About Me

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Welcome to my little piece of the cyberworld. I am an Amateur Extra Class ham radio operator from Kentucky. In addition to ham radio, other interests include paddling kayaks and canoes, camping, flyfishing, shooting and photography...I am a major Jimmy Buffett fan (fans are known as Parrotheads). But, location, work and finances sort of got in the way of being a beach bum as a career. I am also an animal lover and have several pets. I also have a Facebook page at steve.kj4kki.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Making the Most of Your Buddipole & Buddistick

After many years of using Par EndFedz wire antennas for portable use, I decided to opt for a Buddipole a couple of years ago. If you've read the various articles online or you read the book and other files by B. Scott Anderson, NE1RD, you've already absorbed a lot of information. Did it enlighten you and help you get your antenna working great, or did you come away from it feeling a bit overwhelmed and wondering if you had done yourself right by spending that much money? I'm certainly no expert on the Buddipole. However, I have found what works for me. I thought I would share some tidbits with you.

A lot of the information can be quite confusing, even to experienced hams. The different bands perform differently at various heights, the chart is for set certain lengths of the arms, and other little nuances you discover as you read documentation and use the antenna. Having played with my Buddipole for a couple of years now, a few things are important to know, in my opinion. A few issues are that not everyone understands the dynamics of how antennas work, or how to make minute adjustments on a Buddipole that you just can't get set right. For a while, I must admit, I thought about giving up and using my LNR Precision Par EndFedz antennas. They are proven performers with great SWR and resistance once initially tuned up. But, I figured that since I had it, I might as well start using the Buddipole components I had accumulated. I don't have anything against using it as a regular dipole. With various angles and other factors, you can get interesting results, just like Scott mentions in his book. However, like a lot of people do, I ended up using the components as a vertical. It's simpler to put up, has good performance and in my opinion, it's quicker to deploy. I'm sure that some experienced Buddipole users might disagree with me. If experimentation and the idea of fiddling with components to see what will happen is your thing, this is definitely the antenna package to use.

A lot of people cannot adequately get a Buddipole high enough to do true DX. I've done DX with a wire dipole at 13 feet, but it was a full 1/2 wavelength. My EndFedz 40m/20m is a 1/2 wavelength on 40m and a full wavelength on 20m. Combined with my 31 foot telescoping mast, it gives good performance. But, there are a whole lot of situations where I can't put up the mast and then string out ~66 feet of wire. If you use the formula of 234/f for a quarter wavelength, that is still a fairly long antenna. High Q loading coils will allow you to achieve a good SWR in most cases. However, the resistance will usually be very low on a shortened antenna. As you get lower in frequency, the bandwidth decreases. A longer antenna is often the cure for this. I want to emphasize that you can in fact get good performance from a Buddipole. Set right, and with good conditions, they can perform quite well.

Maximizing your chances of success requires a bit of assistance. This is where accessories come into play. First, the coax gets your signal from the radio to the antenna. Good coax is a must! Depending on where I am, I keep several different lengths of coax handy. While I've used RG-8X with my EndFedz antennas (vacation at a cabin, where the feed point is often a fair distance from the radio), I usually use RG-58 with BNC connectors (or PL-259 to BNC adapters) in either the standard 25 foot Buddipole coax, or a 50 foot Amphenol length from Cables On Demand (very good company & products). If I want to go as light as possible, I even have some RG-174 in 10 and 25 foot lengths. Provided you have a good SWR to begin with, a short run of RG-174 can come in handy. I understand a lot of SOTA activators are using it, due to the weight and packing size. Having a vertical set up with 10 feet of RG-174 to a QRP radio is a small package.

