This cannot be emphasized enough. It is very tragic when the news hits that ham radio operators were killed while erecting a mast or antenna. Several years ago I think some Boy Scouts were killed and some severely injured when erecting a mast too close to power lines. The first rule of safety when erecting any tower, mast, or antenna -- LOOK UP! The second rule is STAY AT LEAST TWICE THE DISTANCE AWAY FROM OVERHEAD CONDUCTORS AS THE HEIGHT OF THE MAST OR TOWER. As in, if your mast is 50 feet tall stay at least 100 feet away from the closest overhead conductor.
I have at least 5 news articles from 2009, where one or more of the same family were killed by not heeding basic mast/antenna/tower construction safety practices when installing an antenna or mast.
Now the leagaleze. This information is provided as a method of doing things; what I did. It is not the only way. I am not telling you how to do it. Those of you who take on any project or idea from this website do it by your own action and responsibility. I am not responsible for what you do. YOU are. I have witnessed operators erecting these and similar masts in all kinds of unsafe ways. Notes on this site are to assist in SAFE use of these masts, however I cannot be and will not be liable for your use of any of these masts or methods I have used or any property damage or injuries.
The masts and information on this page is for temporary deployment of masts and antennae for Field Day or portable operations, NOT permanent installation.
One of the popular items on various news groups and in several web discussions is the use of Military Surplus LCSS aluminum (1080-00-108-1173) and/or fiberglass (1080-01-179-6025) mast sections to support an antenna. This can be done safely for temporary installation for field operation. Our club does it for Field Day. I have seen several Ham Radio Clubs use these and do it successfully although not all do it as safely as it can be done. Remember these were designed and deployed by the military for supporting camouflage netting over vehicles and encampments.
Let's start with the mast sections themselves. Tons of these have hit the surplus market over the years and Ebay is flooded with them most of the time. Beware of the fiberglass mast sections without female end reinforcement rings. There are also some with plastic rings. The plastic rings break. They do not work. These no ring and plastic ring sections can split.
These poles are part of the LCSS camouflage support system they were not issued by the military for antenna masts. There are at least 3 versions of the plastic poles -- fiberglass, and 2 versions of the aluminum. The government calls the fiberglass poles plastic. These poles come in 2 wall thicknesses and 3 styles of female ends. some of the female ends have a nice fiberglass reinforcing ring, some have a worthless plastic ring, others have no ring. The plastic and no ring may be modified to be stronger as noted below. Some fellows even reinforce the male end that mates with the coupler.
The aluminum come in 2 styles, plain and ribbed walls. The plain are heavier and in my thoughts stronger than the ribbed. The plain are thicker walls than the ribbed.
They all come in woodland (green), desert (tan), or snow (white). The government classifies the sets as radar scattering or radar transparent.
Female end rings, fiberglass masts.
One method I used to make the rings to reinforce the female ends when they do not have rings is to get the required quantity of 1-1/4" Schedule 80 PVC couplings and bore them to fit the outer diameter of the mast. This requires a lathe. Bore them to a slightly loose press fit. To attach them I used Devcon 2500 epoxy from Wal-Mart #S-31 313-15. It is rated for 2500 pound tensile strength. Be sure the epoxy can be used on fiberglass. In review of mast sets in use for the past 3 years I do not recommend using and/or modifying any of the masts without the end ferrules as manufactured. The epoxy comes loose! There is a hot melt that seems to work and Liquid Nails for projects seems to work, but the ferrule-less masts should be scrapped. I do not trust them. The walls are thin and any kind of end reinforcement may not be reliable since these masts also split at the male pin end.
The ones without rings and the ones with plastic rings are light weight and have a bit thinner wall. Adding reinforcement collars will strengthen the end and help prevent splitting. The ones with the female end reinforcement rings are a bit heavier since they have thicker sidewalls. I only use the ones with end rings any more.
One other note on purchasing these masts. How are / were they stored. Many times these masts are stored outside in direct sunlight. If they are in the carrying case or other storage device they will get hot, but not generally deteriorate. If they are stored in direct sun and not protected they will deteriorate. Sunlight eventually weakens fiberglass. If the masts are dull and fibers are exposed chances are these sections spent too much time unprotected in direct sun and may be weakened.
