Introduction: Vintage Radio Into a Speaker for an MP3 Player...

Picture of Vintage Radio Into a Speaker for an MP3 Player...

I got this out of the trash pile from when I helped my wifes Grandmother move... This was in the attic of her house for the past 50 years. The wires were all cracked and frayed, the finish was cracked an peeling...
I loved the look of this old radio, I had cleaned it and used it for decoration for about a year before i decided to turn it into a speaker for my IPod.. I used an old radio alarm clock speaker box.

Step 1: Gut the Radio and Repair Any Cracks

Picture of Gut the Radio and Repair Any Cracks

There were four screw on the bottom of this radio that I had to remove to slide out the entire radio from the radio case(very convenient). After removing the radio tray I removed the dry rot speaker cloth and wiped the inside with a damp rag. I had to glue and clamp a few spots that were either cracked or separated from another connecting piece... These were such small issues i didnt take any pics. I also removed all the circuitry and tubes i did not need in the radio anymore. what I had left was a bottom tray with a bracket that attached the large round tuner window. I cleaned all these items with warm soap and water and set aside...

Step 2: Sand and Re-finish the Radio Case...

Picture of Sand and Re-finish the Radio Case...

Using a chisel I popped the black speaker grids off of the radio case. They came off pretty easy actually.
Sanded the entire outside with 220 grit sandpaper down to bare wood. Then I sprayed the outside with water based "Polycrylic" wood finish. 2 coats light sanding in-between with 400 grit. After that, using some black paint and a q-tip I touched up the black spots that needed to be touched up. I'm actually pretty happy with the results. I like the look of the wood without the dark stain they had on it previously...

Step 3: Prepare and Mount the New Speakers

Picture of Prepare and Mount the New Speakers

I used a set of speaker from an IHome clock radio. The speakers were already conveniently in their own speaker boxes. and even more conveniently, they fit inside the radio and on top of the tray nicely.

After removing the speakers I wired them together and mounted them onto a 3/4"plywood board and then mounted to board to the radio tray positioning the speakers to the front of the radio grill. this took several times of removing and re-positioning until I got it just right.

Step 4: Replace the Speaker Cloth

Picture of Replace the Speaker Cloth

You need a light material for this. If you price out speaker fabric be ready for ridiculously high prices for something that an old pair of panty hose can do in some cases.. I used an old cloth dollar store shower curtain. It was light enough for what I need.

I cut a 1/4 hard board piece to fit and cover the inside of the radio cabinet behind the speaker hole, I gave about 1/2" extra on all sides to allow for attaching to the inside after wrapping the fabric...

After you have the right size piece to cover the hole trace from the outside around the speaker opening. Cut this piece out using a scroll saw.
Dry fit the piece of wood inside without the fabric to see how it fits... I had to cut a corner to allow for a knob post to go through. This doesn't have to be pretty... Now spray contact adhesive onto the outside (side with the fabric) and then stretch the fabric while you have someone place the frame onto the fabric and hold it for a while (I stacked a few books on it) until I was ready for it. using a hot glue gun, I glued the new speaker frame with cloth in place.

Step 5: Finish It Up and Kick Back With Some Tunes...

Picture of Finish It Up and Kick Back With Some Tunes...

Once I got the speaker cloth in the way I wanted it, I had to install the radio tray with the new speakers. This took some more tweaking because of the knobs and glass dome. but after some trial and error I got it in.
I then cut a new back out of some 1/4" hardboard and sprayed it lightly with some black spray paint.
And Its done...
And now its done...
It sounds great, though the volume is a little low.
At a later time (when i know how to do it) I would like to add an amplifier with volume control and on/off switch. as well as possibly light up the inside of the tuner window...
Ahhh, well... another time I guess...

Thanks for looking!


june16th62 (author)2015-11-23

I believe you could fix the low volume issue by installing amplified(computer type) speakers inside- though you'd have to figure out how to operate them once installed inside the antique radio cabinet. Sure that it could be done.

JohnH10 (author)2014-09-09

Cabinets like this received toned lacquer at the factory and look odd without it. I'd add a few coats of nitrocellulose lacquer with walnut Solarlux added, then more clear lacquer. The ends in particular need plenty of color- here I'd use a canned dark walnut toner.

SlickSqueegie (author)JohnH102014-09-10

thanks for the info. I think it looks great as is though...

neon2392 (author)2014-05-15

I love this clock and since i would have know idea how to get one would you mind telling me the dimensions and type of wood use on this radio

SlickSqueegie (author)neon23922014-09-10

thanks I think it's mohaganny, but it is a veneer. I will have to measure it and I'm not home right now to give you the measurements.

nathanjh13 (author)2014-04-21

I applaud your effort but on the other hand this can be seen as a
shame? An alternative is to keep the superb tone and overall "magic" of
the original radio (or restore to working) and simply add on an input
connector for a wifi connected device, as shown elsewhere, as well as

This would be the best of both worlds. I'm not having a go, it's a lovely object, but all this effort for mp3 etc blah blah.

SlickSqueegie (author)nathanjh132014-04-21

I use this MP3 player on a daily basis. It wasn't a whole lot of effort, especially as compared to what the link you provided entails.

I pulled it out of a dumpster, and it didn't work at all. The speaker was totaled and the transformer looked baked (at least to my novice eye).

I would hardly call the 1930's tube radio sound "superb" to what I have in it now. Yes, it would have a classic "tone" to it (if it worked), but I wanted decent sound with MP3 capabilities and I think I have accomplished that with this Instructable.
Thanks for the comment.

ivanjacob (author)2013-06-29

You could gut some pc speakers for a small amp.

