Category Archives: Antennas

NA4RR on the air thanks to 2 great hams!

Thanks to both Rob KC2RDW and Niko AA2NI, I am really back on the air now. This weekend they both spent a good part of their Saturday helping me get the NA4RR hex beam mounted up in the air on a Radio Shack rotor I had picked up at a local hamfest a year or so ago. Together they figured out the best plan to get the pole made up of two 1.25″ steel pipes securely mounted on the back of my garage and then get the rotor and antenna on top of it all. We hit a bit of a snag with the mounting brackets I had not well suited for the 1.25″ pipe (though it states it can accept up to a 1.25″ pipe) but they improvised and it worked out fine.

I did measure the height but based on the poles and the rotor I’d guess the bottom of the hex beam is about 18 feet (5.5 meters) or so off the ground and it is working fine. In some tests on Saturday and Sunday after it was up I was able to easily work Namibia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, a dozen Japan stations in the All Asia contest and even snagged a new DXCC working ZD7DC on St Helena Island in the South Atlantic.

After we got the NA4RR hex beam up, Niko shot a line perfectly placed into one of my trees and we pulled up a line attached to a spare G5RV I had that will allow me to work 40m and 80m in addition to the bands covered by the hex beam.  This replaces the G5RV that was taken down, along with my triband fan dipole when a huge tree fell across my property taken down the wire antennas (and my gutters along with other things) during Superstorm Sandy the end of last October.

Thanks so much Rob & Niko – you made a very happy ham again!

Below are some pictures taken while getting things set up.  Click any picture to see a larger version.

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NA4RR beam getting ready to mount into the rotor. I spray painted the beam (fiberglass polls, center post and center hub) with Rustoleum Painter’s Touch flat black. Makes it less noticeable in my environment as black vs the brighter grey/silver.

 

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Mounting brackets on the side of the garage

 

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Niko (AA2NI) and Rob (KC2RDW) getting ready to mount the beam onto the end of the rotor

 

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Rob (KC2RDW) on the garage roof

 

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Picture of the setup from our deck

 

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Close up of the beam with rotor

 

73,
K2DSL

NA4RR Hex Beam Installed and On the Air!

 

ordered the NA4RR Hex Beam last weekend and it arrived a few days later in 2 boxes via FedEx. Here’s a picture of the boxes as they arrived. The taller box contained the main center post and the 6 fiberglass arms, each arm made up of 3 segments that fit into each other.  The smaller square box on the chair contained all the other components – instructions, main hub, bolts/nuts, pre-cut wires for each band and the bungee cords.

na4rr_boxes

Here’s a picture of the box with just the instructions removed. On the left in the ziploc bag is the ferrite balun I ordered along with the antenna. The coated wires for each band were wrapped neatly and individually labeled. The bolts to secure the center hub to the main post and the pole, along with lock washers and bolts were packaged in a small envelope you can see looking into the center of the main hub. Just looking at the components in the box (click the picture for a larger view), you can tell everything was well organized and meticulously packed.

na4rr_main_parts

 

I’m lucky to have a friend like Rob (KC2RDW) who came over this morning with some tools, spare parts and an antenna analyzer. Rob has previously built his own hex beam so he’s very experienced in it’s construction and has helped others put hex beams together.  Rob mad a great suggestion that we use the patio table with the umbrella removed as a way to get things setup as it allows you to move around and under the antenna as needed. We started with the hub placed on a spare metal pole. The hub has each of the tubes that accept the fiberglass poles numbered so it is easy to align the components and keep everything straight. Using the supplied bolt we attached the main center pole to the hub with the coax connector at the back. Once that’s in place we unwrapped the 3 parts of each fiberglass pole that were shipped grouped together. Each is marked so they go into the center hub and into each other properly. It took 15 minutes to attach the center post and slide the 3 parts for each pole together and in their respective slots. Here you can see a close-up of the marked center hub with one of the fiberglass poles:

hub_marked

 

The next step is to take 6 of the bungee cords and place the S hook on one end into the end of each fiberglass pole and the other end onto the eye bolt at the top of the center post. This step gives the hex beam it’s familiar inverted umbrella shape. There are 2 other bungee cords that attach between the fiberglass poles on the front of the beam to keep things in place. This takes 5 minutes and it is helpful to have 2 people for this with one bending the end of the pole up as the bungee cord is attached to the center post.

