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Thread: Antique radio repair course?

  1. #1
    Practically Family Brinybay's Avatar
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    Antique radio repair course?

    I'm wondering how difficult it would be to learn to repair my old radio myself. I'm finding that the more I ask around, the more cost prohibitive it becomes to have someone do it for me. I got a flat-out rejection from The Radio Nut who's not far from me. He said he uses the Majestics like mine for bonfires. Ouch! But then, he only deals with radios worth several thousands of dollars, i.e. high-end stuff. A local hobbyist could only tell me he charges $60 and hour, and that's just to find out what's wrong with it.

    So I'm wondering where one would go to learn to repair it myself. I know nothing about electronics except that it involves a certain amount of mathmatics, not one of my strong points.

  2. #2
    Practically Family Flivver's Avatar
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    I learned how to fix tube-type radios when I was in high school back in the late 1960s. I used a 1932 book called "Ghirardi's Radio Physics Course" by Alfred P Ghirardi that I found in my school library.

    I'm told the best new text available today is "Fixing Up Nice Old Radios" by Ed Romney. Romney is a retired radio instructor. The book retails for $35.

    Radio repair is really quite easy once you master the basic principles and use some common sense. You'll also need a volt-ohm-meter, a tube tester, and a supply of resistors and capacitors. I built my original parts stock by stripping old TVs I found at the dump.

  3. #3
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    Radio Repairs

    I'm not expert, but I've had a 1936 philco repaired. The guy who did it told me the that the tubes themselves generally hold up pretty well. Its the capacitors that dry up over time.

    If you looking for parts, google the Antique Radio Supply Company. They have or can find most anything you need.

    Good luck

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    New In Town OzDresser's Avatar
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    I enjoy fiddling with old radios and am entirely self-taught, but I still have much to learn. The two things that have helped me the most were 1) purchasing a study-at-home radio repair course from another old radio restorer. There were tons of these back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s and whole sets of booklets and manuals are still floating around. They start with the very basics and include plenty of pictures and photos of old radio parts and layouts that, of course, new electronics books don't have. 2) get to know some amateur radio guys in your area. More than anything that community has helped grow my basic understanding of electronic principles, plus messing with contemporary electronic components has really helped me understand what all those big clunky parts in the old radios do. I've bought some of the "how to restore antique radio" books (not Romney's) and personally have not found them very useful; they really assume a certain level of electronics understanding which I did not have. Good luck.
    Ryan

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    Bartender LizzieMaine's Avatar
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    It helps to know theory, but the fact is, you can do basic radio repair without a lot of technical expertise. I started to do it, not because I was a technical whiz, but because there was nobody else around here who could do it for me.

    Once you understand the basic flow of signal from antenna to speaker, it's fairly easy to narrow down where a problem is likely to be, and then it simply becomes a matter of figuring out which specific component is causing the trouble -- which nine times out of ten will be a bad paper capacitor, and those are very easy to replace once you know how to solder.

    Some radios are much more complicated than others, though -- if you're just starting out, don't try to tackle a complicated '30s all-wave set. Build your experience and confidence on simple radios before moving on to the more complicated ones.

    You'll make mistakes, but you'll learn from them -- I once took 400 volts of DC in my right arm because I didn't watch what I was doing. That was twenty years ago, but I've not forgotten the lesson learned!
    The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error. -- William Jennings Bryan

  6. #6
    Practically Family Brinybay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LizzieMaine
    It helps to know theory, but the fact is, you can do basic radio repair without a lot of technical expertise. I started to do it, not because I was a technical whiz, but because there was nobody else around here who could do it for me.

    Once you understand the basic flow of signal from antenna to speaker, it's fairly easy to narrow down where a problem is likely to be, and then it simply becomes a matter of figuring out which specific component is causing the trouble -- which nine times out of ten will be a bad paper capacitor, and those are very easy to replace once you know how to solder.

    Some radios are much more complicated than others, though -- if you're just starting out, don't try to tackle a complicated '30s all-wave set. Build your experience and confidence on simple radios before moving on to the more complicated ones.

    You'll make mistakes, but you'll learn from them -- I once took 400 volts of DC in my right arm because I didn't watch what I was doing. That was twenty years ago, but I've not forgotten the lesson learned!
    Well, I was thinking in terms of trying to fix the only one I own, a 1929 Majestic. Too much for a beginner?

    http://s252.photobucket.com/albums/hh22/Brinybay/Radio/

  7. #7
    New In Town OzDresser's Avatar
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    About all I can do is replace capacitors. I can't really even pinpoint if a component has failed so I can only offer very beginner's advice. If your Majestic is like my Atwater Kents, both of which are from the late 20s, the capacitors will be encased in tar. They might be in those metal cases on the right. If they're wired under the chassis then you're in luck. It's certainly possible to melt the tar and replace them but I haven't had the guts to try it. As mentioned above, if you can replace the caps start there then you can work on diagnosing any further problems. The guts look to be in very nice shape. Any idea what that big black unit is? You haven't already, download the schematic on line for free (can't remember the site offhand, but google it).
    Ryan

  8. #8
    Practically Family Brinybay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OzDresser
    About all I can do is replace capacitors. I can't really even pinpoint if a component has failed so I can only offer very beginner's advice. If your Majestic is like my Atwater Kents, both of which are from the late 20s, the capacitors will be encased in tar. They might be in those metal cases on the right. If they're wired under the chassis then you're in luck. It's certainly possible to melt the tar and replace them but I haven't had the guts to try it. As mentioned above, if you can replace the caps start there then you can work on diagnosing any further problems. The guts look to be in very nice shape. Any idea what that big black unit is? You haven't already, download the schematic on line for free (can't remember the site offhand, but google it).
    Ryan
    The HBT (Heavy Black Thing) is the power unit.

    It plugs into this doo-dad, which appears to be broken: which in turn is connected to the chassis: which in turn plugs into the power outlet.

    I've found the schematics and downloaded them, but have no clue what I'm looking at. Most of the wiring would have to be replaced too, I would think, particularly the original power cords.


    Getting the tubes tested would be the first step. A local hobbyist did check the two most expensive vacuum tubes for me, the two #45s. One was good, the other marginal but usuable.

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