The meaning of “Restoration”
of a vintage radio is a very open term. It could be
taken that the bare minimum is done to get the set
working to a full chassis and cabinet overhaul, bringing
the set to as near “as it left the factory”
condition. Of course, the end result very much depends
on the condition of the set when presented and the
depth of the owners pocket.
In my opinion, one thing to always pay attention
to is the safety to the user of a vintage wireless
when being used on the mains. Attention to areas such
as mains cable, capacitors and making the owner aware
of the possible problems with AC/DC sets are paramount.
An owner can obviously dictate what requires to be
done to a set. Once work has been carried out as per
the owners’ request, a summary report will be
provided setting out limitations and any recommended
In order to set some ground rules as to what work
would typically be carried out when someone brings
in their treasure for a standard overhaul, I have
set out below what would be done.
Mains cable checked and replaced where
required, paying attention to live and neutral connections.
Internal cabling checked and replaced
as required. Manufactures such as Philips used rubber
coated cables. The rubber coating becomes hard and brittle
over the years and eventually breaks away from the wire,
resulting in potentially dangerous and damaging situations.
Most sets made in the UK suffer from the
dreaded HUNTS wax coated capacitors. Over time, these
components fail and take on a resistive quality causing
distorted sound, early death of other components and valves,
low sensitivity, smoke etc…. This type of capacitor
is normally used in coupling and decoupling areas. As
matter of course, they would be changed.
HT electrolytics normally fail and cause
hum, instability, smoke and damage to power supplies.
If these components show signs of aging, they would be
replaced. Unlike the components in 1. above, they would
not necessarily be condemned at first sight. In sets dating
from around the 1930s, HT reservoir and smoothing capacitors
took the form of a cardboard box. Where possible, the
outer form would be kept and the insides replaced with
a modern equivalent. This keeps the appearance traditional.
Mains filter capacitors are changed as
a matter of course with X2 type components.
Small value pf mica capacitors in the
tuning and RF section are not normally required to be
replaced. Sometimes they can become intermittent and change
value when warm. The result is normally a loss in signal
strength and or a sudden move in the station on the tuning
Normally these components do not cause
upset, except where used in power, output stages etc.
The values would be checked and replacements made where
Sometimes faulty carbon resistors cause
noise and intermittent problems. A shot of freezer gas
normally finds the culprit.
Record decks / radiograms
Decks normally cease up with grease and
oil becoming hardened. The location of the deck quite
often is above the radio / amplifier section with the
heat off the valves adding to the discomfort. Cleaning
fluid and WD40 normally cures the problems.
Idler wheels become hard, resulting in
slipping turntables when then auto-change mechanism kicks
in. If available, the wheels are changed, but these are
becoming hard to find. A get around can arrived at by
increasing the tension on the springs which force the
idler between the motor shaft and the rim of the turntable.
Quality crystal pickups are hard to find
now. When they fail, repair is not possible normally.
Replacement is the only option. Garrard made some good
crystal pick ups with good bass response. No modern match
Replacement styli are available from
great companies such as Musonic.
Older 78 rpm decks normally can be restored
well. Disk – eddy current motors will need new phase
splitting capacitors. Without changing these components,
the deck will slow down during loud passages. Pick ups
will need their rubber bushes replacing. This is what
hot water bottles were made for. Where the output of the
pickup is low, the permanent magnet may need to be recharged.
A few turns of thick wire and a car battery results in
All controls will be cleaned with a lubricant
cleaner. This normally cures 90% of crackles. However
where more drastic action is needed, replacement is the
Wave change controls sometimes cannot
be fixed easily. In some cases, if the customer agrees,
the control is hardwired to the waveband required.
Mains on-off switches are worthy of attention.
I have seen fires start when switches are worn and stick
in an intermediate state. When a control shows signs or
high resistance and or intermittent working, a replacement
is made or the control is hard wired out of action.
The mechanics would normally be checked
and the tuning dial accuracy spot frequency checked.
Where the tuning cord has broken, a repair
will be made. This would, depending on complexity, be
quoted separately. Philips sets were responsible for many
an early death of a service engineer. Wire cord was used
and some models had a complicated mono-knob control system
which was a nightmare to repair.
More expensive sets had a magic eye tuning
indicator. These valves normally are not material in the
operation of the radio. They are there to show the stone
deaf when the radio is on station. Personally I love them.
However, these little chaps are becoming as rare as the
proverbial rocking horse droppings. With age, the fluorescent
coating on target electrode fails and the image is only
discernable using a Hubble telescope. These valves where
available, are changed at a cost. Some Philips, Mullard
sets used a magic eye which had an amplifying triode built
in, normally being used in the audio stages. Where a failure
occurs here and an EFM1 cannot be found, an additional
triode valve may have to be added.
Don’t condemn the valves if a set
does not work! Normally, the components fail or cause
the early demise of a valve.
With over 3000 valves in stock, replacement
is normally possible.
Vintage HiFi is popular and certain valves
now command a high price.
Masses of data plus AVO valve testers
are used to check suspects.
Check the speaker for cracks and damage
cone and repair where possible.
Vacuum the cabinet, chassis.
Basic clean of the cabinet, removing
years of smoke staining. Polish.
Replace dial and indicator lights.
If required, supply a length of wire
for an aerial.
Check rating of mains fuse.
As mentioned above, the owner would be given a brief report
setting out what has been done and any recommendations and