2022-05-13 Today was hot, 90 degrees and this old guy tends to stay indoors when it's that hot. But I still think and play radio, even though bands seem very sickly. Since playing with pedestrian mobile and discovering that I can use my K6ARK 9:1 unun to drive my 55" collapsible back pack antenna directly without a loading coil, the "random wire" antenna has come back to my attention. So today I dug it out of my collection to play with. By "it" I mean a little plastic bag with a 29 ft green radiating element and 17 ft yellow counterpoise wire. The wire Sotabeams lightweight antenna wire, approximate is 26 gauge. Since I have the K6ARK unun already attached to the tuner on my pedestrian mobile kit, this was a very simple antenna to hook up. Simply plug the radiating element and counterpoise to their respective jack on the unun and go.
Normally both the rig and antenna would be outside and the radiating element would simply extent out and up to the top of my fiberglass fishing pole or a convenient tree branch and the counterpoise would be tossed out on the ground more or less beneath the radiator. But, not wanting to be out in the sun, I set the rig on the corner of my bench about three feet from the window and ran both the counterpoise and radiator through the slightly open window and screen. The radiator was then routed to the top of my 20 ft fishing pole standing in the yard and the counterpoise was tossed on the ground. It was a quick and very simple job.
The good news is that the Elecraft T1 tuner matched it perfectly on 40-17 meters. I heard very few signals on any band and the one or two I could hear apparently couldn't hear me. Thinking it might be my antenna I switched to my home G5RV with identical results. further, verification that the bands were nearly dead were the very few POTA posts. By the way I've used this antenna many times and have logged 320 contacts, mostly during POTA activations. So I know it works.
Just for curiosity, I pulled the counterpoise back in the house and tossed it out on the floor behind me. The house is built over a 4 ft crawl space so the wire was at least four feet above the ground below. Again, the tuner matched it up perfectly. This time I heard a couple signals. One was a POTA station in Texas who was a 599 and gave me a 579! We had a quick QSO. Tuning around I also heard a POTA station in Arkansas and worked him. He was 529 in here but gave me a 599.
Why am I writing this? I saw a question in a post on Facebook from a newcomer asking about the correct way to set up a counterpoise. I was frustrated by many of the answers as they tended to indicate that a counterpoise has to be some specific length or you had to have so many of them.... Some said they need to be some distance in wavelengths above ground, others said they must be in the ground... If I were the poor guy who asked the question, I'd have given up ham radio! Many of the suggestions were good. But things like counterpoises are forgiving! and often the performance differences are quite minor. My suggestion is, do what you can! If you can and want to put 30 cut-to-length wires in the ground. Do it. If you can't and/or don't want to, try several, maybe even one, of almost any length. With my portable verticals I use four 10 ft wires, always. With my pedestrian mobile 55" antenna I drag one 15 ft wire. With my 20 ft wire I use a 17 ft wire. And i distribute them on hte ground as best I can in each situation. They all give me satisfaction.
2022-01-15 I had to try the K6ARK antenna I built yesterday in a park and use it for real! So today I went to k-1440 Big Foot Beach State Park near Lake Geneva, WI not far from where I live. It was in the low 20s with a fairly stiff breeze, just plain cold. So I set up my ic705 and T1 tuner in the car. I ran a 10 ft RG174 coax out through the driver's side door to the K6ARK unun which was tied to a windshield wiper arm with some 1/8 inch bungee cord. The end of the 29 ft element was run up to the top of a 15 foot collapsible fishing pole supported by my drive-on stand out on the snow held in place by a brick. Not an elegant setup but easy and quick!
Using the T1 tuner the antenna tuned up nicely on 40-15 meters. I made a couple P2P contacts on 40 and 20 meters. Than I settled on 30 meters, posted a spot on the POTA app and started calling CQ. Thirty minutes later I had 11 contacts in the log. I tried 15 meters but got no takers. Dropped down to 17 meters and got two more, one a P2P contact. Arizona on 20 meters and MT on 17 meters were the furthest distances today. I'm pretty pleased with the antenna's performance. By the way all contacts were using the internal battery of the ic705 at 5 watts!
It was so cold outside that I forgot to take a photo of the antenna! But here is the setup in the car.
2022-01-14 The K6ARK end fed antenna kit arrived yesterday. So today I built the 9:1 coil for the end fed random version. it. I got so mixed up winding the toroid that I threw out the wire that came with it and cut three different colored wires from left over wire from previous projects so I could keep the windings clear! There is nothing wrong with the instructions or material that came with the kit, I just got lost in the process! It is a simple and elegantly designed kit but one has to pay careful attention to the toroid wind.
The finished antenna with a 29' element and 17' counterpoise is pictured. To check it out I loosely mounted it from our porch rail to a 15' fiberglass fishing pole in the driveway with the counterpoise (the green wire) laid out on the ground. I connected it to my 5 watt Xiegu x5105 which tuned it up easily on 40, 30, 20 and 17 meters. I didn't try other bands. In short order I made three contacts with POTA activators on 40, 30 and 20 meters. All three gave me great signal reports. None were great distances or big challenges but proved that it does radiate as intended.
Conclusion. It is fairly simple to build. One does need to be comfortable with soldering on a very small circuit board. Winding the toroid is not hard but requires careful attention. Once assembled according to the instructions it is a neat little transformer package. I used 26 gauge wire for both the element and counterpoise. Speaker wire would work well but I had this which is a bit stronger and doesn't tangle as easily. I'll definitely put it in my portable/POTA kit. At exactly 2 oz, I can't afford to leave it home! Furthermore, it packs better than my QRPGuys mini, also pictured, and weighs 1.5oz more.
2021-12-24 The past few days I have been using both a 29' and 35' version of the QRPGuys 40-10 mini unun tenna and the QRPGuys 40-10 unun tenna, sometimes referred to as random wire antennas. The two ununs are essentially identical other than physical size of the unun and toroid. The primary advantage of these and other random wire antennas that use 9:1 ununs is that with a tuner they can be used on almost any HF frequency by simply retuning. When doing a POTA activation that is a very useful capability, particularly in winter as I can stay in my warm car or other shelter and change bands at will! Another useful thing is that they are very forgiving when it comes to setting them up, needing at most one support which can be a tree or fiberglass fishing pole or whatever. The pictures below show my POTA kit using my xiegu x5105 transceiver and the mini 29' antenna. Weighing about 4-1/2 lbs and very small it is very convenient.
