Topband: Seasonal Deployable Ground System

PaulKB8N at PaulKB8N at
Tue Nov 1 11:41:08 PDT 2011

Many topbanders pull their radials up at the end of the Topband season in  
the Spring, and re-deploy them in the Fall.  I've tried laying thin-wire  
radials and have had troubles with the dog catching his nails on the wires, or 
 digging them up.  Occasionally, I've had trouble with the mower or  
weed-whacker catching them and making a mess.
I've found a good way to create a deployable radial system.  This may  have 
been mentioned before, but if so, I've not found any reference to  it.
I've found that using heavy old rubberized cords, like those used on vacuum 
 cleaners or old two conductor extension cords, make very good temporary 
and/or  seasonal radials.  The wire is typically heavy and large in  size.  It 
can be pulled into a straight line or curved to avoid trees and  other 
obstructions and lays flat wherever you put it. If you find some  that are black 
or brown, once deployed, it is unlikely you'll even see  them. The dog 
doesn't mess with it, and it stays put even though he runs around  and over it 
all the time.  
Where do you find this stuff in quantity?  First of all, check your  junk 
boxes and at swap meets.  In addition to power cables, speaker cables  and 
mic cables work. I'm a musician and hoarded  hundreds of feet  of usable round 
black cable in a plastic tub in the garage.  I  had managed to gather about 
300' of usable mic, speaker and electrical  cable, all with a heavy but 
flexible round rubber exterior, that I fashioned  into 6 - 50' radials.  Then I 
went to eBay and found a 250' spool of  shielded, two conductor 16ga cable 
with a heavy rubber sleeve for  around $60, which I will use for another 4 
radials and use the rest for my music  needs.  10 radials at 50' each is not 
a lot, but it will be far better than  any "permanent" system I've had.
You lay them down.  They stay.  You don't trip on them.   They lay flat and 
don't get caught in the mower or weed eater.  Their  weight will drop them 
into the grass and the XYL will hardly notice.  Move  your antenna?  Just 
tug them to the new location.  Best of all,  they come up easy, coil up nicely 
for future use, and will probably survive at  least as many winters and 
summers as we will.  Old coax cable is another  option, but is not as flexible 
and as easy to lay down.  I always check  continuity on any cable I make and 
connect and solder all the conductors  together at each end.
A small ground system is certainly a compromise, but small lots don't allow 
 full-sized systems.  This is a good compromise, IMHO.
Secret garage sale note:  Old vacuum cleaners usually have a very  durable 
and flexible 30' or longer cord attached.  Buy them for a couple of  bucks, 
clip the cord, and drop the rest off at Goodwill.  The guy at  Goodwill 
tells me they have plenty of replacement cords, its one of the few  things that 
rarely breaks on a vacuum.
Paul, K5AF

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