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Make: Projects

Digital TV Coat Hanger Antenna

Build your own digital TV antenna from wire hangers, a piece of wood and some pipe.

Digital TV Coat Hanger Antenna

Television antennas are comprised of a series of metal rods cut to exact lengths and positioned so they receive a particular television frequency. The following design was invented in the 1960s by an engineer named Doyt Hoverman. It is particularly sensitive in the UHF frequency range, the same range used for the majority of digital television transmissions.

This coat hanger antenna isn’t a project of my making, I merely wanted to comment on it in this space. All credit goes to Make:television for posting the (attached) instruction PDF.

Watch John Park do this.

Steps

Step #1: Mark the antenna frame

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Digital TV Coat Hanger AntennaDigital TV Coat Hanger AntennaDigital TV Coat Hanger Antenna
  • Begin construction of the antenna by marking a 3” x 20” board as shown. Note that these dimensions are important to get a good signal with the finished antenna.
  • This diagram was modified from the version in the PDF.

Step #2: Drill holes for mounting screws

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Digital TV Coat Hanger Antenna
  • Drill a 1/16" pilot hole for each screw location.
  • Don't forget the middle two holes!

Step #3: Cut four coat hangers and remove finish

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Digital TV Coat Hanger Antenna
  • Cut apart four wire coat hangers as shown in the diagram to obain eight V-shaped pieces of wire.
  • Once you have the V shape, cut the legs to be 8" long as measured from the bend.
  • The ends should be 3" apart.
  • Remove any paint or varnish at the bottom of the V so they’ll make good electrical contact.

Step #4: Cut and straighten two coat hangers

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Digital TV Coat Hanger Antenna

Cut the hooks off of two coat hangers, and straighten them out with pliers to obtain two wires, at least 22” long.

Step #5: Attach wires to board

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Digital TV Coat Hanger Antenna
  • Attach the wire pieces as shown, bending the wire to make good electrical contact with the screw heads.
  • Note how the straight wires cross back and forth between the screws.
  • Remove insulation from coat hangers at all 10 contact points.
  • Insulate wires (with electrical tape) at points where they cross on the board.

Step #6: Attach TV transformer

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Digital TV Coat Hanger Antenna

Attach the matching transformer to the center two connections of the antenna.

Conclusion

I put this project here because I completed it and wanted to add my comments. I omitted the base which I didn't build, and updated the schematic. Please move or modify it as necessary for content and copyright compliance!


  • Frank wang
  • Hikus

    That’s a tough one… Try using all the same type of hanger, and maybe try a few different types of hanger to see which works best. Make sure there is good contact everywhere the metal should be connecting, and that the wires are insulated where they should not be connecting. The angles are very precise, and in my model I’m always surprised how little motions can destroy the reception. Let us know if you sort it out, and what you try!

  • Hikus

    One thing the transformer does is take the coaxial cable and split it into two wires. I don’t know if a transformer does things other than that. To mimic it, try using alligator clips, or soldering wires separately to the inner wire and the ‘shielding’. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaxial_cable to get a good picture of the wires. Attach the shielding to one of the center connections, and the inner wire to the other. Let me know how it goes!

    • BoneHead

      Basically the transformer converts 75 ohm to 300 ohm so you can use coax cable which is shielded. If you don’t use coax you have to keep the two wires apart and away from radio interference. This is very old school , like the old TV’s on roof tops in the 1950’s.

  • Lou

    This provides more channels and better reception than any store-bought antenna I have tried. I mounted mine on a wall near the ceiling and facing the transmitters in my area. Rather than plugging it in directly to the t.v., I plugged it into the amplifier box from the RCA flat digital antenna which it replaced and which never worked that well.

  • Jason

    Ok, I’m frustrated! Built this design to a t and I get nothing. Did I miss something?

  • Paul Francis

    Hi! I need to know more about the transformer. Also, where is the download link for the PDF file?

