How to Make a Radio Antenna

By Peggy Epstein
Make a Homemade Radio Antenna

You’ve moved to a new apartment and your radio reception is awful, but store-bought antennas are expensive. Why not build your own for very little money and not too much work? Unfortunately, if you want to listen to both AM and FM, you will need two separate antennas. Either one will save you a lot of money and will work as well or better than that hundred-dollar powered antenna that can be purchased from an electronics store.

Making an AM Antenna

Cut one of the 1-inch by 4-inch wooden boards in half, making two 12-inch pieces, and join the two cut pieces to each side of the middle of the long board to make an X-shaped frame. Nail the boards in place and wrap cotton string around the outside of the X several times to help it hold its shape.

Staple one end of the speaker wire to the end of one of the arms of the X shaped frame. Wrap the wire around the board 12 times to make a spiral of wire around the outside of the X. Staple the wire periodically to keep it from unraveling. When done wrapping the wire around the X frame, make sure that there is at least five feet of wire remaining. This end piece will act as your connection to the radio’s existing AM antenna.

Cut off the radio’s existing antenna, leaving as long a piece of wire connected to the radio as possible. Strip the ends off the original antenna wire and your new antenna wires. Solder the two ends together and wrap with electrical tape. You can set your finished antenna on the floor behind the couch or even hang it on the wall.

Making an FM Antenna

Strip the ends from a 16-foot piece of ribbon cable and twist them together. Repeat this on the other end. This should give you a continuous loop of cable.

Solder the two ends together and wrap with electrical tape to insulate.

Cut one wire of the ribbon cable somewhere near the middle of the cable and strip the plastic insulation back so you have about two 1/2-inch bare wires showing.

Strip off all four ends of the remaining cable wire to make the lead wire for your antenna.

Twist the two lead wire ends to the bare wire ends of your cable loop. Solder the wires together and wrap well with electrical tape.

Mount the antenna onto the wall using thumbtacks or staples in back of your radio in as neat of loop as possible.

Connect the lead wire to the radio’s antenna terminals.

Tip

FM signals require varying lengths of antenna and the figures given are intended to improve reception throughout the signal spectrum. The lower the signal (left side of the FM dial) the longer the antenna needs to be; and inversely, the higher the signal is, the shorter the antenna length needs to be.

Warning

When attaching cables with staples or thumbtacks, be careful to only attach through the insulation and not have the metal touch any bare wire.

About the Author

Peggy Epstein is a freelance writer specializing in education and parenting. She has authored two books, "Great Ideas for Grandkids" and "Family Writes," and published more than 100 articles for various print and online publications. Epstein is also a former public school teacher with 25 years' experience. She received a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri.