Friday, June 8, 2018

Restoring & Repairing Our Antique Radios

This has been a busy summer so far! Not only have I been working a job on campus and working on my dissertation, but Justin and I have had lots of projects going on at home. We repainted a shelf for our bathroom, painted a tabletop for my desk, and sanded and repainted all of our bedroom furniture (see a post on that here). This past week, we decided to work on restoring some of our cherished antiques.

We have lots of antiques, and most of them were given to us by family and friends (to see a post on all of my typewriters, click here). My favorite piece is definitely the 1940s Philco radio phonograph that my great grandfather gave to me about four years ago. Justin and I had just moved to Ohio and he had to go back to Indiana for one of his grad school classes. I went with him to Indiana and he dropped me off at my parents' house so I could spend the day with my dad at my great grandfather's house. He was 94 at the time, and we had a wonderful day spending time with him and helping him around the house. My dad told him I love antiques, and my grandpa told me to go look around in the attic to see if there was anything I might want. I found so many cool things, including boxes of old cameras, records, vintage suitcases...and this 1948 Philco radio phonograph. When I asked him about it, he told me that him and my great grandmother had purchased the radio brand new and that he had had it for over sixty years, and that he wanted me to have it! My dad and I managed to get the radio out of the attic and into the car, but it was in rough shape.

It had been in my grandpa's non-temperature-controlled attic for many years, so it endured lots of extreme cold and heat. It also needed a deep clean. My dad and I took it back to my parents' house and spent the afternoon cleaning it and polishing it. It looked completely different by the time we were done.
The plug needed to be replaced, so my dad and I couldn't turn it on. When I got it home, Justin and I replaced the broken plug and tried it out - of course, it didn't work. I began doing some research about how to fix old radios, found a schematic online of the inside of the Philco model I had (we later realized there was a schematic on the inside of the radio that we didn't know was there), and found a website that sold the vacuum tubes I needed. We ordered them, installed them, and the radio worked! We were so happy, although the radio only picks up AM stations, so there wasn't much to listen to. We decided to try fixing the record player next, but that journey ended up being a three-year saga of disappointment. 

With the record player, it turned on and the record would spin, but we couldn't hear any noise. Justin replaced the capacitors and resistors, but it still didn't work. He thought that the arm for the record player was the problem, but we found out that the part we needed to fix the arm didn't exist anymore. We were disappointed, but I still loved that the radio component worked. My grandpa passed away about a year after giving the radio to me, so I loved being able to have a piece of him in my home that I could see everyday (and share with guests when they come over). 

A couple weekends ago, my husband and I were camping with friends in Indiana. Our friend, B.J., started talking about how he restores antiques, and Justin told him about our radio. He agreed that the issue with the record player probably had to do with the arm, and B.J. gave Justin the contact information for a guy in Michigan who sells parts for antiques. While we were already told several years earlier that the part we needed didn't exist, Justin emailed the guy anyway.


The guy confirmed what we already knew, but did some research anyway. He ended up finding a universal cartridge replacement kit, and while he didn't know if it would work, we decided to give it a try for about $28. The part came in the mail, and Justin worked on installing it. The parts were very small and it was a tedious process, but he got everything put together. We stood in my office anxiously waiting as the radio warmed up so we could see if, after four years of having the radio, the turntable worked. 

It didn't.

Justin started working on it again and realized he had re-installed the arm wrong. He fixed it.

It still didn't work.

I stood there watching in disappointment as I had hoped this last effort to fix my grandpa's radio would work. Justin made a small adjustment with the needle, and all of a sudden, the record started playing. 


There may have been happy tears involved! We polished the wood again, and now the radio looks beautiful and is in complete working condition (and it sounds beautiful). Also, Justin replaced the bulb behind the radio display, so it has backlighting again. In the video, we're listening to one of my grandpa's Nat King Cole records that I found in his attic along with the radio. 


My great grandmother and great grandfather got that wooden camel figurine in Israel during a trip they took around the world. It was another gift from him, and I have it displayed on top of the radio he gave me.









