Make: television Episode 4: Fire Sculpture & DTV Antenna

Meet the Flaming Lotus Girls, a women-centric maker collaborative that creates gargantuan, fire-breathing sculptures. In the Workshop, John Park builds a digital TV antenna from wire coat hangers and a $10 video camera stabilizer. William Gurstelle shows surprising uses for cable ties, and Maker Channel contributors show off a motorized lounge chair, an eye-popping I/O brush, a vest that controls a video game with a back massage, and an explosive, giant match made from thousands of matchsticks. Check out the HD version on Blip or get the m4v.

92 thoughts on “Make: television Episode 4: Fire Sculpture & DTV Antenna

  1. Jenifer says:

    Could you please, please, pretty please, have the podcast feed for NON ITUNES subscribers somewhere in the shownotes or on the blog. I had to Google and try different links in order to find it.

    Some people are ‘open source/free libre/creative commons’ users, IE: Not bound to the iCult and DRM Proprietary chains. We invent and make and create because we believe in freedom, and having one subscription choice is not freedom. There are so many other feed types you could have, just put it on the blog!

  2. Phillip Torrone says:

    @Jenifer – at this time we don’t have the resources for dozens of different feeds so we try to do the one that most folks will be able to use and view. if you’d like to create a new file for us for each episode and upload it we’d love the help. please specify what other types of feeds you’re looking for…

    that said there are feeds that are not itunes that have exactly what you want… here’s the RSS 2.0 feed.

    all of the show links are there, PDF downloads, video downloads, etc.

  3. anachrocomputer says:

    I’ve just downloaded the M4V file, via the link above. Since I’m in the UK, and we don’t get Make TV on any of the channels here, the only way I can watch the show is by downloading this file (I’m not an iTunes user, nor can I watch online). The first three episodes worked really well, and I’ve watched them a few times, but in this case the link points to only an excerpt from the programme, the Maker Profile (fire sculpture). Is this intentional, or is there a link somewhere to the complete show, with all the Maker-to-Maker and Maker Workshp segments included?

  4. Make: television says:

    Thanks for the catch Anachrocomputer, we seem to have uploaded the wrong file. Check the link now, the correct file should be there.

  5. anachrocomputer says:

    Great! That’s the full episode now. Thanks for fixing that so quick! Now I have a new episode of Make TV to take home and watch…

  6. tweekskratch says:

    so where is the diagram for the tv antenna? lol

    1. Phil says:

      Your link yields this:

      This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.

      I’m on a dialup, and videos are worthless to me. Perhaps you could include links in your site for non-videe info??

      Can you please post the DTB antenna link for the PDF file. I got everything but the length of the board.


  7. Dave says:

    Is this antenna for indoor use only also if can be used outside is it possible to ground it in case of lightning strike?

  8. Allen says:

    The Hoverman coathanger antenna works great.
    I have improved the meter strength, per the DTV converter box, by a factor of two or more on all 11 channels.

    Thanks for the program,

    Huntsville, AL

  9. bellcanada420 says:

    Hey guys,

    I was wondering if the metal pipe in any way contributes to the signal achieved by the DTV antenna? I was going to save the bucks on the u-bolts and pipe and built a wooden stand with extra lumber and nails.

    Looking forward to building this bad boy! anything else I can do to upgrade the signal quality even further?


    1. Lich says:

      I think you may actually achieve better results without a metal pipe. The metal could interfere with the antenna since it’s only a structural element and is not meant to be an electrical reflector. As I think about it, I’m indifferent about the pipe. It’s a good item to experiment with though.

      If I were to build this antenna, I’d used solid copper wire or copper clad steel and solder it at the screw connection points. That assures good electrical connection and would hold up better if used outside. Plus it’s easy solder practice. An important instruction that was left out of John’s posted pdf was to insulate the two vertical cross over “X” points from each other. If you don’t do this you will have no resulting improvement since you have shorted the leads together.

