Make This Powerful HDTV Antenna Out of Cardboard

Follow these directions to make a functional antenna from cardboard and a few simple parts.
Follow these directions to make a functional antenna from cardboard and a few simple parts.

Keep reading. You're about to discover just about the most unlikely thing you could ever expect to make out of cardboard.

As a high-definition TV owner, you're looking for the easiest and least expensive way to get your local network channels. You may have realized that this is something you don't have to pay your cable TV provider for. Crisp, clear, digital, high-definition signals are available for free from your local TV stations: All you need is the right antenna.

But HDTV antennas can be expensive: $40 to $70 for a good indoor model. This is one of the best HDTV antenna designs ever, and also the least expensive, because you will make it yourself using cardboard and foil.

Here's a secret you won't hear from an antenna manufacturer: The TV signals themselves don't care what the antenna is made from, as long as the correct arrangement of electrical conductors is present. With this antenna, that's aluminum foil. As outrageous as it may sound, this antenna can be just as effective and powerful—or more so—as any other antenna, no matter the cost or construction.

I have taken some of the best antenna designs I could find and modified, experimented, built, and rebuilt them until I had the best performing HDTV antenna I have ever tested. They just happen to be made out of cardboard.

What You'll Need

Don't let the simplicity fool you. This is a powerful antenna that easily beats a $50 HDTV antenna. Refer to the yellow diagram below to familiarize yourself with the parts. You can build it in just 13 steps.

  • Scissors and a pen knife/boxcutter.
  • Felt pen.
  • Ruler or tape measure.
  • Glue.
  • Tape.
  • Stapler or nuts/bolts (see directions below).
  • About three square feet of cardboard or Foamcor. The longest dimension is 14 inches. (I'm using cardboard from an old computer box for my example.)
  • Aluminum foil.
  • Cable, either 75-ohm coaxial or 300-ohm twin-lead.
  • A balun.

What's a Balun?

To connect the antenna to your receiver you will need some wire and an adapter called a balun (the word means balanced-to-unbalanced). For HDTV, your receiver almost certainly has a 75-ohm unbalanced connection. Antennas, including this design, are usually 300 ohms balanced. So there are two approaches to achieving the right type of connection, and two types of balun:

  1. The first way is to connect a 300-ohm twin-lead wire (flat wire) to the antenna and add a balun at the end of the wire that connects to your TV.
  2. The second way is to connect the balun directly to the antenna and run 75-ohm coax (round wire) from the antenna to the TV. Both approaches work fine.

You can find antenna baluns (also called TV-matching transformers) and wire at places like Home Depot, Radio Shack, eBay auctions, and even department stores.

Building the Dual Bowtie Indoor HDTV Antenna

The parts of our HD antenna.
The parts of our HD antenna.

Construction Tips

  • Choose good sturdy cardboard or other material. Cardboard is actually one of the best choices for antennas because it is very light and will offer virtually no interference with the passage of the TV signal. Corrugated cardboard is great (it's very airy) and Foamcor is a good choice, too (it's very sturdy and attractive.) You can find Foamcor in lots of different colors at your local office supply store. Corrugated cardboard is not as pretty, but it can be dressed up with paint, felt markers, or construction paper. Plastic should also work fine, though I haven't done specific testing. I don't recommend wood (unless very thin) since it will impede the TV signal slightly.
  • Any glue that works on wood and paper, like Gorilla Glue or Elmer's wood glue, should be fine.
  • Any aluminum foil will work but you'll find it easier to work with thick, heavy-duty foil.
  • Be creative with the construction if you want to but you must pay attention to the placement and spacing of the foil, since this is what does the work of receiving the TV signal. Every other part of the design can be expanded, contracted, colored, decorated, or augmented (with non-conductive materials) to customize the antennas to your surroundings.
  • If you want to use one of these antennas outside, use sturdier metal. Home improvement stores sell sheet aluminum that is light enough to cut with shears or tin snips. The bowties and reflector (backing) on the bowtie antenna should ideally be made of a porous metallic material like window screen, chicken wire, or pulled metal so it won't catch the wind.

Step One: Cut Out the Pattern

  • Locate the patterns for the dual-bowtie antenna (using the above link), print and cut them out as directed. You should have patterns for the cardboard bowtie "wings," the foil bowtie "wings," support bracket, foot, and a stencil for cutting openings into the reflector (the backing).

Step Two: Cut Out the Reflector

Cut the reflector panel out of a sheet of cardboard. Turn it over, apply some glue, and attach foil to entire back.
Cut the reflector panel out of a sheet of cardboard. Turn it over, apply some glue, and attach foil to entire back.
  • Cut the reflector panel out of a sheet of cardboard. There is no pattern for this. Just cut a 13"x14" piece of cardboard or Foamcor. If you wish to paint it or glue construction paper to the front, you may do so now. Turn it over, apply a little glue, and attach aluminum foil to cover the entire backside.

Step Three: Mark Bracket Placement

Use a ruler to find the exact center of the reflector's bottom edge.
Use a ruler to find the exact center of the reflector's bottom edge.
  • Position the reflector so that the long dimension (14 inches) runs away from you and the shorter 13-inch dimension runs right to left. This means the bottom edge of the antenna is now closest to you. Using a ruler, find the exact center of the bottom edge and place the stencil (sheet C) along the bottom edge of the reflector so the little "V" arrow points to the center.
  • Use a piece or two of tape to secure the stencil sheet in place. With your felt tip marker, mark the slots where the feet will go and trace the inside of the two rectangles where the support brackets will mount.
  • If you plan to use the feet (as opposed to hanging the antenna), go ahead and cut out the foot slots you just marked. Keep the thickness of your cardboard in mind when cutting out these slots. You want the feet to be a tight fit. It's OK to cut these slots a little too skinny, as you can always enlarge them later if you have to.

Step Four: Cut Out the Rectangles

Use a box cutter to cut the rectangles you traced.
Use a box cutter to cut the rectangles you traced.
  • Using your pen knife or boxcutter, cut through three sides of the two rectangles you traced onto the reflector.
  • If you remember from the stencil, the bottom edges of those rectangles were marked with dotted lines. Those are folds, not cuts. If your cardboard or Foamcor is hard to fold, you may make a light score with your knife on the dotted line to make it easier to fold.
  • These flaps of cardboard will lean out towards the front and act as a brace for the support brackets. When cutting out the slots where the feet will fit, try to adjust the width of the slots for the material you are using. We want this to be a tight fit, so try to err on the side of making the slots too small. They can always be enlarged later.

Step Five: Cut Out Other Cardboard

Cut out the rest of your cardboard pieces.
Cut out the rest of your cardboard pieces.
  • Cut out your other cardboard pieces. Use a small piece of tape to hold the forms in place while you trace around them on your board. You will need two cardboard "wing sets," two support brackets, and two feet.
  • After tracing, cut the patterns out of the cardboard, cutting around the INSIDE of the lines (since you traced the OUTSIDE of the patterns, the correct dimensions are on the inside).

Step Six: Cut Out the Brackets

Cut out the brackets, cutting the whole square first and then the small slots.
Cut out the brackets, cutting the whole square first and then the small slots.
  • If you want to paint or color any of these parts, you many do so now (I'm using a felt pen). When cutting out the brackets, first do the whole square shape, and then cut out the small slots afterward (I like to cut two sides of the little slots with scissors, then cut the third inside edge with a knife).
  • Try to adjust the width of the slots in the brackets for the thickness of the material you are using. We want this to be a tight fit, so try to err on the side of making the slots too skinny. They can always be enlarged later.

Step Seven: Trace the Foil Wings

Use the foil pattern to trace two wings.
Use the foil pattern to trace two wings.
  • Cut out the foil "wings" using the foil pattern. You need two of these. Use a small bit of tape or two to hold the form in place while you trace around them onto the foil with your felt marker.
  • Foil may not cut well with a pen knife or boxcutter. The scissors may work best. Try both. You will still need your pen knife for the smallest inside cuts, so work carefully. It is very easy to damage the foil while cutting. If it tears, trace the pattern again and start over.

