Tower Guy Tension – You do check it regularly?

All tower owners should regularly inspect their complete tower system – guys, guy anchors, guy wires, tower base, section bolts, turnbuckles, etc – the complete tower system. Before I climb, I visually check all I can see. When I climb, I check section bolts. And about once a year, I check guy tension and adjust as needed.

10 Feb 2021NW GuyNE GuyS Guy
Top 1/4″292928
Mid 3/16″191818
Bottom 3/16″202019
Using Loos Model PT-2, I adjusted my guys to these tensions

This process led to me emailing Tim W3YQ to ask his thoughts. Here is the reply:

Well, here’s my thoughts.  Plumb is much more important than guy wire
tension – within reason.  To have a tower in plumb, the whole
structure is in compression.  It won’t fail.  Just like a pencil – you
can’t smash it with a downward force, but you can snap it by bending
it in the middle.

I know of only two ways to plumb a tower.  The first, best, and
easiest is to set up two transits; 90 degrees apart.  Sight both
transits to the bottom of the tower then move up to the first guy
level.  Get the tower straight up to that point.  I usually use the
width of a Rohn tower leg as my “good enough” standard.  If the
tower’s way out of plumb, you might have to mess with the other two
sets of guy wires simultaneously.  Sometimes it’s really hard to pull
that first guy wire set in when the rest of the tower is fighting you.
 Once the lowest set of guys is done, move up to the next set.

The tension of the three guy wires of any level will (almost) never be
equal.  The only time that would occur is if you were on a perfectly
flat plane and your guy anchor points are exactly on the money.
Theoretical but not practical.  Someone who adjusts all three guy
wires to equal tension almost certainly have a crocked tower.  Don’t
worry about guy tension.  Go for plumb.  Use the tension gauge to help
you get things set “close” to the suggested tensions.  Err on the side
of loose instead of tight.  That 10% rule is a guideline and it’s
purpose is to prevent the guy wires from galloping.  They’ll do that
in the wind if they’re much too loose.  Loose guy wires, again within
reason, exert less force on the structure.  Yes, when you climb, there
will be a little more movement with loose guy wires, but the tower is
not going to fall over.  Too tight, on the other hand, is exerting an
extreme downward force on the tower.  True that if you’re perfectly in
plumb it won’t collapse, but why go there.  So just use your Loos
gauge as a guide.  Never go above the 10% value on any guy wire, but
try to get close to that value on the one that needs the most tension.
 Then adjust the other two guy wires for plumb and not tension. I
usually check the tension of all three and I generally find that
they’re way off from each other.  That’s OK.

The second method:  It IS possible to plumb by attaching a small rope
at each guy level, one at a time.  Center it in tower, hang it down
through the middle of the tower, and attach a weight at the bottom.
Then stick a bucket of water for the weight to rest in.  I guess you
call that a plumb bob.  The water keeps the weighted rope from
swinging.  It’s kind of a PITA, but it works. 

So, this led to me purchasing a transit and acquiring another to be able to properly do “Method One” above. Once all the components arrive, I’ll post an update on the project.

CST Berger model 136

Boom + Microphone + Mount <$90

A year ago I wrote about my Christmas 2018 “self-gift”, the pair of JBL Control 2P powered monitor speakers that I integrated into my shack with a Mackie 1202-VLZ Pro. This continues to be enjoyed in my shack because I can listen to multiple sources without being tethered by a headset cord.

Similarly, I’ve been tethered by headset cord to all my microphones because they are all headset mikes. For some time, I had desired an articulating boom + microphone setup. However, I did not want to pay for brand new equipment just to try something out, and I wasn’t really sure how or where I would mount it to not be in the way when not using it.

I had read on the Elecraft reflector some interesting commentary about brands of microphones. As the K3 has a built-in transmit equalizer, it seemed the consensus leaned away from the brand that is marketed as the elite microphones for ham radio. I studied some other brands and the frequency response and cardioid patterns of several microphones.

Shure PGA 48 response charts

Soon, I found one that I was willing to buy and try. I found a new condition, open box Shure PGA48 with a 15-ft XLR cable and mic clip on eBay for $33 to my door.

