An Effective Small Antenna

Some years ago, I became very frustrated with the “long wire in the attic” antenna. I was at a local electronics store and saw the MFJ-1796 “vertical dipole” antenna. It wasn’t very expensive (<$200 these days, less then) so I bought it. Over the years I’ve been very pleased with. However, when I dropped it last year anticipating a hurricane that didn’t come, it didn’t hold up to the stress very well. But as a testament to how pleased I’d been with it (it lasted over 10 years), I bought another one. To my surprise the antenna has been somewhat redesigned and I think this one will last even longer than the last one because the “problem area” in the old one has been redone.

I’ll explain more, but first some “vital statistics.” The antenna covers 40m, 20m, 15m, 10m, 6m, and 2m. No WARC bands (although you can use a tuner to operate on the WARC bands, it won’t be as satisfactory as you’d like). The whole thing is 12 feet tall! As you can see there is a “side piece” which is fairly short, making the thing shaped like an L. Those things poking out are capacitor spokes — just stiff wire. The antenna uses end loading (no traps). What makes this antenna different from most other verticals is that it is a dipole — it is center fed and has two elements, so you don’t need ground radials or a super earth ground. And at 12 feet, you can hide it anywhere.

I should explain about the 12 feet though. When I first read about this antenna, I figured 12 feet would easily hide behind my house. However, they suggest you mount the antenna up out of reach of pets and people to avoid RF burns. So I sunk a piece of TV mast into the ground and “guyed” it with some tent stakes, a hose clamp, and 3 lengths of nylon rope. So the total height is about 19 feet in my installation.

Installation is pretty easy, especially if you have help. The old antenna had a machined collar for the capacitor spokes that corroded and became unservicable over time. The new one, however, has two simple plates and stainless hardware, so it should be easier to maintain.

Tuning the antenna can be a little tricky, although even with it untuned (and using a tuner) it did a fine job.

Does it work? You bet. Even with the crummy propagation I’ve worked Serbia, Switzerland, and a host of other DX. Working stateside is a breeze.

If you really have to hide the thing, you might consider mounting it horizontally in your attic. Or better yet get the MFJ-1775 which looks like the same antenna without the “L” shape and made to mount horizontally.

With these antennas I’d think almost anyone can find a way to get a decent antenna up.

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