductivity and minimize oxidation impacts. The hole may need to be readdressed (with a fixed bolt/nut) if I find friction wear after this winter to the 17m wire element at the hole.

Here is my restored 18AVT SIX-band vertical with Ugly-Balun fence mounted.

Member Comments:
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HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by WB0HZL on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article and filled with good information. Reminds me of when I mounted my 4BTV elevated on the side of my house after I returned from Germany in 1983 - had to get on the air for the Sweepstakes.

When I get back to the United States I will have to try the Ugly-Balun with the old 4BTV.

Thanks for the memories.
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by KB1WIE on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
If I were to try this Ugly-Balun approach but did not have enough coax to make 30' of wrap could I splice in more cable? Or would it be better for the coax to be one full length piece? I am using 50' and only have about 10' left over at my antenna. Thanks!
RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by WX7G on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Great installation and FB on your Jack Russell Terrorist dogs. I called my JRT-Fox Terrier mix a JR Terrorist too.
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by WI4P on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice article and good looking construction/installation.....even
the "UGLY" balun looks good!
RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by AC5UP on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
One Thot:

It has been my experience that black PVC is most resistant to UV damage. While the grey RG-8X looks good as installed, I'd keep an eye on the sheath for signs of brittleness or cracking. Generally takes a year or so before it becomes obvious...

I also raised an eyebrow when I noticed the unprotected PL-259, but that's a quick fix and gravity will definitely shed water away from the connector. Enjoy the DX while it's running hot 'cuz it was a long wait for it to get here..... ;)
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by W5SO on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Good article - maybe there is hope for my 18AVQ in the garage...Question: Just to be clear, no other radials other than the galvanized fence?
Thanks and 73s
RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by W6OGC on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Try 12 turns of RG-58/Rg-8X on a FT240-43 toroid core like shown in
RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by VK1OD on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
There are 23 different ugly baluns shown at the Hamuniverse reference given.

They are all different, and not one of them shows measured or predicted R and X vs frequency.

If the purpose of these is to choke common mode current (as the article asserts, having stated that the ugly balun "is not actually a balun", surely R(f) and X(f) are important characteristics.

One is left wondering if there is any science to these 'designs'.

RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by K0BG on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Ugly baluns never work as intended! They are narrow in frequency range, and almost never have any real common mode rejection.

Properly wound ferrite current baluns, using correctly-selected material (mix) for the frequency of use, often exhibit octaves of primarily resistive reactance.

Not only that, but considering the cost of coax nowadays, ferrite choke (current) baluns are cheaper overall!

Alan, KBG,
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by KA4ETV on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Nice work. I have two ugly baluns I built and they both work great. Thanks for this good article.
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by KD4LLA on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
On the subject of a fence for your dogs... My brother uses a wire buried around the perimeter of his house for his St Bernard, Wilson. It has worked well for over five years. It can't be seen, but if Wilson gets to close, he gets a tickle, then a zap for reinforcement. Can't leave it in it during darkness, because he can run through it not knowing where the boundaries are. I hope the fence works for "both" of your problems!

HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by N0AH on April 2, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
All that work and you stated you dislike the work that goes into radials?? Har! 73 paul N0AH
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by K1FPV on April 3, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Nice Article! I've always been partial to vertical antennas. My only complaint about verticals has been the higher receiving noise levels.

I'm planning a move in the near future. May possible consider something along the lines of this.

RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by W9PMZ on April 3, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
If you don't like radials and you have a 1 to 1 match then you probably are still not going to like the DX performance. Verticals need their image to work and work well.

All other efforts are just to make the SWR gods happy....

I have a 5BTV with 80 radials between 33' and 60' long. When on 40M or 75M I have never failed to make a DX contact.


Carl - W9PMZ
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by N2OBM on April 3, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Dale, if it working for you...have fun.

I am going to have to 'settle' for a vertical (er...uh...flag pole) in the near future.

Can you beleive they MADE me do a tour in Hawaii before I retire?

Thanks for some ideas!


RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by N5TGL on April 5, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
"If you don't like radials and you have a 1 to 1 match then you probably are still not going to like the DX performance."

