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Wire antenna wire gauge

Drivewire

Newbie
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Messages
4
Location
Hagerstown, MD
Greetings, all:

New here and learning. I've been trying to improve my SWL with my Sangean ATS-909 and since the reel antenna that came with it helps, I'd like to add a longer wire. Tried a few times but my solder skills are rough and my latest attempt failed entirely. Does anyone have suggestions on what gauge to use? I tried maybe 22 gauge/ 50 foot in the past but felt maybe the receiver could not handle the length. Currently I tried 18 gauge and maybe 65 foot but no luck at all. And it is properly mounted with insulators and what I thought was a good soldered lead in wire and the correct plug. Maybe there is a limit to the length?
Thanks for the ideas. When it works it does pick up some good distant signals.
Cheers.
 

WA8ZTZ

Member
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Feb 23, 2014
Messages
601
Wire gauge really shouldn't matter all that much. Either the #18 or #22 should be fine. Looks like your radio has an external antenna jack for SW use, make sure you are using a stereo mini plug with the antenna connected to the tip and ground (if used) connected to the sleeve. A 9:1 balun would help to match antenna impedance to the radio impedance. Lots of info available on the internet for use of an external antenna with your radio, check it out. Be safe, use proper lightning protection.
 

prcguy

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The National Electrical Code has rules for receive only antenna wire size used outdoors. I think its for strength so the wire doesn't break and fall.

For runs less than 35ft they specify 19 AWG copper or aluminum alloy or use 20 AWG copper-clad steel, bronze, or other high-strength material.
For runs than 35 feet long but less than 150 feet long use 14 AWG copper (or 14 AWG aluminum alloy) or use 17 AWG copper-clad steel, bronze, or other high-strength material.
For runs longer than 150 feet use 12 AWG copper (or 14 AWG aluminum alloy) or use 14 AWG copper-clad steel, bronze, or other high-strength material.
 

WA8ZTZ

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Feb 23, 2014
Messages
601
The National Electrical Code has rules for receive only antenna wire size used outdoors.
Correct, however, it sounded as if the OP was interested in merely extending in the portable reel antenna that came with the radio.
Such an antenna would probably be of a temporary nature.
A permanent antenna would, of course, need to comply with proper installation techniques involving safety, lightning protection, etc.
 

ab3a

Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2007
Messages
314
Location
Lisbon MD
The advice above is all good.

The ATS-909 is a good receiver, though there are slightly more sensitive receivers out there. The extra length may help you.

One thing you should be aware of is that your home has lots of RF noise in it. To avoid that noise, go outside to a park. You'll be surprised at how much more you can hear. I take a radio with me when I go camping. Laying in a hammock at night, listening to the radio is a joy. There are no LED lights, Fluorescent light ballasts, computers, etc.
 

Drivewire

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Jul 25, 2019
Messages
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Location
Hagerstown, MD
Thanks for the advice everyone and much agreement on post from ab3a. Been listening to radio like that for many years. Just need better antenna right now. No noise and no people either. When I lived out in the sticks... well I'll save that story for later.
Thanks again.
Cheers.
 

Drivewire

Newbie
Joined
Jul 25, 2019
Messages
4
Location
Hagerstown, MD
And just to be sure (newbie here) I need to solder to the small tab that appears to be on the left side in the photo?
73836
I know it is difficult to see but it is the smallest tab on there. Thanks again.
 

cmdrwill

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Mar 30, 2005
Messages
3,255
Location
So Cali
I need to solder to the small tab that appears to be on the left side in the photo?
Yes that is the Tip pin on the plug. You may also use a ready made up cable and cuting the cable and twisting the center pin lead and antenna wires together,
 

n5ims

Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2004
Messages
3,681
Antenna wire gauge has only minimal impact on the strength of signal it will pick up (more on this later), the more important impact is length of the antenna based on the signal's frequency and antenna design (and this isn't always use xxx length for this frequency). The larger the diameter of the wire, the more broad band the antenna will be (within limits naturally). The larger the wire, generally the stronger based on the same type of wire (soft copper will be weaker and stretch more and more prone to breaking while copper weld - copper over a steel core - will be much stronger and less prone to stretching or breaking). Also it really doesn't matter if the wire is insulated or not since the typical insulation used on wires do not affect RF energy significantly.

It sounds like you're planning on making an "end fed random wire antenna" which basically states that the length is pretty much what wire you have on hand or will fit where you plan to install it. These can be very good antennas, but performance can be hit-or-miss. That is that it may work on some parts of the SWL frequencies quite well while working poorly on others (and if your luck is like mine where it works, nothing of interest is and where it's dead is exactly where you want to listen). There are ways to better your chances though. If you can get (or borrow) an antenna analyzer it can help you tune the antenna to perform well where you want it to. You want the analyzer to indicate a better match there and not worry how it works where you won't be listening. This can be done by trimming or adding wire to move the sweet spot around.