      Try an amplifier on the antenna if you want to improve the signal further. Any commercial tv antenna pre-amp could work. The only tricky part is making sure the impedence match is correct. A look at the amp datasheet would give you that detail. I think most are 300 ohms in and 75 ohms out. Effectively what you are doing is replacing the transformer John used with the pre-amp.

      User “Dave” asked about lightning protection. The way to do this is with a coax grounding block and ground wire. The only draw back is the transformer would be sacrificed in a hit.

      For advanced Makers fire up the search engine:
      I don’t have any design experience with Hoverman style antennas but scaling rules should apply as they do with other antennas. What if you stacked two of these vertically or horizontally and thereby doubled the number of elements? This is cheaper than buying a pre-amp. How would you interconnect them? What about phasing, impedence matching, gain, and beam width?

      Overall I like this project and it’s a good practical introduction to antennas. Remember, learning is iterative. If I’ve got something wrong here lets fix it.

      1. Make: television says:

        Great comment Lich, thanks for your contribution!

      2. John Park says:

        Thanks Lich, I like where you’re going with this, and appreciate your excellent insights. A big array of them would be fantastic! And a big help in the Valley of Terrible Reception I live in :)

      3. bellcanada420 says:

        Hey Lich,

        Thanks for the reply. So if we go with the more is better, would logic tell me adding additional coat hanger halves, properly spaced of course, would further improve reception?


      4. Jeff says:

        This is a Great antenna, I built it in a couple of hours and tried it out. In my opinion it works almost as well, really close, as my commercial rabbit ears/loop antenna with a built in amplifier (its about 7 years old and cost about 20 bucks), which is what I currently use.
        I would love to see you do a follow up or some such, with a larger antenna. I know a few people who would need more than your original can do. advertises a model DB8, it resembles two Hovermans side by side with a reflector screen behind it. They claim a max gain of 15.8db and a possible range of 70 miles or more. I am really interested in how to connect two of your originals and the spacing between them. Keep up the great projects!!!

      5. katiej says:

        Hi Lich,

        we liked your idea of hooking up two antennas but we are stumped as to how this might be achieved. And of course no way of know if it would have any effect. Would one use a co-ax splitter? And how would you position the two antennas – one high up and up lower down? Side by side? So if anyone has played with this idea, please post.

        The reason we are now looking at trying an extension of the power of the antenna is that suddenly we are without our local PBS signal after a whole year of near perfect reception. Its very local – perhaps some kind of interference within a few blocks of our house. Folks we’ve talkd to mentioned intercoms among other possibilities as a source of interference.

        Our PBS station broadcasts on VHF and the station engineers tell me that VHF is more easily corrupted than UHF which is a more stable type of signal. This would explain why we are still able to get perfect reception on all of the other local stations – they are all using UHF signals.


      6. tcourtney5 says:

        cut wire vs continuous loop & what type of lead-in wire????




    2. Giacomo says:

      I used copper wire & a wooden back & stand.
      I get 89 channels, on the 12th. floor, in the L. A. basin. 11 favorites, with one in Italian, which I studied in college.

    3. Glen Wilson says:

      I find after making 30+ of these things that if you need a “stand” do what i do, I use bits and pieces of PVC-1/2″ pipe and fittings to make a very sturdy stand and i attach the board to the upright PVC pipe with two self drilling screws. And depending on your paticular weather conditions, a few small bricks will do nicely as ballast when put onto the “legs” of the PVC
      stand. and thanks to the MAKE tv channel that made this little gem possible!! cudos from

  10. Jacx says:

    I don’t understand how to navigate this website. I watch this show on PBS and it said to go to the website to get exact blueprints to make this DTV Antenna yet I can’t find it. Can you please help direct me in the right direction. Thank you

    1. John Park says:

      Hi Jacx, here’s the link to the directions:

  11. Lee Clarkston says:

    I changed it a little though. Instead of coathanger wire I used solid copper house wiring. I just stripped off all the insulation with a razor blade and cut the appropriate lengths. I had all the spare parts laying around so I have $0 dollars in this baby! And it works better than my store bought Magnavox 40db gain. I may just change the screws and washers over to stainless steel ones, then put some urethane on the wood and mount it on the roof.