What’s in the box.

At the same time on eBay, I found a used mic boom, Heil PL2 missing the cable covers and any type of mount, for $50 to my door. Tiny zip ties will hold the cable just fine.

The items arrived, and I was left with figuring out a way to mount the boom. An ‘ah-ha’ moment struck, and a simple solution was found. My radio desk has a brace under the tabletop in just the right place. I drilled a 5/8″ hole through the tabletop and into the 2×4 brace for a total depth of 2 inches. After vacuuming the shavings out, I pressed a steel sleeve bushing O.D. 5/8″, I.D. 1/2″, Length 1-1/2″ ($3 at the local hardware store) into the hole, creating a flush-mount for the boom to sit in. It works perfectly!

$3 steel sleeve bushing O.D. 5/8″, I.D. 1/2″, Length 1-1/2

Next was to listen to how I sounded with the existing TX EQ settings in the K3. I had a set of “rotating” TX macros set up to allow me to quickly step through five different TX EQ settings.

RAG-1 TE+06+06+00+06+00+04+08+12;MN110;SWT24;SWT21;SWT14;
RAG-2 TE+00+00+10+04+04+06+08+12;MN110;SWT27;SWT21;SWT14;
DX TE+00+00+00-06+00+04+08+12;MN110;SWT29;SWT21;SWT14;
VERY-DX TE-06-06+00-06+00+04+08+12;MN110;SWT33;SWT21;SWT14;
FLAT TE+00+00+00+00+00+00+00+00;MN110;SWT13;SWT21;SWT14;

After transmitting at 0.1 watts on 10m and listening via another K3 on a distant beverage antenna, I have settled on these as my initial settings for the new microphone:

SHURE TE-16-14-04+00+02+04+08+12;MN110;SWT34;SWT21;SWT14;
SHURE-DX TE-16-16-10-06+04+06+08+12;MN110;SWT32;SWT21;SWT14;

Yesterday afternoon, I enjoyed many casual QSOs on 17m and 20m using the completely “untethered” accessories. I even experimented with VOX and improved the settings to work effectively with the Shure mic.

And here it is! Boom + Microphone + Mount <$90

Summary: This is a worthwhile purchase and it will enhance my casual operating enjoyment.

Fresh Paint!

In late October 2020, I realized that the paint in the shop, shack, kitchen and bathroom was now 10 years old, and had endured rearing 4 young children. It was time for fresh paint. But instead of exclusive flat white, I got courageous and asked for suggestions from my wife Sharon KW5MOM and my adult daughter Jordan KF5GDJ.

They both suggested adding some real color to the mix, which I gladly obliged. The results were far better than I could have anticipated, and I love the colors in the entire shack area. It’s actually hard to believe what a difference it made!

Finished the project with 4 coats of clear concrete sealer on the floor.

Guests to the W5WZ ham station are immediately welcomed into a full kitchen.
The kitchen is immediately adjacent the radio room, which houses 4 operating positions. Visible in the background are positions C and D.
The kitchen is immediately adjacent the radio room, which houses 4 operating positions. Visible are positions A, B and C.
Overview of the 4 operating positions at W5WZ.
Looking from the radio room into the kitchen, the convenience of proximity is obvious!
Immediately behind positions C & D lies the test bench and the bath / laundry room door.
A new world map shower curtain adds a nice touch.
Grey wall for an accent
Christmas gift from my youngest daughter Logan KF5MTH.

2020 Station Improvements

Added two new beverage receive antenna – southeast and southwest.

  • Southeast is 580 feet long.
  • Southwest is 480 feet long.

Installed them both 2 feet above the existing beverages for NE and NW using PVC pipe as a vertical standoff.

Improved beverage transformer and terminations by having printed circuit boards made, and placing inside enclosures, rather than leaving exposed to the weather. Gas discharge tubes to help protect from surges due to lightning strikes. DC blocking capacitor also included on feed point. Thanks to Steve, VE6WZ for the inspiring YouTube video, along with the KiCad files to get started!