Using a balun is also recommended since it is a pretty easy way of changing the feed point impedance to better match your radio. You want it to match as close as possible for best results. The issue is generally what balun to use. Basically a 1:1 (read one to one) basically just works as an isolation device or used to match a balanced antenna to an unbalanced feed line (or vice-versa). A 2:1 will, for example, change a 100 ohm load to a 50 ohm line (or vice-versa), 4:1, a 200 to 50, etc. Your radio specs should indicate what impedance it expects and the analyzer will help with the antenna side.
 

Drivewire

Newbie
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Jul 25, 2019
Messages
4
Location
Hagerstown, MD
Re-soldered the antenna connector and now it works very well. If I measured correctly the antenna is about 65 feet long. And it is an end fed random wire antenna as stated above. Thanks for the info and help. I've thought abut an antenna tuner at times but only recently do I have the physical space for the antenna. I could possibly install one closer to 100 feet but will wait a spell. A balun is a good idea and should be the next component. Thanks again.
 

prcguy

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So Cal - Richardson, TX - Tewksbury, MA
I've worked in Hagerstown at the satellite teleport there. If that's not in the sticks, then I don't know what is...

Thanks for the advice everyone and much agreement on post from ab3a. Been listening to radio like that for many years. Just need better antenna right now. No noise and no people either. When I lived out in the sticks... well I'll save that story for later.
Thanks again.
Cheers.
 

W5lz

Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2019
Messages
295
The length of the antenna plays a big part in how well you hear a particular band/frequency. The antennas diameter isn't critical at all, until you get into the 'feet' range rather than fractions of an inch range. A random length antenna's input impedance is super variable. Unless you have some idea of what it actually is on some particular band, how can you know what 'size' balun to use? And a balun with a random length antenna is almost a complete waste of time. A good tuner makes a lot more $ense...
 

WQ2H

Life below 138 kHz
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Jan 14, 2016
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17
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FN32xv
I've often thought "wire" is one of the most complex subjects around. :)

I use mostly 12 AWG (my favorite is Flexweave 545) for mostly everything: loops, dipoles, and random end-feds. We get a lot of ice here in Cow Hampshire and long runs of 14 seems just on the hairy edge of supporting a few hundred pounds of ice.

Here's a great site if you'd like to investigate technical data further:. Good luck!

73
Jim, WQ2H / WK2XAH
 

W5lz

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Feb 28, 2019
Messages
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I usually get 14 AWG. Never seen enough snow/ice around here to break it yet but there's always a first time I guess. That ice/snow gets the trees instead! That wire is also usually jacketed (THHN?), mainly 'cuz finding bare wire isn't that easy in the lengths I want. I've also used a few different sized wire in one antenna. Didn't have enough of one size. It made no difference as far as I was able to tell. I've also found that using pink jacketed wire works best. Nobody ever thinks they've seen a pink wire in the air. Just tell'em they got the sun in their eyes. It even works sometimes...
 

prcguy

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I had a 94ft ZS6BKW dipole in some trees made of 14ga stranded copper wire for a remote radio near Boston. A storm came through and ripped up the antenna like it was made of kite string from the trees swaying. I made a new ZS6BKW using Davis RF "high strength aerial wire" which is 12ga 19 strand steel cable with copper plating. So far its still there and there has been quite a few storms since the upgrade.
 

cmdrwill

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Messages
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Location
So Cali
12ga 19 strand steel cable with copper plating.
Good stuff for wire antennas.

So, what IS the better wire or element material RF wise. Copper IS a very good conductor but corrodes and is not well suited for radials like a discone or ground plane?
 

prcguy

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Copper is a really good conductor only being surpassed by silver, gold and a maybe few exotic metals like platinum or rhodium. Since RF would be traveling mostly on the skin of the conductor you can have a plated steel wire for strength and the lower resistance of copper plating on the surface will work basically the same as solid copper wire for RF.

You can use insulated copper clad steel wire for antennas where the insulation will protect the copper plating from oxidizing for some amount of time. For structural elements like ground plane radials or Discone elements, aluminum is just fine. Avoid stainless steel, its got a lot of resistance.

Good stuff for wire antennas.

So, what IS the better wire or element material RF wise. Copper IS a very good conductor but corrodes and is not well suited for radials like a discone or ground plane?
 
Last edited:

cmdrwill

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Mar 30, 2005
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Location
So Cali
Thanks, but finding copper plated steel rod for ground plane elements may be difficult. Your thoughts on brass rod?

Welding rods?
 

prcguy

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You can look up the electrical resistance of most metals like brass, aluminum, steel, etc, and I would not go with anything that has more resistance than aluminum for structural elements. Since RF is traveling on the outer surface of the metal, any additional resistance will have more loss at RF compared to DC or very low frequency AC that is using more cross section of the conductor.

Thanks, but finding copper plated steel rod for ground plane elements may be difficult. Your thoughts on brass rod?

Welding rods?
 

iMONITOR

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Sep 20, 2006
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6,794
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MACOMB, MI.
The advice above is all good.

The ATS-909 is a good receiver, though there are slightly more sensitive receivers out there. The extra length may help you.

There are no LED lights, Fluorescent light ballasts, computers, etc.
Or wives! :cool:
 
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