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Fall Antenna Maintenance

posted Oct 25, 2013, 1:09 PM by Charles Boling

Don't put off those maintenance projects too long!  I meant to do it this summer, really, I did!  But I didn't, and then The Fall came.  Yes, fall came, but so did The Fall -- the fall of my 80m antenna during a good wind storm....

My antennas are on a collapsible mast composed of 3 10-ft sections.  My 80-meter inverted vee is hoisted to the top of the mast with a pully, so that I can easily drop it for maintenance (and add other antennas to it as occasion demands) without having to collapse the mast, an arduous task.  (Colapsing is the easy part -- extending it again against gravity is much harder!)  Unfortunately, a section of cheap rope that had spent too many months in the sun finally gave up the ghost, tearing my weather shield and dropping the antenna with no way to get it back up the pole.

Why must antenna maintenance never be done in good weather?

Sometimes it seems that most antenna work takes place during foul weather -- the uglier the better -- instead of when it's calm and sunny.  I tried to buck this trend, but quickly discovered one reason why this must be so: wasps -- lots of them. Between the big ground nest and two different colonies (previously one!) in the antenna works, there was no way I was going to mess with that thing on a warm day!

I left it down for a few weeks.  Fortunately, one of the guy wires it was resting on kept it a couple of feet off the ground, and after stuffing a section of coax under it to keep the wires from touching, the antenna was usable that way, though my signal on the Saturday morning Mercury Northwest net was significantly reduced!

Back in the air

Finally came a day when I had time following a nice cold night.  It was a good thing I started early; it took a while, and the little critters were already getting pretty active by the time I finished squishing the ones in my antenna shroud and reassembled it.

The hill it's on is too steep to stand on a normal stepladder, so I use it to support an extension ladder with a plank on it to form a scaffold.  The extension ladder is anchored at the top with a fence post, and tied to the mast for extra stability (I'm terrified of heights, and 4' off the ground on something wobbly feels really high!).  This gives me a platform from which I can reach the top of the first mast section with relative ease.

I replaced the rope with some better stuff, and since I had the mast down, I added 9 new guy wires to the existing collection, since some of them were getting pretty old.  Like the antenna itself, the new guys are nothing fancier than aluminum electric fence wire - $18 for 1/4 mile at your nearest Lowe's.

I'm happy to have the thing back in the air, feel better about the stability of the mast, and will be keeping a closer eye on my rope!  Changing the rope out every few years isn't a big deal as long as it's still intact so I can pull the new rope through the pulley.  I hope not to have to drop the mast down for a while; my body was pretty sore after the hours spent working on that!

Hillbilly Scaffolding
Hillbilly Scaffolding
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