ZS6BKW Multi-band Antenna

Are you a fan of the G5RV antenna?  Then you may be interested in the ZS6BKW antenna.  The ZS6BKW antenna is an optimized variant of the venerable old G5RV.  The G5RV antenna (c. 1946) was designed by Louis Varney (G5RV, SK). The ZS6BKW (early 1980’s) was derived from the G5RV by Brian Austin (G0GSF, formerly ZS6BKW).  He developed computer programs that were used in conjunction with Smith charts to calculate the optimum dimensions for his variant of the antenna.  Read G0GSF’s own article about the antenna.

Construction of the ZS6BKW antenna is essentially the same as the G5RV except for the lengths of the radiators and matching section ladder line.  The original G5RV “flat-top version” had a 102′ (31.1 m) horizontal span with a 34′ length of matching ladder line.

Note: The computations and antenna described in this article are based on the use of Wireman 554 ladder line for the matching section (L2) and #14 AWG stranded copper wire with THHN coating for the radiators (L1).

Matching Section of ladder Line

The length of  L2 (matching section) is important!  According to the ZS6BKW design, the length of the matching section is electrically .62 wavelength (WL) for the 20 meter band.  Since 14.2 MHz is near the midpoint of the 20 meter band, we will use it to calculate the initial value of WL that will be subsequently adjusted to compensate for the effects of velocity factor (VF).

L2 computed wavelength

WL in feet = 984 / f (MHz); 984 / 14.2 = 69.3’; 69.3’ X .62 = ~43’.

L2 physical length

We need to adjust the calculated length of L2  (~43′) to account for VF.  If  the VF of the ladder line is known, we can determine the physical length of L2 by multiplying the calculated length by VF. 

Example:  If the VF of the ladder line is known to be .91, the physical length of L2 would be approximately 39.1’ (43’ X .91 = ~39.1’).

If  the VF of the ladder line is not known, it can be estimated by the following procedure.

1.  The wavelength at a frequency of 14.2 MHZ is 69.3’ (984/14.2 = 69.3’).  Multiply 69.3′ by .62 to get 43’.

2.  Cut a 43′ length of ladder line.

3.  Connect a 50 ohm non-inductive resistive load (preferably 1% tolerance) across the leads at the feed point end (top) of the ladder  line.  Do not use a wire wound resistor for the load. Wire wound resistors are notorious for exhibiting inductive properties because of their coil construction.  Introducing inductive properties (reactance, etc.) can cause erroneous analyzer readings.

4.  Hoist the ladder line vertically so the lower end is at least 1’ above ground and clear of nearby objects.

5.  Connect an antenna analyzer to the choke at the lower end of the ladder line.

6.  Use the analyzer to find the frequency where the ladder line impedance measures 50 +j0 ohms or as close as you can get to it.  Record the frequency.

KG0T suggested an alternative measurement approach.  With the ladder line top end leads shorted, use an analyzer to find the frequency where the impedance measures 0 +j0 ohms or as close as you can get to it.  Record the frequency.

VK1AD commented that if you have or can borrow a dip meter, it can readily be used to find the frequency at which the length of feed line is a half wave.  A noise bridge can also be used.

7.  Compute the 1/2 wavelength (WL) frequency for a 43’ (13.11 m) length of ladder line.  Remember WL in meters = 300 / F (MHz).  By rearranging the WL formula, we can compute the frequency.   The 1/2 WL frequency is 150 / WL;  (150 / 13.11) or approximately 11.44 MHz.

8.  The approximate VF of the ladder line is the ratio of the computed frequency to the measured frequency.  Divide the computed frequency by the measured frequency to estimate VF.

Example:  If 12.54 MHz is the measured frequency for an impedance of 50 ohms (0 ohms using the KG0T measurement alternative), the VF is ~.91 (11.44 MHz / 12.54 MHz).

