Wire antennas - cheap and easy!
I've been interested in electronics and radio since grade school, about 40 years ago. All my jobs have been related to electronics, too. One advantage to that is the occasional availability of surplus or obsolete or junk stuff.
I was working in one division of an electrical contractor company recently, and found that they had a scrap barrel in the corner with partial rolls (reels) of wire. When the electricians installing wire in a building or on a machine run wire, each run has to be all one piece with no splices in it. Some runs, maybe many runs, can be in the hundreds of feet long. When they're not sure if the amount of wire left on these 500 foot spools is enough, they throw it out and start another spool. The partial spools were brought back to the office and put into the scrap wire barrel. Evey day or two a scruffy scrap-metal guy would come around and buy the contents of the barrel to haul away and burn off the insulation so he could sell it to a regular scrap-metal dealer. I was able to bring home a few reels for free.
The wire is mostly #12AWG and #14 AWG, with type THHN insulation. I think they also had some #10 AWG but it's too heavy for most of what I'd want to do. I measured out some yesterday, stretching it out on the driveway. One spool was 135 ft, two were about 159 ft and the last was 200 ft.
I live next to a woods and swamp, so I connected a 159 foot piece to the 200 foot piece and started laying the wire out across shrubs, bushes and trees running straight west from the house. Some of it is even lying on the ground. The height varies from about 3 to 7 feet. I tried to prop it up high enough not to run into it by accident, and so the deer won't get tangled up in it.
Then I pushed the end through a little hole I drilled through the basement wall and connected it to the ancient Hammarlund HQ-129x that I just powered up for the first time. ( I gave it a long, slow warmup with a Variac, longer than 24 hours to get to full voltage.)
I've had a few other wire antennas, never very high, of say 20, 30 or maybe 50 feet. But I've never heard so many stations on the AM Broadcast Band before!
Last winter I did a little experimenting with a shielded loop antenna also for the AM BCB, made out of surplus or scrap 6-conductor shielded cable from the same scrap barrel. It worked really well.
I've only just got started with this long, low wire, but so far it seems well worth the effort.
I mention all this in the hope that other people looking for simple, inexpensive ways to listen might be able to use some the ideas or methods in their own situations. For example, lots of friendly, helpful people work for electrical contractors. So if another friendly, respectful person went and asked for a donation of scrap wire, spending a little time explaining what it's for, they'd probably come away with all they need. At worst you could offer to pay the scrap rate for it, or offer to contribute to the "coffee fund" that nearly all businesses have.
Not everyone lives near a bunch of open land, either, but running wire right on the ground around the edges of a city lot can work well as a low-noise antenna. And it's not visible to the neighbors, either. I just read an earlier posting on 'rec.radio.shortwave' where someone described doing this, holding the wire down with bobby pins, and soon the grass grew over it and you couldn't see it at all. For this, you'd want to watch for green or black wire, though. I used blue and red yesterday for my first try at this.
A year later, in December, 2001, I added a toroid transformer for RF impedance matching. Go see the UnUn Page.
-------home ------ Click to -----------e-mail me. -- Created on December 12, 2000; updated December 18, 2001