Tower Project

Disclaimer: I am fully aware of my jumping from “I” to “we”.  This tower is for my wife and I, so I like to refer to we, though when doing the labor, sometimes it was just me. She was also very instrumental in getting this done. I don’t want to imply that I did everything.

I’ve been working on setting up our ham radio tower for nearly two years. It has been very expensive and time consuming but we are almost done.  It all started on October 12, 2015 when I answered an ad on Craigslist. A gentleman was selling 14 sections of Rohn 55G tower for $150.00 per section.  I only needed five sections but they were so cheap, I called my dad and he wanted the other nine. This picture shows all 14 sections sitting in our garage.

I knew that I wanted to install a tower at some point but this was too good of a deal to pass up.  I didn’t have much money so the sections of tower stayed locked up in our backyard for several months.  We used an old dog kennel to store them until we were ready to start working on the project. As you can see in this picture, we still had our old fence that was crumbling around us.  One project at a time.

I started doing some 3D images of what the tower might look like once installed using Google Earth.  I knew the tower was going to be 50 feet before any antennas went on but it was actually 52 feet.  This was just a dream at this point because we had so many other projects that needed to get done, like a storm cellar, new fence, a new sprinkler system, etc.

Since we had no money to get anything done for a long time, all we could do was make plans.  Here you can see where I painted the spot on the grass where the tower would go. This was February 7, 2016.  My wife and I pondered where it would go and settled on this spot near the cellar.  I first marked the spot as four feet by four feet.  Later after reading the specifications from Rohn, that was changed to six feet by six feet.  In this picture it was still marked for the smaller spot.  You can see in this picture that our storm cellar needed dirt around it so we took advantage of this dirt to pile around it.

In the below picture you can see the Rohn specifications for installing as a self supporting tower.  This is the specifications that we used when installing the base. It was six feet wide by six feet wide  by four and a half feet deep. The bottom six inches were gravel.

In the picture below you can see the hole as I was digging it. Man!  That was a job that lasted several weeks, digging a little at a time. As you can see we used the dirt to pile around the cellar so that it would be fully covered.  At this point I was feeling like maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew.

In this picture you can see the hold is almost done. We have the worst soil on the face of the earth.  I am convinced that it was shipped in from somewhere else for the construction of these houses. Here in Oklahoma we have red clay everywhere.  This is clay but is gray colored, differing from the natural soil.  Let me say, this dirt is absolutely nasty.  When it is dry, it is as hard as concrete and when it is wet, it is nothing but slime.  My wife has fallen to the ground twice due to slipping on it.

At this point, I was thinking that our yard was never going to recover.  In the back of my mind, I was thinking that maybe I was damaging the lawn beyond repair.  I was concerned that at this point, we could not afford to get the concrete installed and if it started raining, the hole may collapse.  The picture above was taken March 15th, 2016.  We finally hired a company to install the concrete on April 21st, 2016.

The night before the concrete was supposed to be installed, we received 3.83 inches of rain. Despite covering the hole with tarps and sand bags, the hole filled up with water as you can see below.  At this point, my wife and I were panicking. This was just before sunset and the concrete company was supposed to be here first thing in the morning.

In the picture above you can see the night before the concrete company arrived we were in a crisis situation.  We had to go to Home Depot and rent a sump pump to drain the water.  Since the hole had dirt at the bottom, we could not just sit the sump pump in the hole because we didn’t want to clog the pump with dirt.  We put a water hose through the handle and my wife stood on one side while I stood on the other, holding onto the water hose, suspending the pump over the hole.  Wow!  Our arms were killing us by the time we got to the bottom.

Since we could not get the pump all the way to the bottom because we didn’t want to risk getting mud stuck in the sump pump, we had to stop at some point and begin scooping the water out.  Since the hole was so deep, I fashioned this wonderful dipping device where I used a plastic cup taped to a garden hoe to reach down into the hole and scoop the rest of the water out of the hole.  The dirt around the hole was saturated and I worried that it would collapse.

Again, this was the nastiest dirt in the history of the world.  My shoe could attest to just how bad it was.  My shoe weighed about eight pounds at this point.  If I’d had a brain in my head, I would have worn boots but I am not the smartest guy around. 🙂

When we got the estimate for the concrete installation, we requested to have the concrete pumped back to the tower spot because the truck could not reach this spot.  The night before they showed up, I receive a text from the concrete company saying they forgot to include the cost of the pump in their estimate and so they said they could used a Bobcat to bring the concrete back to the hole from the street for no extra charge.  What was I thinking when I told them okay?  Look at this picture above.  It took 15 trips from the street to the back yard to carry 5.5 yards of concrete to the hole, the day after getting nearly four inches of rain.  Oh man!  This picture does not give justice to how bad they tore up the lawn.

