WC1M

Stacking and Guying

Home
Antennas and Towers
Station Photos
Big Tower Project
AntennaMaster
SteppIR Interface Project
Downloads

Haulin' Sections
 
The concrete takes 28 days to cure. After a couple of weeks of curing, I considered installing the first two or three sections, but was very busy with work and other tower-related projects, such as laying cables and building the ground system (both described elsewhere on this site). Besides, I wanted to wait for the concrete to fully cure. It also rained quite a bit during that period, precluding any outside work.
 
By the time the concrete was cured, it was October 19. We have a rule of thumb about antenna work in West Central New Hampshire -- get it done before October 15. Sure, I've done significant antenna work into late October and even early November, and have certainly repaired antennas in the dead of Winter (December, January, February and March.) But none of those jobs involved climbing. Given the late date, I was pretty-much resigned to not stacking the tower until Spring. I decided to concentrate on getting the ground work done before winter set in -- cabling, ground system, lightning protection, wiring, etc.
 
On the few nice days between October 19 and November 13, that's exactly what I did. You can see photos under the Cabling and Ground System links at left. Again, we had lots of rain during the period, but it wasn't as cold as usual. We sometimes have a snowfall or two during late October, then the real snow begins around Thanksgiving. But it was so warm that all we had was rain. Temperatures were in the 40's, which is very unusual for that time of year.
 
In mid-November, the temperature warmed up considerably. We had a string of days in the mid-forties and low-fifties, almost unheard of in November.It even got up over 60F degrees on a couple of days. I couldn't resist taking a stab at stacking the tower. I felt there was a good chance we could get it stacked in a week or so. I would have been tickled to have the tower up and ready for rotors and antennas in the Spring.
 
Here are some photos of the stacking process. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of them. We were way too busy stacking sections to take pictures. We were hurrying to beat the winter and hurrying each day to beat the early sunset.
 
 
The Capstan Winch

Capstan winch
Click on image to enlarge

This piece of equipment made the difference between getting the tower stacked before winter and waiting until Spring. It's a TowerJack 110VAC capstan winch. The maximum load capacity is 1800 lbs, more than enough for the job. The winch made it possible for two people to stack the tower and tram the antennas. W1ECT did a great job manning the winch throughout the process.
 
The winch was a great alternative to scheduling teams of friends and local hams to come over and manually haul. W1ECT and I were able to work during the week, and there was no way we could coordinate enough locals for anything but weekend days. Given the ever-decreasing amount of daylight, I think it would have taken several weekends to stack the tower with manual labor.
 
I think the winch is safer too -- you don't have to coordinate multiple people during a lift. It's much easier to clearly communicate with one person. Each lift went quickly and smoothly with the winch.]
 
Prior to stacking the tower, I sunk an 8-foot pressure-treated 4x4 about three feet in the ground about 20 feet from the tower. We used this as a tie-off point for the capstan rope. It was also the tie-off point when we used a pair of pulleys for small jobs instead of using the winch.
 
The winch can be moved and mounted by one person, but it's easier with two. I wasn't comfortable with leaving it out in the elements, so we hauled it back and forth to the house in a wheel barrow. We also had to run a 200-foot heavy-duty extension cord from the house, which also got hauled in the wheel barrow. It was a big enough job to rig the winch that we only used it for big jobs.
 
I've wondered whether the winch would make it possible for one person to stack sections and/or tram antennas. My conclusion is: almost. The problem with lifting sections is that someone needs to be on the tower to guide the section past the lower guys and watch for legs about to get snagged in the lattice. Solo tramming would only be possible on a completely calm day with a perfectly balanced antenna that maintained the proper attack angle.
 
Note the AB-577 neatly folded up in the background.
 
 
Temporary Guys

Temporary guys
Click image to enlarge

The tower has a pier-pin base, so it's necessary to use temporary guys while stacking the first few sections. Per Rohn spec, the first set of permanent guys was to be at 33 feet, so four sections had to be stacked before installing permanent guys.
 