My favorite way of setting the antenna up is to put my Spiderbeam 10 meter (32ft) fiberglass pole in DIY a drive-on stand under the left rear wheel of my car with the far end of the antenna tied to it with a small piece of 1/8in bungee cord. Then I drop the wire down at an angle toward the right side and in front of the car tie it to a brick or whatever with another piece of 1/8th inch bungee so the unun is about a foot or so off the ground. I lay the 17' counterpoise wire out on the ground from the unun toward the car or wherever their is room. A 25ft length of RG174 or RG316 coax will reach the front passenger seat of the car where I sit (in winter) to operate.
Using that approach with the 29' antenna I logged 67 CW contacts with the 5w x5105 in the last week including Alaska, 2700 miles, and Porto Ricco, 2100 miles. And using the 35' antenna and my ic705, also in the last week, similarly set up, I logged 40 SSB and CW contacts including two in Arizona, 1400 miles. I worked 40, 20 and 30 meters with both setups. Of course over the years I've used many other portable antennas with great results too. My point simply is that these antennas are more than worthy as first-choice antennas for portable operating.
2021-08-06 Bounced back to Bong, k-4265, about 11:00 CDT this morning. Took my Xiegu x5105 QRP RIG and QRPGuys random wire end fed with 35' radiator and 17' counterpoise. Set up as a sloper from a picnic table to my 20' collapsible fiberglass fishing pole. Managed nine 30m contacts and eight 20m contacts, all CW at 5 watts. Tried 17m but no response. The very small, simple setup worked well. Toward the end a fellow ham from Illinois showed up. He set up his KX3 and EMMCOM III antenna a ways off in the picnic area and was doing well when I stopped by on the way out. I'm always happily surprised when I use my little QRP rig and random wire antenna. Was on the air a little over an hour using the x5105's internal battery.
2021-07-09 Back to Bong, k-4265 today. 5 watt X5105, 29' EF with 9:1 union, 17' counterpoise, 14' push up fiberglass Pole. Wanted to activate on 17m. Did get two in the log. Finally switched to 20m and got 6 more. Switched to 30m and ended with 5 more. Really like the x5105 and 29' combination. Small, light and band agile! This antenna does a good job of bringing three things together, small size, multiband (with a tuner) and performance. With this antenna, my 14' collapsible fiberglass fishing pole and the x5105 I have a complete portable station "in one hand!"
2021-05-27 Last evening, about 7:00pm I decided to take my 29' antenna out again and set it up in the front yard with my 15' fiberglass push up fishing pole and the IC-705 with Elecraft T1 tuner. In about 20 minutes I got three answers to my CQ SKCC call on 7.055. I'm sure it is not the best antenna but it is viable. And its most important criteria are its, 1) very light weight and small size for transporting, 2) all band coverage with a tuner. So for portable operating, its good to have it "in the bag!"
2021-04-19 Today, playing with my new ELECRAFT T1 Automatic antenna Tuner I strung up my QRPGuys 29' end fed antenna using the QRPGuys 40m-10m UnUnTenna. As the photo shows The unun was just few inches off the ground. The far end of the 29ft wire was about 20 feet up atop my carbon fiber push-up fishing-pole mast. A 17ft piece of 24 gauge speaker wire was stretched out on the ground beneath the radiator wire. Twenty five feet of RG-174 coax ran to the T1 connected to my ICOM IC-705 QRP transceiver. Made two 40m contacts with it to Florida from here in Wisconsin.
I don't consider this antenna as a "first choice" under most conditions if I have any other viable alternative but it performs pretty well, is easy to deploy, very light weight and "all band" with a wide range tuner. Those characteristics make it quite desirable to have in your portable bag of tricks.
Having used it quite a bit I knew it would work. But since my relatively new IC-705 does not have an internal tuner I wanted to make sure the T1 would match it. And it did, on 40-6 meters, and even on 80 meters but with a pretty high, though usable, SWR. That limitation may be the UNUN transformer as the toroid is quite small and it is specifically rated for 40 through 10 meters.
I consider the test a success and the antenna is now in my IC-705 portable bag along with a DIY version of the QRPGuys triband vertical which I have used a lot and probably is my preferred POTA antenna.
2020-10-31 A couple days ago I made a drive-on support for my portable antennas so when the ground is frozen I can still deploy an antenna for a POTA activation or whatever. Yesterday morning, even though it was below freezing, I backed the car out of the garage and drove the front wheel onto the 1x6. Then I tied my 20 ft push-up Carbon Fiber Ultralight Telescopic Fishing Rod to it using two pieces of 1/8 bungee cord and a couple cord locks. Then I attached the tip of my QRPGuys 29ft end fed wire to it and pushed it up. I tossed the transformer/winder into the shrubs at the front of our house and laid out the 17' counterpoise. Then I ran a 25ft piece of RG-174 coax from the transformer through a nearby window to my Xiegu X5105 and fired it up. right away I heard N4MTE on 7.278 calling CQ POTA from K-4172 Jackson on Patoka Lake State Recreation Area, 348 miles away and answered him. To my surprise he came back immediately giving me a 55. He was 55 in here! I then went on to have one more contact on 40 meters and two others on 20 meters. All were sideband except with KB5QFU on 20m in Saginaw Texas, 840 miles south. I was happy with the antenna, the drive-on mount and my x5105! I'm always amazed what you can do with a simple antenna.
2020-06-16 Yesterday, after reading a Facebook post about a guy who had a fun backyard outing using a 35' end fed with 9:1 unun and 17' counterpoise, I decided to add the approximate six feet needed to my 29' end fed and give it a try. So, (sorry no pictures) I did that and took it to my back yard. I was able to get some light string over a fairly good branch in a tree and strung it up from there to the back of a patio chair. I used a 25' RG-58 coax to the radio. Bands still don't seem very good here but I managed four QSOs between 20 and 40 meters, one being SSB. I was using my G90 at 20w. The relatively short end fed is sure an easy antenna to put up and seems to work reasonably well.
