Monthly Archives: January 2013

Tower Install – Day 2 “Base Section”

With most of the foundation excavation completed yesterday, Steve and his helpers concentrated on squaring up and finishing the hole and placing the tower base section. Most of this was done by hand with shovels, with the backhoe assisting as needed to move large rocks and move large quantities of soil.

The next step was moving the base section, which had previously been assembled in the garage, out to the edge of the hole and lowered in place.

Base Base Section

Rather than trying to muscle the base, which weights around 180 pounds, into the hole manually, Steve looped two straps through the cross braces and used the backhoe to lower the base into place at the bottom of the hole.

LoweringBase Lowering the base

This took all of ten seconds and I barely had time to snap a few photos before the operation was done. After the base was in the hole, Steve used pieces of patio pavers and wooden stakes to set the base at the proper height (9″ of the top of the section will be above the level of the concrete) and leveling it so the tower will stand straight. The result looks kind of flimsy, but the entire base (minus the top 9″) will be embedded in 22 yards of concrete, so looks are deceiving.

BaseInHole Base leveled and plumbed

That’s it for today. The next step is building the rebar cage in the hole followed by the concrete pour. Both of those will take place next week sometime, so check back then for the next installment  in this saga.

BackhoeLeaving Bidding adieu to the backhoe

With the tower work done for the day, I retreated to my lab/shack to test the AlfaSpid RAK rotator before it goes up on the tower. Most of this work consisted of soldering the control cable to the 4-pin mic connector. Since two of the four rotator control wires carry motor current, they have to be 14 gauge, which makes soldering them to the small connector tabs difficult. The only thing I hate more than soldering 4-pin mic connectors is soldering 8-pin mic connectors or 8-pin or 13-pin DIN connectors (I think you have to be a Swiss watchmaker to tackle one of those 13-pin horrors.)

After plugging everything in, with the rotator sitting on my workbench, everything came to life when I powered up the controller. The controller itself is a low-profile unit with a single line of 7-segment LED displays. The display normally shows the heading in one degree increments, but also is used for set-up and calibration. The RAK does not have any hard stops — it can rotate a total of 720 degrees and can be calibrated so that any position can be defined as true north (0 degrees).

Another unique feature of the RAK is the modified mouse that’s included as an additional way to control the rotator. It looks like a standard PC mouse, but it’s been modified so that the left and right buttons act as left/right controls, and there are six additional buttons for preset headings. The RAK also has a serial port to allow computer control.

That’s all for now. I’m finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and hope that soon I’ll be on the air cracking DX pileups.


Tower Install – Day 1 “The Big Dig”

This blog will chronicle the installation of my ham radio tower. After operating for 30 years with makeshift wire and vertical antennas, often hidden to avoid the wrath of home owner’s associations, I’m finally free to install a tower and beams. I’m primarily a DXer and I’m looking forward to my transition from little pistol to medium gun on the bands.

After many months of waiting for building permits, equipment, and logistics to be straightened out, installation of my tower finally got underway today. The tower is a 60′ AN Wireless free-standing tower. It will initially have a Hy-Gain TH-7DX tri-band yagi at around 65′. I plan to install several other antennas in the future, but the TH-7DX will be a good start.

The tower was delivered a few weeks ago and has been sitting in my garage awaiting assembly and installation. Steve, K7LXC, came out a few weekends ago to look over the site and gave it the thumbs up. I’ve been accumulating the rest of the materials needed for the install (coax, rotator, antenna, connectors, control cables, thrust bearing, etc.). UPS has been making almost daily deliveries for the past week or two!

TowerPallet Tower sections on delivery pallet

Stockpile Some of the various parts for the project

The major work today is excavation of the 11′ x 11′ x 6′ deep hole for the tower foundation. That’s almost 27 cubic yards of dirt to remove. The work was done using a backhoe–I don’t even want to think how long it would take digging it out by hand. The weather couldn’t have been any better, with clear skies and temperatures in the mid 50s.

Backhoe1 The backhoe arrives with K7LXC at the controls

The backhoe arrived on a trailer, but since our house sits at the top of a steep hill with a few tight switchbacks and no room to turn around at the top, Steve unloaded the backhoe at the base of the hill and drove it up. It was a tight fit around the corner of the house to the site of the tower, but he made it with an inch or two to spare (after removing a fence that blocked access.)

BreakingGround Breaking ground

The dig went quickly with not major issues, except for the “discovery” of the electric wiring to the hot tub you can see in the background. In a battle between a PVC conduit and a few wires, a backhoe will win every time. Just another thing that will need to be fixed some other day.

AlmostDone Almost done

The hole for the tower foundation is about 90% done. All that remains is a little cleanup work to square up the sides and bottom, and then the work of putting the five foot tower base section down in the hole and the building of the rebar cage can begin. Speaking of the base section, it looks like this:

Base1 Base section sitting on its side in the garage

That’s all for today. More to come as the project progresses.