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eHam Forums => Station Building => Topic started by: KX8W on June 22, 2011, 02:10:39 PM



Title: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KX8W on June 22, 2011, 02:10:39 PM
Currently I am an upcoming junior in high school and I live with about two acres of yard that I have to share with the rest of my family. Currently I have an Icom IC-718 connected by alligator clips to 130 feet of wire going out of my window. I have tried to transmit but the SWR comes back as around over 9:1 or infinite. I guess this means it is not resonant, and I have made no contacts yet with it. I have asked them about an building an actual dipole for 1-30 MHZ but our yard is only about 300 feet long and they have issues with ladder line dangling in the air. I have also talked to them about a ground mounted vertical but the radials would prevent my dad from mowing. 10 meters and up seems like a better choice for me since I have a very limited budget. I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations about a rig that is capable of 10 and up or 6 and up, all modes. I would also prefer that it has a really good receiver and can do digital if possible. As I already mentioned, I'm also very budget limited also. If anyone had any antenna and rotor suggestions, that would be great too.

Thanks and 73s,

KD8QGJ, William Schaffer


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: W8JX on June 22, 2011, 02:36:51 PM
So close yet so far. Wire idea is not all bad but I see no mention of a external tuner. You need one with a long wire antenna. It is not surprising that you have made not contacts. What is surprising is if you have not blown finals in radio.  Tuners are not expensive.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: K3ANG on June 22, 2011, 07:39:59 PM
Currently I am an upcoming junior in high school and I live with about two acres of yard that I have to share with the rest of my family. Currently I have an Icom IC-718 connected by alligator clips to 130 feet of wire going out of my window. I have tried to transmit but the SWR comes back as around over 9:1 or infinite. I guess this means it is not resonant, and I have made no contacts yet with it. I have asked them about an building an actual dipole for 1-30 MHZ but our yard is only about 300 feet long and they have issues with ladder line dangling in the air. I have also talked to them about a ground mounted vertical but the radials would prevent my dad from mowing. 10 meters and up seems like a better choice for me since I have a very limited budget. I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations about a rig that is capable of 10 and up or 6 and up, all modes. I would also prefer that it has a really good receiver and can do digital if possible. As I already mentioned, I'm also very budget limited also. If anyone had any antenna and rotor suggestions, that would be great too.

Thanks and 73s,

KD8QGJ, William Schaffer

Hi, Bill.

Welcome to amateur radio.
I wish I had a 300 foot deep yard to hang antennas in.
Most of us don't.
And the '718 is a nice rig and will serve you well for a long time.

If you don't already have one, get another well-schooled local ham to help you.  I recommend visiting any of the ham clubs near you to find someone who is willing and able to help.  Also, when it comes to amateur radio, the Internet is your friend.  There are many good sites (eham included) where you can read and learn before taking your next step. In addition to eham, I recommend you join a couple of antenna-focused groups in Yahoo.  And they are free to join.

They are:
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Antenna_Builders/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ham-antennas/

These groups have TONS of easy and simple antenna projects for the newbie and old-timer.

Also, in Antenna_Builders, are a couple of books you can read on-line in the LINKS section. 
They are The Practical Antenna Handbook by Joe Carr and the ARRL Antenna Book (21st Edition).
For the Antenna Book link, after the initial download, look on the LHS of the PDF for a paper clip.
Click on the icon above if (looks like a ribbon) to get to the individual chapters.

There are other antenna groups, but these, IMO, would be the most approachable for you at this stage of your licensing.
And get some local help.

73,
Greg, K3ANG.





Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: K8AC on June 23, 2011, 02:18:43 PM
When I got started and was in high school, all my ham friends and I used an antenna similar to yours and for the same reasons.  All you needed was an L network tuner, which you could buy quite cheaply or construct yourself.  The commercial versions used a rotary switch connected to taps on the L network coil and a variable capacitor that looked as if it came from an old AM radio.  The homebrew tuners were usually built on a piece of wooden board and an alligator clip provided a manual means of changing coil taps.  No one had an SWR bridge - but all the tuners had a neon bulb connected to the tuner output.  You tuned the tuner elements for maximum glow of the bulb and that was it.  Of course, we tended to get "bit" by RF on everything metal in the shack when transmitting.  A wire dangling out the window and connected to the ground terminal on the tuner would likely have solved that, at least on some bands.  We were able to work quite a bit of DX on 20M cw with those random-length wires and simple tuners.  Check out the ARRL handbook for simple L network tuner designs.

