Tag Archives: Radio Restoration

Ed restores a Hallicrafters S-72L cabinet


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward Ganshirt, who shares the following:

This is a Hallicrafters S-72L “barn find” I restored.

This turned out to be a furniture refinishing project and not a radio (electronics) restoration job.

It is a 1949/50 era portable with batteries and 1 volt tubes.

When I brought it home the cosmetic condition was such, I kept it away from the litter box out of an abundance of caution to prevent it from being buried by the cats.

This is a very early portable radio made out of plywood and coated with brown wall paper fabric imitating cheap portable record players and luggage of the era.

I decided to laminate it with cedar drawer liner to give it some class instead of vinyl wallpaper.

While learning to laminate wood is another skill outside the scope of this article, The trick when applying laminate is to prevent bubbles forming under the laminate.

Also all divits and dents should be filled in with Bondo or wood filler. The surface is lightly sanded with very fine sandpaper and at least 8 layers of gloss water based floor varnish applied and allowed to thoroughly dry before the next coat.

This radio has nice audio quality, It has a BFO and tunes the longwave band through 11MHz.

The only regrets is cleaning it aggressively which took away a lot of the “old radio smell”, but the cedar aroma will keep the moths out.


Fantastic, Ed!  Thanks for sharing. I think you made a considerate upgrade to the S-72L. Great to hear this radio plays well and has excellent audio. I found one at a hamfest once in slightly better cosmetic condition, but much worse electrical condition than your pre-restoration unit. I’m sure I took a photo of it, but I can’t seem to find it in the archives.

Post readers: any other Hallicrafters S-72L owners out there?  Have you ever installed wood laminate on a radio cabinet? Please comment!


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Raspberry Pi Vintage Radio

This project was a winner in the Maker Share Mission May contest. While not strictly shortwave, of course, many of SWLing Blog readers enjoy, as I do, all things radio, and especially creative and new expressions of radio. Here is a brief excerpt from the MakerShare posting:

Vintage radios are fascinating. At one point the radio was the main method for mass communication of news and entertainment and was manufactured in a variety of styles to be prominently displayed in a home. Unfortunately, many vintage radios that have been physically preserved no longer function and it is impractical for them to be repaired. Described is the design and implementation of the Raspberry Pi Radio (RPiRadio), a device that bypasses the analog electronics of a vintage radio and digitally recreates the behavior of a vintage radio that is able to be tuned to vintage radio programming.

The whole posting may be found here, with extensive details on the building of the radio and how it was programmed for sound replicating the vintage radio era.

While I love tinkering with old radios and trying to bring them back to life, some radios are just beyond reasonable repair. This can bring old radios back to life in a way which seeks to honor their past – a very cool idea indeed!

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.       Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

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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.

halllicrafters-sx-42-open

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.

halllicrafters-sx-42

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.

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Edward restores a Star-Lite Town & Country FM-820 portable receiver

Star-Lite TownAndCountry_FM-820_2Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward Ganshirt, who writes:

This is a “mystery brand” radio that I picked up at a swapfest for a buck, I never heard of a Star-Lite Town & Country FM-820 by the HOKUYO MUSEN KOGYO CO in Japan. This portable behemoth is not “lite”, It is heavy (13 pounds).

The only thing I came up with is Sam’s photofact that refer to radio. (I am not about to buy a service manual for something that is not broken). There is a Chrysler Town & Country station wagon, which is also a behemoth that swamps out all Google searches. This set appears to be made in the mid sixties. I was told that is was on a fishing boat as evidenced by its condition it was very dirty with a lot of corrosion on the bezel and missing a tuning knob.

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I fabricated a tuning knob on a lathe, which was a 2-piece affair. The outer knob is tuning and the inner knob is the fine tune. It cleaned up well and I had to repaint the bezel. The auto parts store said that the Chrysler of that area did not use metal flake paints but they matched a touch-up spray can of a Toyota millennium silver.

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This radio has 8 push-button bands: long-wave, AM, short-wave 1.6 to 26 MHz, and FM along with tone controls. The sound is surprisingly good it is a 6-cell battery only (no AC). It has reasonably good short-wave drift-free performance. The paint job looks good, there is a rusty chrome bumper next to the push-buttons. I decided to to restore this part. It is ok for your 1960’s Town & Country to have rusty bumpers.

