I published this article on American Partisan in March of this year. Since then, I have received many emails asking me to clarify some of the aspects of the antenna build. Hopefully, my edits in this reposting of the article will answer many of your questions. Enjoy – JohnyMac
This article is about making a simple, affordable, and high-quality antenna. I am posting it more for the new hams who need a simple, affordable, and quality antenna to cut your teeth on in the beginning of your communication journey.
I make antennas, that is what I do. My goal is to make simple, affordable antennas that are high-quality and will last. It is relatively easy to acquire your Technical and General FCC ticket these days however to graduate to the Extra Class level, making antennas will really help in that journey. The antenna I am about to talk about is affordable, works great on all bands BUT 15, 30, and 60-meters, and a breeze to complete.
The number one frustration that many new hams have is the cost of antennas after they have dropped some serious coin on their transceiver. Yes, you can buy professionally made antennas however many times they are not cheap. As an example, my first G5RV antenna cost me just over $200.00. After adding in the blocks and tackle to get it up, the total cost was more like $300.00. There are less expensive professionally made dipole antenna’s out there. However, it has been my experience once they are up, they work great at first, but they do not take the weather as the pricier ones do – At least in Northeast Pennsylvania. As of now, this antenna has been up since January of this year. I did take it down to use at this years ARRL Field Day however once home it went right back up.
My search for a new G5RV home brew antenna started when my original antenna mentioned above took a dump. I could not tune squat on it and that was with a PalStar manual tuner – One of the best tuners out on the market today. Later, I was to discover that it failed to tune not because of the antenna but one of the coax connections failed. It’s all about learning from your successes and failures.
During my search I ended up reading a great article by Cecil Moore, W5DXP. which I wrote about in this article on my site Unchainedpreppers.com titled, A True Multi-Band Antenna – (80 to 10-meters) and republished on NC Scouts site, at Brushbeater.com. This article speaks more to building an antenna that does not need a tuner. It also speaks to getting 15, 30, and 60-meters using door nob capacitors located at different points along the Ladder Line before the balun. With that written, my goal again was to focus on affordability, quality, and simplicity. At this time, I can live without those three bands but may play with them in the future using Mr. Moore’s directions. I can also live with non-tuned bands as I was planning on using my manual tuner.
Here is the mise en place for the antenna components and how to put them together.
> 1, 1 .5” PVC ‘T’, ($1.29),
> 96-feet of insulated 14-gauge stranded wire, ($11-),
> 2, Dog Bone Insulators, ($4.00),
> 40-feet of 450-ohm ladder line, ($40.00),
> 1, 1:1 Balun which I got from Balun Designs in TX, ($67.00), and
> 1, 50-ohm 3-foot jumper coax with PL-259 male connectors on the ends. ($2.00).
Add to the list above which I already had in place, 300-feet, 3/16-inch, 3 strand nylon rope and two Harken bullet blocks used to hoist and then anchor this antenna about 40-feet above terra firma. I didn’t need this because I had taken down the existing G5RV antenna that was not working mentioned before.
Total cost for my antenna was $124-. Again, this cost does not reflect the anchoring lines which were in place from before nor some self amalgamating tape and shrink tubing I had on hand. I only used top quality products so I am sure this antenna will last for years.
The antenna is simple. It is a 92-feet (Two 46-foot lengths plus some extra for dog bones and PVC ‘T’ wraps) , flat-top middle fed dipole antenna with a 40-foot length of ladder line to a 1:1 balun in the shack. My balun ended up about two feet from the tuner which is why I used the 3-foot patch cord to my PalStar manual tuner.
The most vulnerable part of this and any dipole antenna is the connection point of where all the antenna wires come together. Below is a drawing of that center point. Where the wires of each arm of the antenna and ladder line are wrapped/twisted together; Consequently, I soldered where the antenna wire and ladder line were twisted together using a butane torch. Last, wrapped the soldered connection with amalgamated tape. To make the white connector not stand out so much, I spray painted it with medium gray camo paint which blends in nicely with the trees – Summer and winter.
I hoisted the antenna, ran the ladder line to the balun in the shack, and then the jumper cord from the balun to the tuner. Once hooked up I fired up my Kenwood TS-590s transceiver and VIOLA, I was on the air making QSO’s!
The first band I found myself on was 40-meters. The SWR was about 2:1 and it took only seconds to lower the SWR to 1.0 with the Resistance= 52 and XReactance=0. With that accomplished It took only a minute to spin the dial and within 5-minutes I made two contacts. The next hour found me working up a dope sheet using the PalStar tuner on 10, 12, 17, 20, 40, and 80-meters. I did not make contacts on 10, 12, or 17-meters however, I made contacts on 20 and 80-meters along with the aforementioned 40-meters. The signal reports I received ranged from 5/7 to 5/9. Not bad for a $124- home brew dipole antenna. As a side note, while most of the bands only needed slight adjustments to the tuner, 80-meters was a bit squirrely. It required different settings on the tuner to maintain a 1:0 – 1:1 SWR throughout the phone end of the band. I will play a bit in the future with adding a 500pF door knob capacitor added to the center line of the coax patch. This should in theory make the band a bit less squirrely.
Over the subsequent months since the antenna was hoisted, I have made phone contacts around the globe. East, (Belgium, Slovenia, Germany, and Italy), South, (St. Luísa Island, Cuba, along with many ERIN/Unchainedpreppers on the monthly net – Florida to Maine), west, (Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho) and north, (Saskatchewan and Ontario). All with signal reports that ranged from 5/5 to 5/9.
During the initial test period, Patriotman was visiting the cabin and we made multiple contacts using his newly acquired Icom IC-735 from a silent key’s estate in Europe and around the United States.
In closing, if you want a simple antenna that uses a tuner then follow my directions – You will be very happy. If you want an antenna that does all bands from 10 through 80-meters with no tuner needed, follow the link I put up earlier in this article titled, A True Multi-Band Antenna – (80 to 10-meters).
Freedom Through Self–Reliance®