2020-05-03 Just another plug for the lowly 29' end fed with a 9:1 unun and 17ft counterpoise. The two main things I like about it are its ease of deployment and flexibility on the air. With the built-in tuners on my x5105 and G90 it will work on just about any band. I know it is a compromise antenna but there are times and places where that is called for. This one is a good option for those times and places.
I'm thinking about it right now, as I've set it up quickly in my back yard the past two days and had fun making contacts. Didn't set any number or distance records but had several hours of good "fun in the sun" with minimal fuss. Mine, based on the QRPGuys unun weighs just 4.5 oz and packs very small. Hard to imagine a more compact and easy to use antenna.
I've had 82 contacts with it in the last year, half at 5w and half at 20w. The majority were on 40 and 20 meters but several on 60, 15 and 10 as well.
If you want to get on the air portable, easily, this antenna, whether built from scratch or with a kit as I did, is worth considering.
2020-03-19 In addition to putting up my 4 band trap dipole antenna, I also put up the 29' version of this antenna again. I have to say that I am quite pleased with it. It is truly a multi-band antenna with a tuner. Since both my primary radios have internal tuners it is very easy to use. And when I compare it with my two EFHW and trap dipoles I'm always surprised how well it compares. Same or better on some signals and a little worse on others. But that is always the case with different antennas which are mounted differently and have different radiation characteristics and patterns. I'm thinking it should always be in a portable bag as it is easy to hang and dependable.
2020-01-23 I alternate between loving and being disappointed in the 29' end fed antenna using the QRPGuys 9:1 UNUN. Tonight I love it! Having just completed entering the 60 meter frequencies into my xiegu X5105 memories, I flipped through them to make sure they were all correct. When I hit 5.348 I heard this faint CW CQ. So listened. I flipped the antenna switch in my shack to the 29' wire as I knew it would tune up on 60 meters and the signal was a bit stronger. But before I could get to him a pileup started. So I waited. When the other guys finished and KW4JM called CQ SOTA I jumped in. He had considerable difficulty getting my call but finally did. We managed the essentials and signed.
Five Watts. 29 foot sloper just a few feet outside my window with six inches of snow on the ground. 572 miles. Poor band conditions. He atop a mountain in North Carolina! Oh, and I was running off the internal battery of the X5105 so I was "almost portable!" That's real ham radio! Thanks Scott for sticking with me! Oh, by the way, that's five 60 meter QSOs with the 29' wire this month. All but this one were 20 watts on my G90. All were CW. I've had 61 QSOs with the 29 footer on 60, 40, 30, 20 and 15 meters using both SSB and CW since first starting to play with it nine months ago. Thirty seven of those were at 5 watts. Reminds me that the reason I first got interested in that antenna was for possible portable QRP use.
It's a good antenna!
Photos of my current installation of the QRPGuys 29' end fed antenna.
2019-12-23 I keep being drawn back to this simple antenna. It's nothing more than a 9:1 unun with a 29 ft #26 wire radiator and a 17 ft #24 speaker wire counterpoise. The counterpoise lays on top of the ground below the antenna. It's connected to my rig with a 25 ft piece of RG-58 coax. Both my xiegu rig's internal tuners will tune it on all HF bands bands. And it works!
The feedline comes into my shack through a window and connects to an antenna switch which in turns connects to a switch to which my rigs are connected. So with the flip of a couple switches I can tie any of six rigs to any of six antennas. That makes it very easy to compare antennas in the midst of a QSO. Currently I have three antennas connected: 1) this 29' end fed (strung east/west) with the tip about 17' up, 2) a QRPGuys 40-10 EFHW inverted vee (strung North/South) with apex at about 20', and 3) an MFJ 1984MP 40-10 EFHW set up as a sloper (strung east/west) with the far end about 25' up.
Depending on the direction and distance of various stations there may be almost imperceptible differences in the received signal levels between the three. Sometimes the differences are large enough that one my barely hear the signal at all. I've not done a careful study but my perception overall is that the EFHW antennas almost always do a little better than the 29 ft one but seldom enough to be the deciding factor on which to use if I could only use one of the three - which might be the case when portable.
The three major advantages of the 29 ft one are, 1) it is usable on all bands, 2) it takes very little space to set up and 3) it is very light and small to pack and carry though not all that much lighter than the QRPGuys EFHW which is also made with #26 wire.
2019-12-05 For several weeks now I've had both my MFJ 40-10 EFHW sloper and GRPGuys 40-10 EFHW inverted vee up. I have them both going to an antenna switch which makes it easy to switch between them even in the same QSO. It's been interesting to compare them. The difference on both the receiving and sending end is minimal but often the inverted vee seems to do slightly better. Not sure if that is because of the configuration and direction of deployment, the transformers or just life!
A couple days ago I decided to replace the QRPGuys inverted vee with my QRPGuys 29 ft "random" wire antenna. The location of my 24 ft Goture 1 Piece Carp Fishing Pole, Carbon Fiber Ultralight Telescopic Fishing Rod mast was such that I didn't even have to move it, making the change very simple. Since them I've been comparing the 29 footer with the MFJ EFHW. On 20 meters often the 29' wire seems to do the best on most signals. On 40 meters the MFJ is the clear winner with a huge difference in received signal level. I haven't spent much time on 30 meters but it seems to work about the same on 30 meters. Both my xiegu G90 and x5105 tuners handle 30 meters easily on both antennas with a tuned SWR of about 2:1. Not sure that is conclusive evidence but it is interesting.
2019-08-22 Yesterday I decided to put up my 29' end fed antenna again just for fun. I've had many good contacts with the MFJ-1984MP EFHW but I needed something new. I strung it from the ground floor window sill of my ham shack up into a tree at about a 45 degree angle. The G90 tuner handles it very well and quickly I made five contacts four on 20 meters, one on 30 meters. Two of the 40 meter ones were to Arizona and New Mexico, 1414 and 1284 miles respectively. I switched back and forth between the EFHW and 29' EF to compare receive. I'm not sure I detected any difference but if I did the 29' was slightly better! One thing I did notice is that I had RF in the shack when using the 29' one on 20 meters. I've since added a quick and dirty common mode choke in the RG-174 feedline near the 9:1 balun which I think has cleared that up. Once again I'm impressed with this simple, small antenna. Clearly it is a good option for portable use.
