Introduction: Powerful Modern Homemade HDTV Antenna

Picture of Powerful Modern Homemade HDTV Antenna

TV Antennas have been around for many years - and people have tried all sorts of unsightly things to "fix" them or make them work better - anything from attaching a metal clothes hangar to aluminum foil! I realized it doesn't work and I don't want to waste my money on more of these faulty antennas. Sometimes the best way to fix something is to Do It Yourself!!!

I decided to get rid of cable television many months ago. My local cable company convinced me to pay $10 a month for local channels - it seemed alright. Antennas seemed to be a thing of the past - didn't even think about trying to use one. So, a few months went by and the lovely cable company raised my local channel price to $35 a month; ridiculous for a few channels. I got rid of it and purchased an antenna. The first one hardly got a channel - and it had horrible reception. Wasted money on a second one - which I used for a while. But, if my cat would walk near the window, the channels wouldn't work. I'd have to move the thing constantly to try to get reception - even then it would go out many times. I put aluminum foil all over it and looked crazy and horrendous - and that didn't help. I really wanted to watch Masterchef!

So, I researched all over the web and I found some info on how to make a modern-looking HDTV antenna out of cardboard and aluminum foil. I mentioned it to my dad and he laughed at first - but after he heard about how mine turned out, he wants me to make him one! I read a ton of comments from people who had made this type of antenna, and they were raving about how it was better than their high-end $70 one! So, I must give big thanks and credit to the guy who created this design here - thank you so much for sharing this with the world! You can also get the template there as well. The instructions were great, but I am not good with electronics and the fact that I was able to do this - means it is simple! I hope my guide here and pictures will help those who are like me, and need things broken down even more. I tried to take lots of clear pictures.

Before we start, I just want to say that after plugging this in, without even placing it up high or in any certain direction or special location - I got more channels than I've ever received on that TV. I have more channels than what I had when I paid the cable company for them! They are all crystal clear - I love it! Also, don't forget to rescan for channels after hooking this up - that also increased the number of channels I received.


Step 1: Materials Needed for HDTV Antenna

Picture of Materials Needed for HDTV Antenna

Materials:

  • A few feet of cardboard
  • Cardboard cutting Materials - scissors and box-cutter work well
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Glue (I used wood glue - it's super strong)
  • Drill
  • two screws with nuts and washers
  • 75 to 300 Ohm UHF/VHF Matching Transformer (about $5 online or $6 at Radio Shack) - here is a popular one on Amazon: 75 to 300 Ohm UHF/VHF Matching Transformer
  • 4 or 6 foot coaxial cable (any size is fine as long as it reaches) - if you don't have one, here's one on Amazon: Coaxial Cable (4 Feet)
  • *Optional: paint, markers or special paper to decorate the front of it

Pattern:
You can download the pattern for the cardboard and aluminum foil pieces here - at the designer's site. Thanks again to the designer for making that available! We really appreciate it! Keep reading to follow my own step-by-step process for making this! And, thanks to all the commenters for your insight and extra ideas!

Holly Mann is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Step 2: Cut Out Main Piece for HDTV Antenna

Picture of Cut Out Main Piece for HDTV Antenna

First you will need to cut out a piece of cardboard that is 13 x 14 inches. There is no pattern for this one. After cutting it out, then you'll want to attach aluminum foil to the back of it. I used my wood glue sparingly and attached the foil and smoothed it out. Then, flipped it over and painted it. If you want to decorate the front with markers or construction paper, feel free to do that. I then set it aside to let it dry.

If you haven't printed out your pattern yet, please do so.

Step 3: Cut Out Pieces for Antenna

Picture of Cut Out Pieces for Antenna

First cut out your pattern pieces. Then take the pattern for the cardboard and lay it onto the cardboard. You may want to secure it down with a couple pieces of tape. Then, trace the pattern and cut it out. I used my box cutters to cut it out. You need two cardboard pieces cut out which contain the main longer piece and two wings that are attached. You should also cut out two of the mounting bracket pieces.

