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Other Radios - Wood Tabletop: Delta DeLuxe Restoration

Even someone who likes plastic radios likes wood radios, too! And, uhh, these radios have plastic in them at least...on the knobs, the dials, etc!

I picked up this radio in the fall of 1999 at a local antique shop for $19. The radio really looked pretty rough, however, it looked like a good project with tons of potential. The wood was in great shape, but it was very dirty (this picture was taken of the radio in "as found" condition). The knobs were there, and the dial pointer is very colorful and unique. The grille cloth was in good shape. The seller seemed to think that this was an American Bosch radio, but I can't find any manufacturer information of any kind on the radio. I have also checked all my radio books and can find no match. In September 2000, I have finally determined what this radio is! It is called the Delta De Luxe, and a photo has been addded below of this radio (from an e-Bay sale). My radio is missing the metal tag on the front, and no nail holes are visible in the case. Perhaps it never had a tag?

Electronically, the cord on the radio was cut. The tube lineup for the radio is 25Z5, 43, 6C6, 6D6, and a metal 6-pin tube on which the number is corroded.

Cabinet Restoration

The newly stripped cabinet
As you can see from the photo above, the finish on the radio was a complete disaster. The only choice was to strip the old lacquer finish off, and refinish the radio. First, I carefully removed the grille cloth and the radio dial. The chassis had already been removed for restoration. Then, I decided to use a furniture refinisher product which I have had good luck with before. You simply dip #0000 steel wool into the refinisher (wearing gloves it a must) and then scrub the wood in a circular motion. The old lacquer finish immediately begins to loosen and liquify, and it can then be wiped off. This form of refinishing seems to be very easy on the wood. It took about 25 mintues to remove the finish from this radio. I then wiped it down with a clean rag and turpentine to make sure all the refinisher was off, and the wood was clean. It's amazing how much better it looks already - the photo on the right was taken just after the radio was stripped , and it already looks a hundred times better.

The stained cabinet
The next step was to apply a light stain to even out the color on the radio. This radio appears to be walnut, like many radios of the 1930's. The wood was in pretty good shape, so I put on a thin layer of oil stain, called special walnut. I brushed on a thin layer using a disposable foam brush, and let the stain soak into the wood for a minute or two. I then wiped the radio down with an old sock (they're great for staining) to remove any excess stain. One coat of stain seemed to be enough, and the radio looked great.
Spraying black lacquer

On many other radio projects, I have also applied a coat of toning lacquer to the radio to smooth out color differences between different pieces of wood. On this radio, that wasn't needed. The wood looked fine with just the stain. However, I did need to apply black lacquer to the "shoulders" of the radio. In the initial photo above, you can see the black lacquer on the left side of the radio. The lacquer on the right hand side was somewhat scraped off. The black lacquer provides a real contrast, and this was popular on many radios of the 1930's. I carefully taped and newspapered the areas of the radio that didn't need to be sprayed black, hoping that there wouldn't be any overspray. I then sprayed on several light coast of Ace fast drying black lacquer. Several light coats keeps the lacquer from running, and it dries within minutes. It only took about 15 minutes to completely coat the areas. I then let it dry a bit longer, and then removed the tape and paper. The trim looked great. I removed a bit of overspray from some areas with some #0000 steel wool, and then touched those areas up with stain.

The finished radio
Click for larger picture...
Once I was sure the black lacquer was dry, I went ahead and rubbed it down with #0000 steel wool. This assured a nice, smooth finish. Once that was done, I ran over the rest of the case with the steel wool, and then ran a tack cloth over the radio. The last step was to spray on several light coats of clear lacquer, carefully rubbing the finish in between coats. When the case was done, I re-installed the plastic dial and the grille cloth. The finished radio is shown on the left. I'm very happy with how the radio turned out!

Electronic Restoration

When purchased, this radio had its cord cut. Usually this means the radio did not work, and the previous owner cut off the cord to make sure no one plugged the radio in. My first step with a radio like this would be replace the electrolytic capacitors. When I pulled the chassis, I was surprised the see the electrolytics were in a paper box, with no markings on it. This presented quite a problem, because I didn't know what values of capacitors to use. Without an ID of the radio, I couldn't even get a schematic to work from. So, I posed a question looking for help in ID'ing the radio on the antiqueradios forum. The guys there were able to help me determine the values of the needed caps, without the schematic. I went ahead and added the new electrolytics and attached a new cord. When I powered the radio up, I got a nice explosion and some smoke! One of the capacitors had fried.

Another Delta De Luxe
What now? Well, back to the forums. It was determined that one of the regular capacitors, which I hadn't yet replaced had blown. I replaced this one, and then tried the radio again. The goods news was that there were no explosions. The bad news was that nothing happened - no tubes lighting, etc. I then determined that the 25Z5 tube was dead. Being wired in a series, if one tube is dead, none will light. I was unable to find a 25Z5 locally to buy. Then, I decided to search a few of my older sets, and presto! I found a 25Z5 that tested OK in my Detrola 134. With the new 25Z5 in place, the radio finally powered up. However, I was unable to receive any signals. Then I remembered that this radio does not have a built in antenna. I attached a long wire to the terminal and powered it back up. Sure enough, I was able to pick up two of the stronger local stations.

At this point, the radio works ok. I have recapped it, and can pick up some of the local stations. The volume is a tad weak, and the sound is not optimal. I will be working on that!