2019-07-29 This afternoon, after using my end fed half wave antenna for several days, I decided to try out the new QRPGuys Mini UNUN Antenna I assembled a few days ago. It is a 9:1 UNUN and electrically is identical to their QRPGuys 40m-10m UnUnTenna that I have been playing with for many months off and on with both a 29' and 35' radiator and various lengths of counterpoise.
Since my 29' element is mounted on the regular UnUnTenna I attached the 35' one with a 35' counterpoise. And instead of using one of my push up fishing poles I threw a rope up in a tree in my back yard and pulled the far end up with that. It's probably about 25' up. The fed end is on a snow marker fiberglass pole about 3' off the ground. My feedline is a 25' length of RG-174.
We have been planning to move houses but the deal fell through just a few days prior to closing so we're now unpacking boxes and moving back in! Today I unboxed my Icom IC-7100 and connected up all my antenna switches so I can easily transfer antennas between my X5105 and the IC-7100. Right now I only have one antenna up at a time so today it is this 35' version of the Mini UNUN Antenna! The X5105 has a built in tuner and I have a LDG Z-11Pro II auto tuner on the IC7100 so they each can tune the antenna, a requirement for this non-resonant antenna.
It worked! Even though all bands seemed in bad shape today I managed two CW QSOs on 40 meters this evening running 10 watts on the IC-7100. I had good signal reports from both with solid copy. Distances were only a few hundred miles, but I'm happy. I'll play more in the coming days. It is really fun to have antennas that are simple to put up and take down so with minimal effort I can try something different!
2019-07-13 I'm having a lot of fun with my portable 29 ft end fed wire antenna based on the "QRPGuys 40m-10m UnUnTenna". It uses "Sotabeams Antenna Wire - Lightweightsmall" wire. I just completed my twenty contacts with it! One was on ten meters, ten were on 20 meters, four on fifteen meters and five on 40 meters. Most were with stations in the IARU HF Championship. And all were done at 5 watts CW. The main thing I like about contests is that there are lots of hungry hams out there to contact! You can get an on air idea how the antenna and rigs are doing because you know they heard your little signal from your little antenna! The 29 footer really does work even in a packed band with mostly high powered stations with fancy antennas tramping all over you.
One issue I had is that on 20 meters RF caused one of my computers and one TV to go crazy. No other band seemed to cause a problem. Out in the wild, portable, that wouldn't be a problem. But in a neighborhood it might be a problem. Not sure what to do about that.
2019-07-11 I'ts good now and then to be "confined" to something you think is less than ideal. Having only my 29 ft end fed antenna to work with on HF since taking down the G5RV a couple days ago coupled with my 5 watt x5105 has brought another level of fun and surprise to ham radio for me again. I think I have to work harder to get a QSO, but then the bands have not been all that good either so one never knows.
I turned it on just a few minutes ago and tuned around 40 meters. There were a few stations on but either had fairly weak signals or were obviously in the midst of a QSO. I was just about to give up and hit the sack when I tuned across 7.044 and heard K04YB calling CQ. He was really strong, hitting 599 occasionally. So, not expecting much I gave him a call. He came back, gave me a 599 from Alabama, 618 miles south! We exchanged skcc info but then chatted a bit. He was running 100 watts into a delta loop. I, five watts to my 29 footer! Of course that is a combination of many things, including a likely brief propagation thing, and his delta loop. But never mind. I had a QSO, a solid one with good copy on both ends. Thanks, Bryan for the fun. Now I can hit the sack in peace!
2019-07-10 We are moving to a new (to us) house so yesterday a ham friend came over and we took down all my outdoor antennas, including my main HF antenna, a G5RV. I can't be off the air entirely for the next two weeks until closing so I decided to string up the 29 ft random wire antenna based on the QRPGuys 40m-10m UnUnTenna. It went from the windowsill to a tree in the back yard. It has a 17' counterpoise and a 4' RG-174 cable to the radio.
One concern was that it was supposed to rain overnight and I didn't want to take it down. BUT, the unun is not protected. What to do? It occurred to me that I might wrap it in self sticking plastic food wrap! So I did. It did rain a little and it seems the unun stayed dry. Part of the challenge is that the wire I used for the radiating element is very small, about 26 gauge so sealing something around it is not easy. I think the plastic wrap did it, at least temporarily.
This afternoon I fired up the xiegu x5105, tuned to 20 meters and clicked the tune button. It tuned right up. There was a CWT thing under way so I quickly called and had contact with VE3KP, 500 miles and K3PH, 650 miles. No signal reports but they were both very strong into southeast Wisconsin. So, I'm still on HF!
2019-05-25 The paragraphs below describe the 35 ft version of the random wire antenna I am now using based on the QRPGuys 40m-10m UnUnTenna. Right on the PC board for this antenna as well as in the instructions it says suggests three lengths for the radiator: 41 ft, 35.5 ft and 29 ft. It suggests the counterpoise be 1/4 wavelength. Playing with it recently as part of my decision of which antenna to take on the upcoming Boundary Waters Canoe Trip, I posted my observations on the Facebook Group for POTA (Parks on the Air) as I'm thinking of trying to activate on this trip. I got lots of helpful feedback including the suggestion that I try the 29 ft radiator and a 17 ft counterpoise.
So today I gave that a try. It is nearly impossible to do a useful evaluation of an antenna as there are so many factors in play; propagation, band activity, particular antenna mounting, etc.
I set it up with the radiator at between 60 degrees and vertical, pulled up into a tree with some light weight cord. I laid the counterpoise out across the tops of the plants along the patio edge in our back yard, about a foot off the ground. My feedline was ten feet of RG-174 and the rig was my xiegu x5105, 5 watts.
