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Author Topic: electic fence wire for dipoles  (Read 1827 times)
KF4MKJ
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Posts: 53




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« on: February 04, 2003, 03:59:29 PM »

Does anyone have any experience with using electric fence wire for antennas.  If so how well did it work and how well does it last?  This stuff is cheap about 20 dollars for a half mile.  Perfect price for a cheap ham like me.  Smiley


Thanx in advance
73 de KF4MKJ John
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13486




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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2003, 04:15:28 PM »

I'm using some of the thin aluminum stuff for a long
wire antenna right now.  Only been up a few months so
can't confirm how long it will last.

I'm using the aluminum stuff, #19 gauge or so.  Make
sure you use some anti-oxidant grease (Ox-Gard, NoAlOx,
or similar) on the connections, which will probably be
your biggest problem.  Clamping both the feedline
(copper) and the antenna wire with a stainless bolt,
with stainless washers in between them, would probably
be a good solution. With my longwire, I just brought
the end inside the barn where it was out of the weather
before attaching it to the rest of the leadin wire.

The galvanized iron fence wire is cheaper, and probably
will work fine for most HF antennas where the impedance
isn't too low.  Ferrous materials can become lossy at
HF, so I wouldn't recommend it for wire beams.

I have often used standard plastic-insulated hookup
wire for antennas:  the insulation cracks after two
years in our Oregon sunshine, and the Oregon rain gets
in and corrodes the wire.  So I expect it will last
longer than that.  The aluminum will oxidize fairly
quickly, which will help to protect it from further
corrosion.  Unless you are in a place with a highly
chemical atmosphere (by the ocean or factories) I would
expect it to last 10 years or more.  But it will be
much harder to make good electrical contact to the
wire after it oxidizes.
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W4TYU
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Posts: 518




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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2003, 04:25:58 PM »

If memory serves me correctly, Electric Fence wire is steel wire with a very very thin coat of copper. It will not stand up to weather conditions.  The use for this type wire is a cheap way to fence livestock.  I would rather recommend the use of 14 or 12 gage insulated single solid conductor house wire. It is available at almost any hardwire store and is not expensive.  You do not have to remove the insulation except where you need to make the feed line connection. Sure it may stretch over a period of years but that is what your antenna tuner compensates for.
I have used it for years and never a problem. By the way, you can make your own center and end insulators from scrap plexiglas or even from plastic bottles. T he bottoms of the bottles are usually heavier than the sides.
ole man JEAN
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AC5E
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Posts: 3585




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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2003, 04:27:56 PM »

Hi John: Well, it's been a long time since I used fence wire for dipoles, but I have a couple of half rhombics, Vee Beams if you prefer, that use the stuff. They have 180 foot legs and have been up for almost 7 years.

They have stayed up through everything the weather has thrown at it and there have been no problems at all. The only drawback is that it's shiny and easy to see in sunlight.  

73  Pete Allen  AC5E
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KC5UGQ
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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2003, 04:57:53 PM »

Most of my experience with electric fence wire comes from a slightly different direction -- making chainmail armor from it.

In my experience, electric fence wire can be commonly found in three forms.  In most of the laces I've looked, it's available in galvanized (mild steel with a zinc coating) and aluminum wire, in 14 and 18 gauge.  In a few places, I've found the aforementioned copper-coated steel (at least it had a copper-colored surface).

The aluminum and galvanized work well for making little steel rings, and I imagine that you should be able to make a good, rugged antenna out of either.  Weather resistance should run from 'pretty good' to 'excellent', as few ranchers bother to take their fences in every time it rains.

In lengths longer than a few inches, it's easily worked by hand, while still retaining its shape well enough to hold a twist, such as in the end of a loop.  In lengths (or rings) of one inch or shorter, you're going to need pliers.

If I had the room, I would probably build several antennae from this stuff, since as you mention, it's cheap and plentiful.

.....and if you have any extra wire left, there's always chainmail.

-- Patrick
   KC5UGQ
   Tallahassee, Florida
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K0BG
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« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2003, 08:04:23 PM »

It would take more equipment and money to decern the difference between the efficiencies of copperweld and electric fence wire than most amateurs have. As Pete points out, it is good stuff, it is strong, and perhaps not quite as good as copperweld, but for the average guy, it's the right stuff. Best of all, it is cheap! A 1,000 reel is all of $20(!) at my local farm supply.

Alan, KØBG
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KF4MKJ
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Posts: 53




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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2003, 08:40:28 PM »

Thanks for the advice on the electric fence wire.  I could hardly resist the price.  So after hearing all ya'll give favorable reports I will go ahead and get it.

Thanx, 73 de KF4MKJ John
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K8ZO
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Posts: 175




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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2003, 10:59:58 PM »

Galvanized steel electric fence wire solders real well.  If your run is too long, I used to twist two or three strands of it together to make a stronger length.  Like was said, probably most could not measure the difference between it and solid copper, but my experience seemed to show a slightly wider bandwith than when I hung copper in the same place.  Lower Q?

After you use up a few hundred feet of that 5000 feet, keep it around because it is good for making emergency tie wraps, etc.  Anything the proverbial haywire got used for.

I gave away my roll, and I wish I still had it around for the misc. uses rather than for antennas.

