Tape Measure Beam – Radio Direction Finding

Joe Leggio WB2HOL

This antenna evolved during my search for a beam with a really great front-to-back ratio to use in hidden transmitter hunts. This design exhibits a very clean pattern and is perfect for RDF use. It trades a bit of forward gain in exchange for a very deep notch in the pattern toward the rear. (You could optimize the design for more forward gain, but at the expense of a really good notch in the pattern toward the rear.) It is a design that can be constructed using only simple hand tools (no machine shop needed) and still perform well. It has been duplicated several dozen times by other local hams and has been successfully used as a club construction project.

When I designed this antenna I had one basic idea in mind. It had to be easy to get in and out of the car when hunting for a hidden transmitter. This would be accomplished by the use of steel “tape measure” elements. These elements could fold easily when fitting the antenna into my car and yet still be self supporting. I decided to use three elements to keep the boom from getting too long.

Another of my design goals was to use materials that were easy to obtain. I chose to use Schedule-40 PVC pipe and fittings available at my local hardware store for the boom and element supports. These kept the cost for the antenna very low. The element supports consist of PVC crosses and tees.

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