SlickSqueegie (author)ivanjacob2013-08-18

I did exactly that. Thanks! :)

HollyMann (author)2013-07-05

I love this! That is the best looking vintage radio I have ever seen - love that style..awesome instructable!

SlickSqueegie (author)HollyMann2013-07-05

:) Thanks

ctx1985 (author)2013-05-21

You did an AMAZING job of refinishing this radio! It looks fantastic!

SlickSqueegie (author)ctx19852013-05-21

Thank you.

sunshiine (author)2013-02-28

There is so much talent here! Thanks for sharing your hard work!

SlickSqueegie (author)sunshiine2013-03-01

its my pleasure! thanks for the compliments!

eyesee (author)2012-12-09

Thank you ray.

ray74 (author)2012-11-30

Great job :D
I love the look of the really old school radios.

SlickSqueegie (author)ray742012-12-04

Thank you ray.

bajablue (author)2012-11-30

I haven't seen a triple-play and this great project may just be it! So excited for you!!!!

SlickSqueegie (author)bajablue2012-11-30

Fingers crossed!
This site is great!

poofrabbit (author)2012-11-29

Congratulations on being a finalist in the DIY Audio Contest!! Good luck to you! I mean seriously look at you go! YAY!!!!

SlickSqueegie (author)poofrabbit2012-11-30

WOW! This instructable is a finalist in two contests?!!!
I cannot believe it! I use this thing every day at my kitchen table every morning with my coffee and ipad! Im so thankfull that this project has done so well in these contests!
And i so want that camera! Well, heres hoping!
Thanks again poof!

poofrabbit (author)2012-11-27

Hey congratulations on being a finalist in the hack it contest! Good luck to you!

SlickSqueegie (author)poofrabbit2012-11-28

Thanks poof. Its up against some nice ibles!

Winged Fist (author)2012-10-11

Great looking project! Well documented and photographed, and worthy of your win in the Cabot Woodcare Contest... Congrats!

I did something very similar, but took the easy way out with my Decopunk iPod rig - I bought a retro radio with a built in cassette adapter;-)

Now you just need to dress up the iPod... Might I suggest a Steampunk iPod stand or a Steampunk iPod case?;-)

Oh, and 5 stars!

Thank you very much! I like your stuff... many great ideas... I'm actually working on an amplified speaker box with a dock for the ipod or pad I have... I gutted a broken Ihome radio alarm clock and grabbed the dock connector from it... now I need to figure out what wires do what for the dock connector.....

bajablue (author)2012-10-11

CONGRATS, slick!!!!

SlickSqueegie (author)bajablue2012-10-11

I'm so GEEKED! :D Thanks

bajablue (author)2012-10-05

100% gorgeous work!!!!!

SlickSqueegie (author)bajablue2012-10-05

Thank you very much!

I just noticed I made finalist in the woodcare contest! Yay!

bajablue (author)SlickSqueegie2012-10-05

YAY, indeed!  ;-D

I really love this project and good luck to you!!!!!

Fible1990 (author)2012-09-18

It looks very nice, the only problem it's about getting the vintage radio :| where did you get one?

hackmattr (author)Fible19902012-09-18

My friend wanted me to do this exact thing to a radio he had.

He found his at a swap meet in the middle of Hollywood. So I guess you can get them at flea markets. May need to replace the tubes and check the wiring if you get one.

Actually the tubes are usually the one thing thats alright in these old radios. The things to replace are the capacitors and resistors, then cleaning the pots and maybe replacing some bad wires.

The capacitors of the 30s were made of wax and cardboard, not so good after 70 years. This is why you'll get old radios that have insanely loud "humming" sounds coming from them.

The resistors usually go bad as well and their resistance goes through the roof. This is why you'll often see old radios for sale with the owner saying "it turns on, but the sound is very faint." You just have a bad resistor.

These old radios will work just fine if you replace about $5 worth of parts on them, and then spend a lot of time soldering them into place. They're cool pieces to have around and to show off.

SlickSqueegie (author)hackmattr2012-09-19

The tubes and wiring were gutted....

SlickSqueegie (author)Fible19902012-09-19

This radio was my wife's grandfathers. It no longer functioned. Normaly I would never remove the old finish from antique piece like this... Nor would I hack up the insides like I did here. But this piece is now an heirloom to her...

Look to flea markets and estate sales...

bricabracwizard (author)2012-09-23

How did you get the glass dome so clean? Normally I see these yellowing and are hard to get back to a pristine look like you've done.

I removed it from its case and soaked it in dish soap water and ammonia.. after a good soak wash it with a rag...
Maybe i got lucky with it being in good condition...

kdickerson_az (author)2012-09-19

I love this. Two additions that could be really cool:
1) Pick up an iPod dock accessory and mount it flush with the top. This would solve your amplification problem and allow you to charge your iPod. Unfortunately, they run about $60, but that is still cheaper than an iHome.
2) Rip a clock mechanism from an old clock and make that tuner a timepiece!

Well, the income clock radio has a charging dock built in, I didn't cut any wires, it all unplugged... And shouldn't I be able to use the amp out of the I home as well?
These are things I looked into prior to finishing this instructable, but I found myself just simply out of my element... I don't know how to go about using the items I already have. I also have another old clock radio ready to be taken apart and use those ties as well, but I just don't know where to begin....

Thanks for looking...

You can use this dock which will give you better amplification and it only costs a few dollars, I use this for my equipment with no problems. It gives you an audio out and a usb port to plug in to your computer if you need to. Put your phone in this (Even though it says its for an iPhone 4, I've used this for most of the apple products, iTouch, iPhone 3 etc). get the idea?

About This Instructable




Bio: I've built houses, decks, custom cabinets, furniture of all types. Ive done furniture repair and restoration, residential and commercial remodels, restaurant seating and tables ... More »
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