Tag Archives: Radio Repair

Vlado restores Mike’s vintage Sony CRF-160

Sony CRF-160 Dial

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Schuster, who shares the following guest post:


Vlado works his magic on my Sony CRF-160

by Michael Schuster

Back in the 1970’s my grandfather gifted this solid-state portable to me as it was more than he needed. It was the first “real” radio I can remember owning, and it initiated my habit of scanning the dials into the wee hours of the morning. I began my serious SWLing using this set as it had excellent sensitivity, dual conversion design, big booming audio, and generous bandspread tuning for each major SW broadcast band.

One of the best-known SWL programs at the time was Happy Station on Radio Nederland, and I have distinct memories of listening in our back yard one summer afternoon when the show came up on the African Service over the Madagascar relay. My family was astonished at the program coming from so far away and even more so when Tom Meijer happened to read my letter over the air during the mailbag segment!

Fast forward many years (and two moves) later, it sat on a shelf until, trying it out again, I was dismayed to find both slide rule tuning dials, and the rotary drum band selector, to be frozen in place. And so there it sat until….

In a few online forums I kept hearing about a magician named Vlado at Ham Radio Repair. He specializes in restoring old sets, and has the courage and curiosity to tackle just about anything. Thinking this might be my last chance to bring this fossil back to life, and armed with a scanned copy of the service manual downloaded from the Radio Museum web site (the Internet is a marvelous thing) I began a several months’ long email exchange with Vlado entitled “Would you be willing to work on…”

He is chronically swamped with sets to work on, and has little room to store pending jobs, but was more than willing to have a look. Several months, and one pandemic later, we touched base again and I arranged to ship this monster off to him. Vlado is especially interested in the stories behind old hardware, so I shared its history with him as it adds that extra “human factor”.

The radio is in great shape as he noted, but needed a total rework of the tuning dials and drum selector. He also replaced all of the electrolytic capacitors (most were leaking as pictured), replaced some tiny light bulbs with LED’s, and realigned all of the circuits for maximum performance.

Unpacking and trying out the restored set was a true blast and somewhat miraculous. It performs just as I remember and now sits on the shelf, this time in use rather than in storage, booming its audio across my basement work room.

Now this set will probably outlive me as it did my grandfather; hopefully it will end up in the hands of an appreciative recipient for the next generation of radio enthusiasts.


Thank you for sharing this repair story, Mike. I visited Vlado’s home a few weeks ago and saw the box labeled “Sony CRF-160” in-line to be repaired. As Vlado worked on it, he sent me a couple of photos, too, because I believe it was the first time he had ever worked on this particular Sony model. It is certainly a gorgeous radio–wow! And I do love your philosophy as it’s the one I adopt too: keep vintage radios alive and working beyond our generation. 

Vlado is truly the most capable ham radio repair guy technician/engineer you’ll ever meet. He’s also as honest as the day is long. If you have a vintage or late-model solid-state radio that needs repair or restoration, contact him.

Click here to check out Vlado’s website HamRadio.repair.

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My Replacement Stand Journey for the Grundig G6 Aviator

 

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

I’ve mentioned here in the past that I am an astronomy hobbyist first, and an SWL hobbyist second (call SWL my cloudy nights hobby).

A couple of years ago my Grundig G6 suffered from the troublesome “sticky” body that afflicts all of the Grundig/Eton radios of that era.  I used the recommended cleaning agent as has been posted here (Purple Power) to remove the sticky residue.  It worked great – but I discovered one must be very careful using this cleaner.  Why?  Excess cleaner seeped into the crevices where the radio stand mounts, was not fully removed/dried, and the cleaner “ate” the nubs off that hold the radio stand in place.  The result: a broken radio stand!  Right Photo: you’ll see glue residue smeared on the broken stand – where I tried to make & glue new nubs and failed miserably.

Through my astronomy hobby, I discovered someone (Joel) who 3D prints some astronomical accessories.  After ordering & receiving three quality products, we established a friendly rapport.  I asked him if he knew of anyone who 3D printed and commercially sold radio stands.

He replied “No” – and frankly he wasn’t quite sure what I was referring to – but he essentially conveyed “if you supply me a photo and dimensions, I will gladly print one that you can try”.  Great news!

After supplying him a photo and supplying dimensions, Joel printed off a stand plus a spare and shipped it to me.  Unfortunately, it did not fit … the side nubs were simply too small.

I wrote-off the encounter as having been worth the nominal cost & effort.  But Joel was not ready to write this off!  He asked for more details re: why it didn’t fit (we designed the stand about .25mm too thin – a small tolerance but significant in that the stand simply would not fit – the nubs were too small at the thickness that was printed).  We consulted, both made recommendations, then Joel promptly 3D printed another stand (v.2) and mailed it to me.

The end result: it fits perfectly – works perfectly.  I now have a replacement G6 stand and I feel my little Grundig Aviator Buzz Aldrin Edition (note the astronomy connection) was now, once again, whole!

