On today’s episode of “Will It Antenna?”, [Ben Eadie (VE6SFX)] designs and tests an antenna made entirely of tape, and spoiler alert — it works pretty well.
By way of background, the basic design [Ben] uses here is known as a J-pole, a popular “my first antenna” design for amateur radio operators looking to go beyond the stock whip antenna that comes with that cheap handy-talkie you just can’t resist buying as soon as you get your license. Usually, though, hams will build their J-poles from rigid materials, copper water pipe being a typical choice. Copper has the advantage of being easily sourced, and also results in a self-supporting, weather-resistant antenna that’s easy to mount outdoors. However, copper is getting to be egregiously expensive, and a couple of meters of water pipe isn’t exactly amenable to portable operation, if that’s your jam.
To solve those problems, [Ben] decided to keep his copper use to a minimum with a roll of copper foil tape. He doesn’t provide any specs on the tape, but it looks like it’s about 6 mm (1/4″) wide and judging by a quick Amazon search, probably goes for about $10 a roll. He starts the build with a couple of strips of plain old duck tape — we’ve already had the “duck vs. duct” argument — laid out with the sticky sides together. The copper foil is applied to the duck tape backing using dimensions from any of the J-pole calculators available online. Dimensions are critical to getting good performance from a J-pole, and this is where [Ben]’s tape design shines. Element too long? No problem, just peel up a bit and tear some off. Did you go too far and make an element too short? Easy — just stick on an extension piece of foil. Tuning the location of the feedline connection was a snap, too, with movable terminals held in place with magnets.
Once everything was tuned up, [Ben] soldered down the feed points and covered the foil with a protective layer of duck tape. The antenna performed swimmingly, and aside from costing almost nothing to build, it weighs very little, rolls up to fit in a pack for field operations, and can easily be hoisted into a tree for better coverage. Looks like we’ll be putting in an order for some copper tape and building one of these too.