Buying Verses Building An HF Wire Antenna


Paul <lovenhim@...>
 

Hello everyone. I would like some advice and guidance. From another thread I have learned that my Kenwood TS120S is fine and that my antenna is my problem. I have never built an antenna nor do I have raw materials such as wire, window line, etc. I am teaching myself how to solder so I do have that. In the latest issue of On The Air magazine there is an article on building a wire dipole. The article does not mention cost. Lets use a real world example here with my situation. Do you build or buy your first HF antenna? My Kenwood TS120S can work 80-10 meters so that is my goal. One antenna and multiple bands. Here is what I own:
Kenwood TS120S
MFJ 45 amp power supply
MFJ auto tuner

Do you buy a $70 MFJ G5RV and get on the air, or do you build the dipole?
Can you start with nothing, buy what you need including shipping charges and build a dipole for less money than the $70 G5RV?
Where do you purchase the supplies that you need to build the dipole at a liw cost?

For example I have looked at DX Engineering and it would appear that the cost to build the dipole is greater than buying a ready made MFJ. Am I missing something? I hear that building is cheaper than buying. If that is true, please show me my mistake.

Thank you very much for the help.


Bill Osler
 

I'd say to start with a dipole for 40 meters. Per the dipole formula, one for 7.15 MHz would be 65 and a half feet long, that's 32' 9" on each side of the center insulator. You need to add additional wire in order to use the insulators. I think 18" on each side should work. 

You can buy good insulators or make your own from PVC pipe fittings if you have a power drill and a 1/4" drill bit. Google antenna insulators for many choices of commercial ones. 

Go to Home Depot and buy a roll of wire. I use 14 gauge insulated most of the time. You might not believe that you will ever need a 500' roll of wire, but believe me, eventually, you will use it. If you ask 10 hams, you will get 10 opinions on what to use. Good luck. I generally use what I can afford. 

When you build the dipole, strip the end for the center about 9". Don't strip the other end - you will just put the wire through the insulator and twist it back on itself. 

You'll need the SWR meter I told you about earlier now. Once you get the antenna up, you may need to adjust the length. The dipole formula works for antennas a half wave or more in the air. Closer to the ground, the antenna will resonate lower in frequency. To get it where you want it, you will need to shorten it. But, if it works OK with your tuner I would leave it. 

Once you've enjoyed 40 meters, you might listen to 15 - that antenna should work there, too. Next, you can try adding elements for other bands to form a 'fan dipole'. If you add an element for 20 meters, you will likely have to shorten the 40 meter dipole as a result. You tuner will probably stretch it work on 17 meters, too, so you will have 4 bands. I'd add 10/12 next. 
--
Bill, K0RGR


Bernd - KB7AK
 

There are several options when it comes to buying an antenna, you already found two common stores, hamdradio.com is another one and likely the most popular store (I have one in driving distance and that is really dangerous 😊).

One advantage of buying is that it will likely work right out of the box. If you build your own antenna and something doesn't work, and if you on top of that don't have a lot of experience, it can be very difficult to troubleshoot.

I would go the route of buying one first, you can always build your own later. It is very gratifying building your own antenna and make it work.

You need to decide what type of antenna you want to go with. My second antenna (the first one I built myself and it was not really working that well) was a single band Dipole. The advantage of a single band antenna is that you won't need a tuner and just hook up your coax, It eliminates any guessing work as to what Balun you may need and how to properly operate the antenna tuner.

I have a G5RV myself, hooked up to a manual tuner, and I am very happy with it.

73,
Bernd - KB7AK

-----Original Message-----
From: ARRL-New-Hams@... <ARRL-New-Hams@...> On Behalf Of Paul
Sent: Sunday, February 2, 2020 12:42 PM
To: ARRL-New-Hams@...
Subject: [New-Hams] Buying Verses Building An HF Wire Antenna

Hello everyone. I would like some advice and guidance. From another thread I have learned that my Kenwood TS120S is fine and that my antenna is my problem. I have never built an antenna nor do I have raw materials such as wire, window line, etc. I am teaching myself how to solder so I do have that. In the latest issue of On The Air magazine there is an article on building a wire dipole. The article does not mention cost. Lets use a real world example here with my situation. Do you build or buy your first HF antenna? My Kenwood TS120S can work 80-10 meters so that is my goal. One antenna and multiple bands. Here is what I own:
Kenwood TS120S
MFJ 45 amp power supply
MFJ auto tuner

Do you buy a $70 MFJ G5RV and get on the air, or do you build the dipole?
Can you start with nothing, buy what you need including shipping charges and build a dipole for less money than the $70 G5RV?
Where do you purchase the supplies that you need to build the dipole at a liw cost?

