Walk Like An Egyptian, But Climb Like A Pro

Walk Like An Egyptian, But Climb Like A Pro

Okay, more tower stuff. Why? Because tower smarts are some of the best smarts you can have. Heck, they may even safe your life or the life of one of your buddies. Actually, there’s a good reason for reading the horror stories and watching the “FAIL” videos. You could learn what not to do. You won’t get quite as much out of those pursuits as you will by climbing for real, but it helps. It helps especially when you watch the pros do it. You may not use the same equipment but most of what they do is no different than what you should do.

Over many years best practices have been established for keeping tower guys safe. Getting your tower guys to follow those practices is imperative. I suggest to you that you can learn a great deal from watching the videos, especially the instructional videos. Sad to say, many ‘professionals’ don’t work like professionals. The next guy who comes along may have to fix the mistakes of the previous guy, if he lives that long. That could be you…on your own tower. NEVER take a shortcut. ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s directions. Hire a professional if necessary.

I started with little knowledge, but, I have made the effort to learn as much as I can and I believe it has paid off. I am not telling you there weren’t close calls….there were, but they were totally avoidable. Don’t be stupid. Stay alive and healthy and enjoy that tower. I will do wonders for you.

Okay, so what is the purpose of a tower? To elevate your antennas, right? Why is this necessary anyway? Well, the old saw says: ‘Higher is better’, and that is almost always true. One guy I know says that feedline going sideways has loss and feedline going vertically has gain. While he did not mean that in a technical sense, there is truth to the statement. If you are a VHF+ ham, then once you get above the trees, a whole new world opens up. It is nothing short of amazing! And if you are an HF person, then you will also know that height can improve take-off angle and ground losses. Thus, the need for towers.

So now that we are climbing like pros and understand the need for towers, then understand the basics of towers. Not just any tower will do. We never want to overload a tower. They DO come down sometimes. Want some easy advice? Follow the manufacturer’s directions. I cannot over-stress that point. Man, they have ENGINEERS! These are smart people who are paid to think about the things you and I may not have knowledge of. These folks keep us safe, if we follow their directions. This means you need to do some homework first, and that homework amounts to calculating the wind load and weight you will be putting on the tower. Don’t wing it, do it! You may be very surprised to know just how much wind load your planned feedlines, antennas and masts represent. The engineers have already determined how much wind load your tower can handle. You’ll need to look at the tables for your area.

After that Mr. Pro Climber/Tower Owner, you’ll need to know the soil conditions and what sort of base will be necessary. If you cannot determine this on your own, hire a PE to figure it out for you. The base of a tower is not so much for holding the tower up as it is for keeping the bottom from moving around. You don’t want the base moving left, right, forward, backward, up or down. You want it to be stationary. Drawings of proper bases are easy to find. You need to understand the way to excavate the hole as well as the dimensions. Yep. You don’t just dig a hole and then fill back in around the concrete. That doesn’t work very well. Crank-up towers may have different bases than guyed towers. Bases in sandy soils may be different than in hard clay. And what if you build on a rock, like I had to?

No part of the job is more important than the preparation and that involves pre-planning. That means figuring out what you wish to accomplish before you do anything else. How tall will your tower need to be? If it is guyed, where will the guys come down at? Will the antennas clear obstacles, especially for crank-up types? How will you ground the tower? Could it fall on a power line? (If the answer is yes, then stop right here and get another hobby). I have a system of towers and I spent two months laying out the plan for where they would go. I went to The School of Southern Engineering and I can honestly tell you, I wouldn’t do everything the same next time. You learn as you go. Hey, even the professionals learn as they go…they just have mentors to help them along.

Speaking of mentors, you really ought to have some. Having an Elmer to help you learn CW or to help you pick out a radio or antenna is nice. Having a mentor to help you build a tower is brilliant. You are brilliant, aren’t you? I know, I know. Many hams put up a single tower, it stays up until they pass away and nothing bad ever happens. Hey, I’m happy for those guys. I want you to be one of those guys, not one of the guys who has a much sadder tale to tell. In an earlier rant, I said towers are inherently dangerous. They are. Gravity sits on “GO’ and he is ALWAYS watching you. He never blinks an eye. You won’t have a quick second to correct a mistake. Gravity will move before you can…he’s that fast. Gravity will hurt whomever he can: ground crew, tower crew…you name it. You simply cannot afford to be sloppy or stupid. Climb like a pro, and when you get down, you can walk like an Egyptian.

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