How To Make A Simple Radio

How to make a simple radio involves a few pieces of equipment, some tools and a basic plan. The earliest radio required the listeners to put the set together before any radio transmission happened. Sales agents in the 1920s and 30s, typically at car dealerships, offered buyers a chance to purchase an assembled set in a cabinet or a kit to take home and assemble. Furniture dealers, who also made coffins for the community, sold radios to townsfolks. The company had the tools for the fine wood cabinet and needed only to order some radio parts to have a match. You can put together a crystal radio with little effort.

You'll need a few items to start the project, including:

  • telephone handset
  • alligator jumpers
  • Germanium diode
  • at least 50 feet of coated enamel magnet wire
  • heavy-duty plastic bottle
  • 100 feet of stranded insulated antenna wire (the longer the antenna, the more stations you'll pick up
  • electric tape
  • pencil
  • wire cutter
  • screw driver

The simple radio building process is simple:

  1. Poke anchor holes. Take the screwdriver and punch two holes, about an inch apart, near the top and bottom of the bottle. These are used to wrap the wire in the next steps. Don't get too athletic here, a small hole will do. You can always enlarge it, but if the hole is too big, you'll need to find another plastic bottle.
  2. Wrap the magnet wire through the top holes. This is the fun part. Take the magnet wire and wrap it through the two holes on the top of the bottle. String about half through both holes and then double back with a wrapped wire. You should have about four inches hanging off above the holes when your done. 
  3. Start wrapping wire. The longest end of the magnet wire must be wrapped evenly over the bottle. Every four wraps, you'll need to make an open loop. To do this, put the pencil along side the bottle and detour around the pencil. Remove the pencil and keep wrapping. These small circles will extend out from the bottle every fourth loop. This is the main part of the radio, so be neat about it. The wire shouldn't touch, but should line up neatly as you wrap it around the bottle. Think of wrapping a baseball bat at the handle, only don't overlap the wire as you would bat tape. 
  4. Wrap through the bottom two holes. To finish off the magnet wire, hook the wire through the bottom two holes and leave whatever is left of the wire hanging to the side of the bottle. 
  5. Use the wire cutter to carefully remove the insulation from the tip of both wires hanging on the top and bottom of the bottle. Do the same for the wire around all the little loops to expose the inner wire. Take care doing this not to crank on interior and break the wire. The circuit of wire must not be broken for the radio to function.
  6. Add the Germanium diode to the bottom wires on the bottom. Twist the extra wire to attach the diode to these wires. Use the electric tape to seal the connection. 
  7. Strip the end of the phone headset wires. 
  8. Take the yellow and black wires from the handset and attach the wires to the Germanium diode. Do the wrap job again here with the electrical tape.
  9. Hook the extra top wire from the bottle to the diode. Hook it with electrical tape.
  10. Ground this sucker. Take a wire and attach it to the top wire and take the end and hook it on a water pipe. This will prevent any shocks.
  11. Attach an alligator clip to the antenna. Use the tape for this. 
  12. You're done. Put the phone to your ear and listen to the radio. 
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