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Author Topic: 1st Shack - 2/6 Meter SSB  (Read 2830 times)
ZAKIR
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« on: September 04, 2005, 08:23:46 PM »

Well, I'm getting into ham radio and currently have my technician license and am working for the general. I have been able to find a room in the basement of my house that my parents will let me use as a shack and computer repair/server room, but will be moving to college in the next two years... Now, I have moderate freedom to put up some antennas, but a tower with beams... not possible...  as for college, in which I'll probably be in a dorm, apartment, etc, what are people's experiences with screw antennas or what would people recommend?
 
I have a lot of questions about what is necessary etc. For the radio, I am probably going to go with the ICOM 706MKIIG and would like to start working with 2/6 meter SSB and later on, HF. How large of a power supply do I need? What is a good price to pay? What is a good price with an antenna switch? What antennas would people recommend?

Thanks,

Zakir
KC0VAA
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2005, 03:04:20 PM »

You can erect suitable antennas on a roof, without a tower.  For 6m/2m SSB work, *beam* (yagis, quads, quagis) are absolutely, positively, undeniably, the only thing that people really use.  Horizontally polarized, and rotatable.

Horizontal "loop" antennas, which are ominidirectional, sort of work but are so far below beams in performance that it can be very frustrating for newcomers to use them.  Still, better than nothing, and a lot better than vertical antennas, in a pinch.

As for college dorm operations, I'd say: Forget about it.  Make some portable beams and do some hilltop portable operations if you can, on weekends, when you get a chance.  If you're in college, you should be spending time studying and meeting people, which is the whole purpose of being there.  And maybe working.  My daughter is in her second year at University of California (Santa Barbara) and to maintain that 4.0 average she has requires about 6 hours study and homework per day.  Besides that, she works 20 hours a week for the University newspaper.  It's a big load.  Take it seriously, it's the only chance to do so.

But "portable" ops can be great fun.  Or, maybe the college has a ham radio station, and when you have some free time, just go operate from there.

WB2WIK/6
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ZAKIR
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Posts: 45




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« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2005, 05:38:28 PM »

I started looking at beams, and I realized that they weren't as expensive as I expected. How does one decide on a beam antenna? Beam length? Number of elements?

I completely agree about college, right now I am in classes 7 hours a day and then go home and do about 4-5 hours of homework and studying...

Zakir
KC0VAA
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K7VO
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« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2005, 08:21:59 PM »

First, Zakir, let me say welcome to ham radio!  6m SSB is a great place to start -- friendly people and when the band is open it is a blast.

I agree with nearly everything Steve, WB2WIK/6 said.  I'll add that in your position I'd look at smallish beams (3-5 elements on 6m, 8-10 el. on 2m) and a small rotor to turn them if you can do this at home.  The bigger the beam (more elements, longer boom length) the more gain it has but the narrower the beam width.  The omni loops Steve referred to are a great alternative ONLY if you can't have a beam, particularly if you can stack two per band.  With a beam they are a great addition for determining which direction the band is open in.

If you really have to operate from a dorm you may get out with an omni loop stuck out a window but it would be terribly limiting.  I wouldn't say "forget it" but I would try and do my operation portable as much as possible.  Steve is absolutely right about how much fun that is.

Since you're studying for the general don't rule out CW on 6m or 2m.  Some of the best long distance contacts I've made (2,500 mi. on 2m, Japan on 6m) would have been impossible without it.  Serious VHF/UHF ops find it to be a valuable tool to have available to you.

Good luck, whatever you decide.  I hope to hear you on 6m or 2m.

73,
Caity
K7VO/8
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ZAKIR
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2005, 04:27:18 AM »

Caity, you have helped me on all my questions on these forums so far, thank you!

I was looking at some of the Hy-Gain antennas, http://www.hy-gain.com/goodies/catalog/hyg2001.pdf, page 20... (2meter SSB) Can anybody tell me which of these is going to be the best to use in my situation? ALso, how would I mount one on my roof using a rotator without a tower?

What do need to look for when shopping for rotators? What is a good price?

How much power do people use when working 2/6 meter SSB? What do you mean when '6 meters is open'? I've heard this a lot, but really understand...

Thank you!!!!!

Zakir
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2005, 08:06:40 AM »

Hy-Gain does make some great 6m and 2m beams, for sure; but, they are a bit old-fashioned in design (really unchanged in 45 years or so) and as such, they're a bit "heavy" compared with some of the newer designs.  That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but I prefer handling lighter stuff if I can.

