Salt Grid Ground               


One of the most driving forces of human nature is the desire to be better, stronger, faster, or in the case of CB radio, the guy with the best signal.

It was with this fundamental concept in mind that the members of our various CB groups throughout the years, kept up on the latest gimmicks on improving one's transmit signal. There were many articles published in both CB, and in ham radio magazines which promised (more or less) methods to improve your signal.  Some of them (mostly those from the ham magazines) were somewhat truthful, even if they might be a bit impractical, or overly technical for the average CB'er to put into use.  Other articles took a sound radio concept and then spun it with copious amounts of pure creative imagination, to the point where it was little more than optimistic fantasy (I once read a CB magazine story about how one guy claimed to have jumped his mobile signal up over 10 db, by simply clamping a set of battery jumper cables from his bumper to a nearby chain link fence). In between those extremes were those stories which started out with a concept based on sound theory, which the author would then expand on somewhat.  While there was usually enough creative embellishment to make one skeptical,  there was also just enough truth thrown in to make one think; "what the heck, let's try it".  Such was the case with the salt grid ground.

The article started off with a widely accepted given; that a good R.F. ground can improve your signal, and/or change your angle of radiation to a more favorable (usually lower) take off angle. While this is most noticeably effective on the low H.F. radio bands, where ground wave propagation is much more significant, many bought into the notion that even on bands where ground wave propagation was less prominent (And CB falls into that to some degree), an "enhanced" ground would still make "major" signal improvements.  However, the conclusion seemed to be less than a slam dunk.  But what the hell, we were young, impressionable, and just itching to experiment.

Our resident guinea pig for this experiment was Mitch who, by late 1975, had been steadily improving his standings in the signal area, having just upgraded from a homemade twin switchable dipole array, to a Hy-Gain Penetrator.  He had just read a "how-to" article which detailed a method by which you could improve the conductivity of your soil's ground coupling (and therefore your signal), by using rock salt around the ground rod.  It entailed digging a fairly large hole, setting a large metal drum in the hole, filling the drum with rock salt, backfilling the hole, and then driving a ground rod through the center of the salt. Well, it seemed like a lot of effort, but Mitch was determined to try it.  So he followed the instructions, dug the hole, set the drum (I think he used two 5 gallon metal buckets on top of each other), and poured in some rock salt (It was cheap), and filled in the rest of the hole with dirt.  He drove in the ground rod and then ran a ground wire from his vent pipe antenna mount down to the ground rod, and he was finished.

Well, with much excitement and anticipation, Mitch ran in and fired up the radio to see the results of his handiwork.  I had given my "S" meter the hairy eyeball and precisely looked at his signal before the work had started, and he was about 25db over S9.  After the experiment, though, his signal was still 25db over S9.  Hmm, maybe I was just too close to see a difference.  Mitch then tried a few stations a bit further out there, and his signal didn't seem to change to them either.  Certainly not enough to be readily noticed.  Argh! A failure? It should have worked right?  The article said so!  Maybe if he watered the ground where the salt was? Still no appreciable difference in signal.  Oh well, chalk this one up to another learning experience. 

In retrospect, this "improvement" may have had some positive effect on DX work.  But since DX conditions are never stable enough for an accurate "A-B" comparison, it was nearly impossible to tell.

The one thing which did happen though, was that shortly afterward, a nearby bush started to turn brown, and then eventually die. The building complex's maintenance crew dug up and replaced the bush, and the replacement also promptly died. After a third attempt, they finally gave up for the rest of the year.  By the next spring, I guess all of the salt had leeched into the soil, and shrubs were once again safe from the affects of overzealous CB'ers and their never-ending quests for that ever elusive "big signal".