better reception is just some coat hangers or sculptures away…

I finally got around to testing out a do-it-yourself antenna made with scrap materials I had around the house. If you haven’t heard of this, do a google search for homemade antenna and you’ll find all the info you need to build your own.

Basically, the point to this is that you can make a better antenna with scrap wood and coat hangers, than the powered ones you can buy at an electronics store (which sell for $30 and up, typically). The only part you have to buy, assuming you don’t already have one from something else, is a 300 > 75 ohm transformer (avialable at Radio Shack and probably any other electronics store for about $5).

So, since I happened to have a transformer already, scrap wood and extra coat hangers, I set about to build the version you see to the left. This followed the online plans pretty strictly, just with one less set of ‘whiskers’, if you will. Since it was a test, I didn’t worry too much about the finish, I just wanted to see if it would work. And I’m happy to tell you, that it works perfectly. It is a bit directional in the way it works, so I had to turn it to the angle you see in the photo to pick up all the channels, but that’s the important point here… I now pick up all the channels, whereas with the powered rabbit ears I used to have, I regularly couldn’t get a couple of the major local channels, had spotty reception on several others, and couldn’t get a couple altogether. Now they all come in with a strong signal.

Not bad for about 20 minutes of my time, eh?

So, after I built this, I got to wondering what other shapes you could get away with, as it seems the major component you need is just more metal than your average rabbit ears. I happened to also have a sizable coil of copper tubing from a dishwasher install years ago, so I decided to see if a sculptural shape would work as well. And, guess what… again, it works better than the powered antenna that used to be attached to this TV. This one is in the basement, so there is one local channel that it doesn’t pick up, but all the others are clear as a bell and consistent. This is about %100 better than the purchased, powered antenna that was previously on this TV. I think the limiter on this version is the height. I’m pretty sure if I soldered some thin rods onto these larger tubes, so that the overall height was increased by nearly twice, I’d be able to pick up that last, local station.

All this got me to thinking about the copper work my sister-in-law does. She makes all these really awesome indoor and garden sculptures out of copper, that incorporate leaf and flower shapes. These would probably be perfect for an antenna.

So, I spent some time pondering what I might design for our living room that would integrate into the existing decor but would be unobtrusive. My first thought was that some clusters of tall copper leaves (like mother-in-laws tongue) would be the best idea. As I pondered all this, I realized I was overlooking the obvious… Take a look at the photo on the left and see if you can find the antenna…

You’ll notice that the plant stand appears metallic… Yep, that’s right, it’s made out of steel so just happens to be a big piece of metal sitting right near the TV. So, I made a little copper clip that could fit around one of the feet at the bottom. There’s also another piece behind the couch that consists of 4 copper rods on an 18″ long base, since you need to connect the transformer to two sources.

And, yep, you guessed it, it works %100 better than the powered antenna that used to sit behind the TV. This one now picks up all local stations just like the first one in our bedroom.

So, there you have it. 3 new antenna, $10, a couple hours total of my time. I’ll go back and make the ones prettier in our bedroom and basement, but I’m pretty happy with my solution in the living room. I need to tweak the shapes of the part behind the couch since the over-the-air signals are directional. But, all-in-all, a huge success and proof to everybody who’s not interested in paying for cable that you can get all the local channels if you want, for much cheaper than the cost of an antenna at any store. Plus, if you’re creative you could make it into something that nobody would ever guess is a TV antenna.

Questions about how to build these? Ask away! It couldn’t be simpler.

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