73, K8AC


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: K1CJS on June 24, 2011, 09:36:37 AM
A suggestion--talk to your father and see if he would sit still for putting a slit in the lawn to bury one radial wire, and if he would also let you hang one wire over the general area that radial wire is buried at.  It wouldn't be a super efficient antenna by any means, but it would allow you to get some sort of signal out there.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: AA4PB on June 24, 2011, 04:03:19 PM
Give on your requirements a little. Instead of 80 thru 10M with ladder line and a tuner, pick one or maybe two bands. You can use a simple coax fed dipole on 40M and 15M for example, or put up a trapped dipole for 40M and 20M. Even start out with a 33 foot center fed dipole for 20M. If you trim the dipole for the part of the bands where you want to operate you won't even need a tuner.

You can probably build a 20M wire dipole for $10 plus the coax cable (RG58 is fine).


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: W8JX on June 24, 2011, 05:05:55 PM
I still maintain that being his rig does not have a built in antenna tuner to deal with a even moderate mismatch, which will throttle output power, a 100 watt+ rated external tuner is not only just a wise investment but it also opens doors to a lot of future antenna options.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KC9UKH on June 25, 2011, 06:42:58 PM
A suggestion--talk to your father and see if he would sit still for putting a slit in the lawn to bury one radial wire, and if he would also let you hang one wire over the general area that radial wire is buried at.  It wouldn't be a super efficient antenna by any means, but it would allow you to get some sort of signal out there.

I concur with this.

Do you think your Dad would allow a single slit in the lawn to bury just one radial would work?  I think this may be your best option.  I don't know the ins & outs of antennas as I'm still a newbie myself but judging from your circumstance, I'm leaning towards this.

As others have mentioned, have you checked out a local amateur radio club?  Just found one myself and joined before I even got my callsign in the database!  =)  Great group of people who have taken the time to answer my questions.

Best of luck!!


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: CLEBOT on June 30, 2011, 11:13:04 PM
You can also have a lot of fun with a random wire tuner.  It's easy to use, inexpensive (about $70) and you can use the SWR meter on the '718 to tune to lowest SWR.  I used that exact setup and made all kinds of contacts at 50 watts from Texas all throughout the northeast.
I used a 90' length of wire (as suggested by many posters the eHam reviews of this product), with a banana connector on one end.  I found that length to perform well, but did not experiment much with other lengths.

Here is a link to the the eHam reviews:
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/2379?page=1

...and a link for the tuner:
http://www.mfjenterprises.com/Product.php?productid=MFJ-16010

Good luck and have fun!

Gerrit, KE5HVM


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: AA4PB on July 01, 2011, 07:30:35 AM
I agree that a tuner is a good investment. However, he said he is on a very limited budget. He can build a 20M dipole for a few dollars, trim it to the part of the band he wants to operate in, learn a little about antennas in the process, and get on the air instead of waiting until he saves up enough for a tuner and/or convinces his dad to let him bury radials in the lawn.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: W8JX on July 01, 2011, 07:40:18 AM
Well I still think budget aside that he should bit bullet and by a tuner since radio has no built in tuner and even moderate SWR that would pose no problem with a rig with a built in tuner is going to cause 718 to throttle back output.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: CLEBOT on July 03, 2011, 02:27:23 AM
I don't know why I didn't remember this earlier...
How about the building the Buddipole antenna? 
Go to: www.qsl.net/w3ff/
Then, click on 'Building the Buddipole Dipole'

As stated, it should cost around 30 bucks to build and, adjusting the whip antennas, can be brought into resonance on the
following 5 bands: 10, 12, 15, 17 and 20.