Step Eight: Mark the Folds

Mark the fold lines on the cardboard wings pattern along the dotted lines.
Mark the fold lines on the cardboard wings pattern along the dotted lines.
  • If you look at the cardboard wings pattern, you will see dotted lines where the folds go. Use your pattern to mark the correct place for these folds on the back of your wings. You'll have the best results making clean folds if you make light cuts (scores) along these lines. Then fold forward (away from the cut), opening up these light cuts.

Step Nine: Secure the Folds

Once you are happy with the folds, secure them with some glue.
Once you are happy with the folds, secure them with some glue.
  • The halves of each wing should make an angle of approximately 90 degrees to each other. It may spring back, so adjust these folds until they appear to be staying in the right position. Once you are satisfied, put a bead of glue into the scores. This will help hold the position of the folds.

Step Ten: Glue the Cardboard to the Foil

Carefully glue the cardboard and the foil together.
Carefully glue the cardboard and the foil together.
  • Spread a light coat of glue over the rest of the wing backs and down the connecting struts. Glue only goes on the inside half of the struts, not on the edge where the slots are. Carefully fit the foil wings on top of the glue, position, and smooth. The foil connector that goes down the strut does not cover the slots. Repeat for the other set of wings.

Step Eleven: Insert Brackets into Holes and Fit Feet, if Needed

Insert a cardboard bracket into each rectangular hole you have cut into the reflector.
Insert a cardboard bracket into each rectangular hole you have cut into the reflector.
  • Place a cardboard bracket into each of the rectangular holes on the front of the reflector. To accomplish this, pull the flap forward from the hole, fit the bracket in, and twist it into place so the slots on the bracket engage the edges of the hole. When you let go of the flap, it should support the bracket. Move this flap and find the point where the bracket extends straight out from the reflector, then place a piece of tape to hold the flap and bracket together. You will glue these spots later, when all of the parts are assembled.

Attach feet to the bottom of the reflector if your antenna will sit on a flat surface.
Attach feet to the bottom of the reflector if your antenna will sit on a flat surface.

Step Twelve: Mount the Wings to the Brackets

Mount the brackets to the wings, matching up slots, with a dab of glue.
Mount the brackets to the wings, matching up slots, with a dab of glue.
  • Mount the wings to the brackets by matching up the slots on the wings to the ones on the brackets. If everything fits, apply a dab of glue and fit the wings in place. Use a twist-tie or some string to hold the wings in place while the glue dries. Also, pay attention to the position of the wings relative to the reflector. Each wing should stand straight out and not sag toward the reflector. If necessary, fit a temporary piece of cardboard between the wings and the reflector to hold them in the right place while the glue dries. The distance between the back of a wing and the back of the antenna (the distance from foil to foil) should be 3 1/2 inches.
  • While you're at it, make sure that all parts fit well and that the antenna sits square and true. Now is a good time to glue the back end of the brackets to the reflector as well.

Step 13: Connect the Wiring to the Antenna

Connect the wiring to the antenna.
Connect the wiring to the antenna.
  • Come back when the glue is dry and connect the wiring to the antenna. If connecting twin-lead, separate the wires and strip about 3/4" of the insulation off. Then staple the exposed part of the wires to the exact center of the struts between the wings. If connecting the balun directly to the antenna, either staple the wires or drill or punch a small hole and install a small screw, washers, and a bolt to the exact center of the strut between the wings. Carefully connect the wires from the balun to the screws. (The drawback of screws is that they can never be tightened down hard onto cardboard.)

Connect your new antenna to your receiver and test.
Connect your new antenna to your receiver and test.
  • Experiment with the placement and rotation of your antenna until you find a good orientation. Generally, the broad front of the antenna (the bow ties) should be pointed toward the TV station you want to receive.

Usage and Placement

The majority of HDTV broadcasts take place in the UHF TV band, so this antenna has been optimized for these frequencies.

The placement of your antenna is key. The dual-bowtie antenna can be hung on a wall, but it really needs to be pointed toward the broadcasting TV towers. You will almost certainly have to experiment with placement and rotation until you find the spot where your receiver registers a good signal.

In some cases, especially if you are in a home with aluminum siding, you may not be able to acquire an adequate signal indoors. In this case, you still have a couple of options.

  1. The first is to place the antenna in your attic, above the influence of your aluminum siding, and run a cable down to your set.
  2. The second is to hang the antenna out of a window. In general, this is not something you want to do with a cardboard antenna, but if you add some extra cardboard bracing, enclose the antenna in a plastic bag, and devise a sturdy mount. The antenna will be able to survive this way for quite a while, and if the next hurricane blows it away, what have you lost? Just a few cents worth of materials!

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Comments 146 comments

Nurainah48 profile image

Nurainah48 4 days ago from Indonesia

Here's a secret you won't hear from an antenna manufacturer The TV signals themselves don't care what the antenna is made from, as long as the correct arrangement of electrical conductors is present.With this antenna that's aluminum foil..yes I am.

bilbo clarkins 6 days ago

In the pdf file with the paper pattern templates , the instruction just above the little ruler at the bottom of each page says to adjust the template "with the printer" so that the little ruler matches a real ruler. My problem is that I can't get an exact match because the pdf zooms in increments of 10%. How do you adjust a pdf obtained online with a printer? And, if you can, which printer do you use the pdf icon or your own printer or the one in the file menu in the browser?

You have to be able to use custom zoom increments like 9%, 3%, 15% etc. to adjust the template with the zoom feature and I'll be switched if I can see any other way

Hope someone can help before I wind up in the loony bin.

Vicky 7 weeks ago

My husband and I made this today. It works, sort of. We get 9 English speaking channels and 4 Spanish speaking. This is probably all there are in our area. Even though it works, it is very very flimsy. I used foam core board as it was handy. I doubt cardboard would be any sturdier. We will be making it out of something sturdier as cable must go and I can't be without

Jesse Logue profile image

Jesse Logue 7 weeks ago

Sorry Jeff the RF engineer, it works. Perhaps if you built and tried it you might see the light. I live in the south central mountains of PA and built this 2+ years ago so I could cut the cable costs. I get all the channels that show as available at my address on antenna from something built in my basement on a Saturday afternoon with materials I had on hand. The total antenna costs from expert websites ranged close $300.00 for my location and application. Could not be more pleased.

David 5 months ago

Hi. Can't wait to start this project.....but not too thrilled of the cardboard and gluing foil......

Can this be made with 1/8 or 1/16 inch aluminum or any other material? Or does the foil maximize the reception?


Luster 5 months ago

Step Twelve: "The distance between the back of a wing and the back of the antenna (the distance from foil to foil) should be 3 1/2 inches."

Are you sure this is the distance when you're using cardboard and not the foam board? All I can get is about 3". If you add the thickness of the foam board it would probably be about 3-1/2".

Joe 6 months ago

I just built this exactly as specified here and I can get 13 channels. I had tried an RCA powered antenna from Best Buy and received 0 stations. Thanks. Watching the NCAA tournament now.

sinag de jesus 6 months ago

is ok/better to use solid aluminum/metal sheets? is it possible to use multiple antennas for 1 tv? if so, how do i rig this? thanks!

B.K. 7 months ago

I live on a houseboat at Lake Lanier in Georgia. I had tried several HD Antennas from $20 - $150 range with an antenna rotator on the top side of my boat. I gave up after receiving ZERO channels and went to DirecTV. I recently suspended my service with them (until football season) but hated not having at least one or two local channels primarily for live weather tracking. I made this antenna using some decent cardboard and "regular" Reynold's foil. I get 12 digital channels with the antenna INSIDE my boat. I have it hanging in the corner and if I turn it myself I may get another channel or two. I get WSB and WAGA in HD! I never thought this would work but it's amazing how well it works and how clear the picture is for several channels. This is definitely one thing I wish I had found years ago. Thanks Dave Muse!

Scott 7 months ago

There's a lot devoted to materials that won't interfere with the signal, but wouldn't placing the reflector metal in front of a material like wood rather than behind cardboard solve that problem and make the construction sturdier?

