The Splice of Shame

[Disclaimer:  Any misadventures I have had with this antenna were purely my fault and, in no way, reflect on LNR and their excellent product.]

I bought the LNR EFT-10/20/40 trail-friendly end-fed halfwave (EFHW) antenna about a year and a half ago, after seeing one at Field Day.  It’s a great, portable antenna.  It packs up small and weighs hardly anything.  I often use non-resonant antennas because I like to work a variety of bands.  However, I always carry the LNR end-fed in my pack as a backup antenna.  The EFT requires some initial pruning before use.  This is where my misadventures start.

I don’t have enough real estate at home for antenna testing.  Instead, I did the initial pruning of the antenna while setting up for the Skeeter Hunt QRP contest in August of 2015.  Trimming an inch at a time was getting a little tedious for me.  I incorrectly estimated how much I needed to cut to have the antenna favor the CW section of 40 meters.  As you might guess, I screwed up and cut off too much.  Resonance was at about 7.110 MHz and frequencies below 7.023 MHz were outside the 2:1 SWR curve.  20 and 10 meters were fine, however.  I operated in the contest with no issues.

I resolved to correct my mistake and added that task to my “job jar,” where it languished for the next year and a half.  In the meantime, the antenna was used for numerous outings, including a National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) activation of the Appalachian Trail.  I just needed to avoid the bottom end of 40 meters.

Fast-forward to this past weekend.  I finally got around to doing something about the tuning of this antenna.  I had ordered some #26 Poly-STEALTH™ wire from the good folks at Davis RF.  First, I measured the top section of the antenna (from the top of the loading coil to the end of the antenna) in its current state.  Then I cut the wire about a foot or more from the end.  Since the splice wouldn’t fit through the holes in the end insulator, I wanted to keep the splice away from it.  I did this if I would ever want to re-tune the antenna for the phone section of 40 meters.  I next spliced on a piece of Poly-STEALTH™ wire that made the overall length about 2.5 inches longer than before.  After soldering the splice and applying some shrink tubing, I was ready to give it a test in the field.

The Splice of Shame. This is the splice I had to put onto my LNR EFT-10/20/40 EFHW antenna to correct my pruning error.
The Splice of Shame

I was out in central Pennsylvania over the weekend doing some babysitting for my grandson.  As I have done at this location before, I strung the EFT-10/20/40 from a second story window to a Jackite pole strapped to the fence in the backyard.  The antenna was roughly horizontal and up about 25 feet or so.  I wanted to make sure that the range from 7.000 MHz to 7.125 MHz fell within the 2:1 SWR bandwidth.  My antenna analyzer showed that it was just a bit long.

After I lowered the antenna and cut off a half-inch, the SWR was pretty much where I wanted it.  Now it was resonant around 7.040 MHz and the 2:1 SWR bandwidth spanned 7.000 to 7.130 MHz.  On 20 meters, the SWR was less than 1.5:1 across the band.  On 10 meters, the SWR was less than 2:1 across the band.  The SWR indicator on my KX3 confirmed the results.

Final 40M SWR plot for my LNR EFT-10/20/40 antenna. The 2:1 SWR curve covers 7.000 through 7.130 MHz.
Final 40M SWR plot for my LNR EFT-10/20/40 antenna. The 2:1 SWR curve covers 7.000 through 7.130 MHz.

At one point, my inner obsessive-compulsive perfectionist said I could cut off another half-inch and make it better.  Fortunately, my practical side was able to resist and leave well enough alone.  As they say, perfect is the enemy of the good.  So, I declared victory and went on to make some nice CW and PSK-31 contacts with my properly tuned antenna.

The antenna works great but that splice will be a constant reminder of what happens when you rush things and try to cut corners.

72, Craig WB3GCK

QRP Joy on Mount Misery

I can’t believe it– three decent weekends in a row.  Thanks to El Niño, we’re headed for record temperatures this weekend.  I definitely needed to take advantage of these mild temperatures.  So, I drove down to Valley Forge National Historic Park to do some portable operating.  I had planned to operate from Mount Misery (aka Valley Forge Mountain) for a while but never got around to it.

Following some directions that my friend, Carter N3AO,  gave me, I hiked up the Mount Misery Trail.  Carter operated a QRP field contest there years ago and said it was a nice spot.  I hiked in about a mile and branched off onto the Horse-Shoe Trail for another half-mile or so.  Most of the other hikers seemed to be staying on the Mount Misery Trail.  I figured the Horse-Shoe Trail would be more secluded.  I was right.  The only other person I saw was a Park Watch volunteer.  She came by as I was trying to figure out where to hang my antenna.  I’m sure she was wondering why I was standing there staring up into the trees.

The intersection of the Mount Misery and Horseshoe trails.
The intersection of the Mount Misery and Horseshoe trails.

My biggest challenge of the day was getting my antenna up in the trees.  I continued to hike looking for something that resembled a clearing.  The woods up there are dense and there is a lot of brush just waiting to snag my antenna wire.  After about 20  minutes, I managed to get my LNR EFT-10/20/40 EFHW antenna up.  I set up my trusty YouKits HB-1B and got on the air.

My operating position on Mount Misery.
My operating position on Mount Misery.

I called CQ on 20 meters and AF5BA answered from Arkansas.  After that, I got a call from fellow QRP Polar Bear, WA8REI.  Ken was also QRP portable, operating from his trailer in a deer camp in Michigan.  Next up was VE1BA in Nova Scotia.  John’s  5-watt signal was booming into Pennsylvania.

I moved down to 40 meters, but I didn’t hear a lot of activity.  I tuned around and heard NM1I calling CQ from Massachusetts.  I gave him a call and we had a nice chat.

I took a break to stretch my legs and take a few pictures before heading back to 20 meters.  I worked the VE9CRM club station in New Brunswick.  The operator was VE9BEL.  Their club station was putting out a very strong signal.

WB3GCK operating on Mount Misery in Valley Forge, PA
WB3GCK operating on Mount Misery in Valley Forge, PA

I was getting ready to shut down when I heard KG0YR calling me from Missouri.  Dave was running 1 watt and had a nice signal.  On his heels was K4AKC from Alabama.  Tom was running 5 watts.  I hated to cut our QSO short, but I needed to pack up and hike back down the hill.

All in all, it was a productive 2 hours.

Trail marker on the Horseshoe Trail
Trail marker on the Horseshoe Trail

I did have one take away from today’s outing.  I have been using 20 lb. test monofilament line with a 2-ounce lead sinker to get my antenna up.  It works great, but the line becomes completely invisible in the woods.  I need to get some high-visibility line and paint the sinker.

Across from Mount Misery is another mount named… Wait for it…  Mount Joy!  That’s on my list for a future outing.

73/72, Craig WB3GCK