The Amateur Amateur: The Roof is Higher Than It Used to Be
By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
Back when the roof wasn't so high
If you are a regular reader of
this column you will be know that I frequently return to a certain
topic: My lack of success with the HF bands. More specifically, my
inability to put up a decent HF antenna. I've tried the cheap, the
sublime, and the out-and-out weird. The only time that I had any luck
at all was during a period when I had a wire running the length of my
home's roof. That actually worked, until a storm brought it and its
supporting hardware crashing down.
I'd like to try again. I can't
put up the same configuration I had before, because the new
post-storm masts that I installed are not in the same places as the
A number of you wrote to me with
suggestions, and a few of them did seem feasible. One in particular
looked like it might be do-able and may even work. There is just one
My roof is higher than it used to
more of a perception problem than a change in my home's architecture.
It just seems
higher now. It's definitely more dangerous, though, at least for me.
main problem is that I'm older. Parts of me now creak more than
rickety old shed on a windy day. Thanks to various illnesses, and
even worse, the cures, I have very little strength and about 45
seconds of stamina. I'd still like
to put up a new antenna configuration. I just have to be very sure
that my body is going to cooperate before I try.
I figured it wouldn't hurt to at
least map out a plan of action. I'm still pretty good at that sort of
thing, and it doesn't require getting up from my La-Z-Boy recliner.
The original suggestion was to
set up a V-shaped dipole, with its lowest point at the base of an
existing mast in the center of my roof. The endpoints would be held
by masts at either end of the roof. The only thing that bothered me
about that configuration was that it would mean I'd have about half
as much wire in the air than I had with my first configuration. But,
any wire is better than no wire, I figured, so why not try it?
I kicked that idea around for a
while. (You can call it procrastinating. I call it meditative
contemplation.) Then, while walking my dog one day, I noticed that
the middle mast wasn't actually located at the center of the roof. It
was clearly closer to the north end than the south end.
Well, that messed up the whole
plan. Was there any way to salvage it? Could I move the mast closer
to the center of the roof?
I supposed that I could, but it
would require extending several already-too-long coaxial cables. No,
better not go that route.
How about adding another mast at
the actual center of the roof?
Nope. The off-center mast would
be in the way of the antenna wires.
Phooey. It looked like I was
going to have to ditch the whole idea. And I had just grown rather
fond of it.
It's harder to do this sort of work these days
I mulled over the idea of using
the trees in my back yard, and quickly dismissed it. My wife had
always nixed putting anything in the trees, and though she is no
longer with us, I still go along with her advice. She was always much
wiser than me.
While visualizing the tree
solution, however, I wondered about putting up a tower close to the
back of the house.
Absolutely not. That would be far
more laborious, expensive, and would attract unwanted attention from
the local municipality. I shuddered at the thought.
about a mast centered midway between the north end and the south end
of the roof, but not
centered width-wise? That would solve the problem of avoiding the
not-in-the-center mast. It would also allow me to put up a bit more
wire. Oh, it would be less than ideal. The resulting antenna would be
somewhat directional, looking less like a V and more like a
slingshot, but at least it would be something.
I filed that idea under “maybe”.
It sat there for a few days. I couldn't think of any particular
reason to reject it, so, I started thinking about specifics.
First question, how would I even
mount such a mast? It wouldn't be near any roof edges, nor any
standpipes, chimneys, or other convenient structures. Of the three
existing masts, one had an eave mount and the other two had tripod
mounts. I supposed that I could use another tripod, but having a mast
shooting off at an angle instead of sitting vertically seemed just
too much of a kludge, even for me.
Oops! It's not really centered.
As I surmised, though, if you
spend enough time on the Internet, you'll find something that will
fill your needs. And I did. The cost, availability, delivery time, and
other such details were murky, but at least conceptually, I'd found
a mast stand that would fit the bill.
The next question was how,
exactly, was I going to route the coaxial cable. I would be using a
SG-237 antenna coupler, so I couldn't use ladder-line. I did have a
coaxial cable route from my shack to the roof, but would the new mast
be just a tad too far of a run? Maybe. But there is less loss on coax
on HF than there is on the VHF and UHF bands. How about a new,
shorter route for the coax? That was certainly doable, but it would
be pretty ugly.
I kicked the matter back into the box for further contemplation.
What next? Well, control wires
for the antenna coupler, but I didn't think that would be much of an
How about interference from nearby power lines, my other masts, and so
forth? Hmm, I've suspected the power lines of generating noise, but
mainly on the very low bands, which I don't think I can use with the
limited amount of wire I will be able to put up. As for my other
masts, yeah, they will probably have some impact. But again, I would
never have an ideal HF antenna configuration. If I can talk to anyone
on any band, it will be an improvement.
The final problem is the big one. The roof is still higher than it used
to be. I may need a squad of volunteer helpers and a standby ambulance.
I still dream that some medication I'm taking will eventually help
rather than hinder my efforts. And I may have received a hopeful sign.
They recently decreased my dosage.
The roof is looking lower already.
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