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Vintage Radio

Deadly equipment and difficult faults can present real challenges when restoring vintage radio gear. Sometimes, you just have to say "no" to a set that's just too dangerous to use unless it's correctly modified.

by Rodney Champness

GENERALLY, we expect a vintage radio to be intrinsically safe due to its inherent design and as a result of either careful restoration or proper maintenance throughout its life.

Of course, if we are restoring an old set to working order, then nothing can be taken for granted. In fact, it is only to be expected that some faults may have developed in the set, particularly if it has been stored for many years in a garage or shed in less than perfect conditions.

In particular, equipment that’s been attacked by rodents and various creepy crawlies will need careful attention to ensure a successful (and safe) restoration. This same goes if the set has been subjected to damp, dusty and hot/cold conditions.

I have seen pictures of receivers that have been restored from absolute wrecks to pristine condition by dedicated enthusiasts. However, when the ravages of time and storage inadequacies have taken their toll, it is time to sit down and determine whether restoration really is worth the effort.

Of course, an extremely rare piece of equipment will be well worth it, provided it isn’t like grandad’s axe. You’ve probably heard the saying – it’s had five new handles and three new heads but it’s still grandad’s original axe!

Well hardly and the same applies to rare vintage radios if the parts aren’t original or, at least, the correct replacements.

If only a few parts of a set are recoverable, will it really be a genuine restoration or just a replica that happens to use some original parts? Not that there’s really anything wrong with replicas. They are sometimes the only way of showing us how technology achieved things in times gone by.

Making the assessment

Assuming that the power cord itself is OK, the first thing to do when assessing whether an AC-powered radio is worth restoring is to check the power transformer. There are a couple of tests that will quickly reveal whether a power transformer has withstood the ravages of time. But first, if the set has been stored in a damp location, it’s worthwhile heating the chassis with the transformer still attached in a kitchen oven at around 50-60°C for a few hours. 

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