Antennas and Rotators Used at K4SO

      Various unconventional, seemingly temporary antennas as well as more conventional and           intentionally "permanent"  radiators and receiving antennas here in Amissville.

      Don't get too excited, the tower below is my former antenna farm. Yes, I miss it.

This is the last iteration of my tower in Nokesville, "fully loaded," before I stripped what I could easily remove, before moving to Amissville. All that was left behind was the KT-34XA and 40M yagi. with the Tailtwister rotator and mast.

THINGS CERTAINLY CHANGED WHEN i LEFT THE TOWER AND SOME OF THE ANTENNAS PICTURED ABOVE WHEN WE MOVED TO AMISSVILLE. First, I made use of a 100-foot-tall Tulip Poplar right behind the house to support a 160M inverted vee. That antenna went up the day after we moved in. A lucky shot with my low throw-weight fiberglass bow and an unfilled aluminum arrow with minimal solder load at the tip, and 6 lb. test fishing line just cleared the top of the tree.I figured that it was enough wire to tune on several bands, and at 85 feet, was high enough to work on even it's intended design frequency. I was mostly correct. "Any port in a storm" is an apt description of the situation, and at least I was on the air

As I write this, almost three years since that first shot that put my station back on the air, I've been through a lot of different arrangements, but have settled on a few winners, at least given the competing factors of cost, available support structures, available hardware, and a desire to put out the best signal possible while balancing those considerations.

I hope the information and pictures may be of some help to others not blessed with essentially bottomless budgets in terms of property, available time and energy and finances, to use my successful attempts, and avoid some of my sad failures.

Rather than recount all the chronology, I'll start with the technique that has generated the most interest on the air, when described, and "in person" when visitors get a look at it. This is not my intention, or an entirely new idea, but one that tends to be on the fringes of day-to-day, non-Field Day implementation. I am referring to suspending a multi-element, directive yagi, Moxom, or Spiderbeam (no reason I Hexbeam, Cobweb or other variant wouldn't work), from an overhanging tree branch, and turning it with a ground-mounted rotator. For purely temporary use, hanging a triband or monoband yagi from an overhead support, typically a tree, and "armstronging" it with a rope of two attached to it, then tying it off in the desired direction, is certainly not new. For something like Field Day, from the east coast anyway, just fixing it to the west is sufficient. The seed for my setup was doing exactly that at a Field Day in 1974 in nearby Nokesville. For the next  35+ years, I never needed the technique, with a succession of taller and taller, as well as sturdier towers to support my yagis. Still towerless here in Amissville, as I write this, I needed to reach back to this concept to make use of antennas and a rotator I already owned, and to improve my signal (and DXing results), on the bands, before Cycle 24 is just a romantic notion of a solar cycle. It's been unlike the others I've experienced, but has has some real high spots (pun intended), but will likely be remembered even more fondly, if HF propagation on the higher HF bands tank they way they're being predicted.

I started chronicling the genesis of these setups on the homepage of this site, adding details and new configurations as I went, then decided to pull them off and give them their own page. The typical headline was "_________ Without a Tower," as I filled in the blank with an activity or band, as you'll see below. I've just moved those posts, as is, but most contain links in the pictures to more extensive photo albums and captions. Those are where I hope the helpful details live, that might encourage you or save you some time and trouble, and provide a unique, viable option that you might not have considered. I have the benefit of a couple large, stout oak trees, with their tendency to have overhanging branches in their crown, which are themselves relatively large and strong. This means they can be used by putting a line over them with my bow and arrow. Once a rope with pulley (or later, block-and-tackles) is in place, they support (so far) the weight of my HD Spiderbeam (35 lbs.) easily, and naturally, lighter antennas. I have two such spots, differing mostly in terms of the span of the overhang, and open space under the supporting branch. This dictated that the HD Spiderbeam be put in a particular tree, which could also accommodate antennas with shorter booms and elements. The other, original spot, is still viable for either a 6M yagi, 10M yagi (not likely to see much use after this fall, if then), or 2M yagi. A 17M Moxon was deployed there as well, with great success and has moved on to a new home at W4GO. So, let's start with these descriptions and if you want to jump to some details that may be helpful, branch out (the puns just keep on coming), to the Picasaweb albums that are linked.

