I’m sure if you are familiar with the name Nicola Tesla you have read enough articles extolling the genius that he was. He was the inventor of Alternating Current (AC), the radio (Marconi used Tesla’s plans and experiment notes), florescent lighting, radar, radio controlled boats to name a few of the inventions of this man’s genius. What we are going to talk about today is one of the master’s little noticed inventions, “The Tesla Ground Wave Antenna”, the perfect antenna for the survivalist on a tight budget (and who isn’t!?!?!).
The Tesla Ground Wave Antenna breaks nearly all the rules of antenna theory. This antenna is very very simple using only a couple of parts, and is extraordinary as a receiving antenna. Some have also used this as a transmitting antenna, with an antenna tuner for HAM and freebanding.
Using a 4 ft long piece of re-bar steel or a copper and steel ground rod, drive the ground rod into the ground so that only a couple of inches sticks out from the ground (just enough to attach a wire and a hose clamp). Use a solution of 1 cup of Epsom Salts and 1 gallon of water poured on the ground where the rod is going in. Adding salts to the ground will increase ground conductivity. With this done attach a high gauge wire (18 to 24 gauge works best) to the rod with a hose clamp. Use an alligator clip or male plug to attach the other end of the wire to your radio.
My own project to make one of these antennas went this way: Found a piece of 4 ft. re-bar steel, the type used with small cement projects. I wet the soil around where I was going to drive the steel rod in to the soil till it was soft and muddy with the Epsom Salt and water solution. I then began driving the rod into the ground while still applying the Epsom Salt solution to the area around the rod, until the rod was only sticking out of the ground about 2 inches. Then I took a piece of 24 gauge wire from an old parallel port printer cable and attached the wire to the rod. On the other end I placed an alligator clip to attach to the on-board antenna of my Grundig YB 400 receiver.
With the antenna attached to the radio I was able to hear KFI radio broadcasting Coast to Coast A.M. with John B. Wells very clearly without the up and down signal strength that we were experiencing before without it. In the morning I tuned into the 20 meter band (14 MHZ ) with the standard antenna of the YB400 and was able to hear all the SSTV signals at a S3 to S4, then with the Tesla Ground Wave antenna attached the receive went up to S9+. Definitely worth the effort. It only took 15 minutes and most of the time was finding the stuff I needed like wire and re-bar.
Thanks to the electronics genius, Nicola Tesla, for an easy shortwave and AM receive antenna that costs near nothing. For troubleshooting, if the antenna does not have great receive strength, check that the wire connected to the ground rod has a clean surface and it is tight. Passing that test, check the ground conductivity with an ohm meter, or simply add more Epsom Salt and water to the area around the ground rod.
Happy SWL-ing! 73s and 88s!
Dan and Sheila are the authors of Surviving Survivalism – How to Avoid Survivalism Culture Shock and hosts of the free podcast, Still Surviving with Dan and Sheila, both available at http://survivingsurvivalism.com. For information about their survival community, or for other questions, they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .