Many years ago Keith acquired an old RCA 811K 1938 console radio and we had to find a place for it. It is a conversation piece but we couldn’t listen to it because it was broken. It was originally owned by his step-father’s grandparents when they lived in Springfield, Vermont. This radio came to the owners with the stations pre-programmed, in this case for the Vermont area. The blurry photo I took a few years ago but never got a clear picture and right now it’s the only photo of it I can find.
A few months ago Fred, a guy that Keith used to work with who is now retired, called him and asked him if he could fix our radio, which is one of his hobbies. Fred was needing this to occupy his time. Of course, Keith said absolutely. Fred worked on the radio for several weeks calling us occasionally and reporting to us what short wave stations he was able to listen to in Australia. Keith and I went over to his house one Saturday afternoon and listened to a few stations but since they tend to come in better at night and we didn’t have a quality antennae connected we didn’t hear much. In order to repair it the chassis had to be removed from the console and I’ve provided a few photos of how it looked. You can see all those old tubes. This radio had what was called a magic eye, which is the green-lite tube that Fred is holding. This is a signal strength indicator to aid in manual tuning. Here is a neat video showing how the magic eye works (although a different radio than we have) along with a neat story. Fred finished repairing the radio replacing a few tubes, aligned the speaker, replaced all paper capacitors and cleaned it.
We decided that with a working radio we also wanted the cabinet to be refinished so that it would be a beautiful piece of furniture as well. It was in pretty good shape but had some water stains and just many years of use. So, Keith took the cabinet to a person who is right now refinishing it. Within a few weeks we’ll have a wonderful piece of furniture and will be able to listen to many stations. As soon as we get it back and everything re-attached I’ll post some photos.
For Christmas Keith got an AM Radio Broadcaster that will enable us to do low powered broadcast and play historical recordings. He is, right now, soldering a circuit board that is required for it. Keith will be adding a stronger antennae in our attic so we will be able to have much better reception. We plan on listening to old radio programs. You can already do that through the Internet and CD’s but to do so on this old unit with the original speaker will make it a bit more unique.
The circuit board looks impressive, like a city with skyscrappers, but it isn’t working properly so Keith sent it to the company to look at.
We now have the cabinet back and it looks beautiful! Keith painted the inside of the cabinet yesterday, now we need to do a bit more of the labeling for the channels, we’ve ordered new fabric that covers the speaker and then I think we can re-attach the chasis. We’re getting closer to having it all finished and ready to listen.Final Update January 1, 2010
Keith finished the radio and we’ve enjoyed listening to it. It’s a beautiful addition to our living room. I learned the names of the original owners, William T & Grace F Howard who were both born in 1889 in New York and lived for many years in Springfield, Vermont, which is apparently where they were when they bought this radio.
Sadly, Fred Skill died a few months after he repaired this radio. He had hoped to come over and help reprogram it and listen to the radio he repaired. We will be reminded of him each time we listen to the radio.
Here are some photos of the final product.