Note:  If you compute a VF  of 1 or greater,  something has gone wrong in the measurement process.  A VF higher than .93 for ladder line is suspect based on published VFs of high quality ladder line.  The VF of open-wire “feed line” can be in the range of .95 to .99.

9.  Adjust the physical length of L2.  With a VF of .91, the required length for L2 is ~ 39.1’ (43’ X .91 = 39.1’).  Trim the ladder line (L2) to a length of 39.1′.

Tuning the Radiators

The L1 length of the ZS6BKW antenna is designed to be electrically 1.35 WL for the 20 meter band. The WL for the chosen frequency of 14.2 MHz is 69.3’ (984 / 14.2 = ~69.3’).  Then 1.35 WL is 93.55’ (1.35 X 69.3’ = ~93.55’).

1.  Cut (2) radiators each 47.5’  long.  The extra length is to allow for adjustment during the tuning process.  Generally, you can expect to have to shorten the radiators to around 46.75’ to compensate for the VF of THHN coated wire and other influencing factors such as height above ground, soil condition, and proximity to trees and structures.

2.  Attach the matching section of  ladder line to the antenna.

3.  Hoist the antenna to its operating height.

4.  The ladder line should hang vertically from the antenna at least 1’ above ground and clear of nearby objects.

5.  Connect an antenna analyzer to the the source end of the transmission line (TL).  Be sure to attach the balun and the coax TL.  If you are going to operate on the 6 meter band, the balun should be rated for operation to 54 MHz.   Measure the SWR at 14.2 MHz. 

6.  If the lowest SWR occurs at a frequency lower than 14.2 MHz,  L1 is too long.  If the lowest SWR occurs  at a frequency higher than 14.2 MHz,  L1 is too short.

TIP:  If for some reason L1 is too short, add the same amount of wire to each end using “spade type” quick disconnect pairs and let the wire dangle vertically.

7.  Incrementally adjust the length of L1 until the best SWR curve for the 20 meter band centered around 14.2 MHz is observed. Be sure to remove the same amount of wire from each side.

KI4PMI and I constructed the ZS6KBW antenna described above and analyzed it using an AIM-4170.  The SWR curves generated by the analyzer are displayed below. Measurements were made with and without the 1:1 current balun.  No discernible differences were noted.

Note: 25’ of RG-8X completed the TL arrangement and the antenna was hoisted. The lower end of the matching ladder line was situated approximately 3’ above ground.

KI4PMI describing ZS6BKW construction details

AIM-4170C Measurements

6 Meter Band


10 Meter Band


12 Meter Band


17 Meter Band


20 Meter Band


40 Meter Band


80 Meter Band


The EZNEC models for (80 – 6 meters) are available in a zipped file at the link below.


Graph of AutoEZ model predicted ZS6BKW SWR
(80 – 10 meter) bands

The AutoEZ model that produced the graph above was constructed by AC6LA the author of the AutoEZ modelling tool.  AutoEZ is a great addition to your antenna modelling tool kit.  Be sure to check it out.  The AutoEZ model can be downloaded from the link below.  You will need a current version of EZNEC, Microsoft Excel, and AutoEZ to run the models.

AutoEZ 8-band-ZS6BKW-model

With the exception of the 6, 15, 30, and 80 meter bands, the AIM-4170C analyzer displayed good SWR curves and bandwidths.  The antenna was deemed unusable on the 15 and 30 meter bands due to very high SWR.  However, we were able to tune both the 6 and 80 meter bands using an LDG AT-100PRO autotuner.  In spite of poor band conditions and an inopportune time of day,  we made contacts on 80 meters, 40 meters, 20 meters, and 17 meters.  The 17 meter contact was located in Italy.

All-band improvements to the ZS6BKW antenna

W5DXP came up with some clever ways to make the ZS6BKW into an all-band HF antenna.  With his permission, the link to his article is provided below.  His modifications are well worth exploring.


