I first discovered a wire antenna winder when talking with a fellow ham Hanz Busch, W1JSB back in 2014. Hanz told me how he had a standard chalk reel that contained a wire antenna.
How clever I thought.
I’m the AsktheBuilder.com guy and prior to that worked as a custom builder and remodeler for decades. You can imagine how many chalk reels or chalk boxes have been in my tool belts!
Wire Antenna Winder Works Fast
Years ago chalk reels took lots of turns to get the string back into the box. New chalk reels are geared so the string is sucked back into the winder like a kid slurps spaghetti into his mouth at the dinner table.
My Irwin Speedline chalk reel has a 3:1 gear ratio that allows me to retrieve my 26-gauge teflon coated stranded wire back into the box in three or four seconds. This chalk reel is made from plastic and it’s very lightweight.
You’ll appreciate this speed if you need to breakdown your outdoor radio station in cold or threatening weather. I saw about 18 months ago that Steve Galchutt, WG0AT, built one so he could scamper down from his SOTA activations when the storm clouds rolled in on top of his Colorado peaks.
1:1 SWR Ratio Every Band
I use my outdoor wire antenna with several radios:
- Elecraft KX3
- Elecraft KX2
- MFJ 20M Cub
- and other assorted QRP radios
I discovered you can get a perfect 1:1 SWR match with the Elecraft tuners if the total wire length is 29 feet.
Jumper Cable + Antenna = 29 Feet
Keep in mind that the total length of the antenna extends from the tip of the antenna down to the unun or banana plug you might use. My jumper cable is 3-feet long so I removed insulation from the 26-gauge wire at 26 feet from the end of the wire where I soldered a loop to the chalk reel hook. 26 + 3 = 29
All things considered, the chalk reel adds just a tiny amount of weight to your backpack, but the advantage of retracting the wire fast and keeping it clean is a big advantage.