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ETHICS OF RESTORATION  

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The thorny problem of restoration

Perhaps this section should be called 'what to restore - and what to leave'. People find it hard to agree on details. The biggest problem is with wooden cabinets. Do you treat them as 'antique' in the sense that they are old and should show their history in their patina, in the scratches, in the stains, ring marks, woodworm holes, rotting loudspeaker fabric? Then there's the electronics to consider. Should the valves be changed for more modern types, with replacement valve-holders and modified wiring to suit? Or should all efforts revolve around locating original valves? Should the electrolytic capacitors be replaced with similar types, perhaps very expensively, or should they be removed and modern types fitted? Resistors of the old style carbon stick form can still be obtained, at a premium. Should these be used, or newer, smaller types?

There is even a firm offering to fit completely new insides into your existing old cabinet.

Some things must be changed or modified, however. Mains lead is a prime candidate for replacement in almost every elderly set. Earthing arrangements must be checked and if necessary modified for safety.

It's all a matter of degree. Some things can be left, but woodworm infestation can't. Loudspeaker fabric that is ripped or rotted surely must be changed. But as far as repolishing a wooden cabinet goes, do you leave the evidence of years, or do you strip the finish and repolish? If the chassis is badly rusted, then treatment and painting is needed. If the valve you need is unobtainable, surely a close replacement must be fitted?

However, this does not resolve the fundamental dilemma with renovation, namely how far is too far? It is impossible to say. I can, though, give you my views. Remember, once again, this is only my personal opinion and should be read as such. You have every right to your own shade of opinion, which may differ greatly from mine.

External appearance

The single most important question is - would I put this radio on display in my own home?

I consider vintage radio restoration to be akin to vintage car restoration. How often do you see a vintage car at a rally covered in rust, with a rotten tonneau cover and crazed glass?

If a wooden cabinet is clean and only lightly marked, bearing signs of being cared for, then it's probably best to leave alone. Very marked, stained or damaged cabinets need more thorough restoration. Bakelite sets seem naturally to lend themselves to a good clean-up, using 'Brasso' metal polish. This applies to bakelite knobs and trim, too.

Radio sets are not typical antiques. To maintain value both now and in the future, sets need to work well and safely.

 

With some sets the answer of the question 'whether or not to refinish?' is obvious

VINTAGE RADIO world: SIXTEEN YEARS OF WEB PRESENCE