While you would not take your Panasonic RF9000 your Transoceanic or Grundig, This radio is my “beater” to take to the beach.

Star-Lite TownAndCountry_FM-820_1

Does anyone know about the Star-Lite brand?

Thank you, Ed, for sharing this.  I am not at all familiar with this make and model of radio. I must say…I’m most impressed that you were able to fabricate a tuning knob! It would have been a challenge to find a replacement knob otherwise.

I bet she plays well, too–looks like a decent ferrite bar inside and a substantial telescoping antenna.

And you’re right, Edward, it is ok for your 1960’s Town & Country to have rusty bumper! Now take that girl to the beach! 🙂

Post readers: please comment if you’re familiar with the Star-Lite brand!

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Best solution to restore a vintage plastic radio chassis?

Sony-ICF550W-FrontFriday, I brought home an untested, slightly grimy, Sony ICF-5500W. I purchased it through Goodwill for $20.

Sony-ICF550W-Right

I crossed my fingers as I put three C cells in the radio and turned it on. Fortunately, I was rewarded with brilliant audio. I tuned the ‘5500W on AM/mediumwave and heard CFZM,  500 miles to my north, and Radio Reloj, 860 miles to my south. A quick scan on the FM dial revealed that I could also hear all of my local benchmarks. Whew!

Other than the dial needing a little calibration, and DeOxit on a few pots, it’s in excellent mechanical shape.

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I started cleaning the radio last night using Q-tip cotton swabs and a vinegar/water solution.

I’d like to restore the hard plastic chassis’ original shine, though.

I was tempted to reach for some Armor All, but stopped myself short. I know it would give the ICF-5500W a nice shine, but would it cause any long-term damage to the black plastic or clear dial cover?

I know there are vintage radio restorers among the SWLing Post readership. Can someone offer advice on what’s the best product to use (or not use!) on my ICF-5500W?

If you have experience, please comment!

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Moshe restores a Ben-Gal “Duet-Stereo”

Ben-Gal-Duet-Stereo-Full

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Moshe, who writes:

About 2 weeks ago, a very good friend called me and exclaimed, “you just have to see this radio…I’m keeping it for you!”–so, I drove to his aunt’s house and saw this beauty.

After hauling the radio to my place, I started to check it out, to see what would be needed for restoration; it was working, with bad contacts, poor frequency response and low output.

I took hi-res pictures of this radio, some during restoration. Now the radio sounds great. It has been recapped, a couple of bad resistors and bad wires replaced, contacts have been cleaned, and some good cleaning for the chassis as well.

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As I wanted to keep the original appearance of the chassis, I kept the original filter capacitors on board, but disconnected them from the circuit, added terminal strips and new capacitors from underneath.

Ben-Gal-Duet-Stereo-Board2 Ben-Gal-Duet-Stereo-Board1

The radio uses an EF85 tube as the RF stage. With the addition of a grounding connection and random wire antenna, it’s very sensitive on shortwave.

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About the Ben-Gal Duet-Stereo:

It was made in Israel by Ben-Gal, a label inside shows it was made at 12th of December, 1965.

It is a console model with record player. As the model name suggests, the amplifier and record player are stereo (though the tuner is not…).

The radio has longwave (marked in meters), mediumwave (marked in meters) and 3 shortwave bands (with megacycle and meter band marks).

The shortwave bands overlaps with each other, so cover is continuous:

  • SW3 2.3MHz to 6MHz,
  • SW2 5.5MHz to 15.5MHz,
  • and SW1 14.5MHz to 23MHz.

Ben-Gal-Duet-Stereo-Open

Many thanks, Moshe, for sharing photos and this description of this beautiful Ben-Gal Duet-Stereo. I bet the audio fidelity is amazing. My father has a 1960’s console–with a similar configuration–made by Admiral, though it was limited to mediumwave and FM reception. Some day, I will try to restore it to its former glory!

Thanks for the inspiration, Moshe!

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