After cutting out the cardboard pieces, then you'll need to do the same with the foil. Use a scissors, not box cutters for this as they tend to cause ripping. You don't want to tear the foil at all.

At this point you should have two main cardboard pieces with the wings on them, two foil pieces which look similar to the cardboard ones and two mounting brackets. There is also a pattern piece for a stand if you want to use it you can.

Step 4: Shaping the Wings

Picture of Shaping the Wings

If you notice on the pattern pieces for the wings, you will see that there are dashed lines which represent score marks. Try to fold the pattern inward and mark with a pencil onto your carboard wings where these lines are. Then, carefully and slowly take your box cutters and cut into the cardboard (but not all the way). Be careful! Once you do all four score marks, then flip the cardboard over and you can shape the wings properly. See image for details on how to do that.

After shaping it the way you want it, then add a little glue to the scored area to keep it secure. The sides of each wing should make an angle of approximately 90 degrees to each other. They're likely to spread out a little though - so to secure it at the correct angle, you should use some glue and hold it to dry. Hot glue would be good for this.

Step 5: Glue Foil to Back of Pieces

Picture of Glue Foil to Back of Pieces

Now you'll want to carefully glue the main foil pieces with the wings on them, to the back of the cardboard winged pieces. Please note that the foil will not cover all of the long middle cardboard piece - as it is smaller than the cardboard piece. It will be flush with the side that is closest to the wings. Try to make the foil lay flat and smooth it out as much as possible. It's best to use a thin layer of glue. Set it aside to let it dry for a little while.

Step 6: Painting and Mounting Brackets

Picture of Painting and Mounting Brackets

At this point, I painted the mounting brackets. Then, I checked if the main piece which is 13 x 14 inches was dry. Once it was dry, I then set it in front of me so that it was 13 inches long (from left to right) and 14 inches tall. I then used the pattern to cut out the areas where the brackets would go. I traced this area and then carefully used the box cutters to cut them out.

Next, I painted the other two main pieces which had the wings on the sides. I let that sit for a while to dry. Then, I took the mounting brackets and placed them in the slots. Please see images. I basically turned the mounting bracket sideways so I could get it into the hole in the main piece, then straightened it out. I made sure to keep it at the top of the rectangular hole and it stuck out quite far in the front of the main piece. If the slits in the sides of the mounting brackets are too small and the fit is too tight, feel free to cut them a little larger so it fits nicely. You can then add a few drops of glue to the sides of it and to the area where the box is folded outward holding it up. This just makes it even more secure.

Once everything is solid and dry, you can then attach the main pieces to the body.

Step 7: The Wiring for the Antenna

Picture of The Wiring for the Antenna

First, attach the two main side pieces with the wings to the mounting brackets at the slots. If you need to make the slots larger to make it fit well, you can do that. It's a good idea to add a couple drops of glue to secure it where the mounting bracket meets the main pieces. Then let it dry.

Lastly, the wiring is actually very simple. You'll see on the pattern piece that there is a circle on the pattern to show the center of the long cardboard piece that goes along the middle of the antenna. The circle is about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in from the side. Use your pattern to mark that spot on your two main winged pieces. Then, use a drill to make two holes through those spots. Then the screws will need to be put through those holes. Then, take out your transformer which has the coax plug on one side and twin lead on the other. Take the twin lead wires - place washers on the back side of where the screws were put through the cardboard, then attach one of the wires from the transformer and tighten it on with a bolt. Do the same for the other side with the screw. You'll now have the transformer hanging there - and ready to be plugged in!

Take it over to your TV and plug in your coaxial cable to the other end of the transformer. Take the other end of the coax and plug it into your TV antenna spot. That's it!!! You are done!

This antenna is amazing and completely surpassed all my expensive store-bought ones! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! This project saved me a lot of money and I no longer have to deal with the old antenna problems and annoyances. I had a lot of issues with my antenna(s) and now I know I can make more of these (and this can be modified) for my other TVs in the house. Let me know how yours turn out too!

