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Author Topic: Ladder line using popsicle sticks  (Read 2610 times)
N4MQ
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Posts: 145




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« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2017, 05:24:58 AM »

Popcicle sticks are going to fail and then your stuck.  I got some great 6" 600 ohm ladder line from ebay from a ham in alaska.  He makes it and it is #13 gauge wire.

His approach is really sturdy using black poly tubing as spacers that wont crack and are black with carbon so they are uv proof.  The spacers are drilled and fixed with urethane black sealant, really impressice.  My 860' loop is fed at the apex up 100' in an oak tree and I have no concerns that it will last.  Popcicle sticks are not worth the terrific effort on a good day, consider the investment in time over the cheap.  Woody
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W6EM
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Posts: 1666




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« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2017, 07:27:54 AM »

Popcicle sticks are going to fail and then your stuck.  I got some great 6" 600 ohm ladder line from ebay from a ham in alaska.  He makes it and it is #13 gauge wire.

His approach is really sturdy using black poly tubing as spacers that wont crack and are black with carbon so they are uv proof.  The spacers are drilled and fixed with urethane black sealant, really impressice.  My 860' loop is fed at the apex up 100' in an oak tree and I have no concerns that it will last.  Popcicle sticks are not worth the terrific effort on a good day, consider the investment in time over the cheap.  Woody
Sounds like a terrific product..  Just curious, is the wire really stiff, IOW, hard-drawn solid copper?
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KV7W
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Posts: 145




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« Reply #17 on: November 26, 2017, 07:54:46 AM »

One good thing to have in the homebrew arsenal is some good epoxy, not the two part in a tube from the hardware store, but some good woodworkers/boatbuilders epoxy in qt. or gallon size from the marine supply store. It has so many applications.

Permanent spreaders out of sticks is pretty straight forward. If sealed in epoxy and painted - will last as long as, well, you do.

I made some field spreaders out of popsicle sticks years ago for my QRP camping rig. My design consideration was I wanted something highly configurable and simple, so I could make any antenna I wanted with a bag of spreaders and a roll of wire; I would set up a dipole at one site, a sloper at the next - without having to carry coax, (other than a short piece between the rig and the tuner). 

After messing with a lot of designs; drilling, notching, nylon clamping the ends; the fastest, easiest method was a three stick per spreader design. One stick is the width you want the ladder line spreader, make it 2" if you want 2" separation. Sandwich and epoxy this stick centered between two other sticks that are about 3/4" longer, leaving a 3/8" notch on either end. This makes a spreader that is the thickness of three sticks.

At the site I would zip tie the top spreader for strain relief and just use one rubber band per spreader for the rest, (takes about two seconds per spreader).

This makes a really strong spreader that's easy to make and will last a long time. Three sticks per spreader. The inner spacer thickness just needs to match the wire size. To permanently affix just epoxy the wire. One very important rule with epoxy is to add a filler and make a paste when using as an adhesive. Really fine sawdust works great. Mix your epoxy and then toss a little sawdust or talc into the mix - only use straight epoxy as a varnish coating. 
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WD4HXG
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Posts: 297




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« Reply #18 on: November 26, 2017, 03:00:57 PM »

Buy a bag of electric fence insulators (http://www.zarebasystems.com/zareba-4-inch-fin-tube-insulator-ht4fti200).
A bag of 200 is $15.00 plus shipping or check a place like Tractor Supply or AgriSupply and see if they have them
in stock. These are 4 inch long plastic tubes designed for use in sunlight i.e. lots of UV. Also buy a box of tie wraps. Thread
a tie wrap through the tube and around the wire on the opposite side of the tube then back through the tube. Then
on the side with the through retainer clip place the other wire and capture it with the cable tie also. Cinch it down
and clip the tie wrap. Voila, you have 4 inch spaced ladder line. If you insist on insulated wire buy a 500' foot of THHN
in the electric supply department of your local electric supply house. I prefer bare wire as you do not incur the losses
when old insulation gets wet during the rain.

YMMV

Chuck
« Last Edit: November 26, 2017, 03:03:10 PM by WD4HXG » Logged
N4MQ
Member

Posts: 145




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« Reply #19 on: November 26, 2017, 03:39:28 PM »

Here is my ladder line material, solid for sure. Enjoy Woody

https://www.ebay.com/itm/LADDER-LINE-600-OHM-13-AWG-100-FT/132379883344?hash=item1ed274b750:g:mS0AAOSwDwtUobIb



My antenna site FYI:

https://sites.google.com/view/n4mq-site/home
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KF4ZGZ
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Posts: 40


WWW

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« Reply #20 on: November 27, 2017, 02:40:59 AM »


This .....
I bought a smaller pack of insulators and a 100 pack of zip ties. Not counting the wire (5 bucks at an auction) less than $15.00 in 100 ft. of feedline.
Took about 45 minutes to assemble and it looks like I saved myself about 120 bucks!!!


Matt
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KV7W
Member

Posts: 145




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« Reply #21 on: November 27, 2017, 06:24:38 AM »

All these product suggestions make a fine addition to the homebrew forum - especially for something as complicated as ladderline.
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N3QE
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Posts: 4923




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« Reply #22 on: November 27, 2017, 07:21:07 AM »

I think that can work fine as a temporary insulator.

In the distant past hams soaked dowels in spar varnish for extended periods to make ladder line insulators. I think the idea was to completely saturate not just the grain voids but also the fibers themselves. Results in a kind of a very primitive wood-based fiberglass.