Sitting at our patio table under the umbrella it tuned nicely on 40 meters with an SWR of about 1.5:1. My mostly DIY analogue Field Strength meter indicated that RF was radiating. I then tuned it up on 20 meters with similar results. The World Wide CW contest was in full swing, occupying nearly every inch of the band. At first I was frustrated. But then I realized I had a huge hungry audience out there so called two stations. The one in Dallas, TX, about 650 miles south came back. Of course SWR reports are meaningless in a contest but he clearly heard me! Then I heard ZF1A. Took me a while to get that call right as it sounded so strange but I confirmed it and gave him a call. He too came back! That was 1660 miles to Grand Cayman Island!
My conclusion? Today it worked! How well compared with something else I might have used I don't know. I like the somewhat shorter length of both elements as that makes it just that much easier to put up. Out in the wilderness of the Boundary Waters, that is an advantage. Will it be my primary antenna for this trip? Haven't decided! But it sure fits into my little four pound thrift store cooler pack nicely!
This simple antenna consists of a 35 ft piece of small gauge wire as the radiator, a 35 ft counterpoise, a 9:1 UNUN and a BNC jack to connect the feed line. For a feed line I use RG174 coax. I assembled everything onto a Sotabeams wire winder including the counterpoise, so the whole thing is a self contained, easy to deploy portable antenna. I've used it mostly with 17 to 20 ft fiberglass fishing pole masts and connect the antenna to the mast tip with shock cord and a cord lock.
2019-03-30 After being ignored for quite a while I put up this 35 ft end fed again yesterday afternoon. Almost immediately, using my x5105 at 5 watts I got a contact on 30 meters with a station 660 miles southeast in South Carolina! Then this afternoon I fired up the x5105 again and discovered that an SSB contest was going on. So I decided to see if I could make any more contacts. The result was five SSB contacts. Two were on 20 meters with a station 1200 miles southeast in Florida and one 1780 miles west in California. The other three were on 40 meters all in the 600 to 700 mile range to the southeast. All five of them were fairly tough going for them but about 59 for me. This little antenna is pretty versatile and does a reasonable job. I wished I'd had my 40 meter EFHW up so I could switch between them and make some on air comparisons but that didn't happen. Thinking about our upcoming Boundary Waters canoe trip, I'm pretty sure this antenna will be in the bag.
2018-11-20 Yesterday, after being gone over the weekend I strung up my 35' end fed wire antenna using the 5.4 meter Bamboo Pattern 11 Section Telescoping Fishing Rod mast and 3 feet of RG174 to go between the feed point and the feed-through in my window. It's too cold and breezy to actually operate outside. From the feed-through a piece of RG58 goes to the Xiegu X5105. One of the things I like about this 35' wire antenna is that I can tune it on just about any band with the x5105's internal tuner. granted it may not perform "wonderfully" on every band but it at least gives me an opportunity. Not long after putting it up I had a short CW QSO on 40 meters with K3ESE just under 700 miles east in Maryland. I tuned around and heard several strong signals on 20 meters but didn't land anyone. Then this morning around 9am I had another 40 meter CW QSO with KA9FCZ 270 miles south in Illinois. We had about a 20 minute rag chew when suddenly signals faded out. He started at 599 and gave me a 559 at the start. He was running 70 watts, I was running 5 watts. My conclusion? It still works and is a viable simple-to-put-up antenna. Likely if I ever get out of my back yard it will be in my pack.
2018-10-30 Yesterday I decided to take down my trap inverted vee after a couple QSOs with it and put the 35 ft end fed up again. Part of the reason is that with the bands in their current rough shape I wanted to be able to change bands easily. The link inverted vee is a great option except that it requires one to run outside and clip/unclip the alligator clips to change bands. Not the worst thing in the world, even giving you a bit of exercise, but nevertheless a bother. Whereas with the 35 ft-er I can just push the tune button on my Xiegu X5105 and be ready to go.
But this time I decided to suspend it from a tree rather than from one of my fiberglass push up poles/masts. And that gave me a chance to play with my Arborists throw line and weight! I have the bag to store and deploy it with too. I've always been a bit too self-conscious to go out into my yard and throw it into the trees for fear of what the neighbors would think! But this was the time. I need some practice. It took several throws to get it even close to where I wanted it! However, it does work very well. the 12 oz weight seems just about right and that throw line is very light and very tangle proof. Quite an improvement over a plastic drink bottle tied onto the end of nylon paracord or something similar which seems to be designed to snag and tangle AND getting stuck in the tree!
I'd add a photo except that the #26 black wire is simply invisible except in rare light conditions. But suffice it to say it is much nearer vertical than when using my masts. Haven't had any QSOs with it but will today.
2018-10-20 Using the SWR analyzer built into my X5105 I checked the resonant frequency of the 35 ft antenna with 35 ft counterpoise. it appears to be 8.6mhz. It also shows resonance at 4.3 and 17.0 mhz which would be expected. I made these measurements at the transmit side of the 9:1 unun.
2018-10-19 I know this is not the greatest antenna in the world, but I also know it is a reasonable one! I had two more QSOs this afternoon and evening, on 40 meters. One was with a station in Texas, 950 miles with a 599 report, and the other with one in Louisanna, 850 miles and a 449 report. Both with my five watt x5105. The Texas one was one of those strange openings as he was absolutely booming in here for a little bit then faded way down. With Louisianan it was normal band conditions as that signal was a 549 in here. Every time I give this antenna a chance I'm pleased. it is so easy to put up and just works.
2018-10-18 Today I put up this 35 foot antenna again. This time with the 20 ft. Wonderpole since I already had it out there for some contacts with my trap 20/40 Inverted vee and my link 20/30/40 meter inverted vee. I had had good success with these two the past couple days so wanted to compare it over the next days. I was immediately impressed once again how well it hears and how easily the x5105 tunes it. I used about six feet of coax from the unun to the radio rather than a 25 ft piece of RG174.
Within just a short time I had a QSO with W3ZRW in Maryland, 645 miles east. He responded to my CQ on 30 meters. He was running 10 watts with an Icom IC703 and I forgot what antenna he was using. I was running 5 watts with my x5105 and this antenna. He gave me a 559 and he was 449 in here. I don't know the directional characteristics of the antenna. For convenience it is strung south to north with the feed end to the south. The Counterpoise, a 35 foot piece of wire runs along the ground, parallel and beneath the antenna.