 

For those who’ve replaced radio stands before, the biggest obstacle is *not* breaking it when you try to insert it into the back of the radio.  A tried and true trick is to freeze the replacement stand, so it contracts very slightly (by the mm), and then insert it into the body of the radio.  The great thing about this stand: it is designed with a cut-out on each side.  This cut-out allows the stand to ever-so-slightly flex (better – and probably more safely – than the freezing trick). This design allowed me to safely and rather effortlessly insert the stand without fear of breaking it.  And the stand’s thickness is quite capable of supporting the weight of the radio (note: the plastic of the 3D printed stand is not quite as hard as the OEM stand but it is still more than capable of supporting the radio’s weight).

I’m sharing this because Joel has added the G6 stand to his little BuckeyeStargazer Web Store , for $10 – what a great deal for us suffering G6 folks with broken stands.

At this time, the Buckeye Stargazer only offers the G6 stand.  But, who knows?  Before I came along, he didn’t offer any stand.  You might be able to cajole Joel into prototyping another stand?  For that – you’d have to contact him directly to see if he were receptive to more experimentation.

So, thanks again to the Buckeye Stargazer!  It’s always nice to tie my two hobbies together: astronomy & shortwave radio.

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The radio man of Kumartuli

Set against this unlikely backdrop, Amit Ranjan Karmakar’s little shop is easy to miss. In his mid-60s, the ‘radio man’ of Kumartuli sits surrounded by radio sets of all sizes and vintages. (Express photo: Shashi Ghosh)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who shares a link to this short but fantastic photo pdoc about Kumartuli’s radio man, Amit Ranjan Karmakar.

Click here to view at The Indian Express.

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Guest Post: Repairing the National Panasonic DR22, the Panasonic RF-2200’s Euro-Sibling

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:


National Panasonic DR22, the Panasonic RF-2200’s Euro-Sibling

By Mario Filippi, N2HUN

(All photos courtesy of author)

Thomas, your recent and thoroughly excellent post on the Panasonic RF-2200 was the inspiration for this short review of the RF-2200’s European sibling, the National Panasonic DR22.

A few years back when I was hunting for a used RF-2200, a second-hand National Panasonic DR22 was for auction on eBay. These radios were sold in Europe and are almost an exact match for the RF-2200, with a few minor cosmetic differences.  It was so close in appearance that I decided to bid and won the auction. The cost was around $150.00 plus shipping.

Author’s National Panasonic DR22, a.k.a. RF-2200BS

The seller described the unit as working, not a tech special, and was complete except for the original earphone.  The strap, which can be missing on some used models was in place, the antenna and all the knobs were there. When the radio was received, all appeared to be working well and most importantly the rotatable ferrite antenna was fully functional.  With the exception of tiny paint specks and years of accumulated dust the unit was cosmetically acceptable for a 40 plus year old radio. After a close olfactory inspection (smelling the unit hi hi) it was determined the radio was from a smoke-free home, which is important as smoke not only causes yellowing of plastic components, but it inundates the internal electronic components and coats them with a yellowish-brown stain.

National Panasonic DR22 Dashboard Shows Slight Labeling Differences

On close inspection, the unit differs slightly from the RF-2200, in that it is branded as a “National  Panasonic” along with the “DR22” designation on the upper right of the unit. And, the National Panasonic logo can be seen to the left of the AM/SW gain control.  Another difference is the additional labeling found above each shortwave band, the designations are KW1, KW2, etc.

Power, Dial Light, and BFO Switches Are Identical to RF2200

As for the rear panel of the DR22, a major difference is the presence of a voltage selector which allows one to switch from European voltage (220) to the US standard (110).   Inside the unit there’s a transformer that handles this option. Alternatively you can simply use four “D” batteries to power the unit.

DR22 Line Voltage Selector Switch

After receiving the unit, first order of business was a good cleaning of the outer case with mild soap and water.  All the knobs and carrying strap were removed and soaked in a warm soapy solution. A toothbrush was put to work to remove years of human tactile residue from the sides of the knobs.

Knobs (left) removed for cleaning. Carrying strap (right) was inundated with decades of dirt.

Next on the “to do” list was to obtain a copy of the service manual, available on line.  You’ll find it under the title of National Panasonic RF-2200BA. It’s an excellent manual with detailed photos of the circuit boards, exploded diagrams of the mechanical parts, parts list, schematics, and of course the alignment procedure.   Cracking open the case required removal of all the case screws and very gently coaxing of the two panels apart. Years of use, rust on the screws, and dirt/dust buildup all contribute to the challenge of this endeavor.

DR22 Case Disassembly

The alignment took several weeks as the radio was worked on in my spare time.  Note that I did not replace any electrolytic capacitors, and yes it was the lazy man’s way but a basic inspection of the caps for any evident leaks, explosions, or burns was conducted.  In short I did not want to replace capacitors at this time since the radio, as received from the former owner, was working well on all bands. Surely, as other operators have reported, cap replacement will restore full operational excellence but I felt if the radio passes the alignment specifications  that was good enough for me at this point.

