Introduction: Free TV! the Makings of a Frankenstein Antenna

Picture of Free TV! the Makings of a Frankenstein Antenna

Shed (check), free energy (check), adjustable solar mount (check), free Tv (?). Okay, my task is still not complete. I need to be able to watch TV in my Shed-cave without the intrusion of the cable or satellite companies. A true off-the-grid grid experience means I need to tap into the OTA channels.

So I went back to school, The University of Google, to see how I could possibly make this happen. I was immediately overwhelmed (Ooh, ha, ouch) with information about whiskers length (4 bay design or 3 bay), balun, ohms, signal strength, UHF, VHF, transmitters, and such and such.

After soothing my throbbing brain, I ask myself, what are my needs and what will work for me? Afterall, I'm not trying to divorce my satellite company (my house will still be married to Uverse), I just want to watch TV for free in my Shed-cave.

Step 1: Your Location

Picture of Your Location

PLEASE NOTE: Before determining what type of antenna you will be making (bowtie, whiskers, penny loop, etc), find out how far away you are from the TV stations you want to watch.

I used this site "" to get an idea of the stations close to me. I soon realized that most of the stations were about 7 to 43 miles from my location. In total, I had around 99 channels at my disposal. What was even more exciting (hooray) Fox, CBS, NBC, and CW were 7 miles away.

What I loved about this site is that it gave me feedback about the signal strength for each channel in relation to my location. Also, it recommended the location of the antenna for the best channel reception.

I now realized that I did not need a super antenna to get what I need. I'm not out in the boondocks somewhere, I was close to civili-station.

Step 2: The Hunt

Picture of The Hunt

From what I decided, I would need:

  • 1 piece of pressure treated
  • Some bare copper wires
  • Galvanized or external screws
  • Balun
  • Possible some foil sheeting
  • A piece of ply to mount the sheeting
  • A means to mount the antenna

Not wanting any of the funds set aside to finish my solar experience to be diverted to building this antenna, I began the hunt.

I soon saw leftover Direct Tv stuff (I realized I still have Direct Tv anxieties from years ago).

  • The dish, cables, and splitter.

I had leftover electrical wiring that I could get the copper from. I had everything but the balun. However, not to be deterred, like a kid in a candy store, I persisted.

Step 3: The Little Engine That Could

Picture of The Little Engine That Could

Word of caution: This instructable is not about an elaborate design for a one of a kind antenna. It's about doing something that worked for me. I know the specs may be off; however, I was mainly concerned about the result more than the method.

  1. I measured the diameter of the dish and cut the 2x4 to length. My plan was to mount it on the arm of the dish and used the dish as a reflector. I then marked 4 lines around 3" apart. On those lines, I marked 2 places for the screws and predrilled.
  2. After stripping and straightening copper wires I cut 4 pieces to 14" in length and bent them in half.
  3. I then cut 2 pieces 17" in length
  4. I further cut unstripped 4 wires about 4 inches in length
  5. The pictures showed how I chose to connect it all together.

In the process, one of the wires were accidentally cut a little bit shorter. I decided to use it anyway.

Step 4: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Picture of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The entire assembling took around 40 min.

I stripped the wire separating the inner piece from the outer. I then attached an alligator clip to each part of the cable, and then to the middle of my Frankenstein antenna.

CAUTION: Please make sure that the outer wires of the cable do not touch the inner piece.

Like a child going to Disneyland, I impatiently wait as the TV scans for channels...Holy smokes! It's alive.! Frankenstein is alive!

I went from 0 to 89 in less than 60 sec. Including some FM channels.

Step 5: The Final Countdown

Picture of The Final Countdown

Not wanting to clutter the Shed-cave, I needed to mount Frankenstein outside. This is where the Direct TV (aargh) dish came into play.

I mounted Frankenstine on the dish and mounted the dish to the side of the Shed-cave. Frankenstein was initially mounted vertically. After trying numerous angles, and elevation, even attaching sheet metal to the front of the dish face, the most channel I got was 86. This was still short of what I received when Frankenstein was inside. So I decided to call it a day.

