By Richard Fisher KI6SN
reprinted from WorldRadio
Next time someone schools you on the Immutable Laws of Antennas, take note of what helicopter aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky once said: “According to the laws of aerodynamics, the bumblebee can’t fly either, but the bumblebee doesn’t know anything about the laws of aerodynamics, so it goes ahead and flies anyway.” Oh, did Igor’s choppers fly.
What brought this to mind was a thread during the WRO Live Online Chat session on Super Bowl Sunday.
Richard Caruth, K3ZEZ, of Collingdale, Pennsylvania, asked if anyone had “ideas on what I can do for an HF (high frequency) antenna. I live in a townhouse.” Sadly, the borough he lives in “won’t let me put anything out front. There are electric wires across the back of my house.”
Turns out ’ZEZ is retired, on a limited income and “can’t buy anything expensive.” He doesn’t have an attic. “I currently have a half-wave 20-meter center-fed dipole out on my front lawn, about 18-feet high – not even as high as my house – but town fathers say I have to take it down . . . no eavesto run a wire.
“My house is only 16-by-35 feet,” he said, lamenting that “if I can (only) get someone to gain access to the roof.” He works VHF and UHF through a mag-mount mobile antenna on his room air conditioning unit. Does this sound familiar? Especially as condo and townhouse living grows in popularity? What to do?
First, don’t necessarily listen to the Antenna Gurus who may tell you, “It’ll never work.”
Back in the mid-1960s, my friend Randy Fisher, WA1ECC, had just gotten a Swan 350 transceiver. Technically, we’d have to wait until the next day to put up an antenna and get on the air. The impatience of teenagers, though, dictated otherwise.
His new rig had been set up in a room with a four-poster bed. Hummmm. We circled several turns of hook-up wire around the four posts, used the bedsprings as ground and proceeded to work up and down the east coast from Massachusetts on 75-meter phone. Just goes to show: You never know…
WRO chatters offered even more proof, and a lot of suggestions for K3ZEZ.
Gene Bartsch, WI7N, of Banks, Oregon, said he “loaded up the window screen in my dorm room when I was in college in 1967. It didn’t work real well, but I did make a few QSOs.”
“Try stringing wire around inside the condo and use a tuner against a counterpoise on the floor,” suggested Mike Herr, WA6ARA, of Ridgecrest, California. “I’ve used that in hotels with some success . . . I’ve been chatting with a guy on 60 meters in Tuscon (who) uses a screwdriver antennaon a tripod in his backyard. When he isn’t operating he puts it away. Good signal, too.”
To which Ray Lajoie, KB1LRL, from Fitchburg, Massachusetts added:
“You could always set up a screwdriver on your vehicle, then run coax into the shack. The townies can’t fight a mobile setup!”
’LRL said he’d “seen an article where this guy modified a vertical and mounted it through PVC,” as well, “and put it on the side of his building.”
WRO Looking West columnist Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, wrote from Saugus, California, that he’d once loaded up “wet spaghetti on 6 meters. Actually it kept drying out and Larry Levy, WA2INM (SK) and I had to keep spraying it with a water hose.” It was sometime around the summer of 1960. “We were always trying to bust ham radio myths.”
Scott Hernandez, KD5PCK, from Mandeville, Louisiana, said, “after Katrina, I visited a friend who loaded up his FEMA trailer.”
Ron Erickson, KØIC, of Essex, Iowa, said “a random wire – 67-foot minimum – will work if you have a counterpoise and/or some ground returns . . . I knew of someone who loaded up his outside TV antenna and mast. It seemed to work OK on 80 meters.”
“I think I saw an indoor dipole taped against a wall some time ago in an article,” chimed in Angel Santana-Diaz, WP3GW, of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. “But it depends on what band K3ZEZ wants to operate.”
With tongue in cheek, KD5PCK said he’d tried tuning up his kids, “but as usual, they were of little help.” “You should try grounding them” first, KB1LRL shot back. “Might work better. LOL.”