Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Spinning My Wheels

Activity on the station is happening yet I have little to show for it. Ambition and property are not enough. With little accomplished in the preceding weeks there is little to talk about in the blog. In any case summer is a time for being outdoors rather than sitting in front of a screen. Not all of my outdoor activity is amateur radio related.

I decided that rather than go quiet I would give a progress report of sorts. This is perhaps boring reading. All of this nothingness is however necessary prelude to concrete steps in fulfilling my ambitious plans for 2017. So if you can handle a little bit of boring reading continue onward and you'll see what has been going on at VE3VN.

Big tower

Nothing of note has happened. True spring weather has arrived and the ground has solidified enough for heavy equipment to work in the hay field. Unfortunately it didn't happen soon enough. Now the company doing the foundation work is busy with commercial projects. They are searching for a hole in their schedule when they can get over here and finish it off.

I have abandoned my own futile attempts to clear the winter-damaged excavations. The slumped soil is too waterlogged for shovel work. I had hoped to clear enough debris to ease the removal of all the steel in the anchor and base holes. Now we'll have to use the backhoe and risk damaging it, and taking time to repair the damage.

Growing hay between me and the 150' tower excavations

A further problem is that the hay is growing very high due to the record breaking wet spring. I cleared a few paths but it is still difficult moving around. Hopefully the hay will be harvested later this month. Worse still is that the high grasses are full of ticks. Even with protective clothing they find a way through. It is no fun dealing with these stealthy disease carriers. For the same reason I have put off work on the Beverage and other low band antennas until late summer.

The tower itself requires minor repairs to several sections which I've deferred until the concrete work and back filling are completed. I can only wait at this point.

Other towers

I like to trade favours by doing tower work for others. This may take the form of helping me with my tower work or other assistance. I never charge money. I never even expect favours to be returned though they almost always are. It's simply about hams helping hams.

I wrote about one small tower that I took down recently and I have another larger tower to take down in the next week or two. The make of tower is unknown so I had to take measurements on site and build a gin pole for it. This tower, too, is slated to go to another ham I know.

Preparing coax

Before going to Dayton I took a detailed inventory of all the Heliax in my possession. Some of the used runs have connectors on only one end because the other end was cut where it entered a building. All the coax, including my own ancient runs of LDF4, must be tested and refurbished, and connectors added as needed.

Testing Heliax in the garage. Notice the antenna analyzer. Gin pole construction on the left.

Most of the Heliax has N connectors, including a few UHF-N adapters, but some use 7-16 DIN. There is some weather damage that requires repair. Unlike braided coax water typically does not penetrate far into Heliax. But it still requires removing the connectors and cleaning them, cutting off the damages sections, then putting the connectors (or new ones) back on. It's a lot of work.

The cable itself must be tested, both before repair work and after. Large, heavy rolls of Heliax dwarf the test equipment. Larger equipment, such as transmitters and power meters must go to the coax since the Heliax cannot be brought into the shack! Luckily my garage is now built and electrified, and that is where the work is being done.

For the rotation loops I am using LMR400 equivalent Ultraflex cable. I have had too much trouble with RG213 in this application during the winter when the cold temperature stiffens the plastic.

Ordering aluminum and steel

Big yagis need a lot of aluminum for booms and elements. There is also the cutting and machining of plates and channels for the multitude of clamps. I have an assortment of surplus pipe arriving shortly that will serve as both boom material and potentially as part of a full size 40 meter yagi. However that yagi project is being deferred to the future.

As I proceed through antenna modelling and mechanical design of yagis for this year and next I build spreadsheets to count up the sizes and lengths of aluminum and some structural steel I'll need. Since tubes and pipes come in standard lengths I have to figure out where the cuts are to made in advance so that I make maximum use of the material. Tubing and pipe isn't inexpensive.

I have in hand all the guying hardware for the big tower, and also for the future 80 meter array. That's a lot of steel. I'll have more to say on this later since it is an important and interesting topic. Building of the guy cables, complete with breaking into non-resonant lengths will only be done after the tower concrete work is done. I tend to practice JIT (just in time) for all my projects.

