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.


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