Scott 7 months ago

There's a fair amount of discussion around materials that won't interfere with the signal. But wouldn't positioning the aluminum in front of a surface like wood instead of behind it solve that problem, at least for the reflector? It works great but I'd like it to be sturdier.

Jeff 7 months ago

It resonates equally well from DC to Daylight with unity gain right across that spectrum. (Though you might see some improved gain at daylight if you used shiny cardboard!). Needless to say, the polar diagram is a perfect circle.

I have it on good authority that you can further enhance performance by glueing some sparkles and elbow macaroni to it.

rey 8 months ago

What's the resonant frequency and the bandwidth of this antenna?

Josh c 8 months ago

Just made this and i live about 50 miles from tower. It works. I hooked up my amp from my store bought antenna. All and all it works now im taking the tv downs stairs to see if it will work down there. My flat rca antenna wouldnt work down there. So hopefully it will work.

Jeff 8 months ago

As an RF engineer this article (sorry, "article") caught my eye. In fact I'm quite proud to say I managed to read it fully without falling off the chair with laughter. To read that many people below 'can't get it to work' comes as no surprise whatsoever. Yikes I don't even know where to begin.

Intelligent people will file this one alongside similar internet articles such as 'heat your room with a tealight and some plant pots' and youtube videos of perpetual motion machines. It's a series of cool pictures which attract attention to the poster (surprise surprise), but are virtually useless otherwise.

Matt 9 months ago

Ugh. Sorry, but this was a total waste of 4 hours. It picks up fewer channels than this:

ViewTV Flat HD Digital Indoor Amplified TV Antenna - 50 Miles Range - Detachable Amplifier Signal Booster - 12ft Coax Cable - Black

Mike 9 months ago

Not sure if this has already been mentioned but your tv must be able of accepting digital signals, otherwise this antenna will do nothing but give you snow. I build one out of foam-core and it didn't give me anything. After I researched my tv and saw that I had to have a digital converter then I got several channels from around 40 miles away by having it about 8 feet in the air, it was definitely worth under $10 I spent building it.

Mike 11 months ago

Hello my sister in law made one of these and it works great. I have a metal cutting CNC machine and was wondering if this would work made from carbon steel, I have some 20 gauge on hand. I realize that I will probably have to use something other than metal, non conductive, to separate the dual bow ties.


Richard Bastien profile image

Richard Bastien 11 months ago

I needed 4 hours to build the Dual-Bowtie Antenna. It cost me only $3. for the balun at the dollar store. I placed it in the roof in the direction of the broadcast antenna that is at 15 km from my home and I got all my channels crispy clear, except one. I have two TVs at home and when I connected both on the Dual-Bowtie, the signal became drastically low. I found a cheap antenna model (HD-5700 $30. inclucing shipping) on Monoprice and I ordered it because I wanted to compare with the Dual-Bowtie. I thought the HD-5700 Antenna would give me better reception since it came with an amplifier, but at the end, I got the same results on both TVs. No reason to spend money on antenna and we get satisfaction to build our own.

mjmora87 11 months ago

I just finished mine up yesterday and I get 0 channels after searching. Does anyone have any suggestions?

anon 11 months ago

It works.

It is easier to just mold aluminum foil around the elements and glue it and trimming it after the glue is dried, instead of cutting the foil to shape first. Just use a scissors, not a knife no matter how sharp you think it is

All in all, I'm happy. Thanks for this plan! You did a good job.

Seun 12 months ago

Great Work. I Have Roughened Foil Paper,Pls Can I Use It And Cover Both Sides Of The Reflector And Bow Tie,

Madrasi 13 months ago

I live in a 1 bedroom apt. that has brick walls and the landlord won't put up a new antenna outside so I need to make one for inside but I also have train tracks about 100 ft from the building and they are on a hill that brings the top of the train is evan with the top of the apartment building and I live on the first floor so I'm basically below the trains and every time one goes buy the TV cuts out. I am about 60 miles NE from Indianapolis and the only window that I have to face the antenna is faceing East away from Indy. Do you think your antenna would work for me? I also have a old Satellite dish just outside of my bathroom window that I am trying to build something that I can put on it so I can use it and it is still facing in the right direction do you have any ideas on what I can do with that? One of the problems with that is that it is below the wheels of the train and it is pointed directly over the train to the satellite. I have been trying to come up with something for well over a year now and I am getting really frustrated with it so is there anyone out there that can help me out on this? I need someone who knows how to figure out the math or something that I can try. If you need the math figures just let me know. Thanks for any help you can give me.

Tvo 13 months ago

This design is neater compare to what I did.I just use a cable cord and some foil and booya I can watch football again lol

Joshua 13 months ago

I was skeptical about this, but every antenna I have purchased even amplified power antenna have given trouble with signal. I slapped this together rather half hazardly in all honesty and it works much better than any antenna I ever purchased! I get more channels and much less aggrevation. Love it!

ernestpr 13 months ago

I just made another antenna for around $10 that picks up 90 stations in my area of Orange County, CA. Between my HULU and Netflix I get everything I need. When I called to drop the cable company they offered me all of the channels in my current package ($89/month) less ESPN and BRAVO for $17.95. I was so upset I didn't drop this sooner. I built my antenna here:

Dave 14 months ago

Made one of these antennas from some extra aluminum roof flashing. Spent about $1.75 for a balun, which was my total cost. One of my friends loaned me a Mohu Leaf antenna, which probably cost around $40. I did a comparison of the two. The results were that the Mohu Leaf pulled in 40 stations (from the Orlando, FL area). This antenna pulled in 59!

DB 15 months ago

My quick tips:

To form the 45 degree angles for the wings (using foam board), I temporarily pinned small squares of foam board to the end of the wings while the glue was drying.

Also, I used binder clips to fasten the Balun to the antenna. They worked very well.

PK 16 months ago

I made this one. Thanks a lot for detailed explanation. I live in dallas area and i got 55 channels with this design and picture quality is very very good. This design works great!! Thanks again....

PK 16 months ago

Question on step number 4 - When cutting the two rectangle, should we also cut the foil from reflector? I am not sure if we just need to cut the rectangle or need to cut foil along with two rectangle??

Ty 16 months ago

Hi guys, do I need to have the transformer? can it just be an antenna cable split wires to attach to the two points on the homemade antenna?

testy 17 months ago

didn't work for me, same result as my rabbit ears

cyn 18 months ago

Hello, you say that the transformer is used to easily connect the antenna to the tv, and that coax cable can be used by stripping it and connecting the wire (since there is only one wire in coax). Do you mean that you connect the coax to two pigtails? If so, what wire should be used for the pigtails?


apeweek profile image

apeweek 18 months ago from Dearborn, MI Author

Hello readers, sorry to take so long to answer questiions, Hubpages works different from Squidoo, so I have just discovered your comments.

WHitney, tape won't make for a good electrical connection. Someone here mentioned paper clips, and that probably would work.

Orb, yes, you made a large reflector which is working better than the small reflector that is part of the antenna. Calculating the optimum distance takes math (and would be a bit different for every channel) so experimenting is the best advice. And yes, you can show pictures and link back.

Brian, if you are doing long runs of cable, the round coaxial is better than the flat twinlead. You can also add a signal amplifier if you lose too much signal strength.

Marshall, yes, the wings need to be insulated from each other and from the reflector. So the antenna can't be all metal, there need to be insulating components.

Tyler, it doesn't matter which side of the foil is up or down.

Tyler 18 months ago

does it matter which way the "shiny" side of the foil faces?

Robert 19 months ago

I'm a communications engineer so I decided to try this as an art& craft project. No cost to me and it made my blood pressure go down while I was cutting with scissors. I connected the antenna to my HD TV and ran the automatic antenna discovery channel option. Well, well, well, all 17 channels that TVFool advertised I would get, I got. After trial and error, it didn't matter much where I was pointed, as long as it was in the general direction of the transmitter. What a great antenna! Thank you very very much Dave. Good buy cable TV! $70 a month in my pocket.

