Guest Post: The Story And Restoration Of My Hallicrafters SX-42

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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Arthur Smith, who shares the following guest post:


The Story And Restoration Of My Hallicrafters SX-42

by Arthur Smith

As a junior high student way back in 1978, I had a natural interest in radios. My dad was a ham radio operator, electronics engineer, and designer. We always had cool, exotic radios and electronic gadgetry around the house. He was also in the Korean War, in the US Army Corps of Engineers, with access to a wide variety of equipment. He often told me the story of how he became interested in radio at an early age, and how he saved up for expensive radio gear, with a little help from my grandparents. Back in 1946, Hallicrafters was THE brand to own, and their postwar designs from Raymond Loewy, were catching the eye of many enthusiasts. The SX-42 was being hyped up in Hallicrafters ads as the ultimate radio to own, one that could tune the shortwave and ham bands, and beyond. I don’t know the complete story, but prior to acquiring his SX-42, my dad also purchased an S-38 and S-40. Never satisfied with “good and better”, my father wanted “the best”. All 15 tubes and 50-plus pounds of boatanchor.

Always ambitious and industrious, he mowed lawns, repaired motorcycles, and did odd jobs for neighbors in his suburban Boston neighborhood. He worked smart, and worked hard. And that fall, bought his SX-42.

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The radio, we think, was about $279, which would make it the equivalent of almost $3500 in today’s dollars. He heard the start of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union’s Sputnik. And the birth of Rock and Roll on FM! He graduated high school, went away to the Korean War, serving two Tours of Duty. He came back home, and became an electronics engineer. And a licensed ham radio operator.

Moving ahead to 1978, and yours truly had the radio bug, in the worst way. Not as ambitious or as savvy as my father, a classmate, who was also a ham radio operator, told me about a National HRO he had, with some coils, and maybe needing some work. My Dad came home from work, and I just had to tell him about this great opportunity, which of course, would require his financial backing. At this point, the SX-42 and his other two Hallicrafters were seeing “backup” duty, having long since gone solid state in his post. “Hey, I’ve got an idea!” When a Dad says that, a son usually wants to run. Not in this case. “How about we give you my SX-42?!” Gee, twist my arm. I had loved watching those mesmerizing green back lit dials, S meter, and geared tuning knobs. Unfortunately for my classmate, he had to keep his National. Fortunate for me, I had my father’s SX-42!

That radio logged my first 100 countries, including QSL cards from countries and stations no longer in existence. It heard the fall of the Berlin Wall. And, it was at the heart of my school Science Project, which made Science Fair, featuring an experiment on longwire shortwave radio reception.

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halllicrafters-sx-42-tubes Years later, the focus became family, a child, and a house. The SX-42 and siblings came with me, but this time, in boxes. After having seen a WW2 vintage Hallicrafters S-20R at a consignment shop a couple of summers ago, I thought how cool it might be to have Dad’s radios electronically and cosmetically restored.

The S-38 and S40 were in a box in my damp basement. While intact, they had a considerable amount of rust. Luckily, I was able to find a gentleman with great electronic and mechanical skills. He brought the S38 back to life, working and looking beautiful. And is working still on the S-40. As for the SX-42, that was upstairs in a box in my son’s closet. Dry and somewhat preserved, but with some corrosion on the control panel. And sadly, that iconic lock knob that switches between main tuning and brandspread tuning, had been lost in the move. I had to find someone who could take this project on.

After an extensive search, I found my man. An engineer with his own business, who was moving into retirement, and shutting his business down. He had restored an SX-42 a few years back, with amazing results. I had to lure him out of retirement! Which I did after a few emails back and forth. And, he was within driving distance! First warning was “do not power the radio back up under any circumstance- you’ll fry the wafers on the bandswitch!” I resisted temptation, as I had read online that these were notorious for failure, usually to some original capacitors that leak over the decades.

After 13 months replacing every capacitor, virtually every resistor, and vacuum tube, the iconic radio was coming back to life, in a great way. The transmission and gears in the tuning was re-lubricated. During the restoration process, a date was found stamped on the chassis of October 25th, 1946. Could it be?

img_7367-02-12-16-06-57-1Hallicrafters had advertised in the Oct, 1946 issue of Radio News that “The first hundred are always the hardest to build.” This, coupled with the fact that none of the chassis circuit had been modified, lead my restorer to believe that my radio was one of the first 100 SX-42’s that Hallicrafters had built!

