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BUILD A SHORTWAVE
For The Perfect Shortwave Antenna"
by N4UJW Webmaster
Follow these simple
plans to build a multiband shortwave antenna
and be on your
way to world band radio excitement!
Hear shortwave signals live
as they happen directly from around the
Many years ago, my dad sparked my interest in shortwave
radio, which led to me becoming a licensed Amateur Radio Operator in
1989. Lots of us "Hams", listen to the shortwave bands when we are
not in the "talk" mode ON THE AIR. I have enjoyed shortwave radio
since a small child!
The excitement of listening to voices,
music, news and other fascinating information and radio signals of
all types from around the world can by yours too. You, my friend are
probably just getting started in this fascinating hobby or you just
want to improve your reception.....
Just follow these
simple instructions below to build either an outdoor or indoor
multiband shortwave antenna. These antenna types described below can
generally be used either outdoors or indoors, but lots depends on
the room you have for the wire. They have been broken down into
their most common use and simple antennas. For the most part, they
will outperform or at least equal commercial made shortwave antennas
for a lot less money and you will have the satisfaction of saying,
"I built it myself"! You don't have to know antenna theory to build
these antennas, but included is one very simple formula that all
Hams use in designing these types of antennas.
A NOTE ABOUT WIRE FOR SHORTWAVE
antenna is composed of a conductor that carries the electrical
signals to your receiver.
There are many kinds and types of wire
starting with single wires made of copper and stranded wire made
from steel with a copper coating on the outside. Many "wires" have
multiple conductors like telephone wire used for adding extra
telephones or regular speaker wire with only 2 conductors side by
shortwave antennas require only one conductor or wire in the
"elements" of the antenna so when using "wire" for antennas, you can
use the least expensive types.
size of the wire can be an important thing if the antenna is
designed to be used outdoors in the weather. Use a minimum wire size
of about #20 to #18 outside. When you use sizes much smaller than
these, you get into problems with breakage from ice, wind, birds,
Wire sizes are numbered by their gauge, larger sizes are the
smaller gauges. A #14 wire is larger in diameter than a #20 wire
gauge. Most ham radio operators use # 12 to #14 wire sizes
So when we refer to "wire" in the article and
projects below, use the appropriate wire
OUTDOOR GENERAL PURPOSE MULTBAND
SHORTWAVE (WORLD BAND) ANTENNAS
THE LONG WIRE SHORTWAVE
The simplest multiband shortwave antenna for
shortwave listening is probably the longwire for most newcomers to
building antennas. It is literally, a random long length of wire
stretched out from the shortwave receiver antenna
connection and attached with some form of an insulator on
the opposite end.
No bells or whistles and usually very easy to
Your shortwave radio probably has either a short telescoping
(pull-up) antenna and or a connection point for an external
antenna usually on the rear.
A very simple
method of drastically increasing the signal strength to your
shortwave radio is to simply add about 50 to 70 feet or more
of insulated wire of small diameter, (size not critical, it must
support it's own weight), attached to either the telescoping antenna
with an alligator clip or a suitable connector to the rear external
antenna connection and stringing it out across or from the house to
the appropriate support as high as possible on each end with some
form of insulator along the entire length, (a non-metal device that
will not pass electricity). In other words, don't run it along a
water pipe, conduit, metal house siding, rain gutters, etc. It
can be tacked along the ceiling or snaked up into the attic or
around the roof. Just don't run it close to metal. Use your
imagination. Make sure that you have removed the insulation when
adding the connector or alligator
DANGER! DO NOT STRING THIS ANTENNA OR ANY
ANTENNA OVER, UNDER or NEAR ANY ELECTRIC POWER LINES OF ANY TYPE!
YOUR LIFE WILL BE IN YOUR HANDS, NOT MINE and I assume no liability. Repeat....never
OVER, UNDER or NEAR POWER LINES! This includes the service drop wire from the utility
power pole to your electric meter! Have adequate space allowed to
insure that if a power line falls, it will not fall on your
shortwave antenna! Use this rule of thumb....
If it is under the
power line......the power line WILL FALL! If it is over it,
antenna WILL FALL! You don't want either
Now back to shortwave
The longwire type of antenna is a compromise as ALL
antennas are. Don't expect the same reception 100% of the time from
the same station. Mother nature and man-made variables will surely
destroy your expectations.
This type of antenna generally "picks
up" stations better in the direction of the wire, so if you live in
the U.S.A., you can string it in a Northeast Southwest direction and
get the European stations somewhat better. Don't worry if your
layout is not perfect....just put it up and have fun
THE MULTIBAND LONG WIRE SHORTWAVE
A Much Better But More
This antenna is end supported and designed to receive the
major shortwave bands between 90 meters and 16 meters. It uses only
4 wires and a unique antenna property called harmonics to get 8
bands using only 4 wires! Again, it is a compromise but an excellent
performer....the perfect antenna does not exist. We "Hams" are
working on it constantly!
