Affordable antenna endpoint auto tuner for gutters

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  • Updated 2 years ago
  • Answered
  • (Edited)
Hi,

I'm in HOA restricted neighborhood and attempting to use gutters as my antenna. I have about 30 feet of rg8x coax feeding directly to a gutter downspout endpoint through an RF choke created by 3 turns of the coax through a ferrite to reduce CMC.

The coax is not grounded currently and I see RF triggering my capacitance touch lights in my wife's cabinets. Grounding the coax shield near the gutter feed point seems to reduce the coax radiation, but it drives the SWR through the roof.

With the coax ungrounded at antenna side (only on the rig end) the SWR is readily tuned using the built in tuner of the 6700, but I don't seem to be getting much power transfer to the gutters.

I'm thinking I need an auto tuner at the antenna feed point, terminating the coax into the tuner, instead of using the 7300 auto tuner.

So my questions are:

1) am I on the right track moving the point of tuning close to the antenna?

2) the SGR 230 tuner sounds great but it's pricey. Is there a less costly good enough auto tuner alternative for this application?

Thanks
Rick
KG5PJB
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Rick - W5FCX

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Posted 2 years ago

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KF4HR

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I've found radiating elements don't work very well when they are laid up against an object (like a house).  Regardless of the antenna type, they work best when they're high and in the open.  My suggestion is to go with either a flag pole vertical, or a very thin gage end-feed long wire.  If cost is a major issue, use an inexpensive manual antenna tuner.
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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The Flex's tuner is pretty darn good. Gutters are pretty darn bad. I could suggest a whole bunch of possibilities but it's hard to tell what works with the restrictions you have.

Is there any chance of running good copper out of sight of HOA COPS? Something you could hide along corners and edges of your home? If I were to tackle the issue you are having I think I would aim for something like an end-fed antenna or random wire with a decent counterpoise.

But - as others will be sure to confirm - you will have to deal with issues of RF floating around with an unbalanced antenna. I use The Wireman 8232 or 8332 kit. I think it helps a lot. I place these where my antenna cables enter the home and at the feedpoint if practical.

Good luck and good experimenting.

73,
Kevin K4VD
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George Molnar, KF2T, Elmer

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Rick, KF4HR is right about proximity. Even a little distance can make a big improvement. If that's not possible, yes, a tuner at the feedpoint is absolutely the right move. Sink a ground rod there, too (at least). I use an MFJ remote auto tuner. Believe it or not, it has been a stelllar performer for several years now. Get the highest power rating you can - even with low power, there can be some serious voltages and currents involved.

Oh, and since gutters aren't designed for carrying current, they are probably not soundly electrically connected. If you can swing it, clear the paint and add star washers or anything that will help make a good solid electrical connection. Elsewise, you're looking at a short radiator and possible contact rectification and RFI.
(Edited)
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Rick - W5FCX

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Thanks George. Will look into the MFJ tuners and interconnecting the gutters.
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Rick - W5FCX

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Yes I can run an end fed long wire or coax fed dipole under the eaves of the house or perhaps over the roof. Problem in the attic is aluminum backed radiant barriers - not sure that will absorb or reflect RF since they're unlikely to be resonant.


I could try a thin long wire in open space and see what happens. Not sure I want a flagpole in my yard...


Hoping the latest HOA legislation passes to provide more options as ours has a "no antenna" provision.
(Edited)
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Lee - N2LEE

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Good luck with fixing the touch light problem. I think you will find its a common problem with touch lights and even though my ant is 70 ft in the air, I still make our go off and on every time I transmit.

So my point is working your gutter ant will help your signal but I doubt any change you make will solve the touch light problem.
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Rick - W5FCX

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Thanks. ive been told to put a 1k to 3k ohm resister and 100 mh inductor in the touch light wire near the controller. Those components came in so will give it a try.
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Michael Coslo

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Look for RFI from the touch lamp as well, either turned on or not. Those lamps are notorious for that.
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Larry Loen WO7R

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Get a good antenna analyer. Then see what is going in after grounding the coax again, which you probably want. The higher swr may actually represent improvement. See what is based on radiation resistance (which you usually want to be high) and reactance (which you want to be low plus or minus getting your 50 ohm match at the rig.) And yes, make sure the gutters are well connected so that breezes don't change your antenna. You may want to do this even if you deploy some other antenna because the gutters may couple with it if you must hide it under the eaves in whole or in part.

