Vintage Radio Repair

Thomas C.Dailey,Owner
Office & Fax: 303/455-0889
Cell: 720/839-8014
3783 N. Highway 67
Sedalia, Colorado 80135

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The Beginning
Okay, I'm an older guy.. I admit it. Hey, just check out the white hair and you really don't need to go much further, do ya? Well, that understood, I'll take you back to those halcyon daze [sic] of youth and yesteryear when kids were STILL mystified by radio... well, maybe not "mystified", but pretty astounded anyway. I knew it had something to do with those really HOT tubes in the back of our 1949 RCA "Golden Throat Tone" radio in the kitchen, and similar ones were in my "farmer" Grandpa's 1941 Wards Airline, and also in my "city" Grandpa's 1939 Stromberg-Carlson, too. You could smell the heat - it was kinda neat as long as you didn't touch em', 'cause they'd burn the heck out of your fingers - your nose too, if you got too close (pretty easy for me HI HI). Anyway, when I went to Grandpa Dailey's (city) place in Topeka, I discovered that one of the switches changed the "band", and I began to hear some really wierd languages and funny music too. There was this odd station near the big "5", and another one near "10" that sounded like somebody's wierd clock, and the time was NEVER right, except for the MINUTE! (by the way - I still have all but the RCA!)

So... I'm 8 years old, and my Dad had been priming me about being a Cub Scout. All the other boys in the neighborhood seemed to own those cool blue uniform shirts with patches and numbers on the sleeves, and patches on the front, too. Growing up with a family of WW-II veterans, a couple of whom were still in the Navy off the coast of Korea was, well... inspiration enough, and I wanted a uniform TOO! (the country was different then).

The "Pack" met at GRACELAND SCHOOL in Kansas City, MO. It's still there, but has been closed for a while, now. It was Pack 28, and after being "presented" to the other kids, some of whom I already knew, I swore to obey lots of people, and after a time, became a BOBCAT in Den 1. The next step on the ladder to SUPERIORITY was the rank of WOLF. Yeah, we were the new kids, 'cause many of them had already done their BEAR and LION badges, and even some who'd moved on to WEBELOS - almost REAL Boy Scouts. Dad and Mom took me down to Macy's or The Palace I think... whichever one was the official Boy Scout dealer, and there Dad paid for and presented me with my very own WOLF book, an "official" blue shirt, a cap, and a yellow kerchief - Wow! I was on my way...

So how come I brought Cub Scouts into this story? About a month ago, I was perusing an antique store (when you get old enough, those "antique" toys are what YOU played with, as a kid!), when one of the items of my Life's Quest was beheld in front of my eyes... a 1948 edition "WOLF" book. Not the fancy-schmanzy later versions, this one was tailored "for the times", with simple text, simple drawings of stuff ANY 8 year-old boy could make (who had money for toys?), and great tasks for pleasing Mom & Dad with early attempts at being responsible (boy, that was a stretch for me). Ahhh, but as I leafed through it, REMEMBERING EVERY PAGE, I came to the Holy Grail... the Ne Plus Ultra - The Beginning...

There, on page 58 was the design and construction details of how to MAKE a Crystal Radio! It even shows how to MAKE a tin-foil and wax paper capacitor! (told you we made everything). It promised to open up the world of radio WITHOUT using too much electricity, so in addition to performing all those mundane tasks in the front of the book, like sweeping floors, helping around the house, proper flag ettiquite (Hooray), how to make a scrapbook, family fun, and learning YOUR neighborhood, I began to amass the parts for that highly complicated piece of affordable technology in 1951.... the Crystal Radio.

I first tried winding the coil on a toilet-paper roll - boy, that was a disaster... finally settling on a Quaker Oats box (which is de regur' anyway), and using the roll of wire I'd salvaged from a tossed transformer (ever tried to unwind a transformer? - it takes a while), I actually listened to my Dad, and tied the wire's end onto a tree, then wound the BOX toward the tree (this method is actually advocated in making the required coils for an "HBR" receiver). After 4 or 5 tries, I finally succeeded in getting a really nice looking coil on the Quaker box, fed the leads through punched holes, then painted the whole thing with varnish. I cheated on the capacitor - Municipal Trash Collection Day in Kansas City, back then, was on Thursdays... us kids would "forage" on the way to school, put the stuff in our bicycle baskets (yep... rode my bike to school at 8 years old) and gathering after school, would "review" our booty. I found a tossed radio, and having unwound one of the wax & paper caps, determined in my little pea-brain that it was the same as in the book.... yep, it was... so I wrestled another similarly looking one out, and used it.

The galena crystal was given to me by my Uncle Bill, along with a pair of earphones (nobody called 'em headphones, back then) from a Navy PBY Catalina - FROM GUADACANAL's Henderson Field - Really!, the coil "slider" from a Strongheart dog-food can - it didn't work so good, so I made a later model from that spring steel that they used on packing crates.... stuff has a mind of it's own, similar to Copperweld wire, then I made the cat's whisker from a safety pin (just like it shows in the book). I assembled the whole thing. Imagine my distress when it DIDN'T WORK... my Dad actually figured out why (I hadn't sanded the "wiped area" of the coil to remove the insulation). I snaked wire out of my window, and over to our big tree (never thinking that anybody would walk INTO it ... like MOM!), ran back inside, connected the other wire that went to the outside water faucet, and I began to hear KMBC 980... a bit of movement of the slider and there was WDAF 610.. man, I was stoked.

Yes, at night there was The Lone Ranger, Gangbusters, Lash LaRue, Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder, Roy Rogers, and the two programs I was banned from listening to.... "Inner Sanctum" and "The Creaking Door" - well, heck yes I listened to them anyway.... wierd dreams and all. {my Dad's variation of punishment for minor infractions, was to take my earphones AWAY for a suitable period of pennance - aughhhhhhh, misery!}

So... you see... that silly book from so long ago - it's what kick-started me into this nutty hobby of ours... and having that good ol' WOLF book in my hands again, I spent an hour, hiding from the wife in my my ham shack, reading EVERY page again, and remembering the ABSOLUTE JOY of being able to BUILD a radio that really worked, used NO batteries, drew NO power from the mains, and was ALL MINE, that quite frankly - aimed me at my life's career path.

Thanks Dad, Thanks Uncle Bill, Thanks Mom (who always ran into the wires and screamed "That Radio Junk will NEVER make you a penny!"...

...and Thanks - Boy Scouts of America - "I, Tommie Dailey, promise to DO MY BEST to BE SQUARE, and to OBEY the Law of the Pack".

Have YOU built one?

73 - dit dah, dit dah dit

A large collection of "Tom's Musings" may be found at; "Strange Antenna" is at

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