All the FAQ sections can be downloaded from the Web at this URL: http://www.xs4all.nl/~tgale/oradio/
Original FAQ editor: Hank van Cleef, Gerard Tel (email@example.com); now hosted on Trevor Gale's site (mail: can be sent using this link.)
This is a Web-based frequently-asked questions (FAQ) about antique radios and associated items. It is intended to summarize some common questions on old home entertainment audio/T.V. equipment and provide answers to these questions.
Regular FAQ postings can help save network bandwidth and maintain a good signal-to-noise ratio in the newsgroup. However, they can't do it alone - you, the reader, have to use them. Since taking over the FAQ in Web-page format, instead of actually regularly posting the whole FAQ text parts to the newsgroup, I'll try to periodically post the Web address of this FAQ site to the newsgroup, from which readers can then access the FAQ or parts of it that they are interested in viewing. I hope that is the better way forward.
If you are a new user, please print and review the FAQ articles and look at the instructions in the news.announce.newusers newsgroup before posting any articles. If you don't find the answer in the FAQ and you have tried elsewhere, then you have "done your homework" and it is acceptable to ask the question on the UseNet newsgroups. Along with your question, please state where else you have looked for the answer so others also know that you have done your homework.
If you are an experienced user, please help by refraining from answering frequently-asked questions on the newsgroup if they are already answered by the FAQ articles. Instead, send e-mail to the user who asked the question. (It will be helpful if you include the part of the FAQ that answers their question, but not the whole thing.) The FAQ cannot always prevent people from posting repetitive questions. But even if hundreds of questions get posted, it saves you from having to answer them hundreds of times. Also, a friendly pointer to the FAQ in your first answer can help that person refer to the FAQ in the future. That is when we can begin to get a real savings of network bandwidth.
The radio FAQ information is now comprised of 8 parts:
Part 1 - Introduction to the FAQ and general questions. (previous editors: Hank van Cleef & Gerard Tel, firstname.lastname@example.org, current editor/hoster: Trevor Gale, email@example.com). I thank both Hank and Gerard for they have made the bulk of this FAQ and have clearly devoted many hours of their precious time in doing so.
Part 2 - General questions about vacuum tube radios and phonos.
Part 3 - Information about how to judge the age / date of an old radio.
Part 4 - Sources of spares and services for old radios.
Part 5 - Cosmetic cleanup and cabinet finish questions
Part 6 - Technical questions about vacuum tube radios and phonos
Part 7 - Tools and test equipment
Part 8 - Miscellaneous and other antique home entertainment devices.
Please do not E-mail technical questions, requests to identify various items, or technical questions to the Faq editors. Post them to the newsgroup instead. You will get better answers more quickly by posting.
The so-called `Newsgroups line' appears at the bottom of the screen in some newsreaders and provides a one-line description of the group's goals: rec.antiques.radio+phono Audio devices and materials of yesteryear. The Group CHARTER descripes in more detail what to post and what not to post:
Discussion of the use, repair, and collecting of early standard broadcast radios, phonographs, and any other similarly-related items designed for home entertainment sound receiving or sound reproduction.
This group is intended to be a forum for those with an interest in sound-receiving and sound-reproduction equipment that was generally manufactured prior to the widespread use of transistors. The group's discussion, however, will not be strictly limited to vacuum-tube and mechanical devices, and those with an interest in early transistor radios, early televisions, and other such items that reflect pioneering audio technology will be welcomed.
Amateur radio equipment discussion will be directed to the existing amateur radio newsgroups and to the boatanchors list. This is only done because those groups present an established forum for people with an interest in classic amateur radio equipment. Those classic amateur radio collectors who also share an interest in early standard-broadcast equipment will fully appreciate the desire to separate the two interests. Their valuable expertise will, however, be most welcome in all forums.
"Since the summer of 1993, there has been an ongoing discussion
among those interested in antique radios and phonographs (and other related
equipment and materials) about the possibility of forming this newsgroup.
That small core of enthusiasts has rapidly grown in number, and now includes
representatives of museums, technical specialists, collectors, and novices
with an inquisitiveness about sound reproducing and receiving equipment
of the past. With enthusiasm for the preservation and enjoyment of these
superb expressions of human inventiveness steadily increasing, the time
has come to establish a forum through which knowledge of their history,
restoration, and use can be shared by experts and newcomers alike. This
proposal represents the essence of what an Internet newsgroup can accomplish--it
can produce a collective source of knowledge from which useful information
can be drawn for years into the future."
