The best day

The best day of the month (well, it’s actually every 60 days) is the day when The Canadian Amateur arrives in my mailbox. What a gem of a publication! For a volunteer-run national organization like Radio Amateurs of Canada, TCA is one of the best benefits of membership. The January/February 2010 issue has 72 pages of articles and opinions of interest to Canadian amateurs. One of the articles I really enjoyed was by David, VE3KL, who talks about how you can build your own two-band trapped dipole antenna. And don’t be fooled by expensive commercially produced antennas. There is no magic that comes with laying out big bucks for commercially made antennas when you can make wire antennas yourself that perform identically for free. Commercially built antennas should last a long, long time and work well for many years. But so should well-made and carefully hung simple antennas like home-made dipoles and verticals and VHF/UHF beams. HF beams – well, not so much. I buy commercially made beams because they work and I don’t know enough about metal working to create my own.

Now my second best day is when my copy of QST arrives. QST is the official monthly magazine of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The March 2010 issue is devoted to – you guessed it – antennas. If you’re transmitting a signal on any band you need an antenna and QST has some great articles to help you put out a better signal. One of the best is a big product review article on remote antenna tuners. You can have amazing results from less than perfect antennas in less than perfect installations when using a remote antenna tuner. This article should be of interest to anyone who is space or neighbour-challenged when it comes to erecting the dream array.

Speaking of antennas: Rudy, N6LF, has an article that examines ground systems for HF verticals. It’s the ground system that makes verticals work. Anybody who tells you that their HF vertical is a quiet antenna should try laying out even a few ground radials. I think they’d hear the difference right away. At my QTH my homebrew 6-band vertical (looks a lot like a Butternut) has around 30 radial wires underneath it and on many occasions can outperform my Explorer beam (with 40-meter extensions) up at 16.6 meters. However, it isn’t what I’d call a quiet antenna. On the other hand I’ve worked tons of DX and broken through some huge pileups using it.

It seems to me that we get out of amateur radio what we put into it. Building antennas that work is one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby.

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