I built another doublet and am back on the air as of Sunday. This FT8 has literally exploded in the time I’ve been gone. No one works any other modes anymore, it’s all FT8.
I did, however, have to make a couple of compromises. I didn’t get to make this the “catastrophic upgrade” that I wanted. For a while, I’d been really considering going 600 ohm balanced over the 450 for immunity to rain/snow/moisture. But I decided that just wasn’t in the budget right now. So I settled on basically putting up what I had before.
The new doublet is about 78′ long and about 50′ off the ground. The elements themselves are just 14 AWG speaker wire I picked up in the audio section of Wal-Mart for about $11. I picked up a new 100ft spool of 450 ohm ladder line; 18 AWG solid JSC like I had before. This cost me somewhere around $42 or so after shipping. This is about what 100ft of TrueLadderLine would have cost me.
But I did have to shell out more money to actually get it in the air. First mishap was I couldn’t locate but one of my good 2 oz bank sinkers. With the thickness of the trees where I live, you don’t simply shoot over a tree. You shoot into the trees, hope you get the one you want, and hope you actually make it back down. Of course, first shot the line gave way and I watched this thing just sail over the trees and land deep in the woods. I tried some subsitute weights untill my slingshot bands snapped.
Apparently, Wal-Mart quit carrying all the Daisy slingshot stuff. In fact, all they have now is some janky brand that’s got a frickin laser sight…..and it’s close to 30 bucks. I could have Amazon Primed some and gotten them the next day….but I had to buy at least $35 worth of stuff just to order them as they’re an add-on item. My other issue is I went to both local Wal-Marts and they were completely out of the sinkers I needed.
So I wound up thinking about making a trip out to Cabela’s. They had a $20 slingshot and the website said they had paracord…and I figured they’d have sinkers. I was right about the sinkers. In fact, as far as fishing gear goes if they don’t have it…you probably can’t get it. I wasted a good half hour looking at fishing gear…as I used to be an avid fisherman. I did get my sinkers; a 2lb box for $12. More than I wanted to pay…but plenty for a few hanging jobs. I didn’t find the paracord and at that point…I didn’t want to.
So here’s where my trip to Harbor Freight comes in. I realize a lot of the stuff from there is total crap; but I have a habit of losing/breaking tools…so it’s not an issue. They DID however have Daisy Slingshots in stock for $7. They were the basic ones without wrist support…but they took the exact same bands. I bought two in case I ruined some trying to transfer them to mine. I also picked up a few other items….some water-proof butt slices and electrical tape.
So I get everything home and got the line in the tree. It was when I went to grab the bundle of rope from the tree-stump I realized I made a grave mistake. I forgot to check my previous areas for leftover supplies. It was with the bundle of rope I found TWO of my sinkers tied to random pieces of 50lb test line. I really didn’t need to go out and spend $12 on sinkers afterall.
After getting the line in the tree and a rope pulled over it…I went ahead and assembled the antenna. I made another center insulator in the same style as before and attached the wires to it and soldered them to the feedline…making sure, naturally, that I kept the proper distance to maintain impedance. One of my challenges with the first one was keeping the wire attached to the insulators. At the time the obvious method of making a loop and soldering it didn’t occur to me….or I thought it might cause undesired operation. But I did that this time, making what I hope are reasonably secure loops. I did get enough solder to flow on the wire that the entire loops feels extremely stuff.
My last piece of feedline had several splices in it. One was where I added feedline all the way into the shack, one was where I moved the antenna and got the feedpoint higher, and I had several inside the shack. I didn’t feel these were hurting performance, but since I had new line I decided to have one single solid piece from the tuner all the way to the antenna. Did it give me an advantage? Not really. The fact is you can get away with a whole lot in terms of splicing ladder-line…provided you remember you have to maintain the distance between conductors. In fact the butt-splice method of splicing ladder line seems to have ZERO effect on it’s performance. I gotta tell you…I always thought twin-lead was inferior to coax; but I now stand by the idea that it’s a superior feedline over coax for HF work.
Anyway…I got the new antenna up and started working DX on FT8 pretty much right from the get-go. The pattern seems very similar to the previous antenna and it’s performance seems to match. I worked YT2SS yesterday on 20m phone and actually worked me *through* the pileup. People were still throwing calls while I heard him come back to me. That’s what I call busting a pile-up! That is not the first time I’ve had this happen with this TenTec processor. I called a guy in pileups one night with it turned off…nothing. Couldn’t break throw. The second I flipped that thing on and threw the call out, immediately called back without having to repeat any information.
I still want to get the major upgrade and go to 600 ohm, but I also want to find another tree that gets me more horizontal length. That will also probably require more specialized stuff to get the line over it. That will happen in time. But for now…I’ll just use what I’ve got.