The next step is to take each of the wires and secure it to the center post and route them through the rings on each pole until you come all the way back to secure the other end to the center post.  You start with 6m which is the shortest wire and closest to the center pole and go out from there. As previously mentioned, the wire for each band is neatly wrapped and labeled so there’s no guesswork. Here’s a picture of one of the center hubs with 2 bands attached and a picture of the loops on each of the poles that the wire passes through:

center_post_connection
pole_loops

Once looped through all 6 poles, the connector at the other end is attached to the opposite side of the center post completing the wiring of each band.  This process which entails unwrapping the wires for each band, looping them through and bolting each end takes about 30 minutes. It is helpful to have two people doing it to pass the wire for each band through the loops.

With all 6 bands wired up and connected, the last step in the setup is to attach the coax. I’m reusing the coax from my tri-band fan dipole that was torn apart last October when a 70 ft tree fell across my yard during Superstorm Sandy. We ran the coax through the hole in the hub and placed the rubber grommet around it. Rob placed a loop at the top of the coax and attached to the connector on the back of the center post. A little electrical tape to hold the coax in place and the antenna is complete! It’s now about 90 mins after Rob arrived which included looking at where I wanted to put the antenna, moving the patio table into place, and getting the pole in place before we even started. We don’t have a rotor on it yet so Rob just points the NA4RR hex beam ENE.

The antenna is only 6 feet off the ground but we head inside to check things out. We hook up the coax to TS-2000, power everything up and check out how things look. Well, it looks FANTASTIC! From 6m to 20m, as we tune the bands the SWR is between 1:1 and 1:1.5 and we’re hearing signals. What I immediately notice is that on an empty frequency my S meter which was never lower than S3 and more like S5 is showing nothing. If I wasn’t hearing others and seeing the S meter move when someone was on frequency I would have thought that nothing was plugged in.  The first contact we make is with a PI4 station in the Netherlands and everything seems to be working well. Rob checks each band with his nice RigExpert antenna analyzer and things look good.  I’m now back on the air after about 9 month hiatus.

Rob and I talked about where I was going to more permanently mount it and what I need to get. Once I have all that in place we can get the rotor on the pole and the antenna on the rotor. I’d expect the bottom of the hex beam hub to be about 18-20 feet off the ground once everything is in place.  Here’s a picture of the completed antenna in the middle of the back yard supported by the patio table at 6ft off the ground. Click for a larger view.

completed_na4rr_hexbeam

I’ve made 7 contacts to EU stations and a 6m contact to a strong Alabama station and everything appears to be working well. The NA4RR hex beam is a terrific value for a well constructed plug-and-play hex beam. With everything pre-cut and well labeled, it’s ready to go with detailed instructions that make assembly foolproof.

I’ll post some more pictures once the antenna is up higher with the rotor attached. Thanks again to Rob KC2RDW for all his advice and help both pre and post purchase! It’s great to have the headset on again and be back on the air!

73,
K2DSL

New NA4RR HexBeam Antenna Ordered

I have been off the air since Superstorm Sandy brought a 70 ft tree down across my wire antennas. With spending all free time since then dealing with the aftermath of the storm, being extremely busy at work and then my younger daughter’s high school graduation party for her entire class, I just didn’t put in the effort to get any antenna back up. I even missed Field Day for the 2nd year in a row as it took place on my daughter’s graduation weekend.

This morning I ordered NA4RR’s hexbeam antenna! NA4RR’s design is based on G3TXQ’s design as other similar hexbeam products are. I investigated other comparable models from DX Engineering, Traffie and K4KIO. I decided on the NA4RR since the design was similar, the online reports/reviews were all excellent, and the price was the lowest. Everything is pre-cut and assembly time is reported around 1 hour. I’ll be relying on some help from my local club friends, a few which have hexbeams, to assemble the antenna and get it in the air once it arrives and we can all find the time.


Soon!!!
K2DSL

Closer to getting back on the air

In January we were able to get our gutters repaired on the house and garage after they were damaged when Superstorm Sandy came through the end of October and a large tree came down taking out my G5RV and home made fan dipole. After the new gutters were installed I was travelling and then we’ve had cold and snowy weather (Nemo dumped 12″ of snow). I need to shoot up some new ropes with the help of some local club members and then we can pull up a spare G5RV I have. I also have been offered another fan dipole a local ham made so I might put up some extra rope even if I don’t have anything to attach them to yet.

I missed out on some contests in January and February as well as some DX so hopefully I can get something back in the air again soon. I have been following RTTY and Contesting reflectors as well as the 3830 reports and see how well folks are doing and what others are reporting for conditions.