- Bill Robie, August, 1994
In general, this means:
1. This newsgroup has the name "antique" in it, and primarily addresses home entertainment equipment. It is not a "catch-all" group for discussing things not covered by other groups.
2. Items of particular interest to readers in this group: a. Acoustic
phonographs of all types.
b. Early electronic phonographs, primarily for playing 78 RPM disks.
c. Radios, T.V's and associated equipment of the 1920-1960 period.
3. While much of the discussion the group is about radios and phonos of US manufacture, the group is open for discussion of non-US radios and phonos from the same period sold primarily to a domestic market.
4. There are a great many opinions about what is "antique"
and what isn't. The focus of the discussion that led to creation of this
newsgroup was on phonograph and radio technology of the 1890-1950 era.
The group does include some discussion of:
a. Monaural vacuum tube "high fidelity" equipment.
b. Early hybrid and transistor home entertainment designs.
c. Early black and white televisions, and a few color sets. However, post-1950's technology generally diverges from the focus of this newsgroup. We generally regard 1960 as a cutoff date for appropriateness in this group.
d. Instrumentation suitable for use in design, repair, and calibration of antique home entertainment items. This includes laboratory-grade equipment as well as service shop equipment.
e. Discussions about technological history, recording and broadcasting practices, etc., have been interesting areas of discussion in the group.
5. While not originally sold as "home entertainment" equipment, there is an interest in jukeboxes, early musical devices such as the Hammond organ, and movie theater audio, particuarly items manufactured before WW II.
6. We welcome participation by "hams," and include some discussion of old tube-type communications receivers, particularly from the '30's and '40's in this group. Amateur radio issues in general are already covered by the rec.radio.amateur.* groups. The "boatanchor" mail list, which was previously mentioned here, is, according to the list administrator, a paid subscription list as of March 15, 1996.
7. Casual buy, sell, swap, and trade, of old radios and phonos, parts, are within the charter. Please keep in mind that this is a discussion group, with many non-collectors who have one or two items that they enjoy. This is not a place to hawk your wares. If you have an old radio or phono or two, or want to buy a specific make and model of something, then post here. Do not post blanket "WTB (wanted to buy) notices for any and all old radios, old transistor radios, phono records, candlestick phones, etc. Also, do not post anonymously (AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve users take particular note, as these systems do not give posters a clear identity). Give a geographic location.
Before posting a buy/sell/swap item here, consider posting to one of
the newsgroups set up for that purpose. Rec.antiques.marketplace is the
principal group for antique trading, and is regularly read by readers of
this group who want to buy and sell. Rec.radio.swap is a general group
for electronic items of all types. Rec.audio.marketplace, sci.electronics.marketplace
are also good groups to use, particularly for post-WW II items. Consider
using a regional marketplace or forsale newsgroup, particularly if you
are talking about something you do not want to ship. Remember that this
group is worldwide.
Dealers of parts, supplies, and services for home entertainment items are listed in section 4 of this FAQ.
8. Binary postings. Please do not post binary files (picture files, uuencoded data, mime attachments, etc.) to this newsgroup. This is a Usenet convention, not a charter issue. A number of system administrators run software that detect and cancel binary postings in non-binary newsgroups. If you want to post a binary file, find a group with "binaries" in the name, post there, and post a pointer to it here. Keep in mind that binary groups are not available on many systems, because of the traffic volume involved, and are poorly propagated.
Some of the things that don't seem to fit well with this group are:
1. Stereo from the 60's and later, particularly things with bookshelf speakers. The rec.audio.* newsgroups are the place to discuss these.
2. Computers. Usenet has hundreds of newsgroups devoted to computers, including old ones.
3. Tape recorders other than vacuum tube reel-to-reel units.
4. Video recorders.
5. Guitar amplifiers.
6. Amateur radio equipment except for older general coverage receivers that sold to non-hams as home entertainment SWL (shortwave listening) sets.
7. Phonograph records---trading should be done in the rec.music.collecting newsgroups.
8. Off-charter and commercial buy and sell postings. This includes "wanted to buy, old radios" postings from individuals, and any buy/swap/trade postings from anonymous accounts where name or location are not given. Repetitive postings are also unwelcome to most of the readers.