K8ZO
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KB0NLY
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Posts: 1




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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2003, 01:08:11 PM »

Living on farms most of your life (as in my case) will teach you that the aluminum wire will outlast the cattle that it's keeping in!  I recently drove by a farm place that i lived on as a child, and most of the fences are still there, the only ones missing were removed because they were no longer being used.  The aluminum stuff always outlasted the others, we used to have some of the galvanized stuff around a pasture on a farm i was living a few years back, and we were constantly splicing it because it would rust and break, not to mention that the efficiency of the galvanized stuff was poor at best with a long run and one electric fencer charging it.  One example is how we used to test the fence, a hammer with a fiberglass handle would be used, you would touch the head of the hammer from the wire to the post and check for the satisfying "snap" that it was working.  I spent many a day searching out those shorts or breaks in the galvanized wire to find out why the fencer wasn't supplying a good "snap" at the returning end of the fence.

The aluminum version was almost service free after installing it all, and although as mentioned it will stretch and need to be drawn tight again, i noticed that after the first year of re-tightening the fence every few months that the second year it stayed put with only a minor adjustment needed when the ground thawed out in the spring and the posts would move a bit.  And as mentioned that is what the tuner is for, and if it got really bad you could always go out and snip a bit off the end to shorten it back to where it is a better match for the tuner.

73,

Scott, KB0NLY

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W9GB
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Posts: 2656




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« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2003, 04:40:24 PM »

John -

I used it several years ago, but preferred # 14 stranded (insulated) house wire.  Available at Home Depot in 500 foot rolls, many colors for camouflage to choose from, and also availabe in 12 and 10 gauge for larger wire antennas. Easily less than $ 20 a roll and does not kink up like copperweld or electric fence wire.

Greg
w9gb
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W9GB
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Posts: 2656




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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2003, 04:40:25 PM »

John -

I used it several years ago, but preferred # 14 stranded (insulated) house wire.  Available at Home Depot in 500 foot rolls, many colors for camouflage to choose from, and also availabe in 12 and 10 gauge for larger wire antennas. Easily less than $ 20 a roll and does not kink up like copperweld or electric fence wire.

Greg
w9gb
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W9GB
Member

Posts: 2656




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« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2003, 04:40:45 PM »

John -

I used it several years ago, but preferred # 14 stranded (insulated) house wire.  Available at Home Depot in 500 foot rolls, many colors for camouflage to choose from, and also available in 12 and 10 gauge for larger wire antennas. Easily less than $ 20 a roll and does not kink up like copperweld or electric fence wire.

Greg
w9gb
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W9GB
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Posts: 2656




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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2003, 04:40:46 PM »

John -

I used it several years ago, but preferred # 14 stranded (insulated) house wire.  Available at Home Depot in 500 foot rolls, many colors for camouflage to choose from, and also available in 12 and 10 gauge for larger wire antennas. Easily less than $ 20 a roll and does not kink up like copperweld or electric fence wire.

Greg
w9gb
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W5HTW
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2003, 09:35:44 PM »

Been using electric fence wire for years, both in antennas and as an electric fence.  The only reason my antennas came down is I pulled them down to make modifications.  Never left them alone long enough to test durability, as I was always modifying them.  Made some open wire feed line from the fence wire and Lexan sheets cut into 4 inch long bars.  That wire lasted two years until I took it down and rolled it up in the barn. Made a multiband dipole (fan dipole) of electric fence wire and it worked fine, though after six months or so I decided to take it down for something else.  That's the fun of it - a half mile roll of wire is good for experimenting with a half dozen antennas, at absolutely minimum cost.  I even used the plastic egg insulators for the fence and they work well at the lower frequencies.  Can't get any cheaper.

The soft-drawn wire, though, is subject to kinking and breaking if there is too much bending while you are putting it up.  Once up, the wind won't affect it that way, though.  The harder stuff is a bit more expensive, running about 33 bucks for a half mile right now, maybe a bit more.  I haven't bought any in about a year.  

The wire that is used as a fence is still up after 8 years.  I moved it once but re-used the same wire and the insulators.  With the fence I have to be sure it is completely clear of any brush, and is securely bound at the insulators, or I will get noise in the radios.  

Some of the ranchers around here put up fence wire last  time I knew maybe ten years ago and it's still holding the cattle, though from time to time some cowboy runs through it with a truck - or worse yet, with a horse!

I say have fun with the fence wire - works fine, and is cheap enough you can redesign your antennas every month and still not cost big bucks.

73
ed
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W4QA
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« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2003, 10:19:03 AM »

Most fence wire is galvanized steel, which although great from a weatherproof and price perspective is not so great from a conductivity perspective.  Why is this an issue?

Well, for a beverage antenna which is a voltage fed antenna, this is not a problem at all.  The I squared R losses would be quite low.  However, for a dipole antenna -- which is what the question concerns -- a signficant amount of current flows close to the feedpoint, decreasing to almost zero at the ends.  The increased R of the electric fence wire creates significant power loss (remember I squared R loss) and thus makes the antenna quite inefficient compared to antennas made of copper wire or copper clad wire.

You should not make a current fed antenna out of electric fence wire unless you were desperate and had no other alternatives.  You just end up wasting power on heating the wire when you transmit.

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