Vintage airline radio and record player

You can see how it's toothed on the inside.

An old radio is like a car - it was hand-assembled, and requires the proper tools. The back panel is wood and is screwed to the case with wood screws. The back panel on my radio pulls out; it has the antenna embedded in it, and attaches to the rest of the workings with a plug embedded in the radio chassis.


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Wood tube radios will have a metal case inside protecting all the electronics. This is because the tubes run real hot and at high power, the metal case is to physically protect the fragile tubes from any jostling, and also to insulate the flammable wood from scorching from the heat of the tubes.


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  • This metal chassis is bolted to the wood body in some way - on mine it used wood screws on the bottom. Remove what you have to and pull the metal chassis and works out of the radio body. A quick note: the tuner of the radio is a capacitor. On old radios this capacitor is a big metal thing that looks like a radiator.

    Capacitors work by holding an electrical field between parallel plates, the more plate area, the more capacitance. This type of old, tunable capacitor is called a "variable air condenser" because it's capacitance is variable, and the insulator in between the plates is just air. It's a big stack of metal plates in a half circle, which rotates into another stack of metal plates. The more intersection between the two half circles, the greater the area they have parallel, and therefore the more capacitance.

    Because of the many plates, even a little difference in area, a little turn, equals a big difference in capacitance. I mention this big difference in capacitance because this presents the radio designer with a problem:.

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    Thus there is a kind of gearing between the tuner knob and the tuning capacitor. On older radios this is done mechanically with a pulley and string. My initial plan was to replace the tuner string with something I had around the house - I tried using a cotton string, a twine, but neither gripped the tuner knob barrel.

    I noticed the "real" string was slightly tacky, so in an attempt to make the string stickier, I waxed it with a tea light candle. This still didn't work. I also tried some craft string used for jewelry. Since the string wasn't tacky enough, I decided to use a rubber band.

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    This already wasn't a good idea, because while the original string had lasted over 50 years, a rubber band will degrade over less than 5 years. It turned out to be more of a bad idea than that - the rubber band did stick to the tuner barrel, but it was too stretchy. The knob would turn but the rubber band would just stretch and shrink rather than move the pulley attached to the condenser.

    Question 1 year ago on Introduction.

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      Thanks for the tip, Glen!