Need Tips on SteppIR DB18 Assembly

Discussion in 'Antennas, Feedlines, Towers & Rotors' started by W3ICM, May 23, 2020 at 5:23 PM.

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  1. W3ICM

    W3ICM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The antenna is bien shipped. I got the manual ahead of time, and I’m working through it.

    I am mechanically challenged, so I would appreciate tips from people who assembled the DB18, DB18A, or other SteppIR antennas.

    Also, what has been your most challenging experience?

    Tnx es 73,

    Fred W3ICM
  2. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I never assembled that one, but did assemble a couple of the old, original 3-element models which have been on the market a long time.

    Only challenge was potentially losing small parts, so I'd recommend not doing this over grass. I'd lay down a big sheet on the patio or driveway or something reasonably solid and flat so any dropped parts are easily found.

    The other small challenge was they didn't supply enough tape! Of course with the newer models maybe they do, or maybe they leave it up to you to supply your own tape -- don't know. But on the old models it was common to run out, so I had to use a new roll of my own.:p That's only a couple of bucks so no big deal, but it could be a big deal if you run out and don't happen to have any, and the nearest store that sells any is closed or far away.

    I'd use their transient absorbing system for the control line cable. If it gets zapped by a lightning surge nearby, it can take out the controller. The controller is inside of course, so servicing or replacing that does not require any climbing but it would be a big inconvenience if it happened the morning of a big contest or something. The only "failures" ever in the two systems I installed years ago were both the control box, and we don't get much lightning around here. Those beams are still up and working fine after at least ten years, so the controller was the weak link.

    Great antennas, have fun with it!
  3. W3ICM

    W3ICM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for the tips, and the excellent report on using the antenna.

    I must assemble it on saw horses over grass. A ham-club friend had the same experience with small parts dropping into the grass, so he recommended a tarp below the work area.

    I have been working through the manual, and I believe there are two kinds of tape. What kind of tape did you run out of?


    Fred W3ICM
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    The "last" tape, which is really just electrician's vinyl tape. I used Scotch 88(TM) and it worked fine, and I had plenty in stock.

    It's bad if any of the joints leak.
    WB5THT likes this.
  5. W3ICM

    W3ICM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The "joints"....I presume that you mean where the fiberglass elements connect>


    Fred W3ICM
  6. WA7F

    WA7F Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I thought they replaced the tape with heat shrink tubing.
  7. W3ICM

    W3ICM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    On the heat shrinkable tubing....

    My ham club member said:
    Go slow when applying the heat shrink on the trombones. It wants to pull as it shrinks. Hold it with a hot mitt.

    Antenna has not arrived yet. I bought a heat gun from Harbor Freight. I hope that it works long enough to complete the project. Never used one before.

    On needed tools, etc....I didn't know about the heat-shrinkable tubing. I asked SteppIR about needed tools...and they said the usual hand tools and TWO levels. I only have one level, but they followed up by saying I could use only one and then use my eyes to level things.
  8. WA7F

    WA7F Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I just double checked to make sure that I wasn’t making things up. It’s in the 4e manual, rev 3, page 22.

    “On all elements we now include double wall polyolefin heat shrink, part number #03630. Each tele-scoping pole uses 3 pieces of the 1.5” x 3” long heat shrink, which forms an adhesive bond that is heat activated. Once finished, the seal is secure and waterproof. This new process replaces the use of electrical tape and silicone wrap”

    A buddy just rebuilt his 4e and he used tape. IMO, heat sink is a better solution.
    Last edited: May 24, 2020 at 2:42 PM
  9. WB5THT

    WB5THT XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Don't use the SteppIR included electric tape, buy three rolls of Super 88 as someone else mentioned. If they are still including a no seize stick to coat the bolt threads, throw it in the trash and buy a bottle of anti-seize with included brush at an auto parts store. Use plenty of anti-seize on all bolt threads! Did I mention to use plenty of anti-seize on the bolt threads?

    Use a vacuum cleaner or an air compressor to blow out any debris in the tubes before final assembly on the boom. It's critical that the tubes and trombones are completely clean and clear. Plug up the boom ends with a ScotchBrite pad or whatever to keep critters out.

    Finally, take your time with assembly. This is not a quickie put it together kit! Check and double check each step.

    I have a DB18E up at 60'.
  10. W3ICM

    W3ICM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks. I will buy the liquid anti-seize. and I will use plenty of it as you recommend.

    I never thought about cleaning out the tubes. That's great advice. I hope my vacuum can do it. I don't have a compressor.


    Fred W3ICM

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