The “Up and Outer” Antenna

[This is an updated version of a post that appears on my old website. – WB3GCK]

Something about the “Up and Outer” antenna has fascinated me since I first came across it in the 1974 edition of the ARRL Antenna Book. This antenna, which was once popular many years ago, is about as simple as it gets. Simply put, the Up and Outer is a dipole or doublet where one leg is vertical while the other leg is horizontal. Although it seems to be overlooked by Amateurs these days, this antenna offers some significant benefits:

  • It’s a good limited space antenna since one leg of the doublet is vertical. It only requires half of the space that a horizontal doublet would take up.
  • When fed with balanced line and used with a suitable transmatch, it’s a good multi-band antenna.
  • It combines characteristics of both verticals and horizontal wire antennas. That is, it is good for both local and DX work.
  • It’s very easy to build and erect.
The "Up & Outer" is essentially a doublet with one vertical leg and one horizontal leg.

The “Up & Outer” is essentially a doublet with one vertical leg and one horizontal leg.

First, a little background on this antenna. According to some handwritten notes from QRP Hall of Famer, C. F. Rockey W9SCH (SK), this antenna goes back to the 20s and 30s. Lew McCoy W1ICP (SK) wrote about it in the October 1960 edition of QST [1]. He didn’t use the name, “Up and Outer;” he merely referred to it as a “limited space antenna.” McCoy recommended horizontal and vertical elements of 30-feet each for operation on 80-10 meters. He also recommended using an open-wire feedline to minimize losses. Information from McCoy’s article has appeared for years in the ARRL Antenna Book. (I first saw it in my 1974 edition [2] and it was still shown in the 1997 edition [3].)

W9SCH wrote a couple of articles about this antenna for SPRAT  and appears to have coined the term, “Up and Outer.” In the first SPRAT article [4], Rock suggested using 1/4 wave elements for the lowest band and feeding it with either coax (for single band operation) or balanced line (for multi-band operation). In a follow-up article [5], Rock suggests pruning the horizontal element to equalize the current in the balanced feeder. He noted the imbalance when operating with the horizontal element close to ground. He started with 16-foot elements to cover 30-10 meters.

Another Hall of Famer, L. B. Cebik W4RNL (SK), wrote about a coax-fed version of this antenna for 10 meters [6]. Cebik built his antenna using aluminum tubing and referred to it as the “L Antenna.”

I also exchanged some correspondence years ago with Fred Bonavita K5QLF (SK), another QRP Hall of Famer and fan of the Up and Outer. He told me that W9SCH once mentioned using the copper ball from an old toilet float to top-load the vertical element of the antenna. I have never tried it but it does sound intriguing!

The "Up and Outer" antenna mounted on a 3rd-story deck in Corolla, North Carolina.

The “Up and Outer” antenna mounted on a 3rd-story deck in Corolla, North Carolina.

For me, the Up and Outer has turned out to be an ideal portable antenna to use while on vacation in a rented house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For several years I’ve used a 56-foot doublet with one wire supported by a 28-foot fiberglass telescopic mast and one 28-foot leg run horizontally. The vertical radiator is typically situated on a 3rd or 4th story wooden deck with the horizontal wire secured to a nearby tree or other support. For feedline, I use 25-feet of TV twinlead (the cheap brown stuff). Using either a homebrew Z-match tuner or an autotuner with a short run of coax to an external 4:1 balun, I’ve been able to use this antenna on 40-10 meters. Your mileage may vary. Depending on the transmatch you use, you might need to adjust the length of the feedline to get a good match on 40 meters.

"Up and Outer" feedpoint

“Up and Outer” feedpoint

I did some quick modeling of a typical Outer Banks installation using MMANA-GL and you can clearly see the results of the combined horizontal and vertical elements. The horizontal polarity (shown in blue) shows lobes perpendicular to the axis of the horizontal wire, similar to a dipole. The vertical polarity (shown in red) shows a fairly low take-off angle and exhibits some slight directivity on 40 meters in the direction of the horizontal wire. This effect is due to the proximity to ground of the horizontal element and diminishes as you go higher in frequency. So, try to mount the Up and Outer as high above ground as you can.

