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Restoration - New life out of a busted 1930's radio conversion

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Picture of Restoration - New life out of a busted 1930's radio  conversion
First of all let me point out that this $35.00 Western Royal console radio was broken, and in my assessment would cost more to repair than to convert into a classy good sounding radio.

I was at my local thrift store a few months ago and saw this radio, its case was not in too bad a shape, but when plugged in nothing happened. I talked them down to 35 bucks, and loaded it up. When I got it home and took the frame out of it, it was apparent that it had been on fire, and that most of the point to point soldered electronics were cooked. I then researched how much a fully functional one would be and perfect ones go for about 300.00 bucks.

So I decided to modernize it, but keep the old look, and make the old controls work a new radio. It needed a full make over and a revamp of everything. The original parts are the knobs, case, metal frame, dial and bezel. 

After its conversion its an AM/FM radio with MP3 player, with Bose bookshelf speakers and 150 watts of power. 

This instructable cannot cover all radio conversions for all models of radio's, but is a good starting point, its also a complicated build requiring you to think on your feet and come up with your own solutions, I will give you all the information I can. 

On to parts and supplies:

 
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acronus.3 months ago

Just did a similar project a few Months ago. The radio was a 1950 Eatons Viking in very rough shape. The original tube amp and speaker were toast and the cabinet veneer was flaking and water damaged at the bottom. It's now fitted with a 35 watt PA amp and a pair or JBL bookshelf speakers. Hookup is via 3.5mm headphone jack. The left knob used to control Power/Volume. It's just for power now. The right know used to control tuning, it 's now the volume.

On it's own, it sound ok, but when used in conjunction with a small powered sub, it sounds impressive and really surprises people the first time they hear it.

Total invested into it:

$20 for the radio

$25 for the amp

$20 for the speakers

$40 for the sub

$30 for sand paper, stain, wire, glue, etc

Total $135

Pretty much all sourced from Thrift Stores and Salvation Army.

Video of it finished https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypg7pTJmNf0&list=UUGafiKt4ukQ0-YPON34eQ5Q

jandrews211 year ago
I have a Philco 40-160 that I want to modernize but I have little to no experience with electrical wiring. I need to replace everything. I plan on only replacing the one speaker and not two, so do I need an amplifier of this size? And is there a cheaper radio that will work for me? My budget isn't as high as yours might have been seeing that I am in college. THanks for your tutorial! It has helped a lot thus far!
nickademuss (author)  jandrews211 year ago
Many radio/amp selections will work, Sony makes a great $20 radio, and I used the small pyle amp just to save space, I also wanted the thing to be very loud, try the thrift store for radio's and amps, you can always cut the cases down on an old analog receiver....
indian7412 years ago
Awesome Project ,
I did kind of the same thing , slight diffrent .

Took a philips BX610A , picked it up @ a yard sale for 20 bucks
It was still working , so i kept the inside .
Bought 2 Bose 101's , small but very awesome speakers.
Bought a quality 2x25 watt amp for 120 bucks ,
Ipod dock @ the top and a build in power suppley
@ the back its just a plug and play system.

Urs looks brand new , awesome , but i like the old / worn look better
And it sounds like bose shut , Awesome !!!
nickademuss (author)  indian7412 years ago
I like the worn look as well, but this was way to worn looking for me....
I found a wireless iphone dock that I am thinking of working into this one, right now the jukebox mode of the MP3 player works great, talk radio on AM/FM gets used allot as well.

Bose sure makes good speakers, mine are over 15 years old and they still rock!
robot7972 years ago
i was crying so hard when i saw that
MURDERER

YOU KILLED A RADIO
YOU KILLED HISTORY

but on the other hand nice work revurbishing

(what did you do with the tubes?)
nickademuss (author)  robot7972 years ago
LOL,

Ebay is were the tubes went, and read the instructable, I revived and improved a broken radio, sounds great to, its the life of the party!
even if it is broken it is fixable
if they are fixed they can go on up to 50 years
now it onle can 10 max
nickademuss (author)  robot7972 years ago
Anything is fixable, and 50 years would be nice for any piece of equipment, if mine breaks in ten years, i will fix it, I do have a degree in electronics (-;

and I wont have to worry about finding parts to make a just a AM radio work.
cincygeek2 years ago
Great `ible! Add me to the list of those who are currently working on a similar project. Found the console on the curb at a neighboor's house on garbage day, so rescued it. I got the cabinet restored already, it came out looking really nice. The radio has all the tubes tested/replaced, and I'm halfway through the re-cap, but no luck yet. My plan B is to replace the guts as you did, I'll keep you updated. Would be interested to know what you did to replace the "magic eye", looks like you inserted an LED? Thanks for sharing!
nickademuss (author)  cincygeek2 years ago
Thanks cincy!

Yes, this radio had the magic eye station strength indicator, it was one of the tubes that sold well online...

