As someone who has a collection of tube radios, I found this article interesting for a number of reasons. The author has a huge collection of tube amplifiers, and was looking for a way to resurrect them. He bought a device called a variac, which is basically just a power transformer with adjustable input. In the article he explains how he used a variac to slowly bring the capacitors inside old tube amps back to life by slowly increasing the voltage applied; this sounds like another interesting project.

Date posted: February 15, 2024 | Filed under radios, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I put this up on Instagram but I was so proud of what it looked like this morning I took another picture and now that’s here. This is is the result of about 4 good hours of woodworking, which was made up of 2 hours of squaring all of the weird framing and 2 hours of cutting and fitting. I still need a bottom plate for underneath the sill and finishing trim, and I have to recut the rounded trim at the top of the three wall plates (I cut it about 4 inches too short). Once I’ve got those pieces I can assemble the top moulding and put that in–it’s always easier to install that as a whole–and caulk the whole thing up. I also studded out the doorway to the closet to prep it for framing, which I can maybe start next weekend.

Meanwhile Brian is here today to (hopefully) finish the tile on the bottom of the wall, put the top of the bench in, and possibly get the floor tile installed. He should be able to come back and grout the whole thing later this week, and we’ll be that much closer to complete in there!

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We went to see Captain Marvel this weekend, which was pretty good but not the best Marvel movie I’ve seen. Finn enjoyed it. There were several places where female empowerment were FRONT AND CENTER, which I love to be able to show her. I enjoyed those messages but I thought the movie overall was somewhat disjointed and rushed. There were several moments of character-building but most of that got pushed aside for PEW-PEW-PEW-BOOM action fights staged in the dark that I really couldn’t see. Grade: C+

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I got a text from the Radio guy asking me about some woodworking questions on Saturday, and we had a conversation about technique and materials. I asked him if he had a tube tester and he does, so I offered him a six-pack for a half an hour of testing. During the conversation I’d  mentioned that Baynesville Electronics got rid of their tester years ago. Baynesville was a huge family-owned electronics store north of Baltimore that stocked everything Radio Shack wished they could; they were always friendly and helpful and if they didn’t have it they could get it for you. I used to haul bags of tubes in there and check them on a dusty testing machine in the corner of the store, until one day it was gone. The salesman told me it had broken down and they just got rid of it, because nobody was using it anymore. I haven’t been up there in years, and while I was waiting for Finn to try on clothes at the Target, I thought to look them up online. Turns out the store closed up shop three years ago in the face of declining sales. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I admit it makes me sad.
Date posted: March 11, 2019 | Filed under bathroom, radios | Leave a Comment »

I’m on the couch sipping a cup of coffee while Finn, who has off from school today, sleeps in upstairs. I have off from work today myself, but it’s only most of the day, as I still have to teach tonight. Last week was canceled due to the ice storm so the class is sort of a week behind (I assigned the second project via email so we’ll see how this whole thing shakes out today). Overall it’s going OK this semester, even though they’ve packed my class with 18 students, the absolute maximum–and frankly, about 4 students too many. They did contact me last week about teaching the branding class again in the fall, which would be ideal; I’m tired of this syllabus and would like to mix things up again.

I did sell the other two radios on Saturday morning, which made me a little sad. I had plans at one time to fix and refinish the Philco tombstone, but the reality of the situation is that we just don’t have anyplace to put it. The buyer apparently got the Telefunken set working and mentioned that he specializes in repairing the electrical bits, so I might get in touch with him later in the spring to fix one of the sets I’ve got here. File that under future nonessential plans.

I’ve been learning a lot about my sleep habits with the Fitbit. Namely, even though I lay my head down on the pillow at 11PM and get up at 6:40, I’m only averaging about six and a half hours of sleep every day. Analyzing the data, it looks like I’m going down easy at first, and then bouncing up and down out of restful sleep starting at about 4AM or so. I’ve always worked better at night: my peak concentration hours start at about 8PM and go to 1AM, but I can’t follow that schedule anymore. I’m going to have to train myself to close my eyes at 10:30 religiously to make up for the loss.

Today’s plan is to get some stuff around the house done. I have wood ready for the refrigerator surround ready and want to put that in place first thing. I’ve got to keg the beer that’s been sitting in the basement for the last four months; god only knows what that will taste like at this point. Then I want to measure the greenhouse for new footers and new plastic, and make a plan to refurbish it for a fresh crop of tomatoes in the spring.

Date posted: February 18, 2019 | Filed under brewing, geek, projects, radios | Leave a Comment »

Waaaay back in July of last year I wrote about abruptly losing my sunglasses. I scoured the house, the yard, the garage, our vehicles–anyplace I remembered having them. But there was no sign of them, so I sourced a pair of identical frames and had lenses cut for them. This morning I was meeting a guy to sell a radio off of Craigslist and figured he might be interested in two others I’ve had sitting in the basement for 15 years: a Philco tombstone I bought in my bakelite collecting days, and a giant hulking Emerson set that my aunt and uncle saved for me years ago. I moved them out into the open of the ice room and shot some pictures, and what was hiding behind the big Emerson? My sunglasses, a little dusty but otherwise perfectly fine! I cleaned them off and wore them to the meet. I miss the amber lenses in the old pair–my new pair are just darkened, which is fine, but the amber tends to brighten and amplify things in my vision. I’d always thought they were heavier and more solidly built than the new black pair I’d bought, but they feel exactly the same. So now I’ve got two pair of sunglasses; I truly am living my authentic lifestyle.