6M WITHOUT A TOWER - Back in 2012, progress on a new tower and antennas was slow (it took 3 years to finally overcome all the hurdles) and with plenty of trees to use, I went back to a Field Day technique that I first saw used in 1974. An overhanging branch provided a strong enough spot to suspend my relatively light 6 meter antenna. Back in the day, we hung a TA-33, but had it fixed west. This time, I wanted shack control of direction, so the antenna could chase the band openings to Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, and the western US. Based on the idea of a pantograph, I came up with this Rube Goldberg setup, which has worked remarkably well. The only issue is raising and lowering it for bad weather. I still don't trust things for rough weather and high winds. I hope to work you this summer E-skip season on "the magic band!"

The antenna, an M2 6M5X, is suspended at 30 feet above the ground below it, 550 ft. ASL, and clears the house in all directions. It's fed with LMR-600, LMR-400 and a short run of Superflex 9913. The rig is a K3, driving a homebrew pair of 4CX250Bs to about 550 watts.

Thanks to HA3UU for sending a card from our QSO in 2009, SV1DH from this season, and LoTW confirmation by IS0GQX, and QSOs with CX5CR, ZF1EJ, and 9Y4VU, I finally confirmed over 100 countries. I was also able to "rework" countries which I had worked but not confirmed. Lesson learned—don't wait years to chase cards. By losing some early countries due to my inaction, and this poor cycle, DXCC was a longer time coming, almost 12 years. Thanks to all the DX stations for QSOs, QSLs, and confirmations. Also, use of email to confirm postage requirements, and willingness to QSL, by card or LoTW, saved time and postage. Now, to work on the next 100.

Wallpaper arrives July 30, 2012. 6 Meters, #1,119. I was curious to see how many others had been issued. This one was at least as enjoyable to receive as the one for 160M, and certainly harder, at least for me. Thanks once again to the DX stations on the other end of the circuit, and for the QSLs and LoTW confirmations, field checking of cards by N4MM, and quick work at the ARRL.

Chasing countries, states, and grids on The Magic Band:

These certificates represent my 6M hat-trick, DXCC, WAS, and VUCC.

It's not as though I got them all in one "game," or "season," and certainly many others
have earned them faster and with much bigger totals (except for WAS, of course) Still, it was fun to concentrate on a single band for these.

I continue to hope new grids will wash in on LoTW, since I don't 
want to spring for postage for the 300+ that are unconfirmed. :-)


 AND 10M WITHOUT A TOWER - Having had success with the 6M antenna shown above, and with the summer E-skip season waning, I have been spending a fair amount of time on 17M, which seems to be the MUF many days. My former neighbor Alex, KK4KM, gave me the spreaders and boom from a 2 element quad for 15, 12, and 10M. With low activity on those bands, I decided to use the materials for something else. That something else was a 2-element Moxon, an antenna which I've seen used with great success on 40M by many hams.

Although requiring PVC extensions to the fiberglass spreaders, with the creative use of low-cost materials and things that were on-hand, I was able to build a workable antenna. The tree support was already available, having been used for the 6M yagi as shown above. Having a ground-mounted rotator arrangement in place, I simply adapted the rope for quick changeover between the 6M yagi to the 17M Moxon, and pulled the Moxon up into operating position. The upper shot is the test flight at about 25 feet  After successful use the first day, I pulled it up another 15 feet, which seems to be sufficient. Going higher adds weight as I pull up more coax. I briefly added a set of 10M elements as well, but the Moxon seems best suited for single band use. As you'll see elsewhere on this page, I rebuilt a Cushcraft 12-4CD into a 10-4CD (4 element 10M monobander), which is far more effective than the dual-band Moxon.

There are additional pictures of construction, not so much for imitation, but for encouragement to those without ideal materials. The performance of the antenna has been very good, and I hope to need it only for a relatively short time, so long term durability was not the goal. It is brought down most evenings, with the total time for lifting or lowering less than 2 minutes. I hope to work you on 17M.

