Introduction: Turn a Vintage Radio Into an IPod Dock

I found this 1940's Westinghouse radio at a flea market for $15 and thought it would make an awesome iPod dock! I love the vintage look, but don't have much use for an AM only radio, not to mention it didn't work to begin with! Aside from looking a little worn out and having badly faded and filthy paint, cosmetically it was really in pretty good shape, so I set about to transform this old beauty into something I could use.

I had an old Altec Lansing IM310 iPod docking station that I hadn't used in a while and decided it would make a good donor for all of the stereo parts. It was suited well for the project because all of the circuitry and speakers were sized perfectly to be transplanted into the old Westinghouse radio case.

I was very impressed with how well this project turned out. When it was all finished, it actually looked like the Westinghouse radio was designed with an integrated iPod dock!

Tools you'll need:

-Soldering iron and solder
-Dremel (This is an absolute must!)
-Drill and bits
-400 grit sandpaper (Wet/dry)
-Hot glue gun
-Jigsaw (only necessary if you're replacing your radio's backing)

Supplies:

-Antique radio
-Plastic iPod dock connector (You can buy a pack of three on Ebay for $5)
-A donor iPod dock/stereo or build your own from a kit amp
-LED
-Cotter pin
-Paper clip
-Some wire
-Primer
-Paint (Whatever colour matches the stock colour of your radio best)
-A toggle switch
-Some MDF board (only necessary if you need to replace your backing)
-Some small miscellaneous hardware parts depending on your exact project (may vary)

Step 1: Clean All the Filth Off and Remove the Guts

My radio was built in 1947...Lots of time for lots of dirt and dust to build up all over it, inside and out! I didn't take any photos of the cleaning or removal of the inside parts of the radio, but it's fairly straight forward. Mostly everything you see in the third and fourth photos, you can remove. Since you won't be keeping most of the original internal parts of the radio, you really don't have to worry too much. Take out all of the old tubes, wiring, tube sockets, etc. I left the AM components inside just because I wanted the dial to be intact still. I also left the old potentiometer and tuning knob inside because I reused both of these knobs.

The third photo shows me drilling out the rivets in order to remove the tube sockets. I wanted to take them out because it left a level surface to mount the new internal components to afterwards. At this point, you also want to temporarily remove everything from the inside of the radio, as the next step will involve making some cuts in the case and then prepping it for primer and paint.

Step 2: Mark and Cut Your Dock Slot

This step is where the Dremel is your best friend! It probably is possible to do it without one, but I can imagine it would be extremely difficult.

First, you want to mark the centre point of the top of your radio width-wise. Then you need to decide how far forward you want your dock connector to be mounted depth-wise. I chose to mount mine closer to the front of the radio as opposed to centring it. After you've figured out exactly where you want your connector to be mounted, put some masking tape over that area and place your dock connector upside down on the tape and trace it with a marker or pencil.

Next, grab your Dremel with a cutting disc and cut a basic rectangular hole out of the area you've traced, leaving a bit of extra material around the edges. Then grab a grinding bit and use it to grind down the excess material around the edges and carve the rounded corners out. Then smooth it all with a sanding disc/wheel and by hand with some sandpaper afterwards.

Pictures are of the masked off area before cutting and with the dock connector inserted after cutting to check that it fits.

***Also, since we will be integrating the dock connector permanently to the radio, it is a good idea to use a universal (largest) iPod dock connector, so that any iPod will fit in the dock. Pictured is the one that fits my 5th generation Nano, but for the final product, I used a universal connector, so any iPod with the 30 pin connector can be docked.

Step 3: Mount Your Dock Connector

This step takes a little bit of time and patience. It would definitely be easier if your radio is perfectly flat on top. Since mine has a curve to it, in order to streamline the dock connector, I had to slightly recess it, and then gradually build up the edges of it with spot putty until it became flush with the top of the case.

So first off, insert your dock connector into the hole you cut out in the previous step. Before you secure it, make sure that no part of the dock connector is raised higher than the top surface of your radio. Once you are satisfied with your positioning, flip your radio upside down and use your hot glue gun to firmly secure the dock connector in place from the underside. Then, flip your radio back over.

