Why he's my Jim, not my Elmer

By

Steven J. Meyers, W0AZ

 

 

How many of you have heard this one: “Vertical antennas yep, they're just dandy. They radiate equally poorly in all directions." Like a lot of information that is liberally shared on the Amateur Radio bands, that just isn't so.

 

Many Hams either lack the financial resources or choose for other reasons not to erect towers festooned with Yagis in their yards. In many cases, a neighborhood association that has restrictive antenna covenants will see a tower with a Yagi as an eyesore, but will accept a low profile vertical antenna as a "reasonable accommodation." On small lots, where there is insufficient room for an effective horizontal wire antenna it's usually possible to put up a self-supporting vertical. This is especially true on the low bands, particularly so on 160 Meters where horizontal  wires require acres of real estate (and tall supports if you're not blessed with hundred-foot trees).

 

For years, I've used mostly horizon wires -- coax-fed resonant dipoles and random doublets fed with ladder line; then, our radio club acquired a commercially made vertical antenna, a Cushcraft R-7. It was available to club members who wanted to borrow it and I jumped at the chance. It was a revelation, Although my random doublet usually outperformed the vertical, there were times when the vertical was much better than the long wire. I decided I'd to find a way to get a vertical antenna permanently added to my antenna farm.

 

My chance came when a friend who was moving decided to lighten the load in the moving truck by getting rid of a lot of' radio-related stuff he wasn't using. Among the assorted flotsam and jetsam that had accumulated in his garage over the years was a pile of aluminum pieces that had once been a trap vertical.

 

Most of the tubing was there, along with some of the huge air-wound coils and high voltage capacitors that had once been traps. I took the parts home, thanked my friend, but quietly wondered even as I unloaded the parts into my garage if this mess of pipe, aluminum straps, capacitors and coils would become just another pile of junk until I, like my friend finally disposed of it. Had I acquired an albatross or an antenna?

 

My Ham radio projects often fester. I rarely approach them directly, efficiently, simply. I get an idea, sometimes hair brained -- like the five-band, resonant dipole I wanted to assemble, or from multi conductor ribbon wire (which I would have to buy) often recommended in the antenna books. Another antenna project involved some surplus 12 gauge insulated solid wire I'd scored for free, and a mess of PVC pipe I'd bought for next to nothing. I saw the wire and pipe in the garage one day. Next day, the pieces started assembling themselves in my head. Finally, after a few more days of festering, I started to make the thing. That antenna which took a few afternoons to assemble looked like a giant net for catching low flying birds. The dozen or so PVC insulators that separated the many dipoles glistened in the sun, the top wire that supported the mess sagged under the tremendous weight of all that wire, and as if the ugliness of the thing wasn't enough of a letdown, it didn't work very well. The mortal blow was struck, as it often is, by my appliance operator, Ham XYL (she won’t be offended by this description she's rather proud of it) who said with all the simplicity my antenna project lacked, "No way!"

 

Fortunately, the festering that finally resulted in a vertical antenna made from the parts my friend had given me met a better fate, It began with a drawing in the ARRL Antenna Book". There, on page 7-12 of the 16th edition was a simple schematic, and an article that told you how to make a multi band. base-loaded vertical. The antenna described there, needed a length of tapered tubing, a coil, some alligator clips for taps, a variable capacitor and some kind of mount. The variable capacitor, the author said would make the thing easier to tune but was not absolutely necessary

 

I took a closer look at the pile, I had 21 feet of tapered tubing, and another 3 ft section with a fiberglass insulator riveted into its end. I could easily drill a few holes in the largest piece of tubing I had (a piece which, conveniently, fit perfectly over the fiberglass insulator). The result would be roughly 24 feet of nicely tapered tubing with an insulated gap, about 3 feet off the ground. I could span the gap with the largest coil in the pile (17 turns of what looked like #2 aluminum wire spaced about 1 ½ turns to the inch), and play with the taps to see if I could match it to any of the Ham bands. I had a 5 foot section of steel antenna mast I wasn't using that I could pound into the ground to make a mount, all that green #12 wire (that hadn't worked so well for the multi-band dipole) to use for radials, and plenty of coax. I realized that all I needed to get this thing up were a couple of alligator clips large enough to grip the coil, some clamps to fasten the antenna base to the mount, and a ground rod to safely ground the vertical and provide a convenient tie point for the radials. I went to the hardware store, spent a few bucks -- I was now off and running

 

The antenna went up pretty quickly. I laid 4-25 foot radials on top of the ground and the antenna was 60 feet away from the back door to my shack. The afternoon after I raised the antenna I ran back and forth between the shack and the vertical, sending "QRLT” at low power, identifying myself, reading the SWR and moving the taps around. Afternoon became evening, then pitch-black night. I finished my testing and adjusting with a flashlight.

