New to restoring? Start with CHEAP sets, ones that can be seen as
expendable. Restoration is an art and like all arts, there is much to
learn. Domestic valve radio sets, manufactured during the 'era of the wireless'
from the late 1920s to around 1960, are fast becoming the antiques of tomorrow.
There is a strong and quite rapidly developing collecting movement in existence,
both in the UK and worldwide. A few sets, in particular the older Bakelite types
but also the pre second world war sets, with their wooden cabinets and Art Deco
originality, are prized for their
and as a consequence are becoming rare and expensive.
collectors are troubled by their lack of knowledge. What should the collector
look for, which to purchase, when to leave well alone? What condition merits the
description 'restoration project'?
The points I am about to make
should be used as a guide to help toward an informed decision to purchase a
given set and if so, what work you will be taking on and what price you might
reasonably wish to pay. You should also bear in mind the age
of a set. It would be unreasonable to expect perfection in an early 1930s radio
after all. It is a matter of degree and of personal choice in the end. After all
many sets prized by some collectors leave me cold. Personally I love the Art
Deco styling of the pre-war sets especially some of the Bakelite cased receivers. After the war
styling became more restrained and cost became
an ever-increasing factor placing limits on design creativity.
I have assumed in all of the
following text that you either intend to carry out full or partial renovations
yourself to radio sets you purchase. You could for example take on the task of
stripping and refinishing a veneered cabinet replacing the loudspeaker grille
fabric and generally clean up the chassis parts leaving the electronic work to a
friend or an expert who can do the work for you. For this kind of service see
under 'Links' on the navigation bar or look for the adverts in 'Radiophile'
and 'Radio Bygones' magazines.
On the other hand you
may feel confident enough to have a go yourself. Either way you will be
purchasing sets in need of at least some restoration work and the price you pay
should reflect this fact. Beware the sellers who tell you proudly that it works
perfectly. It won't. Even though sound may issue from the loudspeaker there will
almost certainly be problems and it is best to ignore the fact that it is
working at all when haggling over the purchase price. Also beware the stories
about age. Use your judgement. If a radio has an FM band it was built after 1953
regardless of the story about listening to Churchill's wartime speeches on it in the seller's
youth. People seem to have a very distorted view of time when it comes to
objects like radio sets. I don't think it is often a deliberate falsehood but
that's not the point when you are purchasing. Many times when searching the
offers on Ebay have I seen sets described as 1930s models when in reality they
were 1950s. Buyer beware.
The book 'Radio! Radio!' by Jonathan Hill,
reviewed on this site under 'Things to Read', is
a good general guide to age, though not to the
value, of a given set.
Radio restoration, broadly speaking,
falls into two main categories: chassis and cabinet. These two are
mutually exclusive, the one being concerned with technical matters
(though not exclusively, as we shall see) and the other being concerned