I replaced it with a piece of plastic and extended the Kloss's LED, I just extended the wires, a drop of super glue is holding the LED in the plastic, and double face tape holds the plastic to the back side of the radio's dial. This is so I can remove it should I change the design, I would like to make a digital equivalent to the magic eye.
Well done. A very nice project for anyone who wants a vintage look but with modern electronics. I'm glad you said to do some research because some old radios could be valuable.
Your old new radio turned out great.
Servelan2 years ago
We've been thinking of doing this very thing, and while my DH is expert at all things electronics, I will make sure he has this on hand when we start in on one so he has all your tips available, especially for the cabinet (oh, wait...the cabinet's my job). Beautiful work! Glad to see someone else appreciates these old radios like we do. : )
SolidRaven2 years ago
Nice project. I didn't actually think about doing it like that when I did something similar. I've  kept some parts of the old radio intact. The amplifier I wanted for the pre amplifier for the valve sound cause the characteristics are hard to replicate without DSP and I didn't feel like designing a DSP board for this. Did make a few modifications though.

Replaced the old power supply that doubles as heater with an efficient switch mode supply. This also reduced the weight and actually cleaned up the sound cause the oscillation that originated from the power supply is gone. Contrary to popular believe this does not affect the audio quality. The switching frequency of the supply was in a different range than any of the amplifiers so it was easy enough to filter it out.
Put in a new speaker with roughly the same characteristics cause the old one started to show aging.
Replaced the power amplifier stage with a D-class amplifier cause the old power stage was about as efficient as a hamster running in a wheel is at power generation.
FM tuner went as well cause its frequency setting was heavily temperature dependant (I was able to switch radio station by leaving the doors and windows open for a few minutes).

Though cause most of the parts were somewhat of my own design it did fit quite well. If anybody needs help doing something similar to what I did feel free to contact me and I'll see if I can find a bit of time to help :)
nickademuss (author)  SolidRaven2 years ago
Thanks!

I to considered using the at least the preamp section of the radio, but its far to damaged, I love the tube sound thats for sure!

Too bad, what was wrong with it?
nickademuss (author)  SolidRaven2 years ago
I would say it had a nice nest of mice under the frame and someone plugged it in and turned it on.... lots of burned up stuff, and a paper grass mixture of stuff that I guess was nest material. Thats OK, its used allot now, the Kloss receiver is very good.
Yeah, that tends to go badly with valve amplifiers.
Topcat20212 years ago
That is a beautiful radio and a wonderful job you did on the restoration/modification.
I would love to do something like this but I don't have a radio that size, I have 2 old tube style radios (table top models) with the Bakelite cases but I don't want to modify them as they both work (all original parts) they don't get used except as conversation pieces. I have been looking for years for a nice older radio like you found and I may find one someday.
Again wonderful job and very clever solutions to the problems encountered.
I wish you many years of enjoyment
Dan
nickademuss (author)  Topcat20212 years ago
Thanks a bunch Dan!

Keep an eye out for a good old radio, thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales...
THey are out there and allot of them are in bad shape, electronically.
Most shops done have a tube tester and if they do they have no idea how it works.
Also so many components just go bad sitting there.

To me the soul of the radio is the case, knobs, and dials.... Save those and you keep the radio alive!


I have a similar project in mind to do someday. Last year I was helping clean out an abandoned building and I found a nice looking 8-track player. I don't know if it works or not. (The power cord has been cut for some reason).

Originally I thought it would be an awesome custom PC case. Now I might update the interior parts instead. Thanks for the inspiration!
nickademuss (author)  skittlespider2 years ago
I also have an old 8 track player/radio, I am currently thinking about making it into a very retro Iphone dock, the hard part will be getting the phone into the old 8 track slot without damaging it... I will have to ponder that one.
JKPieGuy2 years ago
You should be careful cause allot of old electronics usually contain "Asbestos" and you kinda did a chinky job on the back, but I really like how you restored an old radio and all that and other than that you did a really good job.
nickademuss (author)  JKPieGuy2 years ago
Your correct about the asbestos, used in the Tube heat insulation, this one didnt have any, as it was originally an all open back unit, with no covering at all, so it was air cooled, no sealed back....

The current one, looks allot better and keeps the cat out the electronics...

Thanks for looking!
kenbob2 years ago
Love this. I have this old radio and you got me thinking..... will post if if rebuild.
nickademuss (author)  kenbob2 years ago
Thanks !

I always wanted to do this, but hadn't found the right radio, Id like to convert a table top one, when I find one at the right price.
What a beautiful find. Not to mention a clever remake.
I have, well rather my parents have this old box style wooden stereo with prop up lid probably some time from the 70's. It has a record player, places to hook up mic’s and of course an a track player. The stereo part works great. I even hooked up a video game system up a few times for the sound.
Maybe it might end up in a similar manner. ;)