Antennas for Modest Ham Station

Antennas Amidst Modest Space and Resources. Many of us are challenged by small space available for the rather large antennas desired for even modest performance ham radio work. Also we may not wish to invest time and money into installing towers.

My previous backyard was only about 60 by 30 feet. Of this only a small area I could safely use because of how the power lines fed into the house. Also the treees just seemed to have the limbs in all the wrong places to get my antenna wires as high as I would like. So my compromise antenna farm was the following: (1) a commercial vertical antenna - Cushcraft R5 - made for 20/17/15/12/10 (meters) and I have found it also works well on 30 meters with a little help from my tuner and to my surprise it presents a 1.5:1 VSWR on 6 meters where it also seems to work well for E-skip! I had an inverted vee (variation of the dipole antenna just in its mounting) for 40 meters. The final thing on my wishlist for capability to operate on 80 meters. After much agonizing I finally decided to get the necessary wire (two legs of 66 feet each) up in the trees as high as i could with whatever orientation I could. Given the limited space and a few tangles in the tree I ended up with an 80 meter center fed "pretzel." The center third of the antenna was strung up the highest and the rest droops around - somehow it got me onto 80 meters and I even worked some DX. I fed this with ladder line to allow me to tune over this entire band. The wide percentage band of 80 meters means that ladder line is desirable for best matching with a tuner, although many hams get satisfactory results with coax and a tuner. For antennas the best advice is to learn about how they work and do the best possible job within space constraints.

Our new QTH in a much more rural area gives us more space, but unfortunately not the luxary of trees conveniently located near the house for antenna supports. The backyard is entirely open space sloping down to a stand of trees at the back boundary of the property. So I filled this space (nearly 60 meters in length) with a long dipole that is off-center fed with ladder line. The rationale for being off-center is to place the feed line as close to the house as possible. The antenna loads well on 160 through 10 meters. Sometimes it is two s-units better than the R5 vertical on 15 and 10 meters. One note on the off-center fed dipole - its imbalance was found to cause radiation problems on a few bands - resulting in erratic electronic keyer operation and feedback into the microphone. These critical interfaces, along with connections to a PC, work fine with ferrite treatment on the associated wiring.

A small whip for 2 meter FM is mounted on the chimney. A rectangular loop (in vertical orientation taller than wide) was previously used for six meters. This antenna was scaled from a design in QST for 10 meters. The virtue of the rectangular shape is to (1) give a feed impedance closer to 50 ohms than a square and (2) to reduce the elevation beamwidth giving a little added gain on the horizon. Fed on the bottom it approximates vertical polarization.

Quads for 6 and 10 meters plus a small beam for 2 meters are the only directional antennas I have used. The quads are constructed from PVC and wire per instructions from W4RNL's website. The 10m quad (lost in a windstorm) was a joy to use - typically 2-3 units better than the R5 vertical. The 2m beam antenna is modified from a Radio Shack FM broadcast antenna per instructions from WB2VVV. It has a five foot boom, and the mods only require trimming the elements. For its small size and investment - this antenna works really well on 2 meter SSB and CW. These antennas are mounted on 2 push-up masts attached to my elevated deck.