Perhaps stumbling up in your grandparent’s attic you have come across an old vintage radio that was too beautiful to ignore. After all the old vintage radios were a thing of beauty, they were made as furniture to enhance a room, not as something to be pushed into a back pocket attached to headphones. Many old radios are made of polished wood, with intricate dials that add to the whole appearance. And these old valve radios are well worth restoring back to life, not only will they look great they also generally have a great sound.
Fixing up a vintage radio is a little different than most modern DIY, as it uses technology that was in its infancy at the time and had just been invented. Radio technology continually developed in its formative years, and so parts may be a little hard to come by.
For decades radio was the only form of entertainment in the home, and so there are many manuals and reference books that were written how to take care of your radio, many of these can now be found online to help you in your work.
It must be mentioned at the outset that tube-radios were by nature brute force devices and caution must be taken at all time when trying to repair one. There were little or no safety standards in operation when these radios were first made and so beware of non-protected circuits and wiring.
The good news is that for your radio repair work you will not have to go out and buy an expensive tool kit. All you will need is a soldering iron, a multimeter, screwdriver, clippers and pliers. If you happen to be working on a hot chassis which does not have a transformer then you will have to use an isolation transformer. You can find most of the parts you will need from specialist online shops, they will be happy to send them directly to your home and will save you time trying to source them locally. It is common that the old tubes will still work, and you can gain advice on the Antique Radio Forum if you are not certain if they need replacing or not.
The Initial Inspection
Your first inspection of your new radio will be a visual, pay particular attention to the rear of the radio. Are there any signs of smoke damage? If there is it is a major red flag signal, and it would be better perhaps to walk away from that particular radio. Fortunately this is not common and you will be looking for more subtle reasons why your radio does not work. A common fault is with the transformer and the potting tar leaking, this would mean that your radio has a burned-out transformer. This often happen when somebody plugs in a valve-radio without first restoring it.
If the radio has been in a cellar or attic, check for rodent bites and damage. If you see any such marks, then again perhaps it is better to ignore the radio. Finally look for any modifications, not all amateur radio repair enthusiasts might be as careful as you.