After construction, this shortwave
antenna should be stretched out in a straight line as high as
possible as in the long wire antenna above, and about 140 feet
straight out from the house! Don't fret! If you cant', you
can't. Utilize your existing space. More supports may be required
for a zig zag layout but performance may suffer a bit. Don't worry,
it will certainly outperform that built in poor excuse for an
It consists of 4 separated insulated wires,
(measurements below), all connected (soldered) on one end, leaving
the opposite end unconnected and insulated at the support. If you do
not know how to solder, then scrap all the coating from the wire
down to bare copper and tie the ends together using several knots.
You really should learn to solder though!. This will make for a more
permanent and much better electrical connection.
The soldered end
must be between an insulator and the radio for mechanical strength.
You don't want much stress on the soldered connection other than
the coax leading to the radio. The end that has all wires
connected should be soldered to the center wire of a suitable length
of 50 - 75 ohm coaxial cable leading to the short wave radio with a
suitable connection. A ground wire is soldered to the shield only of
the coax at the same end that you soldered all the wires
together and attached to a ground rod driven into the ground near
the house. Seal and tape all outdoor connections from the weather.
This antenna is called an end fed half wave antenna.
picture, formula and wire measurements for bands below:
lengths are not extremely critical, but try to get them as close as
the instruction box above, the last sentence refers to the long
portion of the wires, not at the connection point to the coax feed
line to the receiver. All wires are connected together at the connector center conductor
(frequencies shown below are
approximate shortwave band centers):
Wire 1 (LONGEST
WIRE) 3.25 MHz (90 meter band) 09.75 MHz (31 meter band 3rd
468 divided by 3.25 = 144' 0"
Wire 2 3.95
MHz (75 meter band) 11.85 MHz (25 meter band 3rd harmonic)
468 divided byi 3.95 = 118' 6"
Wire 3 5.10 MHz (60
meter band) 15.30 MHz (19 meter band 3rd harmonic)
468 divided by 5.10 = 91' 9"
(SHORTEST WIRE) 5.90 MHz (49 meter band) 17.70 MHz (16 meter
band 3rd harmonic)
468 divided by 5.90 = 79'
The number 468 divided by the frequency above is the formula
for calculating a half wave antenna length used all the time by
Amateur radio operators in building many different kinds of
You'll need about 435 feet of wire for this antenna
plus appropriate length of coaxial cable.
Check with Lowe's, Home
Depot, Radio shack, Wal Mart, farm supply stores and other stores
that might have wire bargains. Dual conductor speaker hookup wire
can be purchased in rolls and split in half to double the length.
Multiconductor tv antenna rotor wire can be used the same way.
Electric fence wire is also a good alternative.
The wires are
spread 3-4 inches apart, held in place with simple non-conductive
Just cut a few pairs of the acrylic, Plexiglas, plastic
strips or other non-conductive material that will not be damaged by
moisture long enough to attach the wires keeping the spacing about 3
to 4 inches or further if you want.
Use your own ingenuity with
the attachment method while keeping them separated.
accomplish all of this, you stretch the antenna on the ground,
assemble it, then get it up to the support with your own best way.
OUTDOOR CENTER FED MULTIBAND
(FAN) DIPOLE SHORT WAVE ANTENNA
NOTE: For use
with the higher quality table model communications receivers that
have standard antenna connectors capable of using direct coaxial
This antenna type is used by many Ham Radio
Operators worldwide and is very popular but the lengths for the Ham
bands are entirely different.
The entire length of the antenna is
about the same as the one above and the coaxial cable is connected
in the center of the span with the center conductor connected to one
side of the antenna and the shield connected to the other side then
at the other end, to the receiver.
The formula used for this
antenna is the same as the Multiband Long Wire
468 / by frequency in mhz = total length in feet. This resulting length is cut in
One antenna per band stacked.
somewhat more complicated in construction due to the center
connection and requires support in three places....each end plus the
center. The preferred method for using this antenna is drawn in the
picture below with the wires "fanned" apart with at least a foot of
separation between the ends.
All of the wire elements can be
close spaced but some interaction will occur. Insulated wire is best
so the individual wires do not connect on the longer lengths of the
Choose the antenna of your choice depending on
your constructions skill and needs.
Either way, they both will
be much better than the little telescoping antenna that comes with
most portable receivers.
The center fed multiband dipole
antenna (drawn below) consists of 2 separate sections of 4 wires on
each side of the center connection at the support consisting of 4
wires connected to the center conductor of the coax and the other 4
connected to the shield.
In this arrangement, one half of the
antenna is feeding the center conductor and the other half is
feeding the shield. Each side must be insulated....not
connected....to the other side. The other end of the coax is
connected to the radio with the appropriate connector.
Use lengths in the above multiband antenna with total
length split in half using the formula....half on one side and half
on the other for each wire length per band. The coax can be anything
from 50 ohm to 75 ohm.
Not critical on receive!