The above are general guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. If you receive a response posting or E-mail indicating that your post was off topic, it will generally point to a more appropriate group. This group has been historically free of flames. There are some very honest differences of opinion about many topics, and some of the discussions are lively. The focus of this group is on positive things. Ad hominum attacks, flame wars, along with attempts to use the group for commercial purposes, are not welcome here. Your questions, and your experiences with old radios and phonos are the lifeblood of the group. Work to make this group a happy and positive place.
A NOTE ON SAFETY: Virtually everything we discuss in this newsgroups
can present safety hazards of one sort or another. In particular are the
energy stored in phonograph springs and the voltages and currents in electronics
equipment. In addition, processes such as soldering components can cause
fires and serious burns if improperly done.
(See also Q and A 9 in this page, lower down). While the subject of safety hazards and safe operation, troubleshooting, and repair practices is a topic of discussion on the newsgroup, such discussions are generally far from comprehensive. Additionally, many of the processes discussed presume knowledge of safe practices, and do not go into detail about possible hazards. Safety is your responsibility. While we may discuss techniques and practices that work well for us, and that we can use safely, we are not prepared to give supervised instruction or to audit people's safety practices. If you are unsure of your ability to work in a safe manner, seek out local assistance and supervision.
Q1. What other newsgroups cover similar items?
A1. There are several newsgroups covering broadcast and amateur radio; and audio equipment. Acoustic phonographs, player pianos, etc. are less likely to be covered in other newsgroups.
Notable among other newsgroups with similar interests:
rec.antiques - General discussion of antiques.
rec.antiques.marketplace - Buy/sell/swap antiques of all types.
rec.audio.tubes - Discussion of later vacuum tube audio.
rec.music.collecting.* - Phonograph records. This hierarchy has both discussion and marketplace groups.
rec.radio.swap - Buy and sell any electronic equipment, new or old. This includes test equipment and accessories.
rec.radio.amateur.equipment - Specific to ham radio equipment.
rec.radio.shortwave - Discusses shortwave programming, stations, and receivers.
sci.electronics.repair - Repair information, primarily for modern equipment.
rec.audio.* - Discussion of audio equipment. This hierarchy includes several categories, as well as a marketplace newsgroup.
rec.woodworking - Discussion of woodworking, finishes, veneering, etc. If you are working with an old cabinet, read this group.
Q2. Where can I get needles for my Victrola.
A2. Contact the Antique Phonograph Supply Company, Route 23, Box 123, Davenport Center, NY 13751. Phone 607-278-6218. Remember to change your needles after every play. The engineering concept was simple: the needles are softer than the record, and will wear without stressing the record. Some records had grit in the mix to wear the steel needle.
Q3. Where can I get replacement vacuum tubes for my radio?
A3. There are several suppliers of tubes. Best known is Antique Electronic Supply, 6221 S. Maple, Tempe, Arizona 85283, telephone 602-820-5411. See the FAQ section for electronic parts and supplies.
Q4. I would like to get an old radio or an old phonograph. Where can I
A4. Generally, these items are where you find them. There are dealers who specialize in old radios and old phonographs, and these may be the best source if you want something that has been restored to good working condition as well as cosmetically. Second hand stores and thrift shops, estate sales, moving sales, garage sales all can produce interesting items, and it is possible to find some real bargains. Keep in mind that the source of supply is attics, barns, storerooms, where these were tucked away, maybe as much as fifty or seventy years ago. They may or may not have been working when they were stored.
Keep in mind that acoustical phonographs have parts in their reproducers that deteriorate over time, and that lubricants deteriorate as well. Electronic equipment also has components that deteriorate over time as well. What you are looking at may have been stored in working condition forty or fifty years ago, and look clean as a whistle, but be in need of major work before you can use it.
Q5. I found an EtherSnarf model YU4Q radio at an estate auction and got
it for $125. Did I get rooked? It looks complete, has ten tubes and a big
oak cabinet with spool legs and lots of gewgaws, and has four shortwave
bands. I don't find it listed in any old radio buyers' guide.