    Thanks for the great plan John!
    Love the show! Caught it on PBS the other day and was inspired!

    1. John Park says:

      That’s so great, Lee. How can you beat free + better?!

  12. Gary says:


    Measurements on drawing do not add up. Drawing says first pair of holes are 2″ from top. Rest of pairs are 5 3/4″ apart. Assume 2″ from bottom of board for last pair of holes. That is 2″ * 2 plus 5 3/4″ * 3 for 21 1/4″.

    In the picture, it looks like less than 2″ spacing at bottom.

    Also, the drawing shows spacing of 10″ from top of board to centers of center pair of holes. I get 2″ plus 5 3/4″ plus half of 5 3/4″ or 10 5/8″. Can you straighten me out?

    Confused in California,


  13. Roger says:

    The messurement are not from the bottom. Stat at the top and work your way down. What ever is left over at the bottom does not matter. In fact it is the 5 3/4″ spacing between the hangers and the 2″ between the rows is what is important.

    Hope that helps you.


  14. Stephen Nestor says:

    I froze the plans you showed and saw that your measurements did not match. first off, the wood should be 3.5 inches wide not 3. based on your diagram spacing between the parallel should be 2.5 inches. also the middle row should be 2 7/8 inches from the second 5 3/4 mark. Hardware stores seem to only sell 3.5 inch pieces of wood or 2.5 not 3. Any reason you deviated from the plan that you showed in the video?

    1. John Park says:

      Not sure what happened there, I’m looking into having those plans corrected. Sorry for any confusion.

    2. DrDave says:

      The PDF plans for this DTV antenna omit the measurement of how far apart the 2 rows of screws are, but says the wood is 3″ wide, and to measure in 0.5″ from both sides. So the math is 3 – 0.5 – 0.5 =2, And it would seem that the 2 rows of screws ought to be 2″ apart if the wood is 3″ wide.

      The video SAYS the wood is 3″ x 20″ (@11.27 into the vid).
      However the video SHOWS a plan (on his laptop) that clearly has 2.5″ spacing between the 2 bottom screws. (@11:37). That particular diagram is not included the downloadable PDF BTW.

      We are told that the dimensions are important.
      So what is it? 2 inches or 2.5 inches?
      Thanks, Love the site, Mook, TV show & projects!

  15. Jannie says:

    We have no satellite anymore so we threw one of these antennas together & it WORKS!!!! We only get a few stations but it’s better than the zero stations we had yesterday!!! Thanx!!

    1. John Park says:

      I love it! Very cool to hear about your success in building your antenna. And thanks for commenting to let us know.

  16. mj says:

    I made this antenna with parts from my friend’s garage with no cost. It works perfectly for all the broadcast stations in St. Paul, MN. Finally a solution for all the problems I was having. It doesn’t look so great in my little living room, though.
    mary jane

  17. Wes says:

    Has anybody hooked an amplifier up the antenna yet? I built one and get all the local channels un-amplified and just wondered if anybody had any luck hooking an amplifier up to it and got more channels from surrounding cities. Every once and a while when the conditions are just right I get stations from about 40 miles away and even more rarely 100mi although thats only when the wind is blowing in from the east.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I found the antenna making project intriguing. I was about to throw out my cats’ scratching post as they have scratched most of the carpeting off it, and wonder if the remaining wooden stand could be used as the base of the antenna-to-be.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I understand building the Hoverman DTV antenna using coat hangers. However, if I were to scale up the aerials should there be a benefit and could I adjust the dimensions accordingly?

    In explanation, the legs of the “V” aerials are perhaps 10″ long and separated by approximately 30 degrees. Assuming I increase the lengths from 10″ to 5′ while maintainng the 30 degree separation, could I increase the 5.75″ increments accordingly so the aerials wouldn’t overlap?

