Intro: Google Home Mod - Into a Vintage Radio!
So...I was bored one day, and on those days I usually get in the workshop and take something apart. My girlfriend hates it. (She usually comes home and something is drying on the radiator, or I've got paint on the floor!)
This time my victim was an old broken radio from the 1950's. Initially I thought about putting a bluetooth speaker inside, but that has been done. No learning there. But a Google home? Now that's intriguing. And as it turns out, bar a few trial and error moments, pretty damn easy.
Bowing down to the requests from friends and on groups, I give you this tutorial. How to take a plastic, inoffensive Google Home device, and give it the Vintage twist!
Thanks and enjoy.
Step 1: Step 1: Get a Google Home and a Radio.
So for the purposes of this experiment, I didn't want to spend over £100 on a google home device and totally destroy it. Remember...we're in uncharted territory here! Luckily on my local 'Facebook Selling Page' someone had one up for £50. They had decided they didn't like it and preferred Alexa. Fools.
With this unboxed, slightly grubby plastic miracle soon in my hand, I needed to find it a home.
Luckily the local junk shop had just the thing. Sat lonely in the front window was this old radio. Solid wood, made by Bush in the early 1950's. Not working, but it didn't matter. For the princely sum of £20 she was mine!
Next up is seeing what we're dealing with...
Step 2: Step 2 - Out With the Old...
DISCLAIMER- Do NOT take the back off of a Radio or any other vintage appliance with it plugged in
Unlike modern radios with transformers, you have pure 240v running into this machine and you more than likely WILL electrocute yourself and I wouldn't trust a fuse from over half a decade ago saving you either. Just don't. Leave the power cord alone!
Now...disclaimer aside, lets get the back off. Old radios were designed to allow access to the back for changing certain settings, frequencies, and valves when they blew. It wouldn't be a rare sight to have an engineer poking around and swapping out valves for you over the period of a few years.
Thankfully in this case, and with most other radios too, this is a simple two thumb screws! (encouraged by a flat head screwdriver where needed)
Inside you see all the workings. This radio was totalled. The wires were decaying (rubber coating as opposed to plastic and degraded. Had I plugged it in we would of had a fire!) and blown valves. This radios 'old school' days were over.
If you have a radio that works, and is beautiful in its own way, then please leave it alone. I wouldn't dream of writing off a bit of history if it still worked ok! I believe every cool 'vintage' item has a story to tell. In this radios case it had it story, which sadly ended, and I'm just writing the next chapter!
I simply took a set of screwdrivers to it. I wanted to keep the front knobs/dials there for aesthetics so the bottom metal plate had to stay. The rest of the valves, electronics, resistors etc......rip them out and junk them!
Step 3: Step 3 - Empty Spaces
So.. the cabinet is empty bar a few items, its now time to turn to our 'donor' google.
I had help with this process, which was a Google home 'Teardown' video on Youtube.
SO out came my torx screwdrivers and decided to tear the Google down. A T6 and T8 Torx screwdriver (star shaped!) and a plastic 'spudger' (or small flexible/plastic item needed for 'leverage'. In some instances even a biro will do!
Watch the video above. Take your time. Its only a 15 minute job but you don't want to break an electric ribbon etc... because a google home is likely to cost you £50+ and it would be a terrible waste.
You will find what looks like three speakers. Don't worry, there's only one. The other two are diaphragms in a plastic surround to try and give such a small device more BASS as its only a little speaker. Scrap them. We're about to mount it in a big wooden cabinet. Bass won't be a problem! ha ha ha haaaaaa (evil genius laugh)
The one thing it doesn't cover is how to remove the LED board at the top of the Google home. The most important bit! Fear not...all will be revealed in the next step!
Step 4: Step 4 - the Trickiest Bit (and It's Not Even That Hard!)
So congrats. You have stripped down a google home carefully, and you have the component parts...almost!
Remember the ribbons simply unplug by lifting the little black tab. Easy right? There's not a lot to a google home despite being a clever beast. Soldering not needed.
Now.... the lid. Google have used some seriously sticky stuff to hold the LED board to the lid of the device. All you have to remember is it's just tape. Not glue, not special tabs. Just tape. You can do it.
Basically we need to loosen the tape and get something under the board to CAREFULLY pry it away from the surface. I decided to use some sharp snips to cut away at the white casing to get as close to the base of the circuit board as possible. If you have to pry at something why go from such a poor angle? We don't need the excess plastic so cut it away and lose it!
Then I got my girlfriends hair dryer, held it about 4-5 inches from the device. 40 seconds will do. Don't get it too hot. We don't want to cook anything!
Every time it was warm I would go under the edge of the board with a biro/spudger/or even a flathead screwdriver with a bit of electrical tape wrapped around the end (to avoid causing any real damage to the board) and slowly coax it away from the tape. May take a couple of tries. Let the glue slowly detach. Don't go wrenching anything!
When out, first thing to do is piece it together and see if it all still works! ...See next step.
Step 5: Step 5 - Test All Works
Connect the ribbons back together. They are pretty robust so should be absolutely fine. You will find it sounds TERRIBLE. The speaker due to not being mounted inside anything and laid on a bench means no bass, and lots of rattling around. This is to be expected. (We'll rectify that soon enough!)
The one to watch is the really little ribbon, which connects to the panel from the base. This I believe is your wireless receiver/transmitter. If you want to access the internet (obviously vital for your device to work) then carefully connect and disconnect this tiny cable in the same fashion like the others. Don't break it.
I didn't but I can see it would be easy to if you weren't gentle with it.
