The final stage of our 6m Antenna Project was completed earlier this week. I began by gathering all of the hardware and components for the installation and staged them near our tower.
The installation of our new 6m antennas was a big project, and I was fortunate to have Matt Strelow, KC1XX, and Andrew Toth of XX Tower here to do the installation. We had many things go well during this project, and some good luck on a few items where we needed it.
Rearranging Antennas for the 7-Element LFA
The first step in the installation was to rearrange the antennas on the mast on our main tower. We moved our existing 2m yagi up to make space for the new 7-Element LFA yagi and installed it on our mast. We pulled the new LFA yagi about 30 ft above the ground on a tram line to check the SWR and adjusted the driven element before installing it on the mast.
The first bit of luck was that we had enough rotator loop slack for our existing 2m yagi to move it up our mast about 4 ft without making a new feedline.
Removing 6m Elements from SteppIR’s
Our SteppIR yagis had 6m passive elements installed, and my modeling indicated that these elements would upset the pattern and performance of the new 6m yagis we are installing. Matt and Andrew came to the rescue on this one – they used an aluminum ladder rigged, as shown above, to remove the passive elements from both SteppIR yagis without taking them down. Note to our readers – do not try this a home!
Building the 6m Stacks
The next step in the project was to install the eleven 3-element LFA yagis that make up our new 6m stacks. This took some time as we had to work out and adjust mounting heights and the separation between the antennas in the stacks to avoid interference with guy cables, wire antennas, and other components on the tower. Andrew and Matt worked from the top of the tower to avoid climbing around the antennas after they were installed. At the end of the first day, we had the West-facing 3-stack installed on the tower.
The photo above shows the additional stacks facing Europe (on the left) and the south (on the right). With all the antennas installed, we were ready for the Power Dividers, feedlines, and electronics.
Feedlines, Electronics, and Switching
We used 1 5/8″ hardline coax for the main feedline from our shack to the 6m switching and electronics on our tower. I had previously installed conduits running from our tower to the shack, and we were able to get the new 1 5/8″ down the 100 ft conduit from our tower to the shack. The new hardline was added to the conduit (front left), which already had two 7/8″ hardlines in it. This part of the installation went smoothly, which was our next bit of good luck.
Next, Matt installed N connectors on the new hardline. The photo above shows the hardline prep for the connector installation.
The photo above shows the completed connector installation.
The next step was to install the Power Dividers near the middle of each stack and hook up the phasing lines from the antennas. The photo above shows how the Power Dividers are mounted. We also ran 7/8″ hardline coax cables from the 7-element LFA yagi and from the Power Divider for the West stack on the top half of our tower down to the location where the Preamplifier Housing and Remote Antenna Switch is installed.
The final step of the installation was to install the Preamplifier Housing and Remote Antenna Switch near the center of the bottom two stacks and hook all of the components up via LMR-400 coax jumpers.
Our tower has junction boxes installed at the base for interconnecting the many control cables for our antennas and electronics. It was a simple step to hook up the new Preamp Housing and Remote Antenna Switch to get everything working with our microHam control system. These junction points make it easy to rearrange and test our equipment on the towers when needed.
Updates on our VHF Tower
I built a second Preamp Housing for use with the existing 7-element 6m yagi on our VHF and Satellite Tower, and we installed that unit as well.
The junction box on this tower made the final hookup of the second Preamp Housing a snap.
We adjusted the length of the jumpers between the Power Dividers and the Remote Antenna Switch to optimize the SWRs of the stacks and tested all of the electronics on both towers via our microHam system. The stacks and the new 7-element LFA have SWRs at 1.3:1 or lower in the weak signal section of the 6m Band.
With everything connected and checked out, it was finally time to see what our new 6m Antenna System could do!
The Taurids Meteor Shower is active right now, so I’ve been making many Meteor Scatter contacts using our new antennas. The PSKreporter snapshot shows where I was heard this morning using MSK144 mode and the West antenna stack.
The background noise levels on the new antennas are between 3 dB and 9 dB, better than my previous 6m antennas were. This makes working weaker stations much easier to do.
We have not had much Es propagation since we finished the project earlier this week. I did catch a marginal Es opening yesterday and made an FT8 contact with CE8EIO in Chile. This contact is about 29,350 km from our QTH here in New England. It is the longest 6m contact I have ever made with South America.
As you can see from the PSKreporter data, I was heard very well at CE8EIO. This is very encouraging. I have been making FT8 contacts with the midwest and the southeast United States using the new antennas as well. Given the very limited Es propagation at this time, I would say that the new antennas are a significant improvement.
More About our Project
Here are some links to other articles in our series about our 6m Antenna Upgrade Project:
- 6m Antenna Upgrade Part 1 – Plans for Antenna Enhancements
- 6m Antenna Upgrade Part 2 – High-Power Power Preamp System
- 6m Antenna Upgrade Part 3 – microHam Antenna Control System
- 6m Antenna Upgrade Part 4 – Building Antennas and Prep for Installation
We have completed all the steps in our 6m Antenna Upgrade Project. I look forward to the Winter Es period to see how well everything will perform. I plan to post more information about the performance of our new antennas once we have some better Es openings.