The next day, I tried laying Frankenstein horizontally, and instead of attaching it immediately with two screws, I allowed it to swivel by using one screw.

Left, right, up, down, in out...Do the hokey pokey, and I turn myself around...Eureka! 103 channels. The Full 99 plus 4 FM.

All this without the balun.

I scrolled through the channels and checked the signal strength and I was satisfied with the outcome. Some channels were weak and that was ok with me. The ones I wanted were coming in smooth.

Next was a more permanent installation and the grounding of Franky.

CAUTION: Be certain to ground the antenna. For me, it was not an option. I had a lightning strike hit last year at the back of my old shed.

I don't know the science behind the wiring of the antenna. Maybe anything I did would work because of my proximity to the towers. Nevertheless, the cost was $0 and I'm rich in channels. Probably I will experiment with the balun to see how much increase in signal strength I will get.

That's all folks! I hope this is of some help to someone. Feel free to share any suggestion or observation you may have.


Tenire (author)2018-01-17

GOOD JOB! And funny asf , too.

I may give this a shot up in Nacogdoches at my mother-in-law’s house.

Born_to_build (author)Tenire2018-01-17

Thank you! Go for it and share the experience.

DaveH127 (author)2018-01-17

This may be stating the obvious, but, when you're doing the search for tower signal strengths, don't use your exact address. I always use something in the area, like the daycare down the street. There's enough personal info out there on the World Wide Intarwebs already.

That said, I like it. I think I still have a DirectTV dish in a pile somewhere.

Born_to_build (author)DaveH1272018-01-17

Great point! I used my zip code.

andrew.mead.1253 (author)2018-01-17

Forget the balun! The only practical application for a balun is for those situations where the TV set does not have a 75 ohm RG59 female connection and has, instead, the old fashioned arrangement of two simple screws around which you connect the two leads from a 300 ohm flat lead in wire from the antennae. If your TV doesn’t have a 75 ohm connection it’s not going to be equipped with a digital tuner. Some TV sets built before 2000 had both connectors.

RobertA2 (author)2018-01-16

Neat & Funny writing. I'm stuck with Verizon for now.

jimvandamme (author)RobertA22018-01-16

Liberate yourself, especially if you're in a large metro area.

RobertA2 (author)jimvandamme2018-01-16

I will be making a change November 2018. Cable providers are Lower than Whale Poop and that's at the bottom of the ocean. Spectrum is no better. Direct TV [Dish] is in bed with Verizon.

jimvandamme (author)RobertA22018-01-17

We've never had cable TV (since 1974). We have cable internet, which is the only option out in the boonies. Spectrum, which hounds us constantly to get TV and phone bundles. (Our deluxe VoIP phone line costs $5 a month).

sue.donim.144 (author)2018-01-16

the creation was the monster NOT frankenstein .

MacM23 (author)sue.donim.1442018-01-17

You have been sabotaged by autocomplete! You obviously typed in creator and it decided you meant creation. Trips me up all the time.


AnthonyC43 (author)2018-01-17

Thanks - Can you link to the site you got the circuit diagram from - its not clear from the photo what is connected to what.

I got a really good freeview reception on my newer tv using only telescopic "Rabbit Ears" cut from an old Black and White CRT TV - but I'd like try experimenting with different styles of antenna.

Born_to_build made it! (author)2018-01-16

For those who wanted some more details, I attached a sketch of what I did, mistake and all, plus a close up of the mounted antenna. You can adjust the whiskers to get max channel and better signal. Also, I found that the ability to adjust the antenna horizontally proved to be more effective than vertical movements of the dish.

I did experiment with the balun and I went down to 71 channels. I tossed it in the storage basket. Direct connection is it.

Again, this works for me. You may have to use longer antenna wires, along with a balun. Don't just settle for my unscientific template, see what works you.

OmarJ3 (author)Born_to_build2018-01-16

Now I see what you have done. By pointing the antenna horizontally it works more like a "Yagi" or folded dipole with parasitic elements, The internet is awash with designs both vertical and horizontal. Of course, the best is to experiment with design and position depending on location and frequency range.

