My portable, modular, antenna mast system

***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.

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Mast system with homebrew buddistick, and ugly balun made from a plastic coffee container.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Let’s do some digital

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.

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Left- this is the bottom of the homebrew buddistick. Right- This is the handle/mount for my tape measure yagi.

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.

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I keep the mast extensions tied to the main mast for storage.

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.

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2″ conduit supporting a 20M inverted vee. The ends of the antenna legs were attached to insulators, that were tied off to the fence with 550 cord. I don’t think this was the best installation with a bunch of steel barb wire underneath.

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.

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Another view of a buddistick in the field.

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.

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Just listening for awhile. This was with an inverted vee pulled up 20′ into a tree.

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.

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End Fed 20M Half Wave antenna

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.

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It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a lawn mower battery, some wire, and a cheap mast. Oh yeah, and an HF radio.

 

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My portable, modular, antenna mast system

12 thoughts on “My portable, modular, antenna mast system

    1. shocktroop0351 says:

      Well, I have helped set up quite a few OE’s. And there may have been some obscene cadences called on PT runs past the comms school at 29. Does that qualify me for anything? Haha

      Like

      1. Heath J says:

        If you did any amount of time at 29, proximity to the FROC course gets you an honorable mention. Double that for messing with OEs. I hate those things, lol.

        Like

    1. shocktroop0351 says:

      Thank you, it’s a work in progress. I purchased it from an online classified website. I wouldn’t say I stole it, I was more the recipient of an older ham’s generosity.

      Like

      1. stuclark24657 says:

        what model radio is it?? I have the Yaesu 857D, but I think later this year i’m going to get a 817 for more portability

        Like

      2. shocktroop0351 says:

        It is an SGC SG-2020. I think they quit building them in the early 2000’s or so. It’s built like a tank and simple to operate. I wouldn’t mind getting something a little smaller as well. The 857 and the 817 are on my wish list as well. The 817 sends to me to be the way to go if your planning on doing portable digital work. I’d be a bit leery of only having 5 watts for voice though. I typically run mine at 10 watts and that seems to work good, although it’s nice to be able to turn it up when I need to. Mine only goes to 25 watts max. If you only plan on working hf, I think I would look at some of the radios from lnrprecision.com. They are very portable, and for about what you’ll pay for an 817 you get a little more for your money in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

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