Installing Wire Antennas in trees

SUPPORTS

Before selecting an antenna system, you must first find a place to put it.

Visually survey your property and find out exactly where your right to put up antennas and your neighbor's right to tear them down ends. This sets your limits. If there is an XYL involved, the available space may be artificially restricted even further. If you are fortunate, you may have a neighbor who will permit you to use one of his trees to support an end of your antenna.

NATURAL HIGH

Nature, in its wisdom has favored ham radio with a vast supply of tall, non-conductive, self-maintaining antenna supports - trees. Unfortunately, most neighborhoods seem to want an unobstructed view of utility poles, power lines and other people's houses, so they cut down most of the trees.


Trees are frustrating.


Using trees for antenna supports is a double edged sword. At their very best, trees are frustrating. On a calm day, with your antenna strung from the very top limbs of a couple of well placed, very tall trees, trees are wonderful. However, when our kindly old tree and wind and storms get together to do a little mischief, the combination is a real beast. Treetops whip around and two trees never move in the same direction. When the trees move in opposite directions, the only thing trying to hold them together is your antenna.... the antenna doesn't have a chance. Maybe it's nature's way of seeing just how far your support ropes will stretch before they break. Maybe it's just nature's way of providing a way for trees to get rid of all that junk we hang from them.

Whatever the reason, tree hung antennas require special treatment and installation procedures. Once trees are conquered though, they are worth all the effort and trouble.

Now wait a minute, I'm getting ahead of myself. An antenna can't fall down until after you get it up. Let's look at some ways to get your antenna support rope in the top of a tree.

Methods for getting the support rope up a tree

  1. Tie a light string around a rock and toss it over a convenient tree limb.
  2. If you are a good fly fisherman, you can lob a line over any limb of choice.
  3. A powerful slingshot will put a lightweight fishing sinker and light weight monofilament fishing line about 50 feet up a tree.
  4. The real pros are the archers. Forget picking a particular limb, select a tiny branch all the way up in the top of the tree and an archer will lay a line right over the spot and do it the first time. That's how I put support lines into trees. I admit, I use tournament bow with a good scope, but you don't have to have an $800 bow to get the job done. For years, I used an inexpensive, fiberglass, long bow with cheap arrows. It just took more shots.

One Hint

If you add extra weight on the front of the arrow, it will drag the monofilament or 'Game Tracker' line out of the tree and down to the ground where you can reach it.

ALTERNATIVES

Getting practical, anything that will propel a projectile over the selected limb is what is needed. It can be a sling shot, bow and arrow, baseball, it doesn't matter. So whatever installation method you select, the following suggestions will apply. First be absolutely sure that safety is the major priority.

The small line goes up first

Use light weight monofilament fishing line or something similar as the first line up the tree. A light weight line produces minimum drag on whatever projectile you're hurling over the tree and, ignoring mathematics, this simply means that you can get higher in the tree for the same effort. I use 10 pound test fishing line.

Paying out the monofilament line can be done in two relatively efficient ways. The first involves unwinding enough line off the spool to make the trip up the tree and back down. The line is carefully routed around your meticulously groomed lawn where it can be pulled aloft by the projectile while avoiding a snag that will completely stop the progress of this project. You will not fully appreciate how much junk is on your lawn until you try this method.


... a snag will completely stop the progress of this project.


Having had poor results with the lawn technique, I discovered casting or spinning fishing reels. A rod isn't necessary, but is useful. Select a reel that will hold at least enough line to make it up and down the tallest trees you ever plan to conquer. The line must come off the reel without any drag at all.

The technique here is simple. One person holds the reel (which is attached to something he can hold on to) and you shoot, throw, or whatever, the line over the selected limb.

EZ-Hang

This sling shot system is very popular and makes it easy to get your support rope high in your trees.

Check out the EZ-Hang.

A Better Technique

In my opinion, the best way to get a line into a tree's top branches, well above the climbing level, is to use a bow and arrow and a device called a 'Game Tracker.' With a compound bow and the 'Game Tracker,' you can probably get a line 125 to 150 feet into the air if you have trees that tall.

