Saturday, December 19, 2020

Tuning the A3S/A743

Adjusted A3S/A743, ready for rotator.
After adjusting the A3S/A743 on the ground and getting it back on the tower, I was very disappointed to find the SWR dips for each of 10, 15, 20 and 40m were all outside the band. They were all too low. This surprised me. When I measured the antenna with the beam facing upward, the dips were very close to the band. Now that the antenna was on the tower, it was going to be more difficult to adjust.

Rick Dougherty, NQ4I, gave me an important tip. Always measure horizontal antennas horizontally. Don't attempt to make measurements with the antenna vertical. With the antenna 6-8 feet off the ground, you can get a good sense of the measurements, knowing that the antenna will rise in frequency as it moves away from the ground. Generally by about 100-300 kHz at the 30 or 40 foot level. As you move further from the ground, the effect lessons. 

Rick knows his stuff -- he built a superstation in Griffin, GA, and has experienced this phenomena putting up dozens of antennas. 

OK, I didn't follow Rick's belated but sage advice - what should I do now? I didn't want to take the antenna off the tower again, it was a lot of trouble to get it up there in the first place. I decided I could make adjustments similar to how I added the A743 option originally - by tipping the Driven Element (DE) vertically and climbing down the tower.

On the tower adjusting
the now vertical DE.
One the first climb to make adjustments, I could already see part of the problem - some of the DE joints had slipped outward while the antenna was waiting to be installed pointed vertically. The extra weight of the A743 parts probably had something to do with this. 

Loosening the U-bolts for the DE and the support mast, the DE tipped over easily and I was able to climb down the tower and adjust. I had to make some of the adjustments somewhat blind, since I could not easily put a measuring tape against the elements. 

I ended up with the 10m traps out about 83.5" (A), the 10 and 15m traps spaced as 6" (B), and the 15 and 20m traps at 18.75" (C) -- this was the lower limit, since the tubing ends were contacting each other inside the support tube. the 40m portion I extended to about 66". These measurements are for each side of the DE.

This took two climbs, and ended up with the 10, 15 and 40m SWR curves well centered in the bands, and 20m right at the bottom of the band. This isn't perfect, but it is usable. Note I did not make any adjustments to the Reflector or Director, as they are well out of reach.

Next time I set up an A3S/A743, I think I will adjust the 10 and 15m portions to the MID-band settings, and split the MID and CW settings for 20 and 40m. That's roughly where I ended up anyway. 

I'll also consider replacing a lot of those stainless steel worm clamps. After being out in the weather for 30 years, a few of them would not tighten the way I would like. 

The A3S/A743 should be ready to go after one more climb to raise the antenna and install the rotator. I also plan to tweak the support mast a bit higher to keep water from accumulating in the 20m (TK) traps, since that's likely how they failed in the first place. 

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