Elk Antennas was founded around the year 1995 by Ray Gaschk AG6SI (formerly W6FYA) and Pete Perata K6SHE in Walnut Creek, CA. Even though the business started in 1995, their idea of the best possible portable UHF and VHF antenna was around long before then. They were long time amateur radio operators, inventors, and neighbors. Both Ray and Pete had dreamed about creating a portable, but very effective directional 2 meter antenna. One morning, over coffee, Ray and Pete discussed the possibility of pooling their resources and working together. Creating an awesome antenna is not just a matter of running a little computer program and cutting some aluminum. There are many factors that go into creating the best possible antenna.
It was decided that to accomplish their goal of a small, portable, and effective antenna, they should look at various beam antennas. The Yagi and the Log Periodic Dipole Array (LPDA) where the two systems that they ended up focussing on. The Yagi was easier to build, and a more straightforward antenna design, but would lose gain as you moved away from the exact frequency for which you cut the antenna. The LPDA could be designed so that it had a relatively high gain, very predicable radiation patterns, and a very low SWR over the frequency range for which you design the antenna.
Efforts moved along to develop the best small LPDA antenna possible. Ray handled much of the mathematical design, and Pete did much of the testing. Ray has talked about taking his pages and pages of computations to a math professor at UC Berkeley for review. After awhile, it was determined that it was not practical to work out all the calculations needed by hand. A major investment was made into antenna development software employing method of moments. What Ray and Pete found was that you could not simply use the numbers and lengths provided by the software to create an antenna that was spectacular. You had to go back and trim and adjust each element, boom and hardware in order to fine tune the antenna. The next issue was what exact materials to use? Many different types of aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and insulating materials were tried. There needed to be a balance between cost, availability, and performance. Over the years, there has been an evolution towards, what we consider to be, better and better materials. However, each time you change any of the materials, the design must go through thorough testing processes to ensure the antenna will perform optimally.
In September, 2011, Ray and Pete sold Elk Antennas to Jim Siemons, W6LK. Jim is a amateur operator, also living in Walnut Creek. Most every week, you will find Pete, Ray and Jim enjoying a cup of coffee together and talking about antennas!