Crystal Radio
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Crystal Radio Trouble Shooting Page

Here are a few tips to check on. These are common mistakes or problems.

We’ll start with the most common problems and work down.


1)  Is it long enough? It should be at least 50 feet or so. If it’s only 40 feet, don’t worry try it anyway. It will probably be OK.

2) Is it high enough?  Should be up as high as you can get, but be safe. Don’t get near electrical lines etc. Min. would be 8 or 10 feet and still work. I’ve even seen them thrown out the window and just hanging there and work. It will depend on how close and strong your radio stations are .

Make sure your antenna is not “grounded out”. That is, no part of the antenna (bare wire) is touching anything like a fence or tree. This will “ground out” the antenna.


     The other part of the antenna system is the ground. This can be a water pipe or a rod pounded in the ground. If you use a water pipe, make sure your water pipes are not PVC which is a plastic. If you pound a rod in the ground, it will need to be at least 4 or 5 feet deep. Another ground is the screw in the middle of a plug in the wall outlet, but the outlet must be a grounded type to work.



1)  Did you strip the insulation off the ends of the wires before connecting them?

2)  Did you remove the insulation off the wires at the “Taps”. The Taps are where the alligator clip connect on to
     the coil?

I know this sounds too simple to be true, but some of us out there know nothing about electrical properties so…….we will check.



1)  Are all your connections sound? Metal to metal!!!

2)  Are they correct? Check them 3 or 4 times at least. This is the most common error and sometimes the
      hardest to find!


Coil Windings- 

1)  Did you wind the right amount of winding on the coil?

2)  Are they fairly tight to one another. You can’t “scatter wind” the coils. One wind neatly along the side of the   


Now for the real problems. The rest of the components. That would be the 1) earphone, 2) the diode, 3) and the resistor.

The “Earphone"-

     Here the most common mistake is to take an earphone from Radio Shack or a set of headphones or “ear buds” from a regular radio and try to use them. Without getting into a big technical explanation, you can’t use them. It must be a “crystal” earphone. Some times called a “ceramic” earphone. They are much more sensitive than stereo earphones or ear buds. You can test your earphones buy removing them from the radio and putting the earphone in your ear. Next take the two wire ends of the cable coming out of the earphone and tap them together a few times. You should hear a “clicking” sound. This is how sensitive they are. DO NOT USE A BATTERY TO TEST THEM. This will mess them up. I have seen lots of earphones brand new that did not work.


    The most common mistake here is that you used too small of a resistor here. In other words the values of the ristor is less than 47,000 ohms (47k). The resistor bands should be yellow, purple, orange with a gold or silver band last. Using a resistor of lesser value will “short out” the radio and it will not function. You can also leave out the resistor and it will work, just not as good.

Diode- (most look like they are made from glass, with one black band)

    This is almost impossible for a beginner to check without a meter of some kind. If you have a meter that reads “continuity”, then put the diode on it and it should read in one direction, but if the diode is turned around it will not read. If you don’t have a meter all you can do is try and replace it.

    Second most common mistake with the diode is… It has to be a germanium diode to work. A silicon diode used in power configurations will not work (well, not very well).


    This radio has been made by hundreds of people and it has worked. Sometimes after a mistake is found, but it will work.

    I hate to say this, but maybe you don’t have a radio station close buy. If you are in the middle of farm country and no station are near you (more than 100 miles) you might not be able to pick up any thing with this set. 99.999% of the time this is not the case.

    If you are still having problems, email me. Maybe I have a part or so that you can have and try……or ask questions at “Tap N Tap” at

They have a beginner’s forum that is great!!

Crystal Radio
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