19 months ago

Thanks load. This simple antenna is doing a great job to capture. Currently capturing 36 channels in Perth, WA

ImaPangolin 20 months ago

We don't have cable and don't really watch live TV. My brother in law is visiting and we wanted to watch the Super Bowl, but not badly enough to spend the money for a capable enough HDTV antenna. So we built this. It took a few hours to get everything cut and set and glued. We plugged it in and watched the detection and it found 26 channels. Not bad here in north Idaho. We found the channel in time for the kick off. I think we cheered more for the antenna than for the game!!!

Great project! Well worth building.

Shawn 21 months ago

I'm getting ready to try this, I hope it works. I'm guessing at some of the measurements cuz I am reading this via mobile phone & can't print stencils! I would love to just get dimensions, but I will try to get it close with the info I have from your step-by-step instructions & comments! I will let everyone know how this comes out!

Marshall 21 months ago

If building this from sheet metal rather than aluminum sheet do any considerations need to be made? Also if using either sheet material do you need to insulate the wings from each other and from the reflector with non-conductive pieces or nylon washers?

Brian 21 months ago

How long can the flat cable be before you start to lose signal? I'm debating flat cable vs coax. Any advice? I need about 20 feet to point it in the correct direction without obstructions.


Orb 22 months ago

Wow! That was the first word out of my mouth as I went through the first tests with it Thank you sir for creating this design and the information to make it. I just read down this entire page (didn't want to ask a question that had already been asked) and it seems most everyone has had the same stellar results. You did good! :P

My question is... while experimenting with placement and moving stuff around to make a place to set it, I inadvertently sat a piece of insul board double sided with foil behind the antenna and boom I was getting a stronger signal than before, a couple stations more than before. If I move the foam board I loose those stations and the signal weakens. Am I adding a backstop that is shielding out the noise from the room behind it (wifi transmitters in that room) or am I adding a backstop that is acting as a 2nd reflector? I'm guessing I am blocking the interference from behind but if it is acting as a second reflector I wanted to ask, what would be the optimum distance behind the designs reflector. My ruff "rubber meets the road" tests seem to suggest 1x to 3x the distance in the design between the bow ties and the reflector improves the signal. Less than 1X or more than 3x I begin to loose the boost. I'd also ask what would be the optimum size of this 2nd reflector/shield. I've been playing with a piece of the insul board that is 6 inches or so wider than the design antenna but when I grab a smaller piece I still get an improvement. So... I don't know if it's a shield or a reflector I'm adding and I don't know how big is big enough or the best distance to mount it into the design if it is a reflector (guess if the boost is from shield only, the best place to put it would be between the antenna and the wifi transmitters). ? I also built the other simpler design to send to a friend that lives in an urban area. Not as good a fit for my middle of nowhereness, but, I got the same boost when I was testing that out after I finished it (same location as where I played with the bow tie version). Shield or reflector?

Last question. I wanted to do a "this thing is awesome" post on my web site's "money savers" section. Show a pic of the one I made, brag a bit on you and steer the people back to this page with a link. Is that OK?

Can't close the post without saying thank you again. I can only imagine how many hours of news, information and entertainment you have made possible for so many of us with this design and your willingness to share it. As I said earlier, "you did good!".

Mel 22 months ago

Finished building it this morning.

Works amazingly well!

thanks for the great tutorial!

Dana 22 months ago

I can't even believe how well this antenna works! I had made a bow tie antenna (better known as the coat hanger antenna) and it worked for almost everything, but about 5 channels would get pixelated off and on.

I found this site while looking for the directions to make a second bow tie antenna. I was extremely skeptical, but figured what the heck... if it doesn't work I will only be out some cardboard and aluminum foil.

I got it made, hooked it up to my second tv, and couldn't believe it - I got more cannels than my bow tie antenna gave me. So I made a second one to replace the bow tie. I still can't believe how simple this was to make, and how well it works. I have them mounted in my attic.

I'm going to recommend this to all my friends who have cut the cable, as well as those who haven't yet. I've created a template to make the cut-outs quicker to make. Thank you so much for this design!

Anon 22 months ago

It's so difficult to get anything here in the UP that I need an outdoor antenna. Any plans for a super awesome outdoor antenna?

I think some of your readers think this will give them free cable, judging from their comments.

Mel 22 months ago

Never mind, it's working now for me!

Thanks for the tutorial, I'm crossing my fingers that it works!

Mel 22 months ago

I just found this article, and am desperate to try it out, but the pdf file linked in the article doesn't exist :-(

Is the website just temporarily down? Is there any alternate website it could be posted on? Thanks in advance!


whitney 23 months ago

Nevermind hung it higher and in front of the window. Totally works!! Thanks. My roommates can't believe it!

whitney 23 months ago

So built this tonight didn't have a stapler so I taped balun wires to foil. Mine is not working is the tape why?

Loren 23 months ago

I decided to cut the ties with our cable after our apartment building stopped providing free expanded basic. Our bill went up big time as a result. I figured plugging into the wall jack for an antenna would have done the job but I got NO channels. I tried a set of rabbit ears but it only got the 6 channels that are available in St. Cloud, MN. I heard a potato will also provide antenna signal. I went out and bought the biggest potato I could find. Got no more than the same six channels. So I found this website and thought I'd give it a try. After a few days I got it finished, and was able to find a balun at an unclaimed freight store. I hooked it up and all I get are the same 6 channels that I get from the rabbit ears and the potato. I can't buy a mount on the roof antenna as I live in a 2nd story apartment. With all the success stories I thought for sure this would work.....not sure what to do now

Tim 24 months ago

The cardboard I used was a bit flimsy for the verticle bars/bowties to keep their positions so I added some braces underneath for proper spacing. Next one will be foam core.

Worked great! A bunch of us don't get cable & this pulled everything in except the one VHF channel as expected. No repositioning for every channel like the expensive set top antennas. It just works. I was actually a bit creeped out seeing the clarity of some news readers & their wacky makeup or plastic surgery when I tested things out.

For the final cable lead connection, I simply used paper clips across the bars to contact the foil on the back & to pin the stripped cable leads to the front of the bar. It worked better without the balun.

dancedesigner 2 years ago

I dropped my cable bill when all the signals went digital and the government send out a voucher for a "free" converter box (maybe 5 or more years ago). The box still required an antenna and I found a flat one without any "ears" at a local discount store. Cutting back on expenses after being a victim of a crime and now disabled, I had to try it..After all, I haven't seen anything remotely new on all those HBO's/Max stations for years and hadn't seen a music video on MTV in over 20 years. In 6 months I had saved enough money to buy a better t.v. and no longer needed the box. Just my $20.00 antenna and I get every station from 3 to 66 and several "sub" channels. I've dropped that antenna so many times it rattles inside so I am going to make this one tomorrow. I have a block house so looking forward to a stronger signal. If everyone wants to keep giving away $100+ for no reason, I could use that money to pay my regular bills and maybe get some help in the house...just send it to me via paypal and it will be doing good!

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apeweek 2 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@Fred_A: A thunderclap too near your TV set could have damaged it. This does sometimes happen.

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apeweek 2 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@dannamae19: Make it free right from this page. Download the patterns near the top of the page.

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apeweek 2 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@yuji-horimoto: There are two wires, one goes to each wing.

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apeweek 2 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@itlameta: Hi - a link to the patterns is right near the top of this page.

itlameta 2 years ago

Where can I locate Antenna patterns please? If not can someone direct me to where I can get the right measurements please. Thanks

yuji-horimoto 2 years ago

@apeweek: Do you connect the wire to both metal points on the wings?

travis-johnston-1806 2 years ago

love it! mine was a little out of spec but I still did what I wanted and then some. clear solid signal.

dannamae19 2 years ago

sir can get it free????