A5. First of all, keep in mind that there were literally hundreds of radio manufacturers in the US in the 1920-1960 era, and there were some manufactures who built "trade" radios to be sold under a store's brand name. Part 3 of this FAQ will help you figure out when this radio was built, even if it isn't listed in any of the buyers' manuals or in any of the maintenance manuals that were published at the time.
What an old radio is actually worth depends on many things. First of all, what is it worth to you? While there is supposedly a market out there, what a specific radio is actually worth is, in reality, what someone is willing to pay to buy it from you. You want to keep in mind the following:
a. The radio may need a lot of work before it will operate as it was designed to operate.
b. Most radios were "lo-fi" in modern terms. Many of us actually enjoy the sound, and many of the consoles, cathedrals, and tombstones were tuned very nicely to the programs sources of the day.
c. While the number of tubes may give some indication of the quality of the radio, and a big console cabinet is more likely to house a good radio than a plastic table cabinet, keep in mind that "number of tubes" and "big cabinet" both were selling points in the 1930-50 era that meant "high retail price." Some mid-priced consoles look as though they have a lot more radio in them than they do.
Some people swear by the Bunis "Collectors' Guide to Old Radios" series written by Marty and Sue Bunis. Others do not feel that their prices are particularly supportable when trying to sell. Most collectors do not buy for resale, and buy because they want the item.
Q6. My neighbor's grandfather left him a Victor spring-powered phonograph
he wants to sell me for $100. Should I buy it?
A6. As with old radios, the "worth" of an old phonograph is its "worth to you." There are "price guides" and general ideas of what things can be bought and sold for. However, there are substantial variables, such as geographic location, condition of the unit, etc.
Keep in mind that you are going to need some records to play on your machine, and that they are also definitely "lo-fi." Edison fought electrification to the bitter end, so some of the later Edisons, as well as the Victor Orthophonic of the mid-twenties, did incredibly well.
Q7. I got an old Westinghouse cathedral radio from my neighbor when he
cleaned out it his attic. He told me he put it up there when Fred Allen
left radio, but that it was working when he stored it. I plugged it in
and turned it on. All of the tubes glowed, but nothing came out of the
loudspeaker. After a few minutes, one of the tubes got very red inside
and then, suddenly, liquid shot out of one of the aluminum cans, hit the
bright red tube, and it broke. When I turned the set off, it was smoking,
and this liquid got all over everything like tom cat pee. What do I do
A7. Never ever plug in an old piece of electronics gear that hasn't been used for a few years without checking it out first. Part 4 of this FAQ describes some of the things to check. Fred Allen left radio in 1949, so that radio has been stored 45 years. DON'T PLUG IT IN UNTIL YOU HAVE CHECKED IT OUT! What I am describing here actually happened to me around 1948. The problem was a shorted wet electrolytic condenser. The plates of the rectifier tube, an 80, glowed red, and I shut the radio off, but the electrolytic boiled, squirted the electrolyte (nasty stuff) onto the 80, which promptly shattered. Cleanup was a soap-and-water job.
Q8. Can I get spares for restoring my Edison phonograph---for my Atwater Kent radio.
A8. Parts of this FAQ list suppliers of spares for phonos and radios, respectively. In addition to spares support, there are people who rebuild phonograph transducers and other subassemblies. Availability of specific spares depends on several things. OEM spares support for pre-1930's items was discontinued before WW-II, but in many cases, items of new manufacture are available. In other cases, such as the 6U5/6G5 tuning eye tube, commonly used from the '30's to the '50's, your best bet is to substitute (and there is an adaptor for this available).
Q9. I've never worked on vacuum tube equipment before, but I'm a ham and
I have worked on lots of transistor equipment and small computers. Can
I just jump in and fix my old radio?
A9. No. There are some serious differences between old tube equipment and modern solid state electronics. Here are a few things to consider:
a. DANGER! HIGH VOLTAGE! We are not talking about 110 volts AC, we are talking about 250-500 volts with plenty of "oomph" behind it. You generally won't find any fuses in old electronic equipment, and no protective circuits.
b. Vacuum tube circuits have components and circuitry that isn't used in solid state equipment.
c. You will not find certain defects caused by aging, like detoriorated lubrication, or dried electrolytics, in modern equipment.
