Looking For Educated Guesses . . . .

I am a new Ham and I know it is impossible for people to tell you how a radio and antenna will work in somebody elses home, but I do have some data to provide and a pretty simple question.

I am lucky to have several repeaters near me and two HAM clubs in my neighborhood on the Northeast side of Houston. I am able to hit 4 local repeaters which are at distances of about 2, 4, 8 and 10 miles (the 10 mile has a lot of static) using a Baofeng BF-F9 v2+ (basically an 8 watt capable UV5R+) using a Nagoya 771 17 inch whip or my Nagoya 701 8 inch whip. I want to set up a base station in my study. The rub is, that in my study the reception I am getting on my Baofeng is not as good as if I move out to the kitchen or patio (about 30 feet away from the study). As a new HAM I would be perfectly happy to sit at my desk in the study and use a mobile / base dual band radio. Using the handheld is not as appealing as having a true radio and remote mic. Now for the question. I am looking at the HAM starter kit here on TwoWay radios. It comes with a Wouxun KG-UV920P rated at 40 or 50 watts, a Wouxon power supply and the Tram 1185 Amateur Dual-Band Magnet Antenna (20 inch) (I have seen the post of people using this in their home base station stuck via the magnet on a cookie sheet and getting good results). If I go this route I would put the antenna on the top of a 5 foot bookshelf that is closer to the door of the study and the kitchen. So, knowing that I am getting OK but not great reception in my study via the Baofeng with a 8 inch Nagoya, could I assume that the new set up with the 1185 Tram will give me better reception than I am getting now? If it is just a little better, it will be fine, but I don’t want to spend the money and set it all up just to find that it gets no better reception than the handheld. If you have read this far I thank you and look forward to the feedback.

I’m a little surprised. You have two local clubs, who know the area, the topography and probably even have kit they could loan you to experiment with, and you ask a bunch of strangers who can at best say, “it might work”?

I don’t know the exam system or license levels in the states, but I do know my uk licence mentions technical knowledge and experimentation? Have you tried putting your radio, with its slightly better aerial in the place you want to put your inside antenna? Did it work? If so, so will the new system in the same location. A bit more power will get you a little further on transmit, but receive will be the same. Before you spend any money on inside kit, is there no way you can get antennas up outside?

I can’t quite see the point in limiting yourself to local chat. It’s going to get dull very quickly. Part of the fun for some people is trying to perhaps MAKE aerial systems that perform better indoors, or maybe can be covertly concealed outside or disguised.

Spending money on new equipment to talk to exactly the same people is a bit pointless, isn’t it? Experiment. Learn. Expand your horizons. The CB guys like to chat. So do the UHF free users. They don’t need technical knowledge to do that. My humble view is that if chat is your only interest, then hams can be quite boring to talk to, certainly in the UK. The fun comes from pushing limits, trying new aerial designs, the quest to do something that the CB and free radio guys cannot do. Ordinary people have studies. Hams have shacks. Sorry to be gloomy, but on your doorstep are real people, who you chat to? Who can help. You have joined these local clubs I hope? Usually full of people willing to come to you and bring toys to play with.

Thanks for the reply, I think? I have not joined any clubs yet (They meet once a month at the beginning of the month). I have experimented with the Baofeng, and yes, the reception improves as I move toward where I am thinking the Antenna will be. I have not received my call sign yet, so can’t do any transmitting. I get where you are coming from, but I think since you are already there, maybe you don’t remember what it is like to not have any equipment (other than a handheld). I do want to grow and experiment and build antennas and all that, but first I would like to take advantage of local repeaters to learn how to use a radio, learn how to talk to people, just be happy getting into it and learning. I am in Texas and yesterday I was listening to a guy in Oregon talking to a guy in Connecticut and I am using a handheld. That may not be as interesting to you as bouncing a signal off of an asteroid with a radio you made yourself out of used cereal packets, but to me, it is a cool opportunity. So, Here I am about to spend $350.00 dollars and I had this thought “You automatically think this should be a little bit better than the reception you get on the handheld, but maybe you should ask someone before you spend the money. they may have a pretty good guess just based on the equipment you are talking about”. Perhaps what I can take away from your comments are, “hold off on buying anything before you meet some of the other local hams. They can give you some guidance and maybe even loan you some stuff to test out in the house”. That answer makes perfect sense, but it is hard to take when you are an eager beaver.

Sorry - what I meant was WHY are you considering spending $350. As you said you were a new ham, I figured you were already on the air.

I really would advise you to save your money for the moment - you have the 8W radio. My first radio in 1979 cost many weeks wages - the price of kit now is simply tiny by comparison. Do not buy an antenna. Make one. Bits of plastic tube - welding rod, or ribbon cable and a soldering iron and you can make aerials that work equally as well, or even better than commercial ones. It’s simply crazy people spend more on an antenna than the radio!

If perhaps there is no chance of getting an outside aerial up, you can even make super slim ones you can tape onto windows. Buy a mic for the handie, and maybe an external speaker. Nowadays car type radios or bigger ones for the shack may not be important. Bodge ups are encouraged. I very rarely speak to people, I’m too busy, but last night I was doing some work, and turned on the UHF radio for the first time in ages, and heard a guy calling through my local repeater via echo link. Nobody answered him, so I had a chat hearing him calling away to no response. For him, the fun was at 84, having a QSO via his iPad.

I fully appreciate that some activities are viewed as more interesting or fun, but I do get the distinct impression that some hams - based on people I hear - don’t really know much about their hobby at all. Technology has moved on a long way in the years since I was first licensed, but the chat hasn’t!

I’d really suggest experimenting first, before you buy anything. Most commercial aerials look really rubbish in the room. Make a home made one first.

I have to agree with Paulears regarding making an antenna or borrowing an antenna and vhf/uhf radio if it is possible. It will save you much money. Since you are studying for your license and do not have one yet, maybe a friend can bring his set up to your house and try it with the magnet mount and cookie sheet to see how it will work providing that your friend has a license to transmit.

I started the same way you are starting…with a hand held while waiting to pass my exam. It is good to have the hand held to be able to monitor and become familiar with ham radio procedures without transmitting

I do not know much about the radio you mentioned, but I am using a Yaesu FT-7900R base / mobile with a power supply with a magnet mount on a cookie sheet and doing quite well. If you are able to try the antenna on the cookie sheet outside, you will get even better results. I live in Derry NH and have been able to reach distant repeaters with very little white noise.
I hope this helps.


Here is my educated guess. (I was licensed in 1976, now am Amateur Extra Class.) I have played around with antennas my entire life, starting with building antennas for SWLing.

At any rate, my educated guess is this: In a room where your signal is marginal with a handheld, you will hit all the repeaters full quieting with a mobile and a mag mount on a metal surface. You will probably be running the mobile at medium power and will not need full power.

I have done this myself, set up a base station at a desk and put a mag mount on an inverted dog dish as a relatively temporary set-up. Fully into the machine that is 15 miles away. The same with the other machine that is 25 miles away on a high tower.

73 and good luck!