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Press the PLAY button to hear the radio!
I have restored several of these slant front Philcos, a 39-25
and a three 39-30s. When I saw this 41-255 on Ebay I decided to bid
knowing it probably would be a parts radio. The seller was honest and
stated as much in the auction description. It really looked bad. The
veneer was loose on the front and the case was badly scratched and
dented. I won the auction and the price including shipping was less
When it arrived the veneer that appeared loose in the auction photo above had come off and was lying in the bottom of the box. The escutcheon was shriveled and the dial was missing about half of the scale lettering. But the glass was intact. Oddly, this radio had good pushbuttons. All of the Philcos with pushbuttons from this era that I have seen had either missing buttons or they were so badly malformed to be unusable. The radio smelled BAD. (Mouse pee). I put it away for another time.
I decided to take up the challenge. If
the cabinet could be salvaged, the radio just might be fixable. I
glued all of the loose joints by spreading them and putting Titebond
III as far into the openings as possible. I glued and clamped
sections of the cabinet until it was solid and no visible movement
could be detected when pressure was placed on the corners.
The missing and loose veneer was next. I salvaged most of the veneer that had come off in shipment and glued it back using the Titebond III and 'bungee' cords and wedges to hold the veneer on the curved areas. I built up the totally missing veneer using Lenderink Wood Products paper veneer until it matched the thickness of the original veneer. I then stripped the entire cabinet using a mild furniture stripper that I found at Home Depot. It works slowly and does not damage the wood or loosen the veneer. The cabinet was wiped down with paint thinner to remove all traces of the paint remover and allowed to dry. I cleaned the inside of the cabinet thoroughly with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits and then brushed a coat of sanding sealer on all inside surfaces to seal in the mouse odor. I then sanded the cabinet with 220 grit paper. The paint remover had opened the grain so I filled the grain using dark water base paste wood filler thinned with a little water. I wiped it across the grain using a soft cloth (an old tee shirt). After it was completely dry, it was sanded with 220 and 400 grit paper. I wiped on a red mahogany stain to even out the general color of the wood. After another sanding I sprayed on a coat of Mohawk Vandyke brown to neutralize the reddish color. Then two coats of Mohawk clear satin lacquer were applied. After the Philco waterslide decal was applied I sprayed on two more coats of lacquer and called the cabinet finished.
The chassis was next. I brushed and wiped
the dust and dirt from the chassis and then removed the dial and
tuning capacitor. I ran the tuning capacitor through a cycle in the
dishwasher, dried it, relubricated the thrust bearing and put a drop
of DeOxit on the contact springs. It looked like new. After cleaning
the chassis with mineral spirits, I wiped a thin coat of aluminum
paint on the chassis using a soft cloth. I sprayed the paint on the
cloth and then rubbed it on the chassis. The result looks much more
like a chassis should than if it was simply sprayed with paint.
The dial was a real challenge. Half the markings were gone. I scanned what was left into the PC and using Paint spent a half-day or so retouching the image. I printed the image on some clear decal stock and applied it to the old glass, which I had cleaned of old markings. It looks like the original.
The electronics were not too bad. I have come to expect rotten insulation and just replaced all of the rubber-covered wires. Of course all of the paper capacitors were replaced along with the electrolytics. The output transformer primary was open so it was replaced with a quality Hammond universal replacement transformer from Antique Electronic Supply.
I then powered up the radio using my isolation transformer and 'dim bulb' tester. It worked. No smoke! The sound, however, even after alignment was scratchy and a little tinny. This Philco, like several others of this era, has a unique push pull output with no phase inverter tube. The screen of one output tube has a resistor between it and the B+. The audio voltage developed across this resistor is passed to the grid of the other output tube via a capacitor. This voltage is 180 degrees out of phase with the voltage on the first tube's grid; thus the necessary conditions for push pull operation are satisfied. Philco did not add a screen resistor to the second tube making the arrangement inherently unbalanced. I added a resistor of the same value for the second tube screen hoping to balance the circuit somewhat and improve the sound. I left it there even though there was little change in sound quality. I decided to try a modern Jensen speaker and temporarily replaced the field coil power supply filter with a resistor. The difference was amazing! The sound was full and although certainly not HiFi, was very listenable. I decided to leave the new speaker and made the power supply change permanent by bolting the resistor to the chassis.
This was beginning to look like a very successful restoration so I splurged and ordered a reproduction escutcheon and knobs from Larry Bordonaro. While waiting for the escutcheon I brought the radio in and gave it the burn in test. It developed a strange problem. The radio would go silent after a few minutes and could be brought back to life only by switching the band switch to the pushbutton position and back. I discovered that the oscillator was stopping. New tubes had no effect. I posted a help me to the Antique Radio forum and was advised to check the micas in the oscillator. Sure enough, the 250pf capacitor connected to the oscillator grid was open intermittently. I could press on it with a plastic probe and stop the oscillator.
The escutcheon arrived and was installed. It is a perfect reproduction of the original including the swirl effect. My compliments to Larry.
This is an excellent radio! It is very sensitive, selective, as it needs to be and sounds great. All functions work perfectly. Too bad all of the functions of the guy that restored it don't work perfectly. Maybe a 63-year-old guy could be restored?
Update 01/06/2005: I gave this radio to my daughter for Christmas.
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