Antique Radio Cabinet Retrofit #10: Part 10 - Project Completed!

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Blog entry by Pags posted 10-28-2016 03:26 PM 1447 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Part 9: Front Panel Rebuild Part 10 of Antique Radio Cabinet Retrofit series no next part

I completed the project last night. I intended to write two final blog entries this morning… one for the finishing process and one for the electronics installation. However I discovered that all but one of photographs for the finishing process that I took were not on my digital camera… bummer. So, I’ll write what I can about the finish process and have only one photo to work with.

After making all the repairs to cabinet, re-veneering the top, modifying the control face for the new retro radio, and modifying the front tilt-out access panel for the new vacuum tube stereo amplifier kit, and powered subwoofer, it was time time to refinish it.

I started with applying some trim veneer. I used ebony veneer and applied a 1” band along the bottom of the top edges and also along the top of the bottom base. The cabinet was originally veneered in the same manner. I also applied strips of ebony veneer along face of the slats. The slats were originally veneered with some type of tiger patterned veneer. It sanded off so easily I wondered what it was made of… perhaps it was vinyl?

Next was lots of sanding. The cabinet is 75 years old and had lots of damage, scratches, delaminated veneer, etc. To get a nice finish it had to be repaired, stripped, and sanded very carefully to remove all the scratches and other damage, yet not too aggressively as to sand through the veneer. So I took my time and carefully sanded it down to 220 grit.

I also bleached the new veneer on the top and on the new control panel to lighten it up in preparation for staining… I didn’t want any contrast between the new and existing veneer.

After satisfied with the sanding phase, I stained it dark walnut. After completing the stain I was really nervous and concerned that I had stained it too dark. Without any lacquer on it yet it was really looking far too dark and than I intended… I was worried I had made a mistake and there was no correcting it… I don’t think I could have sanded off the new stain without sanding through the veneer. So I continued to move forward with the project… with a pit in my stomach.

The next step was the art deco styled scrolled edges and base. On the original cabinet these edges, along with the base, were simply stained and lacquered. I loved the art deco look of the edges and base on this console and I wanted to give them some emphasis so I decided to finish them with a solid colored toning lacquer instead of just clear lacquering them. I used extra dark walnut colored toning lacquer from Mohawk. I had never heard of this product before until I recently read about it on an antique radio forum. I applied this toner lacquer to both the top edges and along the base. I’m really pleased with how they came out and it accomplished just what I was after… putting some emphasis on the edges and base.

I continued on with the refinishing process by applying a few coats of Mohawk lacquer sanding sealer followed by three coats of Mohawk satin finish clear lacquer. Then I applied the waterslide details (ON/Off for the power switch and the PHILCO logo – available from the Radiodaze website.). I completed with two more coats of lacquer.

Next I glued new antique style speaker grille cloth (available from the Radiodaze website) to the front speaker panel and attached that to the front panel.

Then came installing the electronics. This was pretty straightforward except for the subwoofer. I was concerned about vibration from the subwoofer and wanted to isolate it from the cabinet. I made a sandwich isolation mount if you will(for lack of thinking of a better way to describe it). What I did was: removed the original foot mounts from the powered subwoofer cabinet bottom, then I screwed a piece of plywood to the bottom of it (with a cutout for the port hole), then I placed a set of “isolate it” rubber pads on the platform on the bottom of the cabinet, then put the subwoofer on top of it creating a “rubber sandwich”, if you will. I fastened the sandwich together with some self-made aluminum mounts that were lightly screwed together and also isolated with rubber washers. The result is no vibration except at extremely loud volumes.

The Tangent Audio Uno table radio fit in its mounting bracket as designed.

The Dynakit ST35 vacuum tube stereo amp kit was simply screwed down to its shelf and held in place with some self-made aluminum mounting brackets.

The pilot light mounted in place as previously shown. I did have to solder a wire and plug to it and covered the soldered part with shrink wrap.

I mounted an antique styled primary power switch and knob on the front control panel, that switched power on and off to a 4-outlet electric box that I had installed in the back of the cabinet and wired the switch to. This allowed me to run all the components off and on with the turn of a single swtich.

I finished by carefully routing all the wires so they were organized and clamped in place so they wouldn’t be a tangled nuisance.

I also installed an Apple Airport Express, configured for Airplay, and plugged it into the auxiliary jack of the radio for streaming music from my iPhone and Apple laptop.

So here’s how it came out, my apprehension about the dark color turned out to be for not. After lacquering it, it became a really rich looking wood grain and more importantly, my wife loved it.

I can’t emphasize enough how nice the vacuum tube amp sounds… I’m really happy that I opted for it. Its new home is now in the corner of my living room.

Next up, remaking the speaker cabinet into antique speaker replica cabinets and making a set of art-deco styled shelves to mount them on… but that will be down the road some.

4 comments so far

View jonlruss's profile


124 posts in 1722 days

#1 posted 10-28-2016 04:47 PM

Awesome job! You really brought this thing back to life and it looks brand spanking new. I remember the old radio like this that my mom’s parents had. After they passed one of my brother’s got it and it just sits at the end of the hall. I only wish he could do something like this with it.

View Mean_Dean's profile


7017 posts in 3756 days

#2 posted 10-29-2016 12:35 AM

Having posted in the project page, I wanted to read your blog posts to see how this beauty came back to life—really enjoyed the read!

You’ve definitely brought this heirloom back to life, and it will enhance your life, and be passed down to future generations. I’m very pleased that you undertook this mission to save this amazing piece of history—well done!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View UncannyValleyWoods's profile


542 posts in 2473 days

#3 posted 10-29-2016 12:06 PM

Thank you for this!

-- “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” ― Lenny Bruce

View Pags's profile


35 posts in 1829 days

#4 posted 10-31-2016 03:32 PM

Thanks for kind words Jon and Dean.

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