Building A Simple, Inexpensive, High-Quality Multi-Band Antenna

Someone on your team should be working on your radio capabilities.

Remember: Comms skills include both transmitting and receiving.

You can listen everywhere your receiver can go, regardless of your license status.

Don’t neglect the HF/VHF/UHF reception function.

13 responses to “Building A Simple, Inexpensive, High-Quality Multi-Band Antenna

  1. Yes, you can construct a wire dipole antenna, the ARRL has a number of plans for them, various lengths for various bands.

    I’m putting up a Buckmaster Offset Center Fed dipole with a balun that is made to take up to 300 watts input power. while I wouldn’t call them cheap, they’re not out of the realm of HF multi-band antennas. Buckmaster does make a 3000 watt model if you’re running a big amplifier.

    The main issues with this antenna type is that you need a bit of room to put it up. The larger version is 270 feet wide when installed. You also have to plan on how to run the coax feed line from your transceiver to the balun connector. Coax rated “suitable for burial” is the way to go.

  2. mistermisfit01

    One still has to get “on the air” and practice. 11 meters not withstanding.
    Hf/vhf/uhf requires a license to transmit and you must transmit to know your radio and antenna limitations.

  3. Alfred E. Neuman

    Reblogged this on FOR GOD AND COUNTRY.

  4. Grey Ghost

    IMHO 46′ legs (92′ total length) is not a good length; sure it works but there are better lengths. 102′ would be better if just a little more space is available. Search on LB Cebik W4RNL and his article the “Best backyard antennas” for good lengths for short doublets and band coverage. In my experience, better total lengths are 130′ or 133′ if the space is available. Contrary to popular belief, the length of the 450′ ohm ladder line is critical to being able to tune as many bands as possible. With a 130′ dipole and a good MANUAL tuner you should be able to tune all of 80M-10M and maybe some of 6M as long as the 450 Ohm feedline avoids certain lengths.
    Avoid feedline lengths of: 32′, 64′, 66′, 96′, 128′, 130′, and 135′. Bottom line, NEVER center feed a half wave multi-band antenna with a high impedance feedline (ladderline or openwire line) that is close to an odd multiple of a quarter wavelength of any band desired to be used.
    The author at AP is using 40′ of feedline and there are better lengths for a 92′ doublet. 2′ longer or 3′ shorter might prove better or add/subtract 1/8 wavelength of feedline of the worst band. A 4:1 balun also might allow untunable bands to be tuned with no changes to his current system. As always the higher the antenna the better as far as DX operation is concerned. If on the other hand you want to talk “regionally” then lower altitudes for the dipole are ok and needed for NVIS ops.

    My best 450 Ohm Ladder line Doublet antenna system to date:
    40′ feed point height with down sloping legs (inverted V)
    130′ (2 x 65′ legs) Dipole length
    37′ or 61′ of 450 Ohm Ladderline (300 Ohm ladderline or openwire line works also)
    3′ RG-8 coax jumper
    MFJ-974HB Manual Balanced Line Tuner; 1:1 balun is incorporated into the tuner. [Yes I’d rather have the Palstar balanced line tuner]
    Tentec dipole feedpoint but any good lashup for the feedpoint is ok
    2 ceramic egg insulators
    1 hoisting line and 2 tie down lines from the insulators

    With that antenna system I was able to tune all freq 80m-10m, the bottom half of 6m and I was able to talk from European Russia to Australia and Japan. The MFJ-974HB while not the best it is not bad for the money for a balanced line tuner. It’s rated for 300w PEP and I’ve put 450-500 watts SSB through it with no problems. Digital modes, RTTY and CW should be limited to the rated 300watts PEP or less.

    Grey Ghost

    • There are some folks that still use 450 ohm ladder line, I never touch the stuff. I’ve found 50 ohm coax to be the best feed line that exists, and never had an issue with antennas connected with it. The Buckmaster antennas are set up for coax.

      I’ve used a end fed 124 foot wire antenna, running my older ICOM IC-756Pro with it, coax in the attic, to the balun hung outside the gutter to prevent resonance, the wire sloping up to about 45 feet in a tree. Checked with an antenna tester, it had a nice 1.2-1.5 SWR on every band.