  • Jim Bennett

    The transformer is the standard 75-300 ohm transformer for connecting a 75 ohm coax cable to the old 300 ohm flat wires like went to roof antennas. You can easily find them at probably any TV retailer or Radio Shack. Most older TVs usually included one in the accessory kit.
    Actually, a much simpler and still very effective antenna for digital TV reception is a single round loop antenna that can be made out of a coat hanger or bailing wire, just like the old UHF antennas. The simple reason that it works is that most digital TV channels are broadcast on UHF frequencies. Connecting the loop antenna to the 75-300 ohm transformer on the end of a cable connected to the TV allows for more effective antenna placement.

  • swebsurf

    Will 12 or 14 gauge insulated copper wire work in lieu of coat hangers? I would just need to remove the insulation in the spots noted in the diagram. Thanks!

    • Jim Bennett

      The gauge doesn’t matter, as long as it stays rigid. Certainly, any insulation needs to be removed. But keep in mind that this is a lot of work to create an antenna designed in the 60s to work with analog VHF TV, which doesn’t exist anymore. Digital TV channels are mainly broadcast on UHF frequencies, so a 50 year old VHF antenna design is inappropriate.
      I will tell you that I’ve been an A/V service technician for almost 40 years and what I have on my TVs are just wire loops (like UHF antennas) connected to a 75-300 balun transformer, connected by a 75 ohm coax cable to the antenna input to my digital TV tuner. Where I live near Denver, it works fine and it only took about five minutes to make.

      • Jim Bennett

        OK. I did miss the part where they claim that this antenna is specifically designed for UHF frequencies, so it should work fine for digital channels. It should also be better than the loop antenna for weaker signal areas, if built properly.

  • http://www.tascomm.com.au Digital Antenna Installation Delahey

    construction of the antenna by marking a 3” x 20” board and plugging it in directly to the t.v., plugged it into the amplifier box from the RCA flat digital antenna which it replaced.

  • Mike C

    Just built this today and it works like a charm! I live in Colorado near the mountains and get a lot of interference but that wasn’t an issue for the antenna. Picks up almost twice as many channels as my Mohu Leaf and cost $13 to build. Got ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and CW, as well as countless other random channels. TTYL Comcast!

  • mounika

    i have done this project but clarity is not their in the picture

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  • http://Make Domanick

    Hi my name is Domanick and i am doing a science project what does a TV transformer really
    do?

  • Dave

    Ok, I made and installed this over the weekend. I bought the transformer at Radio Shack in the mall for about $6. Whole project cost about $8 – I just moved into a new house that had an existing Dish Network dish on the roof. So I attached my antenna to it using pull ties. I live in Eastern LA county and faced the antenna at 285 degrees toward Mt. Wilson. After a few issues with the existing cable, I now have perfect reception. 60 plus channels. I tried it in the house and the reception was really poor so it has to go on the roof. I also bought a amplifier from Target to see if it would make a difference. After running a signal strength comparison through the digital/analog converter box this antenna works better without the amplifier. Now if I could only get Internet on the cheep too!!

  • https://www.facebook.com/dennis.opfermann Dennis Opfermann

    I used copper wire – I had scrap from wiring my 1400sq ft shop. I put wire nuts on the end for safety. The base is attached with Kreg screws

  • Jimmy Foster

    I’ve made and re-made 5 versions of this antenna, the latest being made from cardboard and CAT 5 wire. It picks up channels 10x better than the one I went out and bought. Thank you for posting this great design.

    • Cole Macwhirter

      CAT 5 Ethernet? And if so isn’t that insulated?
      I haven’t made one yet but I have some Ethernet cable sitting around is it the same designs just instead of hangers you use Ethernet?
      Thanks

      • Jimmy Foster

        Yes CAT 5 Ethernet and yes it is insulated, but I stripped where the wires make contact using a lighter. The design is identical in every way to the original. I just taped everything to a piece of cardboard.

        • Dan Herrlin

          So if you use insulated wire the insulation only needs to be stripped where the wires intersect? I thought maybe the insulation would impede gathering the frequencies as well on the wings of the “coat hanger” portion.

          • Jimmy Foster

            I only stripped where the wires meet. I haven’t noticed any signal lost and it preforms as well as my coat hanger version.

  • donnajs02

    can some one please tell me if the wires on under the washer or over. made one with wires under but does not work. what kind of tv works best

    • Gramma Jean

      So try it over the washer….

