I've often wondered how kids nowadays, can get interested in electronics.  I built my first radio when I was eight years old.  From the time I first heard voices coming out of my earphones I was hooked.  One of the reasons radio was so interesting was the vacuum tube.  You could imagine the electrons wandering from the cathode to the plate, with the grid waving them on like a traffic cop.  And when you first turned a new creation on, there was the soft glow of the filament.  Often that was all that happened, but at least you had the glow.  How can one get excited about holes migrating around inside a piece of silicon.  No light, no heat, no fun.  There is nothing you can visualize, no self designed theories that you can apply to your designs and have them work in spite of the fact that they were completely wrong.  Also there was the danger.  Nothing like getting knocked off the stool by the 300 volt B+ supply.  How can one's adrenalin be stirred with a puny five volts.

So now I have the nostalgia based drive to collect and restore old vacuum tube radios.  I prefer those from the 20's, since most of the parts from which I built my first radios in the forties, were extracted from old 1920's radios.  When the neighbors discover that a kid on the block likes radio, he gets all the discarded stuff he can handle.   Maybe some of my interest in restoring radios is out of guilt for dismantling those wonderful old wooden and bakelite masterpieces.    

The main problem with collecting antique radios is finding room to display them. You rescue a decrepit looking hulk from the dumpster, apply large quantities of TLC to return it to it's glorious original condition, and then..........where do you put it.  So now I have to be very selective since I'm just about out of space.   But since the web has  unlimited space, here are a few treasures:

Just click on the thumbnails to see the Big picture.

This little guy, Arvin Model 444A, was discovered at a garage sale.  It was priced at $1.00.   I picked it up and happened to mention that the line cord appeared to be bad.  The price was immediately reduced to 50 cents.  I parted with two quarters and after replacing the line cord and a filter capacitor, it was again playing.

Here is a beautiful Atwater Kent Model 20C.  There are quite a few of these around, but here is one that will brush against your leg as you enter the room.

  I bought this radio, Emerson Model 505, only because it is identical to the one that resided on my night stand when I was a child.  The plastic dial cover was twisted and rather opaque.  I thought it would be easy to get a piece of plastic and mold it into the right shape.  I couldn't find any suitable plastic and finally had to get it at a wholesale supplier.  It only came in 4 x 8 foot sheets.  (Does anyone need any plastic.)  After making a wooden mold and heating the plastic in the oven I was successful in coming pretty close to the original.   It works great but for some reason I don't hear "The Lone Ranger" or "I Love A Mystery" on it anymore.

  A Freshman Masterpiece that I just thought was interesting.  It needs a little restoration but I haven't gotten to it yet.

This is another interesting radio, a Freed Eisemann Model FE-15.  The cabinet, especially the top, is a little distressed but I think I'll leave it as it is.

This Day Craft 5 with a Day Fan Type 5049 Chassis, was discovered in a surplus shop in Nevada.  The grill cloth had been replaced with a piece of flowered upholstery fabric.  The wooden grill was badly warped and when removed it disintegrated.  But there was enough left to serve as a template so a new one was created.

Here is a before and after display.  An Erla Model S-51 that I bought only because it was in such bad shape.  I thought it deserved a loving touch and here is the result.

And another before and after, a Silvertone Model R1591.  This radio was given to me as a gift, it pays to be known as a collector. It took a handful of electrolytic capacitors and a lot of sanding and finishing but the result was worth it.



And yet another before and after, a Belmont Model 571 Series A.  Also received as gift it kept me in the garage for several days which included making a new window and fixing the clock.  But now it plays and keeps time.

And then there are the very large radios, real space hogs.  But they look so nice.  This Howard Nuetrodyne, Model A with a Rola speaker required that I buy a special table to set it on, just to do it justice.  This beauty  is one of the reasons that I have to cut down on new acquisitions.

This radio, an Airline, found in an old radio service shop in Nevada.  When it arrived it was in very poor shape.  The case was broken into four pieces and I had to fish though the packing materials to find all of the small parts that made up the dial and tuning assembly. The piece of bakelite that belonged between the second and third pushbutton was missing. However glue and bondo, purchased from a auto repair shop, saved the day and the radio.  After reassembly and replacement of the filter capacitor it came to life. The only thing wrong with it is a very dim tuning eye.  I'll replace it when I find one.

Here is a Radiola 17 which was shipped in from Canada. It had a GE Canada label on bottom but there underneath was the RCA sticker. When it arrived I noticed a distinct rattle when I tipped the box.  Upon opening it up I found that all of the tubes had come out of their sockets and were bouncing around in the cabinet. To my amazement all checked out OK and when reinserted the radio worked fine. It now resides in my office.