1992 FT-1000 almost a D. Primary 17M rig
HE RIG: After the K3 ate its driver transistors for the second time, I decided to seriously re-deploy my old, trusty, 1992 Yaesu FT-1000D (almost a D, missing only the high precision TXCO, and cascaded 250 Hz filter). I used it almost exclusively on 17M after the Moxon went up, later putting the S/Line into use on that band, after I acquired crystals. The Kenwood SM-220 scope was used as a panadapter, thanks to the intermediate mixer designed by W2PA to mix the 70 mHz first IF of the 1000, down to 8.83 mHz to drive the BS-8 in the scope until it was later sold to purchase a second LP-Pan and EMU-0202, for use with NaP3, which I use on my K3 station. The output from the down converter has a significant birdie, just off-center so this hasn't been as effective as I'd hoped. This rig has moved on to W9 land and is still workin' DX.

Henry 2KD-Classic tuned to 17M using 15M position

Adding a KW to the Moxon helped also, since it's a moderate gain antenna, with a wide beamwidth. The Henry 2KD-Classic, used in the 15M position, provides the KW easily, and the input circuit is not so far off to bother the FT-1000. All in all, a pretty competent station for 17M, and loads of fun.

HE RESULT: The simple Moxon antenna, rig, and time spent on 17M netted DXCC, almost all via LoTW. The band has been very good from late 2012 through mid-2013 and seems to have a pretty high percentage of LoTW users, so this didn't take all that long. I fished out some hard cards from years ago, and I'll make a submission, one of these days. Working 150 countries on this band is no great shakes, but it was fun, and I would encourage others to take advantage of it for DXing. As of winter 2016, I have worked 322 countries on 17M. The only other single band total to top that is 40M, (335), most of which were worked with the 2 el. Cushcraft 40-2CD which I used in Nokesville.

CONTESTING WITHOUT A TOWER - With the success of hanging directional, rotatable antennas from an  overhanging branch in a good-sized oak to the side of our house, I've been at it again. There are descriptions of the 6M yagi, a 5 element 10 lb. antenna which was the first, and then a 17M Moxon, which became a dual-bander, with a 10M Moxon added to the same spreaders. The latest use of this skyhook, is as a support for a 4 element 10M yagi. This antenna is a Cushcraft model 12-4CD, which was there on opening” daywhen 12 meters became available for amateur radio use. The antenna was parted out for elements for a 6 element OWA 10M monobander, built on a THb-DXX boom, with two HyGain elements (what taper schedule?) and the boom saw duty as a lightweight mast for VHF antennas. Fast forward to the new QTH, and a bundle of aluminum in the pole barn, unused. The 10M ARRL Contest was approaching, conditions picked up for a while, but when conditions dropped, I decided the Moxon wouldn't provide enough gain for the conditions. So, I got the plans for the 10-4CD, and with some vital additional data (dimensions for the gamma match) from my cousin Art, W4ACM, who has a REAL 10-4CD at a local ham‘s location, I rebuilt the antenna into a slightly ruggedized 10-4CD.

In case you'd like to try the same technique, the saddle support rope should carefully positioned to balance the antenna front-to-back. Also, I have used a short piece of tubing with a boom to mast plate to act as a keel, keeping the antenna level, side-to-side. I wouldn't recommend leaving antennas up in windy or icy conditions, but the ease in raising and lowering it allows for convenient safe stowage. The keel tubing can also be used to hold the antenna up, sleeved into the short mast on the rotator below, providing a good landing spot.

The results, performance-wise, and construction-wise, were very gratifying. I used LMR-400 coax for low loss and as importantly, low weight due to its aluminum center conductor, and also added a pulley to the system. The pulley should have been added months ago, but this entire installation became temporary permanent, as time has passed. This antenna is about 25 lbs., with feedline and the slightly heavier elements, but goes up easily, and seems well within the branch's capability. If you have a similar branch, I encourage you to give it a try. This has always been an easy way to hang an inverted vee, but clearly has greater potential for other antenna purposes.