DR22 Undergoing Testing

After several weeks the radio was restored to specifications, all switches were cleaned and dusted and the radio reassembled.  This was done a few years ago and the radio continues performing well. Even the 125/500 KHz crystal markers are pretty much on the money when checked against WWV.  No scratchy pots either hi hi. So now the radio sits in my kitchen and is on at least a few hours a day and keeps company with its sister, my RF2200. Note that recently DR22s have sold on eBay for $150 – $300US. Tech specials/parts radio run considerably less.  Thanks and 73’s de N2HUN.


Thank you, Mario! It looks like you scored an excellent deal on the DR22 and it’s serving you quite well! I’m glad you spent time checking for leaky capacitors after opening the chassis. Using the DR22 so frequently will keep those caps “juicy!”

Post Readers: Please comment if you love the National Panasonic DR22!


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Video: N1SPY brings a GE seven band radio back to life!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov, who writes:

Thomas Cholakov (N1SPY) picked up an old General Electric radio from the 2019 Orlando Hamcation and brought it back to life. Unfortunately with all of the radio’s 7 bands, it did not have shortwave.

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Brilliant job resurrecting that GE portable, Tommy!!! Thank you for sharing.

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Using bus service to ship heavy vintage radios

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Branch, who shares the following comment regarding the shipment of heavy vintage radios:

On the issue of shipping Boat Anchors, I’ve had good experiences using Greyhound Package Express, Tough-bin structural foam footlockers and proper padding.

The parcel is loaded at the bus station of origin and usually remains on that bus to its destination without having to survive a sorting center or multiple unhappy loading personnel.

It may be inconvenient to drop off and pick up at the bus terminal, but considering the irreplaceable nature of these rigs, it’s worth the effort.

http://www.shipgreyhound.com/e/pages/Home.aspx

I had no idea!  Thank you for the tip, James!

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Finding a repair service for boat anchors and other vintage valve/tube radio gear

Vintage tube radios will likely survive an EMP, but how do you power them without mains electricity?

Here’s a common question I receive from SWLing Post readers:

“Where can I have my vintage valve/tube radio repaired? Can you recommend a good repair service?”

The answer isn’t always a simple one, especially for those living in rural or remote parts of the world.

Go local

The short answer is: try to find a local repair service.

Unlike modern solid state radios, “boat anchors” (metal chassis vintage radios) are heavy and very pricey to ship.

Some repair services and retailers won’t even consider shipping vintage metal chassis radios because of the likelihood of damage or a tube or other component loosening during transit resulting in a DOA (Dead On Arrival) situation. They insist on in-store or local pickup/delivery.

Johnson Viking Ranger transmitter

 

Last year at the Dayton Hamvention I was speaking with an acquaintance who restores and repairs vintage tube radios–he specializes in WWII and Cold War era boat anchors (Collins, Signal Corps, Hallicrafters, National HRO, etc.). Although he makes a tidy profit from doing repairs, it’s most certainly a labor of love and not the most profitable use of his time.  He told me that he recently stopped accepting any repairs other than those delivered and picked up locally.

He told me he took great care in packing equipment after repairs had been made–he’d secure all components so that they couldn’t budge during shipment and would either double box or use industrial strength cartons. Being so diligent, his return shipments almost always arrived unscathed, but customers would complain about the shipping costs. He could, of course, skimp on packaging, but then risk his repair work being undermined by rough handling. He was never willing to compromise on shipping and I certainly don’t blame him.

So again, due to the complexities of shipping heavy gear, I always recommend trying to find someone local to do your “boat anchor” repair work first.

Where can you find a local repair shop? If you belong to or know of a local ham radio club, stop by a meeting and ask around. If there’s a vintage radio repair technician in town, someone in the club can likely connect you.

Shipping boat anchors

With that said, there are some excellent repair technicians out there who will take work via parcel shipments, but be prepared to pay upwards of $50-150 each way each way (depending, of course on the radio size and weight).

Lighter tube radios are easier and cheaper to ship, but should still be packed carefully. Bakelite radios, for example, are lightweight but incredibly fragile.

In short: if you ship your vintage radio, pack meticulously and confirm that your repair person will do the same.

And where do you find repair services? I point readers to radio repair service reviews on eHam.net. You might also search the QRZ.com forums or even post a question.

Let’s be clear: some radios are worth the shipping costs!

I am fortunate in that I do have a local friend and mentor Charlie (W4MEC) who repairs tube gear. Better yet, Charlie is willing to teach me how to do repairs and alignments myself. This, I would argue, is the best of both worlds!

A Note of Caution: When it comes to repairing tube/valve gear, I believe you should always learn the ropes with an experienced technician. Unlike battery-powered solid state devices, tube gear is mostly high voltage. If you don’t know what you’re doing inside the chassis of a tube radio, you could be severely shocked or even electrocuted. No radio is worth that price.

Who do you recommend?

If you have any advice about repairing boat anchors and other vintage electronics, please comment! Also, if you can recommend a repair service, please share details.

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