Born_to_build (author)OmarJ32018-01-16

Omar, you are so right about the plethora of designs on the net. Enough designs to make your head spin like "Linda Blair in the Exorcist".

OmarJ3 (author)Born_to_build2018-01-16

I know. that film is a "classic", and I'm old enough to remember when it first came out. For some reason, I've never seen it :-) "Casablanca" is still one of my favorites. Cheers, oj

OmarJ3 made it! (author)2018-01-16

This antenna is similar configuration, mounted on an old "Luxo" srm

Born_to_build (author)OmarJ32018-01-16

Great, how is it working out?

OmarJ3 (author)Born_to_build2018-01-16

You may remember that this was sold by Radio Shack like 30 years ago. It used to sit on top of a Sony 20" CRT that had a huuuge box. When we got the 32" LCD there was no flat surface to sit on. So I just had a swing arm lamp and screwed a pivot block to the side of a convenient wall cabinet in our south-facing second floor bedroom. It needs this flexibility as it is sensitive to direction/position. It easily picks up all the local (Montreal area) VHF/UHF channels, and used to get about 5 channels (2 PBS, CBS, NBC & Fox) from the U.S., with the 30 db gain amplifier. However, this eventually burnt out. I meant to get a new one but our local supplier was out of stock. Vermont PBS pulls in without amplifier. Since then I rarely watch TV at all. Just enjoy browsing the "Instructables" and other internet stuff.

qdogg (author)2018-01-16

If you had a lightning strike once, you're pre-disastered & don't have to worry 'cause it never strikes twice on the same shed-cave ;)

Born_to_build (author)qdogg2018-01-16

That lightning strike was very frightening. The light, noise, and smoke haunted me for days. For a while, I was apprehensive about going outside in backyard when we had heavy rain or thunderstorms.

sue.donim.144 (author)qdogg2018-01-16

not striking twice in same spot is wives tale. the fact that lightning struck once means there is a high chance lightning will strike there again ... especially if it is on a hill or is the highest spot around ...

bartigas1 (author)2018-01-16

Nice project! You should put always make a create a drip loop with your cable before entering a building or conduit. The bottom of the loop should extend below the entry to the building or conduit so that when it rains, the water doesn't follow the cable in.

Born_to_build (author)bartigas12018-01-16

That makes sense. I do have excess wire on the inside so I can still make that loop. Thank you, I appreciate it.

unitedkingdomliam (author)2018-01-16

I live in the UK and I hope to move to Poland. I get perfect Polish TV in the UK using satellite so I am hoping I will get good aerial signals in Poland
I am willing to use all free TV if I can find the right bits and pieces . Nice Project. Thanks

You are welcome! Go for it.

ov10fac (author)2018-01-16

Did you use the dish with the antenna laying down?

Born_to_build made it! (author)ov10fac2018-01-16

Yes I did.

WilliamK31 (author)2018-01-16

With a little more information this could really be useful. Such as a sketch with wire dimensions, a construction diagram. Otherwise just an interesting story.

Born_to_build made it! (author)WilliamK312018-01-16

William, I was not trying to give a template per se for someone to duplicate. I do believe that the distance from the stations was a key factor in my design working. Nonetheless, I took some measurement and did a sketch of what I did so far. I am still experimenting with the opening of the whiskers to see how it affects the channels.

DrkestShadow (author)WilliamK312018-01-16

I could not agree more. Wish it was a bit more instructional. Would love to try this but too much left out.

OmarJ3 (author)2018-01-16

Didn't know the term "balun" until now. Thought it might be an alternative spelling of "balloon", so was looking for it in the description/photos. OK, now I know. Now. FYI, I live in Montreal, Canada, and can pick up the PBS (UHF) station from 100 miles in Burlington VT. The trick is to use a 30 db signal gain amplifier, available from electronic part suppliers for maybe $30-40. Presume you can use one in conjunction with the balun - would have to ask an "expert".