    I’m uncertain whether the antenna’s dimensions are designed for convenience or are matched to the signal/wavelength.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I’ve built three antennas for friends, with excellent results all around Los Angeles. One is in use in west LA, one in Irvine and one in Torrance. Everyone reports rock-solid excellent picture quality on 50+ channels.

  21. suzie says:

    1. How far apart should the columns of hols be? Working from the PDF, dialup no video for me, the instructions call for 1 x 3 wood. I’m using a scrap 1 x 4, 1×3 isn’t really 3″ wide, it’s less but don’t know exactly… 1×4 is 3.5″ wide. The instructions do not say how far apart the two columns of holes should be, only that they should be .5″ from edge.

    2. Also if one doesn’t have wire hangers what gauge wire would be best?

    3. One reason I want to build this is that the special DTV antenna I bought does not do a very good job of picking up the two Sacramento stations that decided not to move their signal so they are still VHF 8 & 10 rf I think… Does that make sense? Anyway can I use this antenna to pick up the lower band? Hope I got those details correct…

  22. Tom Smith says:

    I read your article.The things you have written sound very sincere and nice topics i am looking forward to its continuation.

  23. Bruce Ponsar says:

    I just completed the DTV antenna and hooked it up to my converter box. It far surpasses the reception from my old store bought rabbit ear type “power” antenna. I was so anxious to try it out, I just set it atop my tv and leaned it against the wall for a quick try out, with no pole to support it. The signal was great, and gave me the idea to bypass the pole completely. I drilled a small recess hole in the top back of the wood base, tacked a small nail into my wall above the tv, and just hung it like a picture. Now I plan to find a picture frame deep enough to cover it, and use either a painting, photograph, or fabric to disguise it altogether, with the caveat that the coax cable will still be visible. Small price to pay for such a great addition to my tv set up. I also sanded all the varnish from all the metal hangers, thinking that might help the reception even more, as we have a tile roof, the arch-nemesis of tv antennas.

    I now see other folks have already commented on the measurements being confusing on the plan print out. I ended up just rewinding the video as demonstrated by John Park and used those dimensions. With the exception of the screws and washers, all my materials were recycled, either free from craigslist, or bought from the thriftstore. I spent $6, and have enough material to build another one for me other set. This was a simple project and I recommend it to anyone who wants to have some fun and save some money and get great tv reception!

    1. John Park says:

      Bruce, I like that idea a lot, thanks for sharing it. Could you put some photos of it up on the MAKE Flickr pool?

  24. Bruce Ponsar says:

    I’m honored to do so. Will do it ASAP! Thanks John!

  25. fruitkid101 says:

    Hey I would like to make this but do you need a converter box?

  26. Henrik Hansen says:

    Very interesting video, did not know that you could recieve television signals using such simple measures. But how would the signals be modulated into digital ones once they get recieved? Best regards Henrik Hansen

  27. Ricky Williams says:

    Thanks for the episode and plans on the antenna. Mine works really well and I think I’m getting all the possible channels in my area. I mounted mine with zip ties to an old mop handle with a wooden base. I can swivel it as needed from time to time. The only thing I had to buy was a can of paint to purty it up a bit. I tell curious folks it’s art. Thanks again. I’d recommend this to anyone wanting better reception for cheap. :)

    1. RainbowGurl44 says:

      For my girlfriend’s antenna, I spent more time on the paint job than on the antenna itself, turning it into a NE Patriot’s-themed work of art! I’m being cheaper with the one I’m working on for myself, though. Instead of buying a whole bunch of new paint in very specific colors, I just went to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and bought a couple of previously-owned cans for 50¢ each. But it’s still looking pretty good! I figure that you could also find ways to decorate or embelish the antenna to make it even more artful… my girlfriend and I did notice that it looks kind-of like a giant insect — could have a little fun with that!

  28. David Williams says:

    After building this antenna, I went from 21 fuzzy channels to 111 clear (most of them) channels.  The store-bought antenna just went into the scrap parts box.

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