I am not an electrical engineer… To date I have hobbled through my HAM radio career with the help of one Elmer in Colorado Springs and via the internet. I use a multi band Kenwood TS2000 Transceiver which can cover the HF and UHF/VUF bands with ease…probably one of the best “all arounders” a HAM can get. This simplicity of my radio transferred over to my antenna at our home in Colorado. I got a simple J pole antenna and mounted it on my roof so I could hit most repeaters in Colorado Springs. For my first HF needs I strung a GSRV5 wire antenna along my roof lines and down into my shack. I used that simple antenna to connect around Colorado and an occasional long distance contact but it never reliably delivered good contacts over the long haul.Since I moved to Virginia, my radio hobby had been put on hold due to job commitments but after getting back from Iraq in November, I decided to upgrade my ability to travel the HF airways easier since I operate with only 100 watts. I wanted a better antenna that would cover the HF spectrum with ease…. although I have lots of space around me and zero restrictions; did I mention I am not an electrical engineer!?
After a ton of research on the Internet is to all different types of HF antennas that guaranteed great results I settled on the DX Engineering SAF-T-TILT™ 43 ft Antenna package with radial plate and UN-43 UNUN – DXE-MBVE-5-4UPR for $349.00. Why this one? It offered usability on all bands, from 160 meters through 10 meters. I was never excited by getting just a mono band antenna for one particular band…I was looking for an “all arounder” to match my “all arounder radio” While I examine the various types including the screwdrivers, and others that promised multi band performance, the quality and reviews I read of the DX Engineering antenna kept bring me back to it as the right antenna for my application. The reviews were great also on eHAM. With all of the accessories needed to construct it, including a MFJ Antenna Intellituner, radials, etc, the total cost was a bit over $1100.00
Debbie, my wife, oversees all of our construction jobs it seems since I am never there so when our favorite contractors, Rappahannock Building and Construction, came over in August 2011 to install an attic fan, we decided to have them do the prep work for the antenna while I was still in Iraq. Jon buried the conduit in the ground out to the antenna sites (times 2) and sunk a 5’ 1.5″ inch steel pipe in each location. This would allow me to get right to work on raising the actual antenna on my return in November before winter weather arrived.
We exchanged some emails and Jon delivered another great product under Debbie’s watchful eyes…doing it then even allowed for the grass to grow back by the time I arrived home. A month before I returned home I started a dialog with Bob – N8QE from DX Engineering Tech support on what all I would need for a complete install of this package. I asked Bob LOTS of questions over several days and he patiently answered them all. He offered quick replies and useful thoughts about the product and the install. I had decided to buy the MFJ tuner with the antenna so I would be able to work 160 meters , at least on a marginal basis. When I thought I had everything I needed in my order ready to go I emailed Bob at DX Engineering and he confirmed it was indeed a complete package. I placed the order on a Friday from Iraq via the Internet and Debbie said it arrived on Tuesday in three large boxes that Ben placed in the garage awaiting my arrival. How does it get here so quick? 🙂
Now all I had to do was wait until I returned to put it up and that was one of my first projects upon my arrival home other than a few yard and “honey do” list items. Upon arrival home, I examined the base installations and was very pleased with the work. I unboxed all the DX Engineering pieces and was immediately impressed with the quality of the product I had purchased. Everything was HEAVY DUTY and had the feel of quality. Before I even assembled the antenna I knew I had made the right purchase.
The first step was to assemble the radial plate and attach it to my base post which is very easy before attaching the tilt base as well to the base pipe. Instructions and illustrations are fantastic and there is no need to make a mistake in assembly like I normally do.
I then assembled the many pieces of the 43’ aluminum tubing that makes up the antenna mast. Again the package is superb with all of the nuts, bolts, and camps laid out in individual packing “in order” of use! Hard to make a mistake! After laying out the pieces I started to use the different size clamps to build the mast flat on the ground. I did find one small clamp that must have had a small defect so a quick trip to Lowes allowed for a suitable replacement. The instruction say to build the whole antenna on the ground and THEN attach it to the base but many people connect the sections right form the base and build out horizontally along the ground; just make sure you support it so it does not bend!
Once assembled, I tied on 4 guy ropes midway up the length and then it is as simple as starting mid-way down the length and walking it to its vertical position. It easily slips into its tilt base and the lock nut locks the antenna in place. OK, the antenna is up! Now to connect it!
First however I again followed the instructions and added the 4:1 UNUN to the base and connected the antenna to it via two supplied wires. I had purchased the 150’ coax cable you need for this antenna and with Debbie’s help, sent steel fish line down the conduit to pull the coax through. Hooking it up to the UNUN, I wrapped all connections with rubber tape for weather protection. Before I had connected the radial place in the first step, I had added 60 buts and bolts to each radial grounding hole, so now all that was left was to connect the 40 65’ radials I had purchased. Easy to connect to the radial plate, although tedious, left me 40 coils of wire sitting near the base of the antenna. Spreading those wires out in a circular radial pattern is easy; placing the metal ground stakes every 4’ is also easy, but time consuming. These were completed over a day or so as it is somewhat tiresome work….your back will be ready for this job to be complete.
I connected the coax coming in from the antenna to a lightening arrestor before running it into the house in a pass through I had constructed when we moved into the house, also by Jon, our contractor. Running it into the shack, I ran it through my antenna tuner and into my transceiver.
Turning the radio on for the first time it sprang to life immediately, and the bands were MUCH more alive than I remembered in Colorado in 2009. Now, if I can hear it, I can work it… in the first few days I had a confirmed QSL’s with stations in Croatia, Sweden, Norway, Romania, and Dominica Island. Also I have had QSL’s with stations close by in NC and as far away as Michigan, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, and Washington at 100 watts on many different bands.
I am a satisfied customer; the antenna performs as advertised. The craftsmanship is solid construction and excellent quality. I have watched the antenna in one early storm already and it just sways in the wind and comes back to vertical. It tunes to 1:1 or 1:2 on all bands except 160. While I have talked on 160 meters already I have yet to explore the full potential of that band with this antenna. I would recommend this product to a radio operator who has the space to install a vertical but does not want to get into the realm of a tower. I would suspect that the quality of craftsmanship is the real seller for this product. The construction of this antenna is simple and uses few tools. The biggest investment is probably time once you have made the initial purchase. Budget at least 2 days for the entire project, more if you are also burying the conduit and digging the post holes! I also watched an entertaining construction video on YOU TUBE done by fellow HAM.
I recommend this product as a great ”all arounder” alternative to getting up on HF, especially if you are not an electrical engineer!
ALL pictures are here… Special thanks to Debbie and Kiwo for their assistance.
UPDATE: November, 2012:
Note: I added 20 more radials for a total of 60 65′ radials now.
Am I pleased with this antenna? YES!
From a physical standpoint, it has already weathered moderate winds (35+MPH). a light ice storm, and snow and rain and is rock solid. I did lower it for Hurricane Sandy in October and it survived a freak wind storm in Jul that ravaged the east coast.
From a reception standpoint, I am ELATED with the RESULTS. I have had contacts on 160 meters through 10 meters and it “normally” tunes SWR 1:1 with my MFJ-993B IntelliTuner. Conditions, etc, impact that to a certain degree and sometimes it take multiple attempts to tune 1:1.
During the ARRL DX Contest in the last 48 hours, I added 14 new countries without trying too hard. I was heard alongside 1KW stations. As you can see from my HAM radio page with the current stats up, I have reached 48 countries with this ANTENNA with ONLY 100 watts barefoot. That is why this antenna has exceeded my expectations… yes I am pleased that I bought it, was able to put it up by myself and enjoy the results.