DIY ‘WINCH-IT-UP’ ANTENNA MAST SUPPORT
Goal of this DIY project: Construct a rugged 4×4 pressure treated DIY Winch-It-Up MAST SUPPORT that is suitable for permanent wall mount, stand alone or portable use. It’s designed for use with 5′ sections of mast. And, this could be an alternative to many ‘FALLING DERRICK’ mast raising situations??
General Info: The mast support includes a strap type winch to assist in the mast raising, to hold it in place, and to support its’ weight while adding the 5 foot sections of mast you will use. This support consists of locally purchased components except possibly the standoff brackets available from many online suppliers. See Ending Notes for type used.
This support is 10-1/2 to 12′ high when assembled (Figure 1) and has its’ two main sections made from a 4x4x12′ or 16′ pressure treated (pt) beam. The longest (bottom) section has to accommodate the adding/removing of 5′ mast sections with a Coupler attached and space for a strap winch. So, you need about 6-1/2′ of open space to the top of this lower section. The top section can vary from 4 feet to 5-1/2 feet long. The shorter length could be better for portable use if reaching the top standoff bracket is a long reach with a step ladder. Between the lower and top sections is a 1” space to accommodate the winch’s strap. Figure 1 shows the top section with 4 feet due to easier ladder accessibility. For permanent use the full 12′ length is recommended. Figure 2 shows my mast support attached to the end of my 15′ high garage.
Before you start cutting, you need to decide which mast option is best for your needs. It will help you determine the length of each section. Read all of the options before starting to cut.
Note: All of the options share common features.
Option 1: PORTABLE USE.
If you are interested in portable use, you can design your own base (Figures 3, 3a). I used four rebar stakes to anchor the base and four ‘L’ brackets 2x4x1/8” thick. Generally, the lower 4×4 is 6-1/2′ long and the top is 4′ plus in length.
Option 2: WALL MOUNTED-PERMANENT.
If attaching to a building, there is no need to construct the base. Generally, the lower 4×4 section is 6-1/2′ long and the top is 5-1/2′.
Option 3: STAND ALONE-PERMANENT-3
Place a shorter 4×4 piece in a bucket of cement and place in the ground. This 4×4 is on the right side in Figure 4. Now take your lower 4×4 mast support section and attach it to this shorter 4×4 with two 3/8” x 8” bolts (left side 4×4 in Figure 4). Attach it in a position that allows for the 6-1/2′ clearance from the ground. If this option is your choice, the lower 4×4 is 6-1/2′ in length and the upper is 4 to 5-1/2′ long depending on your ease of reaching the top standoff bracket.
Option 4: STAND ALONE-GUY ROPE SUPPORTED. This option utilizes the PORTABLE mast support Option 1 with base attached.
On popular smaller mast diameters this can offer an alternative to the ‘FALLING DERRICK’ method for mast raising and be reused over and over. This is especially the case when open space is limited. If you’re raising one or more masts just as a support for a light weight antenna system and looking to reach 25-50 feet (prox), this should work for you. In this case you’ll use the mast support (when it’s completed) to raise your mast to the desired height. Then, adjust the mast’s guys (top ones) so they are not quite tight, disconnect the standoff brackets’ front straps and the winch strap, loosen the MAST SUPPORT’s guys by a foot or so, and remove any rebar rods used. Now, with an extra helper(s), slightly lift the mast by hand while holding it vertical (maintaining firm control) and slide or tap the support’s base out from under. With the foot or so of guy rope slack, the support won’t tip over from the top. To finish, secure the lower section of mast and tighten the mast’s guys and remove the support’s guy ropes. WARNING: Do Not lose control of the mast. Keep the mast in the vertical position. Maintain your grip on it. Follow standard guying practices. You might want to try out this procedure with the mast at 20-30 feet or so, just to get the feel of the process. I’ve easily performed this at a 40 foot level.
CUTTING THE 4 X 4 INTO SECTIONS
Note: A list of materials I used is included at the
end of this project (excludes base materials).
This support is made from a 4x4x12′ or 16′ pressure
treated (pt) beam. My permanent install
mounted to my garage and my backyard portable is ground base mounted so both bottom sections are cut to 6-1/2′. If using a bottom mount rotator, add the rotator height to that total (unless you mount the rotator after your bottom 5 footer). Your lower standoff needs to have a 6-1/2′ open clearance to allow the 5′ sections with couplers attached to be easily inserted. Your top section should be 4′ or more. If you don’t have enough of the 12 footer left for 4′, start with a 4x4x16′ instead of a 12 footer. Adjust your cut to keep at least a 4′ spread between the standoffs.
INSTALLING CONNECTORS between the two 4×4 sections: First, cut two pieces, each 15” long, off of the 1 x 4 x 8′ pt board. Then, place the two 4×4 sections on a flat surface lengthwise and inline with a 1” space (winch opening) between them. I placed a 4 foot level against one side of the 4x4s to assure a good alignment. Place one 1 x 4 x15” piece equally overlapping both 4x4s so that 7” overlaps on each 4×4 (See Figure 5). Mark on the 7” overlap area on one of the 4x4s for 4 holes (see pics) to be drilled with a 13/64” bit (a 3/16” bit should work ok though it will be a little bit tighter when screwing in the 5/16 x 2-1/2” lag bolts to follow).
