Tag Archives: Vintage Radio Repair

Expectations after dusting off a radio that’s been in storage

Realistic DX-150A (Source: Universal Radio)

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

I purchased a Realistic DX150 radio when it was first introduced. I used it for many years and then stored it away for some time. A few years ago I decided to use it again. After the bandspread control was repaired at a local radio shop, I used it for a short time and then stored it away.

Yesterday, I took it off the shelf to see what was on the air waves. I did not have much success in getting any broadcasts to tune in strongly/clearly. I am writing to ask what my expectations should be – given the low performance of the radio and the state of shortwave transmissions these days. The mechanical aspect of the bandspread control needs attention again. My question is: Should I be able to pick up transmissions at some good level/ quality?

Thank you for your advice and recommendations.

Alfred, thank you for your inquiry and I hope you don’t mind that I’m sharing it here publicly because I’ve been receiving so many similar questions in the past few months.

I assume with so many people sheltering at home because of Covid-19 and, suddenly, having time available to catch up on projects and pastimes, they’re pulling solid-state receivers off of the shelf and putting them on the air again!

You asked: “Should I be able to pick up transmissions at some good level/ quality?”

A simple question, with a potentially complicated answer!

A simple answer first…

If your DX-150 is still electrically and mechanically functioning as it should, and you have it connected to an effective antenna, then yes, you should be able to receive transmissions!

Caveats…

As I’ve told numerous others who have resurrected solid-state gear from storage, there’s a good chance gear that’s a few decades old could have dead or leaky capacitors. Sometimes the symptom of this is a “hum” in the receiver’s audio, but bad capacitors (or “caps” as we like to call them) can also cause less obvious issues with the radio’s overall performance. If you’ve tried everything and suspect your radio needs repair, there are some great repair technicians out there. My friend Vlado is one of them, but I think he may have paused repairs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Radios that have sat on a shelf or in a basement for years may also have built up oxidization on switch and knob contacts. Carefully applying a product like Deoxit on contacts can make a world of difference and bring your radio back to life.

In addition, if you haven’t hooked up your radio in a couple of decades, you may be surprised by the amount of radio interference and noise (RFI) our home electronics generate. A random wire or indoor antenna that worked well in the 1970s might not work at all if you have high levels of RFI where you live. RFI has the same effect on your radio as a noisy restaurant environment has on your ability to hear a friend who is speaking at a normal volume level across the table from you. RFI can deafen your receiver. There are antennas that can help mitigate RFI, and there are also techniques you can use to help mitigate it.

Depending on where you live in the world, you will find the shortwave landscape isn’t the same as it was, say, in the Cold War years. Fear not! There are still numerous broadcasters out there, so people who say shortwave is “dead” simply aren’t listening.  Check out ShortwaveSchedules.com and Prime Time Shortwave for what’s out there and where to find broadcasters on the bands. If you like music, I highly recommend Alan Roe’s guide to music on shortwave.

The Tecsun PL-380 is one of several compact portables that can be purchased for $50 or less.

If you find that you’re not hearing anything on your DX-150 (or other vintage radio)–even after following some of the advice above, yet you still want to explore the shortwaves–you might consider investing in a modern portable radio. Not only do modern portables sport a digital frequency display (which helps locate stations), but they allow you to take your listening to the field. You will be surprised what you can receive when you walk or drive to an area far away from man-made electronic noises. Tabletop radios like the DX-150 are not terribly portable. If you’re looking for some portable shortwave radio suggestions, check out this post. (Incidentally, if you found this post because you’re mainly seeking an AM/FM radio for local news and info, check out this post.)

Getting back on the air…

Alfred (and others who have recently contacted me) I hope this post gives you some helpful guidance. In truth, there are still many other issues that could affect your ability to get the most out of your vintage solid-state receiver. Let’s assume, though, that the solution is simple! Give it a go, and take your time tuning across the bands on different days and with your receiver in different locations.

My hope is that SWLing Post readers will also comment on this post with other suggestions to help you back into the world of SWLing!


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Jon’s Sony CRF-160: Should it stay or should it go?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jon Helberg, who writes:

Greetings!

During our COVID-19 shutdown I located my old Sony CRF-160 which has been closet bound for some years now, however it has always worked as new.

[…]Other than the broken toggle switch for the light, all knobs and dials work, are present and accounted for. Upon powering up after many years in storage it lights up just fine and appears to be operational, however once powered up the volume control and every knob I turned brought loads of static to the speakers indicating corrosion of contacts, etc., so I just shut it down without testing any further.

The power cord has become a bit sticky as some plastics and rubber do over time, but of course that easily can be cleaned up. The entire radio case and front cover is intact (nothing broken, warped or bent), with the standard wear marks on the outside but otherwise fine. I do not have the box, manual, or any other accessories. The telescoping antenna looks as if it may have been slightly bent at one time (not kinked), and it extends and retracts just fine.

I have owned this radio since new but raised a family who used it as well (kids broke the light switch), so I do know it worked the last time I used it before storage, but I haven’t used it since other than just turning it on as I have mentioned above.

Photos

I don’t do much with radio any longer other than listening to AM, therefore this radio had no value to me other than sentimental (purchased it after an Army tour with ASA as a radio intercept operator), therefore looking for your thoughts on whether it’s worth getting repaired, or just focus on selling on eBay, or somewhere else?

I would have no idea as to its value, who could repair it, or the cost involved.

Tough decision, Jon, so thanks in advance for allowing me to share your inquiry here with the SWLing Post community.

I’m hoping readers can comment with thoughts on the actual value of the radio, the availability of spare parts (toggle switch), and their thoughts on whether you should keep or sell it.

I’m a nostalgic guy, so my inclination would be to keep it unless you really wanted to liquidate it for funds, or you simply have no attachment to it at all.  As custodians of vintage radios, I also feel we should try to keep them in working order.

In terms of repairs, I know my good friend Vlado (at HamRadio.repair) could re-cap it and make it like new. If you could locate a parts radio or simply a similar toggle switch, Vlado could sort that out too I’m sure.

Post readers: What are your thoughts? Should Jon keep the Sony or sell it? Are parts easy to find. Please comment and include any relevant links!

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Restoration of a USN version of the ARC-5 command set receiver

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Gregory Charvat N8ZRY writes on Hackaday about an un-modified-since-WW2 surplus CBY-46104 receiver with dynamotor.

He writes:

I’ve been told all my life about old-timey Army/Navy surplus stores where you could buy buckets of FT-243 crystals, radio gear, gas masks, and even a Jeep boxed-up in a big wooden crate. Sadly this is no longer the case.

Today surplus stores only have contemporary Chinese-made boots, camping gear, and flashlights. They are bitterly disappointing except for one surplus store that I found while on vacation in the Adirondacks: Patriot of Lake George.

Read the full story at
https://hackaday.com/2019/12/12/wwii-aircraft-radio-roars-to-life-what-it-takes-to-restore-a-piece-of-history/

Video

Video description: Repair and restoration of a USN version of an ARC-5 command set receiver. This model covers 1.5-3 Mc, runs off its original dynamotor, with no internal circuit modifications. This radio is original with the exception of a small number of caps that tested bad which were re-stuffed. Build date is Feb. 42, who knows where and what this radio may have been involved in?

I’ve always wanted a functioning ARC-5 command set to accompany my BC-348-Q receiver. This article has inspired me.

Post readers: Anyone own a functioning ARC-5 (or any variants)? Please comment!

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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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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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