I use 4" x 1/4" x 1/16" polycarbonate strips for my ladder line spacers and am very happy with them. I cut them from 1/16" polycarbonate sheet with plastic shears (kind of a giant pair of scissors), then put 1/16" holes about 3/16" from each end using a punch, then make a cut (again with the shears) from the hole to the edge. The cut at the edge allows me to easily (with fingers) slip a 14-gauge wire in. Solder blobs every foot or so on the wire, on either side of the insulator, stop the insulators from sliding up and down.

Polycarbonate is an incredibly nice material to work with. It cuts like butter and all forming operations can be done without any risk of introducing a crack.
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WA2ISE
Member

Posts: 1057




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« Reply #23 on: November 27, 2017, 05:46:46 PM »

I've used election campaign signs material for RF spacers.  After you cut them up, no more QRM from the campaign.  Grin 

Try testing material for RF quality, by putting a sample in the microwave oven (along with a cup of coffee as a dummy load for the microwave oven).  If it stays cool, it should be good for RF work.
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KX4OM
Member

Posts: 210




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« Reply #24 on: November 30, 2017, 02:01:00 PM »

A better idea is to use plastic. Specifically, electric fence insulators. Zack, W1VT of ARRL HQ has written about using those for his homebrew ladder line. You can probably Google for that.

The ones that he used are from Zereba, 4: Fin Tube Insulators. The are obviously designed some high voltage and are weather resistant. Turns ourt that a 200-pack are currently on sale for $15.99.

http://www.zarebasystems.com/zareba-4-inch-fin-tube-insulator-ht4fti200

Ted, KX4OM
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VK4XJB
Member

Posts: 8




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« Reply #25 on: December 06, 2017, 07:02:36 PM »

For untreated paddle pop sticks I found 18 months was the upper limit before the ladder line had to be rebuilt with many of the spacers failing long before that. The ladder line was simple to make. Notch all the paddle pop sticks and I used either zip ties or a bit of glue to hold the wire in place. Cheap and easy to use but was not a long term solution.

My current spacers are cheap plastic coat hangers cut to length. In the last few years only broken spacer was something falling on it from higher in the tree.
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KV7W
Member

Posts: 145




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« Reply #26 on: December 07, 2017, 07:53:12 AM »

There's nothing more aesthetic than plastic, especially white or black PVC - not a ham wife out there that doesn't wish there wasn't more PVC hanging in the air.

Wood that has been base coated with epoxy and finish coated with spar varnish or enamel will last - there are a lot of old wood boats out there, in ocean saltwater and year around sun. Work well, last a long time.

Homebrew ladder line spreaders should be designed around 5" or 6", 600 ohms for most hams - the spacing for 450 ohm is just too critical. It can be done, but it get exponentially more critical the shorter the spreaders. Making a six inch spreader to use with 12ga wire can't be simpler, or cheaper. Again, the spacing on 600 ohm line isn't as critical as 450 ohm, so you can be off a little, or substitute insulated wire for bare. I've used a dollar bill to measure. Just remember 5" for #14, 6" for #12.

I made a spreader just for the thread out of some scrap cedar. It could have been any type of wood, pallet wood, pine, fir, whatever is handy. The pictures show three pieces glued together and how to use a rubber band to attach for temporary portable, (great for QRP backpacking rigs). To permanently attach the wire, just cut short pieces from the same spacer material and glue the wire into the notch. Any glue works - the wood is permanently sealed with epoxy and UV protected with spar varnish. 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/SBEq4ihtoBL4Zghi1

This is the basic unfinished spreader. These can be sanded down for any look you want. Use a dark color for the spacer for a two tone look. I doubt you can buy or build a better spreader out of plastic. No zip ties, no drilling holes or notching round tubing. 
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 17179




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« Reply #27 on: December 07, 2017, 08:28:07 AM »

Quote from: KV7W

... the spacing for 450 ohm is just too critical...
 


That assumes that the impedance of the line is important.

There are some applications where this may be true - when you need to match 3200 ohms,
for example, you'd want the line close to 400 ohms (which is a better estimate for some of
the "450 ohm" window twinlead types.)

But for most common ham usage, the antenna impedance isn't particularly controlled, so the
impedance of the line isn't critical, and you can make it whatever is practical for your application.
I've used a 75' span with wires stretched between nails on the fences on either side of a field,
or a pair of "sort-of parallel" wires running through my attic and out through a vent. 

If you are using a tuner with it, the exact impedance probably doesn't matter.  If you are feeding
a 600 ohm antenna with 600 ohm line to a 600 ohm transmitter, then it does.
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KV7W
Member

Posts: 145




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« Reply #28 on: December 07, 2017, 01:45:43 PM »

Quote from: KV7W

... the spacing for 450 ohm is just too critical...
 


That assumes that the impedance of the line is important.



But for most common ham usage, the antenna impedance isn't particularly controlled, so the
impedance of the line isn't critical, and you can make it whatever is practical for your application.
I've used a 75' span with wires stretched between nails on the fences on either side of a field,
or a pair of "sort-of parallel" wires running through my attic and out through a vent.

This is speaking to two different things, a high standing wave impedance on the feed line and matching different impedances. Coax is truly a wonderful thing in some applications.

"Sort of parallel" kind of defeats the purpose of using a feed line with a potential velocity factor of 98%. It takes a little more work; the part swinging in the wind is on it's own, but station mounting is another thing. Parallel is kind of important - it puts the twin in twin feed. I think most have done the attic thing, lol. A well done feed line means free power. I don't care if the twin feed has a high SWR, as long as it didn't originate on the twin feed from my install.  Rhombic antennas always reminded me of twin feed gone wrong - wish I had the property.
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