73,
K2DSL

Hamfest Goodies

I did almost no operating over the 3 day holiday weekend. On Saturday we had our local club hamfest and the weather and turnout was spectacular. I think it was the largest attendance by both sellers and buyers since I have had my license and attended the club’s hamfests.

I helped out very early in the morning as vendors and buyers arrived. While one fellow was pulling up to pay I noticed he had some beams in the back and asked him about them. One was a nice 2 meter beam and he said $25 so I said to hold it for me and I will be by in a few to pay for it and pick it up. It turned out to be a nice 4 element Cushcraft 2m beam that looks like it goes for $80-$100 new. This one, though used, is in magnificent shape and according to the seller was used inside someone’s attic.

I browsed a bit more before heading in to help with the VE test session that was taking place. There were 6 applicants which is a lot smaller then past hamfests. 5 passed their exams made up of a new Tech, 2 new Generals and 2 new Extras. Congrats to all of them.

I then picked up an 8 pole fiberglass mast kit that goes up 30 or 40 feet and comes with a base, guy rings and a duffle bag to carry it all. I thought this would be good for testing things at home or portable operations. The whole kit was $40.

I also picked up a $10 component which is a SO-239 connector in a plastic housing with a stiff wire coming out of each side to connect to 2 ends of a wire antenna. Might use it for a loop or moxon antenna. I saw them online and was hoping to find one here to try out. I also grabbed some misc connectors and adapters to have handy.

The last item other then a taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich was 100 feet of low loss coax to have around for use with a 2m or 6m antenna. The cable is supposed to have a <2 db loss over 100 feet.

I was looking for another pair of the metal rope grip devices I use on my G5RV to hold the ropes in place but didn’t see anyone with those. I can get them online if I need them.

The next hamfest I will likely hit is a large one in western NJ in mid July unless I go to one in Central New Jersey in mid June, but that is only if I need something. There is also another local Northern NJ hamfest in mid August which I have been away for the past 2 years that I will try to attend if I am around.

73,
K2DSL

Antenna update again

I’m a member of the Bergen Amateur Radio Association (BARA) and they have a weekly “kit night” where a good 15-25 people show up to hang out and often work on radio related projects. So I brought my G5RV that 2 weeks ago started acting up (see the last 2 blog posts) to firther check out and get some suggestions on.

We tested things out and it looked like there might be an issue in the area where the coax connects to the ladder line. The way the G5RV was built, there’s a sharp bend in the coax as it goes loops back through the ladder line. Folks that was probably too sharp a bend of for some reason there was too much tension on it as it blew in the wind. As we were testing continuity, between the shield and one of the ends of the antenna, they manipulated that area where the connection is and we lost the connection momentarily. So we pulled it apart trimmed a bit off of the ladderline and the coax and put it back together by soldering the connections between the coax and ladderline, using heat shrink tubing on each leg of the new connection, wrapping it further in tape, shrink tubing the pair of wires, and then with some popsicle like sticks in that area, taping it further.

The folks also suggested using some nylon rope around that by looping through some of the ladder line and going below the connection on the coax to further eleviate stress on that part. It all tested out and I brought it home. Not sure when the weather will permit me to put it back up, but I’ll get it up as soon as I can. I still have the antenna analyzer to test things out when it goes up and see how it looks.

So thanks to Kerry who sold me the antenna for all his support and to my fellow BARA members for jumping in with suggestions and support with getting it [hopefully] repaired!

K2DSL

Antenna update and 10m contest

I’m still having an issue with my G5RV as mentioned in my last post. I lowered the antenna today, pulled the coax back out and did a continuity test from pin to end and shield to end and it seemed all good. So I raised it back up and what do you know – I could tune on 80, 40, 20 and 10 again. Odd. I make a few 10m contacts and then see an interesting 20m station show up in the cluster so I tune to it and uh-oh, not again. Seems like I can’t tune 20m again. Ugh. Nothing changed in that short time other then a very slight breeze out today.

So I call a local club member that has an antenna analyzer and he calls me back later in the day and I run over and grab it. I connect the coax and 20m looks good with a low SWR and 50 ohm impedance. Well I disconnect the coax and connect it to the radio and it won’t tune. Hmmm – now it seems it’s the radio. I disconnect the coax, connect it to the analyzer and 20m is showing  a 3+ SWR and impedance of 15-20 ohms. What the heck? I wiggle the cable/coax but all looks tight and solid. I take some more readings and note them down and send off an email to the very helpful individual I got it from 6 months ago.

