Survival Radios: DIY Radio #2 – Three Penny Radio


Another GI Survival radio is called the Three Penny Radio. It is a simple radio to build that is easy to conceal. It is perfect for those times when you need a simple radio but do not want it publicized that you have it. I love this design because it is simple. The only drawback to this construction is that it requires to solder some parts, this can be accomplished though through a hot fire if you do not have a soldering iron. You will still need some lead solder though.

Supplies list: 3 shiny Pennies, a tuning coil (this can be built in two ways look at the end for notes), (1) MK 484 AM Integrated Circuit, a tuning capacitor, a 100,000 ohm resistor, a 1000 ohm resistor, a 0.01 microfarad capacitor, 2 0.1 microfarad capacitors, a 1.5 volt power source.


Step #1 – Take the three pennies, and solder the MK 484 to the three pennies.

Step #2 – Solder the Variable Capacitor to the Bottom Penny

Step #3 – Take the capacitor marked “.01 M” or “103” and connect it to the middle connector of the variable capacitor and the right penny.


Step #4 – Next connect the 100,000 ohm resistor to the middle of the variable capacitor to the left penny.


Step #5 – Solder the 0.1 Microfarad capacitor to the top two pennies.


Step #6 – Connect the ear piece one wire to the 1000 ohm resistor and the other wire to the 0.1 Microfarad capacitor.


Step #7 – Solder the resistor to the top left penny.


Step #8 – Solder the Red (Positive Wire) to the capacitor and the black (negative) wire to the top right penny.


Step #9 – Now solder the left wire from the coil to the left leg of the capacitor and the right wire from the coil to the middle leg of the variable capacitor.

Congratulations you now have a functional Three Penny Radio.

Notes: (1) There are multiple types of coils you can create to make this radio, the most common type of coil is the ferrite coil which allows for the changing of tuning. If you choose not to make a ferrite coil you will need to create a tuner.


(2) Using a battery for the power source is great, however if you do not have a battery then you can create your own battery. There are several methods. Look at my website category Tools of the Trade to learn different methods.


13 responses to “Survival Radios: DIY Radio #2 – Three Penny Radio

    • It does need a ground like all electronics. It can pick up other transmission sources, however it is unlikely that you will find other transmission sources, like FM, because the power you are working with is very low. Also this type of radio is also known as a Ion Bouncer. This means that it can pick up signals bounced off of the Ionosphere. This is handy because it means you can pick up radio signals from thousands of miles away depending on your location.

  1. by the way iam in the process of building the three penny radio and i have got all the components except the mk 484 And The Tuning Capacitor.And One More Thing Can I Use Any Type Which Looks Like Mk 484.

    • The volume is going to be relatively low. you can buy a bigger crystal diode or you can use a battery and create an amplifier for sound, however there is only so much you can do. With crystal diodes it is hard to get much volume when you are building a small system like the three penny. I will continue researching though and get back to you if I find a better solution or a new way to build it to get more volume.
      -Todd Out

  2. I Have Built It But I Must Connet To The Ground Wire So That I Can Listen To It How Can I Improve It So That I Can Walk With The Radio Anywhere.

    • This type of radio is not a mobile radio. It is designed to be small and portable but deployed when you need it. I suppose you could ground the circuit and create a completely closed circuit however I myself have not done this. If you have, by all means send me the info and I will post it for everyone. Good thinking, and good hunting.
      -Todd Out

  3. Well after researching this radio more and more you do not have to have to attach a ground wire. The battery should close the circuit completely, however a problem I have learned about is that the pennies themselves can cause interference. They need to be clean and as corrosion free as possible. Also the frequencies that they typically pick up are non used frequencies or reserved frequencies. If you hear static you are doing it right however if you pick on a slight signal but it is not strong then you simply just need more power to boost your range until you find a signal.
    I hope this helps.

      • You don’t have to but it helps. The cleaner the penny the better off you are. Sometimes tarnish on the penny can prevent the radio from operating properly.

      • First Off I want to commend you on your hard work. I can tell you have put in some major time into this project. So Props to you.

        Now since I can not physically see your radio I can only give speculation as to what the problem is. So I need to ask are you using a Piezoelectric earphone?

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