Well, I’ve been settled into my new place for a while now. I’ve done a little bit of amateur radio (though not much) and embarked on a new project which, although not a ham radio project, is still radio related. More on that in a subsequent post.
My new digs are in a 100 year-old house with an easy-going landlord. The landlord part is key, as I have already erected one antenna, and have plans for one or two more. I’ve often noticed that a shake-up in my lifestyle will cause a change in the interests I pursue, and this move was no exception. Even though I felt that ham radio was about to take second place to something else, I still wanted to put up some kind of antenna for the HF bands. A quick scout around the internet led me to the website of The Mast Co (link opens in a new window) with a great selection of telescopic fiberglass poles. The 32 foot heavy duty model seemed ideal for mounting on my balcony and attaching some kind of vertical to so a few mouse-clicks, a few days of waiting, and an hour fiddling around on the balcony led me to this:
This is the pole in it’s retracted position with the top cap in place. I strapped it to the balcony with large plastic ties that I got from Home Depot. You can see that I’ve used cut-up pieces of old bicycle inner tube to protect the paint finish on the pole from being chafed by the ties and to cushion the pole against the faucet. This is a first floor balcony at about 11 feet above ground, so the top of the pole is about 43 feet above ground. The top of the pole is a little higher than the sloping roof of the house and the house is at the top of a small hill (Oakland is quite hilly), which works out quite well. Anything sitting at the top of the pole (like an antenna) will have a good view of the east bay.
This doesn’t really show you much, but here’s a shot taken from ground level of the pole fully extended:
I ran a length of 26 gauge magnet wire from my window to the top of the pole and then down again to the other end of the balcony – a total length of about 75 feet. As soon as the wire gets through the window into my room it connects to a 4:1 balun after which about 15 feet of RG8 goes to the Z11 tuner and then the radio. I draped about 40 feet of wire around the perimeter of the balcony as a counterpoise and what do you know – it tunes up on all HF bands 80 thru 10.
Of course, just because an antenna tunes up doesn’t mean that it radiates well. To this date I haven’t done extensive testing, only having had 4 or 5 QSO’s. The furthest was on 40M (CW of course) with AD5WI in Pea Ridge, AR – a distance of 1547 miles. He gave my 5 watts a 599, so I might be on to something with this antenna.
The great thing about the telescopic pole is that it is very much a multi-purpose item. According to Henry K4TMC, the proprietor of The Mast Co, this pole can support a lightweight HF dipole fed by RG8X (lightweight meaning made out of fairly light gauge wire with no traps). You can also support a small beam if you attach it part-way down the mast. This is a great all-purpose experimental antenna mast. To extend the pole, you just pull out the sections and twist them a little so that they stay extended – they hold together by friction. It retracts just as easily. My mast has been up continuously for 3 weeks now with no problems. The poles are made to hold windsocks, and this one seems to handle wind quite well, flexing when it gets gusty, but staying up.
There are so many uses I can think of for a lightweight extending pole like this. Because it’s lightweight (5lbs for the heavy duty 32 foot pole), it doesn’t take a whole lot to support it. This particular one will most likely stay on my balcony and be used to support a variety of different antennas. The next plan is to mount a vertical antenna for the MURS band at the top and use it to test the coverage of a couple of MURS handhelds that will be arriving here in a few days. My friend lives a mile away and isn’t licensed, so we decided to play around with MURS as a way of keeping in touch.
If you have any questions about this mast, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m quite enamored with it. Henry mentions that this particular pole isn’t being made any more so when he runs out of his current stock, that’s it. Think what you could do with a lightweight and very portable 32 foot telescoping mast………