For example I have looked at DX Engineering and it would appear that the cost to build the dipole is greater than buying a ready made MFJ. Am I missing something? I hear that building is cheaper than buying. If that is true, please show me my mistake.

Thank you very much for the help.


Jimbiram@...
 

I built a 40 meter dipole a couple years ago, and while it was an educational experience, the cost ended up being about the same as the 40m dipole at HRO.  I do believe the experience does enhance understanding of stuff, but I have bought the balance of my antennas.  At this point, because I operate portable almost exclusively with my Icom 7300, I bought an Alph Antenna FMJ...a bit of a compromise, but it works for my situation.


Jim Idelson
 

Hi Paul,

I think you'll find that the costs will be comparable. In all likelihood the price difference will be on the order of one tank of gas for your car.

But, there will be other differences if you choose the build-it-yourself path.

- It's going to be more work to build your antenna from scratch.
- You will have to do research to find the antenna design you want to try.
- You will have to think about both the electrical and mechanical challenges.
- You will have to select, find and buy all the parts.
- You will have to learn to solder.
- You will have to accurately measure everything.
- You will need to learn how to use an ohm meter.
- You will probably make mistakes.
- You will have to learn how to trim the antenna to work correctly.
- You will probably experience disappointment and frustration when it doesn't work the first time, and you don't know why.
- You might have to take it down and fix it ten times before it works right.
- You might not be able to get it working without the help of an experienced ham.
- Your final product might be ugly.
- Your final product might not be as strong as a commercially-manufactured product.

All reasons to buy the complete, ready-to-install antenna, right?

No. They are the reasons to build one from scratch.

- You will learn a ton.
- You will overcome adversity.
- Your first contact will be the culmination of a challenging experience - it will be a triumphant moment.

Amateur radio is so much more about journeys than it is about destinations.

Build a simple dipole from scratch, and enjoy the rewards!

73 Jim K1IR


On Sun, Feb 2, 2020, 3:41 PM Paul <lovenhim@...> wrote:
Hello everyone. I would like some advice and guidance. From another thread I have learned that my Kenwood TS120S is fine and that my antenna is my problem. I have never built an antenna nor do I have raw materials such as wire, window line, etc. I am teaching myself how to solder so I do have that. In the latest issue of On The Air magazine there is an article on building a wire dipole. The article does not mention cost. Lets use a real world example here with my situation. Do you build or buy your first HF antenna? My Kenwood TS120S can work 80-10 meters so that is my goal. One antenna and multiple bands. Here is what I own:
Kenwood TS120S
MFJ 45 amp power supply
MFJ auto tuner

Do you buy a $70 MFJ G5RV and get on the air, or do you build the dipole?
Can you start with nothing, buy what you need including shipping charges and build a dipole for less money than the $70 G5RV?
Where do you purchase the supplies that you need to build the dipole at a liw cost?

For example I have looked at DX Engineering and it would appear that the cost to build the dipole is greater than buying a ready made MFJ. Am I missing something? I hear that building is cheaper than buying. If that is true, please show me my mistake.

Thank you very much for the help.




Sterling Mann (N0SSC)
 

I agree with Jim's sentiments. I built an End fed half wave on the advice of a friend that it would be cheaper. Considering for only the materials in the antenna, it certainly was, but the tools, the excess materials, the failures, the redos, a broken toroid, and other mistakes had a cost totaling either the same or higher than a top quality off-the-shelf antenna. However, the lessons learned were priceless.

On Mon, Feb 3, 2020 at 10:20 AM Jim Idelson <k1ir@...> wrote:
Hi Paul,

I think you'll find that the costs will be comparable. In all likelihood the price difference will be on the order of one tank of gas for your car.

But, there will be other differences if you choose the build-it-yourself path.

- It's going to be more work to build your antenna from scratch.
- You will have to do research to find the antenna design you want to try.
- You will have to think about both the electrical and mechanical challenges.
- You will have to select, find and buy all the parts.
- You will have to learn to solder.
- You will have to accurately measure everything.
- You will need to learn how to use an ohm meter.
- You will probably make mistakes.
- You will have to learn how to trim the antenna to work correctly.
- You will probably experience disappointment and frustration when it doesn't work the first time, and you don't know why.
- You might have to take it down and fix it ten times before it works right.
- You might not be able to get it working without the help of an experienced ham.
- Your final product might be ugly.
- Your final product might not be as strong as a commercially-manufactured product.