Many, if not all, of the hardware items mentioned here can be purchased from McMaster-Carr if you cannot find it at your local hardware store or surplus dealer.
Above is a photo of a fiberglass pole with an original reinforcement ring at the female end. This is the heaviest of the fiberglass poles.
Here is a list of the of the variations of these support poles from what I found on the internet and in a TM:
AS OF: 1 DEC 99 SUPPORT SYSTEM WOODLAND / DESERT / SNOW NSN
NSN P/N CAGE NOMENCLATURE
1080-00-108-1173 MIL-C-52765 81349 Support System, Woodland/Desert, Type I
1080-00-179-6025 Support System, Woodland/Desert, Type II
1080-00-556-4954 MIL-C-52765 81349 Support System, Snow, Type I
1080-01-179-6024 MIL-C-52765 81349 Support System, Snow, Type II
1080-00-108-1595 MILC52765 81349 Adapter Assembly, Woodland/Desert
1080-00-108-1646 MILC52765 81349 Carrying Case, Woodland/Desert
1080-00-563-6342 MILC52765 81349 Pole, Support, Aluminum, Woodland/Desert
1080-01-165-9027 MILC52765 81349 Pole, Support, Plastic, Woodland/Desert
1080-00-108-1545 MILC52765 81349 Spreader, Batten, Woodland/Desert
1080-00-108-1654 MILP501 TYPE I 81349 Stake, Steel, Woodland/Desert
1080-01-081-1022 MILC52765 81349 Adapter Assembly, Snow
1080-01-073-3195 MILC52765 81349 Carrying Case, Snow
1080-01-075-5113 MILC52765 81349 Pole, Support, Aluminum, Snow
1080-01-165-9026 MILC52765 81349 Pole, Support, Plastic, Snow
1080-01-073-3196 MILC52765 81349 Spreader, Batten, Snow
1080-01-075-4017 MILP501 TYPE II 81349 Stake, Steel, Snow
1080-00-571-5015 13226E0969 97403 Lanyard with Pins
I have been unable to locate the FSN or anything else for the ribbed aluminum poles. According to TM-5-1080-200-10 the -1173 system contains aluminum poles and -6025 systems are the plastic poles.
Guy attachment plates:
These can be made from large stainless steel flat washers. I copied the MX-378/U guy plate for the MS-44 mast sections. Part number 92141A041 from McMaster-Carr (www.mcmaster.com) is a 3.25: O.D. flat washer for a 1.5" screw. It has an inner diameter of 1-9/16".
This works for the fiberglass and the aluminum poles.
The MS-44 mast section male end has a smaller outside diameter. It is only 1.325" so for the MS-44 I used 92141A049. This washer also has an O.D of 3.25", but it is for a 1.325" screw so it has an I.D. of 1.5"
Both of these washers are .140" thick which is nearly twice as thick as the MX-378/U.
The hole pattern is the same as the MX-378/U. If the military uses 4 guy ropes then that must be the safe way. Besides this gives 5th hole to attach a pulley for raising / lowering the antenna.
Hole size, circumference, and pattern will be detailed as soon as I can post a drawing of them.
Remember if you make things for your mast YOU are responsible for your actions and the parts used. What is on this site is what I use. Anything can fail. Failure of a mast can be just a mast falling and damaging itself to a catastrophic event.
Here is a comparison of one of the homebrew guy plates beside a G.I. MX-378/U guy plate.
For what it is worth...while searching on my call I came across a site where someone wanted to know the weight of one of the SS washers. For what ever reason it is not important if one is using one of the Military masts since they all weigh over 2 pounds / section, but here it is: after machining the SS weighs 3.5 Oz. and the original MX378/U ( which will not fit the 1080 mast sections) 2 Oz. MX-378's are made of steel.
The good fiberglass sections are about 2 lb, 2oz and the aluminum are 2 lb, 11oz.
