Telescopic vs Pushup Antenna Mast

The common Telescopic Antenna Mast seems to be the default mast that most people end up with. It seems simple to install and reasonably inexpensive to purchase. But, hold on, you now have another option that offers many more advantages.  I offer you the PUSH-UP ANTENNA MAST by KE1Q.  Here is some discussion on the pros and cons – YOU DECIDE which is the better one.

DESCRIPTION and MATERIAL

Field Day Install

Common Telescopic mast: Consists of a combination of sections, usually 5 to 10 feet long, usually tubular and made of galvanized steel.  They come compressed into the larger bottom section and on erection, they are extended out starting with the innermost section first and allowing for some overlap between sections.  The bottom sections are made from 18 gauge steel and the top 1-1/4” OD section is from 16 gauge material.  They come with guy rings.  Heights range from 20 to 50 feet, but not all that is actual usable height.

DIY PUSH-UP ANTENNA MAST by KE1Q: This mast consists of 5 foot sections of 1-1/2”EMT (industry size) (Electrical Metal Tubing) galvanized on the outside and coated on the inside.  It has 16 gauge walls with OD of 1.740” from top to bottom.  It’s a local purchase item from home supply stores and comes in 10′ lengths.  OR 1.9” galvanized Fence Rail which comes in several wall thicknesses.  Neither material was designed for our usage though it can give excellent results with our design and installation procedures and using standard industry guying practice.

The mast gets extra strength and rigidity from:

  • 8” long DOM thick wall steel Couplers AND
  • 5” long DOM thick wall steel Reinforcers

Couplers join 5′ pieces together and Reinforcers are placed at the mid-point of the 5′ sections. Reinforcers add extra strength and rigidity.  Result: Only two feet of mast is exposed between a Coupler and Reinforcer.  Not Bad!

HEIGHT and TUBING SIZE:

Our Products

TELESCOPIC: The top section (8-10′) on all units is only1-1/4” OD working its’ way down the mast to a 2-1/4” OD bottom section, but that’s only on the Rohn H50 or equivalent.  The shorter the mast, the smaller the OD at the bottom.   And the part number doesn’t give you the actual mast height.  The Rohn H50 expands to only 43 feet.  If you want a true 30 foot height or more, you need at least a H40 or H50.

KE1Q MAST: The 1.740” OD EMT and the 1.9” OD Fence Rail are cut into 5′ lengths.  The Couplers that join pieces fit over the mast pieces that are butted together during assembly. Consequently, you get a true height by adding up the pieces.  And the OD at the top is the same as at the base.   If you need some more mast height, you can add another section.  Try that with a telescopic.

RIGIDITY

TELESCOPIC: All lower sections are of 18 gauge (0.052”) and just the top section is 16 gauge (0.064”).  And the top exposed section is 1-1/4” OD by about 8′ long.  It’s not a lot of metal but looks like a significant amount of flex. Be careful!

KE1Q MAST: The 1-1/2” EMT (1.740” OD) is all 16 gauge top to bottom and the 1.9” OD Fence Rail is all 1.900”.  The 1.9” can be purchased in different wall thicknesses from 0.064” to 0.120”.  I use a 0.093” wall (13 gauge) which is commonly stocked locally around here.  Also, the Couplers add rigidity at the 5′ joints and the Reinforcers add more strength and rigidity at the mid-point of the 5 footers.  That leaves just 2′ of mast material between Couplers and Reinforcers.  Not Bad!

POTENTIAL BENDING

Permanent Installation

TELESCOPIC: If you are unlucky enough to have a heavy branch fall on guys and bend the mast, you probably will have to junk the whole mast or settle for a much shorter one.                      

KE1Q MAST: Because it’s constructed in 5′ sections, your damage should be limited to replacing 5 or 10 feet only.  Junking the mast would not be necessary and the original height can be restored.

RAISING THE MAST

TELESCOPIC: Unless you dig a hole 4-5 feet deep to drop the mast into or you have some form of staging set up, you’ll spend your time on a ladder during this process.  And, if you have a small beam/rotator on top, it will lean and sway causing a lot of friction on the section you’re trying to push up-not fun.  You will need some help for raising and controlling the guy ropes.