I agree with that, sounds like there is significant ground loss in the system with the 1:1 results. Characteristic impedance of a 1/4 wave vertical is 36 ohms (swr of 1.38) and goes lower as the antenna is electrially shorter. I'm sure it works ok, but there's more performance to be had! A galvanized fence doesn't make a very good RF ground. It's better than nothing, for sure, but it's nothing like a conventional radial system.

I'm guessing the ugly balun made the difference because your feedline was radiating...which is due to in part of not having a good RF ground, i.e. your fence.

Good experiment, nice writeup and pics.

73 Michael
RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by KI4FIA on April 5, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article and I'm very partial to vertical antennas as that is what 99% of my state-side and DXing is done on.

My 1 question is if you are using a vertical cut for each band, then why the antenna tuner? Tuners introduce an element of inefficiency.

I think you might have better antenna efficiency if you would ground mount your vertical and add ground radials. I understand your comment about ground radials, I too had the same issues until a local ham told me a neat trick that really works. I simply mowed my grass as short as possible, laid the wire (14 gauge) on the ground and used "ground staples" (purchased from Walmart, Lowes, Homedepot,or DX Eng) and let the grass grow about 2 weeks before the next mowing. It worked great, 6 years later and I never hit a radial with the mower.

My vertical setup is a Hustler 6BTV, I used the same trick to add 17mtrs to it. Without a tuner it get full band coverage on 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, and 10mtrs. Since I adjusted my vertical for best results in the CW portions of the bands, my SWR is around 2 or 2.2:1 at the high end of some bands, but both my radio and amp handles that just fine when I get on the high ends of SSB on 20, 15 and 10.

I have about 30 radials, all different lengths, but a total of around 1,000' of wire on the ground.

Not liking the performance on 80mtrs I put up an 80mtr Inverted L, and to get on 160mtr I put up a 160mtr Inverted L. Using several pieces of 14guage wire I tied the ground side both Inverted L's to the main radial plate of the 6BTV. The 160 Inverted L is located about 3' away from the 6BTV while the 80 Inverted L is about 8' from the 6BTV. I get excellent DX performance on all the bands with this setup.

This setup handles 1KW from my ACOM 1000 amp very nicely.

In the last 6 years I've logged over 15,400 QSO's and worked just over 200 countries on this setup. Over 70% of that was done on 100watts or less. I have a small tri-band yagi (only up 25') and it is rare that the yagi out performs this vertical setup on the high bands. Just the other night I was CQing on 20mtr SSB and had YI5 call me, not too long ago on 17CW I was CQing and had HL5 call me! And most times when I'm CQing I'll have many DX stations call me including JA's ZL's and VK's

I have pictures of my shack and antennas here:

I almost forgot - No chokes, No Balun, No Problems and now my shack is a Tunerless shack....

George - KI4FIA

RE: HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by NO9E on April 5, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Once I used a chain link as a radial for my wire vertical on 160m. SWR was beautiful but performance seemed good only until I could compare it to something else. I gained at least 2S replacing the chain link with 2 elevated radials. Most likely the soil contacts in the chain link make this a very lossy radial.

Ignacy, NO9E
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by KE4ZHN on April 5, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I tried one of these so called ugly baluns once. What a waste of time and effort. Look at W8JI's balun test page to see what a joke these really are. Even a cheap piece of crap balun outperforms these coax abortions. These amount to a half assed choke at best and worst case do nothing but make you think youre feeding your antenna properly. Just because you arent detecting RF in the shack doesnt mean the shield of the coax isnt radiating like a sieve. Do yourself a favor..use a proper UNUN on the feedline. Do yourself another favor...ground mount that vertical and lay a proper radial field under it. If you think it plays now...try real radials and see. Chain link fences are usually galvanized steel and only go in two directions from under the base of the vert. mounted in this fashion. How can this be a proper counterpoise for the antenna? On top of this galvanized steel is a lousy conductor due to the coating. You essentially have a lossy two radial counterpoise on this antenna. Most commercially made verticals Ive seen have a minimum of 3 radials if their in the air. Of course if you dont ground mount it you dont need near as many radials due to the reduced ground loss. But, they STILL need to be there.

