Tower Install – Day 8 “Finishing Up”

I completed most of the outdoor work on Saturday night and all that was left for Sunday was to get the coax and control cables into the shack. In the past, I’ve drilled individual holes in the outer wall for each cable, but this time I drilled a 2″ hole to accommodate a 2″ piece of conduit. That should suffice for my requirements for the foreseeable future without any need for additional drilling.

Drilling the hole with a hole saw was easy, but the hole was slightly too small for the conduit, so I spent the next hour with a rat-tail file enlarging the hole while cursing the salesman at Home Depot who told me that I didn’t need a small drum sander attachment for my drill. After installing the conduit in the hole and caulking the outside joint, I cemented a 90 degree section on the outside with the bend directed toward the ground to keep rain water out (during storms, rainwater hits our house horizontally at times).

Next I cut a piece of coax to size and installed two UHF connectors and shoved one end through the wall and connected it to the Alpha Delta surge protector attached to the ground rod right outside the shack. After waterproofing the connectors with 3M Temflex 2155 ($2.48 for 22 feet at Home Depot as opposed to CoaxWrap at $5.99 for 10 feet at ham stores) and Scotch 33+ tape, I moved on to the rotator cable. Rather than connect the cable coming from the tower directly to the 4-pin connector that plugs into the controller, I used a barrier strip to join the two lines to give me the flexibility to swap the lines around as needed (e.g. if the antenna turns clockwise when I command it to turn anticlockwise).

After some cleanup, I unpacked all of the gear that had been in storage, arranged it on the operating desk, connected all of the cables, and was good to go. After verifying that the antenna turned in the expected direction, I fired up the rig. At first, I listened on 20M with the vertical I had been using previously, just to have some baseline of comparison. I could tell that 20M was open, but I wasn’t hearing too many stations and many of those were just above the noise.

Switching to the TH-7DX was like the difference between night and day. I was now hearing dozens of stations up and down the band and many of them were S9+20. Wow! I was too tired and hungry to spend much time at the radio, but I did work two new countries, one of which was in the middle east, a region I never heard on the vertical in almost two years of operating from this location.

I took a quick rest and dinner break and was back at the rig where the band was still hopping. On the vertical, 20M always closed about an hour after sunset. On the new antenna, it was still going strong at 11:00 pm, over four hours after sunset. I suspect that it’ll probably open a few hours earlier in the mornings too.

No pictures today — I’ll take some of the various pieces later and update this entry.

That’s all for now — I’m off to work Spratly.

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