On one of the several ham radio mailing lists I subscribe to, there was some recent discussion about unusual antennas. You know—bed springs, light bulbs, and the like. It brought to mind a memorable QSO I had 27 years ago.
In the July 1993 issue of QST, Rod Newkirk W9BRD (later VA3ZBB, now SK) wrote an article about building small, multi-turn loop antennas. If his name doesn’t ring a bell for you, Rod wrote the “How’s DX?” column in QST from 1947 to 1978 and coined the term, “Elmer.”
Although I never actually built one of Rod’s loops, I found the article fascinating. At the end of the article, Rod noted that he conducted his loop antenna experiments in the partially-underground cellar of his Chicago home. Remarkable!
Fast-forward to September 1993. I went downstairs to my basement shack one evening and fired up my old MFJ-9030 on 30M CW. I had three QSOs that night; one of them was with—you guessed it—W9BRD.
During our QSO, Rod mentioned that he was using one of his experimental mini-loops indoors in his shack. When I told him I was running 5 watts into my rainspout, he sent back, “Hey, if it’s metal, load it up.” According to my log, we chatted for about 12 minutes before signing.
Needless to say, that contact put a smile on my face. It was the kind of QSO I really enjoy—one with a station using an unusual set-up or operating in a unique location. I guess you could say this QSO checked both of those boxes. Not to mention that I had just worked a very well-known figure in Amateur Radio.
I fired off a QSL card to Rod to acknowledge our QSO and to let him know that I enjoyed his loop article. Before too long, I received a card back from Rod. His typewritten note on the back of the card continued the theme of our QSO. It read, in part: “Hey, if your XYL uses gold or silver thread for that needlepoint, let’s try loading it up, Craig.” He also wrote about his experiences with rainspout antennas, including his attempt to feed a particularly stubborn one.
From articles I have read, it’s clear that Rod had a penchant for assembling and experimenting with unusual antennas. His daughter, Amanda, once wrote: “He especially loved discovering how much of a signal he could achieve with his various objects: the coffee cans, cookie tins, piles of wire and boxes and tidbits—out of which he wrung quite magical things.”
When it comes to unusual antennas, Rod was a man after my own heart. Over the past 27 years, his words from our QSO have been my mantra: “If it’s metal, load it up!”
Thanks for the inspiration, Rod.
73, Craig WB3GCK
 Newkirk (W9BRD), Rod. “Honey, I Shrunk the Antenna.” QST, July 1993, pp. 34-35, 39.
 Newkirk (WN9PMC), Amanda. “On Being W9BRD’s Daughter.” K9YA Telegraph, Vol 11, Issue 9, September 2014, pp. 2-3. (K9YA Telegraph website)
4 thoughts on “If It’s Metal, Load It Up!”
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73, Craig WB3GCK
Craig, I just happened to see your posting mentioning Rod, W9BRD. I knew him as VA3ZBB as he later moved from the Chicago area to Ottawa, ON. He married Betty, VE3ZBB who he met on the air and they lived not far from me here in Ottawa, until Rod’s passing. He was a member of our local QCWA CH#70 as well. I met him in person a couple of times before his health deteriorated. He was a real gentleman and a true Ham! Btw, also worth mentioning that I believe that the term “Elmer”, for a Ham Radio mentor, is attributed to him. I do also miss his regular stories in the K9YA Telegraph, although I did purchase copy of his book “The Rod Newkirk Collection” which is still available via :https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/K9YA. He was an excellent storyteller. He became a silent key in November of 2012.
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Michael: Thanks for reminding about the book. I meant to order a copy a while ago but never did. So, I ordered a copy yesterday. 73, Craig WB3GCK