Higher bands can be fairly efficient with the stock parts of a Buddipole basic package. They can be quite efficient with longer radiators. Purchasing 9.5 foot whips greatly expands your metal in the air. The longer whips greatly improve performance on 20m and 40m. In addition to longer whips, I purchased additional 32 inch arms. The addition of a Triple Ratio Switch Balun can help in some circumstances, especially on the lower bands. I purchased a kit from the inventor (Alan Biocca, W6AKB) and made mine for a lot less than the commercial version. However, in a lot of situations on the higher bands, I don't need anything more than the standard choke balun from Buddipole. Again, a longer radiator overcomes a lot of the problems encountered by very short antennas. A very short antenna of about a 1/8th wavelength has very little capture ability and doesn't usually send out a strong signal. Getting it up to 1/4 wavelength helps a lot. If you can manage a 1/2 wavelength, that is ideal. I'll mention how to do that in the next paragraphs.

A Buddipole dipole is often an NVIS antenna, simply due to the fact that it is frequently deployed close to the ground. The antenna masts help, but even then Buddipole recommends to get the antenna about 25 feet or higher. If you can do this--Great! The various accessories, such as the Rotating Arm Kit, telescoping mast, shockcorded mast, etc. help to get the signal up in the air, and you can make all sorts of neat directional antennas, such as an L or a sloper. But, height is still an issue. The L formation does give you a bit of both worlds. One half of it is vertical and the other half is horizontal. The sloper formation helps also. On a tall hill, you can have pretty effective results.

This is where a vertical Buddipole or Buddistick comes in very handy. A vertical antenna does great at heights around 6-8 feet. I use an 11 foot shockcorded mast with mine as well as a good quality camera tripod. It has a low angle takeoff and really sends a signal out well. The JAWS Mount is another great mount. However you can get one from Amazon that works just as well, significantly less than the High Sierra one. You can even run the vertical (fashioned as a Buddistick) from a vehicle--stationary mobile of course. I use a Diamond K-400 for mine. Some people use a 3-mag mount, however you might have the problem of capacitive reactance. Some 31-mix toroids with the coax wrapped around them helps in this situation. In addition to my K-400, I also have a 3-mag mount from Tram. I have the coax wrapped around two 31-mix toroids. Getting back to using the antenna on any type of mast, the Rotating Arm Kit and two short arms attached to the VersaTee allows you to have a vertical dipole. This is a very efficient antenna.

Getting back to metal in the air, I have enough arms and whips that I can use a vertical Buddistick formation antenna as a 1/2 wavelength on 20m. This is without any coil. The result is better performance throughout the bandwidth, a better resistance on the meter, and ultimately a more enjoyable experience. In addition to the length of 1/4 wavelength, you of course need the 1/4 wavelength counterpoise. It often gives you better performance to add an additional counterpoise, and some folks add several more. You can try one counterpoise and see how it does for you. You can add an additional one if you want. I mentioned getting the radiator as long as possible. I do want to emphasize that I wouldn't use the loading coil with that long of an antenna on top of it or coming away from it horizontally. I've never had one break, but I don't imagine the coils are designed for that much weight; especially with any wind load. I'm not sure of the exact amount of stress the VersaTee will take. I presume it's a lot, give the tough construction. With a more permanent mount on a vehicle to screw it into, the need for anything other than a 3/8th x 24 thread mount seems unnecessary if you are careful to set the length correct. I have a quick disconnect when necessary, although you don't always get as good of a metal to metal connection as you'd like. With a shockcord mast, you can simply lay the mast over to access the length of the telescoping whip. As with the counterpoise, pre-measure and note what the approximate best lengths are.

So, we now have the option of Buddipole's own masts and shockcorded masts, and the JAWS mount, and we also have the option of vehicle mounting. If I want to put up the Buddistick or Buddipole by my vehicle, I have one of those mounts that you park your tire over. A shockcorded mast fits it in. These are affordable and look great; usually advertised as tailgating flag holders. However, you can easily make your own. Another option which gets you pretty good height is to use a couple of pieces of chain link fence top rail with a double female connector. you put that in the mount and fasten the VersaTee to the top of the pole. Remember to make certain that your muffler clamps are straight. If they curve, you can crack the edge of the VersaTee's holes. DX Engineering sells some clamps which are perfect for this.