Often a compound bow is overkill and a 'long bow' or 'recurve' bow with a 40 or 50 pound pull will do the job.


A WORD OF CAUTION:

YOU CANNOT BE TOO CAREFUL WHEN USING A BOW. IT IS A LETHAL WEAPON. SHOULD AN ARROW GET LOOSE FROM ITS TRAILING LINE, IT CAN TRAVEL A GREAT DISTANCE. ALWAYS HAVE A LOOKOUT TO MAKE SURE THE PATH IS CLEAR FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED FEET IN THE DIRECTION OF THE ARROW'S TRAVEL. USE A HIGH TRAJECTORY SO THE ARROW WILL COME DOWN IN YOUR YARD.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I found that my compound, which will launch a target arrow 80 yards with only a few inches of drop, could hurl an arrow over a tree that could travel a city block before touching down. Behind my house is a school yard that was unoccupied at the time. I was using a lookout and nothing was harmed. BE CAREFUL

The Game Tracker

A 'Game Tracker' is a hunting accessory that attaches to a bow. It is a small canister of very light weight, but strong, nylon line. It has practically zero drag on the arrow. You tie the tracker line to your arrow. Though designed to leave a string trail behind recently shot game, this device is perfect for shooting arrows over tree limbs. The only draw back (no pun intended) is the relative high price of the tracking string. It is not reusable. You will aim more carefully once you realize that each shot is costing you a buck. (There I go again with my puns)

A 'Game Tracker' may be substituted for the monofilament line used with other techniques. Its convenience is unequaled. You can find a 'Game Tracker' at most archery or hunting stores. I have searched the Internet will good success and reasonable prices on Game Tracker products.

NEXT UP, A MIDDLE WEIGHT LINE

Once you have your monofilament line or 'tracker' line in the tree where you want it, you will have to pull up heavier lines to hold the antenna. I usually use three steps. The medium-weight line follows the monofilament or 'tracker' line and should be strong enough to pull up the final antenna support line. It cannot be so heavy that it breaks the monofilament line. For my second line, I use lightweight nylon twine or cord. It is strong enough that I can't break it by pulling on it as hard as I can, but it's still very light in weight.

Tie the monofilament or 'tracker' line and the medium-weight, second line together, using knots that will not snag as you pull the lines through the tree limbs. Pull up the medium-weight line.

THE FINAL SUPPORT LINE

The medium-weight line is then used to pull up the final line that will directly support the antenna or pulley system.


There will, of course, be abrasion of the support line's fabric as the tree sways in the wind.


Once you have your final support line over your favorite limb, the task is nearly done. If everything works out OK you'll have one end of your support rope on the side of the tree in the direction of the antenna. The other end of the rope will be somewhere on the other side of the tree near where you started. You simply repeat the procedure in a second tree.

If you have chosen the proper support lines, you will enjoy long and useful service from this installation. There will, of course, be abrasion of the support line's fabric as the tree sways in the wind. There is also the normal weathering and deterioration caused by the sun. Both effects limit the life of the support rope.

Line sizes for support ropes -

'First Line' = 10-15# Monofilament.

'Middle-weight Line = 1/16"-1/8" nylon twine

Antenna support Line


Short Dipoles, use 3/32" Dacron® or Kevlar
Long Dipoles or large antennas, use 3/16" Dacron®

Pulley support rope = 3/8" Dacron®

{short description of image} Make sure you use the correct pulleys for the application. We have special, marine-quality pulleys made for fibrous rope. I suggest using pulleys with built-in swivels like our #166 for 3/8" lines and our #292 for 3/16" lines. They are a little more expensive, but they prevent the support rope from twisting your antenna wire.
Support Rope Pulleys


THE INSPECTION

It is a good idea to inspect your antenna support system every few months or as a minimum, once a year. One way to accomplish this is to use the medium weight rope you used when installing your wire antenna support system. Tie one end to the support rope. Secure the free end of the 'medium' line. Pull down 'antenna support' rope from the antenna end.


If the rope is frayed, replace it


KNOTS

The knot of choice for nearly every antenna chore is the BOWLINE. This knot is easy to tie and it will not slip under any condition. With this knot, the more load you put on it, the tighter it gets.

