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Short Takes #23: Wild West Roping with the Weaver Arborist

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Author's Note: I originally published this article with much more detail about the antenna installation. For what is probably the first time, we had negative feedback in the attached forum discussion. There was (legitimate) concern that this is not a good example to set for others (using a native Saguaro cactus for the support of a QRP end-fed antenna.) I will respect our readers who want no further references of such installations, whether Saguaro's or Oak Trees and I have since modified the article to reflect this editorial decision.  As always, thank you to readers and forum participants for ensuring this column stays focused on the positive aspects of amateur radio. -- Dave, W7DGJ


Sometimes the easiest sounding solutions for ham radio problems are exactly that . . . easy. That's the way it worked out for me, after trying a lot of different methods to launch QRP wire antennas. Yes, I've launched tennis balls, wrenches and fishing line, but I've never had an easy time of it. In fact, it always seemed to me that the more sophisticated the system, the least success I would have. For example, my buddy Steve (W7DJ) and I used his compressed air tennis ball launcher in my front yard but the highest we got was about ten feet. No matter how sophisticated the device, these gadgets have never failed to disappoint me.

That is, until I got the totally unsophisticated product called the Weaver Arborist (see photo below).

Desert Southwest is Challenging

As reported here in previous "field activation" issues, there really is nothing to compare to the Desert Southwestern USA for difficulty with wire antennas. The trees, bushes and native plants are just generally too low . . . and they are prickly.

But let me rephrase that. The difficulties in the Desert Southwest extend to any kind of antenna. When you experience a type of dirt called "caliche" (which Wikipedia describes as literally "natural concrete") you'll wish that your dreams of moving to the warmer climates of the West had included the purchase of a jackhammer. 

But back to my experience with the Weaver . . . My field activation yesterday was fun because it included my easiest wire antenna installation ever. A few ham friends had recommended this approach to me and I finally took their advice. I bought a 16 oz. Weaver with throw line and bag (you can also get the 20 oz. version) and found that it works exceptionally well even for the novice "thrower." Basically, there are few gadgets you buy that work first time every time, and this is one of them.

How do you use the Arborist? You simply get a good circular swing going and then let loose of that throw weight. For me, I picked the single tallest tree or cactus I could find, settling on a 44' Saguaro at the far end of my property. There's really nothing that you can do to "hurt" a Saguaro, but I'm sure that some tourists or newcomers have found a way. For me, the only damage I've ever done to native plants like the Saguaro is to overwater them or give them "too much love." It's an unusual plant, because if you try and transplant it without considering which direction North is, it's a goner in a year or two. That's right -- the majestic Saguaro knows what it was looking at and wants to be reoriented for the same view.

So, I ask you not to try this at home. That cactus can't really be hurt by a cord or antenna, unless you tried to permanently mount it somehow. I've had parchute cord draped over other cacti in my yard for years, and not a mark remains. Still, based on reader feedback on the first iteration of this article, I don't recommend this as something to be tried again!

Hitting the Mark on Second Attempt

My first toss got me oriented, and I nailed it on the second toss. The spines on the cactus are a perfect testing ground for the Weaver and cord, because anything else is going to get caught up. It is very important to use the special cord which comes with the Arborist. It's smooth -- so smooth that the weight pulls it right down the side of your target like there was nothing there to rub against. The usual parachute cord would have stopped or got stuck a half-dozen times on it's way down. Within five minutes, I had lasso'd my target and carefully put the far end of the end-fed antenna up to the 40 ft. mark for a nice sloper configuration. Our beautiful desert dweller, the mighty Saguaro, didn't seem to mind a bit that he was temporarily supporting a parachute cord across his limb. 

Previous attempts at doing this in my yard at home had always resulted in frustration and the agony of lost tools. (This due to the old "attach wrench to rope and toss over limb" approach which my Elmer had ingrained in me. Our trees, more like bushes really, don't easily give up lost tools.) This process showed that an old dog can always learn new tricks!

The Lab599 Discovery TX500 at Work

I always had an interest in this little Russian radio which has been on the market for about three years. It came out around the time of the ICOM IC-705, and I think that Lab599 was surprised (as was ICOM) that sales were as robust as they were. There have been a lot of them sold, even though they're still a bit hard to find (link here). I bought mine on the used market from a friend who had acquired it for his SOTA exploits. He's up in Colorado and rather well-known for his adventures . . . the TX500 had performed well, he told me. 