 

When it was all over I'd found a match on a few bands, but not all. I'd worn a groove in the lawn along the now familiar path to the antenna, and I'd worked a Ham on 40 Meters CW who said my signal was better on the vertical than the doublet.

 

Now, what is it we Hams do when we reach the point where we've used up the books we own, tinkered and experimented until we are at our wits end, but still find ourselves not quite where we want to be? Assuming we're lucky enough to have one, we call our Elmer.

"Hi Jim!"

"Steve?"

"Yep, me again. Jim, I need help." I could almost see him smiling, hear him thinking, "So what else is new?"

"I finally cobbled together an antenna out of all those parts Ben gave me. I worked a guy in California on 40 with it, and I think it's going to work pretty well, but I've got a few problems," I explained that I was having difficulty finding matches on all the bands. I laughed about all the trips I'd made between the antenna and the shack."

 

"You know. Steve, the club has an antenna analyzer you can borrow. And I think I've got a variable cap you can use across that coil. It'll sure make tuning that antenna a whole lot easier. If you've got enough inductance in that coil to load it on 40, you should be in good shape for the higher bands too."

 

We had lunch the next day and Jim handed me a gorgeous variable, an E.F. Johnson capacitor with wide spaces between the plates. He also handed me a skirted knob calibrated from 0-I00 over 180 degrees that carried the National logo. It, too, was beautiful.

 

"I had this knob on that homebrew transmitter that was in the picture I showed you. Remember? Jimmy was in the high chair next to the radio and the whole shack fit inside a desk with a folding lid? When I took that rig apart, I put this knob in a parts box. I probably won't ever use it. Why don't you rig some kind of bracket for that cap, and put a pointer on it to read the skirt. You might even want to number the turns on that coil. That way you'll be able to quickly reset the antenna for different bands. Take the cap and the knob home and try 'em."

 

The next day I rigged a bracket and a dial indicator for the capacitor. While I was at it, I put down four more radials. The variable capacitor made tuning the antenna a snap. Although I still couldn't match the vertical on 30 Meters (the SWR was dropping rapidly with a particular pair of tap settings when I ran out of capacitance), I quickly found tap points and dial settings for all the other bands between 40 and 10 Meters.

 

The antenna analyzer allowed me to sit on a stool and change the taps and the cap without filling the airwaves with unnecessary radiation. The neighbors who probably thought I'd gone completely bonkers when they saw me running back and forth both during the day and later that night when they saw my flashlight beam bobbing through the yard, had gone back to thinking me, once again, merely a harmless eccentric as they watched me sit on the stool fiddling with that tall piece of aluminum tubing stuck in the ground. The next day I covered the exposed coil and capacitor with a snap-lid plastic box. Even my XYL thought it was kind of attractive.

 

Jim came over a few days later to see my creation. He thought it was pretty nifty. When I told him about the problem I'd had finding a match on 30 Meters he asked if I had any high voltage capacitors I could put across that variable that might help me find a match for 30. I found a 67 pF cap that had been part of one of the disassembled traps, added a pair of alligator clips to the leads, clipped it across the variable, and soon had a match for 30. We went into the shack and listened to the new antenna for a while, compared it with the doublet, and pronounced it a huge success. When Jim left, he was smiling.

 

I re -discovered, in the process of putting up this antenna, you don't always need a clear idea where you are going when you start a project. Sometimes, it's better to just start and see where it takes you. Many Hams who are intimidated by the idea of homebrewing buy what few projects they attempt as commercial kits. All the parts are there, it’s neat and tidy. If things are done according to the instruction manual, the project will work As a result, they miss out on the fun of not knowing if the darn thing will ever work the joy of making something that is a journey, an uncertainty, from the start. Often, these experimental projects don't work out. Often we find ourselves carefully disassembling them and putting the parts back in our junk boxes. But when they do work, there's no feeling quite like it.

 

For the few months the new vertical antenna has been bending with the wind in my backyard, I’ve used it in preference to my older doublet. That's the way we are with new things. I've found that it seems to hear the coast-to-coast friends I have a weekly roundtable With better than the doublet. I've worked about l5 new countries with it. Sometimes I just peek out the shack window and stare at it.

 

In the future: if you hear me referring to my Jim instead of my Elmer, you'll know why.