I found this whole stack of records (78s) in my grandpa's attic. They may skip a bit from sitting in his attic for 50 years, but for the most part, they sound wonderful. Somehow during the many years my grandpa owned the radio, the back came off and we weren't able to find it (although the screws that held the back on were still drilled into the sides of the radio). Justin and I went to Lowe's to get the material to make a custom back for the radio to protect it and keep dust out. We added some ventilation holes since the vacuum tubes get hot while the radio is on.


In addition to the Philco, Justin and I have also been working on a 1973 radio/record player/8-track console we found last summer for free (to see the original post on this console, follow this link). It was also in rough shape because someone had left it sitting out in the rain. We brought it home, cleaned it up, and realized all of the electronics still worked (except for the turntable, which needed a new needle cartridge). Here are a couple photos from cleaning the console up last summer:

Before cleaning.

After cleaning.

It cleaned up well, but Justin and I decided to sell it since we didn't have room for it in the house. We posted it on several sites, and there was some interest, but no one bought it. We decided to fix it up a bit more (the exterior was still in bad shape from having been soaked during a rain storm). We sanded it and got it ready to paint. Justin found a replacement needle for it from the same guy who sent us the cartridge replacement kit for the Philco. 




After sanding, adding wood filler, sealing the bottom, and gluing parts of the exterior back down, I decided to paint the piece black with a gray top (and I spray painted the hardware metallic black) to cover up the imperfections from the water damage (plus, I added a layer of clear coat at the end to protect the surface). Justin installed the new needle and the record player played beautifully. We decided to keep it this time. 









That's Johnny Cash on the 8-track player (found at an antique shop in Dundee, MI) and AC/DC on the record player (found at a Goodwill store). 

And while both of those projects took quite a bit of time and effort, we had one last thing to do - find a knob to replace the missing one on Justin's great grandmother's Delco radio (given to Justin by his dad). We found a knob from a different seller and now the radio looks complete (and it works perfectly).

Before.

After.

We finished working on these radios in a week's time! Like I said, it's been a busy summer. We are both so excited to have restored some beautiful pieces of history - one of which we found, one that belonged to my great grandparents, and one that belonged to Justin's great grandparents.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Upcycling: Bedroom Furniture

When Justin and I first got married, we used a bedroom set we inherited from my family. It was in decent shape, but the bed frame was for a full-size mattress, so we wanted to upgrade to a bigger bed. We bought a bedroom set at Value City Furniture because it was affordable (it came with a bed frame with four built-in drawers, two large nightstands, and a large dresser with a mirror), but we were never in love with the dark-colored wood. Since I forgot to take "before" photos of the furniture, I found some photos that I took of our room when we first moved to Ohio about four years ago:






You can see how dark the furniture was. (It's not a terrible color, Justin and I just prefer lighter, brighter colors). It made the room seem smaller, and we always talked about re-finishing all of the bedroom furniture, but we knew how big of an undertaking it would be, so we kept putting it off.

We have been in an upcycling mood this summer (so far, we've painted a bathroom shelf, a table, a large media cabinet - you can see a post on that here, and a record cabinet), so we just decided to tackle this project and re-do our entire bedroom set. We like to do things on a budget, and purchasing new furniture just seemed pointless since the furniture we have is in great condition, we just didn't like the color. So, we made a trip to the store to pick out paint and get some supplies.

We decided to do the nightstands and the bed frame in a grey color called "online" and the dresser in an orange-ish color called "armagnac." Both of these colors were from Sherwin-Williams' Urban Outlook collection at Lowe's.

This project was definitely a big undertaking as each piece had to be taken apart (the drawers, the back, etc.), taken outside, sanded down using several different grit sandpapers, dusted and wiped down with microfiber cloths, and then taken back inside for painting. I had several drop cloths laid out in my office area where I would take the sanded furniture and paint it. Since this was such a big project, we did it in three phases - first the nightstands, then the bed frame, then the dresser.

One of the nightstands, ready to be sanded.
As you can see, our bed frame is not your average bed frame. It has a huge headboard and side pieces that hold four built-in drawers. We bought this particular set because of the extra storage under the bed.


Justin outside sanding the bed frame. We live on the top floor of a duplex, and our front porch served as the perfect place to do all of the sanding.
Getting ready to sand the dresser. Look at all the sawdust on the floor!

