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Radio Articles

Articles written for the "Indiana Historical Radio Society",
a club/organization dedicated to the education of the masses
about the preservation and restoration of antique radios. 
If you would like to know more about IHRS, contact:
Terry Garl, President
5490 Dawn Drive
Osceola, Indiana 46902

Summer 2003

From the Good Old Days, a familiar slogan that has been used frequently in the past, is also a way of describing a multitude of items that enthusiasts from all walks of life collect.  We who enjoy old radios, or more correctly labeled collector radios, have no doubt used this slogan when we have wanted to tell a friend just how much we like radio sets from the good old days.


Even though I have had a large number of old radios from my pre-teen days up to now and having been licensed as a ham radio operator for over 42 years, my major interest blossomed as I traveled to radio meets with my father-in-law, the late C.E. Strand.  We enjoyed many a time as he would have me listen on a set of earphones to a program on WLW on one of his Atwater-Kent radios.  So it is  with this heritage, both inherited and learned, that has prompted me to continue in my personal pursuits of AC and battery sets as well as tube-type ham gear.


As many of you can already testify to, it isn't long after getting a set or two and using them, that you soon realize certain kinds of service work will be necessary to maintain a collector radio.  I am fortunate in that after buying our older home here in Fairmount, I have been able to set up a fairly nice shop in the second building on our property.  It is 30x40 with enough room to house a boat along with several vehicles and still allow work benches to be in use.


There are several pieces of equipment that, if not necessary, are at any rate very useful.  A voltage and continuity checker that my late brother gave me many years ago when I was a teen has seen considerable use.  The same is with a voltage-ohm meter (VOM) for being a multi-task unit.  We can find ways to use other test units such as RF generators and oscilloscopes, but one of the most important pieces of test equipment for the tube radio enthusiast is the vacuum tube checker.  There needs to be a space on your work bench for such a unit.  Youll find after using one a few times you'll question yourself as to why it took so long for you to get one and how did you ever do without it?


So popular was the tube checker in past years that most drug stores had a stand-up console model somewhere in their store that radio owners could pull a suspected weak tube or a burn-out and take it in to have it checked.  It was a fairly simple process to find your tube number listed on the roller chart or in the tube manual and then select the correct socket and settings to make the checks.  Some tube testers had certain limitations, but for the most part they all could determine open filaments, probably the most common of tube maladys.


I have a very nice EMC Model 205 portable unit for said purposes. With a varnished wooden case, it looks right at home on the bench or in the trunk of ones car right next to the RCA tube caddy.  Making readings off its 4 " meter are easy after you have made the proper settings from the roller maual.  It will make a number of checks from low voltage and shorts to filament continuity.  Tube bases from 4 pins to 9 will just about include most tubes a collector will need to check including voltage regulator and ballast tubes.




One special aspect is the simplicity of a tube checker.  Fitting right in with the easy-to-read schematic, the ease at which a technician could use the tester is significant.  To fully appreciate this, all you have to do today is take a quick glance at the schematic (if you can find it) of your basic table radio or receiver and you realize how much of an advantage radio service people had in yesterday's shop.  For fear of being misunderstood, I speak of this advantage as being the fixable kind of advantage.  In this present day of throw-away radios, the integrated circuits and micro-small components have all but eliminated the need for a radio technician to do anything more than centralize the problem and then pull, throw and re-install new boards.  With the invention of minaturization in electronics, the solving of one problem has created others. (My opinion)


So...what are tube testers worth today?  I took a short walk through eBay's listing of testers and saw prices that ranged from a top bid of $629.97 for a very nice portable Western Electric KS-15750-L1 to $10-15 for lower-priced 3 and 4 base units.  However, an example like the drug store console model that I mentioned earlier was not among the auctions for bid.  Its been 13 years since I saw one and that beautiful unit was in the Zenith collection of a man in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Maybe one day I'll have the privilege of owning one.


For those of you who have Internet capabilities, there are some very nice websites that are dedicated to tube operation and testing.  Check these out:



Then there is the Tube Collectors Association which you can find at:



Tubes!  Called valves by our British brethren, these small glass and metal covered contrivances have a solid place in our electronics history.  Irregardless of any desire to be on the cutting edge of technology with microscopic components and wiring, tubes have stood the test of time.  That is one reason that explains the love we have of old radios...that warm glow that comes from our favorite set as we listen.  Only from tubes...ENJOY!






Winter 2003

Every hobby needs new input and new enthusiastic members.  As in any particular following, collector radios also need the young, inexperienced or new blood to generate the necessary enthusiasm that fuels the continuation of the hobby.


