Instructables

Powerful Modern Homemade HDTV Antenna

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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! 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.



 
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NotTheDude9 months ago
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?

It worked great for me. All the channels were found with best quality. Took me 2 min to make that antenna. The only problem is that it works if the open cable sits just in the middle of the wall :) Will try to move it around and find a place where it also works but not that visible. Thanks again.

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!
@NotTheDude... Thank you, thank you, thank you! It works brilliantly. I am 62 and have fkd with antennas my entire life. I refuse to pay for cable. Years before cable became reality the propaganda was "TV with no commercials!" Huh! Now we have to pay for TV with commercials? Ugh! No way. So I have tried many. My space currently faces the wrong way to receive half the stations in the Bay Area and with digital, new antennas, so they have said. Everyone has failed from repeatedly moving to adjust reception and breaks. None work well. When our new flat panel failed, from a loose wire I assume, i broke the wires connecting three different rigs and was on the verge of giving up. I looked up DIY solutions here on instructibles, saw your response and cut away on an extra coaxial cable as prescribed and viola! ...awesome!. Makes me think the manufacturers and industry are just friggin' wack job thieves or ...maybe you've made a super simple discovery!!!. In any sense i will repost this to friends on FaceBrick. Awesome disclosure man. This event inspires me to return and follow up on some instructibles which I have long postponed but will have time to post in the next few months. Cheers!
HollyMann (author)  sandysanders5 months ago
Yay! So happy you made on and are enjoying the reception quality! :) I have had tons of problems with antennas until this one - so I am really happy with it! Great reception and lots of channels! I also refuse to pay for cable and despise the commercials!!!
HollyMann (author)  NotTheDude5 months ago
My dad said he's tried this but it didn't help him too much with channels or reception...
HollyMann (author)  NotTheDude9 months ago
(removed by author or community request)
Not that the coax you can buy at a dollar store is worth anything. The coax is one place NOT to skimp on quality and the longer the run of coax needed, the more important it is NOT to skimp on quality. In the long run (pun intended) it is better to use the best quality RG-6 coax than it is to try & fix things afterwards with an amplifier.
HollyMann (author)  PhilKE3FL9 months ago
Yeah I know you're right - i probably shouldn't have mentioned that!
It's probably not even worth a $1 - the coax is the one place [b][i]NOT[/i][/b] to skimp, get the best you can afford and the longer the run the more important it is to use the very best RG-6 coax! Which generally means the most expensive too.
Best antenna I've ever seen wasn't an antenna at all, or even anything A/V. Got bored one summer (out in the sticks), teenage imagination. Took the 2 lead wire that went to the tree-like thing on the roof and you had to turn a knob on a clunky plastic box to turn that antenna, which was always breaking something... anyway, took that wire and attached one lead to each post on an old alternator (copper windings?). Never saw such a crisp clear signal. Dad wondered why the old farm truck wouldn't start though...
Nice post. Going to try it out. Happiness. B>}
HollyMann (author)  NotTheDude9 months ago
Sounds interesting - if it works - awesome!
ajanuszczak9 months ago
Very cool! Does it matter what side of the foil you glue down - the shinny side or the dull side?
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.
HollyMann (author)  ajanuszczak9 months ago
I don't think it matters - but I did glue the dull side to the cardboard.
I suppose it would be the dull side, but I can't be certain
asec9 months ago
thanks to sharing this ! the antenna work well you made my day ! i want hug you so much you so beauty women also !
ffcabral9 months ago
This got me curious. Worth giving it a shot :D
jn2459 months ago
I built one and it works GREAT! THANKS!!!
HollyMann (author)  jn2459 months ago
Yay that is great to hear!!!! Wonderful!
apeweek7 months ago
Holly does not have permission to post my antenna patterns here - because this is a Creative Commons page, and my antenna patterns are not public domain.

