The N6TV stack, before
The N6TV stack, after. The old 80m dipole at the top is gone, replaced by a new Force 12 Sigma 180S 80m antenna with Tornado Tuning Drive. The 10m antenna as been moved up to the top of the mast.
Step 1. Rent an 86' boom lift for the weekend.
The boom lift gets its first look at what it is to be working on.
Step 2. Read the instructions.
View of boom lift from inside the garage
JV struggles to figure out how to get control from the bucket. Turns out we had the key in the wrong position.
An 86' boom can reach over a lot of fences
Keith, WE6R, climbs the partially-raised tower to remove the broken Create RC5B-3 rotator
Bang! Good thing he hit the strongest part of the tower. The boom lift moves from side to side way too fast.
Keith, WE6R on the tower, preparing to raise the mast with the Mast Raising Fixture, a permanent hand winch. JV, K6HJU, in the bucket.
Move away from the tower!
Climb a crank-up? No problem for WE6R.
WE6R -- gloveless.
Please don't hit the boom lift!
Yeah, two cars can squeeze by, if they are small.
I think the boom lift looks bigger than the house. The antenna also looks bigger than the house.
A couple degrees of rotation down here translates to a LOT of sideways movement out at the end of the boom lift.
WE6R loosens the old rotator clamps.
K6HJU learning to drive the bucket. It's slow going, but he always ended up exactly where he had to be.
WE6R with the other kind of bucket.
Big bucket and little bucket. WE6R prepares to raise the mast so that he can remove the rotator.
Another shot of big bucket and little bucket. Note the old frayed tape on the 20m and 15m feed points. We'll take care of that last.
First you have to loosen the set screws on the thrust bearing, and of course they're rusted tight. Liquid Wrench helps free them.
Crank on the Mast Raising Fixture, and up goes the 100 lb. chrom-moly mast and all the antennas. A tube at the top of the U.S. Tower HD-589MDPL keeps the mast vertical when loose.
Winch cam is frozen, but eventually frees up and holds the mast and all the antennas up, above the rotator. Far end of winch cable is fixed to the base of the mast with a big bolt, just visible at the bottom.
Hand up the new rotator please.
No rotator here, just clamps.
WE6R bolts the replacement rotator to the rotator plate. It's an identical, unused spare, a Create RC5B-3.
WE6R cinches down the mast clamps. 6 bolts in the new rotator clamp compared to just 4 in the old one.
Please tighten them up good, so the mast won't spin.
Keith, WE6R, after completing rotator replacement. Great job! Large fish net visible behind him is used to keep cable off the ground when crank-up tower is lowered.
Wave to the camera JV.
Threading the big bucket through so many elements was a difficult challenge, but not a single element was bent or broken all day.
Having completed the rotator replacement, tower was lowered all the way down, in preparation for removal of the old Create 80m rotatable dipole at the top, which once again had ceased to function.
Same shot, but zoom out a bit.
Zoom out a bit more, and you can see that we needed every bit of the 75' reach of the 86' boom.
JV successfully maneuvers right into position.
Oops, he's so close to the mast that he can't open the door of the broken 80m switch box to remove it.
K6HJU prepares to remove the old 80m antenna.
Pully set up to take the weight of the old 80 from ground level. I took this and all other shots from the ground, using a Panasonic DMC-FZ20S 5MP digital camera with an image-stabilized 12X optical Leica zoom lens.
Old 80m antenna is loose and held by the pulley.
Threading the old 80m to the ground, through the elements.
WE6R handles the old 80m antenna from roof level.
Almost all the way down. This antenna is 59' long.
WE6R has the old 80m antenna; no problems.
Second tag line made positioning easy.
Fortunately it's not too heavy.
The old Create 80m dipole next to its replacement, a brand new Force 12 Sigma 180S.
Close up view of capacity hat/loading coil on the worn out Create 80m dipole. The Force 12 uses an 18' T-bar for a capacity hat, and no element loading coils.
Comparing the center section of the Force 12 Sigma 180S with the Create 80m dipole. Normally the center of the Sigma 180S would also be insulated from the boom-to-mast plate, but with the Tornado drive you don't need to do that, as the feed point is on the Tornado Drive rather the element. The Tornado Drive is attached to the insulated part of the elements at the two bolts near the edge of the tape. 1.5“ fiberglass rod is protected from UV by electrical tape. (Scotch 130C, sticky side out, Scotch 33+ over that, sticky side in).
Good thing the side gate still swings open. Back yard isn't deep enough for a 59' antenna!
Well, the RCS-8Vs have been up for 18 years. They're rusted on the outside but still working fine on the inside. Yes I should have taped these connectors, but they've had no trouble in 18 years. It doesn't make sense.
The bottom RCS-8V is dedicated to 40 and 15m. Don't know why it's more rusted than the top one, which is dedicated to 80, 20, and 10m.
Trying to remember which cable goes where. Clockwise from top, 80 (one band of tape), 20 (three bands), and 10 (was five bands of tape, but it's a new feedline with a REAL text label on it). There were no nifty Brother label makers back in 1989 when this was installed.
Big Civil Air Patrol salute from Keith, WE6R.
80 is down. Next step, raise the 10m antenna to the top of the mast. Unfortunately, the coax wasn't long enough, so we had to add a 2' extension at the bottom.
Move it up the mast, JV. The new 80m antenna has to go below it because it requires a truss rope (unlike the old 80m antenna, which just sagged).
Move it up some more please.
There you go, now we have room for the new 80m antenna just above the 15m truss cable.
Keith (WE6R) finds a relaxing way to help JV (K6HJU) align the booms.
