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True Ladder Line and Wire Antennas

Ladder Line History-W7IXZ

I received this letter from Larry, W7IXZ.  Thank you Larry for sharing your ham radio experience and particularly your experience with wire antennas and feed lines!


 Gary Baker, K7EMF

TrueLadderLine & Antennas

June 6, 2021


Hi Gary,


Had a great time talking with you the other day following my order for a TrueLadderLine 80-10 meter antenna.  Amazing how parallel our professional paths were alike from childhood interest in Ham Radio to Commercial Broadcasting.


I have missed my “ Ladder Line Fed” antennas of the past, going way back to 1954 when I was first licensed as WN7WZY. Back in the day, the home made antenna feeders consisted of various sizes of wooden dowels and were time consuming to construct. A friend of mine, Joel KD7JG turned me on to your company and the TrueLadderLine antenna systems. I checked out the one he was using which was one of the 160-10 meter antennas. I was really impressed with the construction and operation of the antenna and I would not have to go through making my own spacers and feed line. More on that adventure later.


As a teenager new to the world of ham radio, what the old timers said was like “God's WORD” and everyone used open wire feed line. As I found out in my later broadcast engineering career even the old time broadcast stations used a form of open wire feed line to reduce line loss. I tried a number of antennas along the way including the original Windom, which was different than the Windom antennas of today. When Windom was first introduced it was a single wire feeder connected a percentage off center which was supposed to present a 600 ohm load to the transmitter. This still required a matching device of some sort because most of us were using the link coupling method of connection to the feed line. Antenna tuners also were designed with link coupling into a tuned circuit consisting of a home made coil with the link either movable or “swinging” configuration so one could adjust the amount of coupling between the transmitter and antenna tuning unit. Most transmitters were still using plug in coils with link coupling then and the pi-net tank coils were just starting to come into use. This change from link to pi-net output circuits and low 50 ohm values due mostly to the appearance of coax cable becoming available on the surplus market after the war. Very quickly the ladder line fell out of favor and was replaced with coaxial cable feed line.


About the same time strange configurations for “do it all” antennas began to make an appearance in the ham radio books and commercially. They looked simple, and were touted to do everything one would ever want in the way of an antenna. Well, I “drank the cool-aid” as one might say today and built several of these new antennas only to wonder why I could no longer make the contacts as easily as I had in the past with the long proven low loss open wire feeder. But I kept trying and finally gave up and went back to the open wire feeders. As one becomes smarter and learn why these wonder antennas do not provide the same signal strength as the open wire fed antennas, you understand what the problems are in the way of return loss, heating of balun cores and what ever the magic potion that the new antenna is using becomes apparent. I have burned out baluns placed in the wrong position in the past and now will never use another balun unless it is in the input side of a balanced tuner or to remove common mode problems in a low band low noise receiving antenna.


I wanted to change out my inverted “L” that I was using on the low bands. It worked well but it terminated just outside of the ham shack wall and on some bands the amount of RF in the shack was just too much. It would cause the computer to go nuts when using my L-7 amp on the low bands. In addition the vertical part of the “L” was close to the power line drop into the breaker panel causing even more problems in the house. Things like the ground fault outlets to trip when the transmitter would come on. It interrupted the RF current flowing on the common or ground lead as a ground fault and would trip. I made the decision to change out the inverted “L” to my favorite low loss balanced antenna I used most of my beginning ham radio experience. The thought of making new open wire feed line or ladder line feeders was something I was not ready to undertake again after my experience I had I had in my earlier days.


When I built my open wire fed antenna in the late 50’s and early 1960’s, I had to cut quarter inch wooden dowels to 6 inches in lengths, cut a slot and drill holes for the small wire to hold the feed line conductors to the dowels on each end of every dowel, then I boil the prepared dowels in paraffin (the wax my wife used to seal canning jars of jams and jellies). I will also add here that when I first became a ham everyone used open wire feeders, and as a teenager I thought nothing of boiling wooden sticks in hot wax. After all, what could go wrong! However after I was married, my wife was not too happy with me doing this on the kitchen stove, but let me do it. She is also a licensed ham but still concerned about a fire starting. Finally after boiling the dowels until they stopped bubbling I took them out to cool. Then building the feed line could start. One by one I attached each spacer to each line using a small length of wire wrapped around the feed line conductor, through the small hole in the dowel and back around the feeder wire. This secured the spacers so they would not slip or change position. (well most of the time) I was not ready to repeat this in 2021, especially when I found your TrueLadderLine antennas.


Looking forward to it and will let you know how it works. Nothing better in the wire antenna world than real LOW LOSS LADDER FED ANTENNAS! They are always more efficient than any other type of antenna as long as the operator uses proper matching devices like a true balanced tuner like a Johnson Matchbox or the balanced tuner you are providing on your site.


Thanks for making it easy to put up a true low loss feedline antenna with the TrueLadderLine antenna.


Best 73’s, Larry W7IXZ