How To Get Internet With A Tin Can

Let’s face it… it’s 2017, we’re obsessed with our mobile devices, computers, and laptops, and we’ll do just about anything to get internet wherever we go.

To be fair, we want to stay connected, we want to be up on the latest news, and we want to stay informed. (We also want to watch cat videos, look up our exes on Facebook friends, and play mindless games while waiting for something better to do. But that’s besides the point.)

It’s obvious that now, more than ever, the world is crazy for that Wi-Fi connection. However, what’s terrifying to many of us (particularly if you’re from a younger generation) is that, in a SHTF situation, this Wi-Fi connection we love so much is going to be long gone.

…Right?!

Maybe not. Through doing some research, I’ve discovered that it may be easier than most of us think to gain internet (or at least signal), even in a survival situation.

And the crazy thing is, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) than you’d think to do so.

Keep in mind that, although this hack is useful, it’s not like you can (or should) just ditch your router right now. (Sorry, those internet bills are going to have to stay for the time being.)

However, if you’re between a rock and a hard place, this nifty little hack could not just brighten your day, but it could even help you survive and get saved.

Well, enough talking. Here’s what you need to know…

How To Get Internet With A Tin Can

1. Building the “Cantenna”

Essentially what you’re going to be building is an antenna by using a tin can and a bunch of other small parts. For this reason, the invention has been charmingly nicknamed the “cantenna.”

All you have to do is gather the parts, cut/drill holes in the can, and then put the probe together and mount the can. Simple, right?

Well, let’s get to work! This is how to do it according to Ask A Prepper:

You’ll need:

  • A N-Female chassis mount connector
  • Four small nuts and bolts
  • A bit of thick wire
  • A can

The Connector:

Picture courtesy of Ask A Prepper

A N type Female Chassis mount 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 wire. These can be found at electronics stores internet suppliers (see the list below under “Connect your antenna…” If you shop around, you should be able to find these for $3-$5).

Nuts & Bolts

You’ll need them just long enough to go through the connector and the can. I’ve used #6×1/4″ stainless. If your N-connector is a screw on type, then you won’t need the nuts and bolts.

Wire

You’ll need about 1.25″ of 12 gauge copper wire. This wire will stick into the brass stub in the N-connector.

the tin cans

Picture courtesy of Ask A Prepper

A Can

This is the fun part. You’re looking for a can between about 3″ and 3 2/3″ in diameter. The size doesn’t have to be exact. I made a good antenna with a Nalley’s “Big Chunk” Beef Stew can that was 3.87″ in diameter. Others have reported good results with big 39 oz. coffee cans that are 6″ in diameter. The Pringles can is really too small for good performance, however. Try to get as long a can as possible. The old fashioned fruit juice cans should work well.

2. Drill or Punch Holes in Your Can to Mount the Probe

drill holes tin can

Picture courtesy of Ask A Prepper

The N-connector assembly will mount in the side of your can. You need to put holes in the right place to mount the connector. The placement of the hole and connect is very important. It’s location is derived from formulas that use the frequency that the antenna will operate at and the can diameter. To make life easy on you, here’s a calculator to figure it out for you.

Can Diameter

802.11b and 802.11g WiFi networking equipment operates at a range of frequencies from 2.412 GHz to 2.462 GHz. Ideally, with your can size, the TE11 cut-off frequency should be lower than 2.412 and the TM01 cut-off should be higher than 2.462. It would be good, also, if your can is longer than the 3/4 Guide Wavelength. If your can is a little off in length or diameter, don’t despair, experimentation is fun!

You want to mark the location on the can where you will put the hole for the connector. The 1/4 Guide Wavelength number tells you how far up from the bottom metal end of the can to put the center of the hole. Open only one end of your can, eat the contents, and give it a good washing. You’ll probably want to remove the label too. Use a ruler to measure up from the closed end 1/4 Guide Wavelength and mark the can with a dot.

If you’ve got a drill, select a bit that matches the size of the center of your connector. You may want to start with a small bit and work the hole larger and larger. You could even start with a hammer and nail, then use drill bits. If you don’t have a drill, start with a nail hole and use a file to get the hole to the required size. If you’re using a bolt on connector, make four more holes for the bolts – you can use the connector as a drilling guide.

3. Assemble the Probe and Mount in Can

tin can and connectors

Picture courtesy of Ask A Prepper

Now you’ll need that bit of wire. You’ll need a soldering iron or a friend with one as well. Cut the wire so that when it is stuck in the connector as shown, the total length of both the brass tube and wire sticking out past the connector is 1.21″. Get as close to this length as you can.

When you’ve got your wire correctly sized, solder it into the connector keeping it as straight and upright as you can. When it’s cooled, bolt or screw the assembly into your can. Put the heads of the bolts inside the can and the nuts on the outside to minimize the obstructions in your antenna. You’re done!

Connect your antenna to your wireless card or access point

To use your cantenna, you’ll need a special cable commonly called a “Pig Tail”. The pig tail connects your wireless card or access point to your antenna. One end of the cable will have a “N” Male connector (just right for connecting your cantenna), while the other end will have a connector appropriate to your card or access point.

You’ll want to have a wireless NIC or access point with an external antenna connector. Otherwise, you may have to hack into the one you have to hook up the cable. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re good with a soldering iron and electronics. For this reason, I like the Agere Orinoco cards which have a nice antenna connector. Pig tails can be hand made if you have the right tools, but it’s probably easier to get a pre-made one. Try:

  • Fleeman Anderson & Bird
  • Fleeman Anderson & Bird has a “cantenna kit” for sale that includes the connector and pig tail. Choose one of the “cables” links from the menu and look towards the bottom of the list.
  • Hyperlinktech
  • Antenna Systems
tin can wifi antenna

Picture courtesy of Ask A Prepper

Hook up your cable, point the antenna at a friend’s, and see how far you can stretch your network.

This antenna has linear polarization. That means how you rotate the antenna will affect the strength of your signal. Usually, you will want to put the connection straight down, but experiment with rotating the can while watching the signal strength on your PC to get the best performance.

 

Well there you have it… an easy, cheap, and reliable way to get an internet connection in an emergency situation. Pretty cool, huh? Just for fun I wanted to see what other ways you could use a tin can… and it turns out you can use these for a lot more uses than just improving your WiFi. Better yet, these are incredibly handy for other uses in a survival situation!

Watch the video below to figure out how to recycle these cans to make something better, rather than just taking them to the dump:

 

Also, it turns out you can use other types of cans (not just tin) to improve and strengthen your WiFi speed. For example, I found an interesting, short video on how to make this happen by using a simple soda can. Take a look:

More of a beer drinker? That’s no problem – it turns out you can boost your WiFi once you’ve consumed your favorite hoppy beverage. You can learn how to reuse the can (and perfect your WiFi) by watching the short video below:

Well, I hope this information was useful to you, and that you learned how to increase your survival preparedness by using a cheap tin can! Make the information worthwhile by stocking up on these shiny survival tools and putting them in your bug out bag, survival kit and/or camping supplies.

Remember, by doing everything you can to Prepare Now, you have way better chances to Survive Later!

1 Response
  • E. Marlene Osborn Westergren
    May 7, 2017

    This reminds me of life in the mid 50s, when we could not afford an antenna for TV reception. My husband hooked up our TV to an “antenna” made from coat hangers suspended from attic. Worked just great. I’ve never been more proud!