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Short Takes #24: Antennas, Tuners and a Miniature CW Paddle

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by W7DGJ, Feb 24, 2024.

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  1. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    This forum discussion is for the latest "Short Takes" edition of Trials and Errors -- Ham Life with an Amateur. Feel free to jump in here if you have comments on the topic. Compromise antennas, antenna tuners and more! Plus an interesting little CW key that might be worth investing in for a backup.
     
  2. VA3RTG

    VA3RTG Ham Member QRZ Page

    I understand your points in the article, but offer a few things to consider.

    Would your position be the same on tuners if one built their own? Tuner projects aren't difficult, I've built several. What might surprise some readers is that I also built the capacitors as well from sheets of aluminum with thin picture-frame glass as the dialectic. The electrical characteristics were quite good!

    Another point I'd like to make is that some antenna designs require a matcher such as non-resonant multi-band dipoles (doublet), loops, random wire antennas, etc. And getting an extra band or three is a nice bonus from your resonant antenna!

    For me personally, it's a major challenge to just get a homemade sky hook into the air, forget about repeating that task multiple times lowering, pruning, re-raising, etc. A tuner can be a shortcut to that repetitive (and sometimes difficult) process.

    Lastly, as is often pointed out, resonance isn't the Holy Grail of antennas as long as balanced feedline is used to avoid the high losses experienced when using coax cable under high SWR conditions. With so many bands to operate on, is a lot to ask of a single antenna to function on 6m-160m. A tuner can sometimes make that closer to a reality.

    I agree that tuners can lead to what some might see as a sloppy mentality, but can also help in understanding and dealing with the whole Rubik's cube subject of antennas!

    Just my USD$0.05
    Rob
    VA3RTG
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2024
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  3. VA3RTG

    VA3RTG Ham Member QRZ Page

    A couple of additional points.
    I understand that (however I have no experience with) the older tube rigs sort of had built in tuners in the form of their pi networks, that required adjustment when changing bands. I'm guessing that a lot of non-resident antennas were used with that equipment. The newer solid state radios are fussier with respect to SWR.

    Regarding 'compromise' antennas, I believe that ALL antennas are compromise. The ultra best most awesome DX antenna in the world is a compromise for NVIS. The highest gain beam antenna is a compromise if you want omni-directionality. A mono-band antenna is a compromise if you want multi-band flexibility. A multi-band antenna is a compromise if you want the extra performance that a mono-band can provide, etc. Of course the gutters are what they are, but better than no antenna if that's your only option!

    Rob
    VA3RTG
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2024
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  4. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Both posts, good points, thanks Rob!
    Dave, W7DGJ
     
  5. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Currently I run a KX-2 w/internal tuner, or a SW3B with an external tuner.
    Why? It is so much faster to throw up a wire - where that is even possible - match with the tuner and get on the air. Load up the vertical, the same.

    Some -places you are just not going to be able to put up a wire - nothing is there, and the flagpole is a non-starter.
    upload_2024-2-25_9-23-59.jpeg

    or
    upload_2024-2-25_9-26-52.jpeg
    no trees at the base of a glacier.

    As noted, the time and effort to put up a full wire antenna, esp with a multilocation field trip, is simply not going to happen.

    I would point out many QRP rigs sold today come with a tuner as at least an option. The KX-2, the now deprecated PFR-3(a), and others show this to be the case.
    Again, if you are wandering thru a location that is new to you, you likely have no idea what is to be faced when putting up an antenna.
    To me, it is better to have a wire and/or a collapsible whip, along with a tuner than to hope for a tree that will support a pre-cut wire antenna.

    IOW, a tuner gives an operator that maximum flexibility to work HF in a new or unknown location.
    ***

    As for the 'checkbook hams' buying a pre-made wire antenna - their dough, their choice. I suspect after enough disappointment with actual results vs the advertising hype; they will learn to measure/cut their own. Or buy and use a tuner.
    ***
    As an aside, here is a Fun video by Gil, F4WBY --
    Will it Tune? Improvised Guerrilla HF Antennas. (youtube.com)
    where he tries to tune a wire fence.... There are several other UTOOB videos on this meme (tune a fence) found on the web.