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apeweek 2 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@laura-snyder2: Yes, you can connect it this way, without the antenna transformer. Others have tried this and found that it works fine.

laura-snyder2 2 years ago

@apeweek: I'm having this same issue and also avoiding overpaying for something at radio shack. Before I connect everything and find out it's wrong, I have a question. I can just strip a coax wire, separate the outside braided wire and gather it together and then strip out to the copper in the middle so I have 2 separate wires and then connect each to either side of the antenna? Thanks so much! I'm so excited to try it out!

PhilKe3fl 2 years ago

@AndrewKeith: A quick test, if you can do it, is to remove the innards from one of the transformers and wire it using insulated wires from one end to the other so there is no transformer. Then, use it that way and see if it helps. Understand, as apeweek has said, his design is for UHF channels and being as short as each wing is ~ 5" it is probably worse for VHF than even the most common UHF 8" bow tie antenna. I have not seen such seemingly random results using different transformers so I would suspect something else is changing when you're using different ones. Perhaps one has a broken wire inside? I've had to do a number of my tests over because when I took the antenna down I noticed that a wire had either come disconnected or had broken completely, yah never know.

PhilKe3fl 2 years ago

@apeweek: VHF can be picked up with the 8" version of the bow tie antenna but not as well as it picks up the UHF stations. I also found that making them 12 inches is even better, and at 16 inches they start getting a little worse but still better than the 8" version.

This would be similar to making apeweek's "wings" 8, 12, or 16 inches long. The two "wings", one on the left one on the right, make a bow tie antenna. His design is called a two-bay bow tie antenna with a reflector. The two bays are the two bow tie antennas made of the four "wings".

In a simple bow tie there are two "wings" made of a long piece of wire bent in half to make a "V" shaped "wing" The angle of separation of the two ends of the wing is 22 degrees, or for a wing of 8" the separation between the ends is 3 inches, 3". - I will eventually have the test results of the different lengths, using/not using the transformer, and also changing the angle of separation from 22 to 50 degrees and even the test of a four-bay version (without a reflector), up on my antenna blog, just Google "Karras' Corner" to find it.

Also, if you make a version of apeweek's two-bay antenna, with improved VHF reception. not only would longer wings help but the separation between the two antennas would have to be further as well. The distances between and lengths of antenna elements all depends on the frequencies we want to receive. the Bow Tie design was an attempt to get away from the length of the antenna being so important. With such an antenna we should be able to receive a much larger frequency range with one antenna, and in general, it works very well indeed. BUT, the distance between elements may still be very important. The tests of my four bay version showed a distinct increase in gain for the UHF channels and a corresponding loss for the VHF channels. The VHF channels lost almost 10 dB of gain when compared to a single 8" bow tie antenna!

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apeweek 2 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@AndrewKeith: AndrewKeith: Well it is more complicated, I'm afraid. To pick up VHF frequencies, try some 'rabbit ears' (the old fashioned extendable antennas.)

Fred_A 2 years ago


Sir, i replaced the transformer and it worked. i believe it was the operators fault. the design is flawless...thank you again!!!

PhilKe3fl 2 years ago

@Fred_A: The transformer has very little effect, you can take it off and try it that way. However, unless the transformer is defective in some way that is blocking VHF channels and the VHF channels are just as close to you as the UHF channels are, you should see something. I've run a few experiments in my area with a simple bow tie antenna and at 8", which is about 3" longer than this antenna, I see a drop from UHF to VHF of more than 15 dBuV from the best VHF to the best UHF channel. For stations with similar distances and powers.

Apeweek's antenna is only about 5" long making it even more UHF centric than the "standard" 8" bow tie, the other thing is that, for multi-bay antennas like this one with two bays (two bow tie antennas tied together), the spacing between the two bow ties also decreases the VHF gain because the spacing is selected to enhance the gain of the UHF channels. In a similar antenna I tested, which had four bow tie antennas joined together, the VHF channel gains dropped from the single bow tie by about another 3 dB while the worst UHF station gained more than 10 dB! For this antenna I'd expect the losses and gains to be about half of my numbers.

AndrewKeith 2 years ago

@apeweek: So for VHF would you shrink the wings, or the distance between the bow-ties, or is it more complicated?

I played around and tried 3 different baluns and got 1) no channels at all, 2) only UHF channels, 3) UHF channels and two of the three VHF channels but with a lot of loss.

#3 has both twin lead and coax and I only get VHF when I connect the coax. I guess I will try to take it apart to see what's different on the inside (I'm guessing no transformer)...


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apeweek 2 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@Fred_A: Fred_A: well, that's a cheap thing to test, so sure - try it without the transformer, or with a different one. If a thunderstorm damaged anything, however, it's more likely to be inside your television.

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apeweek 2 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@AndrewKeith: Our antenna is in fact a UHF antenna. The vast majority of HD TV channels today are on UHF. It will pick up VHF channels as well, but it isn't optimized - so it works on VHF only for strong signals.

AndrewKeith 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing this! Any idea why I'm only getting UHF channels?

Fred_A 3 years ago


thank you for your response the Antenna is connected directly to my Vizio Tv. do you think it might be the transformer?

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@ShorePatrol: Shorepatrol: yes, a long cable run will result in signal loss. The fix for this is to us an antenna amplifier, which needs to be weatherproof, and mounted near the antenna side of the cable.

The parabolic dish you found may or may not help your reception if mounted in exactly the right spot, but t would take a lot of experimentation to find out. So probably not worth the effort.

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@Fred_A: Hi Fred_A - there are two possibilities for how a thunderstorm could affect your TV reception.

The first is tropospheric refraction. Under exactly the right weather circumstances, a TV signal from far away will get it's skyward emissions bent toward the ground a few hundred miles away. This is usually a temporary phenomena, and you could have experienced this before the passing thunderstorm changed the weather.

The second possibility is that a nearby lightning strike induced a current in the antenna large enough to damage your receiver. This is not common but it does sometimes happen.

Fred_A 3 years ago


thanks for letting us use your antenna, i built it, and was successful at getting lots of channels, but after a thunder storm, im not able to get NBC and other channels. would you know why?


Fred_A 3 years ago


thanks for letting us use your antenna, i built it, and was successful at getting lots of channels, but after a thunderstorm, im not able to get NBC and other channels. would you know why?


ShorePatrol 3 years ago

Hey apeweek, I made an outdoor version of your antenna works great. I put a switch on it so I can alternate between cable and antenna ( I'm 22 mi. NW of Chicago ) mounted it on a tree 30' up due to my downslope location. I'm going to make another and aim it towards Rockford ILL. at another location. here is my question: Does the length of the co ax have a significant effect on the signal ( around 100' ). Second question is: I found a parabolic Muzak dish (fiberglass) I realize this is for receiving the signal do you believe several coats of metallic paint would block other signals as well or close to the foil you suggest, and would it help reflect the wanted signal. I'm not interested in the physics here but more of and informed opinion. I believe Rockford is around 50 mi.from me this is only an exercise and if I get little or nothing it is no great loss. Thanks

anonymous 3 years ago

@apeweek: Hoppy,

From your description it does not sound like the problem is the antenna since you've also tried store bought and they didn't get anything either. The brief reception you experienced could have simply been due to conditions being favorable.

Everything that apewek said is good advice, if you can test it with even a longer piece of coax so it can be put outside for the tests do that. Also, this brings me to another possibility: I'll assume you're using a short piece of coax to go from the antenna to the TV. - If you're using the same piece of short coax for all your tests and the coax is bad then it won't matter which antenna you try, they'll all look bad. So try a different piece of coax. If you have another piece use it, if you can borrow a short piece from a friend do that. Last resort, is to buy another short piece. I doubt you need more than 10 - 15' but do NOT buy anything longer than 25'! (Unless you need to for the getting the antenna outside test.)

Note: If you get better reception away from the walls then as apeweek said, there's something in the walls. But it also means you're closer to a window, so you could try pointing it out each window in the room for a quick test to see if pointing it out any window helps.

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Shopwilby: do you have another antenna to try also? If the other antenna works, but this one doesn't, there may be an error in construction. If neither antenna works, your reception location may be too poor for any antenna to work.