"Up and Outer" 40M pattern

“Up and Outer” 40M pattern

"Up and Outer" 30M pattern

“Up and Outer” 30M pattern

"Up and Outer" 20M pattern

“Up and Outer” 20M pattern

The modeling bears out my empirical results with the antenna. My version of the Up and Outer has worked very well for both stateside contacts and DX. In particular, it has been very effective for DX contacts on 30 meters. As an added bonus, the 56-foot doublet can also be pressed into service as a normal horizontal antenna in locations where the Up and Outer configuration isn’t possible. So, it’s like getting two antennas in one. Can’t beat that.

If you are looking for a limited-space antenna, give this obscure classic a try!

73, Craig WB3GCK

 

References:
1. McCoy, Lewis G. “A Limited-Space Antenna.” QST October 1960: pp 23-25. (Available in the ARRL online archives)
2. “The ARRL Antenna Book.” 13th Edition, 1974. Newington, CT. pp 187-188.
3. “The ARRL Antenna Book.” 18th Edition, 1997. Newington, CT. pp 7-15, 7-16.
4. Rockey, C. F. “Up and Outer.” SPRAT Issue #67: p 18.
5. Rockey, C. F. “A Four Band Up and Outer Antenna.” SPRAT Issue #69: p 16.
6. Cebik, L. B. “Whips, Tubes and Wires: Building a 10-Meter L Antenna.” QST December 1999: pp 52-54. (Available in the ARRL online archives)
© 2009-2017 Craig A. LaBarge
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Cunningham Falls State Park (KFF-1566)

My better half and I took our little camper down to Cunningham Falls State Park for the weekend. Located in central Maryland, Cunningham Falls has always been one of our favorite campgrounds. While I was there, I did some ham radio, including a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation of KFF-1566.

I did all of my operating outside under the camper’s awning. My antenna was my usual 30-foot vertical wire fed through a 9:1 unun. I strapped my 31-foot Jackite pole to a wooden lantern stand. With the bands being a bit flakey, I cranked my KX3 up to 10 watts for the POTA contacts.

Operating from our campsite in Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, Maryland. My 31-foot Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.

Operating from our campsite in Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, Maryland. My 31-foot Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.

Despite some solar storming and generally poor propagation, I managed to squeeze out more than enough contacts to qualify the POTA activation. I certainly appreciate the effort put forth by the “hunters” to dig my low-power signal out of the noise. In particular, W6LEN in California was particularly persistent in tracking me down. Although our signals were only slightly better than ESP levels, we managed to connect on both 30 and 20 meters.

I also had a few nice rag-chew QSOs, too. On Saturday afternoon, I heard NA1CC/2 calling CQ and gave him a call. As it turns out, Wes was running QRP while camping near Cranberry Lake in New York. It always fun to have a campsite-to-campsite QRP QSO.

We also took a ride over to Catoctin Mountain Park.  This national park is right across the road from Cunningham Falls and is also where Camp David is located.  I activated Catoctin Mountain Park during the National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event last year but had no time for a POTA activation there on this trip.

We had great weather for camping this weekend, although the space weather could have been better.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Outer Banks 2017

For our annual vacation this year, our extended family rented a house in the town of Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Of course, ham radio was a part of my week’s activities.

I’ve operated my QRP equipment from numerous beach houses over the past 20 years but this year highlighted the need to be flexible and adapt. Before I left for vacation, I looked at some pictures of the house online and did some aerial reconnaissance (Google Earth) to see where I might set up my radio and antenna.

I initially set up a 30-foot vertical on a 3rd-floor balcony on the front of the house. I ran my coax down to an unused bedroom on the 1st floor. That was a great place to operate but the noise levels were horrendous. My vertical was a bit too close to some electronics (TVs, WiFi equipment, etc.). I made one contact before taking down the antenna and moving on to Plan B.

