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Weak Signal VHF by Tim Marek - K7XC
The Fine Art Of Scrounging

Creativity and Elbow Grease go a loooonnng way...

All my life I have had to work very hard for what I own. Weak Signal VHFing is no exception. I got started Back in 1991 with a borrowed IC-211 2M allmode rig, 80W FM brick, The last 7 elements of a KLM boomer, and a aging RV battery to power it all. Quickly it became apparent to work further required more DB's. The most economical method to achieve this is through antenna gain. I began looking at all my old ARRL handbooks and found the NBS yagi designs. Simple, Proven, Easy to duplicate, rugged, "Been around the block" kind of antennas. Not cutting edge by any means but certainly much better than the alternative... Nothing.

From my many years of HF contesting/DXing days I aquired plenty of aluminum stock, Except this time a 1" diameter piece of tubing would be my boom rather than a part of a element. I chose the 2.2WL antenna, 12 elements on a 15 FT boom delivering a claimed 12 DBd (Gain over a Dipole) with a fairly clean pattern (Few sidelobes). I opted for Grounded elements construction (Except for the driven)employing slots and small eyebolts to hold the elements in place. A style of mounting I stole from the piece of KLM boomer, Labor intensive but bullet proof. To insulate the driven element from the boom I used a short piece of a fiberglass mile marker found dead on the side of the road. I think it took 12 hours to complete and tune the antenna. I took it everywhere. It was my primary... Hell it was my only 2M SSB yagi for several years. I worked over 100 Grids, 12 states (including Arkansas- 1433 Miles on meteors), and 4 countries (US, VE, XE, and Italy!) with that antenna. I even mounted it on the rear bumper of my K car and called it my 12 DB Mobile antenna. To this day it is still in use at the home of Jack - W7PW as his only 2M yagi. What did it cost to build it? About $20 bucks, Mainly for hardware and 3/16" element stock. What did I get out of it? Many, many hours of pure fun and the knowledge that if it ever breaks (And it has, more than once) I can cobble it back together with little difficulty.

Multi Mode VHF/UHF radios on todays market can get to be quite pricey. Some top of the line models like the Yaesu FT847, Icom 706mkIIG & Kenwood TS-2000 can new go for as much as $2000. Fortunately, folks like MFJ and Ten Tec have come along with a few reasonably priced alternatives that work quite well. For the vast majority of us though, we're forced to find our gear on the used market where the phrase "Caveat Emptor" or "Let The Buyer Beware" can apply all to regularly. Here is where the True scrounger reveals himself. He can search and search for weeks and will eventually find what he's looking for at a affordable price. How does he do it you ask? Desire, Motivation, Perseverance, and being Observant.

I am always on the lookout for a "Good Deal"... Some of the best sources for me have been (1) Estate Sales, (2) Ham Fests, (3) Internet sites such as Ebay, (4) Local Ham Radio Stores, and (5) Word of mouth.

For Example: My original Rover Station consisted of all old junk. Nothing was newer than 6 years old and most was 10
to 12 years old. The $100 Kenwood TR-9130 2M Allmode & $40 80W Lunar brick were purchased from a estate sale. The Kenwood TR851 70CM Allmode rig was found on a Internet Newsgroup. The Icom 551 6M rig along with a companion 140W Lunar Brick came from my contest partner Dave - W7KK who sold his surplus gear to purchase KW amps for 2M and 70CM. My CW Memory Keyer was rescued from the trash heap 12 years ago (Hit by lightning) and brought back to life. Since then is has been around the world and called "CQ CONTEST" over a million times. There are deals to be had just for the looking. Some are jewels in the rough while others are shinny and new but all can be had for very little if your willing to spend the time looking and maybe invest some "elbow Grease" to revive a piece or two.

You can play this game and be competitive for little cash outlay. It takes alot of creativity, one of the things that initially drew to to "Weak Signal" in the beginning.

Adapt, Overcome, Succeed!