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Taking my Tower Down

January 4, 2013

New year’s day was clear and still this year.  It reminded me of a similar day 13 years ago.  I sold my house in the fall and was occupied with moving and preparing my new house.  I told the buyer that  I would remove the radio tower from my old house.  It was a tubular tower in three 3-metre sections attached to one end of the house.  Only the top section and part of the middle section projected above the house.  The three steel tubes converged into a socket at the top section.  This was intended for a standard 3-metre TV mast.  I had an Isopole vertical antenna mounted on the mast.  It had a 5/8 wave whip mounted at the top with two 1/4 wave conical sleeves attached to the mast.

I borrowed a climbing belt.  It had two straps, one to go around the tower and another that I could attach to the tower.  I tested it just above ground to be sure it was secure.  When I stood on a crossbar, I could sit back in the belt, leaving both hands free to work on the tower.  This was much better than holding on to the tower with one hand.

Removing the vertical antenna was pretty easy.  First, I attached a broom handle catch to one end of a wooden pole.  When I got to the top of the tower, I snapped the catch onto the mast and slid the pole upward, under the bottom sleeve.  This gave me control of the mast from part way up.  Then, I lifted the mast with both hands, one on the base of the mast and the other on the wooden pole.  Once it cleared the socket, I lowered it hand over hand to the ground.

Removing the top section of the tower itself was completely different.  I knew it would be a problem.  The three tubes of the top section telescoped over the tubes of the middle section.  It was much heavier than the mast had been.  Working overhead, I could only grip it at the bottom.  It had to stay vertical.  It couldn’t tip over.  I needed a windless day for that.  Above all, it must not fall.  That could damage the roof, the roof of my neighbor’s house, or even me!  I needed a safety rope tied to the middle section to restrain it in case it did fall.  I also needed a mild enough day so that I could do some of the work at the top of the tower without gloves.

I made several attempts to remove that top section, with disappointing results.  Each time, I climbed the tower, attached the safety rope to the top section, and then removed the three bolts that secured that section.  Holding it by the bottom of two tubes, I had to jiggle it back and forth to get it to move upwards.  When it was almost free, I had to stop because I didn’t have the have strength to lift it further and keep it under control.  So, I brought it back down, replaced the bolts, and removed the safety line.

The weather was growing colder.  Snow was on the ground.  We had too many windy days.  Finally, on new year’s day, it was perfectly calm with a temperature near zero.  This might be my last chance.  This time, I raised the top section almost to the top, and kept it there.  I rested until I felt my strength returning.  Holding it by the bottom,  I lifted it clear, rotated slightly, and lowered it onto the crossbars.  It was not going back now.  After another rest, I raised it again, rotated some more, and lowered it beside the tower.  When it was down to chest level, I knew that it was done.  I lowered it hand over hand until the safety rope stopped it.  Then, I released the rope and used it to lower the section the rest of the way to the ground.

Removing the other sections was an anticlimax.  The risks were gone.  The excitement was gone.  All I had to do was to remove the bolts and disassemble the sections.  Still, I was elated.  The difficult part was done, and it went perfectly.  I was pleased with my accomplishment.

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