There is a thriving literature on this. Consult it.
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Rick - W5FCX

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Great advice. Thanks Larry.
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Bob Craig, K8RC

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Something you also need to do is write to your Senators in support of the Amateur Radio Parity Act. Start here: https://arrl.rallycongress.net/ctas/u...
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Rick - W5FCX

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Already done
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KM6CQ - Dan

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Make sure you get it right. We had one of those lamps 30 years ago by my wifes side of the bed. I had the NCX5 really glowing at 1 am in the morning, headphones on, 40 meter CW just having a great time. The door flew open, it was the YL. She was not romantic, or understanding.

Dan
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Rick - W5FCX

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Yeah. The lights flashing still amuse her for now... It's the buzzing sound in her gun safe that gets her tweaked up!
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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What's buzzing in the gun safe? You have to be careful with ray guns and RFI! ;)
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Rick - W5FCX

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Lol. Yeah she corrected me. The gun safe was beeping, like it does when you press the buttons. It's like a ghost is trying to get into the gun safe :)
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Dan -- KC4GO

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SGC-237 used at my friends house same application.
(Edited)
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Rick - W5FCX

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Good to know. Thx!
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KD3VK Ken

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Same handicap here and am using a gutter system with some encouraging success.  I use a typical 1:1 choke balun (dipole style with dipole leads on top and SO-239 coax connector on bottom) and carefully make good connections onto gutter.  I am fortunate that the gutter across the rear of the home is a single-run type (no seam) gutter split in two pieces at about the 60/40% point, where the balun is installed.  This 'might' be considered to be a Off Center Fed Dipole?  Single story house, so gutters are only about 10' above ground.  I currently have the downspouts isolated electrically and haven't yet tested including them. 

Testing the horizonal gutter arrangement with Flex using the SWRPlotter6k.exe application from Ray Andrews K9DUR (look elsewhere on community for link) I was surprised to get 'workable' matches on most bands.  Of course you situation will be completely different, but I get:
<2:1 across 12 & 20m
2.7:1 across 40m
<2.7:1 across most of 10m
<3.5:1 across 17m
3.0:1 across 30m
4.0 to 2.9:1 across 15m
3.0 to 3.7:1 across 6m
7.3 to 5:1 across 80m
(Forget about 160m!)

The Flex6700 tuner is able to tune my 'gutter'antenna fine without a bigger tuner, or one at the antenna.  I have made good contacts with this system, even in contests.  Howerever, I did experience RFI once into the home alarm system power supply when trying 40m. (Like Dan, it was the XYL who pointed it out when she was trying to sleep!  I had the headphones on.) No action taken yet to filter out this issue.

I only use a single common ground point at the Flex6700, but it needs to be improved with better wire & ground rods.  I am interested in removing the plastic adapter insulating/isolating the down spouts to see what changes.

I am in the process of getting a 43' S9 Vertical (drab green fiberglass pole; LDG now sells it, the needed 4:1 balun and even a base located tuner) or maybe even the HyGain AV-680 vertical (painted w/camo colors) approved (hidden behind house and behind tree). 

So, don't be discouraged because you CAN do amazing stuff in some situations with just the gutters.

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Rick - W5FCX

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Thanks. Will try adding the balun.
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Dennis Daniel KM6DF

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Gutter antennas will work however not very well. We need more info about your house and property setup. I recommend to all with restrictions to use an inverted L . Using a 2 wires at 68 feet one along the ground and one up to the top of an eve then across the roof. Both wires go to a 4:1 balun to coax to radio. It is very simple and effective. Don't buy all the stuff you see out there just get as much wire up you can.
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Rick - W5FCX

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Great idea. Thanks!
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Ross - K9COX

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I have a SGC230 for sale if you decide to go that way
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Ernest - W4EG