This Zenith Transoceanic Model L600, was found in a barn in Nevada.  You could hardly tell what it was, it was so dirty. Someone had partially disassembled it, however most of the parts were laying inside the cabinet. After a good cleaning, assembly and some work on a bad power switch it looked a lot better. When the tubes were checked only one was bad.  It was the 1L6 of course.  After a search on ebay I finally found one and now it's safe in my study and working just fine on all bands.

I found this Dewald Model C 800 in an antique store.  The only thing wrong with it was the usual bad filter capacitor.  It still needs a little cleaning but it's down the list.


My first communications receiver was a Hallicrafters Model S-38B.  It was purchased with months of paper route savings.  The radio disappeared about 35 years ago and nostalgia drove me to replace it.  I found this one on ebay.  It didn't work due to five bad capacitors.  Replacing the capacitors and a broken dial cord returned it to full operating condition.       

This is the oldest radio in my limited collection, A Radiola III.  Here we delight in squelching the squeals of a  regenerative receiver.  The original tubes have been replaced with X99's using the appropriate adaptor sockets.


And just to prove that I have no theme, here is a Wireless Set No. 19.  I got this radio when I was a teenager.  I was able to build a power supply out of parts from an old Philco radio.  I don't remember who gave it to me but it was explained that it was built in Canada, to put in a British tank to send to the USSR during WWII.  Therefore it has both English and Russian nomenclature. There is a entire website devoted to this radio, if you wish to visit here it is: http://www.qsl.net/ve3bdb/  

This is a Silvertone Model 6177A, sold in 1939.  I wanted this one because it is the earliest radio I remember as a child.  My father had built a shelf over the kitchen table, and on it was placed this radio.  As a small child I thought that the shelf had magical powers because of the voices and music that seemed to come from it.  The radio came with us when we moved to California and again was placed  in the Kitchen.  There it provided entertainment when it was my turn to do the dishes.  After a four year quest I finally found one and here it is.

In a moment of weakness I decided that it would be fun to try to collect all six versions of the Hallicrafters S-38 receivers.  I already had the S38-B, as I described above, so all I had do do is get the original member of the series, the S-38, and then find the A, C, D and E.  So on I went and the next one I found was the S38-C shown here.  It was in pretty good shape and worked well after replacing the filter capacitors and the dial lamp.

This one, the Hallicrafters S-38 is the first of the series, and it looked it when I found it.  It was covered with layers of dirt both inside and out. Someone had replaced some of the capacitors, with the wrong values, and had splashed solder all over.  Several leads had been replaced and one was not soldered at all.  The multi-value filter capacitor, which was in a metal can, was wrapped in a plastic bag and stuffed under the chassis.  After replacing the bad parts and two tubes it began working on all bands.   It was interesting comparing this unit to later versions.  There was a measure of value engineering at first and then small improvements in performance. 

This beauty, the S-38E, was in perfect condition, both physically and electrically. All I had to do is plug it in and listen to the world.  Loud and clear on all bands.  It looks like Hallicrafters kept modifying the S-38 until it was decided that they finally had a compromise between a strictly Ham radio and one that could sit on a living room table.   

And here we have an S-38DM.  Thinking there were only six versions of the Hallicrafters S-38 when I started collecting them,  I forgot that the D and E came in different colors.  So if I am going to get all versions I also have to get a representative of each cabinet style ....Seems it never ends.

Here is the Hallicrafters S-38D with the original gray hammertone finish.  This finish was very popular in the fifties and was used on a wide variety of electronic equipment.  At the Rocketdyne field laboratory in Santa Susana California, all of the special instrumentation equipment developed there and used in the rocket engine test facilities was painted either silver or gray hammertone. 

And of course the mahogany version of the Hallicrafters S-38E (S-38EM) had to be included, so here is another addition to the endless quest. 

And finally the blond version, the S-38EB.  Now we're getting a long way from the ham radio.  What self respecting ham would put a blond communications receiver in his station.

Well, here is the last one found to complete my Hallicrafters S-38 collection, the S-38A.  Except for the finish, which is smooth rather than black wrinkle it looks the same as the S-38B.  So unless there is another version of one of the S-38 models sporting another color, I will have to find some other item to chase after.

I had to add the Lafayette HE-10 for obvious reasons...look at the dial.  This one is actually a KT-200 which is the kit form of the HE-10.  Although it looks a lot like the Hallicrafters S-38, it's a much different radio.  When I got this radio it wasn't working, but with the usual capacitor replacements it is now in full working order. 

Here we have an Airline GEM 1747A.  Not the same vintage as the radios above, but still interesting.  Uses vacuum tubes mounted on a PC board.  Some might consider that sacrilege but hey, crossover had to happen.