How to Build a Coaxial Cable Signal Strength Meter

Written by alexander rudinski
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How to Build a Coaxial Cable Signal Strength Meter
Once used to carry cable television, coaxial cables are now most often used to provide high-speed Internet. (Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Durable and reliable, coaxial cable has been the mainstay for providing homes with cable television since the mid-twentieth century. In today's world of digital television, coaxial cable now sees more use in connecting homes with high-speed cable Internet. These cables are made up of a wound copper core covered by a thick layer of insulation, terminating in a screw-on pin that connects to the female coaxial input on your device. When you have trouble with the cables, the best way to check them is with a signal meter, which is a simple device that you can build at home -- as long as you have some knowledge of electronics.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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  1. 1

    Warm your soldering iron by plugging it in and waiting a few minutes.

  2. 2

    Lay out the circuit as depicted in the schematic in the References section. As you can see, the circuit requires three capacitors, two op-amps, two resistors, an integrated chip (74HC4040) and 16-gauge wire to connect all the components.

  3. 3

    Solder all the components together as depicted in the schematic. It is easy to install the components on a breadboard to keep them from shitting and possibly shorting when you move the device.

  4. 4

    Attach the completed tester to a BNC tee, which will allow you to connect the device to the other components.

  5. 5

    Connect your oscilloscope to one arm of the BNC tee.

  6. 6

    Attach the cable under test to the other arm of the BNC tee.

  7. 7

    Look at the oscilloscope reading. If you see a square waveform, the cable is shorted. If you see a waveform with multiple steps to it, the cable is functioning properly. Refer to the schematic in the References section to see examples of these wave forms.

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