People refer to the Buddipole as the Erector Set of antennas. People are impressed by the description and photos. For new hams, it impresses them as the "do all" of antennas. Some people get a Buddipole and immediately do well with it. That may be true, but there are a lot of hams who find it very confusing and frustrating. They often opt for the Buddistick, thinking it is easier. For the small amount of money, go with the Buddipole. You can make a longer Buddistick and have some spare parts. An exception would be if space were at a premium and you want the smaller Buddistick package and cordura case. My own reasoning is that long antenna arms don't cost that much more than short ones and they get a lot more metal in the air.

One thing to consider is that you will accumulate a bunch of things to accompany the antenna. Extra cord for guys, additional counterpoise wire, flag tape so dummies "hopefully" won't trip over counterpoise wire or guy lines, a tape measure, a wrench, electrical tape and any coax adapters, plus various additional components such as a tripod mount, and a host of things you find that you need once you get out in the field. You might want to put an analyzer in with the antenna, or even your radio if it is small enough. I started off with a Harbor Freight tool bag. I now have a large tool box filled up. For a light hike, you can pick and choose what you want to take. For putting in the truck or car trunk, I like to have additional options and the tools to use as necessary. I have my long arms and whips, an ARCA-Swiss ball tripod, the 11 foot shockcord mast and the wheel mount in a long mast bag. I then put the rest of my components in the tool box. It also holds various accessories, coax, my FT-857D with a meter, an LDG tuner, analyzer, switching power supply, and a small interface for digital. I also have a couple of LNR Precision Par EndFedz antennas as a backup.

My SLAB batteries are separate. I have two 9 amp hour batteries in a small plastic Plano ammo case. It has Anderson Power Pole connectors and a meter on the outside of the case. By using a pigtail I made, I can use the batteries separately or parallel. I don't even have to take the batteries out to charge them. I like to use Power Poles for just about anything. I don't take all this every time. I'll sort through it and choose what I want to go to the lake, park or on vacation. But, if I want to have a variety of options, it's all there if I need it. If you're like me, you've been in a situation and have that "I wish I'd brought that" thought. I went portable once and got out the radio and batteries, set up the antenna and then realized that I'd left the coax at home...

Buddipoles and Buddisticks come with some coil clips. You'll find that if you want to pre-set taps for several bands, this isn't nearly enough. Additional ones are expensive, but they are of excellent quality. I find it very handy to have the clips in the ballpark, so that when I set up, a few adjustments get me on track. I do admit that I've had a problem with the banana plugs getting loose where they attach to the VersaTee. They sometimes compress a bit and don't fit as tight. While a lot of people use a tiny screwdriver to widen them, Chris Drummond advises against that. He recommends putting the banana plug in a vise and slowly closing it until the plug widens a bit. FYI, leaving the clips on the coil keeps them from getting lost.

As for fine tuning the antennas, I use an MFJ-259B to tweak mine. There are smaller analyzers on the market...I just can't afford another one or justify the cost. If your radio has an SWR meter, that is a handy way to get the antenna's SWR within a safe operating range and expect reasonable performance. With radios having foldback protection, you have minimal risk of damage if you are careful. Don't have QSOs all day with a high SWR! My goal with any antenna is to get the SWR as close to 1:1 and the resistance as close to 50 ohms as I can. This obviously is not always possible, but the closer you get it, the better your antenna will perform. It's generally accepted that an SWR of 2:1 is sufficient for acceptable performance.

There are a lot of things I haven't covered, but I hope this helps you to think about simpler ways of getting the signal in the air, and having better performance from your antenna. Even though the Buddipole will do a lot of things well, some of them might be impractical for you, and some just aren't necessary for your own needs. That is why I emphasize verticals. For the most part, they overcome the issue of low height and are pretty easy to get tuned up.  Plus, you have the small area of the antenna, and you can hide a counterpoise or two "in plain sight". That noted, once you feel comfortable with the antenna, by all means, experiment with all the different configurations and learn where it works well for you. You might find yourself a master of the Buddipole in all it's possibilities! In the meantime, the suggestions noted should ensure that you get a lot of QSOs.

