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HDTV antennae are quite expensive, aren’t they? If you’re cutting the cable but have realized you still need a few channels that you can’t find being piped to your home-built media center through the Internet, then having access to some over-the-air broadcasts (as opposed to cable or satellite) can prove useful.
But there’s the cost. You cut back on cable to save money –so what’s the point in spending money on an expensive HDTV antenna? After checking Amazon for low-cost antennae, you’ve probably realized that only the high end devices are fit for purpose.
The alternative, then, is to build your own, using a few shop-bought components and items you might have sitting around in your workspace.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Tools & Hardware to Build a DIY HDTV Antenna
To begin, you’ll need to collect your tools. You’ll need a power drill, an electric screwdriver (or screwdriver bit for a compatible drill), wire cutters and pliers. All standard tools that you should have access to already. You’ll also need a ruler or tape measure.
The HDTV antenna is built from the following components. Note that all measurements in this project are in inches:
- 22 inch section of 2×3 or 1×3 wood board.
- Woodwork pencil
- 18 screws, no deeper than your choice of wood (1″ or 2″)
- 18 washers that fit between the screws and the wire.
- Thick wire for antenna “V”. I’ve used coat hangers, which can be bought inexpensively in bulk on eBay, for the antenna Vs. You’ll also need some copper wiring; I used six pieces of wire from an old PC power-supply unit, not the only use for a discarded PSU.
- Aluminum mesh grill trays, typically found in disposable BBQ kits.
- 1x Balun – this is a small coaxial plug with adjustable screws for connecting wires (pictured below). You may have one lying around from an old analogue TV. If not, you can pick one up online or at a dollar store.
- A length of coaxial cable to run from the antenna to your TV.
Step 2: Preparing the Wooden Base
Begin by gathering your hardware, and preparing the wooden backing board. I had difficulty purchasing the exact size required as my local DIY chain couldn’t cut more precise than 9 inches, but it shouldn’t matter as long as you keep the same measurements between the wires:
- Draw a 1 inch gap down the middle
- Starting 2 inches from the top, mark a line crossing that gap every 5.25 inches.
- You should have 8 points where the lines intersect.
See the accompanying image if you’re confused.
Step 3: Cut the Coat Hangers
Cut eight lengths of 14 inch from the coat hangers. Each wire length will need to be bent halfway, to create a V shape. The ends of the V need to be 3 inches apart. The measurements are essential for the antennae to perform correctly, so don’t just randomly fold them in half.
Cutting can be performed by hacksaw if necessary, but if you have a Dremel-style handheld mini power tool (one of the most important tools for any beginner in electronics), this is a far better, and quicker option.
Step 4: Attach the V Wires to the Base
Each of the Vs will be screwed into the base where the lines intersect, so grab the drill, and with a narrow bit, drill the eight holes. When you’re done, attach the V wires, using the screws and the washers.
You should now have something that looks like this.
Step 5: Catching the Waves
Turn the base over, and use two screws to connect each of the disposable grill trays to the back of the antenna. These will act as a reflector, sending the signal back to our antenna.
Next, join the V sections together with wire. This should be criss-crossed on the top and bottom sections, and run straight along the middle. Use the photo below as a guide. Notice how I’ve stripped a segment of insulation from the two middle wires. This is to make the next step, attaching the Balun, simpler.
The Balun is the interface to the TV, so you might want to think ahead and make sure it’s correctly positioned for connecting and reconnecting a coax cable in an enclosed space. Soldering the Balun will make the connection permanent, but if you’re unsure about this, take a look at our soldering starter guide first.
Congratulations, you’ve built a HDTV antenna using household parts!
Receiving HDTV Images with Your DIY Antenna
You’ve build the antenna – now is the time to try it out!
Connect the device to a suitable HDTV, open the TV’s menu and start scanning for channels. As with any TV antenna, you’ll need to try out several positions to get the best results, so be patient. You might find that fixing the device to your outer wall is a better option than hiding it in the loft or fixing it to the ceiling.
I found that placing the antenna on a table and slowly positioning it in line with the existing roof antenna produced great results. It’s a case of whatever works for you and your surroundings, but I was blown away by just how well this worked.
Alternative HDTV Antenna Builds
By now you should be watching TV. Congratulations, you just cut your cable (however, consider that there might be hidden costs to this activity).
But just in case this didn’t work for you too well, or you found it too complicated, here are some alternative DIY HDTV antennae.
First is this, a HDTV antenna made from cardboard and aluminum foil. It can prove to be a little fiddly, and the design will eventually result in parts of the antenna dropping off, but other than this it is a good build and an exercise worth completing.
We also recommend you take a look at this simpler design, again requiring cardboard and aluminum foil, although you will need to cut an intricate “tree” into the foil.
Did you build the antenna as explained above? Have you got a strong HDTV signal for a fraction of the cost of a shop-bought antenna? Perhaps you have some questions; use the comments box below and we’ll talk.