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: 50 miles from broadcasters plus trees and buildings is a tough assignment for any antenna. I don't think there's anything wrong with the construction, but there could be a problem with metal in your building's construction. Try putting the antenna outside, or at least near a window, see if it works better. You might need an outdoor antenna.

anonymous 3 years ago

I made this antenna but I think I did something wrong. It is not as powerful as I had hoped but it is the only antenna (compared to store bought) that temporarily picked up CBS and Fox. A big obstacle in my home is the walls. I don't know what it is about them but antennas work better away from the walls, in the middle of the room. Raising antennas up high does not make a difference oddly. So, I'm not sure how I screwed up. I followed the instructions as best I could but ... Maybe I need thicker foil? Maybe I put too much glue and that affected the conductivity of the foil? Any tips, along the lines of typical rookie mistakes, would be useful. But, just so you know, my local TV towers are far away (about 50 miles) and I live in an area with high homes and trees. Still, I did glimpse CBS and Fox once!!! I have some hope, though admittedly I feel defeated too.

anonymous 3 years ago

i tried making it and it doesn't work

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@PhilKe3fl: We don't actually disagree. On some channels it does help the gain of the antenna, just as you suggest. On other channels it improves directivity, also as you suggested. In other words, the reflector improves the antenna.

This is exactly why my antenna has a reflector. But I will concede that the antenna will very likely work fine without it, too, if anyone wants to try that.

I trust this will end our debate.

anonymous 3 years ago

Thank you very much for this tutorial! I spent less than $2 for the parts and it blew away my expectations.

PhilKe3fl 3 years ago

@apeweek: There's a simple experiment to see if the reflector helps, build one without it and see what difference there is without a reflector. My belief is that if it helps it is very small and probably for one or two stations at most since the geometry simply doesn't support it and neither does the wavelength distance calculations for all those wavelengths.

VannaLee 3 years ago

@apeweek: Hello and THANK YOU for the reply...I am in between jobs right now (came home to change and let my dog out) will be home after 9pm east coast time and will message you personally then...AGAIN Thank YOU so much for the reply, I am sooooo excited to try this out

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Hello Vanessa - I am the designer of this antenna, so if you saw this somewhere else, not only are they violating my copyright, but they probably have no idea how to answer your questions!

If you click on my picture at the top of the page, you will see how to message me there. Then we can talk about mailing you some patterns.

anonymous 3 years ago


I saw this same antenna on another site and had written the woman who made this asking her for a bit of help and never got a reply, so I am here now hoping someone here might be able to help me...below is a copy of the note I had sent to her


I recently came across instructables website (I actually am a home owner and follow quite a few of sites such as this one) and LOVE all the crafty ideas and I saw your tutorial on the antenna....I also wrote and left a comment but I am sure you get numerous comment on all your beautiful projects...I am so desperate to try this one you have no idea, since the cable companies now scrambled the signals I can not get any channels on my HDTV Cable Digital TV...and being a home owner I refuse to pay for their service cause it's not in my budget....Now I am working two jobs and going crazy cause the one thing I do love to watch is the news while getting ready for work in the morning and when I get home at night and I am going to bed my problem is I can't get to the library except for Saturday's and as luck would have it my town is stupid and the library is now closed on the weekend (bet it's some state budget cut) I was hoping if I sent you a self address stamped envelope for myself you could possible send me a copy of the patterns you enclosed as the attachment on the tutorial I would even send you $5.00 for the trouble of printing and paper ink cost....

Hope you have an awesome weekend, and Thank You for you time

Sincerely, Vanessa

Is it possible at all someone could please help me with my request for a copy of the antenna parts (hard copy in the snail mail, I will send a self address stamped envelope to send to me) I even offered to pay her $5.00 for her troubles such as ink and paper cost...I really would love to try this and if it works as good as every one is posting I would make one for my neighbor at the end of the street also...

Thank You for taking the time to read my post,

Sincerely, Vanessa L Galica

anonymous 3 years ago

I finally made this antenna this weekend. Had been using the 30+ year old 300 ohm aerial on the roof, but there's a lot of big trees here and we're close to an airport. Reception was really bad especially when planes were landing. This cardboard/foil antenna works better than anything! Did a channel scan and my TV picked up 50!! It is incredibly robust - unaffected by airplanes and weather. Need to point it in a different direction to catch a few more stations, but I couldn't even get them before. Thanks HollyMann for posting the plans!!

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@ShorePatrol: ShorePatrol - about lightning protection - lightning arrestors are available for rooftop antenna systems - don't just ground the antenna directly, that won't work. The arrestor is a device you feed your wiring through - it gives the lightning a place to "jump to".

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@ShorePatrol: ShorePatrol - for best performance, all of the foil elements, including reflector, should be made from your expanded metal. Brick isn't a conductor, and will not make an effective reflector.

But leave out the reflector if you wish. The antenna will still work, just a little differently.

In place of the cardboard, you will need another insulating material - it could be plastic or wood - to support the metal elements and keep them separated.

ShorePatrol 3 years ago

I built your antenna out of expanded aluminum and plan to place it on my brick chimney will the brick suffice as a reflector ? I'm also trying to keep a low lightening profile. I'm assuming that grounding will have no effect ?!

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Jeff, they definitely need to be two pieces, separated by the measurements indicated.

anonymous 3 years ago

Can the bow ties be made of one piece rather than two separate parts; not being separated by a non-metallic bridge? If so, does it matter then how to attach the Balun assuming the two bow ties are no longer separated by an insulator (cardboard only).

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@PhilKe3fl: I agree the balun is optional, if you don't mind cutting and stripping the wires of a coaxial cable instead.

But we'll have to disagree about the reflector. The flat reflector on an antenna like this is certainly less important than a reflector on a parabolic antenna. But it can and does contribute to the gain of the antenna when the reflected signal is in phase with the signal arriving from the front.

I would not suggest leaving it out of the design.

anonymous 3 years ago

Woohoo, it works! I built it in my free time out of curiosity. I live in Europe, Latvia. My apartment is on the first floor of a 3 storey house, made of reinforced concrete, and the nearest DVB-T transmitter (on 680MHz) is about 30km away with some forests between me and the transmitter. I had to adjust scale when printing the stencils on a A4 format paper, and some parts got clipped off, but it can be fixed with some logical thinking and a pencil.

My DVB receiver says that the signal strength and quality is the same as with my Yagi outdoor aerial. I don't have a balun, I'll try to get one to see if it will improve the signal strength because currently it is about 80%. No image glitches but still I'd like to have more strength just to be sure. I made a removable reflector to experiment. Currently it seems that the reflector doesn't affect the signal strength/quality.

I even did not bother to attaching the wires firmly, I just put a piece of adhesive tape and then checked with a multimeter to be sure that there is a contact with the bowtie wings and no shirt circuits.

anonymous 3 years ago

This is great. I was skeptical, but now I'm planning an outdoor version after experiencing how well my cardboard model works. I'm in suburban Detroit, and this is the first time I have been able to pull in all the stations listed on antennasdirect with no broadcast glitches on any of them. (I'm also intermittently getting low-power WDWO, which I'd never seen before.) Apeweek, thanks for sharing your efforts.

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Hi Damien, Squidoo's automated content checker has decided my other antenna page was spam, I suspect because others on the internet stole my content, Squidoo's computers decided that my page was a copy of theirs instead of the other way around.

Please do complain to Squidoo, I've been trying to get the suspension of the page reversed, but I get no response. Even after pointing out that it was a top-ranking page on both Squidoo and Google, and linked to from Consumerist, Lifehacker, and many other high-profile sites.

Many others here are in the same position as myself.

anonymous 3 years ago

what happened to the simpler version? a-free-antenna-to-watch-free-hdtv

I was wanting to look at that one to see if that works for me.

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@ShorePatrol: ShorePatrol: The cardboard's function is to support the foil pattern, nothing more. You can absolutely build the antenna out of sturdier stuff, just follow the same patterns and spacings.

