Radio Dials

A unique element in Australian radios.

Most vintage Australian and New Zealand radios have their dials littered with Station Call Signs rather than a scale of kilohertz as is found in most other countries.

This "Stationising" never really took off anywhere outside of Australia and N.Z. although a few rare American ones can be found with stations on their dials.

The popular trend in the U.S.A. was to preset stations that could be tuned to via a row of pushbuttons, similar to older car radios.

I have never seen an Australian radio with pushbuttons. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

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ill titleA.W.A. Radiolette 516M

Radiolette Restoration.

ill_1September 2007. A new radio and a new look.

As best I can gather this is the 1948 or 1949 model Radiolette.

I picked this one up at an estate sale. Sold as unrestored and I got it for a pretty good price. There are a few cracks in the white bakelite although they can't be seen from the front. The bakelite has a lovely "white-in-white" marbling that made me think it was worthy of my attention.

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A quick check of the valves showed that although one or two were under-performing they were still good. But something else was preventing it from starting up.

A faulty on/off pot seemed to be the trouble and I quickly learned the right wrist technique to make it work.

I started work on replacing the capacitors and after each new component I would turn it on and check everything was still in order. I got about 3 components in when she stopped altogether and started making a bit of smoke and smell. NOT GOOD!

I was certain it wasn't my doing, there HAD TO BE something amiss on the insides.

I stared and stared at the guts under the chassis... Was it a resistor? All the likely candidates were well within range. Surprising for components old enough to have grandkids. Tried it again. Still dead, still smelly, still smokey. Arrrgh!

Then I saw it.

A piece of plastic covered hookup wire between a component and a valve socket. The plastic cover stopped short of the wire's end and has a slightly larger plastic sleeve that covered the remainder. This sleeve had moved leaving the wire exposed and contacting another that ran over it.

Repositioning and eventual replacement of the sleeve stopped the chaos and restored life to the radio once again.

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I also wondered about the speaker grill cloth, looking more like a piece of carpet someone has stuck in there!

Then I saw this photo of the AWA Conference of 1949.

There was the Radiolette and as you can see from this closeup...

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The new replacement pot arrived to fix the power problems. The resistor material in the old one had also worn away so the radio played either at full volume or not at all.

Installation was uneventful but the sound still suffered from distortion.

We suspected speaker damage. The cone on this one is mostly intact but often when old radios have been stored improperly and unused the voice coil can accumulate dust and dirt.

This grit can cause drag on the inside of the coil and create distorted sound.

This model has a fairly conventional permanent magnet speaker so to test my theory I wired in a modern speaker of similar specs and was thrilled to hear the radio boom out loud and clear.

Although this model of AWA speaker is fairly common, finding one that was working well and with cone intact over the course of 2 months had proven difficult. I had one spare where the coil seems to operate better but it is also a bit tatty. I bit the bullet and arranged to have it reconed.

The Best I Could Find...

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A chap who lives up the coast from me offers a reconing service for vintage speakers. He was able to recone this one with the original New Old Stock AWA paper cone.

It was reattached to the chassis quick smart.

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I then followed up with the reattachment of the cardboard frame that supports the grille cloth using screws this time rather than the rivets that originally attached it. The grille cloth was then glued on as well.

Finally a new blue cardboard back behind the dial glass to replace the faded original, then it was out to the backyard for some nice natural light and a photo of the finished product.

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