As for the radios, I offered them to the buyer this morning, and we settled on a price (a little low, but what the hell, it’s a buyers market). I haven’t had time to work on them, they’re really too big to display in the house, and I have too much stuff. I’m going to meet back up with him next weekend and get them out of here.

Date posted: February 9, 2019 | Filed under life, radios | Leave a Comment »

Dusting around my collection of tube radios on Saturday, I got to thinking about why I haven’t added an iPod connector to my large floor set (considering it’s not pulling in stations anymore and chances it’ll ever get fixed are slim). Instructables has a great Vintage Tube Radio & MP3 Upgrade article which has lots of good information beyond just the upgrade– links to parts, schematics, and other good resources.

Date posted: April 8, 2013 | Filed under projects, radios, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Silvertone 2015

This set was given to me by a friend and business partner as a Christmas gift somewhere around 1997. The Sears company produced this set in the 50’s (this fellow dates it at 1956) but it still has a lot of characteristics left over from the late 40’s-brown bakelite case, inventive use of the material for the grille (and use of grille cloth), and retro script on the dial. It shares several design elements from older sets—for example, the GE radio I have, but with more class. Mechanically, there’s nothing wrong with it; it has great sound and pulls in distant stations easily. There’s also a helpful metal badge on the back with a unique serial ID; the original owner would call Sears, give them this number, and they would be able to run down parts and service for that specific model. It’s not a radio that would have stopped me in my tracks, but as I’ve owned it, I’ve grown to appreciate its lines and condition, and I’m happy to have it in my collection.

Date posted: May 25, 2006 | Filed under radios | Comments Off on Silvertone 2015

Philco (Model unknown)

I bought this Philco in the John’s Antiques Firesale (it was one of several sets in a pile) in my first year off collecting. Originally it had a dark burled wood finish, making it look striking and unique, and it came with no back, cord or dialcover. I took the finish off, not realizing (this was years before you could look up anything on the internets) the “finish” was actually offfset-printed paper made to look like burled wood and applied to the case with some kind of clear varnish. I set it aside after buying and installing some new grille cloth, fully intending to return to it at some point, but it’s sat idle and naked since about 1995. I’d guess it’s prewar based on the label design—it’s only partially intact—but it doesn’t look like any of the other Philco labels I have. More research needs to be done, as well as a reconditioning of tubes and electronics.

Date posted: May 3, 2006 | Filed under radios | 1 Comment »

Emerson 550

This set is another recent acquisition (read: the last five years) but I don’t recall the circumstances or price. I liked it because it had Emerson lines but more refinements than some of the other, clunkier wooden sets I’ve seen. I haven’t done a whole lot of research on the model, so I don’t know much about it. The veneer is in good shape, the tubes are all present, and the cord is in reasonably good shape, so I hope it won’t be too hard to clean up, eventually. Knobs also seem to be pretty easy to find, thankfully.

About twelve years ago, I saw one of these Emerson sets in a junk store in Fell’s Point for somewhere around $150, and I didn’t buy it (I was dirt-poor at the time.) I wish I’d been able to afford it then, because I’m sure it’s worth ten times that amount now. I think I’d probably give an eyetooth for one of these.

Date posted: April 22, 2006 | Filed under radios | Comments Off on Emerson 550.

Philco 46-420

This big beast is a departure from the standard dial-and-knobs-on-front variety, which is one of the reasons I bought it. I was also drawn to the juxtaposition of the pseudo-deco/constructivist lettering on the dial and the sensuous curve on the top. The case was in perfect condition when I bought it, although it now features a 4″ crack on the right side thanks to my clumsy cat. It’s also one of the biggest bakelite sets I own by about 20%. It came with no back plate and no tubes, so I bought it on faith for $35 and saved up for the guts later. To my delight, after I got a set of tubes installed, it fired right up and sounds very good, although the reception isn’t as strong as some of the other sets I own.

This is someone’s quote for a “restoration” of an equivalent set ($110 is pricey in my opinion, for a handful of $5 capacitors.) According to this page, it originally sold (in 1946) for $28.85, and it’s one of 150,062 made. Here’s some more information.

Date posted: April 20, 2006 | Filed under radios | Comments Off on Philco 46-420

Philco 48-206

This radio is actually wood, covered with something Philco called “Leatherette”. I understand many different versions of this model exist, including square cases, dark knobs, dark dial plastic, and versions with a handle on the top. I like this one best of all, because it’s got a streamlined appearance. I bought it for $40 at a time when that was a lot of money for me, but I couldn’t pass up the deal: this radio plugged in and worked, the leatherette is in immaculate shape, and the back is intact. And it sounds great.

Date posted: April 20, 2006 | Filed under radios | Comments Off on Philco 48-206