2018-09-18 Well, I decided to mount the QRPGuys unun onto a Sotabeams wire winder. To make the whole thing a bit more compact I cut off the half of the unun board that serves as a handle. Turned out pretty nice If I do have to say so myself.
I like this arrangement over the QRPGuys unun and board alone. The longer and curved shape of the Sotabeams winder winds, stores and unwinds the antenna and counterpoise neater and quicker and about half the number of turns are needed thanks to its length. I always wind both the antenna and counterpoise in a figure 8 pattern which eliminates twists in the wire and simplifies removal. The banana jacks make it easy to change wire elements if so desired.
Currently the antenna is permanently attached but the counterpoise has a banana plug. That makes deploying both simpler than having both attached. Simply unwind and lay out the counterpoise on the ground with the banana plug near the feed end. Then attach the end of the antenna to the support mast and unwind it back toward the feed end. Once that is done and tied off, simply plug in the counterpoise, attach the coax and you're ready to go.
When taking it down I lower the support and wind the antenna first and then wind the counterpoise over that. The length of white shock cord serves to tie the winder/balun to a tent stake, tree branch or whatever. It also can be wound around the winder once the antenna and counterpoise are wound onto it to keep everything secure.
2018-09-17 I think I'm going back to the Sotabeams winder version of the antenna. I like the small size of QRPGuys version, but their winder is just too small and is somewhat inconvenient to wind and unwind. I came to this conclusion this afternoon when I took down my antenna after playing with it today with my X5105 transceiver. The mosquitoes ate me alive as I was winding up the antenna and counterpoise! So, tonight I transferred the main element and counterpoise to the Sotabeams winder. I'll test it tomorrow or Wednesday. If for some reason that home made 9:1 Unun dosen't work as well as the QRPGuys one, I'll probably cut down their winder and mount it on the Sotabeams one to get the best of both worlds!
Having said that, the QRPGuys one with the 35 ft main element and counterpoise works well. I had a CW QSO with a station 1600 miles west in Washington State on 20 meters. He gave me a 569 and he was 589 in here. He was running 100 watts into a beam up 60 feet so he gets some of the credit! But my end worked well. I still love this antenna.
2018-09-08 Today I set up the 35' antenna again using the QRPGuys unun about 11:00am. As indicated below, the x5105 once again tuned it well. Bands weren't real busy but with an SKCC Weekend Sprint (WES) under way there were a number of CW signals, on 40 and 20. I snagged one CW contact on 20 with a good report. Then I had to take down my mast so my grandson could mow the yard.
2018-09-06 After emailing Ken at QRPGuys.com about their unun/winder I moved the Silky 26GA antenna wire from The Wireman Inc. (their part number 534) to the QRP Guys unun/winder. Then I put it up using my 5.4 meter Bamboo Pattern 11 Section Telescoping Fishing Rod mast, a 35ft counterpoise and connected it to my X5105 rig. The internal tuner of the x5105 was able to match to a 1.5:1 or lower SWR on all bands from 80 through 6 meters. On 160 meters 2.5:1 is the best it could do!
I didn't try any contacts on any of those bands but heard a number of signals. So, with the smaller "stealth" wire I'm pretty impressed that this is a great little antenna solution. total weight, including the #24 RCA speaker wire counterpoise was 4.5 oz. if one replaced that with the stealth wire it would reduce the weight another ounce to ounce and a half.
In my opinion the winder could be improved by making the ears a bit longer and angled out (to the left in the picture above) to make winding the element in a figure eight patter a bit easier. I really like winding in the figure eight as it keeps the wire from becoming twisted and makes for very easy unwinding. But that is a very small issue. It is more than well worth the $15 and I recommend it for portable QRP operation using an end fed antenna.
2018-09-05 If you don't want to scrounge the parts and figure out your own 9:1 unun and wire winder, QRP Guys sell a great little product that is worth looking into.
Mine arrived yesterday so I assembled it (only took about an hour) and added a 35 ft element and 25 ft counterpoise cut from RCA small gauge speaker wire. This morning I took it outside and put it up using my 5.4 meter Bamboo Pattern 11 Section Telescoping Fishing Rod mast and X5105 rig. It tuned up on 80, 40, 30 and 20 just fine. I didn't check the bands above those but I'm fairly certain it will tune those also.
My hope was that it would be lighter, smaller and neater than my home brew version described below. It is lighter by about half an ounce, 4.65 oz, vs. 5.05 oz. It may be somewhat smaller but not much, just a different shape. As to neatness, it is not neater.
It is not designed well for winding the elements directly on it whereas my home brew version is, as it is built on a wire winder intended for that purpose. The toroid is a bit smaller and I like the BNC connector. I'm contemplating cutting off the handle portion of the QRP Guys one and mounting it on a wire winder, thus maybe getting the best of both worlds!
Bottom line, it is a good product and I recommend it, especially if you don't want to design one and scrounge parts.
2018-08-29 I've had problems tuning the 35 ft wire on 30 meters. Also I've noticed that at least some suggest a 35 ft counterpoise. I've been using a 15 foot one. So I decided to make up and try a 35 ft counterpoise. I made it with #26 (I think) RCA speaker wire. The good news is that by X5105 transceiver's auto tuner will now tune everything from 40 through 6 meters, including 30 meters. The bands were absolutely dead this afternoon while I was playing with it so I can't comment on how it actually works. Antennas are both fun and frustrating! Almost impossible to know how they really work, particularly in this crazy propagation situation.
2018-08-14 Bands are not good at all right now. All but 40 and 80 show as poor the during the day neither is shown as better than fair. But I decided to string up the 35 ft antenna anyway and give it a go with my FT817nd and Tuna Tunah II. I used the shorter mast and connected the antenna to it using a short piece of shock cord and cord lock.
I was surprised to find several pretty strong signals on both 40 and 20 and even on 30 meters. I was able to land a QSO with K3IMC (685 miles) using 5 watts on 20 meters. He was a 549 in here and gave me a 559. That was around 2:00pm.
Later, at 4:15pm I had a QRP to QRP QSO with VE2PID in Quebec (about 840 miles) on 30 meters. He was 539 and gave me a 559. He was running a KX2 at 5 watts.
I continue to be impressed with this simple antenna.