The same thing happens when you mount a mobile antenna in a funky spot on a vehicle. It becomes directional due to the odd shape of the counterpoise under it. It IS in fact half of the antenna! Also, having dozens of links touching and corroded like these usually are from being outside, the junctions of the fence links form crude diodes and may contribute to strange RFI issues. If you think Im joshing..research WW1 trench radios and see what a rusty razor blade can do. A wet noodle will make contacts when the bands are right..but if you want that thing to play like it should you need to do some more work. Im not trying to slam the author here. Its just kind of silly when amateur radio sites spread disinformation to the masses as cure all's for challenging antenna locations. Just my two cents.
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by PY9FP on April 5, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
The setup of mine is: ( 80 to 10m band ) Whip= 6.10m..B&W coil , with antenna tap and feeding tap.
Homebrew the coil...INDUTANCE=51 microHenry.
coil lengh=10 inches...diameter=2,5 inches
turns per inch 6 wire size 12 gauge.
Thanks in advance for appreciating my post.
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by K4JC on April 7, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I wish I'd seen this article sooner! I've been using a fence mounted Hustler 6BTV for the past 3 years now - no radials, just the fence as a counterpoise. For a balun I made 8 turns of coax around a 4" form at the base of the antenna (then took the form out). With this setup I have worked all 50 states and around 220 countries, mostly using 100 watts. I'm glad someone finally told me this won't work! :-p
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by KL7CW on April 11, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the article and pictures. I often operate portable and have found that clipping on to a fence, culvert, metal picnic table, etc works fine for a temporary portable antenna "ground". Sometimes an elevated resonant radial or two works great. Clipping onto an additional actual grounded object may either help or degrade performance. Usually the more grounds and counterpoises the better, but on a few occasions attaching an additional earth ground actually "just sucked away" many db of signal. I model antennas, but have no idea how yours should theoretically perform. Contrary to what some posters say , 2 resonant elevated radials actually perform nearly the same as 3 or 4 radials with only a slightly distorted circular pattern. Some posters suggested a burried radial system. That is fine, but please remember you need something like AT LEAST 16 radials at least 1/8th wavelength long on the lowest frequency for even moderate performance. The elevated portion of the fence is probably resonant on few if any bands. However IF most of the current flows along the top of the fence, performance MIGHT approximate that of 2 elevated radials. IF most of the current flows down into the ground, the performance might approximate 2 burried radials, which would perform rather poorly even for long radials. I would guess your antenna would perform better than one with only a few burried radials, but not nearly as well as one with either a proper elevated radial system or a good burried radial system. This would only be true if the top rails and other galvanized or aluminum parts are securely bonded together. The galvanized coating is mostly zinc, which is actually a rather good conductor. Its not as good as aluminum, but is much better than iron, steel, tin, lead, etc. Many hams and commercial concerns use galvanized towers as rf radiators. I would bond the top rails togther, or run a copper wire the whole length of the top rail and bond it to the top rails at each junction. Also make sure you have a good current path past the gate. Possibly a burried piece of scrap coax bonded to the top rail each side of the gate. This just MIGHT possibly encourage much of the current to flow there instead of down into ground.....this is just a guess. With antennas, often things do not work the way that at first seem logical. Keep a watch out for RFI....there are many possibilities with all the poor connections between fence wires, posts, rails, gates, etc. Just my thoughts, 57 years of hamming and I do not have all the answers. Rick KL7CW Palmer, Alaska
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by N6JSX on April 14, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
For those of you that liked my article - hope it was informative, useful, and entertaining (more coming).

I found that my IC-746P tuner works well on 40m SSB band edges but not the full 75m SSB range, hence I must use my roller inductor tuner to bring in 75m extremes. Remember, 3.6-4.0 wavelength difference is 25.6' vs 7.125-7.3 is 2.4' vs 14.150-14.350 is 0.8'.
And yes tuners are inefficient wasting energy to trick the TX into radiating full power. [One of the reasons I've designed & building a 4-element caged dipole for 75m; one-each-element cut for 3650/3750/3850/3950 no tuner needed, no traps, maximum efficiency, now my dilemma is to install as a inverted V or not to minimize directionality of a dipole!]

The 17m added element wire surprisingly did not show any wear at the aluminum bracket hole. But since I have the AVT down I'll trap the wire in the hole adding a SS bolt/washer/nut to enhance longer reliable life.