You should then give the entire outside area of the radio (including your dock connector) a light sanding with some 400 grit sandpaper, just to smooth it a little. Then, mask off any areas you don't want paint on (such as the dial face) and put a coat of primer on.

After it dries, take your spot putty and put a coat around the edge of the dock connector and the surrounding area of the radio case. If your radio is completely flat across the top, you may get away with just a single coat of spot putty. If so, great! If not, don't worry. Just take your time.

After your spot putty dries, you want to get a sanding block (a scrap piece of wood will work fine) and wrap your 400 grit sandpaper around it. Use long strokes of your sanding block across the entire area of your dock connector and be sure to wet the sandpaper frequently during sanding. If after sanding, there are some low spots, you need to repeat this entire procedure as many times as it takes. Clean and dry off the radio, prime it again, add another coat of putty, and sand again with your block. Repeat this process until your dock connector looks like it was moulded into the radio case!

The first photo shows the universal connector mounted in after sanding, the second photo shows the first coat of primer, and the third photo shows the first coat of spot putty. In order to streamline my connector with the case, I ended up having to do 4 light coats of putty.

Step 4: Add Your Final Coat of Primer and Give It a Light Sanding

After you're satisfied with your dock connector/spot putty job, it's time for your final coat of primer. After your primer dries, give it a light sanding with 400 grit sandpaper (wet). The purpose for this is the smoother your primer is, the smoother your coat of paint will be. The pictures were taken after sanding the final coat of primer. Notice the shine of the light off of the primer. This indicates a nice smooth finish.

Step 5: Paint It!

By now you've probably decided on a colour. Well, now you get to paint it finally! Be sure to follow the directions on your specific paint, but it's a good rule of thumb to do a few light coats rather than one thick coat. Painting it on too thick could cause the paint to run. Always paint in a well ventilated area! Photo shown is after final coat of paint. Note: A good way to mask off your dial face is to use wax paper. It won't stick to your dial face. Be cautious of taping over your dial face as when you remove the tape after painting, it could take the numbers off of the dial face with it!

Step 6: Work on the Insides!

Now that you've got your painting out of the way, we can work on integrating your new stereo components to the inside of your case. Note: It's a good idea to let your paint cure for a couple of days before handling it too much.

My radio (as with pretty much every radio of it's day) was originally mono, thus was only designed to hold one speaker. This is where the size of the IM310 components really come into play. Since I wanted two speakers to fit where there had previously been only one, I obviously needed two relatively small speakers. The IM310 speakers were perfect. To secure them, I actually used the original speaker mount for the top speaker holes and a mending plate to hold the speakers together in place on the bottom.

Now, the really tricky part of this whole thing was to change the sliding motion of the IM310's volume control to the rotary motion of the radio's original volume knob. I know what you're thinking. Why not just rewire the IM310's volume control to a rotary potentiometer? Well, I couldn't find a schematic anywhere and couldn't figure out exactly how the wiring worked on it. It seemed a little different from a standard potentiometer, so I didn't want to mess around with it. My only other option was to somehow mechanically connect the rotary pot from the radio to the slide pot of the IM310. So how I accomplished this was by first drilling a small hole through the shaft of the rotary pot on the radio. Then I cut a metal plate and drilled a hole near the top and mounted it to where the rotary pot mounted to the radio chassis. Then I used some double sided tape to mount the slide pot to the metal plate below the original volume pot. THEN I plastic welded and glued a small piece of plastic to the actual slider part of the IM310 pot which I drilled a hole in both ends of. Then I put a cotter pin through the hole I drilled in the rotary pot's shaft and connected the end of the cotter pin to the hole in the piece of plastic I welded to the slider with a piece of a paper clip. *Note: Be sure to just bend the ends of the paper clip around the cotter pin and plastic piece on the other end. If you glue them, it will bind as soon as you try to rotate the knob. I know this all sounds like a lot of work and also sounds complicated, but it's not as bad as it sounds. The picture hopefully will simplify it a bit haha. Feel free to ask any questions though!

