If you take a look at any of the amateur radio forums you’ll not have to look far before you find one looking for advice on either a rig or antenna. The question is always pretty much the same. I have this much money / space / time (delete as appropriate). Which one should I buy? Well guess what, you’ll get a whole heap of different answers.
Since coming back to radio over 10 years ago after a long break I struggled with the same questions. But more recently had the courage to consider that I am now an expert in what works for me. So this is not about offering another opinion on what you should or shouldn’t do. Its about what I did and the choices I made, if you can relate to it in any way then I hope it helps. Otherwise just enjoy the poor sentence structure, use of grammar and other ‘skills’ I have and read on (Whoever invented spell checker needs a medal!)
I wanted an antenna that met a few criteria.
- Low impact – i.e. didn’t spend its life on a big mast out in the salty air and strong winds / rain at my QTH
- Lightweight – Easy to take down and put up. No longer than 15 -20 mins
- Had a bit of gain – Not a world beating gain figure but more than a dipole
- Easy to repair – Its going to take a battering here so things will get a bit beaten up
- XYL approval – A long shot but she does take a dim view on metal. Generally best to ease her into the idea gently and then distract.
Previously I had on the outside of the house a Hustler 6-BTV which I have to say I was very pleased with. Some building work meant that a vertical wasn’t going to work (radials). On the inside in the loft I have a homebrew Cobwebb which is greatâ€¦.got me my first (and currently only VK contacts).
I like the idea of Hexbeams, compact beams and innovative design so after careful consideration I plumped for a Folding Antenna’s portable heaxbeam-a-like. The website blurb gives you all the necessary details and after a few emails I got a box in the post from Christian.
The only way to describe the antenna is a bunch of bits that you assemble. All the parts look fresh from the manufacturer and in well marked bags. I’d read somewhere that it would take about 8 hours to make and that is a fair reflection of the effort required. I dutifully followed the instructions and 8 hours later had something ready for testing.
The comprehensive instructions take you through a logical and simple assembly process that includes separating injection moulded parts from spurs, putting together sub assemblies like the feeder and cutting the wire elements. All in a logical sequence. The manual is very well written and very helpful. Something other manufacturers can learn well from.
Some of the plastic parts needed holes opening up and ‘fettling’ but in general with the exception of the central hub went together without too much persuasion. The hub was very tight and now in place isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. I would suggest a pair of gloves to help with the wire clamps as they are a tight snap fit and the edges tend to give you thumb ache pushing them on.
The central post is a right stinker to get together but luckily you only need to do it once. Which is lucky. There are a couple of really small nuts that fit on the socket corners and I can recommend artery forceps (anglers as well as medical types use them). They are long, thin and lock together. Ideal for positioning small parts.
I have built a few Cobwebb’s and always find the process of ‘balancing’ the wire elements to be a pain in the neck. It looks right once but then gets tight in one area and hey presto you’ve got a messy / twisted looking antennas. Here’s my advice.
Find a flat piece of grass. Lay out the antenna support arms straight. Pin the arms to the ground straight. Then start building up the elements.
This practice has shaved hours of selecting, adjusting and re-adjusting to get things straight.
If you’ve ever built a wire antenna then the process is the same, only this time you’ve got a lot of elements to deal with. Build as per the instructions and test. Hopefully you’ll only be trimming off excess wire and that’ll be it. If you followed the instructions that will be all you’ll need to do.
In practice I found that this was a bit tricky as the antenna it big and needs to be raised and lowered a lot. Its heavy when you’ve done it a few times so be prepared to have aching arms if you have a manually operated mast like me.
The rather murky shot shows the beam being built and adjusted once the initial laying out had been done. I can’t emphasis enough how much easier it is if you start off with everything marked out and with a flat piece of ground. You can tell from my photo that I haven’t got much of the flat stuff.
Once you’ve tuned, you’re good to go. There’s a lot to of really good reviews on the hexbeam that detail the performance . They compare and contrast the antenna against others so I won’t go into that in detail. Suffice to say that this is a hexbeam. Just in a neat package and it works well.
This is a really well designed antenna. The concept is clearly nothing new but the engineering is very well thought out and executed. I have had antennas that claim to be well engineered and frankly I have been thoroughly disappointed in the quality. This is not one of those.
The build requires quite a lot of investment in time and effort. If you want a buy and put up antenna then walk away now. The build is part of the fun. But you need to follow the excellent instructions and invest in a set of good gloves as some of the parts, whilst not sharp, can be tight and need a bit of force to get them together (and apart) when you need it.
I’ve assembled and disassembled the antenna a few times now and haven’t quite made it in 10 minutes. More of a ratsnets of wires. This will undoubtedly get better as I develop the system a bit better.
All in all Christian, DL1ELU has produced a really handy antenna that hasn’t caused the xyl to complain and has improved my set up both at home and portable.