After studying the back of the house (furthest away from all of the electronic gadgets), I decided to go with a 53-foot wire in an inverted L configuration. I ran the wire vertically along a wooden deck up to the 3rd floor. From there, I ran the wire out horizontally to a Jackite pole strapped to a volley ball net. The last 6 feet or so of wire ran back down the Jackite pole. So, I guess it was technically an “inverted J.” Whatever you want to call it, it served me well. I still had some intermittent noise issues but it was more manageable than before.

This is a view of the rear of the house showing how I supported my inverted L. The wire ran up the side of the deck and out to the Jackite pole strapped to the volley ball net. The last 6 feet or so ran down the Jackite pole. So, technically, it was more of an inverted "J" than an "L."

This is a view of the rear of the house showing how I supported my inverted L. The wire ran up the side of the deck and out to the Jackite pole strapped to the volley ball net. The last 6 feet or so ran down the Jackite pole. So, technically, it was more of an inverted “J” than an “L.”

I fed the antenna through a 9:1 unun with an 18-foot run of coax going in through a nearby window. My KX3 was wedged into the corner of a ground floor bedroom.

This is a homebrew 9:1 unun at the feedpoint of my antenna. The wire went up vertically about 23-feet before extending out horizontally to the Jackite pole.

This is a homebrew 9:1 unun at the feedpoint of my antenna. The wire went up vertically about 23-feet before extending out horizontally to the Jackite pole.

On the air, this impromptu antenna worked surprisingly well. It was especially effective on 40 and 30 meters. If I ever get bored enough someday, I might model it to see what it looks like on paper.

My "cozy" operating position. If you look carefully, you can see the 9:1 unun through the window.

My “cozy” operating position next to a foosball table. If you look carefully, you can see the 9:1 unun through the window.

The bands were pretty flakey this week but I managed to make contacts every day. I fell into the pattern of getting on 40 meter CW early in the morning then doing some PSK-31 on 40 meters in the evening. I had some nice CW rag chews and worked some Carribean and South American DX on 40M PSK-31.

One notable highlight was working Joe N2CX who was doing Parks on the Air (POTA) activations in Canada. Despite the lousy band conditions, I worked him at three different parks. I worked two of the parks on two bands and one of them on three bands.

We had some thunderstorms and heavy rain on our last day there, so I took the antenna down and packed up the radio stuff a little earlier than I wanted to.

It was a fun week in North Carolina and we’re already looking at houses for next year. You can bet that I’ll be ready with several antenna options. You just never know what to expect.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Jackite Pole Locking Pin

Here’s a quick little hack that might come in handy if your Jackite pole should suddenly collapse in windy conditions. It’s very easy to do and costs nothing, depending on what you have in your junk box.

Once in a blue moon, in windy conditions, I have had my 28-foot and 31-foot Jackite poles spontaneously collapse. Usually, when it happens, it’s the second largest tube that collapses into the largest tube.  To remedy this, I drilled two 1/8-inch holes in the second largest tube right where it meets the largest tube. I drilled the two holes such that they were directly opposite each other. (See the accompanying pictures if my explanation is confusing.)

To remedy this, I drilled two 1/8-inch holes in the second largest tube right where it meets the largest tube. I drilled the two holes such that they were directly opposite each other. (See the accompanying pictures if my explanation is confusing.)

This is where the holes are drilled. Note that there is a second hole directly opposite this one.

This is where the holes are drilled. Note that there is a second hole directly opposite this one.

Here’s how it works. When the pole is fully extended, I just slide a pin through the two holes to prevent the pole from collapsing. For the pin, I used a hook from a bungee cord that I straightened out, using a pair of pliers. The resulting pin is just the right size and it has a nice rubberized coating on it. You could, of course, use something else (a nail, a piece of wire, etc.) for the pin.

These are the two pole sections with the locking pin inserted.

These are the two pole sections with the locking pin inserted.

This is before (top) and after of the bungee hook I used for the locking pin.

This is before (top) and after of the bungee hook I used for the locking pin.

I don’t usually use the pin, except in very windy conditions. I’ll definitely use it during my upcoming trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My Jackite pole will be up for a week and facing some stiff ocean breezes.