M2 antennas (http://www.m2inc.com) makes lighter antennas that are excellent performers, and their VHF beam antennas are among the most popular out there for this reason.  A great "small" 2m beam is the M2 model 2M9SSB, which is 9 elements on a 14' long boom.  It only weighs about 3-4 lbs and works incredibly well.  M2 has 3 element and 5 element 6 meter beams that also are very lightweight and high performance for their size.  Their model 6M5X is probably the best 6m beam for its size and weight on the market, and runs rings around most other 5 element 6m beams.

To install VHF beams on a roof without a tower, you can use:

-Chimney straps, if you've got a strong chimney (real bricks and mortar, for example, and tested for strength)
-An eave mount (side of house, near roof peak)
-A roof tripod
-A roof "tower" (this is a 3 or 4-legged short tower assembly that simply bolts to the roof -- these are available in all-aluminum designs that are light and strong, from about 3' high to about 20' high)

I like the roof tower approach.  Not expensive, easy to put together, quite light weight, and very strong if done properly.  Glen Martin Engineering manufactures many models that fit into 5' long UPS-shippable cartons and go together quickly and easily.  Following their instructions results in a very strong and waterproof installation, and one that's "reversible," when you want to remove it without leaving a trace it was ever there.

The roof towers are not only stronger than the other approaches, but also provide a mounting point for your rotator (inside the roof tower, on a "shelf" bracket).

73 & good luck,

Steve WB2WIK/6
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ZAKIR
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« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2005, 06:01:47 PM »

THe M^2 antennas seemt to be twice as expensive as the Hy-Gain Antennas and the Hy-Gain that I was looking at, weighed less than the M2 and had more elements. This as the one I was looking at: http://www.hy-gain.com/products.php?prodid=VB-214FM

What do people think? ALso, is it possible to use one beam for most of the HF bands if you are using an antenna tuner?

Thanks for everybody's help!

Zakir
KC0VAA
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K7VO
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« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2005, 12:39:12 PM »

I, personally, have had very good experience with Cushcraft and Maldol beams.  I also use an old KLM beam (designed by the folks now at M2) for 222MHz.  The Maldol beams are no longer being imported, sadly, so we'll ignore those.

My configuration at my old QTH had a Cushcraft A14810S 10 element 2m beam over a Cushcraft A627013S (3 elements horizontal on 6, 5 each vertical on 2m and 440 FM) and this worked very well for me indeed.  The A627013S gives you the best of all worlds -- a very respectable small beam on 6m SSB plus the ability to work repeaters and simplex very effectively on 2m and 70cm.  You could easily put both beams on a smallish rotor on a mast supported from a roof tower.  (FWIW, the KLM 7 el. 222 beam was above the 2m beam.)

I am not criticizing Hy Gain or M2.  I just don't have any experience with them.

Oh, and I am glad to be of any help I can be.  

73,
Caity
K7VO
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ZAKIR
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« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2005, 04:10:23 PM »

When you say smallish rotor, how small are you talking about? Can you recommend any companies or models?

THank you, Steve WB2WIK/6, as well, you have been a great help! Also, what do people keep in logbooks?

Zakir
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2005, 04:44:53 PM »

>RE: 1st Shack - 2/6 Meter SSB  Reply  
by ZAKIR on September 6, 2005  Mail this to a friend!  
THe M^2 antennas seemt to be twice as expensive as the Hy-Gain Antennas and the Hy-Gain that I was looking at, weighed less than the M2 and had more elements. This as the one I was looking at: http://www.hy-gain.com/products.php?prodid=VB-214FM<

::Ding!  Ding! Problem: This is an "FM" beam, intended for use as a vertically polarized antenna for FM and repeater work.  It's not an "SSB" beam.  Also, although it's "more elements," that doesn't mean anything.  Beams don't get gain from the number of elements they have, they get gain from boom length, which relates directly to aperture, which relates directly to gain.  The VB-214FM is 14 elements, but very closely spaced and only 15'6" long.  The nearest M2 antenna to that is *not* the model 2M12 (which has 12 elements but is 19'6" long), but rather the M2 model 2M9, which is 14'6" long (almost the same as the Hy-Gain) and weighs only 6 lbs.  I'd go for the M2 model 2M9SSB for horizontal polarization and SSB work.

>hat do people think? ALso, is it possible to use one beam for most of the HF bands if you are using an antenna tuner?<

::Antenna tuning and usefulness or performance are not related in any way.  You can use an antenna tuner to load up your rain gutter, and it might make contacts but it won't work well, and certainly won't be a beam.  Beams achieve gain and performance by critical design parameters which are not achieved when you use a beam for one band on a different band, simply by loading it up with an antenna tuner.  To "work" like a beam, the beam must be designed and built for the bands you'll be using it on.  HF beams are available that cover as many as 7 bands in a single beam, with beam-like performance on all those 7 bands, but such beams are large, heavy and expensive.  Some 5-band beams covering 20-17-15-12-10 meters aren't all that big nor heavy, nor expensive, but they don't cover 30m or 40m.  No big deal, most hams do not have beams for those bands.  Tri-band HF beams usually cover only 20-15-10 meters and can be quite lightweight and very affordable, like the Force-12 C3SS or Hy-Gain TH3Jr. or Mosley TA-33, or Cushcraft A-3S.  Or any number of other beams.  But you can't make a 20m beam work on another band, other than 20m.  Doesn't matter if you use a tuner, or not.