Use the Bowline to tie the support rope to each pulley, insulator, center-insulator, balun, etc. You can even tie two ropes together using the bowline.

Here is an easy way to remember how to tie the Bowline: It's the way we teach it to new Boy Scouts.

With the end of the rope in your right hand, make a overhand loop. Hold the loop in your left hand. Using the Boy Scout verbiage, "the rabbit (the end of the rope) comes out of his hole (the loop), goes around the tree (the long end of the rope) and then the rabbit goes back in his hole."

If this sounds too complicated, just follow the diagram above.


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PULLEYS

Adding pulleys to your wire antenna support system will greatly increase its reliability. As an additional benefit, changing or repairing your antenna will be much easier.

There are several methods for installing pulleys in trees. Of course, you can climb the tree and install the pulley directly in the tree. The method I suggest, which can be accomplished from the ground, is shown above. A heavy, 'pulley support line' is supported by the tree. A pulley, attached to the heavy support rope, is pre-strung with the antenna support line. The pulley is hoisted high into the tree, as near to the top as practical. The loose opposite end of the rope is conveniently tied off near the ground. The antenna is pulled into the air with the antenna support rope. The free end of that rope is tied off near the ground.

Usually, the 'antenna support rope' is smaller than the pulley support rope (the one in the tree). Done this way, as the antenna moves in the wind, the 'antenna support rope' moves through the pulley. The 'pulley support rope' is stationary in the tree, so abrasion is practically eliminated. As a secondary benefit, it is now easy to change antennas, and the chance of a support line getting tangled in the tree is reduced.

To further protect against the wind breaking the lines, some installations use counter weights or springs at the ground end of the 'antenna support rope.' I have seen garage-door springs used to hold the loose end of the 'antenna support rope' to an eye-bolt screwed into a tree trunk.


{short description of image}We have a nice selection of pulleys made marine applications. that means they are perfect for antenna support rope. Check them out in the catalog at Support Line Pulleys Our #166 and #292 pulleys with built-in swivels are highly recommended.

Choosing a Pulley

The best pulleys for antenna installations are found at sailboat outfitters. The junk you'll find in most hardware stores is just that, junk. Marine pulleys are carefully designed and quality stainless steel pulleys will last forever. Purchase pulleys designed for the size line you plan to use. Expect to pay between $10 and $20 for a good marine-quality pulley.

If you use hardware store pulleys, make sure that your 'antenna support rope' can't slip off the pulley wheel and jam between the pulley wheel and housing. Also make sure your pulleys won't rust.

A HINT

Tie a bunch of knots in each end of the antenna support ropes about 10 feet from each end. Tie the knots to form a large 'clump.' The idea is this: If one end of the rope accidentally gets loose, it will jam when the knot reaches the pulley. You can release the 'pulley support rope' and pull the pulley to the ground where you can recover both ends of the antenna support line.


OTHER SUPPORTS

Up to this point, I have only been talking about trees as antenna supports. You may have other options.

A building can be an antenna support, although this is not ideal. Keep your antennas as far away from buildings as possible. Use the building to support only one end of the antenna.

Verticals can take advantage of the proximity effects of a building by using the building as their ground system. One fellow here in town, secured permission to put a trap vertical on the roof of his apartment building. He has a pretty good signal. Then again, his antenna is over 100 feet in the air and overlooks the water.

Metal or wooden masts can be fabricated into excellent antenna supports. Wooden masts up to about 40' can be made with little difficulty.

USE WHAT YOU HAVE

If you plan to put up a tower that has to be guyed, why not use the guy wires as low-band antennas. If you don't want to use guy wires, add an standoff arm to the tower to accommodate wire antennas. The standoff is often a 10 foot pipe, metal or plastic, that is securely attached near the top of the tower. In most cases, a 10 foot standoff is not necessary. A shorter length will do fine. At the end of the standoff, away from the tower, mount a pulley.

You may want to put standoffs out two sides of the tower to accommodate more than one antenna system. If you have a tower, you might as well take advantage of it, but like a building, it is best to use the tower to support only one end of the antenna. Metallic guy wires may get in the way and interfere with your wire antenna systems.

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