So I Made My First Random Wire Antenna

Oh what fun this has been!

I have been very happy with the loop antenna I have, but never could overlook the fact that for the 80 and 40 meter bands, I would need a much bigger loop (which is actually in the plans). After contemplating for the purchase of an automatic antenna tuner which could also support wire antennas and similar, I however settled on a manual tuner, namely MFJ-971.

80m TX coverage for the wire antenna

I set up a 2.5 sq. mm insulated copper wire – roughly 20 or so meters – from the balcony, sloping downwards to a birch tree. As a sort of a counterpoise I used the balcony rail. Maybe I am a lucky child but it worked really well, I was able to work FT8 on 80 – 40 – 30 – 20 – 17 meters with this combination.

The MFJ-971 brought me to the 80/40 world which as an apartment dweller I considered nearly impossible, in particular in this QTH which again I thought was beyond any help as a location.

Lesson learned, never give up, try – try – try – .

The fishing rod is not used in this setup (you can see however the birch tree to which the wire runs, in the background). It was used with a quick ad hoc long wire as a first test for the MFJ-971, just 10 meters supported through the tip of the telescope rod and then hanging downwards. That was far from optimal, but as an RX antenna was already a major improvement on 80 meters.

The wire is at approximately 4 meters height at the tree end

The IKEA furniture often comes with a set of tools. This is probably a familiar handle which makes for a great insulator for wire antennas

Another piece of impromptu equipment was this hardware store general wall hook, which I use for securing the end of the (insulator – wire – hook run) to the tree, to keep the hot RF wire a sufficient distance from the trunk and leaves – that black wire attached to it is not the antenna wire

Got my first RF bite today as well, during early setup and testing / adjusting. Other than that, no negative side effects noticed. Zero indications of “RF in the shack”.

I think there will be version 2.0 later on, with different routing and direction of the wire, and likely an antenna switch – I’d see use for both the loop and the wire – and further QSO’s. To sum this up I’d like to say that the wire antenna clearly exceeded my expectations, and the MFJ-971 works like a charm. I have used it with up to 50W of power.

Tuning the MFJ-971 is quite easy as I have had a relatively lengthy experience so far with the MFJ-936B, despite being different beasts the controls and “feel” is similar, both respond to tuning in a logical, repeatable way.

Received also some MIL spec (i.e. genuine military) vertical and wire sets, second hand, which I will examine in greater detail (the vertical in particular) to see if I can duplicate the Chameleon MIL whip w/extension.

From Ebay I ordered military surplus N.O.S. PRC-77 antenna, and some related equipment. While originally intended for higher than HF frequencies, I am looking at those parts as source material for fabrication. I have some plans for a get-and-go vertical HF antenna, probably for a vehicle mounted (stationary) usage. More on these later.

73 de OH2BNF, one happy wire antenna fellow

 

WSPR/FT8 experiments with a balcony mounted 1-meter loop antenna

Let me be honest here – I had to – initially – resort to 100W and careful tuning and positioning of the antenna to reach the most distant locations.

In this picture, there are accumulated reports over several hours

BUT THEN I REDUCED THE POWER TO 5W WITH NO SIGNIFICANT LOSS.

After reducing the power to 5W I waited shortly after a TX and looked at “past 10 minutes”

There are so many variables involved, including the band conditions (I am mostly on 20m band) that there is not much to be deciphered from the results, except that it is great fun using the WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) and related web site at http://wsprnet.org where results are near real-time, as such quite useful for testing out different settings.

Altogether in addition to the first somewhat long-distance FT8 QSO to Oman (A41ZZ), past few days have yet again proven that one needs to spend considerable time with the setup, learn to use all the components – the whole stack – and test nearly endless combinations. In regards to the situation at QTH and equipment used, I tend to think that despite initial excessive power rating for WSPR or FT8, I can still be relatively happy at the outcome.

It would however be important to reduce the power as much as possible, as that would indicate better skills and as a matter of fact many use diminutive power ratings, when operating these modes.

Here’s the antenna setup as used on the balcony during a previous test, which indicated much better reception from a distance of about 1500 km’s for voice communications. But what has really been the most important thing is to tune the antenna for the given position and the frequency, as loop antennas tend to have a very narrow bandwidth.

In general I need to bite the bullet and start experimenting with various wire antennas and verticals. Those may not be possible at the QTH, so it’s going to be mobile time, once the Buick has the broken front wheel bearing replaced, and we will be off to summer vacation. But for an apartment dweller, the loop has certainly been a success, albeit with a long learning curve.

– 73 de OH2BNF

Planning an eQSL card, hunting for signals

I find that in addition to not having a Nobel or a Pulitzer prize, also graphics is not my virtue but then again, we all do our best – don’t we. So here’s a world premier for my eQSL card.

Picture shows something I anticipate to be doing quite a bit in the future, going mobile (or /M in ham lingo) as the formal QTH does not offer much in terms of signal reception. There is a huge difference being mobile, much less RFI when at suitable locations and of course a dramatically better signal quality.

Thinking about the Ciro Mazzoni smaller loop and some sort of a roof rack.

Car has a CB radio currently, next will be a dual-bander (2m/70cm) and if the continued testing of the relatively small size magnetic loop turns out even more promising, also HF.

It may very well be that other than for easier bands like 20 meters, HF will primarily have to be worked on mobile. Thus there will be a distinction between ham activities at the QTH and on the road.

In the frantic search for signals I connected a capacitor with the balcony fence last night.

That huge steel structure basically did work as an antenna, but I would say that if balcony steel fences made such great antennas more people would use them. Did not much bother to test TX nor SWR, but had to cross off the balcony fence from the “todo-list”. So there, I’ve done it.

During the weekend I also spent quite a bit of time just listening to the ongoing contests. Those are good sources for reception, and improve in particular the hearing and recognition of call signs. It is great fun searching the ‘Net for identified call signs, not just because it gives an indication of how far those signals originate from – but also quite a few hams have nice and personal pages at QRZ and similar sites.

Last night I listened to S57DX, Slavko from Slovenia. Reception was strong and clear on 20 meters, and I also appreciate his punctual speech style.

– 73 de OH2BNF

 

OH2BNF goes mobile

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As a typical apartment dweller antenna restrictions and abundant RFI apply, hence I had to come up with something that would enable me to get good signal quality across most common ham radio bands.

I started off by constructing an adapter cable that would allow me to ad hoc power the Icom 7200 from the car battery, without making a permanent installation to the vehicle.

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This set with the jaws allows for a quick connect/disconnect under the hood

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and with sufficient length for both the power and RG58 cabling, transceiver can be operated from inside the vehicle while loop antenna is located on the roof

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aforementioned antenna being a converted aluminum hula – hula loop with roughly a 1 m. diameter, attached to a MFJ-936B as following pictures indicate

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this setup turned out to be quite good, extending beyond its “by design” frequencies as I was able to enjoy good RX even on the 80 meter band, which is certainly not in the comfort zone of a 1-meter loop.

RESULTS

  • finally had sufficient signals to focus on transceiver itself
  • 80 meters was a major surprise – had not anticipated it with this loop spec
  • e.g. on 20 meters I had crisp clear reception from range of at least 2600 km
  • learned to tune both the antenna and the transceiver, so that…

…could pretty much duplicate the reception at home with antenna on the balcony!

Outcome of this is that when new to the ham radio or for example specific equipment, it is important to see the effort to have an abundance of signals to work with – different bands, reception types and conditions prevailing

  • Increases familiarity with your overall station setup
  • Teaches a bunch about the transceiver in particular
  • Supports hunting down weaker signals later on at QTH

 

73, de OH2BNF