Homemade Shortwave Antennas

By Joe Cuhaj

Shortwave radio is a fascinating hobby where a listener (DX'er) can pick up radio broadcasts from the other side of the world. While many of today's shortwave radios have decent antennas and can receive signals pretty well, building a homemade outdoor antenna will heighten your experience.


Whether you are building a simple indoor antenna or stringing a long, outside antenna, remember safety first. Do not hang your antenna near power lines or even near the drop wire from the line to the utility meter. This is for your own safety and because electricity creates interference that is picked up by the antenna. Also remember to adequately ground your antenna for the safety of your receiver, your home, and you.

Shortwave Antenna Basics

Ultimately you will want to build a specialized antenna that receives a specific frequency, but many beginning and even veteran DX'ers find that a multi-band longwire antenna is the best, all-around choice to pick up all shortwave frequencies.

Basic Longwire Antenna

A Basic Longwire Shortwave Antenna

A longwire is, as the name implies, a stretch of wire strung between two supports: for instance, two trees or the house and a tree. The length of the wire is unimportant, although the longer the better. Generally a stretch of between 30 and 100 feet will work.

The lead-in wire from the antenna to your receiver should be insulated so that it will not short against anything as it enters your home, such as the metal screen in your window or aluminum siding. An no. 18 insulated wire will be adequate.

The height of the antenna off the ground isn't critical, but it is best to try to keep it at least 20 feet off the ground. Make sure that the ends of the antenna are insulated by using commercial glass or plastic insulators or make your own by cutting 1 ½- to 2-inch in diameter PVC pipe into 3-inch long sections (at a minimum) and drilling holes in the ends to connect the wire to.

Lastly, make sure you solder your connections together, such as where the lead-in wire connects to the antenna, and coat the connection with silicon to protect it from the elements.