ShorePatrol 3 years ago

My question is what is the actual function of the cardboard ? Would it not be just as efficient with expanded metal ( would the type of metal make a significant difference ) cut into the bowtie shape I understand you are trying to keep costs down. Also do not overlook your local scrapyard or recycler I have finished many a project with their help. This could withstand the elements including wind, and last would a metallic spray paint diminish it's capability?

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Hi Sherrill, yes - the exact size and shape is important - measure carefully and follow the directions to get the best performing antenna.

anonymous 3 years ago

Do you really have to cut the foil to the shape of the wings or can you just wrap it and dispense with the cutting and gluing? I pull my hair out every day with having to go out and fool with the antenna. Thanks

anonymous 3 years ago

Thanks for the great article and the stencils, the design looks simple enough, I'll try it. Although I'm not sure how it will perform in my area. I don't have a balun and the nearest local shop is about 30km away - and the nearest DVB-T transmitter (on 680MHz) also is about 30km away. I can receive it with a good Yagi outdoor aerial, and I wanted to add an indoor aerial in another room.

About the stencils in the pdf file - are the rulers in inches? It would be nice to have also centimeters because I don't have a ruler with inches here in Europe.

PhilKe3fl 3 years ago

@anonymous: You would have to make such a non transforming balun. I'm hoping to experiment a bit with the ones I've taken apart, when I can find the time. The way I've hooked up twin-lead to coax is simply connect the wires, I've also opened up 300:75 Ohm (4:1) Impedance Matching Transformers (IMTs) and removed the transformer and soldered wires from the coax connector to the twin-lead wires. Either way works as well as the other.

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apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Well, balun and transformer are really just two words for exactly the same thing. To be honest, the main reason I included a balun/transformer with this project is just to make it easy to hook the antenna to your TV equipment.

To do this without the balun, just take a 75-ohm cable, cut the connector off one end, strip the wires and connect them directly to the antenna.

My suggestion here is to do this whichever way seems easier to you. It's not likely you will notice any difference in the performance of the antenna.

anonymous 3 years ago

@PhilKe3fl: Thanks for the advice! Excuse my ignorance, but where can I get just a balun without the transformer? Also, how do I go about hooking up a twin lead wire to coax without a balun?

PhilKe3fl 3 years ago

@anonymous: Hi Tim, Yes, First try it without the balun & transformer and see what if any improvements are made. They try with the balun alone, then try with the transformer alone. I would also test the flaky stations to see what's going on if anything.

If you're putting the signal from one antenna into two receivers/tuners then you should be using a splitter & the splitter will (or should) say that each signal is 3.5 dB less than the original. If it doesn't say I go find one that does say because if it doesn't say it's probably worse than 3.5 dB.

Help: -3.5 dB means that you will get a little less than 50% of the original un-split signal to the two outputs & thus to your tuners.

If the signal is really good without the splitter to one of the tuners than using an amplifier should help improve the signal levels to each of two tuners after a splitter.

Path: Antenna -> Amplifier -> Splitter -> Two tuners. The amplifier should be as close to the antenna as possible since the closer it is, the shorter piece of coax you'll need and thus the highest signal level to the amplifier.

You might want to read my article, "Gain, Loss, and Noise Figure" on my antenna blog at "" - "Karras' Corner" (the link is up near the top, third line, at then end of the line) for more about using amplifiers. This is another place not to buy something that does not specifically say how much signal you will lose when the amplifier is put in-line. generally it is more than the amount lost from adding a splitter but there are very expensive amplifiers that are actually better and lose a bit less than 3dB when inserted.

I hope that helps,


anonymous 3 years ago

@anonymous: Thanks for the advice, I will give it a go. Quick question though - I just finished setting up a HTPC and have two dual tuner Hauppauge tuner cards in the pc. I'm generally getting a good signal still, but splitting it seemed to have degraded the signal a bit. Would you recommend getting some sort of signal amplifier, or would you recommend trying the balun without a transformer to improve the signal first?

anonymous 3 years ago

@anonymous: Tim,

I've said it before & I'll say it again here. Try your antenna without the matching transformer. If you still have the receipt & it works just as well without it as with it you can return it. The antenna as designed probably has an impedance of around 38 Ohms, the transformer is made to transform 300 Ohms to 75 Ohms 4:1, so it is changing your 38 Ohms to ~9 Ohms which is the wrong direction! It will probably do even better without the transformer but, at least in my experience, it shouldn't do any worse.

anonymous 3 years ago

Hi there. I just wanted to say that this antenna exceeded my wildest expectations. It's been a few weeks since I 'cut the cord' with Directv, and I wanted my locals but did not want to spend a ton of money on an antenna. I stumbled across this. I built the antenna out of foam core and overpaid for the transformer at radio shack, but it set me back no more than $10. I am pulling everything pointed toward Dallas, TX at almost 100% signal strength, and I'm even pulling in channels from north of me in Oklahoma. Considering that the antenna isn't even pointed north, I find that pretty incredible. I put the antenna up in the attic, unplugged the directv line, and put the antenna in it's place. I couldn't be happier, and the OTA HD quality is outstanding. Thank you for an awesome design and the outstanding directions!

anonymous 3 years ago

Incredible!! It works great! Thank you apeweek for this amazing post... and design. Looking on the web for my options regarding dtv in my area, found your article and gave it a try... to my surprise, it's more powerful than expected! In my area (Ottawa, Canada) there's mainly two transmitters, south and NW approximately, with stations shooting mainly from the NW one, but one or two coming from the other tx, with the antenna on the floor in my bedroom I can get almost all (or all) the stations available for the city, 14 or so, incredible! All that without always having to rotate it. When I started building it, my wife jokingly name it "Sputnik", made it out of foamcore and heavy duty aluminum foil, then at work, realized aluminum flashing (sheet metal) would be great for that and "Sputnik 2.0" was born... Now to finalize my transition from cancelling cable to free dtv, I would like to make a 4 bay one (Sputnik 3.0, according to wife), so I was hoping you are still around and could help me with a few questions regarding the design. You said the distance between the elements and the reflector is 3 1/2 inches.

What is the measurement between the phase lines connecting the bowties? Also, do I have to keep that measurement between the lines in the crossovers? Thanks for your reply.

anonymous 3 years ago

Wow! I made a quick version of this with stuff I had around the house, and the only cardboard I could find was in pretty rough shape. Before it fell apart because it was a rush job with poor cardboard, it pulled in all but a few of the channels I should be getting in this area, and pulled in more channels than all five of the store-bought ones I've tried. Once I get my hands on some quality cardboard, I can't wait to build a few more solid models and play around more with location. Thank you so much! I've been itching to cut the cable cord, but didn't want to miss out on the local channels. I'm finally confident that I'll be able to catch the local broadcasts without the $$$ of cable!

anonymous 3 years ago

I made the dual bow-tie indoor antenna last night following the instructions exactly and hooked it right up. It worked fantastic! My TV during the auto scanning process was only seeing 18 digital stations and of the 5 or 6 that I watch most frequently, one wasn't even able to hold a stable signal once I started trying to watch it. The other stations that were stronger were okay most of the time - and that is the problem. "Most of the time" is irritating when you are watching a program you like and constantly getting up to make "antenna adjustments" is just not acceptable. With this new bow-tie antenna, my TV immediately detected 42 digitial stations and all of the ones I usually watch were rock-solid stable and strong signals. We will see how things go when we have some bad weather but I am expecting good things and it is certainly a huge improvement over my VHF/UHF rabbit ears. I live in the Twin Cities (MN) area approximately 25 miles east of Minneapolis and about 15 miles east of St. Paul. Thanks for your article and the design!

Labrat7228 3 years ago

@PhilKe3fl: I don't know what I'm doing wrong but I can't get anything to come up with the website you listed. I'd really like to see the omnidirectional antenna you created as we are about in the same viewing area.

I didn't see anyway of contacting you through squidoo.

Labrat7228 3 years ago

@PhilKe3fl: It seems we live in much the same area! I am between Washington DC and Baltimore and just cut the DISH this past week. I hope thus antenna helps me get channel 66 and PBS as they are the only two stations missing I'd like to have.