OmarJ3 (author)OmarJ32018-01-16

Actually, it is about 75 miles (120 km) from Montreal to Mt. Mansfield, whereas by car it is around 100 mi.

jimvandamme (author)OmarJ32018-01-16

Yes, you need a balun to match your unbalanced amplifier & cable to the elements on your antenna. Especially if you want deep fringe area reception. A homemade antenna might not do it unless you do it by the book.

SeanR68 (author)2018-01-16

grounding the ant will change the properties of the ant, basically your trying to match the wave length of the signal, grounding it usually doubles the ant but you have to add the length of wire to the ground also. UHF should not change much its more for lower freq like AM where you would see a difference in signal strength. and a rheostat pot will let you fine tune it without changing length. this would be the tuning knob on bunny ears.

readycat2 (author)2018-01-16

For another 'look-up' site searcher that may be a little less confusing, try this one:

Put your lat/lon in for pin point accuracy and the antenna heigth, works for me.

jimvandamme (author)readycat22018-01-16

Beware of TVfool. Their database got corrupted and they lost a bunch of stations. They were the best because you can put in your antenna height and exact address and it figures out the power level you get, and shows you the obstructions if any. I hope they come back.

RockeyDA (author)2018-01-16

now if only this would work on a TV with a rotatory tuner. last analog station shut down at the end of 2015, witch means i havent watched TV at all sinced that happend, im not getting a newer TV.

jimvandamme (author)RockeyDA2018-01-16

You're not missing much in the programming department, but the quality is much improved with a digital TV.

AngrieN (author)RockeyDA2018-01-16

I agree look for the digital converter...actually thrift stores might have them. i used to have 2 they work!!

OmarJ3 (author)RockeyDA2018-01-16

Well, Rocky, what you need is a digital to analog set-top converter box. These were in supply at electronic stores or Walmarts, etc.,for about $20, back when stations in U.S. & Canada were switching over, and then discarded, as old TVs burnt out and were replaced by digitals. You might try to get a used one at a garage/yard sale. thrift store, or on line sources like ebay & Craigslist. You hook up your antenna to the box, run a coax to the TV, set the rotary tuner to channel 2,3 or 4. The converter should come with a remote selector and better with an instruction set, or ask your neighbors.

OmarJ3 (author)OmarJ32018-01-16

Actually, I never heard/seen the term "balun" before. What I have used is a 30 db signal gain amplifier. These can be bought from electronic part stores. If you don't live near a large city, it might be hard to get. Try online source like Ali Express?

TwoWindsBear (author)OmarJ32018-01-16

This TV balun may also known as a 'TV cable to antenna' converter. It looks like a small cylinder, about 1/2" in diameter and about 2" long, with a TV coax connector on one end and a short length of 'old fashioned' flat, twin lead TV antenna wire, on the other. It was used to connect 'old fashioned' or 'ancient' antenna-only TVs to 'new fangled' cable TV. In this antenna application, the twin lead antenna wires, from the balun, would be attached directly to the antenna's element and the coax would be attached to the coax connector and the coax connected to the TV. I hope this makes sense.

dotbox (author)2018-01-16

For more information about DIY antennas, some finer points, look up hilarious Danny S. Hodges. TVFOOL is another a good site to check your map, too.

tazmo8448 (author)2018-01-16

My cable went out on a Saturday (oh no during football!!) found an old di-pole antenna (you know the ones that came with am/fm receivers in the old days) hooked it up and bingo 29 (which happen to be the only ones available) channels...just may try this one....saw one similar where a fella put a square of hog wire behind the bow-ties and he got more channels than the store bought 150 mile yagi type...

gregp108 (author)2018-01-16

Do a google search for "mclapp antenna" or go to:

He has plans for different lengths of whiskers depending if you need to receive the VHF channels. He has kits requiring a pole to mount to or you can use his drawings to make from scratch.

waynebarber (author)2018-01-15

How did you attach antenna wire to coaxial cable? How did you ground the antenna? Where does the Balun go? What kind of foil and what is purpose of it?


About This Instructable




Bio: Avid hobbyist and Handyman
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