Built a home-brew EZ-Way Wonder Post to ground-mount the EZ-Way Tower that had been on my utility trailer as a portable tower. This 50 foot tower will be used for 6 meters, 2 meters and 70 centimeters. I rebuilt a Ham-II rotator for this project.

From the EZ Way brochure
Home-brew EZ Way Wonder Post, using 6-inch diameter Schedule 40 galvanized pipe. Five feet of pipe is in the ground, with vanes at bottom and just below ground level.
  • 6-meter antenna is a Hygain VB-66DX – 6 elements on a 24-foot boom.
  • Don’t yet know what will go up for 2m and 70cm.
Freshly installed EZ-Way tower on the left. On the right is home-brew tilt-over tower, 45-feet tall with 5-elements on 30-foot boom for 17 meters. At the center, 225 feet way from the camera is Tower #1.
The big project of 2020 was building the 80-meter 4-square.

Implemented an EA4TX INTERLOCK to keep us honest in M/S and M/2 contesting.

Remodeling the shack

After nearly 10 years, I decided to change the layout of the 3rd and 4th positions in the shack. The mult station had been under the stairs, the the 3rd station on a very small table. Additionally, all 4 computers were replaced. And I decided to identify the stations by letter, from left to right, rather than by number.

I’ve had a Mackie 1202-VLZ Pro sitting on a shelf for years. For Christmas 2018, I bought a gift for myself – a pair of powered JBL Control 2P monitor speakers, and integrated the mixer and the speakers into the shack. Connected the K3 at A, the K3 at B, and the computer at B (my main single op and “work” computer) to the mixer. This has really improved my enjoyment of shack time. I can listen the the bands without being tethered to headphones; I can listen to music from my computer; shack guests can hear the action; the list goes on. I’ve told some of my ham friends that this single change has had a bigger impact on my shack time enjoyment than anything else I’ve ever done!

At position A, I added a vertical dual monitor stand. The EA4TX interlock will sit on a shelf between position A and position B. The desk remains unchanged.

Left to right, operating positions A and B.

It was a different story at the other end of the shack. I had a desk that my father had built for me when I was in 4th grade. It was somewhat custom built for a old 19-inch black-and-white TV, my Commodore Vic 20 computer, and an Atari 2600. I replaced the table top when I became a ham, making it longer and deeper. A removable hutch on top was still functional. Letting go of some sentiment, I took the desk out of the shack, but kept the hutch to use on the table top under the stairs.

Several years ago, after I custom-built my L-shaped desk for A and B, my friend WW5RC (ex:KC5WA) had me build a nearly identical desk for him. He recently moved into a retirement apartment, and had to downsize. He offered me first refusal on the desk I built. So, with a modification to utilize what I needed, the desk built by me returned home for position C and position D.

Left to right, operating positions C and D.

Dual vertical monitor stands were added, and new computers also installed. An Astron RS-70M supplies power.

I think the next remodel project will be to epoxy the floor- the bare concrete is constantly dusty and gritty.

Station Maintenance Oct 11 & 12, 2019

Over time, things up in the air change! I’d put together an ambitious to-do list!

Towable 55-foot reach aerial lift. Electric, runs on self-contained batteries. Cost $375 for the weekend.

Bobby WM5H and I rented a 55-foot aerial lift, because the 40-meter feed point is 12 feet away from the tower. With Bobby as ground crew and Scott in the bucket, we were able to complete:

  • Repair 40-meter Yagi at 52-feet above ground. Problem was a fried balun connector.
  • Repair 15-meter Yagi at 52-feet above ground. Problem was loose hardware connecting hairpin to driven element.
  • Use lift to rework 17-meter tower
    -Add back stay.
    -Secure new hard line and control cable to tower, leaving loop for tilt-over.
    -Replace rotator loop feed line.
  • Use lift to cut down storm-damaged ash tree in sections. This was more of a chore than expected.
  • Trim a large pine tree behind shop, strategically leaving limbs for easy wire antenna support. Installed a pulley at 55 feet above ground on a limb.
  • Install new 580-foot beverage wire for SW direction
  • Install new 580-foot beverage wire for SE direction
W5WZ accessing 40-meter feed point. The 15-meter feed point is first element on the left side of the tower along the same boom
Fried female UHF connector for the input of the 40-meter 1:1 balun at the feedpoint. The balun was a CAL-AV LABS high power bead balun.
Post-repair sweep of the antenna from the main run radio. This is how it is supposed to be!