I built this a few years ago and have had a lot of fun with it.  I made contact on 20 meters to Honolulu, HI from Conroe, TX with 75 watts and an Icom IC-718.
Plus, building the antenna was a lot of fun.  I stuck it on a piece of conduit and placed it in the umbrella hole in my patio table and had a great afternoon making contacts on it.

Anyway, just another thought. 

Enjoy!

Gerrit, KE5HVM


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: K8GU on July 06, 2011, 12:08:01 PM
Yes, if you want to use that kind of antenna, you need a matching network.  MFJ-949E is an inexpensive choice that is flexible, too.  Don't be fooled by the idea that life gets any easier with antennas above 10 meters.  Stick with what you have for now---it will be a lot of fun once you get it setup.  A 130-ft wire fed through an appropriate matching network will net you lots of QSOs.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: AG6WT on July 09, 2011, 07:18:19 PM
William,

What exactly is your budget? $20? $50? $100? $500?

I think need to invest in a used but good manual tuner, like a MFJ-949E, and a used copy of the ARRL Antenna Book. The book is particularly important because it covers a variety of wire antennas that you can try as well as the fundamentals of matching networks. The two will cost you $100 or so.

Putting radials on the grass is not a problem. Water the lawn heavily. Lay out the wire(s) where you want them. Cut slits in the grass with an old chef's knife. Push the wire in the slit with your fingers. You're dad and his lawnmower will never know they're there.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: AD6KA on July 12, 2011, 08:38:41 PM
I think it's a shame that your folks are giving you grief
over a couple of simple wire antennas.  You'd think they would
love to have their teenage son to have a hobby where:
They always know where he is.
They always know WHO he is with.
They always know what he is doing.
It's a learning hobby that can lead to a future in
a well paying field.
It's a learning hobby and not sitting on the couch playing video games.
Etc, etc, I think you know what I mean.

(Maybe point these facts out to them?)

Hang in there young man, and welcome to ham radio.
73, Ken  AD6KA


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: ONAIR on August 30, 2011, 08:52:14 PM
Dipoles, dipoles, dipoles!!  With that kind of real estate and some wire, you can really have a ball.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KE7FD on September 12, 2011, 07:21:09 PM
I may be revealing my age with this suggestion about ground rods but here's an old timers trick taught to me.

Using a copper pipe, affix a garden hose to one end of it, position it where you want the ground to be then turn the water on. You'll find that it'll "drill" its way to 8 feet, 10 feet or more, through clay and small rocks all in a few mins.  You can get the pipe at any hardware store and depending on the composition of the soil, only a few mins of just guiding the pipe into it's new home.  One fellow soldered three 8ft pipes together before hitting solid rock around 20 feet down.  He cut the pipe off, soldered his braid to the end and that was that.  You could do several of these, tie them together using wide braid.  Better to do this a bit below surface level then cover them over.  The technique has been handed down for many generations, rumored to have been how the Lighthouse of Alexandria was grounded.;-)

Glen - KE7FD


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KE7FD on September 12, 2011, 07:41:39 PM
Sorry, I was trying to reply to another thread that dealt with ground rods, but maybe my "water drilling" technique will help you in other ways than the antenna delemma.

You've been given some very good ideas so far in these responses.  I too got started in high school with my novice license and can relate to your concerns.  Realize this:  Many of the ideas provided here just in this thread will work for you and there are many, many more ideas elsewhere, but all you need to do is to pick just one to get on the air.  Then sometime later if you want, try another.  I will say this, from the earliest days my elmer would say, "Just use a tuner".  I never did then, but in recent years I have more than one sitting around now.

If you think you would be able to get by with oen or two bands, get a pair of ham sticks, slap them together as dipoles and stick them in the air.  A "real" antenna is best though if you can hand the wire.  If you can hang some "nested" dipoles (doublets) for multiple bands, then you're doing what 90% of us "vacuum tube" hams did for many years.  With the QRP rig you have, you could build a simple tuner with stiff from Radio Shack (hmmm, maybe) or junk parts. 