We underestimated how many drawers we had! While painting, we could hardly walk through the office to the bathroom/bedroom area because there were so many drawers on the floor.
Justin did all of the sanding, I dusted/cleaned all of the items before we brought them back inside, I painted everything, and then Justin and I added a layer of clear coat (we used Miniwax brand water based Polycrylic protective finish) to everything to protect it from scratches and scrapes. We decided we didn't like the basic silver knobs that were originally on the drawers, so we did some research and found some black, vintage-looking knobs from Hobby Lobby on a 50% off sale. We have so many drawers/drawer pulls that we had to buy 32 knobs to replace the old ones!

So, without further ado, here is our freshly upcycled bedroom furniture. It was SO much work (the whole project took about three weeks), but we love how it came out. Our bedroom feels so much bigger and fresher now, and the new color is definitely a better fit for our style.



These knobs are so much cuter than the original, generic knobs!





I used this old burlap coffee sack to put the TV on.
I love the color of the dresser next to my vintage yellow chair (which I found at a thrift shop in Michigan for $15 about five years ago).
This upcycling project probably cost us around $100 for all of the paint, supplies, and knobs (and it definitely took lots of time and effort), but it was a fun project for Justin and I to do together and it certainly cost way less than purchasing a new bedroom set with a vintage feel. I can't imagine how much it would have cost us to purchase a hand-painted bedroom set like this from a shop, or how much someone would have charged to do the sanding and painting for us. We love getting creative and bringing new life to used items, and we love our "new" bedroom furniture!

Next on the list this summer: finding parts for some antiques we have to get them in working condition. Stay tuned for updates!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Upcycling: 60s Style Media Cabinet & Desktop

Justin and I love thrift-shopping, and we typically always try to find things second-hand before buying new. Within the past couple years, we upcycled a dining room table and chairs (the table was found at Goodwill and the chairs were left by a previous tenant in our garage) and a TV cabinet (an old piece of furniture we found at Goodwill and turned into a media cabinet). You can find the post about upcycling the dining set here and the post about the TV stand here

Over Easter weekend this year, Justin and I were at a Salvation Army and found a gorgeous 60s style media cabinet for $10!!! Someone had purchased it a couple weeks prior, but never came to pick it up, so the store gave it to us for 50% off. We managed to (barely) fit it in our car, brought it home, and stored it in the basement until the weather got a little nicer and we could take it outside to sand it. While it was a beautiful cabinet, the exterior was faded and scratched, so we decided to sand it down and repaint it to match a record cabinet I purchased at an antique store a couple years ago. 


This is my record cabinet. I bought it already painted this color, but I thought it would be fun to match the new cabinet with this one since they are so similar in style. 


This is the $10 thrifted cabinet! It has sliding doors (with finger pulls) that go on the front, but we took them off to sand. 



Did I mention I love our backyard? It's given us space for lots of fun projects. 


After it was sanded, we brought it inside to paint.


We took the back and doors off to paint, then added a layer of clear coat before reassembling everything.


Lowe's sells those cool vintage finger pulls (that I painted black). Who would have thought? This is the finished product!


I love how it turned out! We currently have a built-in cabinet in our house where we keep movies and games, but this will serve as a storage space for those items when we move. (Which will hopefully be soon - I'm on the job market this year!)

The other project we took on this week was painting a tabletop for my desk. The legs and tabletop are from IKEA (and they are purchased separately). I previously purchased the white Linnmon tabletop, but it felt cheap and was already chipping paint within the first few months of having it on my art desk. Justin and I went back to IKEA last weekend and looked at other tabletops, and I loved the wood one shown below (called the Gerton tabletop). Unfortunately, it didn't match the other woods in the room where my desk is, so Justin suggested doing a vintage, old-barn-wood-style paint job on the wood tabletop. We looked into getting chalk paint, but it was so expensive, so I tried to create the effect myself with some basic white paint. See the finished product below!


I love the way this desk came together! I work here a lot, so I like how durable the new tabletop looks and feels. (This also has a clear coat on it for protection). Our next project is sanding and repainting our bedroom furniture!