Come instead to my original project page for this antenna, at

http://crafting.squidoo.com/make-this-powerful-hdtv-antenna-out-of-cardboard
HollyMann (author)  apeweek7 months ago
I just wanted to let you know I updated the Instructable and removed the pattern of yours - I am sorry I misread your comment specifically about the pattern. I linked to your page instead.
apeweek HollyMann7 months ago
Thank you Holly, and I just want your readers to know that I don't have a problem with your page, just the posting of my patterns.

Squidoo has a very strict policy on duplicated content, and their computer doesn't do a good job of figuring out who the original creator was. If I don't chase down content-lifting, it could put my own page there in jeopardy.
HollyMann (author)  apeweek7 months ago
Thank you also. I think this antenna and creation you've come up with and designed is brilliant. I understand about the template - I should have just linked to it - so thank you!
dracq HollyMann1 month ago

hollymann there is no reason to give credit to apeweek the true design is known as the rs double bowtie
antenna it an older model from radioshack the only thing the person known as apeweek is that he made it in card board . i provided a link for those who would like to see the original .

http://forum.videohelp.com/images/guides/p1933804/...

i think its wrong when someone claims they created something they have not

an shame on apeweek for givng you trouble and trying to take credit for somethig he did not create . and hollymann thankyou for such well put instructable .

apeweek dracq1 month ago

Antenna designs have to perform a function, so of course they all have similarities to each other. Can nobody create a car because it has the same shape as other cars? The basis for this type of antenna goes back way before Radio Shack even existed.

So, shame on you for shaming me. I created the instructions and graphics on display here, calculated the element lengths, tested my design and copyrighted my graphics and instructions. I make no claim to the basic antenna design, as there are only a handful of types, all free of patents as they were invented so long ago. Patents and copyrights are not the same thing!

abhinavdasari made it!2 months ago

Getting only one channel for now.. haven't had the time to play around with the direction.. Too bad my window is north-east facing..:(

The channel that I get is super sharp though..

20140205_170125.jpg
HollyMann (author)  Computothought5 months ago
Yeah I linked to it in the beginning of the instructable!
rush2ady6 months ago
Hard to believe I could screw up such clear directions...but I glued the foil on the wrong side of the wings :( So, glued another piece on the correct side. Is it ok if I have foil on both sides, or do I need to rip off the front facing foil?
7Kelson6 months ago
I have a suggestion. Your photos do show a good deal of what's there and what to do. I suggest that you add an instructional video as well. Demonstrate from start to finish the entire process.
alankindler6 months ago
I gave this a shot after doing a channel search in my new New York City (Staten Island) apartment. With no antenna I got no channels, perhaps because the building is concrete and metal framed. When I first attached the antenna and mounted it on the wall above the TV I got 14 channels. When I hung it in the nearest window I got 32. I'm very happy with this result. I wrapped the antenna in some dark cloth so that from the street it is hardly noticeable in the window and since it is behind the blinds it is not visible from the inside either.
PhilKE3FL9 months ago
Nice article, I've seen this before in other places on the web & wondered why it wasn't posted here.

On the other hand, I will say here what I've said elsewhere to help, not hurt, the use of such an antenna.

The transformer you suggest using was designed for 300 Ohm antennas. Your antenna is based on a dipole which has an impedance of ~73 Ohms. This particular design is a dual wide-element dipole design. Which probably reduces the impedance to 37.5 Ohm, half of the required input impedance of modern TVs not four times the impedance as the transformer is designed for.

So, if we look at the transformer being a 300 : 75 or a 4 : 1 transformer it will convert the 37.5 Ohms of the antenna down by a factor of four to ~ 9 Ohms going into 75 Ohm feed-line (the coax RG-59 or RG-6) to a 75 Ohm TV input. In all probability the antenna will work better without any transformer than with it, unless you find a transformer that is a 1 : 2 so it can boost the impedance back up to the input impedance of 75 Ohms.

My advice has always been, and probably always will be, to give it a try without any transformer, just connect the 75 Ohm coax directly to the antenna and see how it works. If it works as well as or better than using the transformer, then leave the transformer off.

