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Building a ham radio tower
In 2007, I was able to install my first ham radio tower and yagi antennas. Having passed my ham radio exam over 27 years ago, this was something that I had planned for a very long time. Here are some of the highlights of the tower and antenna project.
Prep work: Tower site plan, permits and other details
Early in the process I applied for a building permit, created a budget and a plan for the ham radio tower project, and then ordered the tower, rotor, antennas, grounding and coax. The tower was delivered in fall of 2006, but a number of delays meant that the actual construction couldn't begin until August of 2007. This tower was manufactured by ANWireless and ordered through ArraySolutions.
A firm foundation...
Want to build your own self-supporting ham radio tower? There is a definite advantage to a self-supporting tower: no guy wires. One disadvantage is the size of the foundation required. The tower that I had selected (ANWireless 70') required a 9 ft x 9 ft hole 5 ft deep.
This tower foundation also required significant reinforcement. Rebar for this tower forms a grid that is tied down prior to pouring concrete.
We didn't have a clear way to get the concrete into the back yard without risking damage to the septic field. However, a nearby concrete pumping company was able to help.
Every ham radio tower foundation project is finished by inscribing call letters. I also added a reference to Luke 14:28 which seemed appropriate.
Installing the tower...
After pouring all that concrete (about 15 cubic yards in the foundation) and waiting a month or so for it to cure it was finally time to stand the tower on the foundation. The tower was delivered from Pennsylvania in seven 10 ft sections which had to be bolted together first.
There were some challenges in using a lift like this rather than using a crane (which would have been ideal), but we had a perfect day and things went smoothly. I don't recommend doing this without experts who know what they're doing.
Tower's up... time for antennas
Once the tower was installed, it was time to build and install the antennas. The top antenna is a Cushcraft XM-240. This yagi is a two element beam for the 40 meter band. The XM240 is "shortened" (with "capacity hats" which make each element less than 44 ft long). The new basketball court (poured at the same time as the foundation) made the ideal staging area for this antenna.
Here's Dave - a local tower/antenna guru and all around good guy mounting the antenna at the 82 ft level.
The lower antenna is a 4 element SteppIR. You can also see some of the guys who helped with the project. There were many folks who helped make this possible - hams and non-hams alike. Here you see Dave, KI0Q (who did the high work on the tower) and my neighbor Chris (who helped on the ground crew and dug the coax trench). My father-in-law, Duane, spent many, many hours, working, providing advice, taking pictures and generally making this project possible. Other hams who in one way or another "pitched in" were: K0KT, N0NI, KC0WKE, K0CQ, AG3V, and K0GVG.
Here you see Dave securing the SteppIR to the mast and a picture he took of the neighborhood from 70 ft up.
Coax and ground system
Duane, Chris and I put the trench in for the coax run. Even though the coax I'm using is rated for direct burial, I wanted to be sure that it would be well protected. 4 inch PVC was buried about a foot below the surface. Four coax runs, control cables, AC and ground wires were installed in this trench.
At the tower base I installed a grounding panel with ICE lightning protection equipment. 2 ga wire runs from the tower legs to 8 ft ground rods buried in several directions. At the moment, there are six ground rods in the system.
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