The ZS6BKW is a nice relatively inexpensive and easy to build wire antenna.


8 Responses to “ZS6BKW Multi-band Antenna”

  • I built a ZS6BKW antenna with 92 feet of 12 gauge PVC coated wire horizontal and 36 feet of 300 ohm twin lead vertical – actually its more J shaped to use up lower 10 feet. Connected to 75 feet of 75 ohm coax, of which half is buried 6 inches below grass – also cuts any feed-line radiation. Works on all bands 80 – 10 with LDG auto tuner beside radio. I also built a 116 foot horizontal with 20 feet of ladder line antenna using W5DXP program to model – works on same principal. Thanks.

  • Thanks for this page. It explains how to determine the length of the ladder line; information I was lacking until now.
    I have the ZS6BKW as built by W8AMZ. I am able to work on 40m, 20m, 17m, 12m and 10m without much problem.
    At this time, the ladder line is not hung vertically since I am not able to get the center up high enough. I have the LL pulled off to one side with the balun mounted on top of a 4×4 post. This is a compromise to be sure but it does work.
    Best regards from Havana, Florida

  • Built my BKW using 450 ohm TL and copperweld. Homemade ferrite core 1:1 balun. I’m able to tune EVERY HF band plu 6 using the internal FT-950 tuner. Now, I did test using a temp run of 100′ of 8x which might be why it tunes so well. Ideally you don’t want the coax to radiate. You want all the rf to go to the antenna and not be lost in the feedline. Once I get everything set I’ll report on using a shorter run of coax.

  • Thanks for the great article! I love learning, building and experimenting with antenna systems!

    I am curious: Would it be possible to add a second set of radiating elements (or even a second and third sets) in “fan dipole” fashion, cut to other frequencies, to improve 6, 15, 30, and 80 meters?

    Has anybody tried connecting the bottom of the ladder line together and then using the entire system as a “Top-loaded T” on 160 meters against a few radials? I know some guys have tried this with the G5RV versions.

    Thanks in advance!


    XE1UFO a.k.a. KA5SUT

  • Nice write up. It is a nice warm Easter Sunday here in Atlanta, GA, and I am thinking it is time to retire the home brew G5RV (slightly modified to make it better on 40m) replacing it with something else. This looks like a close relative and something I can do in a few hours and have up quickly.


  • Hi, nice write up I’m on my 3rd Zs6bkw, the antenna works great, i have spoken all over the globe when the conditions are there, with 100 watts. My BKW is all home brew the feeder is made from lawn mower power cable and the spreaders are made from black papermate pens, 3 spreaders from each shell and hot melted into place, the radiators are made from 2mm recycled transformer windings. and at the end of the feeder i have a 1:1 wound balun choke(ugly balun), because i have no antenna analyser i tuned the feeder by cutting the radiator to 46.5 feet approx and the tuned the feeder to get as close as i could to 14.2 MHz. It would be good if there was a more precise way of tuning the feeder without and analyser. I am considering buying commercial because the feeder is more tolerant to flexing in the wind. Any advice with the best way to tune my feeder without an analyser would be great
    Regards john M0AVD

  • Nice concise article with accurate technical detail.

    • Very nice write up.  Today I needed to put up a replacement for my random wire at a secondary QTH where I have a small amp available, and no KW tuner, so decided to give the 'BKW a try as described here.

      Really happy with the results.  I have SWR below about 2.5 to 1 on 40, 20, 17, and the 10 AM band (oops) as well as 80 cw.  Not bad for avoiding a tuner.  10 SSB will need one, and 15 and 30 aren;t useable at all without one, but as I operate primarily 40, 20 and 17, this antenna was a winner.

      Only problem is I have it hung as an inverted vee at 45 feet, but one leg runs south and one north (the big tree is in the southeast corner of the backyard) so I think its oddly directional on 20 thru 10 – off to NEC to see about that.  BUt thanks again, great write up, great results.  73 Scott



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