Wednesday, 20 October, 2004

VHF Antenna Up and Working

I finally managed to get everything together to mount a 2 meter vertical antenna on the house. This is one of those projects that should have taken just a couple of hours, but ended up taking weeks.

The antenna is a Cushcraft Ringo Ranger (that's a PDF file) that I obtained from a fellow member of the Williamson County Amateur Radio Club. It is attached to a piece of 1" galvanized pipe that I picked up at Home Depot. The pipe is attached to the chimney with chimney mount straps that I found at Radio Shack. The feed line is 100 feet of RG-8 coax that I bought at a ham swap meet in Belton last spring.

The full story of the antenna's installation isn't quite Alice's Restaurant Masacree, but it did have its moments. I'll spare you the sordid details and just mention the most difficult part (beyond convincing Debra that it wouldn't look too bad):   routing the coax.

The coax runs from my desk, behind the book cases, and through the wall into the water heater closet. There I poked a hole into the attic and shoved the 100 feet of coax through it. Crawling into the attic, I used a hook on a long piece of PVC to fish the coax from the very narrow area where it came up. The really fun part was pulling the coax from there to the other end of the house--something that I'd not recommend doing on a 90 degree day.

Getting from the attic to the antenna turned out to be kind of tricky. I had originally intended to mount the antenna on the peak of the house, but that would have made the ugly mounting hardware visible from the road. With the chimney mount, all you see from the front of the house is the antenna sticking up. There's a nice big hole in the side of the house where I could pass the coax, so I went ahead and attached the connector. When I decided to mount to the chimney, I found that I didn't have enough coax to route it through that hole. After examining my options, I decided to punch a hole in the throat of the attic turbine. A 3/4" chassis punch and I'm in business, right?

You know you're in the wrong place when you walk into an auto parts store looking for a chassis punch and everybody in the store says "What's a chassis punch?" I mentioned this to a friend on the radio last night and another ham, somebody I'd never met or even talked to before, chimed in and offered to let me borrow his chassis punch.  Monday morning he dropped by Debra's office with the chassis punch and also an antenna analyzer that I used to tune the antenna. What a great hobby that has such friendly people.

The antenna is up and working now, the installation complete except for attaching the permanent ground. It's amazing how well the thing works. I'm able to hit most of the repeaters in the area on low power (5 watts), although I need to set the radio to its medium setting (25 watts) to communicate reliably. It'll be interesting to see what I can do when atmospheric conditions are right. I frequently pick up repeaters in College Station (about 100 miles away) from my mobile rig in the truck. I wonder if I can work them from here.