KE1Q MAST: The 5′ pieces are designed for use with two 3-4” standoff  brackets placed directly on a wall, or mounted to a 12′ length of pressure treated wood.  In both cases the lower standoff is mounted 6+ feet from the ground and the top standoff is up another 4+ feet.   That keeps your standoffs within comfortable reach while on the ladder and allows the necessary clearance to install the 5 footers.   Alternatively, you could construct my DIY ‘Winch-It-Up’ Antenna Mast Support linked on this website.  There are several variations, one of which should work well for your install.

While using any of these possibilities you work mostly from the ground with a helper to add the 5 footers while you hold up the mast.  Or, with the winch choice, the winch holds the mast up allowing you flexibility to add the new sections yourself.  You will probably need help with the guys and clearing the standoffs.

HEIGHT AND COST

TELESCOPIC: They can be a good choice and at a reasonable cost for actual heights up to 25’+/- with a light antenna load on top.  Above this height the cost can jump (mostly from shipping costs) and instability can become an issue.

KE1Q MAST: Above 30′ actual height or with a 15-30# antenna load, the KE1Q MAST becomes very competitive on price, if not even less expensive when shipping charges are included.  And with Reinforcers every two feet and a larger tubing diameter, its’ rigidity is far greater.

BOTTOM LINE COST TO ACQUIRE

Theirs: There are many sizes and costs for common telescopics.   For masts 30 feet in actual length, your cost, with a local pickup, looks like $120 +/-.  Over 30′ actual height the cost looks like $175-250 as most require LTL shipping.  Prices are as of end of 2019.

KE1Q MAST: I priced an actual 30 footer including: 30 feet of EMT (estimate from The Home Depot) for $62, 5 Couplers for $50.00, 3 Reinforcers for $21.00, one Guy Ring Retainer for $4, 2 guy rings for $10 and USPS Priority shipping for $15.  Total is about $162.  If using the 1.9” Fence Rail, the 1.9 is higher in cost than is EMT.

In addition to Couplers and Reinforcers you need the following for the mast:

  • 1 each Guy Ring Retainer (GRR) which fits near the top of the mast.  It holds the top Guy Ring in place.  Couplers/Reinforcers will hold lower guy rings in place.
  • Guy Rings.  1 each for each guy level-typically every 10 feet of unsupported mast per accepted standards.  Note: Guy rope is used with these Max-Gain Systems, Inc. guy rings.  No metallic/abrasive material can be used.
  • Detailed instructions on cutting EMT or 1.9  and drilling 5/16” holes in them and raising the mast can be accessed by clicking the link MAKING/RAISING MAST.  DIY’ers should have the necessary tools already on hand.

BOTTOM LINE:

I believe my mast is very competitive on price especially above 25′.

I believe I offer a higher quality product based on my experience and specs.

I’m offering a product with lots of options and flexibility for most situations and is easy to work with (even by yourself if necessary).

Note: Couplers, Reinforcers, GRR include necessary 5/16-18×1” stainless steel pan head bolts. All Couplers, Reinforcers and GRR units are spray-painted with zinc rich paint closely matching the EMT and 1.9” mast material.

Note: Standoff Brackets: Must be able to accommodate a 2-1/2” mast and be the type with a removable front strap. My mast supports use 3-4” standoffs.

Note: Reinforcers are only used on 5′ sections above the top standoff.

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: No antenna mast is complete without a good guy system.  It’s the best insurance you can have to protect your mast, yourself, others and property.  Typically a guy level is necessary for every 10 feet of unsupported mast.  An online search can provide you with detailed installation information. DON’T SHORTCUT YOUR GUY SYSTEM!! For my guy system on the top level, I use Mastrant-P 5mm/0.197” rope rated at 1102 lbs.  For lower levels I use STI Antenna Support Rope, 3/16”, 0.187”, rated at 770 lbs.  The 770# is very adequate for most antennas.  I use the four guy system for masts 30′ and above and all those with significant antenna/rotator weight on top. If you don’t feel you have a safe spot to locate the mast or you are not comfortable with the information provided here, you should go elsewhere.  Also, there are EMT nay-sayers out there with opinions.  However, with this design and using the extra support Reinforcers between Couplers, and with minimal maintenance, I believe this is an exceptional mast that will provide long and dependable service. It has for me.