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........ and a few wood radios, too!

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Wood Radios: Simplex Radio Restoration

Click for a larger picture I purchased this cute little Simplex off e-Bay in 2002 for around $40. I had no idea the radio was so small until it showed up. The radio is constructed completely of birdseye maple, with some sections toned and a nice dividing line of marquetry inlay. The main fault of the radio case was a cigarette burn on the top, and a flaking finish. The radio was also missing a knob. The radio, as found, is at the left. I had already managed to come up with a knob, so the radio just needed to be refinished at this point.

Cabinet Restoration

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Burn on top
As you can see in the picture above, much of the toned lacquer on the radio was in bad shape and is coming off. To the right, you can see the detail of the burn on the top of the radio.

I removed the chassis and other hardware from the cabinet, and then began to strip it. As always, I used Parks Refinisher and 000 steel wool to remove the old finish. Because the finish was so far gone, it did not take much effort.

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The picture to the left shows the stripped case. The entire body of the case is birdseye maple, with the trim and inlay being other woods.

I sanded down the burned area, and was able to get rid of most of the damage without going so far into the veneer that the case would look weird. I also bleached out the area to remove as much darkness from the wood as I could. Not being real familiar with maple, I went ahead and grain-filled the case, even though the maple didn't appear to be an open-grained wood. The wood took a little of the filler, but not nearly as much as walnut or oak would.

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The photo on the right shows the case being toned. The areas that were supposed to be darker brown were carefully masked off and sprayed with my last can of Behlen Brown (why, oh why, did they discontinue this color?). It took about 20 minutes to tape off the case, and about 2 to tone it, but that's the way it usually works. Once the lacquer was dry, I removed the tape and lightly steel wooled the toner, so that there were no ridges between it and the rest of the case. Then the case got several coats of clear laquer.

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The photo to the left shows the finished radio with the grille cloth installed, escutcheon re-attached, and the chassis installed with knobs. Click on the photo for a larger image. This radio turned out really well. I didn't have to work real hard on rubbing out the finish, because the maple was a very closed-grain wood. A very light rub out and polish with wax was about all this radio needed.

Fixed burn area
Fixed burn area

As for the burn area, the photo to the right shows that area after the radio has been refinished. There is still a slight discoloration in that area, but instead of looking like a burn, it looks like a normal variation in the maple. If you didn't know it was there before, you'd never notice it now.

All in all, this project turned out well, and this is a beautiful little radio which will be a stand out in my collection!