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Other Radios - Wood Tabletop: Crosley 515 Restoration

I bought this Crosley basket case off e-Bay in the fall of 2001 for under $30. The radio was in terrible shape - missing some knobs, the cabinet had been half belt sanded, so that there was some finish missing (and a lot of scratches), plus there was white paint splattered on part of it. The grille cloth was gone, but the one saving grace was that there was no cabinet damage (that is, no missing veneer). It was rough - but it could be brought back to life!

Electronically, The chassis looked to be complete, but I did not power it up. I pulled the chassis to save for a wintery day.

Cabinet Restoration

After stripping
The first thing to do was strip off the remaining finish. I used Parks Refinisher and 000 steel wool to remove what was left of the finish, as well as some white paint that had been splattered on the radio. The case was decent, but had some scratches in it from being belt sanded (someone had tried to remove the lacquer by belt sanding the radio!) I decided to sand the case a bit to remove the damage. I started with 220 grit paper and worked down to 600 grit. The scratches disappeared, and I was left with a nice smooth case to work with.

Applying toning lacquer

The photo to the left shows the radio being taped off for the spraying of toned lacquer. As you can see from the "After stripping" photo, this radio is made with walnut veneers on the front, but the rest of the radio is a lighter, cheaper wood. This wood would need to be toned to match the walnut veneer. I chose Behlen Master Toner brown, and sprayed it on the areas which needed to be toned. Working with toners can be difficult, but this radio turned out quite well. After the toners had dried for a bit, I applied many light coats of clear lacquer on top.

The Finished 515
Click for a larger picture
A new grille cloth was ordered, and several knobs were procured. The radio finish was left alone for a week, then was rubbed out with progressively finer grits of sandpaper and lemon oil. A little black paint was used to detail the lines in the case, making them stand out a bit more. The completed radio is shown on the right.

Electronic Restoration

The chassis for the radio looked pretty good, so I began by replacing all the wax paper capacitors as well as the electrolytics. I also tested and replaced a few out-of-spec resistors. Then, power was applied. The radio came up, but no sound was heard. The 515 schematic has a voltage table, and all the voltages looked correct. What could be wrong? I tested the speaker and output transformer, and both were ok. I swapped tubes to no avail. Finally, a detailed analysis of the schematic showed that I had replaced a capacitor which had been wired into the circuit wrong. When I replaced it, I also replaced it the wrong way! Moving one lead of that cap brought the radio to life. It works pretty well, considering it is a rather cheap radio of its day. I'm quite partial to these little sets - I have another 515 (with veneer damage bought as a spare), and a 555 (which appears to be the same as the 515, albeit with a different chassis) ready for restoration.