Talk around the world on the proverbial “wet string”


In correspondence ( QST June 2007) I read a letter that stated that manufacturers should have a low cost “starter” radio. I wrote the author an e-mail and letter and enclosed some of my QST articles and other items that I used to get started. I started HF for less than $100 invested using a borrowed radio and in the next couple of weeks bought an older used radio and it still cost less than about $350. E.g. the “wet string” a shoe string as it were. See my web site ( for pictures of my shack and antennas etc.


Here is a combination of the e-mail and letter:


I try to make what I can … I usually have the money to buy the stuff, but it is more fun and rewarding to make it myself … yes sometimes it is a pain to find everything and then to put it all together and then try, try again to get it working, but that is all part of the hobby. I enjoy working with my hands and that includes pressing the PTT, but that is not the only way to use my hands.


I am an amateur blacksmith and weld etc. so lots of my projects are just extensions of blacksmithing to some degree … e.g. I almost always end up welding something.


My station costs:



IC-730                                     Local Ham                   $225

MFJ-945C Tuner                     E-bay                               42

Recycled UPS Battery  From an old UPS               0

1A/2A Battery Maintainer         Wal Mart                         18

                                                                        Total   $285


Antenna – All this could vary greatly depending on your situation, house, what is you already have etc.


G5RV                          Homebrew                                  $5

Coax/Connectors         Had them from way back             $0

Chain Link Fence Rail (~1.5” OD)        Home Depot   $13

Chimney Mount                                    Radio Shack    $28

Misc. Brackets …                                Home Depot    $10

Wire and SO-239                                Junk Box            $0

Sting for mounting                                 Junk Box            $0

                                                                        Total   $56



I use a $50 car battery charger to top off the battery from time to time or after a field trip.

I had the coax, connectors, solder, tools, wire ties, paint, nuts, bolts, screws for most everything.

The antenna could be mounted on a wooden pole or a piece of pipe etc. that you already have or from or in a tree. The use of the chimney in my case is because I have a hipped roof, there is no high eave to hook a mast to.


The G5RV needs a tuner, but a dipole (single, folder or multi-band) tuned properly or any other antenna would not necessarily need an antenna tuner (trans-match).


For the ½ G5RV (10-40M 52’ long with a 15.6’ ladder line transformer section coax fed with an antenna tuner) (I later added on to this antenna to make it 102’ for 10M-80M)

            Conductors from a discarded 14 ga. orange extension cord … Zero Dollars.

Ladder line about $4.

The rest was from the junk box … Zero Dollars.

To Talk Around the World -- Priceless


I enclosed some of the antenna ideas that I have seen and taken from … some that I did not have a file or link for. Also I have included pictures of my shack, antennas and some of my logs … just to show you what can be done for less money … I may never have a FT1000MKIV, 1500KW Amp and a 100’ tower with some big beams etc., but right now I don’t need all that. While I am learning less is better. Note that I have only worked 20, 40 and 80 … right now the sun cycle is in a trough and I have not found much on 17-10 and don’t have a radio to work 160M even if I had an antenna for that. Anyway, for the time being 20-80 has been a great challenge and is very entertaining. I won’t start on 30M or 60M … there is plenty to do, if you can pick a place to start and get started. Read my Blacksmiths philosophy page at … it all applies to Ham Radio in some form or other.


I get a real kick out of making a contact

using a discarded extension cord antenna!



Does it work? … You be the judge… See the Ham page for the HF Scoreboard to see how the cheap station is doing. After about 3 months I lack Hawaii and Rhode Island for Worked all states and have about 20 countries and 3 continents.


Links   Click on “Get Started - antennas etc. 2 MB” a ZIP file of things that I downloaded.


Here are some web links that helped me:


Slinky and Loaded Beverages - They exhibit improved directivity because wave velocity is slowed, altering phase shift along the length of the antenna. Slinky (helical) and loaded


Slinky antennas


20/40 From 50' of 450-600 Ohm Ladder line

Lost of other ideas ... a good 80 for NVIS or if place higher for DX etc.


There are lots of good projects here


Very good antenna projects        

  I wound my own loading coils using his instructions.

  If you are interested I can [sell] you 4 of the coil strips

  (From McMarr re: you might not want 25 of them.


I am a Windows Server Systems Admin for the government to raise funds for my hobbies.


Last Updated: 2007.08.04 - - © 2000-2007
Comments to: Tom Essary -