A last thought is to get involved in the Facebook groups for the Buddipole and Buddistick, as well as any other Buddipole User Groups. And if you know anyone who has one, get with them and ask them to Elmer you! Chris and Budd are also good resources, although Chris is out of town a lot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Buddistick/Buddipole vs. Par EndFedz by LNR Precision

Judging from my statistics, a lot of people visit my blog, but don't make comments. Oh Well...

I just bought a new antenna -- the Buddipole. I plan on using it as a Buddistick most of the time; especially until I can mount it high.

I like the fact that the Buddistick allows low angle radiation in a small footprint. That doesn't mean that I am not very fond of my LNR Precision's (Par) EndFedz antennas. I have several. Using my 40m/20m EF antenna on a 31 foot Jackite pole takes up some real estate. It's over sixty feet long. Even the 20 requires the mounting height, pole and a circumference of the 32 foot antenna coming off the wire.

That noted, the EndFedz achieve a very stable 1/2 wavelength antenna. They tune up very easily, with a very low SWR and resonance point at or close to 50 ohms. The 10/20/40 QRP antennas by LNR Precision can have a mono-band resonator of anywhere from 10m-60m in addition to the three-band performance. It's just that you have to get them up in the air...a situation that is not always possible.

This is very different than the Buddistick. It requires an 8 foot tall whip, my Jaws mount or camera tripod, and the counterpoise, which for 20m is relatively short. For small areas or vacations, this offers more options.

By being able to mount it at least 18 feet above ground, the Buddipole performs pretty well. An L configuration is a combination of vertical and horizontal. However, at low heights it mostly performs as an NVIS.

So, you know the basics. I'd like to hear any of your own experiences with this combination, or other antennas.

UPDATE: I recently bought two long arms and a long whip. This allows me 1/4 wavelength height with 1/4 wavelength counterpoise. This equals a 1/2 wavelength vertical antenna. As this is the standard length of a 20m antenna, it serves as a 1/2 wavelength 20m...as such, it performs like one.

This would mean that 40m would resonate at 1/4 wavelength...still a good compromise for a portable or temporary antenna; especially when compared to the stock Buddipole/Buddistick. As it goes up in frequency, the wavelength gets better and better. I haven't tried it on 80m. It would be 1/8th wavelength...finicky to tune and a narrow banded antenna to say the least.

I also purchased a Triple Ratio Switch Balun, only as the kit from the inventor. I put it together and it switches ratios with Power Poles. This allows a better match on lower bands, and still allows a 1:1 ratio on the upper bands.

It was a modest investment, but by going with Buddipole equipment, good quality and appearance matches are assured. The long arms do not fit into the plastic tube. So, you either have to carry it with the cap off or not in the tube at all. Another option is to get the long antenna bag. This is actually the best option for several reasons. It carries all the antenna components, and also has room to store additional supplies much more loosely than the Buddipole tube, which can be a rather tight fit.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cursing Hams -- a truly bad example.

This evening, I was on 80m and 40m, playing around with my FT-857D. It is the accompanying mobile/portable radio to my shack FT-450. Anyway, I'm getting the feel of the menu selections and tweaking it.

On several rag chews, I hear at least one ham, if not the whole group using extremely foul language. They were curing in general; insulting each other and encouraging the group to have more drinks. Others used cursing to express their opinions on topics.

I read the books, articles and journals about what it means to be a ham radio operator. I have always considered myself to be polite and considerate on the air. I've even been as much of an email Elmer as I was able to. Keep in mind that this was on the Extra Class portion of the bands. To have people who are this rude and undeserving of the license truly upsets me. To think that they may be older hams; especially Extra Class...downright makes me angry. My only hope is that they might be preppers who never aimed to have any regard for acceptable radio behavior. It would be great if the FCC could find them and crack down on this type of behavior.

And while I am at it...please do not tune up on frequency during a net or other conversation.