73, Craig WB3GCK

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Susquehanna State Park (KFF-1601)

My better half and I headed down to Susquehanna State Park in northeastern Maryland for a relaxing weekend of camping. My plan for the weekend was to make some contacts in the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES). I also wanted to set some time aside for a dedicated Parks on the Air (POTA) activation of KFF-1601.

Our campsite was heavily wooded but in a bit of a low spot. It was a great site for camping but probably not ideal for ham radio. Undeterred, I used my 30-foot wire vertical, fed through a 9:1 unun and did most of my operating outside in a comfy camp chair.

WB3GCK hard at work operating from our campsite in Susquehanna State Park.

WB3GCK hard at work operating from our campsite in Susquehanna State Park.

I made most of my contacts on Saturday morning working WES stations. After that, things slowed down and my little 5-watt signal was struggling to get through. On Saturday afternoon, I spotted myself on the POTA Facebook page and called CQ for nearly an hour on 40 and 20 meters. The net result was a meager 2 contacts. I made a few more WES contacts on 80 and 40 meters on Sunday morning before packing up for the trip home.

When the bands start to fade, it's good to have a backup plan.

When the bands start to fade, it’s good to have a backup plan.

Fortunately, I ended up with more than enough contacts to get credit for the POTA activation. Even when the bands aren’t conducive to QRP, it’s still fun operating outdoors.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Bike-Portable with My AlexLoop

Today was the first chance I’ve had during this long, holiday weekend to go out play radio. I’m a regular supporter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, so I like to take advantage of rail trails when I can. Today, I loaded up my bike and headed down to the Chester Valley Trail. The Chester Valley Trail cuts across Chester County and connects to a large, growing network of trails in the greater Philadelphia area.

I decided to take my AlexLoop along today. I’ve never really tried carrying the AlexLoop on my bike before. While it fits comfortably in my backpack, I don’t really like to ride with a backpack on. I’ve always found that uncomfortable, especially on hot and humid days.

My bike loaded up and ready for travel. The AlexLoop structural components are in the green back. The coax radiator is in one of the pannier bags.

My bike loaded up and ready for travel. The AlexLoop structural components are in the green back. The coax radiator is in one of the pannier bags.

Today, I arranged the three support pieces of the loop side-by-side. I used the velcro straps on the back of the tuning box to help hold the three sections together. Then I placed the sections in an over-sized nylon stuff sack. Taking care not to bend the antenna’s feed loop, I strapped the loop components and my tripod on the rear rack of my bike. I put the coax part of the loop in one of my panniers, along with my LiFePO4 battery. I put my KX3 in the other pannier bag. This turned out to be a workable solution.

This is how I arranged the AlexLoop components prior to putting them in a protective stuff sack. The velcro straps attached to the tuning box are used to help hold the pieces together.

This is how I arranged the AlexLoop components prior to putting them in a protective stuff sack. The velcro straps attached to the tuning box are used to help hold the pieces together.

After loading up the bike, I rode about 2.75 miles to the Exton County Park. I found a picnic table in a remote section of the park and set up the AlexLoop and KX3. I was out in an open area, so the wind was strong at times. I used a bungee cord to secure the tripod to the seat of the picnic table.

Due to some gusting winds, I used a bungee cord to secure the tripod to the bench.

Due to some gusting winds, I used a bungee cord to secure the tripod to the bench.

I started off calling CQ on 20 meters and quickly received a call from N5GW. Gene was on vacation in Tennessee and was putting a great signal into southeastern Pennsylvania. After chatting for a bit, I signed with Ken and moved down to 30 meters. There were no takers there, so I gave 40 meters a try. N1KK gave me a call. Ken was operating QRP-portable from his summer home in Narragansett, Rhode Island. By the time Ken and I finished our QSO, the lack of shade was starting to get to me, so I packed up the bike and got back on the trail.

My setup at Exton County Park.

My setup at Exton County Park.

I rode another mile or so further before turning around and heading back to the trailhead.  I really enjoyed this trail and I’ll definitely be doing this ride again in the near future.

I was happy with the AlexLoop arrangement on the bike but I’m sure there’s room for improvement.

