I’m not sure how I neglected mentioning one of our latest family members, a 1930 Jackson-Bell Swan AM radio. This one was purchased for $125 at an antique store in the county.
It has been refinished as you can tell from the wood which is slightly different color on the top right side of the peak. The restorer did an OK job on the cabinet, the speaker surround is all there and matches, but the ring around the swan should be (or could be) ebony (fake). Inside they used a common piece of felt for the grille cloth, which will have to be redone. Also, I had to remove and adjust the position of the speaker, the cord which goes to the chassis wouldn’t fit they way it was reinserted.
This is a “cathedral” style cabinet. I paid a steep price for this as it is quite desirable and could easily triple in value just by holding on to it.
Modernizing the electronics will be a job which will take some planning and patience as the object will be to keep the radio looking as it does now but allowing it to run with modern electronics. This will reduce the hazards of some of the older technologies, called cute things like “curtain burners” and “smoke bombs”, and allow the radio to be played without fear of setting things on fire.
“Restuffing” is the term used when one takes an old part, for example one of the resistors pictured here, each is color coded. The restorer would take that resistor out and try to find a way to insert a new resistor so the finished update looks exactly like the original. A bank of these colored tubes is much more pleasing aesthetically than the modern day component yet the modern is vastly more reliable than the old.
Redoing the old crumbling wires is necessary but you can get some good look-a-likes. Also, cleaning the chassis and tubes is a good idea, but you have to know when to stop so it all looks like it is 88 years old but is in good shape. Clean tubes gives the nice glow these radios are known to have. Surprisingly, you can still buy these tubes in unused condition a.k.a. new-old-stock. Tubes have a surprising longevity to them and they are also tougher than you would think if they are undisturbed in their box or socket.
This radio competes on looks and not on electrical excellence or audio strength. So, we have placed this on Athena’s dresser in her bedroom surrounded by pictures of her family from about the same era and it all looks great and will stay there until I’m ready to tackle a tricky restoration.