Guy ropes can be made from 3/16 inch dacron rope. This is the same size used by the military. Rope lengths have been computed and sized using the U. S. Army TM for the AB-155/U series of masts. One 500 ft spool will make a set of guys for one mast (10 to 12 #1080 sections 25 ft. anchor distance). There are several suppliers for this rope, however not all rope is created equal. The army uses twisted braid. I use static kernmantle double braid. It is much stronger for its size than other braids and it holds up very good to field use. Hollow braid is a bit better suited for halyards although I use the same for guys and halyards. Twisted braid twists.
For AB-155 masts I use 1/4 inch dacron rope. A set of guys requires more than 500 ft. since I use 10 MS-44 sections rather than the normal 8 sections. 8 sections will make a 40 ft. tall mast and one 500 ft. spool of rope will make one set of guys. Military manuals and mast kits use 3/16 inch diameter rope. My preference is for the larger diameter since I add more sections.
Best rope I found comes from Jerry at Bayway Deals. http://www.freewebs.com/workingstiff/500spooldoublebriaddacr.htm
The link is to his rope page. He also can supply some hardware and complete masts and guy kits. His site is loaded with mast information.
I have bought several spools of rope from him none were ever short and not a single booger, splice or other flaw. He also has other mast supplies at reasonable prices. Check out the mast base for a trailer hitch on his site.
For those of you not familiar with rope terminology...rope boogers are places in the braid (sheath) where the mantle (core) pokes through as bumps,
wads, and other deformations. It means the kern was damaged during manufacture and the rope has a weak spot there requiring a cut or splice. Now you end up with a short piece because a cut is required or you cut it an make a splice and weaken the rope.
Rope care is an entire different page so not much here. Be careful with knots. Each knot can weaken a rope by about half its strength so tie them correctly and use the correct knot. I use bowlines for most of my knots. I also use ring hitches, clove hitches and rolling hitches for many temporary applications. These hitches as well as a cow hitch or a prusik knot come in handy for attaching guy ropes to a mast where a guy plate is not used (such as a Jackite telescopic mast). Watch out for mast rotation and ensure the rope cannot slip down along the mast. I would not use any rope tied around a 1080 or MS-44 mast section unless I only needed to stabilize 10 or 20 feet of mast for a quick and dirty deployment. Also no matter what knot you tie; always safety the rope end.
Here is a link I found while searching for mast information http://virtual1.powersrvcs.com/~www.capcod.org/mastinstr.html
There is guying information and more. It is from the Cape Cod Packet Group. They use one 1080 mast set for a G5RV. There is also a link on the site to another guy ring design. If deploying a G5RV in this manner 2, 10 ft. or longer crappie poles can be installed at the ends to keep the ends out of reach or ropes may be affixed to the ends and stretched out to anchors to keep the ends safely out or reach. Anyone know what happened to the CCPG or their site? I left the link just in case it is revived.
Other types of rope such as the poly rope available from Harbor Freight works fine for temporary deployment and for halyards. The disadvantage of poly rope is it deteriorates in sun light. Be sure to check the tensile strength of any rope to ensure whatever is deployed will stay deployed. Poly rope is not as strong as Dacron rope of the same diameter and weave (twisted, braided, etc.).
I have not done much here on knots. I hope to add more. A good place to begin is at Animated Knots
Click the thumb nail for a larger image in a new window. There are several knots I use and will add them as time allows. Practice tying any knot you decide to use before you need to use it. That way you can test 1/ your skills and 2/ the integrity of the knot. Remember if you choose to use any knot from this or any other site it is your responsibility and liability not mine or any other sites. Any knot not tied correctly --especially in a guy rope-- can be fatal! Always safety your knot no matter what kind you tie.
I also found the Taunt-line and mid-shipman's hitch from Rope Works while the searching for information on how to show how a taunt line hitch is tied. There are also instructions for the mid-shipman's hitch with is noted to be better than the taunt-line. I have used both with the dacron rope I use and neither have slipped even during Florida thunderstorms.