    YMMV, please don't shoot the piano player.
     
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  6. W3TKB

    W3TKB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Building resonant antennas is great, but having a perfectly resonant antenna for each and every band you operate on might require having several/many antennas out in your property. Not everyone has room for multiple antennas, and many hams have to make due with just one. Now yes, constructing a multi-band wire antenna that has decently good resonance on each band is possible...some bands may come in better than others. Case in point: my recently completed 80m full-wave horizontal loop covers the 80m-10m SSB segments with varying results. The 10m band is the best and comes in at a perfect 1:1, while 17m is the worst and comes in at 1.8:1. Now with an antenna so constructed, I don't really need a separate tuner to ragchew if I want to keep it at 100w output, but if I want to kick in the amplifier on some of the bands, touching things up with a tuner is a must.

    BUT...I took the time to make my loop antenna as perfectly resonant as I could (with some technical help from others here on the Zed)...not everyone has the time, skills, or patience to do so. These hams may find satisfaction in just ordering a multi-band antenna off a website or the Swapmeet forum, and hoisting er up. In scenarios like that, the added tuner will surely be needed. In many instances the radio's internal tuner will suffice, but what if the radio doesn't have an internal tuner? Or if the SWR imbalances are too far out of the radio's capabilities? For those hams relying on their "one hit wonder" antenna...a transmatch tuner is a Godsend.

    I kind of look at antenna tuners the same way I look at some of the newer features automobiles are equipped with, like automatic parallel parking or back-up camera's. Now sure, I learned how to parallel park when I was 16, and have never had a problem doing so. But my wife can't do it to save her life, so it's a nice feature for her to have (plus, if I'm in the passenger seat, it saves MY sanity while she attempts to park!). Some might consider it a crutch, but I like to think that it gives her more peace of mind when looking for a place to park; she has the tool to get the job done for her, and she doesn't have to waste a lot of time trying to figure it out on her own. :cool:
     
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  7. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Brando, what a great analogy you came up with (cars, auto parking etc.) for the user of tuners. Entirely agree, thanks! Dave, W7DGJ
     
  8. KD7MW

    KD7MW Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Resonance? We don't need no steenking resonance. Not necessarily, anyway. Many (most?) of us do not have adequate real estate and number of high supports, whether arboreal or artificial, to have resonant antennas for every band. That's where multi-band antennas come in. We can buy them, of course. Some are good, some not so good. But there is another way. A doublet need not be resonant to work well. In fact, for multi-band operation, it may be better that it isn't resonant on one band so it will work well on all.

    Years ago I read a book called "The Easy Way," by J. M. Haerle, WB5IIR. It discussed how with low loss balanced line feeding a doublet or loop, one could have an antenna that worked on most of all HF bands. I never looked back. Yes, I needed a transmatch (aka tuner). So what? It's less expensive than buying a new house.

    Since then, I've used a horizontal doublet, as long and as high as possible, to work all HF bands. A few years ago, for better low angle radiation, I added a 40 foot vertical dipole on a Spiderpole. Between the two, I do pretty well. For a "pandemic project," I measured the efficiency and useful impedance range of a number of tuners. That also led to my making "patch cables" of various lengths of ladder line to get reasonable impedances at the tuner with each of my antennas. The main caveat is to avoid very low impedances, which many tuners can't handle. DJ0IP, Rick put my results on his web site:
    https://www.dj0ip.com/ant-tun-sh-outs-bal-line

    All of this required more than a bit of learning, measurement and work. The result is a reasonably effective antenna system that works on all HF bands. With a couple of resonant dipoles and coax, I would not be able to work all bands. So I happily retune my tuner, and insert or remove a few feet of feedline patch cable when changing bands. Banana plugs and jacks make the latter easy.
     
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  9. VA3RTG

    VA3RTG Ham Member QRZ Page

    The following is a discussion/comparison of my vertical dipole and ZS6BKW.

