Radio Repair & Restoration

Radio Era repairs and restores old radios.  There is little similarity of the meaning of the two words repair and restore.  To our way of thinking, a repair is where we diagnose what is wrong with the radio and effect a cure.  This is generally done by replacing a bad component or series of components or even perhaps just replacing a defective tube.  A restoration in our terminology is where two different functions are being done.  One is to replace all of the capacitors in a radio with new ones, to replace all parts that are out of tolerance or fail to meet the required specifications to make the radio operate properly, and to give the radio a new tune-up and alignment.   The second function is to restore the cabinet to its original luster or to refinish the cabinet.  There are several examples of our physical cabinet restoration on several radios that have been sold in the "SOLD-RADIOS" section of this web site.  Unless you are willing to spend a "LOT" of money, we will not electrically restore an old radio.  However, if you do have it restored, you should expect that it will operate like new and run for a long time.

Our primary focus in our repair department is to repair old radios.  We are asked how much it will cost to repair an old table model or even perhaps a console model.  This is a difficult question to answer because we rarely have any definitive information to make an informed quote.

Warning - if someone has already butchered up this radio and we determine that it is not in its original or reasonably original condition, our labor rate will be subject to an upcharge.  It is very critical that the radio be in somewhat  of its reasonable original condition.  Lately, we have had a rash of radios sent in that were butchered up by persons unknown and the owner didn't know who changed  the wiring or who tried to fix it and failed (or wouldn't admit it).  It takes much, much more time and money to put the radio back into original configuration than to repair it from its original or close to original condition.

Radio Era Archives will be the final word on whether the radio is in original or close to original condition or was butchered up by someone or persons unknown. If this is the case, we will advise you of the labor upcharge that will be levied on the radio.  You will have the opportunity to decline the service but REA will levy a $ 100 evaluation fee in doing so plus the packing and shipping cost to send the radio back to you.  So in other words, do us all a favor and DO NOT SEND IN ANY BASKET CASES !

Labor Rates -  Generally speaking, you should expect the repair labor to run  in the area of $ 300 for table radios that are not "basket cases", half dead, the wiring being rotted or where you have already given it to someone who screwed it up so bad that not even the original manufacturer would bring it back to life!  If your radio is like any of the preceding descriptions, don't even bother to send it in.  It will cost so much to repair it, you will spend far - far in excess of whatever value the radio could possibly have.  Basket cases will cost upwards of  $ 500 in labor because it is almost impossible to fix what someone else has messed up so bad that only a magician might get it working again.  You should expect that the labor will run an extra $ 100 for a console radio as there is more physical aspects to disassembling the various components in a console so that we can even begin to get to the repair of the chassis. Also console radios tend to have more circuits and functions compared to table radios and are generally more complex.  Large Tombstone and Cathedral Radios are classified at the console rate.  All repair charges will be the labor rates estimated above plus whatever parts are defective.  Any parts that are missing we will try to replace and charge appropriately.  Shipping to REA will be at your expense and we will add shipping charges to your repair bill to get your radio safely back to you. The above labor rates are for electrical repair of the radio.  Missing parts acquisition and labor to install as well as dial-stringing of radios takes more time, thus more labor as well as the cost of parts.

Time To Repair - we are asked how long it will take.  Currently we are still taking a few radios in for repair.  Our previous policy was that It will take a long time because we are very back logged with radios awaiting repair.  We are not the fastest at repairing these old radios but we are thorough and when done, it will work just great.  So expect 12 - 16 weeks if not longer for us to work your radio down the list till we can get to it.  Based on the back log and manpower for repairing, we have just added another pair of hands to help with these tasks.  We've been looking for a long time for extra help, but it takes a person who grew up with these radios to truly understand them and to have enough nostalgia in his/her heart that they WANT to repair them and not believe that they can charge rates like you would expect to have someone repair computers or an automobile.  Actually this is a misnomer since almost no one repairs anything any more, they replace the part entirely or replace a circuit board or throw the whole darn thing away and tell you to go buy another one because it is cost prohibitive to fix it.  Unfortunately, you can't just go down the street and buy a new 12 tube Zenith console that was built in 1940, so here we are having to deal with such issues as dried out capacitors, resistors far off tolerance, tubes that haven't been made since the 1960's, bad IF transformers, bad power transformers, etc., and things like this . . . you get the picture!  So it has been hard to find people like this, but we are diligent in finding the right ones and those who can prove that they really know what they are doing can be assured your radio will work fine when you get it back.  All repairs carry a 30 day warranty for our labor and replaced parts.  (think of it, that was the normal brand new warranty for old radios when they were originally made).

General Repair Estimates - As earlier described, we can only give an educated guess as to what it will ultimately take to repair a radio.  But $ 300-$ 500 for a table radio, perhaps a little more for special table radios,       $ 400 to $ 600 for consoles and large tombstones or cathedral radios would be as good as we can estimate without seeing the radio itself.  (Basket cases will be upcharged)

Restoration Of Cabinets - We also refinish old radio cabinets and consoles to be as close to the original look as possible.  Refinishing of old radios can also mean repairs to the wood cabinets as well.  So RESTORATION can consist of cabinet refinishing and cabinet repairs.  While each radio and its design deserves separate merits from a restoration standpoint, generally speaking table cabinets can be refinished between $ 200 - $ 250, large cathedrals or tombstones will run $ 300-$ 400 and floor standing consoles will run $ 500 - $ 600.  These prices are for refinishing only.  Any grill cloth replacement, speaker reconing or replacement and any wood problems will be at an extra cost.   Grill cloth replacement for table radios generally runs $ 50 - $ 60.00.  For consoles from $ 90 - $110.00.  Replacing missing wood pieces, legs or replacing tops to consoles will generally run an additional $ 200.00.  Other charges might include replacing dial glass or plastic, and knobs that may be missing.