After dinner, I decide to take it down and throw up my basic 20m dipole I have and it is working fine. We’ll see how this all ends in the upcoming weeks.

For a very short time after dealing with the antenna this morning and it apparently working until I realized it wasn’t, I made a few contacts during the ARRL 10m contest. Only 21 contacts but before this contest, I only had 3 10m contacts logged. It’s interesting to see who I was able to hear/contact. The screen shot snippet below of the 21 contacts makes the “openings” pretty obvious.

I’m where the cross hairs are in NJ. That line of contacts across FL looks fake, but those pins are shown based on the grid location of the operator from QRZ. Here’s a close up of just FL.

Hopefully we can get my G5RV antenna straightened out soon.

73,
K2DSL

Antenna issue and SARTG Results

First the not so good news. This past weekend was a RTTY contest and things were fine. The beginning of the week I fired up the radio and I can’t seem to get the SWR within range when tuning. Hadn’t been a problem before on 10, 20, 40 or 80 meters. I contacted the fellow I got it from and he suggested some tests and resetting my radio. Reset the radio and there’s no difference there. Ran a couple tests and sent him the results. I think I need to pull it down this weekend and see what is going on with it.

Back in August I went to my in-laws and operated as K2DSL/4 from North Carolina for the SARTG RTTY contest. The final results are posted and I placed 55th in the Single Op Single Band 20m category. Looking back at that contest, I could only operate 2/3rds of it because I was travelling back home for one of the time slots. I also wasn’t comfortable using MMTTY yet which would help me now compared to using DM780 during a contest.  Comparing my submitted score to the final results, I submitted 106 QSOs and they show 103. I submitted 39 mults and the final results show 38.  So comparing the final score that I submitted, I went from 45,825 down to 43,320.  Still, it was my real first contest on my own and it was a lot of fun.

73,
K2DSL

CQ WW SSB

This was my first CQ WW SSB contest. It turned out to be a very different experience then other contests I’ve participated in so far. First, the digital contests seem to be much easier to work and make contacts. That could be because there’s less people participating as well as that a digital contact is easier then a phone (voice) contact. The second reason is that with 100w and a dipole, you aren’t busting through any pileups. But overall, I’m happy with how things turned out. In this contest, other then to add a new multiplier, all contacts had to be DX so I there was no US-to-US contacts on then to grab a multiplier.

I ended up over the 2 days with 158 contacts. Almost all except 8 were on 20 meters with the 8 being on 40 meters. I ended up, combined with the bands, 84 countries and 25 zones with a combined score of 46,523 points. There were 11 new DXCC entities in my logbook at the end of the contest.

I was able to make my first voice contact with Alaska after a few previous RTTY contacts so that was neat. Other then Japan and countries like China and others in that area along with Austrailia, I think I was able to make a contact with all the countries I saw spotted on the band. I could actually hear Japan fairly strong but they couldn’t hear me. It wasn’t because of a pileup either as 2 strong stations were calling CQ over and over and just not able to hear me. Oh well, maybe next time.

I used my Heil Proset 5 for the first time and it worked extremely well. Even though it is light, it does make your neck a bit tired and your ears a bit sore, but taking just a min break every once in a while helps. So it was a good purchase to add to my equipment. I didn’t use the new voice keyer I purchased yet. I’ll save that for a rainy day.

There seemed to be a fair amount of activity on 15 meters but I couldn’t tune up the G5RV antenna with the Kenwood TS-2000 to put out a full 100 watts. I’d guess an external antenna tuner might do better then the internal tuner or of course a more appropriate 15m antenna would work. I’ll ponder what to do about that one.

When a new entity popped up on the band, if you weren’t quick enough, a big pileup started. For me, the most effective way is to either wait until there’s a pause after most stations put out their call and before the CQing op came back, or to just come back later. I think in almost all cases, I was able to make the contact.

I also noticed there’s a much less percentage of SSB folks which are using LOTW then RTTY folks. Within a day or two of a RTTY contest, a significant number of operators have uploaded their logs. Comparing that to this SSB contest almost a week later only 19 of the 158 contacts are confirmed on LOTW. I really wish folks used that more. I know I’d have DXCC confirmed since I have around 112 DXCC entities contacted in my log book.

So that’s my summary of my first CQ WW SSB contest. All fun!

73,
K2DSL

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