Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Here you'll find a wide range of discussions on old-house topics.

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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by MyrtleSB »

I dream of having a cool old floor model radio in my house some day. . . .
There are no remnants of an antenna other than this nifty wall plug in the corner of the living room.
Any thoughts as to its age?
The house was built in 1929.

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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by Iowa4Square »

I have a 1939 Philco floor model I got at a garage sale for $5 when I was in 4th grade. The last time I plugged it in it worked, but it's missing one preset button. Have any handy, Phil?
1909 Colonial Revival Foursquare

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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by philsvintageradios »

I have been away from my computer since the origional post so I will try to answer the questions first asked and if there are others I can be contacted here or my emailing me at, or if you wish anyone interested in radios is welcome to join the Canadian Vintage Radio Society forum which I administrate. ... 329f6d3ada

I find it interesting that many seem interested in the European sets. Quite a few european sets were exported towards the end of the tube era and most of them are caracterized by a row of white pianno buttons for preset stations. Most of the european sets have good sound. They used electrostatic tweeters in these ests and they were more complicated electronically than the US sets of the time. A lot of colletors shy away from them because they are more time consuming and have some brittle plastic parts that can make the job finnicky. They can be restored by following most of the same proceedures as other tube radios. The allignment of the FM tuner is a bit more than with an AM set, but in general capacitor replacement is the first place to start.

For beginners wanting to restore a radio, I suggest having a look at this website you can access his other pages by clicking home, but specifically I suggest reading htis before doing anything else.
This is a well laid out site written by Phil Nelson, not me ,it's just coincidence we have the same first name.

In general Capacitors fail with age. Most radios need new ones The ones in the power supply sometimes are replaced first and result in something operational. Tube sockets can get dirty and need cleaning. Resistors drift with age and usually the value gets higher ( more resistance) I would suggest replacing the power supply filter capacitors first to power up a set , then replacing other capacitors one at a time. Then all resistors can be checked and any bad ones replaced. Schematics are available for most radios, and they often have extra info such as voltage test points and allignment instructions.
wit the above done allignment can be done with the use of a signal generator. Don't attempt to allign a radio until you understand a bit about the proceedure and it may not be necessary to align every one. Don't turn any screws until you know what they are for.
Tubes last quite well. Beginners will often start by replacing tubes, sometimes they do fail but keep in mind that if the tubes were ok when the set was put on a shelf they are probably still oK now and it isn't usually the firs tthing I would suspect.

Electrical safety shouldn't be ignored. Make sure you learn the risks before beginning. Radios being worked on usually are powered by an isolation transformer to protect the equipment and the serviceman. Capacitors can hold a charge and surprise you with a jolt if you touch them, so they should be de-energised. I think if you want to restore a radio having a good look over Phil's website is the best place to begin.

I wouldn't suggest plugging in any old radio without checking it out electronically , wires crumble, the rubber on the wires rots. Things can short with age. Never leave old radios running unattended and unplug them when you aren't using them.
Whenever I buy a radio , I never plug them in to test them. Often they don't work and need some attention. It is possible to start fires so please be careful. also radios commonly have quite a high voltage at some points , it is common to see about 700 volts in certain places so electrical safety should be your primary concern

as far as parts go , there was a request for a button, I would like a picture of the set and the other buttons before I can answer.

I enjoyed seeing the sets posted. Those radio antenna plugs look like they are from the 30's, and are a nice touch for an older home.


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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by raymanretro »

Thanks for posting this, Phil. I couldn`t imagine an old house without an old radio, it was jus part of the culture back then. I love and collect them although I havn`t restored any yet, I have learned a lot about how to repair them and someday when I get thru with this old house I can set up a workbench and have some fun. Radios Rock! 8) 39 Zenith and a Majestic charside.
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IM005352 (Medium).JPG (72.86 KiB) Viewed 10523 times

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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by philsvintageradios »

Kevin. Here is a place that has the pushbuttons for your Philco.

There were several versions of Philco radios that shared the appearance of yours with lighted pushbuttons.
I think some of the later pushbuttons wer made of a more stable material.

I have a couple of versions of tabletop radios that used these pushbuttons. Yours is a floor model or console radio.

Some of them were made of a material that decomposed over time. There is a material called Tennite that some radio manufacturers used and it turns to green dust or goo over time so radios that used that material often don't have usable knobs anymore and they can't be found. I am not sure if the Philco knobs were exactly this material but I think some of the pushbuttons simply rotted over time.

Look here for replacements for the red pushbuttons.