The front panel was stripped and treated, professionally painted and silkscreened. The cabinet and apron bead blasted, repainted, and clear coated. It came back home with me last month. A month after it turned 70.

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As you can see here, the radio looks stunning. And, with all the Hallicrafters Service Bulletin mods implemented, sounds and performs better than I remember. Maybe more importantly, we were able to locate a replacement brake lock knob for the tuning shaft, even with the “Lock” decal and arrow showing to rotate it counterclockwise. It just would not have felt complete without that little knob- and, it works!

halllicrafters-sx-42-frontEngaging a set of what essentially are brake pads, you rotate it once to disengage the main tuning and engage the bandspread tuning. Again, and you’re back to main tuning.

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This radio will always remain a truly cherished family heirloom, and will be my son’s someday. Complete with the original owner’s manual, and Darth Vader-like R42 Reproducer (speaker).

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Hopefully to live on for another 70-plus years, and hear more history along the way.

-Arthur Smith Worcester, MA


Wow–!  Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Arthur. No doubt, your SX-42 will certainly outlive all of us and will hopefully continue to be passed down through your family. What a wonderful story.

Open Call for Sound Works: Short Waves / Long Distance

(Source: Wave Farm via David Goren)shortwave-long-distance

Open Call for Sound Works:

SHORT WAVES / LONG DISTANCE

Wave Farm and The North American Shortwave Association are pleased to announce “Short Waves / Long Distance,” an open call for works exploring the sonics of the shortwave radio spectrum (2-30 mHz), and the experience of long-distance listening. The call is in conjunction with the 30th Anniversary of the Winter Shortwave Listener’s Fest and Wave Farm’s 20th Anniversary, both of which will be celebrated in 2017.

Selected works will be:

Submission Deadline: January 31, 2017

Submission Guidelines and Instructions:
• Submissions are welcomed from all genres.
• Both pre-existing and newly created works are eligible.
• Works should not exceed ten minutes in duration.
• Shortwave Listening Resources:
Shortwave Receivers Online: KiwiSDR, Global Tuners, WebSDR
Frequency Guides and Schedules: Short-Wave.info, ShortwaveSchedule.com
Receiver Reviews and Listening Tips: SWLing.com, DXing.com
Shortwave History: On the Short Waves, The Shortwave Radio Audio Archive
• Artists seeking additional ways to record shortwave sounds are encouraged to contact David Goren for guidance at shortwaveology@mac.com.

Click Here to Access the Online Submission Form

Jury and Notification Schedule:
• A jury comprised of The Shortwave Shindig’s David Goren, and Wave Farm’s Galen Joseph-Hunter and Jess Puglisi will review submissions.
• Selections will be announced in February 2017.

About Ràdio WEB MACBA
Ràdio Web MACBA is a radiophonic project from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona that explores the possibilities of the internet and radio as spaces of research, creation, synthesis and exhibition. Their shows are available on demand, and as a podcast subscription, and depart from contemporary thinking, philosophy, contemporary art, sound art and everything in between. The INTERRUPTIONS series features a theme-based musical selection and a related essay, which aims to explore the potentiality of two very different modes of engagement, text and sound, and the relationship and bridges that can be built between them. http://rwm.macba.cat/

About The Shortwave Shindig
The Shortwave Shindig is a live immersion into the wavering, noisy sounds of the shortwave radio spectrum. Live performances, presentations and extended, multi-layered audio mixes combine real time and archival shortwave sounds, taking the listener on a guided tour through the atmospheric neighborhoods where shortwave stations cluster. Reels of archival audio and a bank of receivers and are on hand for tuning-in to the distant, elusive sounds of the shortwave bands. http://www.shortwaveology.net/shortwave-shindig/

About the Winter SWL Fest
The Winter Shortwave Listener’s Fest (March 2nd-4th 2017) is a conference of radio hobbyists of all stripes who listen to frequencies from “DC to daylight.” Every year scores of hobbyists descend on the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania suburbs for a weekend of camaraderie and talking radio. The Fest is sponsored by NASWA, the North American Shortwave Association, but it covers much more than just shortwave. Additional topics include Medium wave (AM), VHF scanning, satellite TV, and pirate broadcasting. http://www.swlfest.com/

About Wave Farm
Wave Farm is a non-profit arts organization driven by experimentation with broadcast media and the airwaves. Wave Farm programs—Transmission Arts, WGXC-FM, and Media Arts Grants—provide access to transmission technologies and support artists and organizations that engage with media as an art form. Wave Farm’s WGXC 90.7-FM is a creative community radio station. Hands-on access and participation activate WGXC as a public platform for information, experimentation, and engagement. Over 100 volunteer programmers produce shows, and WGXC commits over 60 hours a week to transmission art and experimental sound. https://wavefarm.org/

Zach records the final episode of Radio Prague’s Mailbox program

A Radio Prague QSL card.

