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Learn hopw to repair your own vintage valve radio

Hi, I’m Ray. I’ve been repairing and restoring valve radios for 55 years. As I’m now approaching 70 years old, it’s time to retire. The repair side of the business is now closed. See here for further details. 

It’s funny to think that the radios I now work on weren’t classed as vintage when I repaired them back in the 1960s. Things were different in those days. The trade enjoyed a friendly and trustworthy relationship with their customers and the majority of new customers came from word of mouth recommendations. Back in those days, customers were loyal because they were looked after by their local service engineer. If there was a problem with a radio or television I’d repaired, it went without saying that I’d put it right – free of charge. That’s the way it was back in the old days.

The golden age of radio isn’t dead – it’s just covered in cobwebs. There are still many people who appreciate listening to the wireless, and I’m one of them. One aspect of old valve radios that intrigues me is the thought that the BBC Home Service would have emanated from the loud speakers during the war years. Churchill would have spoken to the nation during the war, and a host of interesting programmes entertained families during the forties and fifties.

Imagine a beautiful radio with a highly polished wood or Bakelite cabinet taking pride of place in the lounge back in the 40s and 50s. I can picture the man of the house sitting in his armchair, smoking his pipe and listening to the Suez crisis during the 50s while the children played with tin toys on the floor. Housewives’ Choice, Mrs Dale’s Diary, The Billy Cotton Band Show, Music While You Work, The Goon Show, The Clitheroe Kid, Round The Horn, ITMA with Jack Train, Ken Dodd, Sing Something Simple… All these programs and more would have been listened to on valve radios. As I child, I had a valve radio on my bedside table. The dial lamp glowing in the dark, I’d listen to a play and lose myself in the plot. Great stuff.

Many of you reading this will recall listening to your own or your parents’ valve radio in the lounge and enjoying Listen With Mother or an evening drama or short play. A vintage radio is something which should be used and enjoyed, and you can enjoy yours once again. If you have an old Bush DAC90A radio in the attic, drag it out and wipe the dust from the cabinet. Do you remember that radio standing on the sideboard? Having spent fifty years in the attic, it probably won’t work – and I advise you against plugging it in.

There were a lot of short wave listeners in the old days, and I was one of them. Many early radios covered the short wave bands and it was great fun tuning around during the evenings listening to broadcasts from far away lands. If your old wireless covers short wave, you might try putting up a decent aerial. Some of the better, more expensive, radios had an extra valve called an RF amplifier for improving short wave reception. But even the standard sets will pull in stations from all over the world with a simple wire aerial


Have you ever thought about repairing vintage valve radios as a hobby? I’ve created a members’ area within the web site where you can watch over 400 informative videos and access a host of information relating to vintage valve radio repairs


Out of interest, I’ve created a page showing the test equipment I use in the radio workshop. Signal generator, oscilloscope, audio output meter, multimeter… take a look.


You may be interested in my podcasts here.


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