You're closer than you think to getting on the air.

GL,
Glen


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KC2VDM on September 12, 2011, 08:12:23 PM
Hey man i know how ya feel. My mom hates the idea of anything being hung outside. Having my dad on the side helped that argument a bit though. (:
 
On Finance, you have a lot more money than me! I dreamed about a IC-718, but ended up with an ft-101zd. Not a bad radio, but lacks some newer features.

Anyway, something I read in a QRP (low power) book, try attaching a wire to your raingutters! use plastic pieces to section off different pieces of gutter, and your all set. I wouldn't take it to 100 watts, but it could probably handle 50 watts. And, i hate to say it, but invest or build a tuner. While yes, they cheat your radio, they still work alright. And don't operate in the rain like that, bad things are sure to happen.

Good luck with the folks, Maybe we'll have a QSO some day. Be different to hear someone my own age on the bands.

-Alex Costanzo
-Highschool Freshman
-KC2VDM


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KE7FD on September 13, 2011, 08:51:11 AM
OK, here's a well reviewed long wire tuner that should work for your situation:

http://qrpkits.com/sltplus.html

If you're using 130 feet of end-fed wire, this little unit ought to do the trick.

KE7FD


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: N4KZ on September 13, 2011, 09:53:31 AM
I agree that an inexpensive external tuner would open up some options for wire antennas, including your existing end-fed long wire. However, don't be quick to dismiss a ground-mounted vertical because of the radials and lawn mower issues. I have used ground-mounted verticals for years and had zero lawn mower issues because I used small gauge wire for the radials.

I didn't even bury my radials. I wanted until the fall after the grass mowing season was finished for the year and laid down about 50 radials. I used lawn staples to keep them in place and by spring they had self-buried and could not be seen. Over the next several years, I did run over two of the radials but since the wire was small -- about 22 gauge -- there was no damage to the mower.

In the meantime, the vertical made an outstanding antenna at minimal cost.

73, Dave, N4KZ


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: ONAIR on September 13, 2011, 08:06:19 PM
   Hams should never let parents or wives interfere with their communications!  :)


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KF7LCE on September 14, 2011, 07:32:54 PM
I'm a high school sophomore who's just putting up his first HF antenna; I know exactly where you're coming from. Anyway, you will need a tuner if you're going to use a long wire antenna; if you have that much room, you might as well turn that 100-odd feet of wire into a G5RV all band dipole as well. Also, have you considered using magnet wire? The stuff is dirt cheap, dang near invisible, and will work just fine for the power you will be running. Maybe you could convince your parents to put that up if it was a bit of a compromise 'stealth' antenna; worked for me at least.

Also, if you're getting a tuner, you may want to take a look at this antenna (http://www.n5ese.com/notebk_ant.htm). Lacking a tuner, I never built the transmit part of it and just use it as a long wire for shortwave listening, but its small size make it very interesting.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KC9TNH on September 15, 2011, 07:06:53 AM
Welcome to Ham Radio!

Your IC-718 is a solid rig that will give you lots of service. Head for HF, keep your eye on the prize. (Oh, to have 300 feet!)

When we bought our house the previous owner had (to her) an "ugly" old tower on the peak of the roof from his previous vertical. That came down when the house got re-roofed. Frankly, the dimensions of the lot (and not crossing the Romulan Neutral Zone of getting close to overhead power) really lent itself to a wire antenna. An off-center-fed dipole (you're smart, do the research) with a short length of readily accessible feedline might be just the ticket. A wire antenna is often out of sight/out of mind very quickly. People don't usually look up anyway. Unless she knows I'm out checking things after an ice-storm she's forgotten it's there.

A wire-based antenna (135' long or so, dipole, OCF-dipole, whatever) is easily doable for not much money and will get that IC-718 out of the shack and into the world. Couple of things and, in the service, we'd call these the long pole in the tent perhaps for you.