PhilKe3fl 3 years ago

@anonymous: apeweek is correct because it turns out that almost any kind of metal will reflect UHF & even VHF TV frequencies. Also most other building materials, plastics, glass, wood, cardboard, allow these frequencies to pass through. Having an indoor antenna behind your aluminum siding walls might not be a good idea, though once the RF gets into your house it will bounce around quite nicely.

One other point, installing an antenna in an attic can also be a problem. Water will also reflect more than transmit RF and a wet or snow covered roof through which the RF must pass to get to your antenna may cause loss issues as well.

apeweek profile image

apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Hello Jodi - the foil reflector would work fine on either the front or back of the cardboard. It shouldn't make a difference either way.

anonymous 3 years ago

Why is the foil on the back of the reflector as opposed to the front? Does it matter, is it asthstetic? Would it function better on the front?

anonymous 3 years ago

We cancelled our Dish subscription this month after latest round of price increase. I was looking for something to pick up a few local channels, mostly for news and weather. We live about 40 miles east of Atlanta and were never able to get more than two stations over the air before the DTV conversion. I hadn't tried again since the conversion, so I decided to try this DIY project just to viability of getting a few channels. I built the whole thing from scrap materials I had in my garage. I used the side from an old computer for an all-metal reflector (happened to be exactly 13 x 14). For the bow-ties, I salvaged some thin metal from the inside of another computer cased (plastic case with thin metal lining), traced the pattern and cut them out with tin snips. To attach the fins to the reflector, I built a spine out of 2x4 and assembled the whole thing with wood screws. Took less than an hour start to finish. I placed the antenna on top of my TV and connected it to a digital converter that I borrowed from my dad (yes, I'm still using an old 27" TV without a DTV tuner). We now get 10 stations including ABC, FOX and CBS (NBC and PBS are VHF and have week signals). Signal strength is about 20% across the board. My wife was shocked that I was watching the local news when she got home. She even approved of the design, saying that it looked like a modern art sculpture. I will probably move the antenna to the attic and see if that improves reception, but I can live with it as-is. Thanks for the great plans!

PhilKe3fl 3 years ago

@anonymous: Bob,

I'll try to answer from my experience, I always use the published measurements, sometimes diagrams and photos won't match when measured but these measurements were used to make the original antenna so it's best to use the published measurements.

Hope that helps.

PhilKe3fl 3 years ago

Impedance Matching Transformers: The basic idea here is to change one impedance into another. This is generally done with a ferrite core and two coils of wire. This introduces some loss so in general we try do design antennas with the same impedance as the radio needs at its input, to eliminate all unneeded losses.

So, in the case of antennas going into TVs we need to change the impedance of the antenna into the impedance needed by the TV if, AND ONLY IF, the impedances are widely different. After all, if I have a 75 Ohm antenna going into a 75 Ohm TV and I use 75 Ohm coax, what is there that needs changing?

I am a Ham Radio operator with a few degrees in Physics so I've played with this stuff in the shortwave world, the ham radio world, and with my own TV antennas that I've designed & built.

In my experience, and from a quick look at the situation in general most TV antennas can be directly connected to the TV without a transformer.

The most basic antenna is a half-wave dipole antenna. In free space a dipole has a design impedance of 73 Ohms. A Bowtie antenna is a wide-element half-wave dipole antenna. The wide element design gives it uniform impedance over a wide frequency range, which is definitely needed for the TV world. Its design impedance, being of the basic dipole design, is about 73 Ohms, as close to 75 Ohms as one could want!

So, if I feed this ~73 Ohm antenna with 75 Ohm coax and I put it into a 75 Ohm TV antenna input port I do NOT need any kind of impedance transformer since I have no difference in impedances to transform!

Give it a try, without the transformer, and you will notice that for that station that was sometimes too weak it will now be better, perhaps not dropping out at all or not nearly as often as it used to when using the transformer. This has been my experience both in the SWL, Short Wave Listening world/ham radio, as well as my own bowtie antenna designs into my new TVs.

Good Free Watching to you all!


apeweek profile image

apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Any antenna used to receive distant stations needs to be mounted very high, and outdoors. This is a tall order for a cardboard antenna. Our antenna designs are best used for local TV stations.

anonymous 3 years ago

Using antennaweb, a couple stations I wish to receive are a purple zone. What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of this antenna for these stations

apeweek profile image

apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Miktrev - it will be much easier to make several antennas than to run wiring to many rooms of your house. But if you want to do this, you'll need an amplifier-splitter to distribute the antenna signal over many wires.

anonymous 3 years ago

Apologies if this is a really dumb question, but do you need to make one of these for each television set you have?

apeweek profile image

apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: Lightning shouldn't be an issue unless you have it mounted pretty high up in the air - not what you would typically do with something made from cardboard.

anonymous 3 years ago

Interested in making this to use with TV on laptop in caravan. Are there any factors to consider should lightening occur?

apeweek profile image

apeweek 3 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

@anonymous: I'm glad it's working out - however, I don't recommend altering the antenna unless you understand the math involved - the antenna may still function, but likely not as well as the engineered design.

anonymous 3 years ago

Great plans that are easy to follow. I tweaked things a bit and built mine with three 'wings' on each side since I had room for them with the foam board I used as a reflector. It works like a charm and I am no longer thinking about running a wire from the bedroom TV to the roof antenna. So long to the crummy rabbit ears!

apeweek profile image

apeweek 4 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

Hi Bob,

The 1/4", give or take, shouldn't make a difference in the performance of the antenna - not something to worry about.

anonymous 4 years ago

The ruler on Log-Periodic was exact match. But Dual-Bowtie is 3&1/4" instead of 3". I can change it in Photoshop. But do I just squeeze the width? or unzoom (shrink proportionally)? You don't show a ruler for adjusting length. The original length of the FOIL pattern is 13&1/4". If I unzoom it's 12&25/32". Please advise.

anonymous 4 years ago

I couldn't be happier! In my basement apartment in west Toronto, I'm getting 7 channels and on the backyard deck I get 15. I first tried with cardboard but, hands-down, foamcore at $1.25 a sheet at the dollar store is definitely the way to go.

Thank you Apeweek!!

anonymous 4 years ago

Amazing! Works great!

TolovajWordsmith profile image

TolovajWordsmith 4 years ago from Ljubljana

This looks too crazy not to be true!

anonymous 4 years ago

This is an incredible antenna! Just built it and outdoes our $70 Terk. Thanks sooo much for this.

SimplyTonjia 4 years ago

Seriously, I love this lens. Thank you.

anonymous 4 years ago

To answer the question about the ball. Most antennas are about capturing over a wide area and channeling signal to a thinner wire, concentrating it. The ball may receive some signal, but wouldn't have that effect.

anonymous 4 years ago

I just made this and it's also the BEST FM antenna. It just replaced a $70 amplified Terk, pulling in distant stations clearly that I could barely lock in previously--am listening to WFMU in Jersey City here in Queens!

anonymous 4 years ago

Just finished building this antenna. It works really, really well. Thanks for posting all the instructions!

Hip and Hot profile image

Hip and Hot 5 years ago

Great Job! I Like your ideas on both antennas. Question for you.... Why can't I wrap foil around a styrofoam sphere/ball and then hook the balun and wires up that way? Won't this capture the HD TV signal from all directions???

Joan Haines profile image

Joan Haines 5 years ago

Awesome!!! I'm gathering the supplies momentarily.

xbumper profile image

xbumper 5 years ago

Wow I built one of these using your lens and it works Sooo much better than my rabbit ears! Thanks. Great Lens

apeweek profile image

apeweek 5 years ago from Dearborn, MI Author

Rob, it would certainly be sturdier made from sheet metal, and better for outdoor use. The performance of the antenna wouldn't change, though, the TV signal doesn't care what kind of metal its made from.

anonymous 5 years ago

So, would this work the same/better/worse if you made it out of sheet metal?

anonymous 5 years ago

Just made this, I wasn't sure if it was going to work, it does.

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