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Slinky Antenna

I wrote a brief article on my attempt to build a beer can antenna. In response to that article, I received several suggestions about other homebrew antennas I might want to try. Among them, the famous (or infamous, as the case may be) slinky antenna. Since I have a son, it was a bit tough finding the time to throw together this antenna without having to explain why I was stretching his toys (I used three) to the limit, but I finally got around to a preliminary version that actually does a pretty decent job.

When I started looking into the possibilities of a slinky antenna, I came across a lot of Websites and articles that claimed the whole idea of a slinky antenna is just a myth. Countering these claims, however, I also found a plethora of sites that described everything from a simple antenna with just an alligator clip, to ones that went into extensive detail about how to ground the slinky for optimum performance.

These days you can once again buy the original Slinky with the heavy, bluish metal. Though most Websites repeat the figure of 80 feet as the length of a slinky, the official word from Slinky Toys is "about 63 feet". As many of you may know, In 1945, Richard James (a naval engineer) based the Slinky on a tension spring that he watched fall off a shelf and "walk" on the floor. It seems that the first people to use Slinkys as antennas were soldiers serving in Vietnam.

Right now, behind me, and over my shoulder, I have about 40 feet of Slinky stretched through my apartment. I have one end of the Slinky fastened to a tree outside my kitchen window. The other end is attached with an alligator clip to the telescopic antenna on my Sangean 818. Since this a preliminary test, just to see what kind of difference it might make, I've decided to hold off on soldering the Slinkys together, and running a rope or cable through the Slinkys.

My results have been mixed; probably because I'm keeping it very simple. Still, as long as it wasn't bouncing in the wind or from someone bumping into it and making it spring up and down, it did help me bring in several German and Chinese broadcasts. These same frequencies sounded like Charlie Brown's teachers without the Slinky so that was impressive. On other frequencies the Slinkys seemed to cause more interference than anything else – lots of static.

As with my beer can antenna, I am writing this article at an early stage in the experiment. I would love to hear from any of you who have used or seen a Slinky at work. It really is a fun, convenient antenna that's easy to set up and put away. If kids are around, they might be bothered to see toys stretched so far, and hung too high above them to play with, but setting one up, even for the heck of it, is a great way to teach them about the science of antennas and radio.

Here is another link that has information on Slinky science:

Slinky, Clandestine Dipole

As always, please contact us with any comments or article suggestions you might have.

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