Comments

ajanuszczak (author)2013-07-11

Very cool! Does it matter what side of the foil you glue down - the shinny side or the dull side?

ramgarden (author)ajanuszczak2013-07-19

I glued the shiny side of the wings to the cardboard and the dull side of the main back piece to the cardboard and it still works great. I think it doesn't matter because it's the fact that it's metal that picks up the signal.

rexenne (author)ramgarden2016-09-18

I'm gonna try that as well because the wings on mine have sagged with the humidity.

HollyMann (author)ajanuszczak2013-07-13

I don't think it matters - but I did glue the dull side to the cardboard.

asec (author)2013-07-16

thanks to sharing this ! the antenna work well you made my day ! i want hug you so much you so beauty women also !

ffcabral (author)2013-07-16

This got me curious. Worth giving it a shot :D

jn245 (author)2013-07-12

I built one and it works GREAT! THANKS!!!

HollyMann (author)jn2452013-07-13

Yay that is great to hear!!!! Wonderful!

zentsang made it! (author)2017-07-27

So we just moved and as a result, I have a lot of spare boxes now. Needing TV immediately, I hopped onto Instructables and came across this post. I have already built several HDTV antennas in the past (the criss-cross model using hangars on a 2x4), but figured I'd check in and see if there were any new methods. Viola... a bow-tie with cardboard and aluminum foil model. So I built it, hooked it up, and hung it on the wall. BAM! All the major network without any issues. Thanks for posting! I still need to dress mine up... but since Instructables is forcing me to post pictures of it for this post... here ya go...

omnitenna (author)2017-07-11

This TV antenna design might be efficient or powerful, however it isn't modern. It's based in a vintage or eclectic art deco bowtie style dated back from the 1950s!

omnitenna.com

alzie (author)2017-07-10

Ive gone thru this process too myself, and

i needed a few dBs more gain than the bow ties can provide.

If you need more oomf, check out the grey hoverman:

https://www.google.com/search?num=100&newwindow=1&...

Still pretty easy to do in card board / wire.

ragnork made it! (author)2017-03-03

Thanks for a great instructable. I used tin sheets for the winged pieces, to make construction simpler, and i had it lying around. It works well.

sharpstick (author)ragnork2017-07-09

I would use aluminum roof flashing if available. It's like really thick aluminum foil, and can be cut with a fairly heavy pair of scissors. If you stick with the cardboard design, you can tie or glue across the edges of the "bowtie" to help hold the shape.

BobbyH24 (author)sharpstick2017-07-09

I actually a built a different design (I think it's called the bowtie). It uses about 1' whiskers made of metal clothes hanger or 14 awg (guage) copper wire.

The antenna is in the house and I can get signals from 70 miles away on clear days. If I were to put it outside on a pole, I'm sure I could get signals further out.

CJamesCook (author)BobbyH242017-07-09

Post a plan or template!

tlcasey100 (author)CJamesCook2017-07-10

FOUND PLANS ALL OVER THE NET FOR FREE FOR DIFFERENT DESIGNS OF ANTENNAS. JUST GOOGLE IT "FREE PLANS FOR HD ANTENNA" OR HD ANTENNA PLANS AND LET THE MAGIC OF THE INTERNET FIND IT FOR YA.

BobbyH24 (author)CJamesCook2017-07-09

I'm going to be making a new one that can be put outside. The balun needs to be weather proof, so I'm going to make an enclosure for that, and also so the birds can't bend the wires. I'll do an instructable on that one when I build it.

I might even make two of them; 1 being bidirectional, the other quad-directional (two sets at 90 degrees to get better reception without the need to turn the antenna to pick up other stations)

CraigA41 (author)ragnork2017-03-24

Cleverer

HollyMann (author)ragnork2017-03-03

Awesome!

A4MYJWCKJR (author)2017-07-10

Looks great but has anyone in the UK tried it? Would love to know.