    I too made DJ0IP's 40' vertical dipole, and found the results satisfactory. Perhaps it's the installation, but I've generally found that my ZS6BKW works better on most bands for DX than the dipole however, with a few exceptions. Most definitely on 15m where the ZS6BKW is underwhelming, for example. The two antennas on 30m and 60m seem similar in performance. All of my personal results and conclusions were based on WSPR scans and on-the-air usage. Sometimes the dipole is better in directions where the ZS6BKW is poorly oriented (ends), as expected. And though I find the ZS6BKW better on most bands, the vertical dipole is a very suitable antenna as a backup (and main 15m antenna). I'm using it with a MFJ 947B tuner. Both antennas offer decent performance at very low cost (especially when all homemade), ignoring the tuner price of course, imho.
    BTW- all of the mono-band antennas I constructed long ago on 11m were tuned to resonance. So much easier when only considering a single band!
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2024
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  10. KT4PH

    KT4PH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I don't consider the backup camera a "crutch", I use mine all the time! Sure, I learned how to back up using the side mirrors when I took my EVOC class many moons ago and I still do this occasionally to keep in practice, but I'm much more likely to use the camera since it's so much more convenient, not to mention easier. As far as the parallel parking thing, I do that as little as possible, I know how but I'm just not that good at it, besides, living in BFE, I most of the time use pull through parking, even if it means parking further from the entrance, gives me an excuse to walk a little and I need the exercise.

    73
     
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  11. W3TKB

    W3TKB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'll clarify my statement a bit. I have a single backup camera on my Silverado's tailgate, which I find most helpful when hitching up a trailer...no helper/spotter needed. It's a very helpful tool for that purpose.

    Now my wife's car has more enhanced backup cameras; in fact, she has something called "birds eye view" that takes all the camera inputs and generates a 360 degree overhead view of the car and it's surroundings. Also, when backing up, it superimposes a "path" that shows where the car is going. Using this new camera technology, a person can back up and negotiate objects without ever having to turn your head and look over your shoulder or in the mirrors.

    Now...is that a good thing? Sure, until your total focus on the dash display means you miss something else and run right into it. Same could be said for blind spot and rear impact detectors. Total reliance on them to alert you to potential hazards means you aren't paying close enough attention to your surroundings.

    The Smith System of Defensive Driving has 5 key points, which are:
    1. Aim high in steering (ie, look down the road ahead, don't just focus on the bumper in front of you)
    2. Get the big picture (use your head and your mirrors to keep track of everything around you)
    3. Keep your eyes moving (don't just lock your gaze straight ahead)
    4. Leave yourself an out (leave enough space between you and other vehicles to react and avoid potential hazards)
    5. Make sure they see you (turn on your lights, use turn signals, stay out of blind spots)

    Notice that the first three keys all involve using your eyes to monitor your surroundings, not relying on devices or technology that could potentially fail.

    THAT'S what I was referring to when I cited backup cameras.
     
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  12. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Very interesting Peter. I'll check this out for my own QTH - sounds like a nice solution. Dave, W7DGJ
     
  13. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hey Rob - nice post, thanks. Never tried a vertical dipole at this end. That's what so much fun about antennas, isn't it! There are so many variations on a theme, and so many unique solutions. I think that playing with antennas is my favorite aspect of ham radio. Dave
     
  14. KT4PH

    KT4PH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Sorry, "crutch" might have been too strong a word, I apologize. I agree with the Smith System of Defensive Driving, I routinely follow the steps cited and have for many, many years. I will say that my Prius has the adaptive cruise control which I absolutely love! We rent cars when we go on vacation but we've never gotten one with the adaptive cruise control and I miss not having it. I use it every day that it's not raining, snowing, etc. It really helps with maintaining your following distance. I also always make sure my lights are on (I have auto headlights) and try to use my turn signals faithfully (the Prius get's mad when I don't).

    73
     
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  15. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I love my Tesla. Honestly, the best car I've ever owned. You wouldn't believe the smooth ride that we get. When I drop my wife in the beauty parlor and have to wait for a bit, I just sit back and watch a movie on Netflix. The cruise control is great. You can buy an option to change lanes automatically also, but I didn't do that as it sounds risky. Dave
     
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