Notes and a little history:

The wide element of the "bowtie" dipole design was to maintain a constant impedance of 75 Ohms over an extended frequency of operation. When this design first came out the UHF TV frequency range was from 470 MHz (Low end of Ch. 14) to 890 MHz (the high end of Ch. 83) for a bandwidth of 420 MHz. While we're now down to Ch. 59, I believe, as the top UHF channel the frequency range is still very wide for an antenna at 286 MHz. The top frequency for Ch. 59 is 746 MHz.

Do NOT mistake the fact that TV channels today may have nothing to do with the TV channel number associated with the frequency ranges issued by the FCC for those channel numbers. Today in my area Ch. 2 from Baltimore is now using UHF Ch. 38 frequencies and Ch. 4 is really using channel 48 frequencies. Those are just the ones with a really big change, some are as small as Ch. 32 now using Ch. 33 frequencies.

The transformer being used here was designed for the log periodic antennas which had a designed impedance of ~ 300 Ohms. The feed-line used in those days was lower loss than coax, which was not around anyway, and also had an impedance of 300 Ohms, and then last the TV inputs of the day were also 300 Ohm impedance, so no external transformers were needed. All TVs had a transformer inside them to convert the 300 Ohms down to whatever the TV tuner was designed for.

When the TV inputs were changed to use 75 Ohm coax the external transformer became necessary to transform the 300 Ohm impedance of the log periodic antennas down to the 75 Ohm coax being used along with TV input impedance now also being 75 Ohm, so they were created and sold with every such antenna.

Interesting fact: Until recently all Bowtie antennas used 300 Ohm feed line and none of them came with transformers! This is interesting for two reasons, in the old days why was a 73 Ohm antenna using 300 Ohm feed-line? And for more modern times? This antenna is a ~73 Ohm impedance design yet it was still ONLY sold with 300 Ohm twin lead. So, why when the TV input was matched to the antenna didn't they use 75 Ohm coax to match the whole system without the need for any transformer? I can only surmise that it was a too costly to change the manufacturing process. In this case many people were left with no way to connect these antennas to the newer TVs except with the use of the transformer. They didn't know 1. That the transformer wasn't needed and 2. they didn't know how to disconnect the twin-lead and connect 75 Ohm coax to the antenna.

I have also noticed that when I connect the bowtie antenna to a newer TV simply by connecting the twin lead to a short piece of coax and then to the TV - no transformer being used - the reception is a little better than when I tried using the transformer.

The better design would have been to use 75 Ohm coax directly connected to the bowtie antenna for the newer TVs, yet they never changed the 300 Ohm twin-lead wire for 75 Ohm coax.
Some good info... but the highest UHF frequency is channel 69 at 806 MHz.
Not any longer. "In the United States, channels 52 to 69 have been reallocated to Part 90 Land Mobile Radio Service." ref: North American broadcast television frequencies - Wikipedia see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_broadcast_television_frequencies
Also channel 51 is not being allocated for regular TV use any longer, ref: the above article and its reference of: DA-11-1428 - or doing so is on hold for the present.
Yep, I had forgot they had done that, thanks.
HollyMann (author)  PhilKE3FL9 months ago
Thank you very much Phil. I'm learning a lot! When I have time I will try to include some of this info in the Instructable - appreciate it!
Holly,

You are very welcome. If you'd like to see my four element version for 360 degree viewing, my wife calls it our porcupine antenna, the photos of my how-to article are on my web site at:http://cs.yrex.com/ke3fl/Articles/Antennas/BuildingThePorcupine.htm
Also, the full foil is not really needed, as you can see on my design I only used V-shaped wires as the antenna elements. you can see the same thing more on your design on the http://www.solidsignal.com web site type in the search box the model number: HDB8X to take a look at the design, it is a cross between yours extended to four elements with a reflector behind and mine. Notice the different way they solved the two different directions problems for signals as opposed to my turnstile design.

My Antennas (The Porcupine): http://cs.yrex.com/ke3fl/Articles/Antennas/BuildingThePorcupine.htm
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