Introduction: An "Antique Radio" Christmas Present

I happen to be part of the 5% that have the elusive awesome mother-in-law. For Christmas I wanted to make her an "antique radio" that is super simple to operate and that could play some "old time radio" type programming that she listened to when she was a young'n. However, this is neither an antique or a radio, its an MP3 player. I named it "Radio Betty" after her.

Step 1: The MicroMite Controller

I had been playing with a pic microcontroller that has a built in basic interpreter, that cost only $4.00. The MicroMite was introduced by Geoff Graham of the MaxiMite computer fame, and it has turned out to be a great little controller for many of my projects. It is super simple, yet powerful for such an affordable chip. The built in functions of this powerful little beast allowed me to implement a 2004 lcd display, two KY-040 encoders, a serial MP3 module, a DS3231 real time clock and an Infrared receiver to make a nice "antique radio" without pulling out what little is left of my hair.

His website describing the MicroMite is and there is a great user forum at

A video review of the chip can be found here.

Take a look at this for your next microcontrolled project.

Step 2: The Circuit

The circuit was first laid out on a breadboard in order to test the functionality of each of the modules being used and test the software, after which I used Autotrax Dex to create the schematic of the unit. As you can probably tell by looking at the schematic, this was my first attempt at using a pcb design program to make a project. It's not NASA quality by any means, but it does work.

Step 3: Lets Make a PCB

Once I spent a little time with AutoTrax Dex, I decided to take the plunge into having my very first PCB commercially made. This program took a bit of learning, like anything else, but proved to be a great experience for a first time and has given me the confidence that this is the way to do things going forward.

Step 4: From China With Love

AutoTrax Dex created all the files needed to have a PCB made. I used Itead Studios in China as their pricing was incredibly reasonable. It took about 3.5 weeks to get the board back and you can bet I was nervous about this working out of the box. I scoured the Interweb for information concerning drill hole sizes for the different components used and once the boards came, I immediately plugged in all the parts to make sure they fit. While waiting for the boards, I couldn't stop thinking about part leads not fitting into their holes. Thank goodness, it all worked. Thanks Interwebs!!!

Step 5: Let's Stuff This Thing

It only took about 45 minutes to get everything soldered up and powered. I must have the luck of the Irish as this little unit fired right up.

Step 6: Front Panel

My day job puts me in a well equipped sign shop so I took advantage of the situation and used some scrap acrylic and digital printing to create the front panel for the "radio"

Step 7: Front Panel 1

A piece of 1/8" black acrylic was laser cut to accept the 2004 lcd display, the two encoders and the TSOP4838 infrared receiver. I used 4-40 flat head screw and by using 3 stacked nuts as spacers, the LCD wound up flush to the face of the acrylic.

Step 8: Front Panel 2

LCD display mounted to front panel. This worked out nicely using the 3 nuts as spacers.

Step 9: Front Panel 3

The front panel with all the parts installed.

Step 10: Front Panel 4

A piece of .040 clear acrylic was used to make the front panel graphics. I created the print in Photoshop using a "parchment paper" graphic and added the type and floral graphics to that. The design under "Radio Betty" has a hole cut in the print in order for the infrared receiver to "see". The only holes that go completely thought the acrylic are for the two encoder shafts. The infrared and LCD area are only cut out of the print, not the acrylic.

Step 11: Front Panel Done

All put together and ready to install in the wood cabinet.

Step 12: Time to Cut Some Wood

I used 3/4" poplar for the visible parts of the cabinet and plain plywood for the speaker faces as they would eventually be covered up and not seen.

Step 13: The Cabinet 1

The fronts of the four upright panels were shaped using a 3/8" round over router bit on each side to create a full half round, after which a bit of sanding with 220 grit sandpaper made for a smooth finish. The two inside uprights were slotted on a table saw to fit the front panel between them.

Step 14: Cabinet 2

The top and bottom pieces were routed using an ogee bit to give them a bit of character.

Step 15: Cabinet 3

A look inside...

Step 16: Cabinet 4

Two Pyle 4" car speakers are used to provide a bit of umph, not that an antique radio needs that, but they were readily available from Amazon for about $16.00.

Step 17: A Little Stain Never Hurt Anyone

I used some minwax stain from Home Depot along with some spray bomb clear coat to finish the pieces. Some scotchbrite was used in between coats to help smooth out the finish.

Step 18: The Finished Wood

Once everything was stained, I did a quick test fit of all the parts just to make sure...

Step 19: Putting It All Together

All the parts were assembled into the unit and secured. The power supply and amplifier board were screwed to the top panel.

Step 20: All Up in My Grill

I wanted to create two speaker grills that would give the "radio" an old fashioned look. Using a laser cutter, the backs of the grills were cut using 1/8" acrylic.

Step 21: Grill 2

I found some gold"ish" fabric at a local fabric store that I think a lady named Jo Anne owns.

Step 22: Grill 3

Some 3M super 77 was used in "contact" mode to adhere the fabric to the acrylic panel.

Step 23: Grill 4

Trimming the fabric...

Step 24: Grill 5

Some laser cut dark brown "applique" is used for the faces of the grills.

Step 25: Grill 6

Two components are combined to make the grills. I used some very thin 3M VHB tape to secure the applique designs to the fabric grills. The tape was applied to the applique before laser cutting and then peeled and stuck to the fabric panel.

Step 26: All Done... YEAH!!!

I found a couple of guitar knobs on ebay and some brass "feet" at a wood working store to add the finishing touch. Thanks to a member of The Back Shed forum by the name of White Wizard, I was able to implement some code to read an Apple remote (sitting on top of the unit). This was the icing on the proverbial cake and added a bit of coolness factor. The range of the Apple remote is quite outstanding.

Since Betty is a big fan of Elvis, I loaded 32 complete CD's of Elvis music and about 150 different old time radio programs on to the 8 GB SD card. The programs included some Abbot and Costello, Amos and Andy, War of the Worlds, The Hindenberg disaster, My Favorite Husband, The Grand Ole Opry, and many more. Hours and hours of listening pleasure took only about 1.2 GB of the card. I have a feeling it will be difficult to load this thing up to 8GB, but there are lots of archives out there on the web.

Thanks for reading!!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

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