Masts and Antenna Supports
Antenna supports of some sort are critical to almost every ham installation, even if it your arm that holds an HT to talk on it. Often, the height of the available supports is a significant limiting factor on station performance, especially on the upper HF bands and above.
My focus, as is typical of the rest of this website, will be on simple, practical approaches, particularly for portable operation. I’m not going to talk much about the use of large commercial towers: there is a lot of information in the literature, both from hams and from manufacturers.
As I was setting up the web site, I realized that this section has some of the most important material for making portable operation easy that I have developed and used over the years, specifically:
- how to throw a rope over a tree branch
- how to set up a sectional mast by yourself
- how to coil ropes and wires so they don’t tangle
But first, some philosophy…
- I generally treat antennas and masts (or other supports) as separate items. The mast supports the antenna, and can be used with other antennas (often at the same time). Similarly, a particular antenna can be supported in different ways. I might hang a dipole from an existing tree or flag pole, a telescoping fishing rod, an extendable golf ball retriever, a sectional mast, a hotel balcony, a rock outcropping, or a kite, depending on the current circumstances. So while some hams might modify a mast to work with one particular antenna, I take a more flexible approach, as my operation isn’t as predictable.
- Providing a support is often the most difficult part of setting up an antenna, particularly simple ones. So, rather than taking it down multiple times for tuning, I strongly suggest using some sort of halyard (like the loop of rope on a flag pole) that allows you to raise and lower the antenna from ground level for adjustment / repair / experimentation. There are times when taking down the support is easy enough, but I’ve also seen enough times when a ham has a broken antenna and can’t get the old pole down that it was tied to to fix it.
Let’s divide the discussion into two major parts:
Fixed antenna supports, such as those typically mounted on, or attached to, a house, or otherwise to long and/or heavy to carry conveniently or put up easily.
- suggestions for mast materials
- erecting a tall mast
- buildings as antenna supports
Portable antenna supports, that are typically easy to carry and set up in a limited amount of time.
- Telescoping masts, typically metal or fiberglass
- Sectional masts, and how to install them easily
- Using trees as antenna supports
- using kites, balloons, drones, etc.
Sometimes the categories will overlap, of course.
Other general topics:
- Ropes, knots, and related topics
- Counterweights and stress relievers
- Mast hardware, adaptors, brackets, mounts, etc.
Popular links and projects
How to wind a rope so it doesn’t tangle.
How to set up a sectional mast.
How to use a throwing bucket.