Mounting And Using My 2 Meter Antennas (Part 2)

Note: This post will be about my three 2 meter slim jim antennas, two I built myself, one I purchased from N9TAX. My home brewed slim jim antennas have a slightly better SWR reading (nearly 1.1:1) than the N9TAX antenna (1.2:1), but really, they all perform very well for the size, cost, and mobility of the units. Read on for details.

Building And Using Slim Jim Antennas

Nearly a year after mounting my 2 meter j-pole antenna, I had the opportunity to attend an antenna workshop. It was planned to build a roll-up 2 meter slim jim built out of ladder-line. I had received a copy of the plans about a month before the workshop was scheduled. (Download the plans: part 1part 2)

I planned on building four antennas, two for me and two for my nephew, W7AVC. I figured since we were making more than one, I should prep as much of the material as I could.

Two weeks before the workshop, I began prepping the coax cable, which was to be soldered onto the antenna . I messed up several times, sometimes due to my sight impairment, and other times due to lack of experience with cutting and working with coax cable. Due to early screw-ups, I lost about 18 inches of cable, but I had planned on that potentially occurring and had ordered a run of cable longer than I needed for the finished antenna.

I measured and cut the ladder-line to length for each antenna. The plan called for the two lines on each end to be soldered together, but I didn’t even attempt this since I figured with my sight impairment, my soldering would result in injury to myself and/or property damage. I won’t mention which of those consequences my wife would be most upset with. Here’s a hint though, a few weeks ago I was rough housing with my oldest son. I accidentally whacked my head against the wall, rather hard. Horrific crunching noise. My wife’s first question was, “Did that put a hole in the wall?”

The workshop came, my nephew and I attended and helped each other. He did all the soldering (his first time soldering), I managed the additional measuring, math and cutting. It took about two hours to make all four antennas.

My home brewed 2 meter slim jim

My home brewed 2 meter slim jim

Final cost for each antenna was about $10 and change. For the cost, the antennas perform very well. Due to the design of the slim jim, the take off angle is less than my copper pipe j-pole. More of the signal is directed closer to being parallel to the ground, so the higher the slim jim, the better the performance.

Still, one of my home brewed antennas is hanging on the wall in my bedroom (ground floor) with a Baofeng UV-5R attached. Hits my club’s repeater, along with a few others, on only one watt of power. Not bad. My second home brewed slim jim is mounted in my attic, about eight feet away from my copper pipe j-pole. The attic mounted slim jim has a 40-foot run of RG-8X which travels over and down into my garage. I currently use my Yaesu FT-60R in the garage using this antenna. Does not perform as well as my j-pole antenna, but there are a number of reasons why that could be (cable run length, antenna Mounting my bedroom slim jim was cake. Put a push pin in the wall, hung up the antenna. I ate an Oreo cookie after my hard work.position, etc). Still, it performs quite well. No complaints for a garage radio setup.

Mounting my bedroom slim jim was cake. Put a push pin in the wall, hung up the antenna. I ate an Oreo cookie after my hard work.

Mounting the slim jim in the attic was a bit more challenging, but not as challenging as mounting my copper pipe j-pole had been. I had an eight foot 1×2 fur stripping board that had been sitting around my garage for months (an extra board from a previous project). I did some rough guesses on cut lengths, marked the wood, pulled out my miter saw, and cut two lengths from the board, one about four to five feet, theĀ other about two to three feet. Screwed the two together in an L shape, intending to screw the longer portion onto a king post in the attic with the two foot length protruding out for the slim jim to dangle from. I screwed an eyelet hook on the end of the two foot length for the slim jim to hang.

L mount made from 1x2

L mount made from 1×2

Eyelet hook to attach slim jim

I had planned poorly while building my antenna. I had soldered a forty foot run of coax on the antenna. Lugging the antenna with its long cable run, along with the L wood mount, and my tools (self-tapping screws, a screwdriver, and some zip ties), weaving through all the king posts, trusses, and vent pipes, was a task best left to a person in better physical condition. But me being a stubborn and cheap bozo, I did it.

Once the L mount was screwed and mounted onto the king post, the eyelet hook on the end of the two foot length would be too high for me to reach to attach the antenna via zip tie. So, I had to attach the antenna to the mount first, and had forty feet of cable to wrestle with. Yippie! If I had been smart, when building the antenna, I would have soldered a three foot run of cable onto it with an SO239 connected on the end. Oh well.

Got the antenna attached to the mount, then screwed the mount to the king post. Then I had the joy of running the coax through the attic, and while doing so, tried to prevent the cable from twisting up from memory, and tried to not kill myself in the process. I don’t know why I insisted on soldering a forty foot run of cable on the antenna. No idea what my reasoning was. I’m sure at the time I thought I was a genius for doing it the way I ddid. In hindsight, I’m an idiot. Guess my wife was right.

Home brewed slim jim mounted in my attic

Home brewed slim jim mounted in my attic

Regardless, the antenna performs well. Not quite as well as my copper pipe j-pole, but it is used with my garage radio, which I don’t use very often, so I really don’t mind the 5-10% performance variation compared to my copper pipe j-pole.

N9TAX 2 Meter Slim Jim

As much fun as it was to build my own antenna, I didn’t want to take the time to do it again, but I wanted a spare roll-up slim jim for a to-go box.

I ordered a 2 meter slim jim from N9TAX. His antennas get great reviews on eham.net and other sites, so I figured that they would perform as well as my home brewed slim jims.

The antenna arrived, I opened the packaging, and was immediately accosted by the over powering stench of nicotine and cigarette smoke. If you are a smoker, fine, do it, give yourself cancer, I don’t care if you make that choice. For me, the smell of the stuff makes me absolutely 100% nauseated. I instantly sent N9TAX an email, asking for a full refund due to the cigarette smell. He claimed that he was not a smoker, but still offered me a full refund. A few local hams gave suggestions on getting rid of the smell. I decided to try them before sending the antenna back.

I got a gallon sized zip bag, stuffed the antenna and cable in it, then filled it with uncooked rice. Let it sit for three days. That got rid of 30-40% of the stomach churning stench. Repeated with fresh rice, three more days. Got rid of even more smell. Rubbed down with rubbing alcohol, then let it sit outside in the summer sun for a day or two. No more smell. Kept the antenna. Still, irritating a new antenna would stink.

The antenna spits out a signal as well as my home brewed antennas. The SWR isn’t quite as good though, but the difference is small enough that I’m not worried. It makes a great antenna for a to-go box and would be a great semi-permanent antenna.

About Kyle (W7KBX)

I became a licensed ham in May of 2013 with a class of General. I have since upgraded to Extra. If you are really bored and want to learn more about me, please click here
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