Antenna experiments, take one

A mixed bag to report today with regard to antennas.

Since the weather today remains unseasonably warm, I decided it would be a good opportunity to try some experiments, especially with no one home to persuade me to do chores or other such nonsense.  Looking around for materials, I found an unused spool of 26 gauge wire, several hundred feet of it in fact, and in the junk box a number of eye hooks and sticky tie pads.  Also in the attic is a 5/8 wave 2 meter antenna on magna-mount, and a good length of RG58 coax.

I first strung up some of the wire across the attic roof, running it across a few sticky pads affixed to the ceiling the full length of the attic from the front window to the back.  Despite the attic being used only for storage, this placement kept it out of the way and in a good place to prevent human mishaps.  I then ran the far end outside the rear window and down along the back of the house, with enough length that it reached the ground below.

From the bedroom window one floor down, I noticed something odd that had never occurred to me before.  The attic window is not directly above the bedroom window, and the bedroom window is not directly above the dining room window.  All are offset by a few feet.  This ended up working out well, as the wire coming from the attic could be run across the bedroom window ledge and secured there, and then from the far end of the ledge it was at just the right location to drop down right beside the dining room window.  Some more sticky pads secured the wire there.

I then brought the wire in through the dining room window and across the floor, temporarily, to the desk where the radios sit.  I repeated the process with the length of RG58 over the same path, with the PL259 connection left a few feet into the attic for connection to the 5/8 wave antenna.

First problem: I need a PL259 barrel connector to connect the 2 male PL259s in the attic, feed line to antenna.  I know there are at least 3 of them in the house somewhere, but of course I couldn’t find one of them today.  Oh well, skip that plan and move on.  I can always order one.

The long wire antenna actually worked out fairly well.  I tried it connected to my MFJ-1020C active antenna and from there into the PCR-1000.  Very good performance on MW, even in the middle of the day.  Performance on SW left a lot to be desired.  I also learned that the PCR-1000 seems to be a bit sick with regard to SSB.  Switching from AM to USB or LSB immediately closes the squelch all the way.  I can see on the S-meter that there is signal there, and hear it in AM mode, but absolutely no audio output in SSB mode.  Definitely a bummer.

With the R-20, the performance on 40m LSB was quite remarkable.  I spent a good hour listening to the NY State QSO party and logging stations up and down the east coast.  It turns out that with the long wire, the active antenna was doing almost nothing for me other than raising the noise floor.  Performance was best with it bypassed out.

I took a break from listening to go out in the yard and play with the dog.  It was at that point that I noticed the fatal flaw with my new wonder-tenna.  You see, I forgot to mention that the 26 gauge wire I found is purple.  Bright Barney the Dinosaur purple.  Against a dark brick house.  So much for a discrete antenna installation.  I decided that rather than argue with the litigious back neighbor, or the neighbor on the side who is trying to sell their humble abode, I would take things down for now but leave the mounts in place.  Stringing the antenna up takes all of 10 minutes, and under the cover of night no one will know the difference if I haul it up, listen for a couple hours, and take it down in the morning.

I was going to leave the coax in place (it’s black) but I think I have a better plan.  I need to negotiate for enough space in the front bedroom to put the radio desk there.  A big part of the problem I’m dealing with down here is the amount of electronic noise.  For whatever reason, this MacBook Pro seems to give off a ton more RFI than either of the Dell laptops.  Maybe the bluetooth mouse is part of the problem.  I think I will have much better luck taking the PCR-1000 upstairs with one of the Dell machines, shutting off WiFi, and taking some basic steps to shield the radio from the laptop.  That placement will also allow me to run the feedlines down the stairs, rather than outside of the house, which is a huge improvement in any case.