 

KN

Reprinted from the March 2002 issue of WORLDRADIO

 

 

 

 

HAM RADIO UNIVERSITY

By

Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP

 

Ham Radio University (HRU) is an educational forum that is run by the  ARRL NYC-Long Island Section.  It is not a HamFest or flea market. Its purpose is to be a day of  education for hams and non hams on the  many phases of ham activities and communication modes. This is the  fourth year that HRU has been running.

 

This time it will be at a new location at a 45 acre private school in  Oyster Bay. Although it is being sponsored this year by LIMARC, it is the  joint effort of over 20 clubs of the NLI section, including Grumman.

 

There will be a special event station and a VE session as well as many  demonstrations and technical lectures for beginners as well as for  experienced hams.

 

The date is: Sunday, January 19, 2003, starting at 8:00 AM.

 

The place is: The East Woods School, 31 Yellow Cote Road, Oyster Bay, NY.

 

Talk-in: W2VL 146.850-600 136.5 PL and 147.210 +600

 

Admission is open to all - donation $2 per person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refreshments will be available at this all day event.

 

For more information contact: George Tranos N2GA, ARRL NLI Section Manager (631) 286-7562

E-mail: N2GA@arrl.org

The above information has been provided by Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP

 

If you have any questions regarding this please reply by E-mail to: w2ilp@juno.com

 

Vy 73,Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP

 

 

 

Error Messages

Sent in by

PAUL CHRISTIE, AB2KU

 

Here are 16 actual error messages seen on the computer screens in
Japan, where they are written in Haiku. Aren't these better than "your computer has performed an illegal operation"?

 

 

The Web site you seek Cannot be located, but Countless more exist.
--------------------------------------------
Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, and reboot. Order shall return.
-----------------------------------------------
Program aborting: Close all that you have worked on. You ask far too much.
------------------------------------------------
Windows NT crashed. I am the Blue Screen of Death. No one hears your screams.
-------------------------------------------------
Yesterday it worked. Today it is not working. Windows is like that.
-------------------------------------------------
Your file was so big. It might be very useful. But now it is gone.
-------------------------------------------
Stay the patient course. Of little worth is your ire. The network is down.
-------------------------------------------------
A crash reduces Your expensive computer To a simple stone.
-------------------------------------------------
Three things are certain: Death, taxes and lost data. Guess which has occurred.
-------------------------------------------------
You step in the stream, But the water has moved on. This page is not here.
-------------------------------------------------
Out of memory. We wish to hold the whole sky, But we never will.
------------------------------------------------
Having been erased, The document you're seeking Must now be retyped.
-------------------------------------------------
Serious error. All shortcuts have disappeared. Screen. Mind. Both are blank

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB

MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING – 12/18/02

By Pete, N2PYV

 

 

 

The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:44 p.m.

All present introduced themselves.

 

TREASURER'S REPORT –

Tom, KC2HNN

Finances continue to be in good shape.

 

REPEATER REPORT –

Gordon, KB2UB

Gordon and Pat have the new hard-line feeder line for the Bethpage Repeater that was provided by Bill, N2NFI. When trying to install it, the cable that raises the tower broke, allowing it to drop a couple of feet. This has jammed the tower and it will require repair. The repeater will be off the air until it can be repaired. They are trying to get help from N/G Facilities Department to replace the cable.

The site for the Hauppaugue Repeater has been sold. According to newspaper articles, the new owner will remove the tower and replace it with a shorter one. There is an article in the contract of sale that says that GARC shall have the right to use and maintain communications on the tower at no cost. It is not clear if the tower is replaced that this clause will apply. It is not even certain that the new owner will erect a new tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NET REPORT –

Zack, WB2PUE

Zack reported that the Sunday Morning 40-Meter Net was good, but no one was heard on the Wednesday Noon 20-Meter Net.

 

VE REPORT –

Bob, W2ILP

There were six applicants and seven VE’s present. One applicant failed and five passed the Technician exam. One of those who passed the Technician exam also passed the General and Extra exam but failed the code test. One of those who passed the Technician exam previously held a Novice license and was upgraded to Technician; thus there were four new hams with Technician licenses as a result of this session.

Bob also reported that he has received a letter from W5YI stating that the fee to take exams next year will be $12.00.

 

WAG REPORT - Bob, W2FPF

No Activity

 

NEW MEMBER

Dawn Felix-Canales, KC2KPP, Technician, was approved as a Sustaining Member

 

PROGRAM

Our annual Holiday Party that was held in the UL cafeteria was great. Thanks to Bill, N2SFT for making the arrangements.