I’d like to wish all of my friends here in the U.S. a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Boschveldt (W3BQC) Field Day 2017

Once again, I joined my fellow Boschveldt QRP Club members for Field Day. We’re a loosely-organized group of QRPers who enjoy portable operating. Field Day is one of the few times each year that we get together, so it’s always good to see everyone and do some catching up. This year we held Field Day on a beautiful piece of land owned by a close family friend of one of our members. We were situated on top of a hill, so we had some good elevation, too.

This is the little camper K3YTR used. Besides sleeping, there was enough room for his radios.

This is the little camper K3YTR used. Besides a place to sleep, there was enough room for his radios.

Ed K3YTR, Glen NK1N and I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and set up our tents. We were expecting some heavy rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy so we held off setting up our radio equipment. We were joined later that night by Ron WA8YIH.

This is my (WB3GCK) tent. The Jackite pole in the foreground is supporting the vertical portion of my 58-ft inverted L antenna.

This is the WB3GCK tent. The Jackite pole in the foreground is supporting the vertical portion of my 58-ft inverted L antenna.

We sat around chewing the fat until it started to rain around 10:30 PM. At that point, we retreated to our tents for the night to ride out the storm. It certainly was a rough night, with some of the heaviest rain I have ever experienced in a tent. My old tent made it through the night with only some slight leaks. WA8YIH’s canopy, unfortunately, was destroyed by the heavy rain. Other than that, we got through the night otherwise unscathed.

Ron WA8YIH (left) and Glen NK1N surveying the aftermath of Tropical Depression Cindy. Ron's canopy was a total loss.

Ron WA8YIH (left) and Glen NK1N surveying the aftermath of Tropical Depression Cindy. Ron’s canopy was a total loss.

After breakfast on Saturday, we went about setting up our radio equipment. Ed WA3WSJ arrived mid-morning.

Ed WA3WSJ camped out in his hammock. He's in there somewhere.

Ed WA3WSJ camped out in his hammock. He’s in there somewhere.

This year, we operating as Class 3A EPA, using our club callsign, W3BQC. We were all QRP on battery power. I operated CW while WA8YIH operated SSB, digital and a little CW. NK1N worked satellites using his new portable setup. K3YTR worked 2M and 440 SSB. WA3WSJ assisted with all the stations.

Glen NK1N setting up his antenna array for satellite communications.

Glen NK1N setting up his antenna array for satellite communications.

On HF, WA8YIH and I were both running KX3s and inverted L antennas fed through 9:1 ununs. Propagation seemed fair on Saturday but was much better on Sunday. Despite all the wet foliage around us, NK1N managed to make some decent satellite contacts. On Saturday night, I switched my station over to digital to copy the W1AW Field Day Bulletin on 80 meters.

This is Ron WA8YIH's station running SSB and digital.

This is Ron WA8YIH’s station running SSB and digital.

Field Day with the Boschveldt QRP crew is always a somewhat laid-back affair. None of us are serious contesters, so there is always a lot of socializing going on during the weekend. During the evening, we assemble around the campfire to swap tall stories. We never rack up huge scores but we always have a lot of fun.

WA3WSJ grilling Spam for lunch on Sunday

WA3WSJ grilling Spam for lunch on Sunday

After a Sunday lunch of grilled Spam sandwiches, we started tearing down and packing up. We haven’t compiled our logs yet, so I don’t know what our final score is yet. I’m sure we didn’t set any records but, if they gave out bonus points for having fun, the Boschveldt crew would be at the top of our category.

For more (and much better) pictures of our Field Day, visit the Boschveldt QRP website.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Father’s Day Weekend Camping

As is my usual practice, I spent Father’s Day weekend camping with my XYL. One of my Father’s Day “gifts” is a relaxing weekend with some occasional ham radio.

Our camp sign. A local artisan made this for us many years ago.

Our camp sign. A local artisan made this for us many years ago.

We took our travel trailer up to nearby French Creek State Park. On our maiden voyage with the trailer, I encountered some noise issues. Not this time. Since the trailer was only on battery power this time, I didn’t have the noisy 12V converter to contend with. Plus, I used my Jackite ground mount to mount my antenna further away from the trailer.