I love this radio's ease of use, it's feature set and the fact that it basically gives me just about everything my IC-7300 does in the home shack -- except, of course, it is a QRP radio at 10W maximum output. Acting like a kid with a new toy, I took it out on this activation without even reading the manual (always a mistake). And yet, despite my ignorance, the intuitive nature of the menu system and the available button/switches seemed to allow for that kind of stupidity. The result was an instant success when plugging in my sloper and a small Bioenno 3-amp hour battery (10 volts). The receive quality was excellent, and the filtering system was awesome in comparison to my other QRP radios. (Never mind the fact that the TX500 is twice as expensive at just over $1000). 

I heard a station north of Vancouver in British Columbia (1400 miles) calling CQ and he picked me up immediately despite only 5W output on my new radio. I got a decent signal report and Greg (VA7BC) helped me debug my compression settings so that I sounded a bit more like I do on my IC-7300, which many consider one of the best-sounding stock microphones you can find. A few more QSOs and then I connected to my friend Robert, out of Chicago (N9NUQ) another decent haul for 5W at 1500 miles. Robert had 100% readability on my little signal, a 54, and I passed along a 57 when he swung his beam around to the Southwest. 

I love the form factor on this radio. It's flat, rectangular and at first glance, a bit odd. But it sure works out well in practice, as everything is easy to reach and as I said earlier, intuitive. On the negative side, it has a few proprietary elements requiring adaptors or special accessories, and I always hate anything proprietary. The speaker is in the Mic, which I objected to at first, but as time went on I found it easy to use and can understand the space-saving nature of that design. Looks like my Xiego G90 will be getting the "boot" shortly in favor of this solid chunk of aluminum. By the way, I was on my last QSO when the downpour started and the TX500 worked well, even wet!

Your Thoughts on Paper Magazines Versus E-Versions?

I spent some time yesterday going over issues of CQ Magazine that I'd missed because my delivery stopped with that journal. While the smoke hasn't cleared yet about what happened to CQ, the world knows by now that the ARRL has put digital versions of its magazines into the fast lane. With a subscription increase for the print version, most people will be reading the electronic editions. I know this is necessary because of the costs involved to print and mail. I'm just wondering if I will ever get used to it.

There's something (to me) about reading a magazine -- in my hands -- that just feels right. I can toss it in the car, read it in the Doctor's office or in multiple rooms of my house, and I can pour over the advertisements much easier. It seems to me that the biggest "cost" to the ARRL or CQ or any magazine moving over to digital will be holding their advertisers in place. I pay much less attention to the ads in a digital read than I do in a print edition. My goal with the digital read is to get in and out of that browser as soon as I can, while my print editions end up with dog ears and scribbled notes. Ads get torn out and handed to family members when Christmas time comes around. And, then they get passed along to other ham friends and probably end up with 3-4 readers as opposed to just one.

It's not clear yet what the future of digital media will be or how successfully our favorite magazines will move to digital versions. I won't go a month without reading my QST or On the Air. But I also fear that advertisers are going to be concerned somewhere down the line that they aren't getting their money's worth. That's a concern, as I'm sure that ads are at least as important as subscriber dollars.

73 for now, 


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Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Dave Jensen, W7DGJ, was first licensed in 1966. Originally WN7VDY (and later WA7VDY), Dave operated on 40 and 80 meter CW with a shack that consisted primarily of Heathkit equipment. Dave loved radio so much he went off to college to study broadcasting and came out with a BS in Communications from Ohio University (Athens, OH). He worked his way through a number of audio electronics companies after graduation, including the professional microphone business for Audio-Technica.  He was later licensed as W7DGJ out of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he ran an executive recruitment practice (CareerTrax Inc.) for several decades. Jensen has published articles in magazines dealing with science and engineering. His column “Tooling Up” ran for 20 years in the website of the leading science journal, SCIENCE, and his column called “Managing Your Career” continues to be a popular read each month for the Pharmaceutical and Household Products industries in two journals published by Rodman Publishing.

Articles Written by Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

This page was last updated February 22, 2024 00:38