THE Antenna project

After having the tower in place, holding up various dipoles and wire antennas, I now have a dream antenna on top of that monster tower. It now works for its existence.

I bought this Steppir at an estate sale, and it was not in the best shape. It had been in the Arizona sun for about 10 years, and the fiberglass was showing some other things that needed work. So, I helped take it down from the original tower, disassembled it with the help of my wife (NI7Y), and we brought it up from Mesa to the cooler pines near Payson at an altitude of 5950 feet. 

It took me about 6 weeks of sanding elements, cleaning bird shit off of everything, and removing anything that was weathered to clean it up. I went so far as buffing some of the metal parts. I even did a bit of re-engineering to help it last longer in Arizona sun.

The first thing I did was paint all ten fiberglass elements with Rustoleum marine paint. One coat did a great job, and that paint is metal-free, I called. It works great. It should be good for 20 years based on the paint it came with and the much thicker coat I have on it now.

One of the motor units had a broken spindle, and having the parts doesn’t help if the screws are seized up inside. Not cheap, but one of the three motor drives is new. The relay box was missing the weather seal, so there was a lot to clean up in that. I re-engineered that to ensure large open shafts were not open weather or bird crap. And added the seal of course. I also replaced all of the control wires and while I was at it I added a plastic braid cover over the wire. I expect that will bake away in 3 or 4 years, but that’s 3 or 4 years the wires won’t be exposed to the sun.

With the help of some neighbors and friends, we tilted the tower over and attached it to the boom, and up she went. On the first day, I had an excellent SSB QSO with three European stations. With the wire antennas, I could never hear them well enough on phone. CW worked, of course, but now it is harder to find the DX on the spectrum display because they aren’t typically the weak stations anymore. Nice problem to have.

Now to learn my Elecraft K4 better and integrate it with the beam and a logging and spotting system to automate some things for me. Just programming the antenna to be more resonant on the frequencies is a chore I need to get to.

So, here it is, July 23rd, 2022, and it has been up for a week. I’ll have to revisit this page and update what it’s like after a year of playing with it.

A whole new radio world I’ll tell ya’!

UPDATE January 2023

Well, the Yaesu rotator didn’t even handle the first little wind we had up there. I was afraid of that. Soooo…

Changes are in store for spring.

  • A SPID style worm drive rotator is ready to be installed. I expect the tower will spin before this rotator lets the antenna spin freely.
  • A mount and hoist are ready to be installed to make the tower easy to crank up and down. When we aren’t there, it’ll be nested. It is all around safer for the beam vs. wind. And, of course, if a storm is coming, I can flip a switch and get it down to a safe nest.
  • The cable holding the crank-up part of the tower is on hand and will be replaced.
  • A tilt plate is on order and should ship soon. That will always allow the antenna to be horizontal when lowered and the tower tilted over. It is a pretty cool device, and it’ll allow me to raise and lower the whole thing by myself, AND the whole antenna will be flat so that I can walk around it and service whatever needs it.

UPDATE May 2023

Down came the antenna for some serious upgrades. Like a SPID rotator, recabling the raising steel cable with new, adding coax stand-offs, a tilt plate so the antenna lays flat when I tilt the tower over and added a hoist to raise and lower the tower for storms or if we aren’t there.

It was a bear to put up. The next projects are a nicer meal box for the entrance panel and a conduit for the coax and control cables. Make it nice and weatherproof. And lightning safer.

Here is a quick ten-minute tour of the changes and additions to the tower. The key is to over engineer.

Here is the view from the peak of our roof.

The view from east, scanning south and to the west.