Last Sunday, the 20m band was in odd shape. I could only hear a few domestic stations, but quite a few DX stations. The problem was that while I could hear them, my signal was just not strong enough to work them.
This is partly due, of course, to my antenna installation. I am currently using a ground plane antenna made from antenna wire, supported at the top by a handy tree branch. The antenna is about 15 feet behind the house, but past that, the ground slopes upward, effectively shielding radiation in that direction. Believe me, if I’d been more active in ham radio when I was looking for a new house, I’d never have bought this place.
At any rate, this frustrating turn of events got me to thinking about how I can upgrade my antenna farm. I suppose I could go whole hog and put up a 50′ tower and a full-size beam, but that’s quite costly and I doubt I’d make many friends with the neighbors.
Another idea is to put up a small tower on the roof and on top of that install a compact beam. Glenn Martin Engineering makes a couple of roof-top towers that are reasonably priced. Their eight-foot model is about $240, and since the house is already 25 feet high or more, the antenna would be 35 feet above ground.
As for the antenna, I did a little Web searching and found several manufacturers of compact beams, including:
- Mosley Electronics, makers of the TA-33jr,
- TGM Communications, which makes a whole line of compact beams, and
- Hex-Beam. The HexBeam is an unusual design. The elements are full size, but folded to require less space., which
The more I think about it, though, I think a quad antenna might be a better choice. They’re usually ligher and smaller. Here are a few that I found on the Net:
I also think I could build my own rather than buying one. That would not only make it cheaper, but it would be fun, too. Hams on eHam have recommended the following as good sources of information for building your own:
- The book, Cubical Quad Antennas : How to Build and Adjust Quads by William I. Orr, Stuart D. Cowan. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print.
- The article, Update on the Pfeifer Quad System, appeared in the September 2001 QST.
The ARRL website also has a number of other articles on the topic.
In a way, I’m kind of geeked about doing this. Despite my protestations earlier, that I’m not an antenna genius (and I’m still not, believe me), I have gotten several to work here. It’s also a lot of fun to build them and get them to work.