Thanks to all for the Qs in the contest. - SO

Spiderbeam HD joined antenna farm 
After a slow build of the antenna itself, my HD (heavy duty) Spiderbeam is now in the air and being used to make QSOs. I certainly underestimated the time to cut and prepare all the Kevlar string trusses and copperweld elements, so the construction took much longer than I anticipated, but the performance is heartening! I haven't had a rotatable, gain antenna here for 20, 15 or 12 meters at this QTH, and with both the recent (October/November 2013) peak in conditions, and the lower numbers too, the extra few dB and the ability to aim the antenna for its five bands of operation really help.
The best tip learned in assembly was to use clear nail "hardener," a variant of nail polish with extra fast drying action caused by additional hardeners in it's formulation, to dress the cut ends of the Kevlar string. This made insertion in the plastic insulators, which are used to form an adjustable fastener to the boom ends, MUCH easier. The other challenge is that the English version of the manual does not include English measurements for the many measured wires and trusses, and leaves a lot of 
calculating time as a task for the builder. I intend to post the converted values and encourage the distributor to include these numbers in the printed/PDF manual. I know the US is somewhat (or totally) singular in its retention of the old English (inch/foot) measurements, but there are quite a few hams here that would benefit from the time savings.

That said, the antenna is a good performer, and fit my need for lightweight and multi-band utility. I had intend ed to put it on the tower when it went up in the spring/summer, then sell it to someone who may want it for a lighter support structure or portable use, replacing it with a more permanent antenna.I know the Hexbeams are highly popular and effective, but this antenna is 3 elements on 20 and 15, and 4 on 10M, so I think it is more effective on the contesting bands, and requires about the same pole or tower to hold it up, especially for the standard version (which is 10 lbs. lighter). Note that the standard version is designed more for temporary, portable use and is not as durable as a full-time station antenna, with thinner fiberglass poles, and hub plates. The cost of the HD Spiderbeam and the K4KIO hexbeam are roughly comparable, but there's more measuring, cutting, and knotting of Kevlar line, insulated copperweld wire, and fishing line with the Spiderbeam.

This useful antenna has now moved on to put DX in the log of W4GO. Matt's meticulous rebuilding of it was a delight to see when I visited him in the summer of 2016. GUD DX Matt!

The best Topband antenna I've ever had  
At our former home, I had two primary radiators for 160M, a dipole broadside roughly NNE, SSW at 100 feet between my tower and a tree, and a series of 1/4 wave end-fed wires, top fed and suspended from the top of the 100 ft. tower. The dipole was open-wire fed, and also worked great on 80M as two half-waves in phase, and was a very effective stateside transmit antenna. The slopers were sloped NE, NW, SE, and SW, and used a remote antenna switch that floated the unused elements. The feedline added approximately 5% of additional length. The concept was that they'd act as reflectors. I also added about 2 dozen radials to the tower for both DC and RF purposes. In the end, the NW sloper got me the JA contacts I had hoped to get, and worked into the midwest pretty well also. The SW was okay to the west and for Pacific DX, but the NE antenna and the SE antenna were very mediocre. I had tried a shunt-fed technique on the tower, as well as elevated radials with a reverse feed (coax center conductor to the radials and braid to the tower) as well as three drop wires from the top of the tower to a skirt wire, in an attempt to use the tower as a vertical. In all, I had reasonable results and these final two options were much better than the simple coax-fed  halfwave dipole at 65 feet or so, which I used for many years for nightly stateside chats, and some DX here and there.

As I noted above, the first antenna I put up at our Amissville home was the 160M dipole, now as an Inverted Vee, at about 85 feet in a tree. It produced good domestic signals, and supplemented with two, and later three beverages, proved a serviceable antenna for some topband operating. Since I didn't have an easy support for one end of a dipole (a tower), and also don't have two, 100-foot trees, with proper spacing, recreating the dipole was not possible. Clearly, it was going to take something different to hopefully nab me the next layer of DXCC entities that I needed on topband. Given the lack of a conductive support (tower), and the slightly more open territory here in a couple spots, and also given the widespread use of inverted Ls and alternative verticals on
the band, I figured it was time to give the vertical another chance, It's obvious they work, now I needed to see if I could make it work for me. KT3Y, Philip, has had excellent results with his tall T (top-loaded) vertical wire on both 160M and 80M, fed against a very extensive radial system. Something about the symmetry of the T seemed appealing to me, and I knew I'd need to suspend the antenna between trees, so I pulled out all the "extra" wire I could muster, and began making 75 foot radials, in an effort to make a denser radial field, rather than a resonant one. An aluminum plate and plenty of stainless screws gave me the centerpoint of a modest radial arrangement of 33, 75-foot wires, and a bit of lump capacitance and a copper pipe as the ground rod, produced a reasonable match. That was as far as I got the first year, and the winter DXing season showed a pronounced improvement into the Caribbean compared to the SE sloper from the tower at the Nokesville station. Not that the Caribbean had much new, DXCC-wise, but it's an important multiplier region, and since the vertical is more-or-less omnidirectional, it encouraged me to stay the course. EU signals were a bit better too, and seemed consistently better on the T than on the Inverted Vee, as well as west-coast US stations.

