Free TV! the Makings of a Frankenstein Antenna




Introduction: Free TV! the Makings of a Frankenstein Antenna

About: Avid hobbyist and Handyman

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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57 Discussions

Dont know if that reflecting dish is effective or even beneficial at all. It was designed to work on completely different frequencies propagated in a completely different manner.
I know this was just a casual fun project but there is a lot of science that goes into designing a proper antenna, starting with making the metal elements of the antenna the correct size for the wavelength you are trying to receive.

2 replies

I agree, the dish has minimal effect other than catching the wind. More effective home-built units include a vertical wire grid made of robust fence wire. There's a character in Georgia, Donny S. Hodges, who, though he's no engineer, has designed his own version of this "whisker" type antenna that he sells and is proven quite effective. Search for "How to Make the Ultimate Antenna." You might want to change some of the components, but the configuration is effective and he shows his tests to demonstrate it.

Batvette, as a reflector, I could not tell to what degree, the dish help. However, as a means for me to adjust the antenna so that I could get the maximum signal, the dish was invaluable. The dish allowed me to adjust the antenna horizontally and vertically. Also, I could tweak the angle of the antenna. The dish has these adjustment points which made that possible. The extended arm allowed me to adjust the antenna horizontally. The proper positioning was the key factor in me receiving all those channels.

Unfortunately none of these work where I am. I've looked at plenty on youtube, etc. I live in brewster Ohio, and am simply too far away to pick up anything that comes in decently.

2 replies

Have you tried Clear TV It's about 20 bucks, all TV stations have to broadcast over the airwaves its part of the emergency broadcast system. After hooking up the antenna you have to go into your TV and ask it to find the advalble tv channels. sometimes you have to move the antenna around to find the channels to get it to come in.

Clear TV is no different from any other antenna. The ones similar and better than this one on YouTube will do the same, but are just slightly different configurations. The only improvement beyond the design of the antenna is it's height and direction. I suggest that improving height is the easiest way to add reception once direction is known, although in some areas, I might still be necessary to rotate the unit if the various sources are spread widely round the horizon. Some designs can tend to only receive from more narrow directions. That's why the better antennas include motors to rotate them.

Don't put much faith in the Channelmaster site. It told me I could get 3 channels with a roof-mounted antenna. I get 64. IOW, your mileage may vary.

I kept waiting to see how you addressed the conversion of digital to analog but you didn't. So is the TV digital ready?

1 more answer

Its frankenstein's monster not frankenstein

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

4 replies

We tried out all the TV providers in our area, over several years time. Were planning to get quit of all of them, but Mom moved in, and watches TV almost 24/7. So kept it going for her. But after she finally moved out, we dropped the last TV venue like a hot potato--I hear your pain, trauma from Direct too.
But you've played a great trick, re-purposing that dish! IDK it it really does anything useful though...different types of systems from regular antennas.

We've been quit from all TV providers, for over 7 years now. Only small subscriptions to Netflix, GaiaTV, and Hulu. Everything else is available online, too. It's really helped our budget, and our nerves, to NOT be paying out over $75++ monthly for TV, and Not have to deal with those snarky providers' usurious practices. And, really nice to no longer have those providers extorting funding for hundreds of channels we never wanted [like the shopping and sports channels]

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

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.

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).

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

creator was frankenstein ... so would it be frankenstein's antenna . the creation i.e. the nmonstaer was unnamed.


7 months ago

GOOD JOB! And funny asf , too.

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