Chassis Restoration Page
As Dad reported at the start of this report, this radio came to me in very good condition. There were so few scratches and dings it almost seemed like I should leave the original finish. But once I had it in the shop and started an up close inspection I realized that the old finish was brittle and had begun to craze. I was also concerned with the painted trim pieces on either side of the speaker opening.
These pieces appeared to be a tiger striped wood grain with the grain being horizontal instead of vertical, as one would expect. Upon close inspection I noted that this was a three-layer paint process that imitated the wood grain. I found several on-line resources that called this a photo process finish; some even thought it was a paper layer applied to the cabinet. But my inspection provided me with the knowledge that it was painted and seemed in fairly decent shape.
I began the stripping process by using painter’s tape to mask off the painted trim piece to protect it from the wood refinisher I planned to use to strip the finish. The finish came right off leaving a beautiful horizontal grain. An hour after applying the tape I removed it carefully to discover that the brittle paint had adhered to the tape and left the wood with a base coat of dark tan paint!
I looked at the other side of the radio and noted that the other trim piece had several areas with the finish chipped off with this same base coat showing. Using a dry paintbrush I brushed against the edge of the chip and was not surprised to see that more paint chip off. It was at this point I decided to strip the wood completely and try staining it to match the walnut.
The remainder of the radio stripped easily and no further surprises. I made no attempt to save the original Philco decal as I had replacements on hand from a previous restoration of a Philco radio. I was very pleased to find a book-matched walnut burl on this section of the radio, and like the rest of the veneer it was in fantastic condition.
I stained the entire radio with a penetrating stain to even out all the different pieces of wood and veneer and had to spend extra time on the previously painted trim pieces. As it turns out both pieces are made of very soft pine, we used to call it “sugar pine”. One piece took stain beautifully while the other came out a bit blotchy, a problem with this type of pine. The piece on the right side of the radio matches the walnut very well, the other leaving me less than happy.
I brushed on three coats of polyurethane and wet sand with 400 grit paper between each coat. The fourth coat was sprayed on after a final wet sanding. This process leaves me with a very silky smooth finish that has a perfect satin sheen.
Prior to beginning this process Dad had shown me an ad for a replacement escutcheon for this model and I ordered it as the other was in horrible condition. I was very pleased with this replacement; the only minor difference I could find in it from the original is a fine groove around the perimeter of the original where the replacement is smooth.
I found several on-line sources that reported that the original escutcheon was made from Tenite, a cellulosic thermoplastic that’s primary raw material was softwood. It was developed in 1929 and although it is still produced today by the Eastman Chemical company, this particular application is known to have suffered from shrinkage and deformation with age and the heat of the radio. We noted that replacement knobs and push buttons were also available at our source, but our radio had all of the originals and even though worn they provided evidence that this radio had been used over the years.
I removed the brass strip from the original and cleaned it up a bit but did not get aggressive with it as I wanted to save the old patina of the brass. I removed a small metal piece from the back of the original that I was told was a light bar barrier and glued it to the back. I was told that I could heat the small bumps on the new escutcheon to attach it but did not feel comfortable heating it up. I purchased a small piece of 1/16” Plexiglas at a hobby store to glue to the back of the escutcheon behind the holes for the push button legend plates.
The escutcheon fit perfectly on the original screw holes and I manufactured replacement push button legends using my paint shop program and a color laser printer. I sprayed both sides of the legends with artist’s fixative prior to cutting them out and fitting them into the appropriate holes. Dad had provided me with the appropriate call letters and their order prior to getting started on this final step.
With the cabinet complete we hauled it back to Estherville for the final installation of the remaining components. I had to remove the escutcheon prior to installing the chassis and then lined it back up and screwed it in place. This is a very showy piece that will be a perfect fit in the 100-year old building we are restoring.
Chassis Restoration Page