When lifting the device around, try to minimise any of the ribbons hanging and waving about. Especially this little one.
Step 6: Step 6 - Wooden Backboard
Excuse the older picture of the internals, I didn't take one at this stage. Yours should be nice and empty by now!
The wooden backboard that holds in the speaker is held by 6 simple screws. Then the whole thing removes, mesh included. This is the perfect template for a new board!
You'll need some plywood or MDF that is the same thickness as the original. Draw around it and mark the screw holes the same. We are going to make a new one - minus the big old speaker hole!
I literally drilled the screw holes, taping the old one as a template, drew around it and then cut out!
Step 7: Step 7 - New Wood
With our template cut we then needed to make some holes. Now one would assume you just cut a little circle (55mm by memory but measure first!) for the speaker dead centre in the middle of the board.
The problem is the google home speaker doesn't come with 'mounting holes' that you would then attach the speaker to the wood with. This was a stumbling block, but we got around it.
Cut a hole in the middle just wider than the size of your speaker. By this I mean that the speaker passes straight through the hole, but without much wiggle room. If the speaker is indeed 55mm, cut a 55mm - 56mm hole. The cut itself will add you a mm each side anyway!
Now mark where you will be putting the LED board (the one you painfully extracted with the hairdryer!) This will allow you to make the touch/LED/Microphone element of Google home available in your new radio.
Basically draw around the circle to work out where you want it and cut it out!
(you can use a jigsaw for this simply enough, but I found a hole cutter for approx £6.00 from local hardware store made the process a lot easier!)
Step 8: Step 8 - Second Board
To enable the speaker to mount without screws, we needed to quickly make a second board.
This will feature another circle where the speaker goes, but 4mm smaller in diameter. When the two bits of wood are paired, it will create a 'lip' for the speaker to sit in, and subsequently be mounted!
Use your new wooden board as a template and make a second board. Thickness is not a worry, but try and mirror the same thickness as the first board.
The only other consideration is where we run the cable for the LED board. We have the big circle/recess for it on the first board to sit in, but we need space for the ribbon to run through!
The ribbon connects at the top of the circular circuit board. Basically, if you were looking at the radio with it mounted it would be at 12 o'Clock.
Drill a hole approx 20mm wide for the ribbon in that location. This will allow it to pass through with decent wiggle room!. See pic if explanation fails to give the right idea!
Then simply glue the front and back panel together with wood glue. Clamp them, leave overnight.
Once dry, take the components out of the way and give the wood a liberal spray of black spray paint!
Step 9: Step 9 - Assembly 1
If you were clever enough to leave that super sticky adhesive on your LED board that you removed from the google home, you are a genius. It turns out its still very sticky and PERFECT to stick to the back of speaker mesh and remain secure!
Place the LED board on the back of your old speaker mesh. Ensure it is in the correct place so when mounted it sits in the 'hole' you've made.
In this section you also need to get a glue gun, put a bead of glue in the lip you have made for your speaker. Then simply press your speaker through, mounting securely, and wait 5 mins for it to set!
Step 10: Step 10 - Sticky Situation
You're almost ready, now you need your mesh.
NOTE: BEFORE DOING THIS I RECOMMEND RECONNECTING THE RIBBON TO THE L.E.D BOARD AND FEEDING IT THROUGH THE HOLE YOU DRILLED FOR IT BEFORE STICKING THE MESH DOWN. GETTING IT CONNECTED FROM THE OTHER SIDE AFTER ALL IS APPLIED WILL BE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. CONNECT NOW AND NOT HAVE TO WORRY LATER!
Grab the old mesh from the original (or choose a new material yourself, but I love the original vintage vibe!)
Spray the edges of the board (being careful to avoid the speaker that is now in) with spray adhesive. Allow to 'flash off' for 5 mins, then line up the LED board, and stick back onto the wood!
Step 11: Step 11 - Assembly 2
Screw the board back in. We have doubled the thickness of the boards, so you will likely need longer screws. But other than that, screw it back in!
Then lay radio on it's front and reconnect the ribbons carefully on Google Home. Be careful as its fiddly and you don't have much length to work with.
You'll find that the components will stay close to the speaker, but actually thats just fine as you now have a big board to attach them to!
I thought about screws etc, but to avoid any rattling I just used the glue gun again. There is plenty of space on the main board etc...to use hot glue without touching any components. Just pick a nice plain green bit to apply it to!
Thread the power cable through the pre-existing hole you will likely have on the radios back panel. After plugging it into the google home board I recommend putting a blob of glue on the cable attaching that to the board also. If someone pulls this device with it plugged in you don't want it to damage the board. This simple blob of glue will help prevent this! (See pic)
Step 12: Step 12 - Let There Be Light!
Your almost done! Keep going!
For a final touch, go on eBay and get a USB strip light. Its flexible, self adhesive, and cuttable if you get something too long!
I bought a USB one for £3.00. I simply peeled off the adhesive tape and stuck it above the glass panel inside the radio (where the old bulbs would be that I removed!) and ran the cable out the back alongside the Google Home power lead. I plugged this into a TP Link - Smart Socket so I could turn the light on 'on-demand'!
Reattach the back of the radio with the two thumb screws, plug your device in, and I believe you are done!
Step 13: Step 13 - the End Result
And here is the end result. Excuse the dog, I believe she was rudely awoken.
I love it. Its louder than the original Google Home due to the solid wooden cabinet and sounds fabulous!
(the video doesn't do the sound justice!)
Any questions, drop me a line!
JeffreyV34 made it!