Part 1: How to Build Antennas from a Blind Ham’s Perspective (and if You’re Not Blind, You’ll Learn Something, Too!)

Editor’s Note: Over the next several months, OnAllBands will be featuring a series of articles from Harry “Trippy” Brown, AC8S, longtime amateur operator and antenna builder/tester who’s never let his visual impairment stop him from enjoying the hobby he loves. As the title of this series states, we hope these articles provide you with invaluable insights as you pursue your own successful antenna projects.


Antenna building and testing is my favorite part of ham radio! As a blind ham, I’ve built many dipole antennas, inverted-Vee antennas, dipole/inverted-Vee combos, and snake antennas—and they all work! If you want to know more about the snake antenna, contact me and I’ll send you the article about it.

Instead of keeping what I’ve learned to myself, I am passing it on to all the hams out there. According to Joe, W1JR, “Antennas are all relative. If you can make contact with everyone you hear, your antenna works, be happy, and stay with what you have. However, if you cannot make contact with every station you hear, you need a better antenna.”

Today I will be discussing:

  • Ideas on making smaller antennas (not as small as they need to be, but smaller than they are these days)
  • A different connection for ununs and antenna tuners
  • An idea for an Antenna QSO Party

In subsequent posts I will be sharing my general antenna knowledge that I have learned over the years.

First, here’s why I’m talking about making smaller, portable antennas. In my opinion, this hobby is not attracting younger people, and here’s the biggest reason why: It’s because if I talk about ham radio to a younger person, they tell me, “I don’t want to be in a hobby where I have to have a 100-foot tower or a wire that’s 200 feet long, plus 1,500 watts in order to have a loud enough signal to be heard when I have a smartphone in my pocket with a built-in antenna!”

And you know, folks, they’re right.

We need that 100-foot tower and all those beams, or, at least 200 feet of wire, but most hams have no place to put up that high of a tower, or no place to string those lengths of wire. However, I have great news. As for the length of wire being too long, there’s a solution known as coiling. Keep reading this series and you’ll find out what I mean.

My burden—for myself and all hams—is to be able to have a portable ham
radio station that we can put in a backpack and have a VERY loud signal, as if we were running 1,500 watts but with only 15 watts using a radio like the Elecraft KX3. And using the smallest antenna possible, on all bands (160 through 2M), providing a LOUD signal as if they did have that 100-foot
tower, or the 200-foot or longer wire, or loop antenna with a 1,500-watt amp.

  • The antenna should be portable, able to be used indoors or outdoors, and take no more than five seconds to put up and take down. This way, people will not see you putting up the antenna and complain about it.
  • Ideally, it would be made out of telescopic pipe, making erecting the antenna and taking it down quick and easy.
  • Such an antenna would have no radials to install because my hands don’t work very well at installing radials.
  • The antenna should have an SWR of 2.0 to 1 or lower on all bands.
  • It would also be easy to deploy in hotel rooms, apartments, hospital rooms, nursing home rooms, and other locations.

If anyone would like to visit my location and work together to create such an antenna, please contact me.

That is my burden. Besides, I love antennas, and I’m going to read
every book and article on antennas I can get my hands on to
learn even more.

Unun and Tuner Connections

Regarding connections to ununs and to antenna tuners: my fingers do NOT work well. This prevents me from wrapping wire around things like binding posts, lug nuts, and wing nuts. However, I can push a wire through an I-hook, also called an I-bolt, and fold the wire over to touch itself. That’s how I build my antennas. I encourage all companies that build antenna tuners and ununs to consider using I-hooks instead of binding posts, lug nuts, and wing nuts. There is a 1 to 1 balun on the market with I-bolts in the center for hanging and one on each side for the legs. I can push the wire through, then hook the wire on each hook of the balun and push the rope through the I-hook in the center. However, there are no other baluns like this and no such ununs available. This needs to change.

Speaking of antennas, how about holding an Antenna QSO Party or an Antenna Weekend? Such an event would allow hams to hear many different
antennas and experience what kind of signal each type puts out. I have the details if anyone wants to sponsor it and put it on. I believe the ham community can do anything. Let’s think outside the box, not stay in the box where we’ve been for the last 60 years.

In my next posts I’ll be getting to the good stuff—building antennas that move us in the right direction toward smaller, good-sounding designs. I hope you enjoy the rest of my articles. You’ll be amazed with the signal you put out on these smaller antennas!

Questions? Comments? Reach me at hebrown3rd@gmail.com.

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