A lot of people bolt the first two sections together, add a set of temporary guys at the top, add the pier-pin base at the bottom, and lift the assembly into place. But we weren't confident of our abiilty to do this with two sections of Rohn 55 weighing 100 lbs apiece. So, we put a set of temporary guys at the top of the first section, added the base plate, and lifted it onto the pier pin in the concrete base.
 
For temporary guys, we used the 1/8" stainless steel guy sets from the AB-577 that I took down to make room for the new tower. Rohn specifies that steel cable be used for temporary guys, so I thought this would be better than rope. I had no concerns about the stainless steel wire rope or the hook terminations, but I was a little concerned about the "snubbers" used to tension the guys (shown in pictures below.) However, they never slipped when the AB-577 with a 4-el SteppIR was exposed to high winds, so I figured they could take the pressure of my weight and the Rohn 55 sections. AB-577s are guyed at a relatively steep angle, so it was necessary to string two guy sets together in order to reach the Rohn anchors.
 
A complication was that one of the uphill guy anchors was a couple of feet above the top of the first section, which would have resulted in that temporary guy going downhill. I didn't think it was a good idea to have one of the guys pulling up on the tower. Luckily, the screw-in guy anchors from the AB-577 were still in the ground, and they were much closer -- only 30 feet away. They hadn't budged since I first installed the AB-577 about six years earlier. They were offset from the Rohn guy anchors by about 30 degrees, but I figured we could install a second set of temporary guys at the top of the second section and run them to the Rohn guy anchors. Then we could remove the first set from the bottom section and rotate the two sections to line up with the permanent guy anchors. This worked as planned.
 
The photo shows how we attached the temporary guys to the tower. We just looped the wire rope around the legs and secured it with the hooks. If I had it to do over again, I'd probably devise a better way to attach the guys.
 
 
First set of permanent guys

First set of permanent guys
Click on image to enlarge

Here are the first four sections, with permanent guys installed at 33 feet. Note the two sets of permanent guys at the top of the second and third sections. After removing the bottom set of temporary guys and installing the third section, I felt the tower was uncomfortably wobbly. I'm sure it would have been fine, but I decided to reduce the pucker factor by adding another set of temporary guys.
 
This big blob on the permanent guy in the foreground is just the thimbles connecting the EHS leader to the phillystran guy.
 
You can see the gin pole at the top of the third section. I have to say that moving the gin pole was the most physically demanding part of stacking the tower. I used a WB0B gin pole, which is designed for the larger Rohn towers. The head and clamp are very large and heavy, as is the 12-foot long 2" diameter 1/4" wall aluminum pole. I tried a couple of different methods to move the gin pole up to the top of the next section.
 
The first method was to climb down to the clamp, lower the head to the clamp, tie the haul rope around the head and release the clamp. This left the pole dangling from the haul rope attachment point on the section just raised. Then I climbed up to the top and used the haul rope to lift the pole. I then attached the clamp to the section and extended the pole. This method was very taxing physically. It was really hard to lift the gin pole assembly, and it was hard to hold it in place while I attached the clamp. But it involved the least amount of climbing and maneuvering.
 
The second method was to fix the gin pole head to the top of the section just raised. I used a carabiner for this. I climbed down and released the clamp, then slid the clamp up the pole as far as I could reach, tightened the clamp, and climbed up. I had to repeat this maneuver four or five times to get the clamp to the top of the pole. Once there, it was relatively easy to attach the clamp. I found out the hard way that it was best to put a safety tether on the clamp -- one time I dropped it and it slid all the way down the haul rope. Luckily, friction with the rope slowed the fall and the rope actually caught the clamp before it hit the ground. Needless to say, this method involved a lot of climbing and maneuvering, but was less taxing.
 
I could have used a separate block and tackle so that W1ECT could raise the gin pole from the ground, but figured the time to move and re-rig it would cancel out any advantage.
 
 
Tensioning Guys

Dillon Dynamometer
Click on image to enlarge