My 31-foot Jackite pole. This time I located the antenna about 10 feet away from the trailer.

My 31-foot Jackite pole. This time I located the antenna about 10 feet away from the trailer.

For this trip, I used the 31-foot Jackite pole to support a 30-foot wire and fed it with a 9:1 unun. Inside the trailer, I used my KX3 with a small LiFePO4 battery. Using the KX3’s internal antenna tuner, I was able to load up on all bands from 80-6 meters. The KX3’s tuner never ceases to amaze me.

Operating on and off over the weekend, I made a dozen or so casual contacts. Some of them were pretty interesting:

  • On Saturday, I worked WB2LQF in New York. Stan was running 1W to his attic dipole and was delivering an amazing signal into southeastern Pennsylvania. On Sunday, I worked Stan again. This time he was operating WW2DEM aboard the USS Slater in Albany. Like me, Stan is a former Navy Radioman.
  • I worked N2CX who was doing a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation from Big Pocono State Park (KFF-1333) in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I was monitoring his usual 40-meter frequency and caught him when he first came on the air.  After working Joe, I decided to start submitting my POTA logs.
  • I worked K1ZK as he was testing his new MTR rig on 20 meters. Zack and I had a nice two-way QRP chat. I was pleased to be his first contact with the new rig.
  • I wrapped up the weekend by working the NAQCC guys operating NY3EC aboard the USS Requin.

I also had a chance to do a quick test of the vertical antenna I have been working on. It’s getting better but the 30-meter band is still resonating a bit low. I’ll be doing another loading coil tweak this week.

My experimental vertical antenna set up on our campsite for some quick SWR measurements.

My experimental vertical antenna set up on our campsite for some quick SWR measurements.

Next weekend I’ll be out with the Boschveldt QRP gang for Field Day. If you hear W3BQC on the air, give us a shout.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Weekend Antenna Testing

Carrying on from the initial testing I did last week, I went out for a bike ride yesterday and took my experimental vertical along.  (I gave a general description of this antenna project in my previous post.)  I rode a few miles up the Schuylkill River Trail and on to a park along the Perkiomen Trail.

I set up in a remote section of the picnic area and quickly took some readings on 40 and 30 meters with my antenna analyzer.  I had done some tweaking to the loading coil but, unfortunately, both bands were still resonating too low.

My set up at Lower Perkiomen Valley Park. If you look closely at the S-meter in the upper right of the display, you can see the horrendous noise level on 40 meters.

My set up at Lower Perkiomen Valley Park. If you look closely at the S-meter in the upper right of the display, you can see the horrendous noise level on 40 meters.

I set up my KX3, intending to make some contacts.  This, however, was not to be.  There was a background noise level that was higher than I had encountered on a previous visit to this park.  As I was tuning around, I looked over and saw that the wind had blown my antenna over.  I neglected to bring anything along that I could use to stabilize the antenna and tripod.  I set it back up but it wasn’t long before the antenna was on the ground again.  After it blew over a 3rd time, I gave up.  I packed up the bike and rode back down the trail to my truck.

My bike loaded up for the trip home. No contacts today but at least I had a nice bike ride!

My bike loaded up for the trip home. No contacts today but at least I had a nice bike ride!

This morning I made another adjustment to the antenna’s loading coil and headed over to Valley Forge Park to test it.  Like yesterday, it was somewhat breezy.  This time, I hung my backpack from a hook on the bottom of the tripod to make sure the antenna stayed upright.

My set up at Valley Forge National Historical Park. I hooked my backpack to the bottom of the tripod to help stabilize it in the wind.

My set up at Valley Forge National Historical Park. I hooked my backpack to the bottom of the tripod to help stabilize it in the wind.

I took some antenna analyzer readings and found that the 40-meter band was now resonating right where I wanted it.  I saw some improvement on 30 meters but it was still resonating below the band.  Obviously, the tap for the 30-meter band is in the wrong place.

As I tuned around, it the bands seemed better this morning.  I worked N5P in Texas on 20 meters.  N5P was participating in the Museum Ships Weekend event from the National Museum of the Pacific War.  I moved down to 30 meters and heard a couple of strong stations.  I didn’t make any contacts there, though.

