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Vintage Radio

John de Haas and his Philips collection

By Rodney Champness

It’s always interesting to find out how fellow vintage radio collectors became involved in the hobby and started their collections. In some cases, it’s because they worked in radio or electronics as technicians and adopted the hobby as a natural extension of their professional expertise. On the other hand, many collectors had no interest in vintage radio until some incident sparked their curiosity.

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This view shows the three-part aluminium and Bakelite chassis of a Sierra 159X receiver which is currently undergoing restoration on John’s workbench.

In my case, it began when I was invited to a meeting of vintage radio enthusiasts, which I reluctantly agreed to attend. My interest at that stage was only lukewarm and I was really only interested in portable WWII military equipment. In short, I only wanted to deal with “real” radios such as complex military radio transceivers but after a few meetings, I very quickly became interested in collecting and restoring domestic radios.

One fellow enthusiast, John de Haas, has some rather special Philips receivers among his collection, many of them originating from Europe. His background is equally as interesting.

John’s introduction to vintage radio occurred back in 2003 when he was involved in winding up his late mother’s estate in Holland. Amongst the items left to him was a rather nice-looking Philips BX480A table receiver which was manufactured in 1939 (it’s shown in one of the photos). The receiver had a lot of appeal and a great deal of sentimental value, so he decided to bring it back to Australia.

John carefully packed the set so that it would not be damaged on the long journey but when it arrived, the cabinet had shattered into many pieces, the chassis was bent and several valves had broken. It was a huge disappointment and an indictment of the care taken by freight agents.

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Despite being badly damaged in transit, this 1939 Philips BX480A has now been restored to full working order. The restoration included extensive cabinet repairs and the manufacture of a new glass dial-scale.

After getting over his initial shock, John resolved that he would completely rebuild the receiver. And so the box of pieces was left on a shelf in the garage for a year until he eventually mustered the enthusiasm to start the mammoth job.

The challenge now was to turn the broken parts back into a recognisable receiver. John started with the cabinet and over the next four months, carefully glued the various pieces back together using two-part Araldite. These pieces were held together while the glue dried using Glad-Wrap covered boards and C-clamps, to ensure flat surfaces.

Eventually, the Bakelite cabinet was back in one piece but the glued joints looked terrible so it needed painting. And so, after a thorough sanding, the cabinet was spray painted good old Mission Brown. As John points out, it now looks OK but it’s no longer original which is a pity.

The dial scale was broken into many pieces too and it took John many hours of patient work to make a new one. In fact, repairing and making dial-scales is a task that John has well and truly mastered. He has since reproduced dial scales for several of his other sets and they are virtually indistinguishable from the original items.

In fact, his technique for reproducing dial-scales may form part of an article later on. His method is quite practical but like many such undertakings, it does take time to do.

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