Amateur Radio WB3GCK The Dollar Store Special
Craig LaBarge, WB3GCK

[NOTE: An updated version of this article can be found at]

I love rummaging through our local dollar store.  One of the biggest bargains in our local dollar store is speaker wire.  (See Figure 1.) You can get 50 feet of two-conductor speaker wire for a buck.  Not too shabby.  I always keep a bunch of the stuff on hand for experimenting with antennas.  

Using a single 50-foot roll of dollar store speaker wire, I made a simple 50-foot random wire antenna with counterpoise wires to cover the 40, 30 and 20 meter bands.  I stashed the whole kit in a zip-lock bag and always keep it on hand as a backup antenna system whenever I operate in the field.  (See Figure 2.)  With a simple antenna tuner of some sort, this will get you on the air in a pinch, should your primary antenna fail.  

Here's all you have to do:
  1. Separate the conductors so that you now have two separate 50-foot wires.
  2. For the radiator, take one of the 50-foot wires and crimp a small ring lug to one end (right over the insulation).  (See Figure 3.)  This gives you some place to tie a line to in order to hoist it up.  On the other end, just strip off a half inch or so of the insulation.  You can leave it bare or add whatever kind of connector you want; whatever works best with your tuner.
  3. For the counterpoise wires, take the remaining 50-foot wire and cut it so that you have a 33-foot wire and a 17-foot wire.  If you only want to work 40 and 20 meters, you can stop right here.  You now have counterpoise wires for both of these bands.
  4. To provide a counterpoise wire for 30 meters, take the 33-foot wire from Step #3 and cut it so that you now have a 23-foot wire and a 10-foot wire.  Strip off about 1/2-inch of insulation from one end of the 23-foot wire.  Install a quick disconnect connector of some sort on the other end, so that you can join the 23-foot and 10-foot wire sections together.  The idea here is that, with the two wires connected, you have a 33-foot counterpoise wire for 40 meters.  With the two sections separated, you now have a 23-foot counterpoise wire for 30 meters.
In operation, just hoist one end of the 50-foot radiator up in a tree or other suitable support.  Connect the other end to the hot side of your tuner.  Connect the 33-foot and 17-foot counterpoise wires to the ground connection on your tuner and lay them out on the ground.  (See Figure 5.)  When you want to work 30 meters, just disconnect the quick-disconnect on the longer counterpoise wire.  Pretty simple, eh?   Any type of simple L-tuner should work fine for this.  

Please note that I wouldn't recommend using this wire for a permanent outdoor antenna.  It's really not suited for that kind of use.  But for temporary outdoor use, it'll do just fine.  Besides, if the wire goes bad, you can always replace the whole thing for a dollar!

Figure 1. Dollar Store speaker wire

Figure 1.  Dollar Store speaker wire

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Figure 2.  Complete antenna in a ziplock bag

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Figure 3.  Ring lug

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Figure 4.  Quick disconnect

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Figure 5.  Diagram

� 2005 Craig A. LaBarge

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