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Build Your Own DIY Wifi Antenna out of a Tin Can

Last Updated: September 14, 2022

Did you know you can extend the range of your current WiFi network? The metal inside of tin cans is perfect for building your own DIY WiFi antenna. With an Internet-in-a-Box setup, you could have a real network in the case of grid failure.

This article specifies how to make a DIY “cantenna”. A cantenna is an antenna made from a can that can amplify WiFi signals. In most cases, WiFi signals are 5-22 db. The cantenna also makes it possible to increase the distance of many wireless networks.

The “Cantenna”

The WiFi range extender has a wide range of benefits both in construction and in usage.

Even in stable times, this cantenna solution is a great way if you have been having connection issues at home with low signals.

Only have a few bars in your room where you relax with your phone? Is there only one bar of connection when you’re out on your back deck?

Instead of going out to buy a new internet modem, why not try out this easy DIY project first?

The homemade long-range WiFi antenna is easy to make. And, with more range, the better you’ll be able to use your phone, iPad, and technology. Communications and technology are force multipliers in survival situations.

First, as you build out your cantenna, you’ll get a sense of your stock and DIY skills.

Second, as you test the range and effectiveness of your wifi range extender, you will find how to enable better internet access throughout your property.

Lastly, if you’re trying to get a connection from a location farther away, this DIY WiFi antenna can be used to get free internet.

Antennas Are Great

Did you know that you can use an HDTV antenna to get access to TV programs? Radio, walkie-talkies, phones, and most all communication devices have some form of an antenna. The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a network of communication devices that utilize antennas to connect to networks. Understanding antennas and how their signals work are helpful ways to build out your sustainable places of safety.

Every skill you learn right now will make you a better prepper and a better survivor. This tin can DIY WiFi antenna improves your WiFi range so much that you don’t have to spend money on upgrading your WiFi router.

What Supplies to Collect for My DIY Wifi Antenna?

For this Wifi range extender, the supplies you need are straightforward.

ItemNotes
(1) No. 2 tin cana minimum diameter of 3 inches
(1) N-type female jack panel mount connectoryour base
12-gauge copper wireabout 1¼”
Nuts and bolts4 each
DrillAlways handy
RulerStandard
Permanent markerFor marking holes
Soldering iron kitsee picture below
(1) Internet modem or WiFi routeradaptable to a pigtail cable
(1) pigtail cablethe cable connecting your router to your can
What Do I Need to Know?
  • The cable should have an N-female connector on one side and a small brass stub on the other.
  • Screw a pigtail cable onto the adapter and connect the cable to your wifi.
  • Secure the cantenna to a tripod for easy adjustment and the best signal improvements.
  • The N-connector feeds a signal to the can, and that signal is extended by the parabolic shape and tin material of the can.
  • You can also create and test a “dish” parabola to attach behind your cantenna for increased connectivity.

How to Make a WiFi Cantenna

Step 1. Find a can that is no more than 4 inches (10.2 cm) wide in diameter.

The ideal diameter is 3.25 to 3.75 inches (8.3 to 9.5 cm). This design is for a directional antenna and the tripod enables you to swivel and adjust your cantenna for increased connectivity. The longer the can you use, the more improvements in signal strength, but at the cost of a more focused “beam” of WiFi signals.

a No. 2 tin can

Step 2. Drill holes into your can.

The next step is drilling holes into the tin can. The female N-connector needs to be mounted in the side of your can.

To do this, measure and mark your holes accurately with your ruler and permanent marker by using the N-connector holes as your main guide. The ¼ guide wavelength number determines how far up from the bottom, or metal, end of the can you should put the center of the hole. You can calculate your measurements using an online cantenna calculator. Bear in mind you’ll need five holes: 1 for the N-connector setup & 4 for the N-connector jack panel mount.

Drill holes in the right locations to secure the connector in the right spot on the can. When you use the drill to form the hole, you’ll want to choose a small bit first. Then, change to a larger bit that matches the size of the connector for the most stable drilling and eventual hole. A power drill and a big bit will likely destroy the can or make a poor hole.

Step 2. Place the adapter in the hole and secure it to the can. 

Once your hole is a perfect fit for the female N-connector, screw the connector into place.

If your hole doesn’t allow for easy screwing (installation) of the female N-connector, try using a 3/8″ slice of garden hose around your connector to secure it into place. Slip it over the outside end of the adapter and as you tighten the cable, the hose compresses against the can and locks the adapter in place.

Step 3. Solder your copper wire to the female N-connector

One side is N-female for connecting the cable from your wireless equipment, and the other side has a small brass stub for soldering on the copper wire.

The copper wire should be exactly 1.21 inches (3.1 cm) tall (just a hair under 1 1/4 inches) sticking up inside the can. Use the soldering iron to cut the copper wire.

You’ll need to cut the wire so that the total length of the brass tube and wire stick out 1.21” past the N-connector.

When you have the wire at the right size, you can solder it into the N-connector. You’ll want to keep the copper wire as straight and upright as possible.

Once the copper wire has cooled, you will secure the assembly into your can using your bolts. You will want to put the bolt heads inside the can and the nuts outside the can in order to reduce obstructions in your antenna.

Step 4 – Connect the Cantenna to your wireless router

To connect your can & female N-connector with copper wire to your wireless router, you’ll need a cable called a “Pig Tail” cable. One “male” end of the cable will connect your female N-connector (soldered with copper wire). The other end of the pigtail cable connects to the back of your wireless router.

Connect your pigtail cable to the cantenna and your wireless router.

Step 5. Secure your cantenna to a tripod

Note that a WiFi antenna utilizes “linear polarization.” This means that the strength of your WiFi signal will be affected by how you rotate and align the cantenna. Test your signal strength and range by pointing the cantenna at your neighbor’s wireless network to see how bars you get. A repurposed tripod makes for the perfect choice. By using clear or duct tape, secure your can to your tripod for easy adjustment. Aim at the location you’d like a stronger wireless signal or point it at another network to enable internet access through your router.

To improve the signal even more – much more – cut a 2 foot (0.6 m) wide by 1 foot (0.3 m) high sheet of concrete lathing screen with 14 inch (0.6 cm) or smaller holes and curve it slightly to form a parabolic dish, similar to a TV satellite dish. Use trial and error since and you could see your signal double or even triple.

What’s the Science Behind This Signal and Range Extender?

The tin can DIY WiFi range extender and some simple connections make for increased linear wireless signals. Once your pigtail cable is connected to your router, the cantenna focuses wifi signals from your router for a more focused signal to a location where you want to use the internet. Point the cantenna at your treehouse in the backyard, and chances are you’ll have an improved signal.

On the other hand, if other internet sources are disconnected from your wireless router, you can point your cantenna at a network farther away to access other networks. You’re 200 ft away from Starbucks in an abandoned warehouse without any Internet, but you have power from your solar kit. Your cantenna is hooked up to your wireless router and your laptop/phone is on the router network. Presto, you now have free Starbucks WiFi.

“Always Be Ready” Max

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