  5. Unless one really needs or aspires to 160m & max efficiency, the Off-Center Fed Dipole (OCFD) can also be literally half that size. With a good tuner (not necessarily the finicky 3:1 built-in many radios have) you can get 80m to 10m & everything in between (yes, 30m too for you CW nuts like me). The distance is traditionally a 4:1 ratio of wire, either side of a 4:1 CURRENT Balun, or 80% of the distance one leg (say 108-ft), the other 27-ft off the other side of the balun. There is a fair amount of fudge factor in the overall length for folks who may be lot-limited. It’s an antenna that’ll be in the 200-ohm area and that 4:1 current balun will make your tuner & transceiver very happy. A quality tuner will get you a MATCH for 160m, but remember that a match is just making your radio happy – doesn’t mean it’s EFFICIENT. 2 different things. Wavelength is physical length and a little change in frequency on the low bands goes a long way in terms of what you need out there for physical wire. If you need 160m from a dipole, by all means do the full-boat 260-ft or so. Physics is physics.

    Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of good. Many types of antennas are sufficient, yet the critical thing remains “getting the damn thing up.” I ran one for years with 94.5′ headed to the back lot, 34.5′ headed toward the road. Get it up at least 30′ and they listen really well, while also being a great regional antenna. On 80m or 75m voice at that modest height it’s got good NVIS characteristics in terms of the limited dispersion, while leaving plenty of long-haul on the higher frequencies. If you want to talk REALLY local, put in pulleys & lower it down along with your power. (At higher frequencies dipoles do have both nulls & power lobes. If you have the real estate, put up 2 perpendicular & you’ll be able to pound the compass at your leisure.)

    Tip: If you live in any kind of suburban RF hell, take that good coax you’re going to bury, and get that balun & feedpoint AS FAR AWAY from your house, neighbors, utility ingress points, etc.,.as you can consistent with getting it up. It would even be worth calling for a locate to make sure there isn’t an ancient AC run right under your damn wire. If there is, your noise floor just went up 6 to 9dB & you’ll be seriously sorry if it’s a ratty old line that hasn’t been cleaned up in awhile.

    For those who can’t use a ditch-witch & install innerduct & don’t have ravenous rodent problems, LMR-600 is a heavier grade of coax than LMR-400 (standard size coax) and you can put that in the ground. Spendier but very nice & robust cable. Hoe a path a few inches down, lay it in there (warm days are nice), cover it over & put grass in. In a season Mother Nature will have made it her own.

    Bulk wire from the hardware store, same for egg-style fence insulators, paracord & other bits – figure it out. The best-made baluns on the planet from Balun Designs. Example is a 4:1 current balun and they will customize it, e.g., do you want eyelets to hang it on top or sides or …. I see he’s really busy backlogged for a few days, but he & his company are stellar in terms of advice given as well as service. No connection; just years of being a happy customer.

    • “Unless one really needs or aspires to 160m & max efficiency, the Off-Center Fed Dipole (OCFD) can also be literally half that size.”

      Very true and they don’t have to be straight across, either. They can be set up as a sloping inverted V.

      Buckmaster units are available in smaller sizes, I forget what they’re small one’s dimensions are.

  6. Thanks for the great (and simple… I need simple) article!

  7. Keep in mind that overt comms capability may cause unwanted attention from undesirable folks. just as open carry and your fuck you hat may.
    A good book on the subject: Low Profile amateur radio, operating a Ham station almost anywhere.
    Al Brogdon W1AB.
    published by ARRL

  8. I build all of my HF antennas. I just built a 40m vertical from spare wire I had in the garage. The vertical radiator is about 34′ and one end is tied up in a tree and the bottom end is tied to a ground rod. I started with 8 radials the same length as the radiator but have since upgraded that to a homemade radial plate and 24 radials. Not much difference between 8 and 24 radials to tell you the truth.

    I fed it with 450 ohm ladder line and it out performs my dipoles on 40m and 30m. It works well on 60m through 15m but gets a little hard to tune at higher frequencies.

    I bring the ladder line in through the wall right to the back of my Heathkit SA-2040 tuner. With the contest running this weekend I made several barefoot phone contacts with Australia on 40m Sunday morning using the new vertical.

    The best way I found to test antennas is to run the digital mode FT8 and monitor the reception reports on pskreporter. It will give an accurate and unbiased signal report from hundreds if not over a thousand stations around the world.

  9. I need a book, “basic radio for dummies”. Any recommendations?