The Steam Radio




About: Dan Aetherman, Steampunker, Inventor and Adventurer - Creator of fantastic victorian machines, gadgets and movieprops - Visit me on and on Facebook:

Hello Steampunkers, dear friends

This time I explain you how to build in some easy steps a unique Steampunk Radio with a glowing "Vacuum Tube" on the top.
All the parts I used, exept the broken radio, are from the junk yard. The broken radio I bought from a friend for 1 buck. It was demounted and the idea was to use the vacuum tubes for some other projects. He told me there is no way to fix it...:-) The positive fact of this radio was the "line-in" jack - so it's possible now to connect a MP3 player or a mobile phone.
To keep the antique look of this Steampunk creation I decided not to repaint or to polish something.

Step 1: The Philips BCH 420A From 1952

After I got the demounted radio for 1 buck I went to my small Steampunk Lab to take out the tubes and other useful parts. But I was too curious - I wanted to know if this radio is really broken. So I plugged it in and switched it on... The "Philips BCH 420 A" hum very loud even before the vacuum tubes warmed up. A clear sign that the filter capacitor is over the edge and broken. I found an old one in my storage and replaced the part.
Yesss....the radio was running!!!!
So I cleaned out all the dust from the last 60 years and with the help of some "contact spray" even the switches and the potentiometers became like new.

Step 2: The Glowing Steampunk Vacuum Tube

On the top of the radio I created a simple Steampunk engineering with a normal light bulb as a mimic vacuum tube.
The following parts I used:
  • an old relais
  • the top of a brass valve
  • some brass screws and a spring
  • some brass fittings for the bulb base
  • a 40W light bulb, socket and some copper wire
  • two metallized Polypropylene capacitors for the glowing effect of the bulb ( 1uF 400 VDC, 220 VAC)

What I used is only an idea. Feel free to create your own machinery with parts you find on the junk yard.
Concerning the glowing of the bulb: I used a 40W/220V bulb with two 1uF capacitors (parallel circuit) to generate a warm glowing of the bulb. Depending on how strong the glowing should be you have to try it with different capacitors.

First connect the bulb to be sure it works correctly. Then use my drawing V1 to reduce the glow by using 1 capacitor. Be careful when you work with 110V or 220V, because it’s dangerous if you touch something wrong!!!
If the glow is still too strong, change to V2 and work with 2 capacitors. If the bulb keeps dark after V1, then use V3. May you will need one more capacitor than shown in V2 or V3, depending on the strength of glowing you want to have.

Feel free to ask me if you have problems to choose the right one for your project. I connected the bulb power over a main switch directly to the main power. So I can use the bulb as a decoration lamp even the radio is switched off.

Step 3: The Finish

So, I hope I could give you some inspiration how to create your own Steampunk Tube Radio for almost no money. This radio became a very special place in my living room, because the warm glowing light is perfect against stress and winter depression...:-)

Sincerely yours

The Chocolatist

Instructables Design Competition

Participated in the
Instructables Design Competition

A/V Contest

Participated in the
A/V Contest

Make It Glow

Participated in the
Make It Glow



    • Beauty Tips Contest

      Beauty Tips Contest
    • Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

      Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest
    • Sensors Contest

      Sensors Contest

    8 Discussions

    Wow! Come along to the Coldwater Ontario Steampunk Festival August 10/13
    You will have an immediate fan club!!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I like the water damage on the front. It adds subtly to the idea that there are working inside which are powered by steam.


    6 years ago on Step 2

    You refer to 1uF capacitors, but the picture looks like a 0.1uF capacitor. Can you confirm the correct value? Thanks.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi. the correct value is 1uF, the picture should only give a sample how this capacitors are looking like. I will change the picture. Thank you for your comment.

    Winged Fist

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! You never cease to amaze Mr. Chocolatist! You got my vote for both competitions, even though I plan to enter both contests, you surely deserve to win;-)