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The Balcony Bender 2 Meter Antenna
Add ground planes to your 2 Meter Balcony Buddy
Courtsey LD Blake, VE3VDC 5-07


Add on radials If you are using the Balcony Buddy or a similar monopole on your balcony you may benefit from adding a set of ground radials to the antenna.

Ground plane antennas are nothing new. Hams have been using them for a very long time. But there are some problems with putting them on balconies. By the time you arrange a stand for them, get them set up and positioned on the balcony, they take over half of the space. Additionally the perfomance can be seriously hindered if parts of the antenna are hidden behind the balcony's structure.

But what isn't common knowledge is that you don't need 4 ground rods to make a groundplane antenna, it can be done with 2. This gives us a more or less 2 dimensional antenna that can easily be stood up on a short piece of pipe from a balcony rail without losing any space on the balcony itself.

There are numerous advantages to a groundplane antenna over a monopole. First you get approximately twice the gain (about 9DBi). But more importantly the ground radials isolate the antenna from the balcony itself. This reduces the risk of RFI in the building and greatly reduces the levels of induced electronic noise you will hear from other electronics in the building.

This project is a bit more advanced than the Balcony Buddy in that it requires fabrication of parts. However there's nothing here that can't be done at home using basic tools.

The first step is to get all the bits and pieces you will need to build a 2 meter version of the Balcony Buddy . In addition you will need need a piece of 1/2 or 3/4 inch pipe about 60 cm long for the mast pipe, a piece of 3/16 inch tempered aluminium rod at least 120 cm in length for the radials, a second piece about 53cm for the top whip, and a bit of 1/8 inch aluminium stock the width of your bracket and about 4 cm tall. Depending on your balcony you may need a couple of U bolts or hose clamps to mount the mast.

Making The Radials

First you want to bend the ground radials from the 3/16" aluminium rod. The bending plan is below, along with a picture of the finished groundplane.

Bending plan Finished radials

Caution: You can re-bend the 3/16 tempered aluminium a little bit to adjust your angles but if you try to straighten it and start over it is going to break so be very careful to get this right the first time.

The dimensions are not particularly critical but you should try to get them as close as possible. The short 10cm "wing span" is a slight adjustment for more uniform SWR. The downward angle of the radials determines the antenna's impedance. Their length affects the resonant frequency. You can be a couple of millimetres off without too much detrimental effect, more than that will begin to show in the antenna's performance.

Center section

I started in the center of the rod, with a 90 degree bend. Then moved out 2cms each side to make the two 45 degree bends that bring the horizontal parts out level. When done the rod should lay flat, the two ends should be exactly in line with each other. This is the portion of the radials that have to fit against the bracket, so you can make some adjustments to suit your bracket here if you need to.

Next I trial fitted the center section to my bracket just to make sure everything was going to fit properly before proceeding.

Trial fit On the right you can see how the center section sits on the bracket. This portion will be clamped into place by the aluminium bar we are going to fabricate once the ground radials are finished.

The next step is to get the 10cm horizontal part right. While I still had the rod on the bracket for trial fitting I measured the bracket, subtracted it's width from 10cm, divided by 2, then measured out and marked my next 2 bends. If you are using the RV-1 brackets I use, this is easy... the bracket is 5 cm wide so you need 2.5 cm on either side.

Next make the 45 degree angle bends that bring the ground radials downward. This angle sets the impedance of the antenna, be extra careful to get these bends as close to 45 degrees as you can. Also, some care is needed here as you want the whole thing to lay flat when it's done, so be careful to get the radials parallel to the the center section and to each other when you make these two bends.

The final step in fabricating the radials is to measure down the 45 degree sloping rods, starting from the center of your bend radius and cut them to 44.5cm. This measurement isn't all that critical, you can be off by a millimetre or two but the antenna is going to work best if both are the same.

The Clamp Bar

The next step is to make a clamping bar to hold the radials against the bracket. This has to be some pretty sturdy stuff if you don't want them to move, so use at least 1/8" aluminium, 3/16" is better.

Clamping Bar On the left is a shot of the bar itself. The actual dimensions will depend on the bracket you are using. The hole spacing must match the hole spacing of your bracket as you will be using it's mounting bolts to trap the ground radials into place. Note that the lower section in the picture is longer than the upper. The long side is cut to exactly fit between the upper bolts of the bracket and the bottom of the top plate. The closer this fit the better. The shorter distance is less important so long as it is sufficient to support the bolt heads.