We had a very tough time getting the truss rope tied tight enough so that it would stretch no more than 2' above the dipole. I finally used a pair of taught-line hitches. I hope they last. This is 3/8“ black Dacron rope.
That's solid metal at the end of the dipole tubing, where the tips are attached, so we drill a 1/16“ weep hole on the bottom of the tube so that condensation will drain.
JV, K6HJU, positioning the first half of the Force 12 “Easy-On” boom-to-mast plate. This sure beats messing with U-bolts while they are attached to a heavy antenna!
WE6R prepares to tie a rope used to raise the new 80m antenna through the elements.
The Force-12 Easy-On Boom-to-Mast plate is in position. Note the short bolt, top center, without a nut. Align the center hole of the matching plate with that one bolt, and it takes all the weight. Then just install 4 more bolts at the corners -- Easy!
Keith, WE6R, with the other half of the Force 12 Easy-On boom-to-mast plate. Top center hole goes over the center bolt mentioned in the previous photo.
The center of the Sigma 180S is 2" swaged aluminum tubing, held with NyLock Nuts and bolts . The 9' tips are quite thin and light, riveted.
We finally came up with the best way to thread the new dipole up and around all those other elements.
It's clear! Now all JV has to do is pivot it around and bolt it to the mast plate.
Easy-On lives up to its name! It's over the center bolt, and easy to pivot.
With a little tilting, the four corners line up, and short bolts complete the job.
K6HJU aligning the holes in the Force 12 Easy-On boom-to-mast plate.
And finally, the Tornado Tuning Drive, a motorized center loading coil designed and built by K6AJ of Seco-Systems, is hung from the element. The B-1 balun is wired directly to the Tornado drive, insulating everything from the mast. The far side of the coils attach via aluminum strips to the insulated element halves.
Instruction sheet for Seco-Systems Tornado Tuning Drive, by K6AJ.
The B-1 balun leads aren't quite long enough for the balun to be taped flush with the boom, but it's not carrying much weight.
"Man vs. The Elements" -- N0AX
Here's the completed Tornado Tuner hanging beside the 80m dipole, with the supplied hairpin matching coil attached across the feed point. JV ended up removing about 5 turns from the hairpin during final tune-up the following day. As pictured, the SWR was 2.5:1 at best. With 5 turns removed, it is 1.05:1 at best. The Tuner was supposed to hang beneath the element, but the mounting screws were on top of the element, so that's where we mounted the Tornado Tuner.
JV, K6HJU, back to Earth, after many hours driving around in an elevated bucket. Guess where he had to go next.
All riggers should look like this.
JV, K6HJU, and Keith, WE6R, tower riggers.
Keith, WE6R takes off for the long drive home to Monterey. Note the license plate on his wife's car.
One final step, install the 18' T-bars (capacity hats) on the 80m element.
Up, up and way, in my beautiful bucket.
Meanwhile, with the antennas rotated 90°, we get a good shot of the Tornado Tuner parallel to the 80m dipole. Boom of old 10m Yagi is at the top of the mast.
Another angle, where you can see what the new hardware will look after another 18 years.
Oh, here's the new rotator. It's just like the old rotator, but shiny (and it actually works).
JV threads the T-Bar (capacity hat) to hang beneath the element. If you put elements on top of a boom, you're doing it wrong (you're fighting gravity).
Centering up the T-Bar, and cinching it down.
One more T-Bar to go. The mounting plate looks lonely.
JV swings the boom out of the way so that I can rotate the antenna 180°.
Reverse angle view of the Force-12 Easy-On boom-to-mast plate and Tornado Tuner. The truss rope for the new antenna is looped through the U-bolt just above.
And finally, there's only one step left: install the final T-Bar.
Install the T-bar here.
Hmm, not looking great mechanically, with that balun floating in the air. Need some ideas.
The boom lift makes threading the 18' T-Bars look easy. It would have been impossible to thread the dipole through all the other elements if the T-Bars were installed at ground level before raising the dipole.
JV, K6HJU, centers and cinches the final T-Bar.
Last U-bolts of the day -- yeah!
Great job, JV!! If you need tower work, call this guy (K6HJU). Tell him N6TV sent you.
A new day. JV has already adjusted the hairpin at the feedpoint of the Sigma 180S , and now the SWR measures <1.2:1 at any resonant point set by the Tornado Tuner between 3.5 and 4 MHz. We trimmed about 5 turns from the 10-turn hairpin that was supplied with the Tornado Tuner.
K6HJU carefully navigates to the 20m feedpoint, a 4:1 coax balun. This modified feed has one advantage: it reduces harmonics compared to the stock HyGain feed.
My favorite shot of the JLG 860SJ boom lift, framed by the trees.
After 18 years in the sun, cheap hardware store electrical tape ends up looking like this. N6BT did the design, construction and installation of this stack in 1989, using HyGain parts and his own modeled designs. Tom apologized for “running out of the good stuff” when taping the 4:1 coax baluns. Out with the old tape and in with the new: Scotch Super 33+, worth every penny.
Before and after: there's new Scotch 33+ tape at the 20m feed point, and original 18-year-old cheap electrical tape at the 15m feed point, being replaced.
At my request, JV moved the Tornado control cable to form a drip loop below the tuner.
The new tape makes everything look good as new. That 10m coax was replaced last year by N6DE, a skinny guy who stood on the 15m boom to do the work. Using a bucket truck is much safer!
Obligatory “up the tower” shot (well, it's nested), showing boom alignment. The Sigma 180S 80m dipole is not visible, as it sits on the other side of the mast to balance things a bit.
All tasks -- cosmetic and otherwise -- fully completed, K6HJU steps off the bucket and onto the roof. Thank you so much JV!