I called CQ on 40 meters and quickly got a call from N1PVP in Massachusetts.  I remembered working Marino a couple of weeks ago.  He always has a very strong signal into Pennsylvania.  I wrapped up with a two-way QRP QSO with Alan AC8AP in Ohio.

Antenna-wise, I have to do some thinking about how to proceed with my experimental vertical.  As I see it, I have a few options:

  • I could continue to tweak the existing coil.  If I remove turns from the bottom of the coil while adding the same number of turns to the top of the coil, this would effectively move the tap point for the 30-meter band.
  • It might be easier to just re-wind the coil and add a few more tap points.  I could do some testing to see which tap works the best.
  • I could always invoke the “do nothing” option.  The SWR on 30 meters is only about 4.3:1, which is a trivial match for the KX3’s internal tuner.

In any event, the antenna is useful as it stands.  I’ll take some time this week to consider my next move.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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Memorial Day Antenna Testing

Some time ago, I bought a small, lightweight telescopic fishing pole from a Chinese vendor on eBay.  It’s about 19.5 feet tall and collapses down to about 26 inches.  It’s a great size for backpacking or transporting on my bike.  It weighs practically nothing.  In fact, it’s too light for supporting anything but a lightweight vertical wire.  Although I have used it a few times to support various antenna configurations, I never really found one that was a “keeper.”

Since I had some time over the long holiday weekend, I scratched out a quick design for yet another vertical antenna and cobbled it together with parts I had on hand in my junk box.  I designed it to operate as a base-loaded resonant vertical on both 40 and 30 meters.  On 20 meters and higher, it operates as a non-resonant wire; thus, an antenna tuner is required on those bands.  Along with the loading coil, the matching unit contains a 1:1 choke balun to isolate the feedline.    Both the choke balun and tapped loading coil are wound on toroids and mounted in a small, plastic enclosure.  The radiator is a 19-foot piece of #28 wire.  I could have shortened the radiator to make it resonant on 20 meters also, however, I went with the longer radiator for better performance on 40 meters.  I used four 12.5-foot radials that I made from a 25-foot roll of cheap speaker wire.

The antenna I was testing. The white piece between the telescopic pole and the tripod is an adapter I made from PVC pipe.

The antenna I was testing. The white piece between the telescopic pole and the tripod is an adapter I made from PVC pipe.

Normally, I like to use the “build a little, test a little” approach.  Since I don’t have the luxury of space at home for antenna testing, I just took my chances and built the whole thing.  I headed out to a local park yesterday to give it the “smoke test” and see how close I came with my loading coil design.

My operating location on a cloudy and rainy morning

My operating location on a cloudy and rainy morning

It took less than 5 minutes to set it up.  I used an antenna analyzer to take some initial measurements.  On both 20 and 30 meters, the resonant frequencies were low and fell outside the band.  I still have some work to do there.  On 20 meters and up, the KX3’s tuner loaded it up easily.

The antenna matching unit. The red jumper is used to change bands.

The antenna matching unit. The red jumper is used to change bands.

Next, I wanted to put it on the air.  I started on 40 meters and used the KX3’s tuner to tweak the SWR.  I called CQ a few times and eventually got a call from K4ALE in Virginia.  Bevin said I was 559 with QSB.  Despite the poor band conditions, we had a nice chat.

After I signed with Bevin, I set the antenna for 30 meters and kicked in the KX3’s tuner.  I called CQ and was quickly answered by NN4NC in North Carolina.  Jim gave me a 569.  At times, the band would fade to just about nothing.  As I was chatting with Jim, some drizzle started blowing in under the pavilion where I was sitting.  So I signed with Jim and quickly packed up.

I’ll be doing some adjustments to the antenna over the coming weeks.  It looks, though, that this could be a useful portable antenna, once I get the loading coil straightened out.

Since this is a work in progress, I left out the details for now.  After I get the antenna working as intended, I’ll provide a detailed description, schematic and parts list in a future post.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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