March 19, 2010 at 7:40 am #1679Gerry O’HaraKeymaster
This restoration started by me spotting the set on a shelf by the outside door of an old-timer’s place some two years ago – he was selling-off his collection of radios and vast amounts of radio paraphernalia – “Oh that? – it’s a battery set and in rough shape – couple of bucks?” he said when I pointed to the set. I looked at the set, a very scruffy little Phonola table top that I guessed was from the late-1930’s from the style. I took a closer look and saw that the dial was in nice shape beneath the years of grime, the chassis was intact (a couple of tubes missing) but that the cabinet was almost falling to pieces – through the dust and flaking lacquer I could see that it had been a two-tone finish with an interesting design over the loudspeaker grill. Of course, I coughed-up the two bucks…
Getting home that day, I unloaded the various ‘radio spoils’ from my car – placing the Phonola on a shelf in the garage, where it sat untouched until one Sunday morning in February 2010, when I was clearing the garage shelves and I decided to start working on the set at the SPARC museum in Coquitlam that afternoon. So I hauled it up there and took a few photos as I removed the chassis from the dilapidated cabinet. The cabinet was in worse shape than I remembered, and by drying out in my garage it had warped considerably – the solid-wood top and bottom were detaching from the plywood sides and front. I dry-scraped what remaining lacquer there was still clinging to the wood and then glued the sides and front back onto the top and bottom, bracing the set carefully with many clamps to undo the warping while the glue set (this had to be undertaken in three stages to render the cabinet ‘square’ again). A couple of small areas were patched with slivers of new veneer and some small cracks/gaps between the panels filled with epoxy putty. The usual pre-finishing preparation then commenced: careful sanding down with 400 then 600 grit paper using lemon oil as a lubricant and to ‘feed’ and condition the wood until the surface was smooth, followed by a light rub with extra-fine steel wool. After leaving the prepared cabinet for a week to dry, sections were then masked-off to allow the multi-tone finish to be replicated, starting with grill and dial cut-out edges, accent line and top and bottom shoulders, these all in a dark brown tint using an airbrush. The lower half of the cabinet was then uncovered and given several coats of brown-tinted lacquer, building a slight graduated tone, lightening upwards towards the dark brown accent line. The upper half of the cabinet was then un-masked and three coats of brown-tinted lacquer applied. Finally, five coats of clear satin-finish lacquer was applied to the entire cabinet to provide protection and build ‘depth’ into the finish.
Meanwhile, back home, the chassis was identified as dating from the 1946-7 model year (rather later than the case-style had suggested to me). The tube line-up is fairly typical of the small farm sets of this era: 1A7-G converter, 1N5-G IF amplifier, 1H5-G detector/AGC/first audio and a 1C5-G output. The chassis was given the usual clean using rubbing alcohol to remove grime and lighter fluid for waxy/oily deposits, and the glass scale cleaned using warm soupy water, before replacing the paper capacitors (here, replaced with tested NOS Aerovox paper capacitors – only five of ‘em, so less than an hours work). All resistors checked-out within tolerance, so were left in place. The missing tubes were replaced (kindly donated by ‘Abbotsfordgerry’), the others testing-out ok on my Precision tube tester. I noticed that he tuning gang was a bit ‘gritty’, so the old, dry lubricant was cleaned out of the bearings and replaced with molybdenum grease – much smoother. The volume control was given a squirt of De-Oxit and the chassis was then coupled-up to an ‘off-the-shelf’ farm-set power supply (https://www.eskimo.com/~novatech/grandadselectronics.html), and it fired-up straight away. A slight adjustment of the IF transformers, along with a slight tweak on the local oscillator/antenna circuit was all that was needed to render the set performing well up to specification.
The chassis was then re-installed in the cabinet and, by chance (phew!), the power-supply fitted nicely into one side of the cabinet, secured by two small metal brackets, providing a neat arrangement.
The set now looks very ‘cute’ and I think has great eye-appeal, besides sounding very good. Click on the photos for a larger image.
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