While the basics of physics regarding voltage, current, resistance, inductance, and capacitance haven't changed, you'll want to study old texts that explain the theory of operation of the circuits used. While developing the skills needed to trouble-shoot and repair vacuum tube circuits is not difficult, it is very different work from working on solid state equipment. And, as noted, the presence of genuinely high voltages for someone used to working with 5 and 12 volts means that you will need to develop new safe working habits. [Ed. - Remember always the saying "it's the volts that jolts, but the mils that kills" - even some of the lower voltages used in valve / tube equipment can be quite capable of passing enough current through your body to cause serious injury, especially where reservoir capacitors might be in the circuit. It is not only the electric current that can cause injury - very serious cuts and gashes can result from the involuntary movement of your hands, etc., when you get a 'belt', e.g. by retracting your hands rapidly over a sharp panel glass or whatever. Take precautions (e.g. keep one hand in your back pocket instead of both hands in and around the set, if possible,) and check with a multimeter even after the set has been switched off before putting your fingers in there!]
Q10. I'm all thumbs around mechanical and electronics devices. Can
I find people who know how to make these things work?
A10. Yes. You may find someone locally who still does work on tube electronic equipment, and a few telephone calls to service shops will point you in the right direction if there is someone in your area.
There are a few people who specialize in repairing and restoring old phonographs and old radios. While none are listed in this revision of the FAQ, we may include a few if there is a demand for this information. For a price, you can have almost any antique "high-tech" device restored to like-new condition, if not better.
Q11. What's the difference between this newsgroup and rec.audio.tubes.
A11. Rec.antiques.radio+phono was created to move discussion of acoustic phonos and old radios (primarily 1920-40 era) from rec.antiques. The rec.audio.tubes newsgroup was created a year later as a place to discuss use of vacuum tubes in "high fidelity" and guitar amplifiers.
Q12. How do I subscribe to the boatanchors mailing list?
A12. The following instructions are the last information I have, and have been in this FAQ since this version of the mail list was set up in the autumn of 1994. However, this list is being converted to "subscription only" as of March 15, 1996. "Subscription only" means "send money." I do not know how the listowner plans to handle new subscribers after March 15. To subscribe to the boatanchors mail list send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put the following in the body of the mail message: "subscribe boatanchors".
(the following is abstracted from the listproc response from theporch.com). Please *do not* submit such administrative messages to the whole list! Such messages only irritate the readers. If you remember only one thing from this message, remember that a "Help" message to the list processor (email@example.com) will get you instructions on how to unsubscribe or change your address.
This subscription is available in two formats. The first, also the default is to have each posting to the list mailed to you seperately. If you want it like that, you don't have to do anything. The second option is to receive digests which means the messages are collected and mailed out to you only if it exceeds a length limit or a time limit (one day). To change to the digest form, sent email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following:
set boatanchors mail digest
If you want to temporarly suspend receiving the list but don't want to sign off the list, you can set your mail to postpone by sending email to email@example.com with the following in the body of the mail:
set boatanchors mail postpone
This will stay in effect until you change your mail status to one of:
ack noack or digest (ack the default reflects your posting to the list back to you)
If you want to read the FAQ for the boatanchors mailing list please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following content: "get boatanchors FAQ"
Problems that cannot be resolved by sending e-mail to the list processor should be addressed to: email@example.com.
Revision history of this part of the FAQ: Revision Date Notes 1.1 Oct.
20, 94. Second version---major editing.
1.2 Dec. 10, 1994. Minor corrections and revisions.
1.3 Jan. 8, 1995. Put in boatanchor mail list info.
1.4a Feb. 26, 1995 Approval to post on news.answers granted
1.4b May 8, 1995 Charter discussion and revised format notice
1.5 Sept. 3, 1995 Add new newsgroup cross references.
2.0 Nov. 20, 1995 Split FAQ from 5 sections to 9 sections
2.1 March 3, 1996 Revise charter disc., boatanchor pointers
2.2 Dec. 11, 1997 Distribution and editing by Gerard Tel.
3.0 Dec. 10, 1999 Initial HTML applied to the FAQ by Trevor Gale
There will be an updated, and hopefully much more clearly readable, version of this Web-based FAQ which I am currently working on and expect to have ready by the end of December - [Ed, Trevor Gale].
You can E-mail the host of this FAQ
(Trevor Gale) by using this link.
on the Dutch Internet service provider XS4ALL.