Earlier today I stopped at Harbor Freight and picked up a one pound spool of aluminum welding wire for ten bucks before the 20% off coupon. We've used such welding wire on our camping trips upstate with good results. In fact, my friend who owns the property we camp on built an 80M dipole with it and strung it about 5 feet off the ground, supporting it with fence insulators. Reception on that antenna is excellent and he's made some contacts as well. It's been there over a year and is still usable.
To support my random wire antenna today I used my 31 foot Jackite kite pole with about 50 feet of the welding wire. I also ran a ground line about 25 to 30 feet and held it down with a big screwdriver as a stake.
The wire was so light that the tip of the mast didn't noticeably droop. The antenna was running approximately East-West, and the ground ran out towards the NE.
Aluminum welding wire is light and easy to work with. As seen with my friend's 80M dipole, it'll last long if its not under much strain. It's cheap enough that if you needed to abandon a random wire antenna made from it, that wouldn't cause concern.
My back patio station today was my 2013 MacBook Pro running FLDIGI and WSJT-X, the ZM-2, Yaesu FT-817ND, and Signalink USB digital interface. I also had a CAT cable for rig control.
I followed the instructions in this video to work the tuner. I found it difficult to see the red LED even though it was overcast, so I need to verify that it's in fact working. Maybe it was luck, but by tuning for maximum noise I really didn't have to tweak anything. When I hit transmit, the rig didn't complain about high SWR.
I briefly tried 40M but had issues getting the antenna to tune on that band. It might be the length of the wire, but again I had issues seeing the LED SWR indicator light up.
As I mentioned, HF propagation is really in the crapper. Before setting up out back, I'd done some work inside using my Icom 7200 and the Ultimax 100 end fed on my roof. The random wire seemed more sensitive, based on the number of PSK31 stations that I saw. However, 20M was mostly dead.
After spotting a number of other stations on 20M PSK31 I closed out FLDIGI and fired up WSJT-X to do some WSPR. On 5 watts, I was in fact getting out.
The screenshot is from WSPR Watch running on my iPhone
This table shows the WSPR stations I received in about 10 minutes of listening.
Timestamp Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az 2017-09-17 19:28 8P9HA 14.097165 -17 0 GK03fb 0.1 KB3MNK FN20ic 3378 336 2017-09-17 19:28 K7POF 14.097124 -8 0 DM34sr 10 KB3MNK FN20ic 3312 68 2017-09-17 19:28 W6WGF 14.097119 -7 1 EM12rw 5 KB3MNK FN20ic 2053 61 2017-09-17 19:28 VE4WSC 14.097103 -12 3 EN19ku 5 KB3MNK FN20ic 2019 114 2017-09-17 19:26 WA5IWB 14.097094 -14 0 EM10qh 1 KB3MNK FN20ic 2215 55 2017-09-17 19:26 K7RE 14.097146 -10 0 DN84am 1 KB3MNK FN20ic 2395 92 2017-09-17 19:26 K5FRT 14.097012 -21 0 EM10td 0.2 KB3MNK FN20ic 2206 54 2017-09-17 19:24 8P9HA 14.097137 -19 0 GK03fb 0.1 KB3MNK FN20ic 3378 336 2017-09-17 19:24 K6KWI 14.097060 -21 0 DM13cu 20 KB3MNK FN20ic 3802 67 2017-09-17 19:24 N0IJK 14.097052 -19 0 EL19ao 5 KB3MNK FN20ic 2365 54
I am cautiously optimistic about the Emtech ZM-2 tuner but I need to figure out why I'm not seeing the LED SWR indicator light. My next experiment with it will be with a dipole to be constructed using some 450 Ohm window line that I bought yesterday at Ham Radio Outlet.