When camping or on vacation, one of my go-to antennas is a simple 29.5-foot wire and 9:1 unun. In these situations, the antenna is usually up for days, and I have to use plastic shopping bags to protect the unun from the elements. For this project, I attempted to build an unun that can withstand the elements.
I had been thinking about this for a while. I wanted something that would protect the internal parts and provide some protection for the coax connection. Eventually, my stash of PVC pipe odds and ends caught my attention. I figured if this stuff could keep water in, it should be able to keep water out. What I came up with is somewhat weird-looking, but it should do the job
Here are the major parts I used:
- About 2.5 inches of 1.5-inch PVC pipe
- (1) 1.5-inch PVC end cap (slightly rounded top)
- (2) 1.5-inch PVC end caps with flat tops
- (1) SO-239 panel-mount connector (along with some #4 hardware for mounting)
- A 9:1 unun wound on a T130-2 toroid
- (1) 10-24×3/4″ stainless steel screw (along with some #10 flat washers, nuts, wingnut, and lock washer)
I have to mention a few things about the parts. The PVC end-caps with flat tops are hard to find. If you search online for furniture-grade end caps, you might find some. For winding the toroid, the Emergency Amateur Radio Club in Hawaii (EARCHI) has excellent instructions you can download.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to put this together until I started building it. So, these won’t be detailed, step-by-step instructions. They should, however, give you a general idea of how I ended up assembling it.
- First, I glued the two flat end caps together, end-to-end.
- While the glue was drying, I wound the unun. I left the leads a little longer than the EARCHI instructions, but I cut them back as needed during assembly. I used some #22 gauge solid hookup wire for the windings.
- I drilled a 5/8-inch hole through the two attached end caps and installed the SO-239 connector. To keep things simple, I only used two screws to mount it. So, I only drilled two holes for the #4 machine screws for mounting. I also created a couple of weep holes to allow any condensation to drain out. I don’t know if these are needed or not, but they won’t hurt.
- I drilled a hole in the rounded end cap for the #10 screw. I made this hole a snug fit for the screw.
- Next, I soldered the toroid input and ground connections to the SO-239. I left the toroid leads about 1.5 inches long. I used a small lug to attach the gound lead to one of the SO-239 mounting screws.
- I then soldered a ring lug onto the end of the output wire (antenna connection) and attached it to the stainless steel bolt. I made sure that this output lead was just long enough to make the connection to the bolt. (You probably noticed a splice in this wire. I cut it by mistake, while installing the toroid. Stuff happens!)
- I squeezed in some foam packing material on both sides of the toroid to hold it in place.
- Finally, I press-fitted the top end cap. The end caps are on pretty tight, so I decided not to glue the parts together. With a little effort, I can still get inside of it if needed.
I don’t typically use radials with this setup, so I didn’t provide for an external ground connection. I rely on the coax shield for the necessary counterpoise. Should I ever need to, I can easily add a ground stud.
I took the unun out for a test drive, and it performed as expected. With a 29.5-foot radiator and 25 feet of RG-8x coax, the internal tuner in my KX3 was able to load it up from 80M through 6M. (This type of antenna is certainly compromised on 80M and 60M, but I have made lots of contacts with them.)
The Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) Weekend Sprintathon (WES) was in progress while I was out, so I made a few contest contacts. Running my usual 5 watts, I worked two French stations on 20M. I was also pleasantly surprised to have a station in Hawaii come back to my 5-watt CQ on 15M. So, it looks like it’s working.
I also inadvertently tested the unun’s mechanical integrity. I accidentally dropped it twice before using it for the first time. No problems.
I admit I might have over-engineered this thing, but it was a fun project, nonetheless. Our first camping trip of the season is two weeks away. Hopefully, we won’t have any rain. But, if we do, my antenna will be ready for it.
73, Craig WB3GCK