A deposit of 1/2 the estimated total for repair and cabinet restoration is required at the time of bringing in the radio console.

If a radio is only being repaired, the deposit is $ 200 for table radios and $ 400 for larger radios and consoles.

   Highway Robbery! - Some will say, these rates are highway robbery!  We say that it is a labor of love not of making money because it is very easy to spend several days working on a single radio.  Some of these old radios just have old, aging and thorny problems, coupled with needing parts that have not existed for decades . . . figure it out  . . . an old radio can easily take up two days of repair time.  $ 300 / 16 hours = 18.75 per hour - - - can you afford to pay your overhead, utilities, etc on this hourly rate . . . we think not, so be understanding that we are not trying to pull a bank robbery on our repairs . . .  Sure, some radios are easier than others and don't take all day, but others can take DAYS, not hours so it all works out in the long-run.  And we believe that a flat-rate labor charge is the fairest way to charge for our technical time.  

Who Repairs Them? - there are two of us at REA that have a combined total of over 65 years direct experience in electronics theory and repair . . . if that doesn't qualify us, then who is? . . . unfortunately we can't do the repair work fast, it is slow work and has to be done right . . so patience is a virtue in this regard.  In addition to taking in outside work, we work on our own radios when we have time and have over 500 of them currently that we are waiting to get into . . .  So if you have a problem or would like an estimate for repair based on fact, not fiction, fill in the below info request or give us an email or phone call . . . We look forward to repairing your old heirloom radios.

The Results?

Here is one we completely re-worked - you be the judge . . . .

Here is another total reconstruction, inside and out for this beautiful Zenith "Walton" radio . . . This radio was a total disaster, and had actually had rats living inside it . . . . . . The case was in horrible condition, the grill cloth was some old ratty looking 1950's vintage poly-synthetic grill cloth, and the chassis was a rusty disaster.  The Walton was a 9 tube version with tuning eye and motorized station tuning.  After restoration (complete) even with the original woven "S" pattern, this radio won 1st place in an AWA sponsored restoration contest and we ultimately sold it for $ 3500 to a very deserving connoisseur of old radios.  This, by the way, is one of the most collectable and most wanted of the "black dial" Zenith radios that the name the "Walton" radio came from the television show "The Waltons".  This radio is classified as a very large "Tombstone" style radio.

The below picture is the front and back of a newly restored "Sears & Roebuck 1939 World's Fair Radio".  In this particular example, our client restored the cabinet and we completely restored the chassis and reconed the original speaker and it just sounds fantastic.  In all of the radio books that we have as resources, we had never seen this Worlds Fair Radio before he sent us the cabinet picture.  This collaberative effort has restored a world-class radio from yesterday year.

This is a beatifully restored General Electric (1948) HJ1005 console to its original beautiful condition. Completed October, 2006

Below are two recent restorations, the first one is a 12S232 Zenith "Walton" radio whose cabinet was apparently rebuilt and re-vaneered by someone near Dallas.  The owner asked us to restore the radio, but this radio chassis was a near disaster, missing parts, missing glass, missing a speaker, missing knobs, bad tubes, missing tubes, shutterdial not working, not working,  bent plates of the shutterdial, teeth missing in the tuning system, but the owner bought another chassis that we were able to dismantle and use most of the parts to rebuild this one.  The first picture is this 12S232 after it was completed and it now works perfectly and sounds  terrific.  This model has the motor driven system that also did not work until we restored it.  This is an unusual Walton radio cabinet in an Oak and Oak Vaneer finish.

The below picture is a beautiful Zenith 9S232 motor driven shutterdial "Walton" radio that not only is immaculate but now works perfectly. This was a complete restoration, chassis as well as cabinet.  I think you will agree that this is one beautiful Walton radio in immaculate condition.  Everything works perfectly now on this radio, is very sensitive and has beautiful audio.  Of course the grille cloth was replaced with the original design cloth, the speaker was reconed as it was in very bad condition, the radio needed new tubes, and was recapped and aligned.  Now the radio is playing  wonderfully.  Notice the polished bronze bezel that,  when polished, looks like a cross between gold and silver.  It is quite beautiful in this state. 

Below is a recent Zenith 12U159 Console, that we completely restored.  The cabinet was refinished preserving the application of burlwood on the vaneer, a rebuilt speaker, new grille cloth to match the weave of the original Zenith factory cloth, a completely new top to the cabinet due to severe damage to the original top, even replaced a missing horizontal cabinet piece on the bottom of the console and, of course, a complete electrical restoration, new caps and a full alignment.  Everything worked perfectly as it did when it was new in 1938.   We think you might agree that this is one of the most beautiful of the Zenith consoles from the 1930's!  This project was completed in March, 2011.

Below is a newly restored Zenith "Walton" radio, model 7J232.  It has been completely restored to its original beauty for one of our clients and electronically restored as well.  This radio would be a great addition to the finest antique radio collection (7-14-2012)


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