This picture helps to give a little perspective just how bad the lawn was destroyed.  Remember what I said earlier, this dirt is as hard as concrete when it dries and slimey as goo when it is wet. It was so hard after it dried that I could stand right on top of the trail and my weight could not even move it.  My wife was very angry at them tearing up the lawn and so they agreed to fix the front yard and we had to fix the back ourselves.  We had to buy a rototiller to fix it.  It took the entire summer of 2016 to salvage our lawn.

You can see in the above picture, we seeded the grass to try to get it to grow back.  At this point, the lawn was nothing but weeds anyway so we hired a company to begin treating the lawn six times a year.  Apply pre-emergent twice during the winter and fertilize it four times during the summer.  That pile of dirt in the far corner of the yard was some of the extra dirt that I tried moving around to low spots in the yard.  Man!  I slaved all summer trying to level the lawn.

While this picture is not really relevant to the tower installation, I felt it was relevant in showing how much work was involved in leveling the lawn.  What you see in the picture above is the extra dirt left over from the storm cellar installation. The dirt pile was about three feet tall when they left. Initially I went the lazy route and just used a dirt rake and smoothed out the pile the best I could over an area of about 30 feet. The storm cellar was installed the previous August and this picture was taken in May.  The dirt had solidified but was not level.  It was causing the water flow to change direction so it had to be moved.  I had to break it loose, one shovel at a time.  I scooped it into our lawn mower trailer and moved it to various low places in the lawn, being careful not to disrupt the natural water flow during rain.  I literally moved tons of dirt during the summer of 2016.

The installation of the tower began December 28th, 2016.  At this point, the tower is 22 feet with three remaining pieces on the ground.

Here is the top section going on putting the tower at 52 feet tall.  It sat this way for several months while I saved to buy the RT Innovations Razor.

The tower was finally up as of December 30th, 2016.   This project was a save and work with money that was on hand at the moment project.  We were careful not to use credit on this project and only did the work as we had the money.  There was a long pause as of this point because the Razor is quite expensive but well worth the money.

This is the Razor on a table ready for assembly. This is much larger than it appears in this picture. The package was 88 pounds and was not that difficult to assemble.  He did a great job in hand crafting this device for the tower.  This device is designed to hold, lift and lower the antennas and rotor without having to climb the tower.

In this picture you can see the razor installed on the tower before the rotor was installed.  You can see the wheels that are used to ride up the tower to the top.

After getting the razor installed, I purchased this mast that is capable of holding the largest of beams (yagi).  It is a 24 foot 2″ Outside Diameter x .375″ wall x 1.25 ID 6061 Aluminum Round Tube.  This will go onto the razor installed in the newly purchased Yaesu G-1000 DXA antenna rotor.

This antenna rotator is very nice and probably one of my most valued part of this whole installation.  I can’t wait to get it installed.

On this picture you can see the Super-Winch that we had installed that will be used to lift the Razor tot the top.  You can also see the three inch PVC pipe that is going in that will house the antenna cables and rotator cable.

I dug this trench and installed the PVC on July 3rd, 2017.  It was really humid while digging.  One thing that you can see in this picture is that now that we have the sprinkler installed and that we have been treating the lawn, the grass looks much better than in earlier pictures.  I really hated to dig this hole in the yard and mess up the grass but it had to be done to get the cables in the house and I feel that it can grow back easier now that we have the sprinkler system.

In this picture you can see how the PVC goes over the top of the metal porch cover.  Ignore the coax running across the shingles. That is just temporary as the HF dipole is on the pole to the upper right of the picture.  That is an Alpha Delta DX-LB Plus multi-band dipole.

In this picture you can see the antenna rotator has been installed and the mast has been installed into it and the thrust bearing.

In this picture you can also see the mast and rotator installed but from a side view.  The project has been slow but it is coming along.  I am trying to do this project correctly and it takes a long time to do it without using credit.

In the picture above, you can see on September 30, 2017 we finally got the antennas on and the RT Razor lifting the antennas.  At this point the tower is 52 feet, the 13 element two meter antenna is at 60 feet and the bottom of the dual band vertical is at 64 feet and the top of the dual band vertical is at 80 feet.  As this project progresses, I will come back and edit this post.  Keep checking back.

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