After that ordeal, I mounted the main circuit board. I used a couple of plastic spacers to raise it slightly above the metal shelf to avoid shorting it out, then secured it with two machine screws/nuts. I then hot glued the IM310's iPod 30 pin dock terminal board underneath the dock connector, with the 30 pin terminal coming up through the slot in the integrated dock connector. Note: You have to glue the terminal board on with the chassis of the radio sort of half inserted into the radio case unless your wiring is long enough to allow the chassis to be out of the case.

I then cut some pieces of foam up to use as insulation behind the speakers on the lower portion of the radio.

The first photo shows how the speakers are mounted and also the metal shelf above them where the circuitry will be mounted, the second and third photos show the main board and 30 pin connector board mounted inside, the fourth photo shows the whole mechanical linkage for the potentiometers, the fifth photo shows the insulation in place behind the speakers, and the sixth photo shows the secured 30 pin terminal through the dock connector. I also wired up a single LED at this point and secured it under the centre of the dial face and linked it to a toggle switch which I placed on the back (next step).

Step 7: Make a New Backing and Attach Your Power Switch

So my radio's original back plate was badly warped and could not be reformed. So I bought some thin MDF board from my local Home Depot for a whopping $1.68 for a 2'x3' sheet! You can use the old back plate as a template to trace onto your MDF board. Then use your trusty jigsaw to cut out your new backing. You may have to sand it around the edges a bit to smooth it out and to make it fit properly. I used a file to make some slots in the new backing to line up with the mounting holes in the case of the radio (the original backing had slots like this also). Then I marked holes for my LED toggle switch, and power button/indicator LED from the IM310. I actually used a button off of an old DMG Gameboy for the power button. I just had it lying around and thought the colour suited the style of the radio. I then just glued a couple of metal and rubber washers around the button and LED to make it look a little more antique. After that, you can screw the backing on. It's hard to tell by the third pic how badly warped the original back plate was, but it was really bad and not really salvageable. 

Step 8: Plug It In, Turn It On, and Blast Your IPod!

Now you're ready to play! Plug it in, throw your iPod in your sweet new dock connector and blast some tunes! Pictures show before and after shots of the radio with an iPod Nano and iPod Touch docked.

I hope you enjoyed this instructable. Feel free to ask any questions and make any comments! Also, I've entered it in the 'Vintage' Contest, so if you like it, please vote!

Thanks for looking!

Comments

author
Slashmaster (author)2014-01-26

Awesome build. I love seeing old radios get new life. My only complaint here is you sort of shuffled over all the wiring that went into this, because I'm sure there was quite a bit of it. All things considered this is one of the best dock builds I've seen.

author
ctx1985 (author)Slashmaster2014-01-26

Thanks so much! Yeah I guess I did sort of skip over some of the wiring, but for the most part it's just the insides out of an old Altec Lansing iPod dock. I did have to cut and extend some of the wiring, and I tested some voltages and just tapped into a 4.5v area on the main board for the LED that lights the front dial. If you wanted to build your own and have any questions though, I would be happy to help! Thanks again for commenting!

author
Slashmaster (author)ctx19852014-01-26

My build is coming soon enough, not sure if I'll document it or not, but I will atleast post a picture or two whenever I get around to it. I'm still deciding on old radio versus old rotary phone (which I regret not buying last time I saw one). Either way, the build shouldn't be overly complicated if I rip apart an old docking station first. I suppose the thrift and antique stores around here will decide how this ends up. Again, thanks for sharing the build.

author
ctx1985 (author)Slashmaster2014-01-27

I would love to see some pics when you finish! I've seen a couple of old rotary phone dock builds that turned out beautifully. Surprisingly, you can actually find some pretty good old radios and rotary phones on ebay and craiglist/kijiji for relatively cheap if you don't care if they work or not. It's getting harder and harder to find the old rotary phones at thrift stores these days. Good luck on your project!

author
chachmo (author)2013-09-07

I love this project and I've already purchased a flea market find for my own version. My question is.... I'm not very good at electronics, do you have a suggestion on how to tackle the volume control issue for a neophyte?

