Vintage Radio Upcycle - Update

It's a snowy day in Alberta, and freezing drizzle overnight has left the roads fairly slick. Seems a perfect day to stay in and set to work on the first steps of upcycling this old vintage radio for Kylee and Tanner over at The Coulee Cottage!

Step 1 - Remove the Internals

This particular radio had the majority of the internals contained within a metal box attached to the bottom plate. Removing a couple screws saw the entire box, dial and all, ready to slid out. Once that was out of the way and set aside (we'll be reusing the metal box to house our new components and power cords, as well as reusing the dial itself), I removed the speaker assembly. Finally, the glass window and the fabric speaker cover were removed and set aside for reuse later. We were now down to the wooden shell.

Step 2 - Prep the Lamp Sockets

A few weeks ago, while on a mission for some other parts, I came across some porcelain sign board sockets that we couldn't turn up, and decided they would work perfectly for this project! The top of this radio will sport 2 light bulbs, as well as a nixie tube clock to bring the radio tube vibe across. These sign board sockets have exposed terminals on the underside, as when installed in an enclosed sign board the risk of contacting them is slim to none. The idea here is to use a bluetooth assembly to allow wireless connection to the speaker inside, and therefore hands will find their way in to push the pairing button. Enter the glue gun - a quick shot to cover up the exposed terminals and we're in business!

Step 3 - Rough Install of Lamp Sockets

Prior to dismantling the radio's body and refinishing it, we needed to create the holes for the sockets and test fit everything. The sign board sockets are a two piece design that screw together through a hole drilled in a sign board, so we needed to create a hole in the top of our radio to mount them. The diameter of the inner portion of the socket (the part that installs through the sign board) measures in at 1-3/8". The closest bit I had in my collection was a 1-1/4" hole saw bit, so we used that. After marking the holes where I wanted them to end up, I drilled through with the hole saw bit, then used my rotary tool to take away just enough of the material to get a perfect, snug fit. It was then time to screw the bottom of the socket to the top, and toss a few light bulbs in to get a rough look at what our finished product will be!

You may have noticed the chip bag clip... the decorative trim was beginning to pop in a few spots, so we gave it a quick shot of wood glue and used our make shift clamp(s) to hold it tight while it set. I had thought about taking them off and redoing the lot, but the wood is quite frail and would come off in splinters. I've got a tool that should do great at getting into the small gaps for sanding, so I'll give that a go prior to creating all new strips.

Step 4 - Dismantle the Body

Once we were happy with the rough mock-up, it was time to dismantle the body. We'll be sanding down all of the pieces and refinishing them with new stain and top coat to bring back the original colour scheme. A few screws held the sides to the bottom plate, and most of the rest was glued. You certainly don't NEED to pull the body apart to sand and refinish it, but a number of the glue joints were starting to separate after years of use, so we made the choice to complete a full disassembly in order to redo the joints with modern glue and ensure the new mantle piece will last for years to come.

What's Next?

We'll be spending the next little while working on refinishing all of the pieces, which should give our Nixie tubes time to arrive. We still need to source a new speaker to install, as well as a bluetooth module to run it, but once we have the parts on hand and the box refinished and reassembled, the build will move quick! We'll also be reusing the metal housing that held all of the old wiring and radio tubes in our build, so we'll be setting to removing rivets and salvaged all of the tubes, sockets, transistors, etc. A lot of the wiring and paper transistors are charred, split or damaged, but we have some awesome plans to re-use some of these pieces!

Thanks for tuning in, friends! The next few weeks are going to be packed with some huge announcements, so stay tuned to our social media feeds to get all the latest details! And whatever your plans this weekend, we hope you all had a fantastic Easter!


Sean - Emerson Industrial Design Co.

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