How it fits On the right is a shot showing how the bar fits over the bracket and how it clamps the ground radials into place. You need to measure and arrange a similar fit for the bracket you are using.

I do feel duty bound to tell you that I cheated just a bit making this bar. I had an old bracket with the back piece missing, so I just cut the bar from the bottom of the bracket with my hacksaw and cleaned it up with a file. Sometimes it pays to hang on to bits and pieces of stuff.


Now that we have all our bits and pieces together it's time to make this into an antenna.

Clamping the radials

The first step is to assemble the bracket and radials using the clamping bar and two of the bolts supplied with the bracket. (Note on some mast pipes you may need to replace these two top bolts with longer ones to get enough reach). On the left we see a back shot of the bracket showing two extra nuts added to clamp the ground radials into place. This is a better plan than relying upon the standard nuts as these can be tightened a lot more firmly to minimize the risk of the radials moving after installation.

RF parts added

On the right is a shot of the completed assembly, with the RF parts added and all ready for a top whip.

If you are using the Balcony Buddy You will need to make a new vertical whip for it as this antenna uses a slightly longer whip than a monopole. The vertical whip should start at about 56cm from the tip to the top of the bracket, for this configuration.

All ready to go

Now, on the left we see the complete antenna assembled on a mastpipe and ready to go out onto my balcony for tuning and use.

Installation and Tune Up

And it works!

The only special step when installing this antenna is to keep the tips of the ground radials above the balcony rail; not across it. Also they should be about 15 or 20cm above the railing.

Tuning this antenna is a matter of getting the top whip the right length. You should not have to trim or adjust the ground radials.

After mounting the antenna on my balcony with a couple of U bolts, the task became one of tuning for the lowest SWR. This turned out to be a lot easier than I expected. I was able to get the SWR under 1.1 all the way across 2 metres in a matter of minutes. A bit of time with a file, trimming slivers off the top whip got it down to 1.05:1 on each end and 1.0:1 in the middle.

At a beginning height of 54cm the antenna came in long, as expected, and I followed the same tuning process as for the Balcony Buddy...

  1. Take an SWR measurement at 144mhz and write it down.

  2. Take another measurement at 148 and write it down too.

  3. If the low end reads better than the high end, the antenna is too long. You should trim about 5mm off the aluminium top whip and go back to step 1.

  4. If the high end reads better than the low, the antenna is too short, go on to the next step.

  5. Once you get your first "too short" reading stop trimming the whip and move it up a little in the AS-1 adaptor and gently snug the setscrews.

  6. If the ends of the band now read nearly equal, you are done.

  7. If the antenna still reads too short, go to step 5.

When done the top whip on mine measured 518mm tip to bracket. Of course the conditions on your balcony may change this length somewhat, so don't be surprised if you end up a bit longer or shorter.

Common mode choke

During my early testing I ran into a problem with "common mode" signals on the coax (aka "feedline radiation"). I eventually solved the problem by making a coil of 5 turns of coax wound around the mast pipe and taped into place about 15 cm below the bottom of the mounting bracket. This improved and stabilized the SWR of the antenna with only minimal retuning. As a bonus it also got rid of a problem I had with my signals interfering with my computer monitor. It's probably best to add this choke when installing the antenna, before you start tuning.

One final tip: to keep the unplated aluminum parts looking bright and new for a long time, polish them gently with fine steel wool and give them a triple coat of car wax.


I will say I am quite pleased with this antenna so far.

As expected there has been only a little change in received signals from local area repeaters. Signal reports on my transmissions have, so far been about the same as for the Balcony Boomer, a little better than for the basic Balcony Buddy.

However, there has been a huge improvement in the quality of received signals. Noise levels are way down. Since the antenna's radiator is now isolated from the balcony structure I no longer have to listen through all the electronic hash in the building to hear a weak signal.

Update: August 2007
After using this antenna for a few months I find it's performance to be excellent. I've been able to turn down power for several repeaters and still have good copy with others. The simplex range extends to the horizon and beyond, often with only 10 watts of power. The match is holding beautifully at under 1.1:1 across the entire 2 meter band.

My little "2 dimensional groundplane" seems to be living up to all expectations and, so, I will call this design a success.

Editor's note: This project uses mostly metrics.
Use this calculator to convert lengths, sizes, etc



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