All reasons to buy the complete, ready-to-install antenna, right?

No. They are the reasons to build one from scratch.

- You will learn a ton.
- You will overcome adversity.
- Your first contact will be the culmination of a challenging experience - it will be a triumphant moment.

Amateur radio is so much more about journeys than it is about destinations.

Build a simple dipole from scratch, and enjoy the rewards!

73 Jim K1IR

On Sun, Feb 2, 2020, 3:41 PM Paul <lovenhim@...> wrote:
Hello everyone. I would like some advice and guidance. From another thread I have learned that my Kenwood TS120S is fine and that my antenna is my problem. I have never built an antenna nor do I have raw materials such as wire, window line, etc. I am teaching myself how to solder so I do have that. In the latest issue of On The Air magazine there is an article on building a wire dipole. The article does not mention cost. Lets use a real world example here with my situation. Do you build or buy your first HF antenna? My Kenwood TS120S can work 80-10 meters so that is my goal. One antenna and multiple bands. Here is what I own:
Kenwood TS120S
MFJ 45 amp power supply
MFJ auto tuner

Do you buy a $70 MFJ G5RV and get on the air, or do you build the dipole?
Can you start with nothing, buy what you need including shipping charges and build a dipole for less money than the $70 G5RV?
Where do you purchase the supplies that you need to build the dipole at a liw cost?

For example I have looked at DX Engineering and it would appear that the cost to build the dipole is greater than buying a ready made MFJ. Am I missing something? I hear that building is cheaper than buying. If that is true, please show me my mistake.

Thank you very much for the help.




Paul <lovenhim@...>
 

Thank you Jim and Sterling. I have made the decision to buy rather than build. Several reasons include:
Being legally blind
Learning to solder but not competent yet
Wanting the antenna to work right the first time
Wanting to use ham radio, not troubleshoot it

This does not mean I would not dabble later but right now I want to get on the air without much hassle or trouble. I am looking seriously at the MFJ 1778 G5RV for $70. I am sure that this antenna is not perfect and that if I saved up $500 I could buy a better antenna. My reasoning for this antenna is the 80/20 rule. 80% of the performance at 20% the price. I have an MFJ 45 amp power sullpy and MFJ 939 auto tuner. As an HF newbie I figure that the G5RV will let me listen and get me talking all with a warranty and without hunting down the parts needed. Thank you all for the help.

KN4CHK


Jim Idelson
 

Congratulations on your decision. Your purchased antenna will be the beginning of a journey, too. Let us know how it goes.

73 Jim K1IR

On Mon, Feb 3, 2020, 3:26 PM Paul <lovenhim@...> wrote:
Thank you Jim and Sterling. I have made the decision to buy rather than build. Several reasons include:
Being legally blind
Learning to solder but not competent yet
Wanting the antenna to work right the first time
Wanting to use ham radio, not troubleshoot it

This does not mean I would not dabble later but right now I want to get on the air without much hassle or trouble. I am looking seriously at the MFJ 1778 G5RV for $70. I am sure that this antenna is not perfect and that if I saved up $500 I could buy a better antenna. My reasoning for this antenna is the 80/20 rule. 80% of the performance at 20% the price. I have an MFJ 45 amp power sullpy and MFJ 939 auto tuner. As an HF newbie I figure that the G5RV will let me listen and get me talking all with a warranty and without hunting down the parts needed. Thank you all for the help.

KN4CHK




Devin Ganger WA7DLG <devin@...>
 

I know I'm coming in here a few days later, but if you haven't made a decision yet on which antenna to purchase, I'd like to recommend the Spiderbeam Aerial 51 Model 404-UL:

http://www.spiderbeam.us/product_info.php?info=p252_Aerial-51%20Model%20404-UL.html

This was the first multi-band HF antenna I purchased (as part of the National Park Activation Kit). It's very lightweight, making it nice and portable and easier to get up in the air, and with an antenna tuner (which you already have) it does a great job of allowing you to get on the air on multiple bands. Using this I was able to make PSK31 QSOs with Japan, Cuba, Mexico, and Argentina from the Seattle area...and hear enough voice chatter to keep me interested in the hobby. Plus, Spiderbeam has fantastic customer service. I took the antenna down around a year ago (high wind storms on the forecast), never got around to putting it back up, but it's sitting ready and waiting in my garage.