New  to restoring? Start with CHEAP sets, ones that can be seen as expendable. Restoration is an art and like all arts, there is much to learn. Domestic valve radio sets, manufactured during the 'era of the wireless' from the late 1920s to around 1960, are fast becoming the antiques of tomorrow. There is a strong and quite rapidly developing collecting movement in existence, both in the UK and worldwide. A few sets, in particular the older Bakelite types but also the pre second world war sets, with their wooden cabinets and Art Deco originality, are prized for their appearance and as a consequence are becoming rare and expensive.

Many would-be collectors are troubled by their lack of knowledge. What should the collector look for, which to purchase, when to leave well alone? What condition merits the description 'restoration project'?

The points I am about to make should be used as a guide to help toward an informed decision to purchase a given set and if so, what work you will be taking on and what price you might reasonably wish to pay. You should also bear in mind the age of a set. It would be unreasonable to expect perfection in an early 1930s radio after all. It is a matter of degree and of personal choice in the end. After all many sets prized by some collectors leave me cold. Personally I love the Art Deco styling of the pre-war sets especially some of the Bakelite cased receivers. After the war styling became more restrained and cost became an ever-increasing factor placing limits on design creativity.

I have assumed in all of the following text that you either intend to carry out full or partial renovations yourself to radio sets you purchase. You could for example take on the task of stripping and refinishing a veneered cabinet replacing the loudspeaker grille fabric and generally clean up the chassis parts leaving the electronic work to a friend or an expert who can do the work for you. For this kind of service see under 'Links' on the navigation bar or look for the adverts in 'Radiophile' and 'Radio Bygones' magazines.

On the other hand you may feel confident enough to have a go yourself. Either way you will be purchasing sets in need of at least some restoration work and the price you pay should reflect this fact. Beware the sellers who tell you proudly that it works perfectly. It won't. Even though sound may issue from the loudspeaker there will almost certainly be problems and it is best to ignore the fact that it is working at all when haggling over the purchase price. Also beware the stories about age. Use your judgement. If a radio has an FM band it was built after 1953 regardless of the story about listening to Churchill's wartime speeches on it in the seller's youth. People seem to have a very distorted view of time when it comes to objects like radio sets. I don't think it is often a deliberate falsehood but that's not the point when you are purchasing. Many times when searching the offers on Ebay have I seen sets described as 1930s models when in reality they were 1950s. Buyer beware.

The book 'Radio! Radio!' by Jonathan Hill, reviewed on this site under 'Things to Read', is a good general guide to age, though not to the value, of a given set.

Radio restoration, broadly speaking, falls into two main categories: chassis and cabinet. These two are mutually exclusive, the one being concerned with technical matters (though not exclusively, as we shall see) and the other being concerned with appearance.




The EKCO RS2 (dynamic loudspeaker), dates from 1931. The slightly later M23 (using a moving coil loudspeaker) was housed in the same cabinet and looked externally identical to the RS2. It was designed and built after a disastrous fire at the factory in 1931 destroyed much of the production facility of the RS2. Cabinet design was by J. K. White, head of design for EKCO Radio Co. Ltd. Jonathan Hill, in 'Radio! Radio!' tells us that the more expensive variant, the RS3, was the first British receiver with a full range of station names shown on the dial. The cabinet shell was similar but the front panel differs to accommodate the scale and a decorative grille. It's worth remembering that at the time, sets were still being manufactured with separate loudspeakers, so these must have looked very advanced when first they appeared. In my youth I had two of the RS2 sets.