Nov 182012

This week after slaving for more than two hours to haul what seemed like a metric ton of leaves to the street, I had enough in me to put up a trapped 80 meter dipole. I had been waiting to acquire the right kind of wire from my father but instead decided to dive into my garage for anything that would radiate and happened across 100 feet of enameled wire. While my yard would not support a full half-wave dipole, I picked up a couple of traps at the Findlay swap earlier this year, along with a new dipole mount made of molded plastic and brass screws. This cut the size down 25 feet and made it possible to link up the two dipoles to the same coax, both in an inverted-V fashion. It was certainly a step up from the simple binding post and BNC connector I was using with my Luxembourg and while I was sad to see the true ‘Luxembourg’ come down, I was happy to add another band to my setup.

After an hour of measure, scraping, twisting, and screwing, I was able to get both my 20 meter dipole wires and the new 80 meter wires tied to the same center and up in the tree. I can’t say enough how important it’s been to have a newly acquired MFJ-259B antenna analyzer to know just how much my setup was affecting my signal. First, a little back story…

My grandfather earlier this year gave me his first generation Outbacker with which I was hoping to get on everything from 10 to 80 meters. It was a great addition to my little antenna farm, however the pain of swapping out the antennas into my Z817 auto-tuner was unbearable. To fix that, I tried using an antenna switcher from the collection I obtained from a silent key and was quite successful at making my PSK31 20 meter contacts. I had always used my analyzer by connecting the antenna directly to it, never thinking that I should checking what’s going on inside the switch. It seems not thinking of the entire circuit was my downfall.

Well, an epiphany hit me and I analyzed the entire circuit, including the switch. Low and behold, the analyzer showed the switch did indeed do fine on 20 meters but on 80 was completely unusable. Removing the switch from my setup, and some subsequent testing, the Z817 will tune the new 80 meter dipole to 40, and that means between the 20 meter and trapped 80 meter dipole, I could talk on everything from 10 to 80. Success!

I was anxious to give the new double dipole setup a go but quickly discovered that the ARRL Sweepstakes was happening this weekend. Rather than clog the aether with my non-contest traffic, I held off today and will try again later in the week after the contest finishes tomorrow. Until then I’l take down the Outbacker and store it away for the next foray into mobile or portable operation, I’m sure my neighbor will be mildly pleased to see one less antenna in the sky.