2018-07-25 After repairing/bypassing the broken switch on my Tuna Tunah II and modifying the tuna can, I had about a half hour just after lunch and decided to see if it all works. So I headed to the back yard, put up the antenna, connected all the pieces together and turned the FT-817 on. Forty meters sounded dead but tuned up well. Twenty sounded better and also tuned up nicely. I heard but could not raise the YL System operator on 14.332 so tuned down to CW end. Had a nice 5 watt 559 QSO with AH6AX in Maryland on 14.052mhz. So once again the antenna, tuner and rig work. Didn't have time to try the EMTECH ZM-2 tuner.
2018-07-21 The weather improved this afternoon so I set up the 35 ft end fed. Without the 15 ft. counterpoise I simply could not tune it on 40 meters with either the EMTECH ZM-2 tuner or the Tuna Tunah II. But with the counterpoise attached it tuned tunes quite nicely on 40, 30 and 20, the only bands I checked. The EMTECH has fallen out of favor with me as it does not seem to handle the task of tuning this antenna very well at all for some reason. When I had the 4:1 balun connected I was impressed with it. But with the 9:1 unun not so much. On the other hand the Tuna Tunah II worked on all bands. I'm not sure I trust my "data" at this point and will keep playing before making a final decision about the tuner thing.
Using the counterpoise and the Tuna tuna II I logged a 20 meter CW contact with W5I in Sherman, TX. He was about 589 in here. He gave me a 599 but I think that is suspect. But it worked which is what counts.
2018-07-20 After a couple days away helping my son celebrate his son's birthday on a camping trip, I decided to replace the speaker wire on this antenna with some new wire I ordered from The Wireman Inc. . The new wire is Silky 26GA antenna wire, their part number 534. It is extremely light, fairly strong and jet black, making it more stealthy than the speaker wire. It is not important but the finished product weighs 4 oz.
I was unable to use it on air as we are right in the middle of a significant rain event which is keeping me in doors. Maybe tomorrow. At this point I plan to use the 15 ft clip on speaker wire counterpoise when needed.
2018-07-13a I was suspect of my tiny 9:1 unun I made earlier today. Not exactly sure why, but decided to try to add a third winding to my original 4:1 balun which I was using previously. It is one I removed from an old MFJ tuner several years ago. I was successful in finding some wire nearly identical to the other two windings and get it snugged in between the existing ones. Then mounted it on the line winder in place of that tiny one.
Still didn't manage any contacts but did get some measurements with the antenna analyzer. It was quite similar to the readings with the tiny 9:1 unun but not identical. One interesting difference was the resonant frequency without a tuner. Whereas with the tiny unun it was 17.288 mhz, it measured 22.7 mhz. I noted adding or removing the counterpoise made no difference.
The SWR at 7.05 mhz was 3.5:1 rather than 2.2:1! That was a surprise. The other measurements were very similar. That was with the ZM-2 tuner. I noticed that on 40 meters the capacitors were at their extreme settings so I couldn't really get a sharp dip so I decided to try my trusty old Tuna Tunah II. Another surprise. With it I was able to get a better than 1.2:1 SWR on 40, 30, 20 and 15 meters. Seems it can handle a wider range of complex impedance than the ZM-2.
Now, what do I do?! I was falling in love with the ZM-2. Now I'm leaning back toward my old girlfriend, the Tuna Tunah II. Woe is me. The moral to the story? There is no perfect solution! :-) Yes, I knew that!
2018-07-13 I noted that on the web site that sells the 35 ft antenna he uses a 9:1 unun rather than a 4:1 balun like I've been using. He also says no counterpoise is needed as the 25ft of coax strung out more or less the opposite direction of the radiator serves as a counterpoise. So I decided to build a 9:1 unun and test it out. I only had a 1/2 inch toroidal core with the red code marking on it which seems to be best in the 3-30mhz frequency range. So using some small enameled wire, probably about 28 gauge I wound ten trifiler turns, the most I could pack in neatly. and wired it up as indicated in the link above. It tuned nicely on 20 meters with a 1.2:1 SWR on the antenna analyzer. Adding the 15 ft. counterpoise actually made it worse. On 40 meters the best I could get was a 2.2:1 SWR and again the counterpoise made it worse. On 30 meters I cot a 1:1 SWR and on 15 meters I got a 1.0:1 SWR.
All of that was through my ZM-2 tuner. When I ran the feedline directly from the antenna to the analyzer I found the resonant frequency of the antenna was 17.288 with an SWR of 1.0:1. Band conditions weren't good, with very few signals in the CW portion so I haven't tried it "online" yet. I guess I'm not sure what I have learned as I didn't run analyzer checks with the4:1 balun. However the counterpoise always provided better tuning with the 4:1 balun and I noticed some hand effect on some frequencies with it. I suppose the radiating effectiveness of the antenna is more or less unaffected by the feed arrangement if it tunes well. Perhaps I will do more testing.
2018-07-11 It occurred to me today that I don't have to swelter in the sun and heat outside to play with my antenna! After all I've got 25 ft of RG174 running from the antenna to my ZM-2 tuner! And I wanted to check out the newly arrived 4 ft RG174 BNC cable to connect the tuner and radio. The new smaller cable seems to work just fine.
So I erected the Wonderpole a little closer to the back door, anchored the feed end of the antenna to a patio chair even closer to the back door and ran the RG174 feedline under the door to my ZM-2 tuner sitting next to my FT-817, key and note pad on what we used to call a TV tray inside my air-conditioned house! Bingo.
I was nice and comfortable as I made my one contact for the day with N5PST in Louisianan on 20 meters. He was a 599 in here but was too busy in a contest to give me a signal report. But I'm happy. It all worked one more time.
2018-07-10 Today I wanted to try one more thing with the 35 ft end fed wire, bypass the 1:4 balun and go straight to the tuner with the radiator and counterpoise. It didn't work. I could not get a decent SWR that way on any band with the Emtec ZM-2 tuner.
