Thursday, February 25, 2010

a home made digital TV antenna

Had I not almost everything I needed laying about the tool shed, this antenna might have cost as much as $20 to make.
A piece of 2x4. Some wire. A piece of PVC pipe. Some little lag bolts.
I purchased a balun (a type of transformer) on Ebay for $3. You can by a similar device at Lowe's for about $4. I didn't know it at the time.
I pretty much followed these directions to build my antenna: http://www.tschmidt.com/writings/Design%20and%20install%20outdoor%20TV%20antenna.pdf.
But incorporated some of this guy's plans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8jsDxNgHn4
The antenna works great inside.
But this behemoth is, as are most antennas, not particularly pleasing to the eye.
And we have so much stuff to knock around in here.
So I decided to put it outside.
The thing about that is this: Once outside, an antenna is pretty much a lightening rod.
Especially when you hang it high, on a pole.
Yup.
Our antenna pole, including its stand, is about 20 feet from the ground up.
The antenna that sets at its apex has to be seriously grounded.
Some good information about grounding an outdoor antenna can be found here: http://www.hdtvprimer.com/ANTENNAS/basics.html.
Scroll down until you see "Grounding Outdoor Antennas."
And so, between the stuff needed to mount the antenna (I already had some 1" metal conduit, but had to purchase two 4x4s and a bag of ready-mix concrete (about $20)--(I didn't want to mount the antenna to the roof) and the stuff needed to ground it (grounding rod, grounding wire, clamps, grounding block ($35), the coax cable and little ends ($20) needed to connect our big, fat, old-timey analog television to the digital converter box ($25 from Ebay), you're talking well over $100 to set up an antenna that cost almost nothing to make.
Which is still cheaper than paying the satellite people (those pirates) $45 a month for 30 channels of infomercials and the opportunity to pay even more money to watch a half-way decent (pay-per-view) movie. (In all honesty, I like and will probably miss the Biography channel, Science channel, and maybe one or two other channels as well. But $45 a month still seems a steep price for something only somewhat better than the "free" over-the-air TV I grew up with.)
I don't know if there is a "store bought" antenna that works any better than this one. Certainly the indoor antennas we tried during the initial change-over from analog to digital television didn't work worth a crap.
With this antenna stuck in the window, we get 7 channels--various far flung affiliates of NBC, CBS, ABC, ETV, and FOX--plus their "sub" channels...weather and so forth.
All clear and smooth.
I think we'll get even better reception once I actually mount the antenna to the pole I've assembled.
Anyway, this is all in anticipation for June, when our contract with the satellite company is finished and we can cancel service.
You can probably tell.
I can hardly wait.

Monday, February 22, 2010

trash paper gazebo 7

These papercrete stone shapes were made with a Quikcrete Walkmaker mold, allowed to cure for several weeks, and mounted on the gazebo with sheetrock screws. Then I filled in behind and around them using the papercrete sculpture mixture.
I fastened a couple more faces to the totem pole at the entrance the same way, then used the sculpture mix to fashion their "hair."
I also began applying the first layer of papercrete to the next section of wall.
As stated in an earlier post, applying the first layer to my flimsy fence wire + chicken wire + hardware cloth armature is difficult, and I've had trouble finding a way to reinforce the armature. (Once the first layer of papercrete cures, the walls are firm enough to daub on more. The finished wall, with the faux stones attached, is several inches thick and seems to be very strong.) Anyway, I experimented by attaching some recycled aluminum window screen to the inside wall and coating it with the latex paint, sand and cement mixture. The "industrial" papercrete formula, with some ready-mix joint compound added for "stickiness", seems to adhere very well to this hard latex cement shell, so I hope that problem is solved, and I'll be reinforcing the rest of the armature with window screen and latex cement.