By the summer of the next year, I decided I probably needed to double or triple the number of radials to make a significant difference. Without deciding the final location of the vertical, in light of a possible tower and wanting it out of what was becoming a crowded backyard, antenna-wise, I started reading about the K2AV folded counterpoise. I'm a h
obbyist as a ham, and so I didn't have the technical expertise to affirm or dispute the theory or physics involved. So, with the facts not getting in my way, I looked at the cost of the materials, the space I had to deploy this "ground" system, and the portability of it if I decided to move it out to the septic drain field, a couple hundred feet to the west of the house. For well under $100, I thought it was worth the gamble. I assembled the isolation transformer, as exactly as I could manage from the published plans, stripped the 66 feet of #12 solid copper wire that I needed  to supplement the 99 feet of stripped wire provided by my friend Buddy, WD4AKS, and cut and drilled the PVC spacers needed to complete the FCP. I was surprised how heavy this apparatus was, and had to get a little creative with a center support (a Rubbermaid compact tool shed was used), and use a catenary support rope to try and get the geometry right. The first go-around with the FCP was in the backyard, mounted above the radial system, to try and permit some rough A-B comparisons. It wasn't practical to quickly switch between the two, but after some back and forth feedpoint changing, I got a sense that the FCP was at least as good, and maybe just a bit better than my nominal radial system. With little to lose, I made the new FCP/T as weatherproof and weather resistant as I could, and hunkered
down for the mid-winter DXing season, still with time to decide whether this antenna would be a keeper, and be moved to the front of our lot, with more room, and no fear of interaction with the 160M inverted vee. This first winter for us in Amissville turned out to be pretty mild, overall, and that allowed antenna work to continue, I was still "retired" and highly motivated, with both the NE and NW beverages in place by this point too. The Inverted Vee was louder for the high volume of domestic stations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, and even into the eastern edge of the midwest. Further west, northeast, and east, the T really started to shine. While CQing, calls from the Dakotas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and even California, Washington and Oregon, began showing up in the CQ160M SSB log earlier in the evening than I was used to. What had been shown by the early tests of the T, with radials, was that I was clearly getting out to the south far better than in Nokesville and while not a world-beater into Europe, I sensed that I was being heard there better as well. I continued to dabble with DX, adding 3C0E in March, and 7O6T in May. That one was worked with a clear sense that neither the Inverted Vee, or any antennas I had in Nokesville would have put Yemen in my topband log. By the time the band got noisy, and I got distracted by Seasonal E-Skip on 6M and my enjoyment of 17M with a new, spindly but surprisingly effective Moxon, On balance, I had mostly concluded that the antenna "worked," and would be redeployed out front, once the summer weeds were bush hogged, and I had a clear antenna field.

The new location was much friendlier to good geometry for the FCP itself, and a new center support of PVC pipe was constructed. Of course, a much longer feedline was needed, and luckily, there was enough LMR-600 to reach the new location. The new spot was much closer to power lines, but I had also added the SE beverage in the summer, so even if powerline noise proved to be a problem, I had options. Also, the transmit antenna was now about 250-300 feet away from the feedpoints of the beverages, and the protection relay in the K3 was now silent when transmitting with the T. PT0S was added to the log for a new country, followed by RI1ANF and C50S, showing me that the antenna performed well to the east. These Qs were in mid- to late-November, and I knew the shakedown cruise would be the ARRL 160M contest. I had some concerns about heating, since I would be QRO, but the ambient air temperature gave me some hope of not smoking the feedpoint components. Also, the counterweight system for the antenna and the feedpoint were new and untried in winter temps and gusty winds. 

See the homepage of this site, for more updated successes with this antenna (and a few disappointments too, of course.)


Formerly, WN3PHG, WA3PHG, KA4EKO, KD4NI, AA4HE, KX3Q. First licensed in 1970