Pocketable Yagi Antenna Really Shoots For Distance

For amateur radio operators, the quest for the perfect antenna never seems to end. Perhaps that’s because our requirements are always changing. We never quite seem to get to one design that can do everything. This copper-foil Yagi antenna might not do everything, but it really seems to tick off the boxes for gain and directionality along with ultra-portability.

If you’ve been following [Ben Eadie (VE6SFX)]’s trip down the rabbit hole of lightweight antenna building, you’ll recall that he’s already knocked off a J-pole antenna and a stealthy mobile slot antenna using little more than copper foil tape. Both of those designs performed great, but [Ben] had bigger fish to fry: he wanted to build a directional antenna for the 2-meter band and go for distance. The traditional Yagi-Uda is generally the preferred design for beam antennas, but they tend to be bulky and cumbersome. But with a roll of copper foil tape [Ben] was able to lay out a three-element Yagi on a sheet of Tyvek wrap. Reinforced with some packing tape and stiffened with a couple of fiberglass rods attached to a 3D printed handle, and it was ready to go.

[Ben]’s field test results were most impressive. Not only was he able to open up repeaters up to 90 km away, but he was getting good signal reports to boot. He was even able to reach a repeater 150 km distant, just barely though. Still, that’s mighty impressive performance from something that looks like a Union Jack and rolls up to fit in a pocket.

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A Quick And Stealthy Mobile Slot Antenna From Copper Tape

[Ben Eadie (VE6SFX)] is at it again with the foil tape, and this time he’s whipped up a stealthy mobile sunroof antenna for the amateur radio operator with the on-the-go lifestyle.

You may recall [Ben]’s recent duck tape antenna for the 70-cm ham band, an ultra-lightweight design that lends itself to easy packing for portable operation. The conductors in that antenna were made from copper foil tape, a material that’s perfect for all sorts of specialized applications, like the slot antenna that he builds in the video below. In the ham world, slot antennas are most frequently seen cut into the main reflector of a direct satellite dish, often in hopes of avoiding the homeowner association’s antenna police. Even in the weird world of RF, it’s a strange beast because it relies on the absence of material in a large planar (or planar-ish) conductive surface.

Rather than grabbing an angle grinder to make a slot in the roof of his car, [Ben] created a “virtual” slot with copper tape on the inside of his car’s sunroof. His design called for a 39″ (0.99-m) slot, so he laid out a U-shaped slot to fit the window and outlined it with copper foil tape. His method was a little complex; he applied the copper tape to a transparent transfer film first, then stuck the whole thing to the underside of the glass in one go. It didn’t quite go as planned, but as he learned in the duck tape antenna, the copper tape makes it easy to repair mistakes. A BNC connector with pigtails is attached across the slot about 4″ (10 cm) up from the end of one of the short legs of the slot; yes, this looks like a dead short, but such are the oddities of radio.

Is it a great antenna? By the numbers on [Ben]’s NanoVNA, not really. But any antenna that gets you heard is a good antenna, and this one was more than capable in that regard. We’ll have to keep this in mind for impromptu antennas and for those times when secrecy is a good idea.

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Retrofitting Modern LEGO Train Tracks For Use With Older Version

So you’re really looking for that [Norman Rockwell] Christmas and want to set up your train to encircle the Christmas tree this year. The problem is that all you’ve got is an old LEGO train set and not enough track for it. You can’t just buy some more, because the technology has changed; or can you?

[Chris] was dismayed to find that newer LEGO train sets have gone to battery operation rather than drawing power through metal tracks. The new tracks are plastic, and buying extra segments of the older version is cost prohibitive. He figured out a way to add power conductors to the new track pieces.

It turns out the design of the new tracks matches the old, except they’re all in plastic instead of having metal rails. He bought a plastic add-on set, then picked up some copper foil from the hobby store which is meant for stained-glass work. It’s adhesive backed, and after working out the best way to apply it, he coated the rails with the stuff. As you can see above, the new mates perfectly with the old, and keeps that locomotive chugging along.

If you’ve got copper foil left over after this hack, there’s tons of other uses for it. Perhaps building your own flex sensors is worth a try.

Waterproof DIY Momentary-push Switch

[Patman2700] has a nice scope for his paintball gun that uses a red dot instead of cross-hairs. The problem is that he kept forgetting to turn it off which ended up running the batteries down frequently. His solution to the problem was to get rid of the toggle switch used to turn it on and replace it will a home-made momentary push button switch. Now he presses the switch to aim and doesn’t waste juice when he’s running around, trying not to get pelted with paint.

Since this is used outside he wanted it to be water-tight. The switch is built using materials we’ve seen in previous diy switches; adhesive-backed copper sheets for conductors, foam to keep them separated until pressed, and plastic as a support. Copper is applied to the plastic base, with a ring of foam separating the base from the second layer of copper. When squeezed, the two layers of copper come in contact to complete the circuit. To make it work a bit better [Patman2700] added a dab of solder in the center of the bottom copper layer so there is less distance between conductors, and used extra foam to build up a bump in the center of the assembly for a better ‘button’ feel. The whole thing is encased in shrink-wrap with the seams sealed with super glue to keep moisture at bay.