How to build a shortwave radio

Shortwave radio was the world’s first internet.

How To Build A Shortwave Radio

Have you ever wanted to know how to build a shortwave radio? You’re not alone. Shortwave radio is more than just a source of entertainment for a lot of people. 

Those who enjoy building amateur radios, or experimenting with radio frequencies, often create their own shortwave radios from scratch too. 

While designing your own radio might sound like a complicated process, it’s actually a lot simpler than it seems. 

Some people have even been able to build shortwave radios with crystals in the past. The great thing about this kind of hobby, is you can easily get the ingredients you need online.

There are even kits available to help you with making your shortwave radio. We’ll cover some of those options below. 

Building a shortwave radio

Getting started…

If you want to build a shortwave radio, the first thing you need is the right equipment. Ideally, you’ll just buy shortwave radio receiver kits to build online, as this way you can ensure you have all the right equipment. 

However, you can also buy the raw materials yourself. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

How To Build A Shortwave Radio
  • One board: Where you can mount your radio. You need at least 2 feet by 2 feet of space to give you plenty of room to work on. Although you can make a radio without the board, it does help to have a place you can work from. The mounted radio also makes it easier to carry your radio around when you’re searching for signal.
  • A telephone handset with a cord: You can probably get one of these from a thrift store if you don’t have one. Alternatively, order something online
  • A glue stick: Or something like this in size and shape. Something round is generally easier to work with than something square. 
  • Magnet wire: You’ll be able to get this from most electronic scores. Your wire will be important when you’re creating your shortwave radio kits to build. 
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire stripping pliers

You’re also going to need plenty of time where you can sit down and experiment with your DIY shortwave radio. Try not to tackle this project when you’re in a rush. 

How to make a shortwave radio

Step by step…

Deciding to build your own shortwave radio is the first step. Once you’ve got your equipment, you’ll find the rest of the process is simple.

How To Build A Shortwave Radio

Step 1

Get your magnet wire (26 gauge is best) and wind it around the glue stick, or circular product you’re using. The wire needs to cover the entire cylinder, and it needs to be tight, with around six inches of wire left on each end.

Step 2

Once you’re done with the winding process, tape both ends of the cylinder to ensure the wire holds and mount the coil to the board using electrical tape. Strip the plastic off the ends of the wires on both sides.

Step 3

Attach the wire from the right of the coil to the end of your diode and tape the connection down.

How To Build A Shortwave Radio

Step 4

Cut the phone cord and strip around two inches of the wire. You need to stripe the two wires within the cord too. Remember, be patient here as the wire is often thin, and you could easily break it.

Step 5

Attach one end of the wire to the diode’s exposed connection, and tape it down. If your phone cord has four wires, you’ll need to take some time to figure out which ones will work first.

A good way to do this is to use a 9-volt battery and place one cord on the positive pole, and another on the negative. When you find a combination of wires which make clicking sounds start in the headset, you can use those two.

Step 6

To make your antenna for the shortwave radio, clip one of the remaining lead wires with the alligator clip to the end of your magnet wire (22 gauge this time). Leave the wire connected to the roll.

Testing your DIY shortwave radio

Now you’re ready to see if your shortwave radio works. 

Attach the telephone cord to the handset and find a grounding point for your alligator wire connected to the left of the coil. Ideally, you’ll want something like a pipe that’s going into the ground. Unroll your antenna wire and hang it over a branch or a high space. 

Connect the alligator clip with your antenna wire to the top of your coil. You should be able to hear a radio signal here. 

If you’re struggling to find any sound, don’t panic. There may be a problem with your ground wire. A good way to “troubleshoot” the issue is to unscrew a bolt holding the faceplate to the light switch or outlet in your home. 

Unscrew just enough to hook the alligator clip onto it, and don’t remove the plate. 

If the signal comes through but it’s very weak, this is likely a problem with your antenna. If you have an old television antenna somewhere, you can try using the radio antenna connected to that instead. 

This would be a lot easier than learning how to make a shortwave radio antenna too. 

If you’d rather get some extra assistance from Amazon, you could consider shopping for a radio antenna kit instead. There are a handful of options available here, including products to make magnetic radio antenna products, and antenna loops

Shortwave radio kits to build

If you’re struggling to figure out how to build a shortwave radio transmitter on your own, you could always buy a kit to help you out. Amazon and other online marketplaces sell fantastic shortwave radio receiver kits to build, and they’re affordable too. 

For instance:

1. The Zerone Forty 9er

This shortwave radio transmitter kit comes with up to 3W of output power, strong remote communication functionality, and a side-tone circuit, to help you listen to your keying signal. There’s a circuit diagram to assist with quicker building, and you get a metal case included. 

All that, and the full kit is proven to deliver fantastic performance and reception, without draining your power. 

Zerone Forty 9er
This compact kit is small but mighty. The performance is fantastic and provides a great listening experience.

2. The Maxitronix shortwave kit

Another fun and convenient DIY shortwave radio kit available on Amazon right now, this product comes with everything you need to explore bands between 6-8MHZ and 12-18MHZ. There’s an easy-to-read manual included with illustrations to get you started. 

Maxitronix shortwave kit
The Maxitronix shortwave kit has a well-illustrated to help you create your own personal shortwave radio. It also runs on a 9V battery for portability.

You don’t need to do any soldering to begin with either, so jumping in is quick and simple. 

3. LJJDSLYU shortwave magnetic

A beautiful kit for radio lovers, this product shows you how to build a shortwave radio receiver with magnetic balance technology. You can experiment with wavelengths between 1-30MHz, and the radio can withstand powers as high as 200 watts. 

Ideal for producing high performance frequencies, you’ll have no problem checking out all the benefits of shortwave radio with this device. You can use a Loop antenna or inverted V antenna for boosting your frequency strength too.  

LJJDSLYU shortwave magnetic
The LJJDSLYU shortwave radio receiver is a great kit and can withstand a high level of wattage.

4. Zerone manual antenna

This is a full antenna kit for boosting your existing homemade shortwave radio performance. The Zerone manual antenna tuner kit comes with all the standing wave directions you need to explore waves between 1 and 30 MHZ. 

The system can withstand transmission powers of around 15Q, and there’s a tuning range between 30 and 300 OHMS. Great for beginners just getting into the basics of shortwave, you’re sure to have no problem following the instructions for this kit. 

Zerone manual antenna
This kit comes with everything you need to make your very own shortwave radio. However, the instructions leave a little more to be desired.

Enjoy your shortwave radio

A shortwave radio can be a much simpler solution to build than most people realize. Even if you’ve never experimented with radio technology before, you should find you can connect a few wires together and discover a frequency. 

Don’t forget to check out our other radio tips and guides here, to learn more about shortwave radio. 

Radio Fidelity: For the love of radio.