2018-08-09 I just finished another 20 meter 5w SKCC QSO with N3QW in Maryland. He gave me a 569 and he was 579 in here in SE Wisconsin. It took 8 minutes to get the mast, antenna, counterpoise and coax connected. Another 2 minutes were required to get the FT-817nd out of the bag, connect the battery, key and antenna up through the ZM-2 tuner. I immediately heard N3QW calling CQ ON 14.54mhz so answered him! Ten minutes later everything was down, packed up and I was back in the house! A total of 28 minutes! Fun!
I keep "dreaming" about taking this setup on a local "backpack" walk and setting up in some nearby semi-wilderness area. I even got up this morning planning to do that. But somehow life interferes and I ended up in the back yard again! Never mind. I'm having a good time and making some QRP contacts under less than ideal conditions with what seems like a compromise antenna. That's at least part of what it's all about.
2018-07-08 Yesterday and today I used my new EMTECH ZM-2 Antenna Tuning Unit with the 35 ft antenna. It works really well. Even though band conditions were what could likely be called terrible, I managed five QSOs on 20 meters CW at 5 watts. It helps that both days were Weekend Sprints so a lot of people wanted QSOs. This tuner is really easy and fast to use and though I've only had it two days, I can recommend it along with the 35 ft wire antenna.
The pictures at right show the result. I made it with very fine RCA speaker wire, #22 or smaller which is fragile tangles! And fed it with a 25 ft length of RG174 coax to my tuna Tunah ii. A short length of RG58c/u continued to my FT-817nd.
2018-07-06 I can't get enough of the 35 ft end fed wire! Looking at various commercial versions of portable "long wire" antennas I was fascinated that some of them build the balun into the winder and the whole thing is supported with a shock cord to a tent peg in the ground or to a picnic table or whatever, eliminating the need for any kind of pole at the driven end. So, that was my challenge today.
One web site suggested that a 25 ft coax serves as a counterpoise. So I tried to tune it up without a counterpoise using my tuna Tunah ii. It tuned fairly well on 20 but not on 40. I then clipped on a 15 ft counterpoise and it tuned up easily on 40, 30 and 20.
And it works! Even though only 20 meters was live, and barely so, I did successfully log K2H, the Thirteen Colony Commemorative station in Massachusetts. He was a solid 559 in here and gave me a 599, his standard report!
2018-07-04 After my wife and I took a walk in town and had a nice breakfast at a local restaurant I decided to mess with the 35 ft antenna again. This time I wanted to support the far end with my Wonderpole (about 16 feet up) and use my LDG 4:1 balun mounted near the transmitter. The solution was to velcro the balun to a snow stake I found in the garage. That stake won't be needed for a while for its intended purpose! The picture below shows the result. I liked the way it set up and tuned up, but the bands were about as close to dead as I've heard them so no QSOs logged.
2018-07-03 Yesterday I played with the 51 ft wire antenna using my newly re-fabricated 4:1 balun/connector described on that page. It was difficult to string up the 51 ft wire requiring quite a bit of fiddling with ropes, etc. I did get it up after a fashion but it was way too low. That got me thinking about how much easier the shorter 35 ft wire would be to set up. The 51 ft one actually had a disconnect I had installed at 35 feet so I disconnected that and using a pull-up rope I already have in a nearby pine tree for playing with antennas, hoisted it into the air. I connected the Wonderpole mounted connector/balun to the Tuna Tunah ii with a 3 ft BNC coax. Lastly, I connected my FT817nd to the tuner using a six foot BNC coax. I laid a 15 ft counterpoise out on the ground beneath the antenna.
It tuned up nicely on 40, 30 and 20 meters. There was very little CW activity on any of those bands when I got it all connected at about 1:00pm. The few week signals I heard apparently didn't hear me. Then about 1:40 I heard N3QW in Maryland calling CQ SKCC at 14.05mhz. His signal was 589, so I called him. He responded immediately, giving me a 549 describing my signal as "solid but weak." I took it! The photos above show the backyard setup.
I just had two more QSO's all CW, one on 20 and one on 40 meters. The 20 meter one was at 3:10 pm CDT with one of K2B, one of the 13 colony special event stations. He was booming in here, a true 599. He gave me a 599 also but I noticed everyone was 599 with him! The 40 meter one was at 3:20pm CDT with KZ3T in NC. he gave me a 449 and he was 539 in here. I don't think this is "the ideal" antenna, but given its short length and ease of setup it seems like a clearly functional portable option.
Now I'm getting the hair-brained idea of actually mounting the Tuna Tunah ii directly to the terminal/balun. It seems that would reduce losses in the coax from the balun to the tuner and present the coax from the transceiver with near 50 ohms. Tuning might be interesting unless everything within arms reach!
2015-05-10 After a recent QSO using the 51 foot antenna with W1SFR i looked up his web page where he describes an antenna he sells that uses a 35 ft end fed wire. So I decided to give a 35 ft wire a try. I strung it up exactly like the 51 footer and left the same counterpoise connected. Everything else remained the same, that is the Tuna Tunah ii matchbox and FT-817nd. I was able to get a near perfect match on 80, 40, 30 and 20. Propagation is terrible today so not sure I'll get any useful on-air observations today but at least it can be matched up to the radio with the Tuna Tunah ii.
5/20/15 Just had my first QSO with the 35 foot wire with N8HLH, Midcars control operator in Marquette, MI about 550 miles north. Conditions are not good at all as a magnetic storm that hit yesterday is just fizzling out. But he managed to hear me. Will keep testing before making any judgments on how well this antenna performs.
5/21/15 It's 5pm here and in SE Wisconsin and I just completed a solid QSO with VE9GU up in New Brunswick, Canada, about 1150 miles north east. He was a 58 and gave me a 55. All that with the 35ft wire tied to my Tuna Tunah ii and driven at a whopping 5 watts by my FT-817! At least I know the 35 foot wire does work!
Later in the evening still using the 35 foot wire I tried to answer a very strong call from 8 land on 40 meters CW but he apparently didn't here me. I also called CQ a number of times on both 40 and 30 meters with no response. Not sure if that indicates anything useful but it is the way it was! I'll keep experimenting.
Later in the evening still using the 35 foot wire I tried to answer a very strong call from 8 land on 40 meters CW but he apparently didn't here me. I also called CQ a number of times on both 40 and 30 meters with no response. Not sure if that indicates anything useful but it is the way it was! I'll keep experimenting.