A DIY review – build this antenna and save yourself some money!

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! I’m sure most of you will be receiving electronics from Santa tonight, spending a decent amount of money on audio, visual, or computing equipment. Regarding the visual aspect, more specifically TV reception, here’s something worth building.

For the last bunch of months I wasn’t too pleased with my cable provider’s services. Another price increase in August, as well as bad reception (grainy) through the cable box, and an increase in annoying pop-up ads, was the last straw. I also realized that there were maybe only three channels that I was really watching. In addition, the media has been reporting how more and more people are cutting their cable in favour of streaming services and other cheaper entertainment sources too.

I decided to join the club and cut the cord. I remembered seeing plans earlier this year in Make Magazine describing how to build a coat hanger antenna. I managed to find the plans online and decided to give it a shot. It’s cheap, it’s quick, and the reception? Surprisingly awesome! I get six channels… for FREE! All six are coming in crystal clear. Much clearer than they ever did through the cable box. I don’t watch too much TV, but the shows I do watch, like The Blacklist, The Goldbergs, Agents of SHIELD, SNL, and the new reboot of MacGyver, are on these channels. This wasn’t a build featured on an episode of MacGyver, but like I mentioned earlier, it was in Make Magazine. The channels I get are pretty much the essentials:

  • CBC
  • CTV
  • Global
  • CityTV
  • Omni
  • YesTV

On rare occasions the signal for Global disappears for brief moments of time, but its not bad. Surprising as Global is owned by Shaw, and Shaw’s HQ is located here in Calgary (*whispering* and they were also my old cable provider). I’m currently living in a basement and thought the antenna wouldn’t pick up much, but I can get 2 more channels than a store-bought antenna I picked up for a few bucks at Princess Auto. For better reception, I placed the antenna on my windowsill. The following section has links to the instructions, pics of my build, and a description of a minor modification.

The Build

All you need is:

  • a piece or two of wood (depending if you decide to build the stand too. I omitted the stand in my build),
  • some hardware,
  • 4-6 coat hangers,
  • and a small 75 ohm to 300 ohm matching transformer (which you can probably find at Princess Auto, The Source, Active Electronics, or dollar stores)

The instructions (with video) containing more specific details of the materials can be found here:

The first major step is to mark your board with the appropriate hole spacing for the screws.

Attach your screws loosely – don’t crank them in all the way so you can slip the coat hanger dipoles underneath first. Remember to take sandpaper or some other abrasive and rub off the enamel coating wherever there is a contact point on the coat hangers. When everything is positioned properly, then drive the screws in.

The matching transformer with the coaxial connector is attached to the two middle screws.

Modification

Rather than cutting up two coat hangers to bend out straight and stretch along the length of the wood, I used hardware wire. Super cheap at Dollarama – I paid $1.25 if I recall. Also note that in the two places where the wire crosses over; in the original plans it would’ve been coat hangers with the enamel coating. The plans don’t specify if at these two points there is a connection or not, so I just slipped on a couple pieces of heat shrink tubing. Also, I recommend filing the sharp cut ends of the coat hangers, for safety reasons.

Notice the black heat shrink tubing in the cross section.

Conclusion

Works great, and I’m now saving about $50 a month! This build is definitely worth trying. Quick, cheap, and easy. For those of you in Calgary, you may have better luck picking up more channels if you position your antenna facing the Paskapoo slopes/Sarcee Trail area – that’s where the transmission towers are.

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