The 'Ugly Balun' is made from one piece of 100' RG-8x (I'll watch the UV effects, thanks). UB 'balun' is a total misnomer as it does not transform the signal; the UB is a RF choke - decoupling RF from the coax shield. [Look at tri-band beams instructions like Cushcraft's A3/A4S that require multiple-air-looped coax coils, what gave me this idea - then I found the UB articles supporting the premise.] The UB was an 'experiment' as the PVC coil form is way to big and should be trimmed down and made more robust. The UB as an experiment WORKED so well I'm keeping it - even though the guru's say the UB is a waste of effort.

I find posting here so very interesting with all the arm-chair guru's that know so much more about everything to only share their wisdom in a negative critical fashion - hilarious. I learned long ago to dismiss these self-proclaimed condescending guru's as we all have opinions just some come from where we sit. As a Sr. EE/EM Test/MFG Engineer, I know that tests/data can be manipulated to support or unsupport nearly anything.

As K4JC stated, it is so nice to be told our DX successes using our verticals on a fence cannot work!

In refurb/mounting the AVT I estimate it would take 1/100th the time it would take to dig/string/bury some 30 radials - then the XYL would crucify me doing that to her yard! Hence, my fence experiment and it WORKS and it's lawn mower proof!

Now for all the those that need/want more negative chuckles at my expense.

My 18AVT is down for more refurb. Even though this winter was very very mild we had some very high wind events. The AVT top-hat 80m coil got spun in one of these gails and snapped the internal coil wires. MFJ/Hy-gain does not offer these repair parts. So I've torn down the top-hat 'coil' and find I'll need to rebuild the coil from scratch, dissecting the old one:
Coil: 1" OD form 10" long
Wrap: ~202 over 8.75", 18AWG (~53' solid/coated wire)
I found 3/4" PVC to be a perfect 1" OD form.
(a fixer article is coming with lots of pics).

Also the AVT inverted 10/15m traps {rain catchers} plastic WX covers have finally disintegrated. Again, no MFJ/Hy-gain replacement parts. I think I found a Lowes/Menards solution using a 3/4"-to-2" PVC reducer as a new cover with a lil silicone caulking (this will also be part of my fixer article).


This is half of my fun of HAMdom is in out-witting the near impossible, do what others say cannot work, overcoming the insurmountable challenges; experiment, refurb, fix, test, design, build, modify --- overcome.

If you're just a 'button-pusher' you're missing out on much that HAMdom has to offer. The excitement and satisfaction of making a conquest over a near impossible challenge, that others poo-poo on, has a personal success satisfaction reward that cannot be put into words and no nay-say'er can dent!

Kuby, N6JSX /8 +40yrs, MS-EET
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by K9JFK on April 21, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Dale,

Really a very fine article showing how to adapt an older antenna to new bands! Thanks for publishing your experiments and conclusions.

There have been some concerns expressed about the "shortcomings" of the "ugly style" balun, or common mode choke, in this application. It is easier explained graphically... look here at the web pages of G3TXQ....

Ideally, for a multi-band antenna, we want the "longest black line" (resistive) that we can have... the colored areas are reactive. That is extremely important for directional antennas; keep currents off the coax shield to prevent pattern disruption. All the air wound chokes show nothing but reactance, and that is why some have expressed concern. We have been using air wound chokes for many years with vertical antennas, with good results. However, I do think wide-range multi-band antennas present a difficult challenge.

My vertical is about 160ft from the station, so I used the type 31 bead material on both ends to keep currents off the coax shield. If it was closer to the house, maybe I would have tried the air wound balun first, but considering the coax losses, I didn't want more signal loss. Besides the bead choke, I buried the coax 1ft under a traditional radial field... easier to take care of and no concern with the grandkids running around outside.

This installation has provided good performance and a lower "noise" level than previous verticals.

Good article... keep writing... thanks!

73, Jimmie, K9JFK
HF Vertical Fence Mounted, Ugly-Balun, and Extra Band  
by KA0SOH on May 10, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Hi, just a brief note...with that much fence you bring to mind my own experiment with Hy Gain verticals and I had THREE of them set up in a cardoid
arrangement. See the Hy Gain tech manual that came with the antennas for further info. When I moved they all went to a good home, etc. Great system.
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