You will have to use the proper connector on the end of the
coax for your receiver antenna
Note in the drawing above that the small gray
rectangles represent insulators!
assembled antenna can be installed with the center section higher
than the ends, making it look like an inverted V, like
this /\ . Make the angle of the V about 90 degrees or
Or it can be horizontal to the earth or anywhere in
The inverted V configuration is more omni-directional,
(all directions), than the horizontal method which tends to
receive best, broadside to the wire. Less real estate is required
for the inverted V method. Center supporting also has less tension
on the antenna so smaller wire size may be used to save
Choose the antenna of your choice above
depending on your constructions skill and needs. Either way, they
both will be better than the little telescoping antenna that comes
with most portable receivers.
INDOOR MULTBAND SHORTWAVE
To begin with building and installing an
attic antenna that helps your reception, you need to take stock of
your attic's measurements, particularly the length of the attic at
it's longest distance that you have easy access and your radio's
One of the more common house sizes is about 50 to 60
feet long and about 25 to 30 feet wide at the ground level. Your
house or home may be entirely different. The accessible attic space
usually is much less than this. You will have to really compromise
with an attic antenna as far as the band coverage is concerned for a
short wave antenna to perform adequately. Use the dimensions of your
attic and compare them with the lengths of the long wire and dipole
type antennas in this article above and choose the one that you can
"fit" into the attic. You may not be able to use lengths for all the
bands, but again, no matter what length your end result is, it will
certainly outperform that little pip squeak of a poor excuse for an
antenna that came with the radio! Just utilize the space that you
have and don't worry about the length. Just use as much wire as you
can and forget about that "perfect antenna". It still does not exist
up to this point in this article! Hams are still working worldwide
The best place to mount or attach the antenna is
against the peak or highest part of the roof thereby keeping it away
from ductwork, AC and heater systems, telephone and all the other
metallic environment that exists in most attics. Once you have the
location selected, then build the antenna while keeping in mind that
the coax or wire will have to get to the radio. If you're working up
on the roof, get a helper to assist, an adult, not children! Be
careful on those ladders!
You can push most small coaxial cable
under the space where the carpet and wall come together and wire
should be no problem, then to the nearest closet, up the wall and
into the attic. You can work from the attic down or radio up....your
choice. Lots of variables here too so you will have to choose your
own route and method of installation. If you have to drill into a
wall to feed the wire, use caution and don't drill into electrical
wires! It may be the last time you
IN ROOM ANTENNAS!
those cases where you can't put an antenna outside or up in the
attic, then you can install it in the same room with the radio! They
won't be as effective as those up in the attic or outside but will
still get more signal to your radio which is what you
Simply use your own method to attach a random length wire,
up next to the ceiling against the walls...around all sides of the
room if possible. One other choice is to push a random wire between
the carpet and the baseboard around the walls of the room. You will
be surprised at the difference compared to that telescoping antenna
that came with your radio. Just attach the antenna to the
telescoping rod...don't forget to remove the insulation on the wire
at the attachment point!
RANDOM WIRE SHORTWAVE
The name says it all......
just use any length of wire and
as long as possible.
Now wasn't that one simple. Use same
construction techniques as in above for supports and
Adding optional wind up reel antennas to your shortwave
offer optional wind up "reel" type antennas that attach to the
telescoping antenna that comes with most receivers and they may help
to improve reception to portable shortwave radio
receivers, but, many leave lots to be desired, so here
is some simple information on how to modify most of them to
increase the length of the antenna wire that comes with them. Easy
NONE OF THE ABOVE
ANTENNAS ARE DESIGNED FOR TRANSMITTING....USE FOR RECEIVE
DAMAGE TO TRANSMITTER MAY
"As I have
stated above a couple of times, don't worry too much if you can't
get the lengths exact at the begining of this article or you
don't have the ideal amount of real estate required for the longer
Just have fun and try to learn by doing.
These longer length shortwave antennas may actually
overload your receiver with too much signal on the less expensive
short wave radios with telescoping antennas only. Just disconnect
the alligator clip from the antenna and just wrap the wire several
turns around it without the actual wire inside the insulation
touching the antenna.
This will probably improve the
"This author has helped the
wire industry stay in business over the years as have other Amateur
Radio Operators have done and I have enjoyed every minute of if. I
have used just about every kind of material for an antenna for
shortwave listening that would conduct a radio frequency including
window frames, bed springs, rain gutters, conduit, aluminum tubing,
coffee cans soldered together, old CB antennas, TV antennas, curtain
rods, copper tubing, aluminum trim from kitchen counter tops and on
and on...... and the old standby............wire!
I hope this
article and projects were of some small use to you in your quest for
the perfect short wave antenna!" Experiment, experiment, experiment!
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Copyright Material - All Rights Reserved. N4UJW
Best Selling and Most Popular
You may also like to see how ham radio
operators use and build antennas. You can see many different
designs for various ham radio bands. Most are really overkill
for shortwave listening and some require special test equipment but
many can be used for some great shortwave
Check out the Ham
Radio Antenna Projects here!
Learn how to
build antennas like Ham Radio Operators do!
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