36 months and a dipole*

3 years and a dipole

Carrying on with the tradition of the past two years since moving to this QTH, I’m looking back at entities worked during the year and my dipole’s performance overall in the three years I’ve been here.

(Regarding the asterisk, a 2-week period with a homebrew Moxon for 15m accounts for 1 band-country).

The dipole is (and has been*) my only antenna at this QTH. It is for 80m, fed with ladder line for 10-80m operation and is currently 23m up in the pines, thanks to a homebrew crossbow from way back in the 8th grade.

This antenna continually proves its worth throughout the HF spectrum in both pile-ups and contesting. In so doing, it is my friend and my enemy – my friend because of its performance; my enemy because it’s made it hard to justify a tower/Yagi. But more about towers in an upcoming post… ;-)

I hope others who read this will realize that DX can be worked on a regular basis without the need for expensive store-bought antennas. I can’t count the number of times I see a DX station spotted on the cluster with the associated comment saying “Worked w dipole!” as if a dipole is first cousin to the dummy load and yet some east-coast W has managed to work Germany with one.

The main highlight for the my 3rd year with the dipole is working 5B-DXCC with it in 27 months at the 100-watt level. The first time to work 5B-DXCC took my entire ham career up to that point – 29 years! The second time around, I wiped the slate clean when I moved back to Texas and did it in 27 months.

Why such a huge difference in time periods? Know-how, contesting and a better rig – a K3 vs my “Old Faithful” FT840. The K3 is better for two reasons: QSK and a narrow selectivity – mainly the latter, if I had to choose.

Other highlights for the year are individual entities worked, especially the lowband ones: 4W0B, 9M0L, ST0R and a slew of other African and Pacific entities with associated pile-ups, most of which also involved my QSK kw amp.

If you’re new to ham radio and you’d like to work some DX, don’t let anyone tell you that a measly dipole won’t do it. I chuckle to myself when DXers gather and talk about how they just almost worked the latest DXpedition…if only they had a 4-element rather then their 3-element Yagi…or an 80-foot tower instead of their current 60-footer. Meanwhile, I had the station logged days ago!

A dipole is no slouch, open-wire feedline and tuners are not a disadvantage, a solar peak is not necessary and neither is a kilowatt. The DX is there, waiting.

CW, though, is highly recommended.



  5 comments for “36 months and a dipole*

  1. May 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Well written John and exactly on the point about antennas. I’ve had a beam in the past and now work with a homemade vertical antenna and a 80m horizontal loop since 2008. Actually I’m surprised by the amount of DX I can work even on 10m without a beam. Although I have the idea nothing can beat your dipole ;-) 73, Bas

  2. Don
    May 4, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Having been a fully licensed Ham for nearly 60 years, I still define a dipole and a doublet as different antennae. A dipole is fed with a low impedance feedline such as coax or twin lead, while a doublet also centre-fed, has an open line – high impedance. Ok? 73 de ZL1AQ Hamilton New Zealand.

  3. May 5, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Thumbs up! As I have no space for a dipole, I have got a 31′ vertical antenna with 4 radials. Nevertheless, I worked 38 DXCC entities during the ARRL DX SSB contest (phone operation) and received many good reports from European station. And the CW / digital is to be the next step.

    • May 5, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Over 1/3 of the way to DXCC in one contest – not too shabby!

  4. Sam
    May 22, 2012 at 4:04 am

    Nice post. A good reminder to new hams to focus on building operating skills and securing quality basic equipment rather than trying to buy the DX. And having watched an experienced op work 300+ contacts off my dipole on 40m CW one evening, whereas I was struggling to pull a handful on SSB, your advice to learn CW is well-taken.

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