The”Bubba” Potato Gun

Well, we had to have a big tree trimmed as the last thunderstorm must’ve had a small tornado up at the top of the tree and twisted it off. It landed next to the house nearly took out my gutters but the house is OK. So I had to take down my random wire antenna out of the tree to be able to trim it and get the deadwood out of it. The tree is only 75 feet tall and trying to get my rope back up there with a slingshot was difficult. There are a lot of other things around there like powerlines just beyond the tree, parking lot with cars and other targets that we do not want to touch. Needless to say my slingshot decided to break. I had bought a “boss airgun” made out of PVC pipe about five years ago at a ham fest in Benson. I didn’t think it was all that great because he had to have an air compressor to charge it up. Well now it was time to test it. I realized that the 1 oz lead fishing weight would not be snug enough to fit the 1 inch barrel portion of the tube. I used a small portion of a paper towel folded up to make a “wadding” like is used in a musket gun. The weight was dropped in until it was against the valve. I charged the lower large diameter PVC pipe with 50 psi, aimed it and opened the valve. To my surprise the lead weight shot out of the barrel almost straight to the target clipping off some branches and leaves flying everywhere. I had the presence of mind to put my finger over the fishing reel to act like a break on the outgoing fishing line so that it would limit how far the lead weight would go. This was good because I think the lead weight was heading for the next county at the trajectory and speed that it was going. A second attempt was needed to try to get the fishing line in the right place. I noticed however as I was winding the fishing line back into the reel that the weight was hanging over a branch. As I gently pulled the line back out of the tree, the pendulum effect started to get quicker the shorter I made the line. I realized that if I didn’t let the pendulum effect die out, when the lead weight reached close to the branch it would be swinging so wildly that it would wrap itself around the limb. Then I would have the fishing line and the lead weight stuck in the tree and couldn’t get it out and would have to break the line. I avoided that mistake, shot again and this time I got the branch I want it. Lowering the lead weight to the ground allowed me to exchange it for a line that I want up in the tree. Rewinding the fishing line pull the line over the limb and we had a line 60 feet in the air. I did learn another lesson about the air gun: before you load the end of the barrel, close the valve. I didn’t and so when I packed the paper towel back into the barrel, it got caught in the valve and wouldn’t close properly. I decided to charge the gun with 10 psi and open the valve to blow the paper towel out of it and to my surprise the lead weight went flying out of the end of the barrel and when it reached the end of the fishing line, it bent the hook open and kept flying all the way into the river. I had a second 1 ounce fishing weight that made the trip over the limb this time. My advice is to pretend this is a loaded real gun and take the normal gun handling precautions with it. A 1 oz lead weight that can fly 60 feet into the air will probably not kill anything but it would hurt or damage your eye if it were to hit the wrong thing. (Remember the Christmas movie of the BB gun: “It could put your eye out”.) The unit is labeled not to go higher than 75 psi as probably the PVC pipe is rated for that. I cannot imagine which state the projectile would be landing in if I had used 75 psi so start with a much lower pressure and work up.

It was time to test the antenna once I had it raised back into place. It is a random 123 foot wire that is strung between two trees and then all the way down to the ground. There is a 9 to 1 balun with a groundplane of about 25 wires around it. All this is hidden in the bushes and halfway down the hill to try and hide it from the HOA police. I found that the ARRL sweepstakes contest was going on and decided to join in the fray. To my surprise I had two contacts in Hawaii, a couple more in Oregon, Washington state, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina and Florida (can you say “multipliers”?) The 20 m band was hot on the West Coast and the 40 m band was hot on the East Coast. For the first time I heard Hawaii twice and managed to make contacts. Incredible performance for such a limited antenna.

You can also get a rope in another tree to put up lights in a form of a Christmas tree. The reward for doing this is to make you 90 year old mother happy so that she makes her special apple pancake for breakfast!!! YUMMM…

PS: anyone know what the broad band signal is seen on the Panadapter on 40m? Leave a comment. Be safe!

Published by n4pvh

A ham since 2002, now finally made it to Extra! President of Brightleaf Amateur Radio Club.

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