Introduction: A Replica Wooden Internet Radio

After reading about internet radios, and being inspired by several builds here on Instructables, I felt the desire to follow suit and build one myself. My inspiration for this case was the Philco model 90, built in the early 1930's. It had the classic lines and scroll work of a wooden cathedral style radio, but it was MUCH bigger than I needed for my project. I scaled it down to my needs (2/3 the size), and adapted it without (I hoped) altering the 'spirit' of the case.

I present this instructable to be more of an inspiration to others than a 'how to'. Woodworking skills and familiarity with the Raspberry Pi are a must for this build, but pretty much any sound source could be used.

This is my first instructable.



Scrap plywood- 1/4" for the skin, 1/2" for the inner frame.

'Donor' PC speakers and amp from a thrift store.

Raspberry Pi (I would suggest a Zero-W with a good DAC (Digital Analog Converter- i.e. 'sound') card.)

Swatch of suitable fabric, 'period' knob, small piece of white plastic, varnish, glue, wood screws, etc.


Saw, scroll-saw, clamps, drill, etc. Depends on how elaborate and detailed you want to get.

Step 1: Inspiration

This was my primary inspiration. I took my dimensions directly from the patent diagram (scaling them down as I went), and my color scheme, fabric, knob, etc. from various pictures gleaned from the internet.

There is actually quite a bit of information, as well as enthusiast groups, dealing with old wooden radios like the Philco model 90 that I chose.

Step 2: Scrap Plywood

Sure, you could go out and purchase new plywood, but where's the fun in that?

I used thin veneer plywood reclaimed from a scrapped cabinet for the skin. It was probably 3 mil, but since it was reclaimed that's a 'best guess'. The face, back, and speaker mount were definitely 1/4" plywood scraps, and the curved frame and inner shelves were made from 1/2" plywood scraps. Most of the wood I used was left over from other projects.

I used the patent diagram to transfer the correct curve and inner dimensions to the frame pieces, and built the frame. Unfortunately, I don't have a good picture of the frame before the skin was clamped on.

Step 3: Adventures in Bending Plywood

After several failed attempts, I had to soak the 1/4" plywood skin in a large tub for two days (because I don't have a steam box).

Step 4: Forming and Gluing the Skin

The skin, once supple enough, was bent and clamped to the curved frame. I dried it like this for a few days before actually gluing it down.

Once dry, the skin was glued in place, then more and more clamps so the skin kept the correct shape until the glue dried. I left it like this for several days.

Step 5: The Skin Is On

After letting the glue dry the clamps came off and I gave the skin a light sanding. Note the inner frame with the plywood base and shelf.

Step 6: Mounting the Speakers

The speakers are mounted on a piece of 1/4" plywood fastened to the inside of the frame. Note the piece of PVC tubing mounted between them. I used this because both stereo speakers are mounted in the same enclosure and I wanted to get the full range of sound without them cancelling each other out. (Hey, it worked, but I had to play with the length to get a mellow sound.)

Step 7: Test Fit the Electronics

Electronics next, this was a test fit. The original electronics have changed several times, the amplifier in this picture was from a thrift store set of PC speakers. At this point I didn't have the Raspberry Pi yet, this is an empty box I used for approximate size.

Step 8: The Facade

Let's face it, this is what gets the attention.

First picture- Scroll-work- necessary when duplicating a radio from 1931. Note the speakers behind the open grill, they are mounted to the inside of the frame, and thus sit 1/2" back from the facade.

Second picture- Facade decorative pieces being clamped on. Until now the facade has just been sitting in place. Note that the feet have been added to the bottom, the facade sits in the gap between the feet and the frame and is screwed to the frame from the inside. It is not glued in.

Third picture- Facade almost finished. One more addition.

Fourth picture- Final decorative touches to the facade- the classic face has taken shape.

Step 9: Outer Case Almost Done

The outer case stained and varnished. Note the 45 degree grain on the upper decorative pieces- some newer versions of the Philco-90 I've seen have vertical grain. Now all I need is to mount the electronics! (Oh, and a suitable grill cloth.)

Step 10: Last Touches

The finished case. I'm unhappy with the burlap I had to use for the grill, as well as the cheap plastic knob. The decorative piece I used for the false dial was fashioned from a small piece of white plastic and painted. There is an LED mounted behind it so it glows dull amber when the amp is on.

Step 11: The Electronics

Electronics mounted (without a single vacuum tube in sight). This is a Raspberry Pi model B+, driving the amp from it's audio jack. Note the antenna for the wifi adapter. At this point I had a working setup and needed a web interface to operate it.

I selected an early version of Volumio software and it sounds awesome considering the fact that the radio has both speakers in the same enclosure.

I'm not going into detail on how to setup a Raspberry Pi and the Volumio software. That information can be found on the official sites for both:

Step 12: First Upgrade

As with most technology projects, Phil needs to keep up or get shelved.

He got a better grill cloth (I 'blacked' the inner edges of the face to make it pop), a vintage style knob, a new DAC card for better sound, and custom software. (Unfortunately Volumio couldn't drive my new DAC card, so I had to rethink my interface using an idea from a MagPi article from the 2014 Special Edition: )

Shown is the new web interface. It's a little wonky, but it was easy to adapt using the MagPi tutorial and it works with my DAC card.

Step 13: Second Upgrade

Phil's second upgrade. After I had to repair the facade I decided that Phil needed a better brain.

The first picture is a shot of his new Raspberry Pi Zero-w and DAC in place.

The second picture- I decided, at this point, to go back to Volumio as they had implemented a lot of upgrades to their hardware support. Turns out it now works with my DAC card.

In the third picture note the DAC mounted at 90 degrees to the Raspberry Pi Zero. This allows access to the PI without removing the DAC. (Actually, I had the extra space, and only had a 90 degree pin header to solder to the Pi, so...)

The fourth picture is of the repaired facade. Phil now sounds as good as he looks.

I hoped that at this point anyone reading this far has gained some inspiration for their own project. Additional resources and ideas can be found all over the internet, including here at Instructables.

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