Bases can be home made or modified military surplus. An AB-154/U swivel base from an AB-155/*/U mast set works fine and the mast can fit more snugly by covering the base with 4 or 5 evenly spaced #216 o-rings. Another base that fits the masts is the OE-254? mast swivel base. This base has 2 diameters. The top part fits into the mast, but I didn't like the small outer diameter of the bottom half. The first time I used the base I placed a spare guy plate over it for a larger area for the end of the mast to rest upon. After that I modified the base by turning the O.D. of the bottom part to match the I.D. of the mast. If you do not have a lathe and machining ability the washer works better than just the thin O.D. of the bottom half of the base. The concern is that with a small contact area the downward pressure could split a fiberglass mast. Photos of the base will be posted.
Both of the above mentioned bases are available at surplus dealers at times and also on Ebay. The cost runs between $10.00 and $30.00 depending on the base and condition.
Some bases I made. Click on the thumbnail for a full size image Tent Stake with ring to protect rope
AB-154/U with o-rings to use with the 1080 polesI use a 1.5 inch diameter welded ring from McMaster-Carr slipped over a tent stake before driving the stake into the ground to protect the rope from chafing from the rough edges of the tent stake. I use a bowline or a ring hitch to secure the rope to the ring.
Here are 2 homebrew bases made to fit the 1080 series fiberglass or aluminum camouflage support poles when used for an antenna mast.
The bottom is an OE-254 antenna mast swivel spike base with the larger diameter bottom machined to fit the 1080 camouflage support system masts.
The OE-254 base top half will fit into the 1080 series poles, but the lower diameter is only a few thousandths of an inch larger. For a more secure installation I machined the bottom half to just make a nice slide fit into the pole allowing the pole and rest of the mast to rest on the larger base of the swivel.
This is an adapter I made for deploying the mast. It is made from pipe so it is heavy. I would have used aluminum if it were available. The ends were machined from round stock that was bored to clear the outside diameter of the mast for a sliding fit. The leg receiver pipes were cut from standard pipe, miter cut to 45 deg. Stability is great, but I should have used a shallower angle. 45 degrees puts too much stress on the legs when using 2 legs for more height. The entire assembly is painted with Krylon camo paint.
The base requires adapting a short piece of mast to create the downward force to stabilize the mast. This was done by taking a damaged section and cutting the top part, securing it with a shaft collar and painting the entire section with Krylon green camo paint. It is the closest to olive drab I could find.
Base with one section and only one section used per leg. The mast is more stable using 2 sections of mast per leg. It still requires grounding and if the adapter pipe or a swivel-stake base is not used the mast can still be unstable even if guyed. We get quite a few unexpected thunder storms in Florida and the mast has been deployed with 2 sections per leg and the mast through the center resting on the ground without a swivel-stake base and it will rock quite a bit in the tripod adapter that it seem unstable enough to fall. It is much more stable with the center adapter section or a base stake. I do not know how stable this would be on a hard surface in the wind. On a hard surface without wind it seems stable, but I do not trust un-anchored or un-guyed masts even for only a simple vertical on top. I would not try any kind of wire antenna such as a dipole or random wire or even a G5RV even in an inverted-v configuration if the mast cannot be guyed.
There are advantages and disadvantages of using the mast with the tripod. With the mast to the ground the vertical force is to one point on the ground and the legs provide the horizontal support and distribute the horizontal forces of the wind and antenna on the leg or legs. Using the mast adapter section distributes the downward force to the three legs forming the tripod. The legs take all the forces. Guying in both situations will keep the mast stable. If the mast goes through the tripod to a ground stake base the pivotal force that could take place is cancelled by the stake base. This is most likely to happen if only one mast section per leg is used. In other word if only one mast section is used in each leg the mast is not as stable in the wind and the mast extends through to the ground the mast will kick out like a ladder improperly used and the mast will topple -- unless properly guyed.
Here's a photo of about the maximum height one person can raise alone and do it safely. Mast is about 25 feet tall and uses 6 sections plus the stand. This mast should be stabilized with at least 3 guy ropes at the top section. However when it is not windy this mast is quite stable. It is used in this configuration for a VHF antenna. The antenna is not mounted in this photo. I anchor the base with tent stakes or sand bags.
For a dipole or G5RV using this mast (2 required) the mast needs to be guyed 3 sections from the bottom and at the top with at least 3 guys properly installed.