      • Willie

        Wires go between the washer and the screw. The antenna will work on any tv.

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  • OrygunDux

    Wire coat hangers around here are getting critical, as in hard to find. Could you use something like 12 or 14 gauge electrical wire instead?

    Also, how critical are the lengths of each piece of wire?

    Last question, do you wrap the wire around the screw post or simply tuck it under the top and screw it down?

    Thanks for the info.

    • Willie

      Yes you can use 12 gauge solid copper wire 14 might be too small. Yes the length and the spacing of the wire are critical. Screw attachments 5 3/4 in and the V needs to be 3 inches between the wide end of the wire. You do not wrap the wire around the screws. Be sure the V wires and the up and down wire makes good contact under the screw. The copper wire is softer that the steel coat hanger. If the antenna falls over, or something hits it, the wires will bend easily and cause bad reception.

  • David Taylor

    I made one of these antenna’s and it works great. I don’t have to adjust the rabbit ears or turn a dial any more. all the free channels come in perfect and my nerves are much better also. Thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge.

  • Eva Karea

    Quality stuff may be the key to invite the users to visit begin to see
    the blog site that’s what this site provides.cable in my area

  • the teleprompter

    I made one of these a few years ago, from this template, and it still works great. Very inexpensive and simple to put together…

  • flash001USA .

    Nice informative video.

  • Michael S Cooper

    I made it with bailing wire, put the wire under the washers. I tried it on my tv, picked up over 50 channels. Time for Dish to go bye bye.

  • Chuck

    Wonder how important the horizontal spacing is between left and right set of anchor points (screws). The board used in the video seems to be stock, which would be nominal 1 X 4, making it actually 3 1/2 inches wide – not 3″. Coming 1/2″ from the edges would make for a 2 1/2″ separation. A 3″ board would result in a 2″ separation. Also, has anyone come across a multi direction version of this model?

  • Hayden Trobee

    Need some help on this one!
    Could not find a single wire coat hanger anywhere so used the first roll of wire I could find which happened to be galvanized. Other than that I’m almost positive I did everything like I was supposed to and I can’t get it to work. If someone can help me troubleshoot this that would be amazing!!

    • Hayden Trobee

      Also keep in mind I know nothing about anything electrical so be gentle!

    • Willie

      I don’t know for sure but pretty sure the galvanized won’t work too much resistance for current. If you have some copper wire or just steel wire it works best. Steel will hold it’s shape better but if used out doors will rust over time causing bad connections. Copper bends easy so holding it’s shape outside might cause problems. I would recommend using this type of antenna indoors, in the attic if you don’t want to see it.

  • Faye Jarvis

    Something is wrong it does not work well

  • Faye Jarvis

    We do not get major channels-we only get NBC and lots of Chinese and Spanish. We are in San Gabriel, CA. What did we do wrong?

    • Willie

      It looks like you didn’t insulate the two wires that cross each other. Also can’t tell for sure but it looks like you didn’t sand/scrape the 8″ V wires and the up and down wires where they touch. The wires need to be between the washer and the screw head. Contact with the board is best to be minimal or not at all. The wires where they make a X need to be insulated and all the V wires need to make good contact with the other wire under the screw. It also looks like the converter is touching one of the V wires which may cause bad reception. Hope this helps.

  • Marvin Lee

    Jarvis’s come back to Utah. We speak your language.

  • Marvin Lee

    There talking about a transformer. Would this be the connecter? One other demo I seen they did not use this type of transformer.

  • Ted Mastenbrook

    I wrote a nice dissertation on this, but it went away when it made me register. I do not have time to do that again. The Popular Mechanics version specifically had the washers on top. They called for fender washers, which are big washers with small holes. Home Depot has them. Either way should work just fine if everything makes contact. The washer on top helps to control the wires a bit better. I used a multi-Meter to check, but there was no issues found. I would think this is not real important to do. Nobody calls for this. I would look for another issue. If you are using an old non-High Def TV, like I am, you will need a High def converter. My set up is in a cabin in upper Michigan. The flat screen TVs do last being left in sub zero temps.

  • suresh

    what type matale is used for coat hangers which are need to build coat hanger antenna