Re-new a Vintage Radio and Restore Its Gleam.




About: 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 and hotel furniture. Ive been ...

This is a 1950ish Firestone radio alarm clock. I found this at a flea market and got an excellent deal. I did not know if it worked or not and I didn't care, I saw potential in it right away. When I got it home, I plugged it in to see if it worked or not. It made a humming noise right away. Not a "radio" noise, but a mechanical noise. I found that that was the clock running.
After about 1 or 2 minutes all the sudden I heard radio noise, a quick tune got many different talk radio station. It sounded awful, but, none the less, it still worked. So for now, I decided to simply clean and polish the entire thing to bring it back to its original (as original as possible) glory...

Step 1: Carefully Take It Apart

Look the unit over carefully. Check the knobs as well, those are the first to come off. Some knobs have set screws. Most pull off with a little force...
Find the screws that putt the radio guts out. Mine has three located on the bottom. after I remover those I pulled the entire radio out and had to unplug the clock cable from the main radio tray. After that I removed 2 nuts holding the clock in place via a bracket. Whenever possible I find it a good habit to place the screws nuts and bolts back in the holes after you remove the parts you are removing.
I also removed the metal face plate and glass dome from the clock face by bending the small tabs out, on the back of the clock face.

After I removed all the inside parts its time to move on...

Step 2: Clean the Cleanable Parts...

I filled my sink with warm slightly soapy (mild plain dish-washing liquid) water and put the housing, glass dome and knobs in and let it soak for a while.

While it was soaking I moved to the clock movement and radio tray. I know nothing about "properly cleaning eectrical parts, so I just used as much common sense as possible and I used compressed air (at a low, regulated pressure) and a parts cleaning brush to loosen the hard to reach grime. I used a damp rag on some areas to carefully wipe the stubborn and open areas of the tray. and individually removed each tube and cleaned it with a lightly dampened rag I then set it aside.

Go back to the sink and use a wash rag to wipe all areas of the housing, that parts brush will come in handy too.
Mine had quite a few stubborn areas that required longer soaking, and harder scrubbing.. I still couldnt get it as clean as I wanted it.

Moving on......

Step 3: Polish the Housing

I used a plastic polish from a woodworking supply store, This polish is Ideal for acrylic, but I have found it to work on all plastics I have tried it on so far (knock on wood)

Try it out on the bottom first in a small spot. If you are using a buffing wheel do it lightly, smoothly and quickly without stopping in one spot. do not push the piece into the wheel, rather touch the piece to the wheel.

Step 4: Fix My Mistake.

I made the mistake of pushing the piece into the wheel... This happened very quick, so NEVER push the piece into the wheel.

I was pretty upset that I did this, but I can fix this...

I used 320 grit snad paper to remove the rough spots feathering outward from the slight dip created by burning with the wheel, as well as sanding the roughness away.
I then followed up with 600 grit wet sandpaper and 800 and finally 1000 grit. I then buffed it again NOT PUSHING and voila. It is fixed good enough and only noticeable if you know about it..

The streaks you see went away after a quick hand buff with a dry, clean, micro-fiber towel.

I think this now qualifies in the "fix-it" contest :)

Step 5: Re-assemble It

Now that we have everything cleaned and polished its time to put it back together.

First the clock movement:
Carefully re-assemble the movement and place it back inside the radio housing.

Now slide the radio tray into position and plug the movement into the tray and press the tray all the way into position.
Replace the knobs and the back of the radio and it is done (for now).

If anyone can give ideas on fixing the face ring around the movement, I would appreciate it. I do not know what kind of metal it is. I think it is steel or tin coated with brass or copper then varnished. A lot of it came off in the water and was replaced with some ugly oxidization. My thoughts are to remove the top layer and polish it to a shine, then leave the numbers off. But I would rather have it looking original. I am no painter. and I don't want to spent any money to have someone else do it...

Hope you enjoyed,
Thanks for looking.

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    10 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 5

    For Your ring issue, Try a product called Tarnex tht you would dip the piece in a Water like solution to clean the tarnish, or there's another product (can't recall the name) but it comes in a small round Dark Blue metal container and it has a (Cotton/Wool) like material tht is laced with a Cleaner/Polishing agent tht would be gentle on the surfaced to be polished. If I ever come across the name I'll let you know.

    Once polished and or cleaned to your liking, you can buy a can of Spray Laquer made by many different Brand's i.e Minwax….Give it a topcoat allow to dry (usually within 30 MInutes to cure, sand lightly & recoat for a final finish.

    I can't really tell from the pictures but the outside ring looks like a copper tone paint. If this is the case you could find a typeface that resembles the closest to the numbers and print them onto sticky labels, then carefully cut them out and stick them onto your dial. Lightly spray a copper tone paint onto the dial and when dry, peel off the numbers and this should bring the dial a treat. The numbers could also be laser cut from vinyl at a printers if you wanted them to be more precise...hope this helps!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This looks great !

    Although I've been told not to use dishwasher soap with Bakelite as it dulls the effect, although that could be wrong !

    1 reply

    You may be correct in this... I did use a mild soap, nothing harsh, and very dilute... If it did dull it, you could not tell because it came so much cleaner. and after I buffed it, it gleamed...


    not if you use a diluted solution. I use 2 to 3 parts water to 1 part ketchup. I have used it in several restoration projects.

    1 reply

    great job. for the metal face ring try a diluted solution of water and ketchup. let it soak then wipe with a clean cloth.

    1 reply