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Rick,
Here is what I did on a condo we owned in southern California.
I purchased a used Tarheel 100A that was reasonably priced. And placed it 4 or 5 feet front the building wall on top of a 8 feet 3/4 inch pipe and grounded it to the condo water supply to the house. I ran the antenna motor control cables and the coax through PVC pipe painted the same color as the walls. And of course waited for the neighbors to leave for work and tacked the PVC pipes to look like a "pro" job. 
I got await for more than a year with it no question from the HOA.
I presently live in another HOA and CC&R home in Amelia Island, Florida. However, I handle this one differently. I went around and met the HOA officers and   board members; specially those that lived nearby my home. I became acquainted with most and made sure they knew about my hobby and invited them for lunch at the golf course and occasional home.
After several months I approached them individually about installing a Hy-Gain 18HT vertical and without hesitations they all have agree to my installation. I convinced then how vital and helpful that can be in an emergency situation. 
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Rick - W5FCX

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Sounds like a good plan.
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Andy Masters

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I have similar HOA restrictions. I chose a MyAntennas.com 117 ft long wire with 9:1 Balun and mounted it on side of brick about 4 inches off face of brick using small lag screws. I have some shrubbery to cover feed point. It goes up 18 feet turns horizontal for 30 feet then goes through some trees in backyard. Neighbors have not noticed. I work 160-6 meters on it. Not setting world on fire but talking. Same issue though with cabinet lights. I use to CMC's one at tuner (palstar HF auto) and one at feed. Have 6 random length radials trenched in after dark. Next step to add 66 foot radial under house as a RF ground. Good luck. NU5O
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Rick - W5FCX

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How do you determine which ratio of balun required with the long wire? Using antenna analyzer or what?
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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Actually, the proper term in this case might be a current choke (or UNUN?) as nothing is really balanced in what we are talking about here. I use The Wireman 8232 or 8332 kit. It works quite well with my OCF and my end-fed antennas under 100 watts. On the OCF I have one at the shack entrance and antenna feedpoint. The end-fed feedpoint is right outside my window so I just use one choke for this.

My other antenna uses 600 ohm ladder line. That requires a BALUN and I use a 1:1 DX Engineering for that.

Of all the good answers you are getting here the one thing you'll need to keep in mind... what works for one may wildly fail for another. You will require some tweaking and experimenting to get things just right for you. A decent antenna analyzer will make this task easier and actually turns out to be a whole lot of fun checking potential antennas out.
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George Molnar, KF2T, Elmer

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Biggest benefit from the balun is the common-mode choking. Impedance transformation with this kind of antenna is likely to be pretty unpredictable, and low SWR may really be indicating high losses.
(Edited)
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Norm - W7CK

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With 117' of wire, you can forgo the 9:1 balun and expensive manufactured end fed wire antenna.  Instead, invest and use a small MFJ-929 (or similar) auto-tuner.  If it needs to be outside, you can place it inside an enclosure or mount it under the eves.  You can also feed the power to it over the coax via a voltage injector.  If placed on the ground feed it against a good ground or set of radials otherwise use a long counterpoise if under the eves and it will do great.

Try to shape your end fed wire into an inverted L if you can. Use very thin wire such as #26 vinyl covered stealth antenna wire.   I use 112' total from the back of my 5th wheel camper.  I have a fiberglass pole that takes it vertically to about 38 feet then the rest is strung out as horizontal as I can get it.  Sometimes it comes all the way down to within 6-8 feet of the ground.  I feed it against the frame of the 5th wheel and when practical I add a couple radials off the back.  Works great 160m through 20m.   Although it will tune on all of the HF bands just fine, I've never really used it above 20m. 

To limit the noise as much as possible, try to keep your antenna as far away from your house as you can.   You won't believe how much quieter it gets the farther away from your house you get.  While you may not be able to use a fiberglass push up pole, try to place the wire as high as you can.  Through trees, shrubs, etc.  Some folks have used standoffs and mounted their wire to their fence.  Not great, but it works.  I've used #26 copper clad steel wire that has a very thin black vinyl jacket over it.  From about 50 feet away, it is nearly impossible to see. 

