Blue View - Make Your Own TV Antenna

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Guest post by Jeff Burandt

After posting about canceling our Cox cable service and purchasing a Mohu Leaf antenna for our TV reception, an old friend and past work colleague, posted this:

Jeff Burandt Marcie for the ultimate in savings you should have had David make an antenna. Easy to do (just a piece of coax cable) and they work well in areas with strong signals. I made one for Megan in Madison and it works great.  :-)

It just so happened that Jeff was in Las Vegas for a conference and came to dinner one night. He liked the blackberry crumble I’d prepared for dessert. He mentioned the antenna and we decided we’d trade recipe for ‘recipe’. Here’s Jeff’s ‘recipe’ for a homemade antenna. My recipe for blackberry crumble follows next week.


Introduction

Marcie asked me to write a blog on how to make an antenna for those wishing to “cut the cord” from their cable provider (as she recently blogged) . This was after I commented on her blog that for the ultimate in savings she should have considered having David make an antenna rather than purchase one. No good deed goes unpunished! 😊  

Why an HDTV antenna?

My own quest for making an antenna actually started in a similar manner to Marcie’s story. Like Marcie, my youngest daughter, Megan, had had enough of paying high monthly cable bills and was ready to get rid of her cable subscription. On her Christmas list, among the many, MANY, MANY items (just kidding Megan 😊), she had written “HDTV antenna”.

I started researching the Internet to determine which was the best antenna to purchase. During this search, I stumbled across an article about a simple way to make your own. Having a technical background this didn’t seem too daunting. Construction required very few materials and tools, and the cost was cheap.

So, I asked Megan If she would be okay with a homemade antenna? She was a little hesitant, so I told her that if it worked, we could scratch that one from her list and add another present. She immediately said yes!

Please note – For full disclosure, I have made the following antenna a total of one time. It works very well in the city (Madison, Wisconsin) where my daughter lives which is less than 10 miles from the TV towers. Good results can likely be anticipated in other cities under similar conditions. However, this is a very basic antenna and a wide variety of factors can affect performance.

A Simple Antenna

The design that I found on the Internet seemed easy to make and also only required materials that I already had laying around the house.

Here is the materials list:

 Coax cable

Coax cable

  • Coax cable – like the one connecting your cable box to your TV.

    The length should be long enough to run from the back of your TV and up the wall to where you will be mounting it. I used about a 10-foot-long cable that was white to better match the wall color.

  • Short piece (12") of small diameter wood – like a small (1/8” to 1/4”) dowel, chopstick or wooden skewer. 

  • Tape

Tools needed:

  • Ruler or tape measure

  • Utility knife

  • Soldering iron

  • Solder

  • Wire cutter

How to make

The construction is fairly straightforward. The design is based on what’s known as a dipole antenna.

There are a number of articles on the Internet that get into the technical details that are beyond the scope of this article (and probably the interest of most readers), but here is a picture of the general concept:

Antenna detail.jpg

A little terminology

In order to make the directions a little more understandable, please note the following names of the components of a coax cable:

TV antenna terminology.jpg

Referencing the above pictures, here are the steps needed to construct the antenna:

  1. Using your wire cutters, cut the coax cable on one end to remove one of the connectors. The remaining connector will ultimately connect to the back of your TV.

  2. Using a utility knife carefully remove about 5 1/2” of the outer jacket. Do not cut into the shield.

  3. Unbraid the shield all the way back to where it exits the jacket. Twist the braid together and bend at a 90-degree angle to the coax cable

  4. Carefully solder the braid together as much as possible without melting the inner insulator. Depending on the material it can be very easy to melt the insulator so be careful.

  5. Remove about 5” of the inner insulator leaving about a half inch to insulate between the center wire and shield. Bend the center wire 90 degrees in the opposite direction of the braided wire.

  6. Tape the two wires (center wire and soldered shield) to the wooden dowel.

  7. Attach the end of the antenna to the wall. You can do this behind a curtain or alternatively behind a picture to hide it. However, you may want to wait until you determine the optimal position before securing it to the wall (see final step below)

  8. Connect the opposite end of the cable to your TV’s coax video input.

  9. Go through the tuning procedure on your TV to capture the HDTV channels in your area. You may need to reorient the antenna and re-tune to maximize the channels received.

Here is a picture of the one that I made (inset), mounting (not too sophisticated – clear packing tape 😊), along with an example of the picture quality:

2018-03-12 08_37_27-TV antenna article.docx - LibreOffice Writer.jpg

The antenna works well, picking up all of the broadcast channels in the area and provides a stable, clear picture at all times. My daughter is very happy with it and has been using it for over two years now.

By the way, in case you’re curious, she got a new microwave stand in place of a store-bought TV antenna.