Al

jwzumwalt (author)2017-07-09

FYI - I had never seen one of these before... I found this short article on how the "Bow Tie" works.

http://www.antenna-theory.com/antennas/wideband/bowtie.php

ronjohnstone (author)2017-07-09

AMAZING !!! I am 45 miles from San Francisco and have a big, amplified rooftop antenna as backup to Comcast. For the sheer hell of it I cut 8" from a piece of 75 ohm cable and replaced my house antenna line. It worked as well as my big antenna.

What a great backup to have ready for when your cable goes down!

OmarJ3 (author)2017-07-09

Here's a way to give your antenna three-way position adjustment. Find an old swing-arm desk lamp and anchor the base end to wall or cabinet. Then attach your antenna where the lamp shade was hung. As already mentioned by other posters, please be sure that the TV can receive the digital signal

NotTheDude (author)2013-07-09

It may not look as cool as this or other homemade HDTV antennas, but you can save yourself the cost of buying anything new and the work it takes to put one of these things together by simply taking a spare coaxial cable and cutting about 8 inches of insulation off the end so you have the center wire exposed. Then move it around until you get the best reception. You will not believe it until you try it, but this works better than any other antenna I have ever used for over-the-air digital TV.

I have tried every antenna possible from dollar store 10 buck antennas to $50 Phillips HDTV indoor/outdoor antenna and the bare wire works better than them all (even when I put the $50 antenna on my roof). I have removed the insulation from about a dozen or so coaxial cables for friends and families over the past 4 years and they are all still using them because they work better than anything else.they have bought themselves.

I would make an indestructible for this, but it's so easy I couldn't explain it any better except to take a picture of it. I will say that it can be hard to slide the entire 8 inches of insulation off the end all at once so just cut an inch or two of the insulation at a time and it comes off pretty easily.

Try it and you will be surprised how well it works. What do you have to lose?

peekay1 (author)NotTheDude2015-04-30

Do I need a digital converter box or is this coaxial cable only attached to TV? My Toshiba TV was made in 2007 so its considered 'old' by LCD TV standards.

CJamesCook (author)peekay12017-07-09

Your TV should have an "antenna in" connection. If it doesn't, then yes, try the "cable in" or "coax in" connections. There is no power with this device, so you should not be able to harm your TV. Just don't short something out.

wrksnfx (author)peekay12015-12-12

look up your lcd's model number and see if it has an NTSC tuner, if it does, then you are good to go, you will not need a converter. because it is already built in.

ChrisPUT (author)wrksnfx2016-11-14

You mean ATSC.

rockymtns99 (author)NotTheDude2016-04-13

Thanks for the idea. I tried this and I got nothing when I did an channel search. How long was your coax? Only invested 15min and $0 so, it was worth the shot. It may have something to do with my location (flat Delaware - 40+ miles from stations).

CJamesCook (author)rockymtns992017-07-09

Try aiming it in the direction of the TV broadcast antennas (if you know them), and then try taping it to a pole (have someone hold it up high in the air)?

Arbaumann (author)rockymtns992016-05-30

It took me more than 15 minutes just tracing and cutting and another 1-1.5 hrs to construct. Are you sure you did this project? Mine works great.

TomE1 (author)Arbaumann2017-01-06

same here

Arbaumann (author)Arbaumann2016-05-30

Sorry rockymtns99. I see now you were commenting on the NotTheDude guy.

hdguy (author)rockymtns992016-09-14

Run your channel scans at night .. You'll be amazed at just how many channels will pop up, and always point the UHF elements (bow ties) in the direction of the broadcast tower .. Good luck!

MargaretG46 (author)NotTheDude2017-05-13

Do I cut the metal piece off at the end and cut off 8" and put the other end into my tv?

HollyMann (author)NotTheDude2013-11-02

My dad said he's tried this but it didn't help him too much with channels or reception...

