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Beer Can Antennas

People around the world, from Shenzhen, China to Los Angeles, California, have used beers cans to improve their radio reception. Even so, most people I talked to about them hadn't ever heard of them. Once I described them as a few dozen beer cans stacked one on top of the other, with a cable or a radio antenna through the center they usually remember seeing them, somewhere, sometime. Myself, I've never made or used a beer can antenna before, but today it just seemed like it would be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Not that I'll empty enough beer cans myself. That would make just about anything seem a little fuzzy. I just salvaged some that we had in our recycling bin.

From talking with several beer-can-antenna aficionados, including one guy who takes his with him while traveling through Europe, I've put together a few notes on how to make the best use of such an antenna. First of all don't confuse the "beer can antenna" with the Beverage antenna. A Beverage antenna is actually named after Dr. Harold T. Beverage who helped design the Beverage antenna in the 1920s.

The beverage antenna is considered a precursor to contemporary "wave" antennas. The beer can antenna, on the other hand, is not considered a precursor to other technology so much as it's enjoyed or needed as an ingenious way to pull in signals with recyclables.

Like I said – I haven't built one of these before and the one I've got going right now is pretty rudimentary. From the various resources I've pooled, I decided to go with the soldered beer can method. For this, you should ideally use tin cans, rather than the aluminum cans used for most sodas and canned drinks. Of course, that means you may have to make your beer can antenna out of something other than beer cans. That is, unless you can get your hands on some old beer cans. One person I talked with mentioned that he'd heard a beer can antenna put to use in California. It was made out of crushed Coke cans though, so the reception was pretty poor because of the aluminum.

How many beer cans you use is up to you. I've found at least one record of an antenna almost 50 feet long (that's about 120 average sized beer cans). Since it's probably best not to try to gather that many beer cans in one day, you might go with the one-can-at a time method and soldering cans onto the antenna as they become available. Just be sure to cut guide holes in each can, enough to let a coaxial cable (like the one connected to your cable box) pass through cleanly. Once you've got a tower of cans made, you're basically set to go. From there it's mostly a matter of figuring out what type of grounding and connection works best with your radio. That's as far as I've gotten with my preparation, though my antenna is just a couple feet long right now, and not very impressive. Right now, I'm looking at the back of my CCRadio and thinking of just connecting the coaxial cable to the external antenna jacks. We'll see how that works.

Thanks for reading,

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