Either hold the 1×4 piece in place with your free hand or elevate that 4×4 so you can place wood clamps, then drill one hole in about 2-1/2” going through the 1×4 then into the 4×4. Screw a 5/16 x 2-1/2” lag bolt with washer in until about tight (See Figure 6). Check the alignment of the two pieces and correct any movement, then fully tighten that lag bolt. Now drill a second hole and screw in a lag bolt.
With one end being secured with 2 lags, move to the other end of that 1×4. Check 4×4 alignment. Mark for your holes and drill one as before and screw in the lag almost tight and check your alignment again. THIS IS YOUR LAST CHECK FOR ALIGNMENT. Tighten that lag and drill another hole and lag it. Now the two sections of 4x4s are bolted together on one side.
Flip the 4x4s over to do the other 1 x 4 x 15 brace. Note: I marked for four lags on each end of the 1 x 4 x 15” pieces, but only three are necessary. You can decide. Now you can finish each brace with either the three or four lag pattern. (See Figure 8).
INSTALLING THE FLASHING over the top of the bottom 4×4 section. See Figure 9. Cut a piece of flashing at least 12” long and overlap it on the top end of the lower 4×4. The flashing will cut down on the friction when moving the strap. Fold it flat on the edges and nail it as tight as possible. I used four roofing nails on each side.
INSTALLING THE STANDOFF SUPPORTS AND BRACKETS (Figure 9):
Cut two pieces of 1×4 into 12” lengths. Place one 1 x 4 x 12” support about 1” from the top of the 1” winch strap opening (Figure 9). This will be the side holding the mast so attach it on a side with a 1” opening. Offset and drill two 13/64” holes in the center area and attach with 5/16 x 2-1/2” lag screws. Center the standoff bracket (See Notes for size and type) on the support and mark for the holes. Drill 5/16” holes and secure with 5/16 x 1-1/2” hex bolts with washers and nuts. Next mount the top standoff support just below the top of the structure in the same manner as the lower one and attach the standoff bracket. Try to align the top standoff as close to vertical as possible with the lower standoff.
MOUNTING THE GUY ROPE SCREW EYES (eye lags)-for Portable and Stand Alone use-NOT needed for wall mounted permanent installs. Place the three ¼ x 3” eye lags a couple of inches below the top standoff support. Place them on the three other sides from the standoff support side. Drill three staggered 3/16” holes then install. Your lowest level of guy rope support attaches here.
MOUNTING THE WINCH (Figure 10). It’s easier to install in the flat position before standing the support upright. Position it on the back side from the standoff brackets and down from the 1” opening in a comfortable position, say 18”. Pre-drill and thread the holes before mounting the winch. Mount it as square as possible.
Figure 11 shows the orientation of the mast to the left side. This allows the winch to be installed and function properly. Also, note the winch’s strap is at the bottom of a 5 ‘ mast section, not in view, but ready to be raised. Figure 12 gives you a view of the ‘guts’ of the mast support and how mast sections are coupled together and raised. It shows the winch at the top of its’ travel with the next 5 footer already bolted in place. With the new 5 footer in place, the winch direction is reversed and the mast lowered the few inches to the ground. Now you can remove the clamp, lower the strap and reconnect it to that lower 5 footer about 6-7” up, reverse direction and raise that new section. And so-on until done.
3-4” standoffs of the Strap type-See Figure 12. They need to be able to accommodate a 2-1/2” mast pipe.
The mast support structure is now complete.
GENERAL INVENTORY LISTING
1 ea 4 x 4 x 12′ (or 16′, if needed) pt (pressure treated) beam
1 ea 1 x 4 x 8′ pt board
16 or 20 ea 5/16 x 2-1/2” lag screws (hex heads)
4 ea 5/16 x 1-1/2” hex bolts, USS
5/16” flat washers
4 ea 5/16-18 nuts (threads to match bolts)
3 ea ¼ x 3” screw eyes (eye lags), if needed
3 ea lag screws to fit winch (5/16 x1-1/2” fit mine)
1 ea 12” piece of 3” to 3-1/2” flashing w/8 roofing nails
-All of the above came from a local hardware and lumber store except the flashing which I had laying around.
1 pr 3” standoff brackets. Mine were hand-made on a manual bender. 3-4” standoff brackets are commercially available.
1 ea strap winch 1500# came from local discounter.
Companion Mast Info:
The previous article generated questions as to what type of mast would work with this support. In short, most masts made with 5′ sections and less than 2-1/2” OD will work. In my case, I’ve used two different sized mast materials with Couplers and Reinforcers of my own design. The antenna mast materials used with this support so far have been either 1.9” OD fence rail (sized in several wall thicknesses-I used 0.090”) available from local fence suppliers or 1-1/2” EMT (1.740” OD x 0.065” wall x 10′ long) available from home supply/electrical stores. They are cut into 5 foot sections and joined together with 8” long DOM steel Couplers. Then 5” long Reinforcers are placed mid-way on the 5 footer for extra strength and rigidity. One Guy Ring Retainer, about 1-1/8”+/- wide, is needed to hold the top Guy Ring in place. Guy Rings required for these two mast sizes are of Max-Gain Systems, Inc design. GR-175 fits the EMT and GR-2 fits the 1.9” fence rail. Guy rope is used with the guy rings-no abrasive/metal guys.