At the end of the second day, some items remain to be completed:

  • Move 80-meter Inverted-Vee from 77-feet to 105-feet. Extend feed line as required. Tie out ends as required. Modeling by KA5M shows 1-dB gain increase at 20 degrees elevation; should be a worthwhile change.
  • Build new 160-meter ground plane vertical with elevated radials in new location. Tie top support rope off near top of tower. Run hard line as feed line to new feed point.
  • Re-arrange several wire antennas supported by trees. Replace string with new antenna rope.
  • For the two new beverage antennas, run feed line on the ground. Drive 2 ground rods, install transformer and feed point termination.

Modify AL-1200 HV power supply

WARNING – LETHAL VOLTAGES!!! DO NOT ATTEMPT WITHOUT PROPER SAFETY PRECAUTIONS!!! I’m not responsible for what you do with this information!

The Ameritron AL-1200 has a 3,600v power supply. Its filter capacitor bank of eight, 270mF 450vDC runs right at the limit of its design (8 x 450 = 3600). A common modification is to add two additional capacitors, along with the needed bleeder resistors, to increase the filter bank capacity to 4,500v. Keep in mind that the transformer still puts out 3,600v, so this modification essentially allows the components in the filter bank to have some overhead capacity.

W8JI and W7RY both offer a replacement PCB designed for 10 capacitors. W1QJ described the way he modified an AL-1200 for W2RE. I choose to adopt the W1QJ method, and will show how I did it here.

The modification involves adding two capacitors in series with the existing capacitor chain, with a bleeder resistor across the terminals of each capacitor. I’ve done this by constructing a small PCB that I’ve added to the amplifier. Then, move two HV wires, cut a HV trace and add a jumper for the metering, and add a jumper to complete the HV series circuit.

Conceptually, this is the modification. I’ve omitted the additional bleeder resistors on the drawing, but they are required! The existing bleeders are desoldered on one end to allow me to test them. The one on the far left had failed completely open, thus causing the capacitor to “tick”. That’s what has led to this modification. I had replaced all the caps and bleeders only five years ago.
Here’s my first test fit of the additional PCB. Note the markings on the board indicating the bleeder resistors, capacitor polarity, jumper to complete the series circuit, and destination for the 2 HV wires to be moved, and the new HV metering jumper.
The completed modification and reassembled amplifier.

Hams love aluminum!

Hams love aluminum! This arrived for me on Valentines Day!

Force 12 mono-band yagi for 17 meters
5 elements on a 30 foot boom

Super excited to get it assembled and up on a tower!

W0AIH SK after fall from his tower

 From Gerry, W1VE.  More information will follow:

“10/31/2018 – Paul Bittner, W0AIH fell 60 feet from the Strum tower (40m). (It was) a beautiful day and he wanted to get ready for SS SSB. No services information yet obviously and the shock has still hit me.  Please pass the word. Thanks.”

I last saw Paul at Dayton 2017 with my daughter Jordan KF5GDJ.  K8CX took a great photo of us.  He was a kind man, always pleasant to be around. 
–Scott, W5WZ

W0AIH, KF5GDJ, W5WZ at Dayton 2017. Photo by K8CX


Replaced Display Unit in FT-1000MP

Recently, one of my FT-1000MP exhibit an odd thing on the display tuning bars. Notice the leftmost letters don’t display. The bars stay like this in all modes, both receive and transmit.

Failed Display Unit in FT-1000MP

The Yaesu guy, WA4GEG suggested replacing the entire Display Unit.


About 7 years ago, I bought an ‘MP for parts. Luckily, it still had a working display unit.

Earlier this evening, I made the swap. It took about an hour start to finish. Once again, I have two working ‘MPs.