During the holidays, the members of LA1K usually go home to their childhood homes, most of which sadly lack any radio equipment. This year, since my family only lives a 20-minute drive from our QTH, I decided to bring some equipment home and try to get my family involved in amateur radio.
I brought our newly made 80-meter vertical antenna, consisting of the 12-meter Spiderbeam mast, the radials, antenna element, and the loading coil. I also brought our FT-891 HF radio, an HFT-9 antenna tuner, and three 20 Ah LiFePo4 batteries.
Setting up the antenna should have been the easy part, but with -7 °C outside, we had to take several breaks to run inside and warm our freezing fingers.
After a few attempts at raising the Spiderbeam mast, halted by the individual elements collapsing under its own weight and falling inside the mast again, we finally had it standing.
We took a quick break to go inside and watch the relevant Fleksnes episode “Radioten”, in which Fleksnes is an eager radio amateur operator. Afterward, a few of us went back outside to spread out the radials, twin the load coil around the bottom of the mast and connect the coaxial cable and pull it inside.
Now that the antenna was set up, it was time to connect it to the radio via the tuner and see if we (in reality I, since none of my family members have amateur radio experience) could tune it down to an appropriate SWR.
Unfortunately, since the tuner has N-connectors, and the coax-cable and radio have UHF-connectors, we didn’t have enough adapters to connect the tuner (in-line). We tried connecting the antenna directly into the radio, on the off-chance that the antenna was matched, but after getting infinite SWR, we decided to go get the missing adapter and try again later.
A few hours later, correct adapters in hand, the antenna was finally connected to the tuner, and the tuner was connected to the radio. We still had a bit of a hard time tuning the antenna, with SWR measurements well beyond 3.
I hadn’t brought a lot of equipment from our workshop, but luckily we found an analog multimeter in my parent’s basement and used it to check all the connections. After a quick consultation from LA2QUA over text, I tried coiling the coax-cable a few rounds close to the feed point of the antenna to act as an RF choke. This helped, and I was able to tune the antenna down to an acceptable SWR under 1.5. We did have to retune the antenna several times over the 80-meter band, but that’s just the cost of doing business.
As it turns out, my childhood home might not be ideal for this hobby as the QRM prevented us from hearing much of anything. We got one QSO the first night, with DJ7ST in Germany, but after multiple attempts during the following days, the project was abandoned before the new year. A big thank you to LB9WI’s father, uncle, brother-in-law and younger sister for helping raise the antenna and for showing an interest in amateur radio!