Based on your research and whatever mentoring you can garner locally (and you should) you'll likely want to get a balun of some kind - the antenna design will tell you - and get a good one. The other thing is a decent reputable tuner capable of handling your full limit of power (e.g., LDG AT-100 Pro) to take care of making your Icom see a match. (Remember, tuners don't make your antenna resonant.) You might even find a good tuner used. Read the reviews and do some research to understand what you're buying and why. Again, that well-established local ham can help - put pride on the shelf.
 ;)

So, forgetting your folks for the moment & addressing the dreaded budgetary issue, you may need to harness some good ol' fashioned American capitalism and go make some money. It doesn't have to be much, the two items mentioned above will tell you.

Good luck, happy trails and please report back to share with us how it's going.
 :)


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: NZ9Y on October 22, 2011, 10:26:59 AM
The advice on gettng a tuner is good.  Without the tuner, you really are limited to 1 or 2 bands. Your parental restrictions make most of the better multiband antennas a battle as an antenna that you can tune for each band wont be a wire.  Tunable verticals are great, but very VISIBLE.


If I was in your position and wanted to get on the air NOW, I would build a 20 meter dipole and feed it with coax.  Tune it (trim it) to put you right in the middle of the portion of the band you want to work (phone or CW/dig).  Now you dont need a tuner and you will be on a band thats almost always open to somewhere.

Regarding Mom,  a 20 meter dipole fed with black or grey RG-8X is pretty much invisible.  Just tell her that you'll put it up and run it a few weeks, then if she still thinks its ugly, you'll be happy to change it.  Once she sees how minimal it is and your excitement over all the DX your working, she'll let it stay.  After you show her your WAS award, then push for more antenna! :)


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: AB7KT on October 22, 2011, 05:57:15 PM
I started out in ham radio with a similar set-up and similar age;  although your rig is more sophisticated than the one I had.

You need nothing more than an antenna tuner. I built my first antenna tuner and it would work fine for your set-up. I took a plastic shampoo bottle and glued a kite stick to it. I then wound a coil on the shampoo bottle using bare copper wire. The kite stick holds the turns of the coil off the shampoo bottle which allows you to tap the coils with an alligator clip. I then got a variable capacitor. Mine was from an old broadcast band radio. Of course this was over 30 years ago and BCB radios arn't made like that anymore so you might have more of an issue finding the capacitor. If nothing else, you can buy one. I don't think they would be very expensive. The circuit is very simple and can easy be found in the ARRL Handbook, ARRL Antenna Handbook.... definitely somewhere on the internet.

The best thing you could possibly do is to find other local hams to help you out. Go to the people who administered your license exam and ask them. If they can't or won't help you, they know someone who will. Find a local radio club. I am sure there is one somewhere within a reasonable distance to where you live. These guys have been there and done that. At least a few guys at these clubs are technically oriented and you can learn from them. People will probably loan you, or give you an antenna tuner. Someone will show you how to build one. I say this with certainty.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: AB7KT on October 22, 2011, 06:02:37 PM
After writing my previous post I looked you up and was going to send you a tuner. But I see from your QRZ page that you already have one.
So, you should be on the air by now.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: KH6AQ on October 23, 2011, 03:57:22 PM
Your 130' wire can be tuned using an antenna tuner. I recommend the MJF-901B at less than $100.

For a ground to connect the tuner to a ground rod and a ground wire outside the window will work well enough.


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: N4FBW on October 31, 2011, 07:17:23 PM
I also recommend that MFJ 16010 tuner. They won't take a whole lot of power, but you sure can load up a nice length of wire. I used one of these tuners to do some hamming when I was in high school. Make sure you have a good ground for that tuner.

Good luck & 73!

N4FBW


Title: RE: Parent and Budget Restrictions...HELP!
Post by: WB4LCN on November 29, 2011, 06:59:07 AM
OK, here's a well reviewed long wire tuner that should work for your situation:

http://qrpkits.com/sltplus.html

If you're using 130 feet of end-fed wire, this little unit ought to do the trick.

KE7FD

I wonder if this would be good to tune to the gutters around the roof?

dave :)