The Amateur Amateur: Where Do Old Antennas Go?
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
I never throw
away an old antenna, no matter how rotten it performed. Who knows?
Maybe it can be rehabilitated.
March 28, 2005
The new antenna, still enjoying "phase one" of its life.
Last fall I
saw an intriguing looking antenna at a hamfest. I didn't buy it. I'm
sure there was some compelling reason not to do so--such as lack of
funds--but all I could think of later was, "I wish I'd bought
When my brother
Chris, K1KC, asked what I'd like for Christmas, the very first thing
that popped into my mind was that antenna. Chris was kind enough to
get it for me (thanks, Bro). On Christmas Day I took the antenna out
of its box, admired it for a while, and put it in my closet.
Now that warmer
weather is approaching, I am contemplating getting up on the roof to
install the new antenna. I have mixed feelings about the project. I'm
eager to use the antenna, but installing it means that it will move
into the middle stage of its life.
Let me explain.
All of my
antennas go through three phases of life. During the first phase the
antenna sits around the house, often still in its box, while I think
about installing it. This phase may go on for quite some time. It
usually ends when my wife Nancy, N0NJ, tells me to put it up or get
rid of it, but to definitely
get it out of the house. Other
factors affecting the length of phase one are the weather, the number
of higher priority tasks I need to do, and how much effort will it
take to get up from my La-Z-Boy.
Phase two of an
antenna's life is that period of time when it is actually on the roof
of the house or mounted on one of our cars. During that time it
happily radiates and receives radio emissions. If it does this well,
phase two of its life will be long and fruitful. If, on the other
hand, it generates more heat than radio signals, then phase two of
its life will be short indeed.
A couple of old antennas, unceremoniously dumped in a corner of
And now we arrive
at the final and saddest part of the lives of my antennas--phase
three. This consists of the antenna's being dismounted and stored in
the basement. Like most Amateur Radio operators I'm a packrat. I
never throw away an old antenna, no matter how rotten it performed.
? Maybe it can be rehabilitated.
With a great deal
of expertise and just the right tools--neither of which I actually
possess--the retired antenna might yet be turned into a top
performer. So phase three of an antenna's life may be far longer than
either phase one or phase two. As yet no antenna has ever left
my basement, so I can't give you an estimate of how long one may stay
What prompts me
to take down an antenna and put it in my basement? Usually it's
because I'm replacing it with something that I hope will work better.
On rare occasions I have taken down an antenna for some other reason,
such as the one that got blasted to pieces during a hail storm. But
more often than not I'm trying something new and hoping it will grab
the sky a little better than its predecessor.
So let's go back
to the antenna my brother gave me for Christmas. It's a multiband
discone antenna that I hope to use to fill some gaps in my coverage.
nice," Nancy said when I told her. "Which ones to you plan
to take down?"
Reliable." I hate to take it down.
That was a really
loaded question. Not only had she reminded me that there was no room
on the roof for additional antennas, but she had subtly suggested
that the new antenna could replace more than one
Well, I didn't
really want to take down any, but Nancy had a valid point. I'd run
into the problem of antenna clutter once before, with a knot of
antennas so close together that they threatened to attain critical
mass and collapse into a black hole. Well, perhaps, just collapse.
cluster was gone, but even the few antennas that remained on the roof
likely interacted with each other to some degree. Being a ham in the
suburbs is a study in antenna compromises.
had to come down, and the irony was that the only logical candidate
was the one antenna that had so far performed flawlessly. The new
antenna would cover the same bands, and then some, but--Oh, the
I hated to take down "Old Reliable." It
deserved a much better fate than being relegated to the basement.
Was there an
alternative? Could I find some way to put up the new discone without
forcing Old Reliable into retirement? The existing masts on the roof
could not support any more antennas. Well, they could support
another antenna, but it would be too close to the others. Another
mast? No room. The attic? Ha! It's more of a crawl space, and already
festooned with coax and conduits. Something in the back yard? Not
without cutting down some huge trees and rerouting the electric,
telephone, and cable TV lines. No alternatives. Old Reliable would
have to come down.
resigned myself to it. I'm a practical person. If I have to take down
one antenna before I can put up another, so be it. It's a rational
decision. Ultimately it's for the best. I'll draw up plans for what I
need to do and lay out the tools . . . just as soon as the weather
gets just a bit
Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2005 American Radio Relay League