author
ctx1985 (author)chachmo2013-09-08

Thanks! As far as the volume control goes...My best suggestion would be to find an iPod dock that uses a knob for the volume control rather than a slider like mine did (if you google "icube 2", that would be an ideal dock and you could probably pick a used one up for $5 - $10 at a thrift store or through the classified ads). Then if you have a soldering iron, just de-solder the volume potentiometer from the iPod dock and then solder wires from the three terminals on the potentiometer back to where in was originally soldered in on the circuit board and run it to the spot where the original volume knob was on your vintage radio. The easy part about this is that most potentiometers have a standard diameter shaft for the knob to attach to, so even the knobs from an antique radio are likely to be the same diameter as the potentiometer shaft and you can just push the old knob on over the new potentiometer. Feel free to send me private messages if you need any help or some further explanation. I know it sounds a bit complicated, but it's really not that bad. If there is anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to ask! Everyone has to start somewhere! Good luck with your project!

author
keirjohnharry (author)2013-06-29

we've been doing this for some time - www.redock.co.nr

author
ctx1985 (author)keirjohnharry2013-06-30

Cool! I checked out your website. I like the old rotary phone ones! Nice work!

author
groovymama (author)2013-06-04

Congratulations! This is awesome!

author
ctx1985 (author)groovymama2013-06-05

Thank you so much!

author
kkrumwiede (author)2013-06-01

Nice work.! You just reminded me that I have a similar vintage radio in a box in my garage... Time to go get it... But I love the color of it as-is and don't want to repaint. Any pointers for avoiding the "dremeled" look around the dock?

author
ctx1985 (author)kkrumwiede2013-06-01

Thanks! It may be a little tricky to avoid the "dremeled" look. If you checked out the pics, you probably noticed the paint flaked off a bit around where I dremeled. But the paint actually didn't chip off as a result of the dremeling, it actually came off when I peeled the tape off that I had used for a template. If I were you, and you want to avoid repainting, very carefully trace an outline of your dock connector onto the radio where you want it and then cut out a very rough outline, leaving some extra material around the edges. Then instead of doing the finishing touches with the dremel like I did, use some course sandpaper (maybe like 180 or 200 grit) to finish shaping it for your dock connector. I guess you'll just have to make sure you shape it just right for the dock connector to just snugly fit in the cutout. Just a thought, but if you don't want to paint the radio, maybe just find a can of spray paint that matches it very closely and paint the dock connector, and then you'll have some touch up paint just in case it chips a bit around the edges. What I do for touching up with spray paint is just spray a bit in the cap and then use a fine brush or toothpick for the touch up. Hope this helps! Let me know how it turns out!

author
ctx1985 (author)2013-05-29

Just an open question: if I were to start making more of these and selling them what does everyone think that a fair price to ask would be? Assuming that I used decent stereo components. Any input would be greatly appreciated!

author
fredlb (author)2013-05-28

great job !

author
ctx1985 (author)fredlb2013-05-28

Thank you! It was a really fun little project!

author
kcli (author)2013-05-28

Very interesting and thorough! I bought a rotary phone at a thrift store last week with the thought of incorporating a docking station into it but had no idea as to how to go about the job. Your instructable will definitely be used/referenced when I attempt my hack. Great job!

author
ctx1985 (author)kcli2013-05-28

Thanks so much! Turning a rotary phone onto a dock sounds like a great idea! I would love to see some pics!

author
Baltazar Sanchez III (author)2013-05-21

It's cool, but you should've added a speaker to it. Then, it'd be REALLY cool.

author

Haha I actually added two speakers to it! I replaced the original single speaker with dual stereo speakers. You can see the back of them in one of the steps.

author
SlickSqueegie (author)2013-05-21

Great job! It looks beautiful!

author
ctx1985 (author)SlickSqueegie2013-05-21

Thanks so much!

author
technovative (author)2013-05-20

Cool idea, great job blending the dock recess into the housing.

author
ctx1985 (author)technovative2013-05-20

Thanks! All the bodywork I did in high school finally paid off haha.

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Bio: I'm a 29 year old guy who's passionate about building and fixing things, sometimes if they aren't even broken. I get a ... More »
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