Antenna swap

The Hy-Gain Explorer 14 and Cushcraft XM240 on the Trylon are coming down very soon. These were temporary antennas to get me through winter and spring contests and general operating. Both will be going elsewhere, once I have more towers raised.

Friends are coming over to be ground crew for this. Both antennas are heavy enough to benefit from mechanical assistance. This time I will dispense with the winch and human muscle power and put my garden tractor to work. I'll take some pictures and perhaps write an article about how to do it.

Once these antennas are down I'll be raising antennas that will be more permanently attached to the Trylon. These are my recently redesigned and rebuilt Cushcraft A50-6 and the Hy-Gain TH7 I have had in storage for past year. The TH7 is assembled, tuned and mechanically refurbished. I completely replaced the boom truss since the old hardware was badly rusted and missing a key component. In Dayton I purchased bag fulls of replacement trap covers and element tips for my several Hy-Gain yagis and for the XM240.

TH7 ready to go

The TH7 will go just above the tower top plate (where the XM240 currently resides) and the A50-6 will go about 3 meters above it. In future I may add VHF and UHF yagis in between. Both antennas will be fed with Heliax: LDF7 for VHF/UHF and LDF4 for the TH7. If I don't have time to prepare the Heliax I'll stick with the RG213 runs for the present. The Heliax can be put up later.

I desperately want the 6 meter antenna before I miss more of the Sporadic E season. The redesigned A50-6 up 24 meters should do well for long haul DXing. The TH7 is for general operating and for short haul paths, such as the US and Caribbean, during contests. Bigger and higher antennas for Europe and long haul DX (low elevation angles) will go on the big tower.


That's a 10' (3 m) long ground rod
Towers and lightning are inseparable. Protective measures are mandatory with size of towers I have going up. I've been planning how to go about the task to assure that protection with a reasonable amount of cost and effort.

As a first step I have grounded the Trylon and the bracketed tower for internet access. Pounding a 10' ground rod into the ground is not easy. I would whack at it with my sledge hammer a little each day. The hardened tip of the rod can break small rocks on the way down.

Eventually I got it in all the way. Fasteners are commercial quality and supplemented in some cases with stainless steel parts to avoid dissimilar metal corrosion. I have an ample supply of heavy gauge copper wire that I've saved over the years.

Locations for trenches for cable burial are being planned. I have a difficult job with that due to the many trees (roots!), a stone wall ringing the house and farm equipment working the fields. Although no cables can be buried for their full length I expect to be able to bury them all from the towers for some distance. That will help dissipate lightning discharges. I will rent a trencher to do the hard work.

Depending on how I do antenna switching and control the protections added near and around the house are not final.

Renovations and much more

A big distraction is the ongoing renovations of the house. Although not directly related to ham radio this is added a lot of stress and demands constant attention. This phase of the renovations should be complete before the end of June.

Aside from living space disruptions and endless decisions to be made the renovations have incurred some small disasters. The worst was failure of the sump pump system that resulted in shallow flooding of the basement. I was not pleased. Once the workers leave I will have more time and energy to devote to the station. I am not operating much these days.

The only part of the renovations which is radio related is ensuring that partitions and services in the basement are compatible with the main shack to be located down there. It will be have at least two operating positions for contests and amenities for the operators. Power for amplifiers, stations and work bench has been planned with the help of an old ham friend who is a retired master electrician.

A 50 acre property requires more maintenance than a small city lot. Although little of it requires regular attention there are several acres that need to be maintained. None of it is difficult, it is just something that consumes time and the purchase and maintenance of gasoline powered tools.

I have landscaping and other grounds projects planned, though I expect not this year. This year is dedicated to towers and antennas. Renovating the rest of the house will happen no sooner than this coming winter, once the outdoor station work is finished for the season.

And of course it is summer after all and that means simply getting out and enjoying the weather. I do not apologize for putting amateur radio aside when the outdoors beckons. The station work will get done. It is a hobby not a job.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the update! I was wondering if spring had yet arrived. Your project is of great interest to me as I plan the addition of my first tower. Bill, KZ3I


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