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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by philsvintageradios »

raymanretro, that picture really takes one back in time doesn't it? The chairside is interesting. are the tubes in the chairside clear or do they have a black or grey coating? they may have an unusual shape.
The Zenith radios are beautiful. I just don't seem any Zenith radios here in Canada,
Many of the Canadian radios were made in Canada and one Canadian manufacturer was Rogers. Rogers used proprietary spray sheild tubes that were either black (with a tube number starting with M for metallized. earlier ones were grey with a tube number starting with S, for spray sheild.) Rogers got involved with Magestic and don't quote me but I think there is a tie in. I have a 1929 rogers majestic radio and it had tubes that were unusual as well. My rogers radio has a part that is like a heater with a plug on it. I think it may be there to stabilize the voltage, but it was a primitive idea and it throws off a lot of heat. Your majestic might have something similar. It is probably a TRF ( tuned radio frequency set) wheras the Zenith would be a superhetrodyne. The zenith would be a much more advanced set.
I have a Philco charside that is probably from 1929 and looks very similar.
I just love the chair as well, that chair really makes the chairside.


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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by philsvintageradios »


The radio outlets are interesting. did you know that if you have an antenna and you connect the antenna to more than one radio, the signal is divided and thus weaker ? It doesn't matter if the radios are on or off. The same thing will happen if you install a bunch of splitters on your TV/ cablevision connection.

At one time I put up an outside antenna and connected it to a piece of cablevision coax. My results were not very good.
I got talking to someone whe works on Ham radios and knew a lot about antennas. He made me up a three parts.

- a transformer to change the impedance from the antenna to the coaxial cable.
- a transformer to change the impedance back to what it was at the other end of the cable. ( at the radio) I bought an extra to run two sets.
- a splitter to connect two radios.

these transformers are similar to the ones used on cablevision wires ( impedance matching transformers) the ratio I believe is 4-1 and the ones for TV are somethign like 9-1( I think) Do the outlets have some sort of transformer to split the signal between the two outlets , or are they just connected together?

when I wired my old house I ran extra cablevision wires to all the rooms and they all terminate in a central panel so I can run the antenna signal to that panel and redirect as necessary. I did this to avoid needing to lug console radios around to find a hook up for the antenna.


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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by jharkin »


When I saw this thread and your name the first thing I was going to ask is are you Phil from the Phil's Old Radios website!

Add me to the list of vintage radio/stereo lovers. Although my house is a little too old fora an old radio to look "period" so I keep the stereo rig in a built in.

Main stereo is built around a mid period(61~65) Mac MC-240 with an 80s tube pre-amp and more modern turntable and CD player.. The Mac I completely rebuilt with all new caps and rectifiers and a few key resistors.

I also have down in the basement a '63 HH Scott 340B receiver and a Sherwood tuner /amp pair that I inherited from my grandfather in law. The Scott was working when I was in college but needs a rebuild, The Sherwoods are currently working but could certainly use a re-cap job.

I've been working on tube gear since I got hooked on tubes and vinyl in school. In addition to all this gear I have a couple of tube testers (one 50s Hickok and an unknown radio shack unit), a '48 heathkit V-1 VTVM and stacks of photo facts and old manuals.

I might even get a chance to work on a 30's Zenith. My mother in law has a Zenith raido that looks very similar to the one posted by Aaron above, also from my late departed grandfather in law (he was an EE at GE for 50 years after being a radio operator in the army - loved radios. Great guy who we all miss). My mother in law remembers listening to Europe on short wave with that set as a kid. One of these days Ive promised her to take a crack at rebuilding it.....


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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by Sombreuil_Mongrel »

I have an FM antenna placed in my attic. I ran flat antenna wire to my radio two floors below. The cable is pretty lengthy, but the reception is better with the antenna than without. I had figured there'd be some formula to fine-tune the wire length to improve the reception. Maybe I should cut off the antenna wire in 3" increments until I hit the right node.

Don M
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Re: Radios, Antennas, and old houses

Post by Don M »

I too have older electronic equipment. I have the Dynaco 120 amplifier plus the matching Pre-amp & FM tuner. I have the Pioneer SX-626 & SX-727 from 1972. Several sets of Pioneer speakers in different sizes. I have a Pioneer AM-FM 8-track stereo in my '71 Skylark convertible & the Pioneer RH-65 8-track recorder! I use to have tube units & I built Dynaco kits in high school. I have a couple of old KLH units as well. I've been interested in acquiring an old Grundig shortwave radio but they are pretty pricey still. My grandfather had a dandy console radio at their summer home next to his leather easy chair. I wish I still had that radio :( Don
1840 Limestone Farmhouse

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