Super-sizing the “cheap Yagi” (Part 1)

One of the frustrations of doing VHF on the cheap is getting enough gain to make your low-power signal loud (or simply being heard) at the other end.  I had a couple of options with my 6-element WA5VJB “cheap Yagi” on 2 meters:

  1. Increase the height of the antenna. This is impractical at the present QTH without installing a tower.  Actually, the tower would have been possible but I wasn’t ready shoot first and ask questions later with it.  Nor was I ready to have my folks spring some Rohn 25G out of storage in their garage for the trip here when I had the opportunity (a truck bringing some furniture from them).
  2. Run lower-loss cable. I have regular old RG-8 (PE dielectric) running up to the antenna.  It’s only about a 50-ft run.  So, I’d be hard-pressed to do a lot better.  I did figure out how to recycle improperly-installed N-connectors for LMR-600 from a dumpster-diving excursion.  Although I have twenty-some connectors, I haven’t yet secured any scraps of LMR-600 to use.  This is a future consideration.  At $1.50/ft, LMR-600 would still cost $75.  No deal.
  3. Stack multiple 6-element antennas. This is actually a good idea that I’m keeping in the back of my head for the future.  It would be nice to do something like this.  Maybe some day.
  4. Launch a rocket to do a chemical release whenever/wherever I needed a sporadic-E layer.  Unfortunately, you can’t launch rockets over land.  (Update:  I was reminded later that this is not 100% correct.)  Furthermore, at a megabuck per shot, it’s not cost-effective.
  5. Dispense with the 6-element design and go for something bigger.

I elected option #5.

The first step was to consider suitable designs.  I tried scaling the 11-element 432-MHz cheap Yagi to 144-MHz.  Fail.  A NEC model showed that the pattern stunk and the input impedance was pretty far from 50 ohms.  Knowing that W5UN had built an array of wood-boom antennas for his EME setup, I looked into readily-designed options.

The ARRL Handbook (1993 edition for reference) and ARRL Antenna book (18th edition) have the K1FO optimized Yagi designs in them.  This antenna has been around for a number of years (clearly) and is available commercially from Directive Systems.  It seemed like a relatively good choice.  So, I moved forward with it…

Ethan Miller, K8GU, is a regular contributor to and writes from Maryland, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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