***Disclaimer: I am not a guru when it comes to this stuff. I am definitely a student, and this is just a record of what I have been using thus far. I don’t want to give the impression that this is the way. All of this is likely to change if I learn a better way.***
I thought I would do a quick write up on what I use for an antenna mast. I needed a mast to help get my antennas in the air, because I don’t always have a standard issue tree around to help out with that. Not that there aren’t trees where I live, but it’s not exactly a jungle, and you never know where you might want to set up an antenna.
My criteria when I was trying to come up with something was:
- It has to be lightweight and fairly compact, in order to be carried if need be.
- I wanted something that could be quickly set up and taken down without the need for special tools or rigging.
- I wanted something that was low profile when erected, so as to not be too obvious to prying eyes.
- I wanted something cheap, if not free.
So this is what I came up with.
It is a “painter’s pole”. Fully extended it is about 12 feet long, and it is made up of 3 sections. So when it is collapsed, it is about 4 1/2 feet long.
It originally had a plastic threaded section at the end that would allow the attachment of a paint roller, but I found that to be too flimsy, so I removed it. In it’s place I put a 1 foot section of 3/4 Schedule 80 PVC, that with the help of a few wraps of electrical tape, fit tightly over the pole for a nice tight slip fit. On the top of this I put a 3/4 male adapter to serve as a universal mount for my antennas.
Towards the top of the second section, I used a half inch hose clamp and 3 key rings to make attachments for guy lines. I keep these permanently attached with Uli knots, and double overhand knots with a loop tied at the other end so they are ready to go. I’ve got some steel tent stakes in my antenna kit for guying it down.
Depending on the situation, you may not need to guy it. When I run it on my back deck, I can use the hole in my table and the umbrella base as supports for the antenna.
So far the main antenna I use on it is my homebrew buddistick. This is a decent antenna, not as efficient as a dipole, but it works good in a tight area and is quick to set up and take down. With this antenna I’ve communicated with voice on 20 watts over 1900 miles, when set up on a good hill. I also recently checked into the AMRRON 40M voice net with the exact setup pictured on 10W without any issues. On 20, 30, and 40M I’ve also managed 5 watt CW contacts all over the US through the reverse beacon network. So it’s not a horrible antenna, just not as good as others.
I can also mount my homemade 2 meter antennas on there as well through the use of the 3/4 female adapters on the bottom of my antennas.
I’ve also made an extension mast for this out of 10′ of 3/4″ schedule 80 PVC. I cut it into thirds and inserted some couplings and a female and male adapter to give me another 10′ of height. This is not very good though because it has some flex in it because of the couplings. I think it will work OK for a light antenna like a 2M roll up J pole, but it’s too flimsy for use with my buddistick.
Another mast system I’ve played with is just using sticks of 2″ schedule 80 pvc conduit. This worked good as well, and if you had enough pieces you could make a portable mast system with this as well. I didn’t have a guying system for this, although you could easily make one like I did for my other mast. I only used this a couple times, and I would just tie it off to a fence post. I put an eye bolt in the top of the top piece, and ran a rope through it so I could pull up the center of a dipole antenna.
Another mast I would like to get is a surplus military mast. It is made up of 4 foot aluminum poles that slide together. I found one on ebay recently for $40 that was an entire kit. This setup wouldn’t be as man portable (although not impossible by any means), but it is a good piece of gear to have available. I’ve also thought about getting a 20′ collapsible fishing pole.
Now, there are a lot of antenna designs out there, so like I said in the beginning, don’t take this as the gospel for what to do. Getting wire antennas into trees is a pain in the butt in my area, and so I have to resort to what I can use. This portable mast system has allowed me to get out into the field and start training on HF. Where I would normally spend the first 30 minutes to an hour trying to get my antenna up into a tree and set up, I now am set up and operating in less than 10 minutes. To me, that is worth the lack of efficiency that the buddistick gives me. After all, the important thing is the deed. You can read and talk and plan all day, or you can run what you brung and get out and train.
Now, as I said, this isn’t the only antenna I use. I also have a 6M to 40M matchbox for an end fed half wave antenna. I recently had this string up vertically with a 1/4 wave length counter poise hung on an electric fence post, and it performed quite well. I’ve also strung it up in a tree about 20 feet in a sloper configuration and it worked as good as the buddistick setup. I really like this antenna so far, it is about as compact as a dipole antenna, and you only need one support for it.
I still intend to build a dipole antenna for field use per the instructions from Danmorgan76. I had a 20 meter dipole until it got snagged in a tree and the little speaker wire I was using snapped. For my next one I will use hot rope from the wire man, per Dan’s suggestions. I also plan on building a homebrew buddipole as well.