Tower & Antenna Project
April & May, 2019

I was a (mostly) active amateur "ham" radio operator from the summer of 1960 through January, 1997.  With great reluctance I decided to go inactive with the hobby because of major hearing losses.  Although I could still hear, my hearing was impaired to the point that copying weak signals using Morse code was marginal and because I was unable to fully understand the dialog in voice communications, regardless of signal strength.

Let's jump forward to September, 2018, nearly 22 years later - my hearing is worse!  I decided to take a road trip from our Tucson home to the eastern USA to do some sightseeing and to visit old friends in Virginia and South Carolina.  One of the friends I visited was Larry Vogt, N4VA, in Springfield, VA.  Larry and his husband Coleman treating me to great company and a magnificent dinner, then he gave me a demo of the new FT8 communications mode.  FT8 required an interface to a computer, which of course as a retired computer programmer anything which combined ham radio and computers appealed to me.  But I told Larry that I would be unable to operate using FT8 because of my hearing problem.  Larry reached out and turned the volume all the way down, then continued making contacts.  Wham!  It's like I was struck with lightning . . . I decided that as soon as I returned to Tucson I would start acquiring gear and reactivate my radio license, then work 99.99% FT8 (and later FT4).

AA4M became operational again on November 28, 2018 using an Icom IC-7300 transceiver and a dipole (wire, non-directional) antenna.  I made over 3,000 contacts over the next 5 months, but I could see that there were countries I'd never reach unless I put a directional antenna W-A-Y up in the air.  So early in 2019 I began learning all I could about contemporary beam antennas and towers.  Since I was now 74 years old, I decided to hire a specialist to do the installation, a decision I'm glad I made!  Ultimately I decided to buy a Mosley TA-54-XLT-6 antenna and a 2-year old US Towers TX-455 (55 foot) tower.  The installation would be done by Mike Addis of Addisigns, Inc. and I would be assembling the antenna myself.  Although Mike and his company are signage design and installation experts, they do a respectable amount of tower and antenna work.  Mike did a superb job and I can highly recommend him and his company for similar jobs.

Most US hams probably realize that communications from the western USA to Europe can be very difficult at times.  Because of this, with the dipole antenna and 100 watts I managed to contact an average of 1 European a week.  Once the new beam antenna was operational, while still running 100 watts, I contacted 9 Europeans during my first 45 minutes on the air . . . great fun!  :-)

In February of 2023 I replaced the Mosley antenna with a SteppIR UrbanBeam. This antenna gave me massive improvement on 20-6 meters compared to the Mosley, as well as giving me a rotatable dipole on 40 and 30 meters. Consider the UrbanBeam highly recommended by me!

The below 39 pictures represent the best of the 89 photographs I had taken . . . Enjoy!

(Click on picture to enlarge)

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This is the site where the tower will be installed.
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Clearing the site.
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There was a large pile of gravel which had to be moved before work could begin.

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Digging the hole.
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"Fine tuning" the hole.
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Done ~ the final hole measured 54"L x 54"W x 66"D.
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This is the dirt which was removed from the hole, about 5 cubic yards altogether!

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The rebar "cage".
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The cage and forms are now in place.
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The foundation hole has been prepared and is ready for the concrete pour.

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Here comes the concrete truck . . .
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. . . and here comes the concrete.
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After curing, the foundation will be ready for the tower.
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These are all the parts needed to assemble my antenna!
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It took me a week of 2-hour work sessions, but that's only because I'm very careful to ensure that the assembly is perfect!

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The antenna assembly is done, a total of 7 elements on a 21 foot boom.
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The coax has been attached to the dual driven elements.  Note that I've also made an RF choke and added 3 mix 31 ferrite "beads".

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The tower has arrived, along with the Addisigns crane.
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I can't believe that all of this machinery fit in our back yard!
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Up it goes . . .
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Oops, the mounting holes in the tower base don't line up correctly with the bolts in the foundation!

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That's no problem, we'll just move the hole!  :)
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Mike Addis is a happy tower installer!  :)
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Up goes the antenna.
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The final installation photographed from the back yard at sunset.

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The tower and antenna as seen from the front of the house.
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This is my new digital rotator controller, a Hy-Gain DCU-3.
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Here's my full ham radio station.  Maybe some day I'll add a KW amplifier to the setup!  :)
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I purchased 2 high end CW paddles, only to discover that outside of contests there is not much CW activity - FT8 seems to be the most popular mode nowadays!
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Here's the rig a few months later.  I've sold the MFJ-969 tuner and one of the CW paddles, and I've moved the IC-7300 to a closet to use as a spare radio.  I now have an Icom IC-7610, an Acom 2100 amp, a Palstar HF-Auto antenna tuner, and I have kept the Bencher chrome paddle.  I am now also on FT4, an amazing mode which IMHO is vastly superior and more fun than FT8!

You may use any of the above pictures for any purpose and may do so without giving me credit.  Note that these pictures have been downsized for those with slow connection speeds.  If you'd like copies of the original JPG pictures, send me an E-mail telling me which pictures you want and I'll be happy to send the original pictures to you at no charge!

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