Restoring an Old Radio

This past week, I have recapped a Hallicrafters S-38B, 5 tube, all American classic. The 5 Tub all Americans are classic (National’s NC-60 Special is another version of such a radio). So far so good, it receives, but will need a tune up. So that is next on the list.


Here is the photo:

IMG 2532

Old Time Radio

It is not a secret that I not only enjoy QRP, Digital and SDR, but I am a fan of old time radio. When I lived just outside of Boston, I had a collection of “boat anchors” that were fun to operate. My favorite receiver was the National Radio Company’s NC-173.

The NC-173, like it’s sibling, the NC-183, were desktop radios that featured big tuning and band spread dials. They included a Beat Frequency Oscillator (known on the NC-173 as a CWO – Contunuous Wave Oscillator), so carrier injection could allow reception of CW signals as well as AM signals. The CWO could also be used to tune in SSB, with some finesse.

When I heard National had totally gone bankrupt in the late 80s, my friend Jack and I went and bought a lot of service stock (by the pallet) and soon I had parts to fix up NC-173s and the sort. I had rebuilt 3 of these radios, with new dials (as the service stock dials were not yellowed) , newer power transformers, Electrolytic power capacitors, and a ton of bypass capacitors. Masking and painting the radios and putting new badges found in the service stock made them look almost new. I sold a couple of them at the Deerfield ham fest (shows how long ago I was at a New England Ham fest). I kept one. When I moved out to the Pacific Northwest, 25 years ago, I brought one out. I ended up selling it to a nice gentleman in the Seattle area in the early 2000s. I wish I never sold it.

The thing about the NC-173 was the sound. Warm sounding. Especially if you had the matching speaker (I did). Listening to Radio Netherlands, or Deutsche Welle, or the BBC was a pleasure on this radio. And it would warm a room, too. Thermionic Emission is wonderful, sometimes.

I have been on this kick of acquiring some antique things, lately. in 2015, I bought a 1954 Willys Overland Jeep Pickup to ride around on the island. I also have old VOMs from Triplet and such.

I want to get a NC-173 or NC-183 again, but will have to temper. With all I am doing in SDR, QRP and the such, I do not think adding another radio to the mix will be met with harmony 😉


72 de Jeff – KD1IT