Recovered from dish crash

Upside-down, kind of broken dish

Not the right way to point a dish

Just when I thought I had figured out every way to get a dish installation wrong, Mother Nature showed me another one. Earlier this week, some really high winds blew over my primary Ku-band dish, supports and all.

First, some background. When I was just getting started in FTA, I wasn’t entirely sure what would be the best spot in my yard for a dish. On one hand, I needed to secure the dish so it wouldn’t move. On the other, I wanted to be able to move it if I turned out that I had misjudged the angle over the trees to the satellite that I wanted. (This impermanence also improved the WAF for the project. That’s important!)

One day Real Soon Now I’ll lay out all the steps and missteps of those early days, but today you just get a couple of highlights. My first attempt at impermanent dish mounting was a metal pole in a five-gallon bucket of cement. This technique works pretty well with a tiny Dish Network-style dish on a low pole. But for a 76-cm Ku-band dish, I needed a taller pole, and the bigger dish caught more wind. In almost less time than it takes to type, the contraption blew over, bending the dish arm and showing me that an above-ground bucket of cement is insufficient ballast for a high Ku-band dish.

Major Step 2 was construction of a wooden platform to hold the foot of the dish. I took three regular 2x4s and cut them all in half. Laying them out on their sides, I lined up the six pieces so that the outer four formed roughly a square and the other two lined up with the screw holes on the dish foot. After leveling the platform, I screwed them together, screwed the dish foot to the middle pieces, and all was well. The broad, heavy platform kept the dish in one place, especially with it so low to the ground.

A few years later, I upgraded to a 1.2-meter dish. For this taller, heavier dish (with a much heavier pole-foot), I built a larger platform, using 10-foot 2x4s for a roughly 5-foot square. I attached the foot to the north side of the platform, knowing that the prevailing northerly winds could not push the dish forward and down because the attached platform would be in the way.

It lasted for a couple of years that way, until Monday. That’s when freakishly strong winds came from a freaky direction – south. The wind blew the dish backward, taking the platform with it. When the dish landed hard, the platform continued its rotation and smacked down on the dish arms.

It looked awful, but fortunately, there was little lasting damage. The dish foot screws all ripped free of the wooden platform. One of the RG6 cables snapped off at its connector. The plastic LNB holder had broken in two. But the dish, even the support arms were all as good as new. Some Super Glue for the holder, a fresh RG6 cable and new screws on a flipped-0ver platform got the dish back in business. I made sure the platform was level and repointed the dish, and all is well.

What’s the lesson here? If you should happen to choose such an impermanent “sled” platform for a dish, at least get something to fasten down the front of the platform so it won’t flip back. I bought a couple of heavy-duty tent spikes, attached a cable between them, then drove them down far enough so the cable prevents the platform from moving up, but not so far as to force it off level. What you use to keep it down is up to you.