A Radio Prague QSL card.

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Zach, who writes:

[W]hile going through an SDR recording I’d made on Saturday, I listened to the Radio Prague program via WRMI on 5850 and was surprised to hear it was the last edition of their Mailbox program. They cited the loss of shortwave broadcasting and the movement of commenting from snail- and e-mail to Facebook as the reason for discontinuing the service.

I posted a recording of the Mailbox segment as received here on the Gulf coast of Alabama with SDRuno and an SDRplay receiver if anyone is interested:

Click here to view on YouTube.

The program is also available in mp3 format via the Radio Prague website:

http://radio.cz/en/section/mailbox/mailbox-2016-12-03

I suppose we can expect the discontinuation of more listener-oriented programming like this as shortwave continues to struggle to attract adequate listeners in this age of instant internet access.

Thanks for your time!

Thank you, Zach! I had no idea their Mailbox program was ending.  I’m happy you caught this episode to share with us.

Photos from the final Danish Shortwave Club International meeting

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, who shares the following photos he snapped during the final meeting of the DSWCI meeting (click images to enlarge):

Anker Petersen kicks off the final DSCWI meeting of all.

Anker Petersen kicks off the final DSCWI meeting of all.

The group shot outside the longwave transmitter at Kalundborg, about 1 and a half train ride from Copenhagen.

The group shot outside the longwave transmitter at Kalundborg, about 1 and a half train ride from Copenhagen.

Danish Radio is doing some interesting experiments with AM on this site as a back-up technology to DAB+.

Danish Radio is doing some interesting experiments with AM on this site as a back-up technology to DAB+.

 Anker Petersen hosts the final DSCWI dinner at a great restaurant in Kalundborg.

Anker Petersen hosts the final DSCWI dinner at a great restaurant in Kalundborg.

The town of Kalundborg, famous for its church with 5 spires - and its longwave transmitter still used by the fishing fleet.

The town of Kalundborg, famous for its church with 5 spires – and its longwave transmitter still used by the fishing fleet.

Victor Goonetilleke, early DSCWI member, travelled from Sri Lanka to be part of the historic gathering.

Victor Goonetilleke, early DSCWI member, travelled from Sri Lanka to be part of the historic gathering.

Thank you for sharing these photos, Jonathan. It’s sad to see an institution like the DSWCI come to an end–especially because clubs like this become an amazing venue for friends to meet.

Update: Jonathan notes that he’s posted more photos on his flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathanmarks/

WRMI special broadcast: Danish Shortwave Club International’s final meeting

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(Source: WRMI)

Last-minute program change: WRMI is broadcasting a special program about the final meeting of the Danish Shortwave Club International this Sunday, December 4. The program was scheduled to air at 2030 UTC on 11580 kHz, but it will instead be broadcast at 2000 UTC on the same frequency, in place of our regular program Wavescan. Here is the complete schedule for the two-part special program on WRMI:

PART ONE
2300 UTC Saturday, December 3 5850 kHz to North America (especially Central and West)
2330 UTC Saturday, December 3 11580 kHz to Eastern North America ( and Europe )
2000 UTC Sunday, December 4 11580 kHz to Europe ( and Eastern North America )
2300 UTC Sunday, December 4 5850 kHz to North America (especially Central and West)
0230 UTC Monday, December 5 9955 kHz to the Caribbean, North and South America

PART TWO
2300 UTC Saturday, December 10 5850 kHz to North America (especially Central and West)
2330 UTC Saturday, December 10 11580 kHz to Eastern North America ( and Europe )
2000 UTC Sunday, December 11 11580 kHz to Europe ( and Eastern North America )
2300 UTC Sunday, December 11 5850 kHz to North America (especially Central and West)
0230 UTC Monday, December 12 9955 kHz to the Caribbean, North and South America

Note that the Monday transmissions on 9955 kHz are actually Sunday evening in the Americas.