Rescue a Vintage TV Cabinet





Introduction: Rescue a Vintage TV Cabinet

I picked up this old television at a flea market.  You have to be really careful with these ancient televisions.  These sets carry a lot of voltage, however  it's not necessarily  the voltage that kills you, but the brick wall that the shock throws you through!  ThisTV chassis was too old, rusty, and too dangerous to restore, but the cabinet looked promising.  

I know folks have converted these old cabinets into many different things -- storage cabinets, aquariums, sterio cabinets, and such, but I wanted it to still function as a television.  I figured it would be neat to watch old movies on a vintage looking tv,  so I decided to gut this cabinet and place a more modern television inside.  This turned out to be a fairly simple project, and was completed in one afternoon.

The supplies I used included:

- 3 feet of 2x6 lumber
- 1 small older tv that I already had
- an RF modulator (so I could hook a dvd player to the tv)
- miscellanous pieces of scrap wood
- hot glue
- wood screws
- cleaners & disinfectants
- various scratch removers

Tools required were:

- screwdrivers
- electric drill & bit
- skill saw
- hot glue gun

Step 1: Disassemble the Beast

The first thing I did was snip off the main electrical wire.  I figured this would keep me from being tempted to plug this thing in.  Rat urine apparently had corroded the power supply, the main transformer, and many of the electrical components beneath the chassis.  This chassis was shot, but I will probably salvage a few items from it and try to find a rebuilder who might want the picture tube.

Removing the chassis was easy.  I took off the remaining knob (it was missing all the others), removed the back, removed four bolts from underneath the cabinet, unplugged the speaker, and slid this 50 pound beast out onto the floor (photo 1).  I cleaned out about a pound of rat droppings from the case, then cleaned the inside with disinfectant.

With the chassis removed, I now had basically a hollow box (photo 2).

I then removed the four screws holding the speaker and the four screws holding the front lens and  began attacking the outside of the case with cleaners and scratch removers.  The top and sides of the case were made from some sort of printed masonite, so a full refinish was not an option.  Before working on the scratches, of course, I first had to remove the dog (photo 3)....

Step 2: Reassembling the Case

After cleaning up the case and the front lens, I then re-installed the lens using the orignial four screws.  Now I had a cleaned-up case ready to get new internal electronics.

Step 3: Upgrading the Electronics

I initially thought about installing a flat screen computer monitor and building a computer inside the case so I could use this to show movies.  But then I had an idea.....

In the same room that this old tv would eventually go in, I already had a small television.  I measured the television for overall size AND measured the screen, and found that the television would fit inside AND the television's screen was the perfect size to cover the lens in this old tv.  Now I had a better plan!

After some careful measurements, I saw that I would need to raise the television exactly 1.75 inches from the bottom of the cabinet.  I used some scrap 2x6 boards and screwed them to the bottom of cabinet on the inside (photo 1).  A 2 inch thick piece of planed lumber just happens to be 1.75 inches thick.

Next, I placed the television inside the cabinet, and carefully adjusted it to align it with the lens on the old tv cabinet (photo 2).  Once perfectly aligned, I hot glued some scrap pieces of wood in place to prevent the tv from slipping from its position (photos 3 & 4).

Step 4: Updating an Old Tv Inside an Old Tv Cabinet

The tv I installed inside this cabinet was old enough that it had no RCA jacks (to connect a dvd player), so I installed an RF modulator to to provide the connections.  It simply connects to the tv's antennal/cable terminal and plugs into the wall for power.  For convenience, I attached an electrical extension cord inside the cabinet so that both the tv and the RF modulator would plug in inside the cabinet.  That way I had only one power cord coming out of the old TV cabinet.  

I used my "universal mounting system" (hot glue) to secure the RF modulator to the floor of the cabinet. 

Step 5: Done!

Using a tv inside this old cabinet kept things pretty simple, particularly from a controls standpoint.  I didn't have to worry about re-routing any of the tv's controls, because everything can be done through the tv's existing remote.  The infrared signal is picked up through the tv's original lens,so I didn't have to add a window over the IR sensor. 

Dummy knobs were fabricated from some wood turnings and wooden discs, and were glued to the front to hide the holes where the original knobs were located. 

I hooked up a dvd player to the RF modulator and hid the dvd player under the skirt of this table, and the dvd remote seems to work fine through the fabric.  Since this television will only be used for dvd movies, I probably won't hook this tv up to my cable system, but I did add the old rabbit ears at the top (bought for $1 at an estate sale).  To me they sort of complete the look.

This was a fun little project, and because I just happened to have a television that fit inside the old cabinet, it was completed in an afternoon.




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    One day I want to do this with an less old console TV. Like this one. That would be awesome.

    Excellent! Nice that you chose The Duke in the last photo!

    Pretty sweet, bro!! Kinda has a steampunk flair to it :)

    I think this is a Sweet project. Very retro, with a modern twist. I bet it makes a great conversation piece as well. Kudos to you.

    if i had one that works or leave it as it s or make it oscilloscope....these are my wishful thoughts.


    I was going to do the same this to a old Zenith. But the thrift store sold it the day before I had the money to buy it. Drat the luck..

    Nice, fun, re-purposing project. I have been looking for something like this as a TV or old tube radio to fix up or refurbish. Looking for free stuff.


    What would you call this kind of tv? like model and such?

    I have no idea what brand or model this was. The label was gone off the chassis, and the brand painted on the front was so faint it was unreadable.