Antenna preparations for ARRL Field Day

It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed non-computer-related construction projects on this blog, so to break the drought, here are some details on a shortly upcoming antenna project.

The Amateur Radio Relay League’s annual Field Day is coming up next weekend. Field Day is the largest weekend of the year for amateur radio operators. It includes of all sorts of outreach activities, as well as heavy contesting (racing to see who can make the most radio contacts over the weekend). Since I only became involved with amateur radio recently, it’ll be my first Field Day. Unfortunately, the only antenna I’m operational on right now is a 44″ magnetic mount 70cm/2m dual-band whip antenna. It’s decent for operating mobile, but its performance isn’t anything to write home about.

Luckily, I bought a 17-foot 70m/2m dual-band base station antenna at a hamfest in March. A 201.5″ antenna is a bit more impressive than a 44″ antenna, don’t you think? I haven’t actually gotten around to installing the antenna yet, but Field Day is as good a reason as any to finally get it done. I’ve already done all the prep work and assembled the mount, which you can see in the picture. The domestic house cat is for scale.

I bought all the parts from Home Depot at not-too-ridiculous prices. All of it is galvanized steel (and thus rustproof), except for the tee-junction, which this particular Home Depot seemed to be out of in galvi. I do have a can of clear gloss waterproofing spray paint laying around though — hopefully a couple layers should be enough to keep the tee-junction safe from the weather. Most of the piping is 1″ interior diameter.

As for how the mount works, it will be installed vertically just below the peak of the roof on the side of the house. The two flanges will be secured to the side of the house using four-inch-long bolt screws. The screws will, of course, be going into studs accessible from inside the attic. The aluminum tube you see attached to the top of the mounting assembly is the base of the antenna; the antenna itself simply drops right into it once the mount is attached to the house. As for the decision of the overall placement, I’m putting the mount on the side of the house instead of on top of it so I don’t have to drill any holes through the roof, which could potentially cause some leaking.

This mount should provide a nice, sturdy base for the antenna. It also provides a few feet of elevation above the roof, which is nice because you can never have too much height on your antennas. This clearance is also enough to allow the radials (which provide the base plane for the antenna) to clear the roof. This antenna isn’t nearly as effective without its radials.

Now you may be thinking that this metal antenna mount looks like a lightning rod, especially when it’s put on top of the roof. That’s a pretty accurate assessment. That’s why I’ve also bought 50 feet of copper braid grounding strap (not pictured) which I will run from the bottom of the mount into a copper grounding rod buried in the ground.

Hopefully I’ll get the antenna installed this weekend in preparation for use next weekend. All I really have left to do is some climbing and some screwing. Then I’ll be on the air with an awesome signal. Reception will never have been better!

2 Responses to “Antenna preparations for ARRL Field Day”

  1. Taking amateur radio to the next level | Cyde Weys Musings Says:

    […] (and beyond). That’s right, an entire day of ham radio! I started off by installing the 17-foot antenna I bought awhile back on top of our house. That took a good four to five hours, many of them spent on top of a […]

  2. Pogo Says:

    I have that same carpet in my living room.

    Do you have any issues with water and crud building up in your pipe?