Another antenna to try is the ZS6BKW.  Try building it and placing the center at the apex of your roof, just below or out from the peak of the eves.  Run the ends wherever you can.  I've run them down parallel to the roof line just off the gable trying to stay as far away from it as you can get.  This is nearly impossible to see.  The ladder line can be painted to match the exterior of your house.  The ladder line on a ZS6BKW is a matching section and not really a radiator.  You can run it wherever you need to as long as you stay a couple inches from any metal.  Under the gable is just fine.  This is a simple antenna to build and will get you on the air on 80, 40, 20, 17, 12, 10 and 6m. Most of those bands do not require a tuner.  The internal tuner of the Flex will work just fine on the bands that don't already have a low SWR.  Its also a very quiet antenna. Built with number 26 wire and it will be nearly impossible to see.  Solder the antenna wire directly to the ladder line and forget using a center insulator.  The ends can be tied directly to a very thin black string and tied off.  If you feel you must use an insulator, cut a couple 3-4" pieces of black plastic clothes hanger.  Drill some small holes at each end and you have a very light and small and inconspicuous insulator.  I've run 500 watts through this type of antenna for several years without any issues at all.

At one time, I mounted a small auto-tuner under my patio roof.  The coax came in through the attic to the shack and the painted ladder line went across the underside of the patio roof for a couple feet, around the edge and across the top of the roof to the center line of the house.  It then ran straight up to the apex of the roof.  Antenna wires paralleled the roof line from the peak to the lower edges.   I had 2 sets of small standoffs.  During the day, the wires were terminated close to the house, at night, I moved them away from the house in into the open to get a little better performance.   Not the greatest, but it worked fairly well and this is with a single story home where the apex is only about 18' up.   A two story home would work even better.

That black number 26 antenna wire is really hard to see.  Especially if there are trees or something in the background but even in the open with sky as the background, it is nearly impossible to see unless you know exactly what your looking for.

Nearly every antenna is a compromise especially when you have to hide them.  With a little ingenuity you can build a fairly efficient, quiet and stealthy antenna.

Norm - W7CK
(Edited)
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Dave KD5FX

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When I lived in the land of HOAs which is otherwise known as Katy, TX I tried a gutter antenna using a close coupled antenna tuner, the MFJ 200 watt model. The tuner would tune the gutter just fine on 80 thru 10 meters. I could talk to anyone I could hear that was S9 or better. Problem is, I could hardly hear anything! It just didn't work well. 
This was on a new house, the aluminum gutter was well installed and looked to be bonded at every corner and section. Total length was about 220 feet. The down spouts were isolated from the ground by a plastic section and the gutter itself was not grounded to the house. 
I also had an 8 ft ground rod near the tuner and ran some 33 ft ground radials too. 
Picture here:
http://www.kd5fx.com/gutter.html

I found that a stealth 104 ft (random length) black wire worked better. It was only 16 ga wire and I held it up over the roof a couple of feet with some pvc pipe (painted black) and it ran around on top of the gutter. Since the roof was also black it blended in very well. The XYL didn't see it for many months. The wire used the same ground and radials as the gutter, didn't even move the tuner, just ran the wire from where it was around the house using the pvc pipe standoffs. If you have a two story house this will get the wire up pretty high! Higher is better...

FYI, I also once tried a full wave 80 meter loop that was stapled to the bottom of the eve all the way around another house. It didn't work either. 
73, Dave
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Dave KD5FX

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I also have a powerpoint file on Stealth Antennas on my website at:
http://www.kd5fx.com/

Look for 'HF Antennas for Stealth Operation'
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Mark - WS7M

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I too live in an HOA with many restrictions.  My first antenna I was able to shove up into a cottonwood tree.  I encased it in gray PVC so it looks like a big cottonwood branch.

I was able to put up another antenna, an end-fed wire running between trees.  The wire is small enough that it is very hard to see unless you are looking for it.

Without knowing your yard and situation my best first suggestion would be to build or buy a 43 foot vertical and mount it on a lean over system in your back yard.  You'd need to lay down some radials and put a tuner at the base but that SGC tuner mentioned above would be perfect.

With this setup you wait until it is dark, lean the ant up, lock it in position.  Go have fun.  Just take it down when you are done.

If you get creative you could do the tilt up/down via remote control using a small motor.  

If you get really creative the 43 foot vertical is almost invisible if done right.  It can be ground mounted, as mentioned above you'll need radials but those don't need to be buried deep.  Just a 1/2 inch.