-WB2WIK/6
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ZAKIR
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« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2005, 07:05:42 PM »

Thank you for clearing all of that up! I didn't realize a lot of those things and I didn't notice that it was an FM antenna! Do people mostly buy beams or are they also built?

Thanks,

Zakir
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K7VO
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« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2005, 08:13:49 PM »

Zakir, some people buy and some build.  If you have the skills and time to build a beam that's great.  The rest of us buy them Smiley  I have built wire antennas (quite easy, not terribly time consuming) but never a beam.

Steve, good catch.  I don't know the Hy Gain line and didn't look closely at the model number.

What do people keep in their logs?  First, my "log book" is a file on my computer's hard drive.  (Actually more than one as I keep separate logs for some contests and them merge them into my main log.  I also have a backup, of course.)  I haven't kept paper logs in years though I can certainly print mine out.  Each entry has the callsign of the other station, the frequency and mode for each contact, my output power (I run QRP a lot and only QRP contacts count for certain awards.), the QTH of the other station if I get it, signal reports (both received and sent), for VHF weak signal work I always record the other station's grid square, what rig I was using, and then some general notes in a "comments" field that could include details of the other station, the other op's name, etc...  I also have check boxes for QSL cards sent and received.

There is no requirement to keep such a detailed log.  I like to.  I guess I'm a bit old fashioned that way.  It does help me to fill out and keep track of QSL cards, the old fashioned paper find.

Which rotor?  I'd not an expert at all on that and I'll defer to others.  At the old QTH I used an old CDE rotor.

73,
Caity
K7VO
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ZAKIR
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« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2005, 05:29:18 AM »

Okay, I was just going to use a database, (since I'm a database programmer. Smiley). Do most people put several beams on one rotor? Can you find rotors used?
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2005, 07:59:15 AM »

For used rotors, the best deals are from:

http://www.rotordoc.com  

or

http://wwww.rotorservice.com

Craig and Norm are experts at rebuilding and refurbishing rotators and both sell them used with warranty, as opposed to just "used," and questionable.  They both stand behind their work and their products and have been in business 20+ years.

I'd be very reluctant to buy a "used" rotor from anyone I don't know personally, especially if I didn't have a chance to test the rotor first.  Many older rotors are internally damaged, and sometimes even the owner/seller doesn't know that.

Yes, a single rotator can be capable of rotating many beams all at once, with those beams all mounted on the same mast.  Whether this is advisable or not depends on the rotor, the mast, and how the installation is engineered.  Using a tower, a rotor shelf or plate, and a thrust bearing, along with a suitable (meaning, "strong and heavy duty") mast, you can rotate 5-6-7 beams on a 20'+ long mast (above the rotor) successfully, as many of us do.

WB2WIK/6
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2005, 01:32:24 PM »

>RE: 1st Shack - 2/6 Meter SSB  Reply  
by ZAKIR on September 7, 2005  Mail this to a friend!  
Thank you for clearing all of that up! I didn't realize a lot of those things and I didn't notice that it was an FM antenna! Do people mostly buy beams or are they also built?<

::Both, for sure.  However, as a long-time ham and active VHF'er, here's what I'd recommend:

1.  If you have the money, buy the beams.  They're proven to actually work, which nothing homebuilt is.  They'll get you on the air so you can explore, make contacts, meet people, join local clubs who share common interests, and "get your feet wet" operating weak-signal VHF.

2.  Then, once you know your way around the bands and have a lot of contacts under your belt, start experimenting.  Build beams, build quads, build quagis, build all sorts of stuff.  For 2m and 70cm, the Quagi antenna is hard to beat for simplicity and ease of construction vs. all-out performance.  Thousands have been built, it's difficult to screw it up.  But a 6m Quagi would be too large to survive using the suggested materials, so 6m Yagis made of aluminum tubing are much more popular.  A 6m Quad is possible, too, but offers no special advantage over a Yagi.  Quagi construction data including design dimensions, plans and photographs are in the ARRL Antenna Book -- which is a *must have* for amateur antenna builders -- and also on N6NB's (the designer's) website, http://www.n6nb.com, scroll down to the bottom and click on "Quagi."

I'd recommend starting out with commercially made antennas, though.  You can build for the rest of your life, but *now* is the time to get on the air and make contacts.

WB2WIK/6
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