Stir-Stick Antenna Reel

The small wire of a portable antenna is easy to snarl and tangle. The only way to avoid or alleviate the problem is to use a reel to deploy and stow the wire and feed line. Any reel needs to be light (especially for back packing) and small.

I wish that I could remember where it was originally posted (QST?, SPRAT? QQ?) or who posted it, but I remember seeing where someone had used those free paint-stirrer sticks that hardware stores include whenever you buy a bucket of paint. I thought that it was a brilliant idea. After searching for the last few years I still cannot find the article. So here is my version with a few embellishments that I have found to make it even better.

For each reel you will need one 12” paint stick, a 6” length of 3/8’ dowel, two #6 x 1 5/8” drywall screws and two small wood screws. Cut the paint stick in half. Cut the dowel into two 2” segments and two 1” segments. Use a 5/32” bit to drill through the centers of the 1” dowel sections so that they will spin freely on the inserted screws. Sand the edges and corners smooth and splinter-free.

Stack the two sections of the stir stick so that they align on all sides and then drill a 1/8” hole through them about 3/4” from each end. This will ensure that handles and cross-pegs align. Use a 1/16” (or so) bit to drill a short starter hole (for the dry wall screws) in each end of both 2” dowel cross-pegs.

Apply a small dab of wood glue to one end of each of the cross-peg dowels and mount them on one of the stir sticks. Use one of the small wood screws to mount one peg and then use one of the dry wall screws through a 1” pierced handle through the other end of that stick and into the other peg. Screw the handle in tightly at first, to set the peg-to-sidewall glue joint solidly, and later back it off to where the handle swivels freely.

Attach the remaining side in a similar fashion. Let the glue dry and adjust the swivel handle pegs for free movement.

For large dipoles, like 80m, I often use two such reels. One for each element of the dipole. I then use paint to mark the wire lengths for higher frequency bands, reeling off the proper amount for the band and then fastening the reel at that point as an insulator. The coax is stored by winding over both reels in those cases.

Small gauge wire antennas, especially for back packing, fit easily on just one reel, including feed line. I usually store and transport the reel in a small nylon stuff bag with a long draw string. The bag doubles as a temporary weight for antenna installation by filling it with local rocks and slinging it over the target support. That bag also serves the same purpose for hoisting food away from marauding wildlife.

The price of the reel is hard to beat, it provides a quite civilized means of quickly deploying and stowing my wire antennas, it is light and handy! I wish that I had thought of the original idea.

de ND6T

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