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Vintage Radio Refurbishing Before Restoration
by: Ronald Baker / WB4HFN
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The first question I am sure you will ask, "What is the difference between Refurbishing and Restoration?" I define "Refurbishing" as a through cleaning of the entire radio from the chassis to the case and everything in between. This typically includes tearing down the radio cleaning all the individual components. Refurbishing also includes minor paint touch-up work on the case and front panel or a total case repainting, if needed. "Restoration" on the other hand typically means bringing the radio back to a current day equivalent of a brand new radio in overall appearance and performance, This is typically the last resort for the radio when refurbishing is no longer a option. The invested time requirement also greatly varies, a typical refurbishing job may take 5 to 8 hours of labor, whereas, a full restoration job could take weeks of labor, all depending on the condition of the radio before starting.
Refurbishing a vintage radio is not a job for the faint-of-heart type of person. Exposing a radio to soap and water and a good scrubbing after being tore apart is anything but a normal environment for a radio. For most radios this will be their first experience at receiving a bath, which could be intimidating to both the radio and the owner. I have been cleaning radios since the 1970's and never lost a patient yet, but with that said, there is a lot of technique to the process. So don't attempt this type of cleaning yourself unless you are familiar with, and comfortable with the process.
My refurbishing process starts with a full tear-down of the radio to give the chassis a through cleaning and in the worse cases I steam clean the chassis to remove many years of grease and dirt build-up. The following four pictures shows a Drake TR-4 Transceiver after the chassis received the "total cleaning" process.
This picture shows the basic chassis of the Drake TR-4 with all components removed for the chassis cleaning process. This chassis has been cleaned, with all the grease and dirt removed, the copper plated chassis shines.
Here is a close-up view of the transmitter RF section. Because of the high voltage and heat in this area, this is the worst area of the chassis for collecting grease and dirt. Typically the dirtiest part of the chassis.
This area of the chassis is much easier to clean but is more prone to collect dirt especially if coffee or soft-drink is spilled in this area. Liquids also have a tendency to run under the VFO, down the access holes to the underside of the chassis.
Here is the chassis bottom after the steam cleaning process. This type of cleaning is good for getting down in the corners and hard to reach places.