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Restoration



One of the joys of your own web site is that you can say more or less what you like. So here are some of my thoughts on the restoration of old radios.

I guess if one were to ask a dozen wireless collectors their views on restoration, there would be at least twenty opinions voiced.

There's something rather sad about an unworking radio, no matter how beautiful it looks. It's a cold, silent, museum exhibit - rather like an old car which can never run again. Undoubtedly there is a magical satisfaction in making a wireless which has lain silent for 60 or 70 years burst into life again. The heightened antcipation as it warms up, the yellowing dial lights, the smell of hot dust, all redolent of nostalgic memories when it was both the centre of family entertainment and the pinnacle of technological achievement.

On the other hand, restoration often means the destruction of old components, loss of originality and the denial of "reference" material to the next generation of collectors.

Some of the sets in my collection I have repaired and restored. I've tried to do it with as light a touch as possible, doing nothing which is irreversible. Sometimes I've been able to use original "new but old stock" components. More often a component of modern manufacture has to do. Fortunately they are invariably much smaller than the item they replace, so it's often possible to leave the old part in position and hide the new one inside a capacious chassis. Capacitors in particular can be rebuild inside the old shells to preserve original looks. Transformers, chokes and coils can be rewound.

On the whole, I'm happiest treating cabinets with polish and "elbow grease" and then leaving well alone. A few chips and scratches - even threadbare loudspeaker cloth - bear witness to their history. Of course, if mice, woodworm and rot (or worse still, battery acid) really have done their worst, more drastic steps may be justified!

It's unusual to find a set which has not had some repair during its working life. Some have been botched so clumsily that almost any new work feels like a kindness. Occasionally I have come across very original sets, but now requiring major surgery to get them working. These I (rather sadly) leave untouched for my successors.

On the whole I'm leaning more towards the "do nothing" stance as time passes. I have seen "restorations" that make me wince (PVC insulated wire is a pet hate!) I must admit to past endeavours of my own that I now feel overstep what is reasonable. I suppose the watchword must be "when in doubt, do nothing". At least it keeps all the options open.