Fiberglass mast mounted on a speaker tripod (could just as well be an antenna tripod) secured with tent stakes where
the braces contact the ground. 6 sections for approx. 30 feet, and there is sufficient clearance for the coax to pass through the center of the mast.
Here's my easily deployed VHF mast with a 2M ground plane on the top. The height is about 18 ft. At most this set up could be about 20 ft depending on how much of the blue is placed inside the speaker stand. The mast is a $14, 12 ft aluminum swimming pool cleaning pole from Lowe's. The speaker stand is extended to gain about 4 ft. of height. Again this set up quite stable, but I secured the base with tent stakes. On a hard surface I use weight and spread the base legs further. Guying is used if it is too windy. The home brew ground plane has been replaced with a Hustler CGT-144 and the ground plane is installed in the attic for a back-up antenna.
The unassembled CGT-144 fits nicely inside of the blue pole. Ends are secured with gaffer's tape. The CGT-144 hardware was modified to use stainless steel thumb screws and thumb nuts. There is enough space to run RG-213 or other coax through the center of the mast. The bottom of the speaker stand vertical tube was modified to allow large diameter coax to fit between the pole and ground.
This mast and my VHF go-kit can be easily transported in the car or SUV. It's not difficult should it need carried to its location of use either.
I have had several inquiries as to my method of keeping the blue pole from sliding all the way through the speaker stand. I used a PVC reducing bushing from Lowes. I took the pole to the plumbing section and bought the one that fit.
I hope to add more on masts before Field Day including the use of Jackite poles, knots and whatever else I can add.
Here is a photo of the item number of a 16 foot long multi-purpose aluminum pole from Home Depot. It costs about $30.00. It is longer when collapsed than the blue pole from Lowe's and the height gained is only 2 feet. I included the model number for those who may want a pole and have a Home Depot store and no Lowe's store.
This pole may be used as a reserve pole for an Evans Engineering portable ground plane VHF/UHF antenna. The small diameter of this pole makes storing an antenna inside of it difficult. A roll-up J-pole or some other home brew antenna may work on top of this pole inside of a piece of PVC pipe. I was going to use this pole for deploying a C-pole for 20 meters, but I never built the C-pole.
A note or two about this pole. First a PL-259 fits nicely inside the top section. This makes this pole my candidate for using the EE-3 antennna from Evans Engineering. A note on mast mounting the EE-3: In some correspondence with Bob over the past year he recommends not mounting the antenna directly on top of a metal mast, but stand it off by about a foot or more to reduce SWR. I have not made any measurements to test this. I'm guessing he has.
The second thing about this pole is it comes with a removable plastic top piece for attaching brushes, squeegees and other items. It is possible this part could be adapted for quickly attaching an antenna.
Guy Anchors: I use several kinds of anchors for various masts. Army surplus 12 inch long aluminum seem very popular and affordable. I have deployed several masts in the sandy soil of FL using these with out problems. I use some Army surplus 12 inch long steel stakes, some 18 inch long steel stakes, some that are a bit heavier 12 inch with cables attached that were made for one of the army's antennas, and some home made ones. My favorite and easily installed and removed while being super at staying in the ground are the 15 inch twist in from Harbor Freight, 99693, Auger Anchor Tie Down. These can usually be purchased for under $10.00 on sale and they come 6 per box. I paint tops fluorescent orange or place orange rings around them or I use the small orange boundary cones at the anchors to increase visibility. This saves time searching for the black eye to attach the guys and perhaps help prevent trip hazards. Both the small cones and rings can be purchased rather cheaply at Wal-Mart or Target in the Soccer section of sporting goods.
Here are the anchors being painted and one installed.
Suppliers: many of the items I get from army surplus come from Coleman's Surplus in PA: Coleman's
The AB-155 supplies come from Ontario Surplus
Anything else is mentioned can sometimes be found on Ebay.
I checked the Harbor Freight site 20 June 11, and they do not presently list the anchors. Whether the stores would have them I do not know. Sometimes the stores have things not on the national website and sometimes the opposite.