One ham I knew had such an antenna mounted on his fence.  When laid down it was invisible since it laid behind the fence.  He built an automated riser that he could flip a switch and it would go vertical.  He operated for many years with no one knowing he had an antenna.
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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Antenna couplers like the SGC and CG Antenna can be used to make some very stealthy antennas that radiate very efficiently.  Get some insulated wire with a black or gray jacket and make a vertical with the coupler at  ground level.  If you can string up a flat top or doublet fed with ladder line connected to the coupler, that is even better because it is a balanced antenna design.  Or better yet, make a vertical loop.  I use the latter and have easily achieved DXCC and WAS on multiple bands.
(Edited)
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Rick - W5FCX

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Thank you all for the very helpful ideas.
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HCampbell WB4IVF

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You might not even have to compromise on performance with the “right” flagpole or stealth antenna:

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Rick - W5FCX

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Lol. If I could get that cactus approved by the HOA it'd make it all worthwhile!
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Lee, Elmer

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http://w9oy-sdr.blogspot.com/2009/09/43ft-vert.html

Make sure to drill a hole in the ammo can facing the dirt to let out condensation.  You can virtually bury the ammo can if needed.  I fed it with RG8x   Make sure the piece of coax connected to the antenna is isolated from the feed-through connector and the ammo can.  I just drilled a hole in the can ran some coax through and taped over it with some aluminum tape to keep the bugs out.  The core is probably not necessary if you have more than 1 or 2 radials.  The tuner is held in place with a 2" SO239 bulkhead and a double male  The tuner is virtually an exact fit for the height dimension of the can so you have to accurately place the hole for this barrel connector to mate with the transmitter connector on the tuner.  To tune you leave the tuner power button on all the time and use the bias T to turn things off and on.  Send some power, like 10w down the line and you will see the tuner tuning on the SWR bridge.  Once the SWR is stable increase the power to 100w.  Occasionally you may have to cycle the power.

45 ft radiator will get you 80-6m, 25ft will get you 40-6m.  Staple some radials to the yard using yard staples.  2 will work, more would be better.  For this antenna beyond 12 is diminishing returns.  12 will establish an excellent ground plane and there will be no common mode RF back in the shack on any band.  I have a full size 1/2 wave end fed 40M vert over 4K ft of wire and when measuring this 45ft antenna vs the high efficiency vert at the WebSDR RX at University Twente this antenna was barely 2-3 dB down compared to the better vertical.  I buried the RG8X which was some bury-able variant of this cable like Belden 7808WB.  MFJ makes a 926 outside version of this tuner but I bought my 929 off swap.qth.com for $100 and an ammo can for $10 at a surplus store.  I worked 100 countries in less than 6 months with this set-up using my Flex 5K.  If I needed to be super stealthy I wouldn't have a problem stapling the radiator (#14 solid black insulated wire) to the tree at the 100W power level or even wrap it around the trunk in a loose spiral.  You could use ideas from this for your particular application.

73  W9OY
(Edited)
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Rick - W5FCX

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So the latest I'm seriously considering is to submit a request for a back yard landscaping project that includes some flowerbeds, a patio, hummingbird feeders and a bird bath, plus a 32' Martin house, which of course must be up high on a pole with guy wires in an inverted V configuration to stabilize the bird house pole.

The bird bath is to sell the "bird lover" aspect so the Martin house (hopefully) doesn't get scrutinized as closely (probably won't install the bird bath).

This would enable me to get an antenna up in the air, away from the house in the open, and have a purpose that's reasonable.

I could go for the flagpole but there's a height limit of 20'. If the bird pole flies, a fiberglass hollow pole can house the vertical.

This is in addition to some of the other stealthier ideas closer to the house that you all have provided.

Many thanks!
Rick
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Norm - W7CK

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Just a thought - If the bird pole flies, make sure you put in a bunch of radials.  You can also insulate the base of the pole and use an aluminum pole.  Put an auto-tuner at the base, connect a wire to the top of the pole and have it come down to a set of cleats a few feet apart where you can wind up the extra wire.   Make the total length of pole and wire around 90 feet.   During the day with the wire against the pole, it is a normal vertical for possibly 40m and up (32').  During the night, you can go outside, unwind the wire from the cleats and string it out to a fence, patio, tree, pole, etc.  It now becomes an Inverted L that will tune up nicely on 160m thru 20m.   Since 160 and 80 are usually best in the evenings, this may work out well for you.  When your done, wind the wire back up on the cleats and your as stealthy as can be.

Norm W7CK
(Edited)