DeniseN19 (author)HollyMann2017-01-12

I was at my wits end trying to find something to work. This was pretty easy except exposing 8" of wire without breaking it off. I just shoved the broken off end down the center of unbroken wire and it works like magic. Thank goodness I tried this cuz removing all the plastic and braided wire around the plastic proved to be pretty challenging. So maybe use cheapo store bought coax cable and it might be easier.

rush2ady (author)NotTheDude2013-11-09

So, I tried this, and what did I have to lose? A previously useful coax cable! I did get ONE channel with it. And then buried my "experiment" in the recycle bin so my husband wouldn't ask embarrassing questions.
He mocked my antenna making efforts while making HollyMann's antenna, but when I got 30 channels, and they are super clear compared to what the cable company was giving us, he stopped laughing.
The only downside, is which channels I get depends heavily on the direction the antenna faces. Right now I have it angled to get most channels...all except ABC. But I'm gonna have to reorient it once The Bachelor season starts!

ShaunN2 (author)rush2ady2015-11-08

perhaps you can make two antennas and orient each differently and connect them to TV via a splitter with two inputs and one output.

TomE1 (author)ShaunN22017-01-06

i was thinking of just running a copper wire to another one... or two

twaxenfelter (author)NotTheDude2016-11-27

I was about to head down to the basement to make this when I saw NotTheDude's suggestion. It is solid. I finally can throw out the old Radio Shack powered antenna in favor of an old piece of coax cable that is now hidden behind our shelving unit. Glad I tried this first, though I was thinking about ways to make this antenna look like modern art on my wall!

KevinS373 (author)NotTheDude2016-10-04

Tried this with minimal results. It did provide the 3 closest channels to me (all PBS) but no "real" channels. I also tried another idea from the internet - connecting the exposed center coax wire to a grounded switch plate screw and got 2 more channels (uses the grounded electrical system as an antenna). The bow-tie worked great (got all 9 local stations-farthest 75 miles away) and I recommend to all.

ColC1 (author)NotTheDude2016-08-20

Well well well, what can I say?

It works lol.

I've been having heaps of issues with ABC digital in sthn Bris and while reading this half time at the footy came up so I thought "why not".

A dig around in the box of bits secured an old piece of coax so I bared 8" (20cm) and plugged it in.

The result?

Perfect reception on every channel!

I'm sold and a big thanks to NotTheDude for an amazingly simple trick.

I'll have to dig out the texts now to try and figure out why it works lol.

(this is bound to take me a lot longer than making my reception work)

wrecche (author)ColC12016-09-03

I must be on mars then, doesn't work at all. no different than using a coat hanger...

slenderfungus (author)NotTheDude2016-05-09

I tried the coax antenna from NotTheDude and it works perfectly. It works better than the $50 (soon to be trashed) HD antenna that I have on another TV. The best part, a cable company that I had in the past supplied the coax.

slenderfungus (author)NotTheDude2016-05-09

I tried the coax antenna from NotTheDude and it works perfectly. It works better than the $50 (soon to be trashed) HD antenna that I have on another TV. The best part, a cable company that I had in the past supplied the coax.

WilliamC77 (author)NotTheDude2015-10-10

I was going to try my hand at Holly's lovely arts and crafts products but then I saw NotTheDude's post and I had tons of old cable wire on hand and a spare 30 seconds so I decided to try his plan because as he said "What do you have to lose?" Not much to lose but certainly I gained a bit. Try 39 crystal clear free channels including all the major local networks. I extend my thanks to NotTheDude for the great and inexpensive solution and thanks to Holly because her post led me to this comment.

Ravenstine (author)NotTheDude2015-06-03

I must admit, NotTheDude's antenna works great! It's pretty sad when a "nontenna" works better than any of the storebought antennae I have tried -- even the amplified omni-directional ones! Granted, I don't get every channel but I get most of them without having to constantly re-adjust it.

Aa8ron (author)NotTheDude2015-05-27

This tip worked amazingly! Thank you! I had been fighting with my store bought amplified antenna for weeks with no luck in getting more than 6 channels. I followed your instructions and hooked up the coax cable, and now I have every single channel coming through flawlessly. Thanks again.

ChuckN5 (author)NotTheDude2015-05-04

@Not the dude This worked extremely well! Would recommend if you dont want to do the nicer one. Thanx!!

About This Instructable

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Bio: Army Vet. I love learning & being creative.
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