antenna armor: reinforcing a whip

a Yaesu VX-170 radio and armored Diamond SRH-320A
it’s a bit long.

my EDC radio – and my only amateur band transceiver, in fact – is a Yaesu VX-170 topped with a Diamond SRH-320A antenna. this radio was a gift from my late Elmer, WA6UBE (“Elma”, “Elmette”?), and came with the Diamond antenna. as you can see, it’s a really big antenna, but it performs well in urban areas (and i don’t have the original duck). it pulled a fairly line-of-sight 5W 26-mile run to a repeater at S3-4 so, hey, not too shabby.

Yaesu VX-170 and Diamond SRH-320A antenna mounted to a Chrome messenger bag
radio in its usual EDC commute rig

my only complaint about the 320A is that it’s kind of thin-skinned. i usually carry the radio on a messenger bag or backpack strap, and the size of the antenna subjects it to a fair bit of flexing, bangs, and scrapes. it eventually picked up some kinks and a couple of small holes in the insulation after a year or so of carrying it around like this.

a Yaesu VX-170 with Diamond SRH-320A antenna, in a Maxpedition Versipack
a little less conspicuous in the weekend rig

i decided to reinforce and protect the antenna by layering heat-shrink tubing over most of the length. extra layers around the loading coils prevent excessive flex and strain where the flexible and rigid parts meet. the antenna had picked up a permanent bend just above the base coil, which actually helps keep it away from my body when transmitting, but i didn’t want it to get any worse.

detail of a reinforced antenna's base
the perma-bend, with lots of layers to reduce flex

the rubbery armor has a couple of bonus benefits. the bits of damage the antenna had picked up harmed it’s water resistance , so it re-sealed them; i interleaved doubled-up layers that were adjacent to one another to help this. the antenna was also fairly flexible before and would whip around at face-level when running, so the added rigidity helps keep it under control.

this method could be used on many different types of whip, wire, and duck antennas. it might be particularly nice for the delicate high-frequency antennas use for WiFi and radio-control machines. a rubber compound like Plasti-Dip could also work nicely and provide better water resistance.

tip of a heat-shrink armored whip antenna
extra layers at the vulnerable tip

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