Homebrew ATSC HD DTV Antenna

Last weekend I was visiting my dad. We got to talking about the weather and from there to which weatherman we tended to watch. That led to his mentioning that he pretty much only watched channel 2 any more. Over the air, he was receiving maybe 5 of the local DTV channels “good” and two more “poorly” and channel 2 was the best of the lot.

That led to his mentioning that he was thinking of going ahead and having a local company put in an antenna for him but he didn’t really want to pay their $300 price for the antenna and installation. That reminded me of an antenna I wanted to build for him so I asked if he had any rods or stiff wire like the solid copper house wiring. I said we could build him an antenna in an hour and see if it would improve things.

He agreed it couldn’t hurt things to try so while he looked in the garage for the rods/wire I went online looking for a website that I’d come across when a friend in Canada mentioned making such an antenna himself. It took me all of 10 minutes to find that website, which I wanted strictly for the measurements.

I pretty much built this one exactly as shown but with these minor changes:

1)  For the board, I used 20 inches. I didn’t see any point in using more wood than needed.

2)  Unable to read the distance between the horizontal screw centers, I worked it out to the two screws being 1 1/4” center to center and used that as my measurement.

3)  I added 1/4” to the rods when we cut them, cutting them to 14 1/4” lengths to allow for bending around the screws.

4)  I didn’t add the reflector part in step 4 at all.

5)  I drilled an extra hole in the top to hang the antenna from.

The end result?

A picture of a homemade ATSC HD DTV antenna hanging from the ceiling.

This is the ATSC HD DTV antenna hung in the kitchen and in use. It performed flawlessly as soon as we hung it up, no tweaking required.

We took it from the garage into the kitchen where his TV was. There was a decorative lantern hanging from a hook above the TV so we took that down and hung the antenna there. When we connected the coax between the TV and this antenna, the effect when we turned on the TV was glorious.

The channel it had been on before was one of the “good” channels. Now it was simply, totally awesome. Clear, sharp, brilliant, just like when the TV is on display in the store. Eagerly, we checked the other channels and all the local DTV channels he could already receive plus those he couldn’t before came in beautifully, all equally perfect. Tentatively, we set the TV to autoscan for all available channels to see what would happen.

That antenna brought in not only 30 DTV channels beautifully clear and sharp, but also 5 other channels kind of poorly. When the auto-scanning completed, we started surfing through the channels one by one and quickly discovered that those 5 poor channels were also available as DTV anyway, so we were getting everything nice and sharp. As an example, channel 20 would be poor with snow but 20.1 was the exact same program and a perfect picture, plus there was 20.2. And so it was for each of the 5 poor pictures: for every one there was also a DTV version plus sub-channels.

He was thrilled with the end results and so was I. I’d thought it would work, but had no idea it would work that well. I’d hoped it would at least give him a couple other channels and bring them in better than good. To get all those channels in so beautifully was simply awesome. Now he has not only every local channel available before the switch to digital TV plus their digital sub-channels but also a several channels that play old westerns and old movies. Perfect!

When we were done channel surfing, he looked at the antenna, looked at me, looked at the TV, checked out a couple stations again, looked at me again and said, “Now what do I do with that $40 super antenna I bought?”

Construction notes for those that might be interested…

Since we had it available, we used a piece of walnut for the mounting board. After all, if it worked it would be hanging in the kitchen and walnut looks nicer than pine.

Using hardwood meant I had to drill pilot holes for the screws, which is a good idea anyway to ensure the screws go in straight. I drilled these all but 1/8” the way through the board. The screws were 1/16” longer than the board thickness so the 1/8” height of the rods would keep the screws from going all the way through the board and sticking out the back.

The wood screws had a thin pan head with a built-in “washer” as part of the head. That washer was too small to hold everything without the rods coming out during assembly, so I added a 1” diameter washer. That had the added advantage of adding more height and so helping keep the screw from going through the board.

I used 18 gauge insulated stranded copper wire to make the connection between the antenna elements. I attached these by making wire sections to reach each screw, stripping the ends and wrapping them at least twice around the Vs where the bend was. The Vs were then held tight against the screw and the screw and washer fastened down tight. That created a good, solid mechanical bond between the wires and the rods.

The balun was attached by bending the prongs on each end of the twin lead around the exposed copper strand in the middle and crimped tight. Not happy with that, I also soldered them to the copper wire.

I’m going to build myself one as well. I don’t think I’ll go with a “plain” board, though. While the walnut board looks nice, I think my wife would like it better if ours was more like a piece of decoration sitting on the mantel or a piece of art hanging on the wall.

My friend in Canada that turned me on to these ATSC antennae has built four and says that his experience is that the ones with two V on each side work just as well as the ones with four V on each side. I’ve not tried that myself, but might.


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3 Responses to “Homebrew ATSC HD DTV Antenna”

  1. besthdtvreviews2014.net Says:

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  2. Presten Schmidt Says:

    What did you use for a balun and did you make it buy it?


  3. Bill Says:

    Neither, actually. I had several TV twin-lead to coax baluns laying around so I just used one of those. Since I run coax from the antenna to the TV, I soldered the twin-lead connectors to the wires at the midpoint and simply connected regular 75 ohm coax from the other side of that to the TV antenna input.


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