There is one inherent problem, however, that can add to the frustration of new collectors - the diminishing source or in business terms,  more demand less supply which means higher stakes to get started.  After being a collector of Shelby cars for a number of years, my problem of continuation with them became rather obvious as the dollar stakes went up much faster than my dollar intake.  In other words, I was priced out of the hobby and I finally sold out what I had left.  This is the unfortunate end result for any hobby as prospective collectors lose interest.


The chances of finding another old Shelby tucked away in a dusty old barn are just as nil as finding an old Crosley Pup or Model 10 breadboard sitting in an abandoned farmhouse.  There may be some of both examples waiting out there, but the odds are mighty high and in the meantime, new collectors become frustrated and leave for other pursuits.  In other words, don't count on the treasures that may be waiting for you.  Which brings us to the subject of this issues topic from Dave's Service Bench:  Old Radios Can Still Be Found.. 


Rummage sales are an invaluable source of old radios.  Whenever my wife goes rummaging which is most Saturday mornings during the warm weather, my parting admonition to her is watch for any old radios.  Ever so often, she'll find one.  I'll go to look at it and interestingly enough, it follows me home.  The huge advantage for shopping at yard sales or however they are labeled is the usually lower price.  However, if the ad for a sale includes the words old radio, go early as someone may beat you to it.  Oh, the joy of the chase. One particular find was a Philco Model 118 console that one fellow had decided to start work on.  It is missing its speaker, but it still had its chassis and tubes.  With patience and a little work, it could be restored to its former glory.


Several years back and during the James Dean Festival here in Fairmount, I remember seeing an IHRS member leaving with a treasured radio from one of the local antique stores.  I shop around in them here and in other towns as well, but generally, with a few exceptions, I don't buy radios from antique stores because of the overly-inflated prices.  I'm sure you have noticed how the price goes up because it looks old.  Unfortunately, antiquers don't realize that most price guides set their prices on radios that if not working, at least have all its tubes and no rodent population.  The radios are there - just buyer beware.


I have followed the tack of placing inexpensive ads in the classfied sections of local newspapers.  This has also been done by several other IHRS members, and the reports are encouraging.  However, again watch for those who believe if it's an old radio, it has to be priced according to the gold standard.  Generally, it's a good source.  Don't forget the Bulletin's classified ad section as they often feature good buys on a regular basis.


Rummage and yard sales, antique stores and newspaper ads all are good ways to find old radios.  But there's another source that usually is the cheapest way to obtain yesterday's electronics, but you may just have to do some digging - literally.  The old neigborhood dumps, junk that has been set out for the trash man, scrap heaps and old yard buildings often provide a supply that will not tax your budget.  But resourcefulness must be your constant companion.


Example in point:  an elderly neighbor lady decided to have her dilapitated barn cleaned out.  I'd often heard rumors of the treasures in there, but as I watched when I would drive by on occasion, nothing showed up that interested me.  We supply her with some of our garden surplus every year and this summer was no different.  It's gratis to her, but she always asks if there is anything she can do for us.  This year the light bulb lit up in my mind, and before I could stop myself, I asked her if shed found any old radios in her attempt to clean out the old barn.  Nothing in the barn, but she said she thought there might still be one in the little metal building that sits at the back of the property surrounded by weeds.  Sure enough, when the boards were taken away from the opening, there sat a worse-for-wear old radio sitting on 8-inch spindeled legs.  Covered with dust and other things, I got it out and carted home a Victor Radio, Model R-32.  Surprising to me, for no larger than it is, it is heavy.  No tubes, but everything else looked to be there.  I'd like to give this radio to a new collector within IHRS who is dedicated to restoration and not to profit.  Hopefully, it will find a new home with someone. Any serious takers?


However, some stories have sad endings.  My sad ending is about a Model 157 cathedral.  Another pile of rubbish - another opportunity.  I stopped and asked the owner if she knew if there were any old radios in the pile-up.  Just one at the bottom.  Just one condition, it was up to me to get to it.  I always use gloves as one never knows what you may uncover when youre moving old debris.  Sure enough and at the bottom, sat an old rusty chassis with part of the cathedral's front still there and dragging the speaker along.  The tubes were all there, but any hope of ever bringing it back to life was dashed away.  It's at home now in my shop.  I plan on cleaning it up the best I can and then it will sit on a shelf, there to remind me to keep looking for old radios.


No one knows for sure just when the old radio supply will run out.  We may find certain treasures that can be resurrected and returned to their former glory.  But then there may also be another Model 157 cathedral that needs to be allowed to come to an honorable end.  No doubt many will still end up in landfills, but keep looking!  They are there waiting just for you.