I am a tinkerer who really enjoys articles that share my passion for tinkering. We tinkerers like to pull things apart and put them back together again. There is an art to tinkering, to ripping apart a perfectly good something and putting it back together again with no leftover parts! Antique radios are perfect for us tinkerers because they are spacious enough to stick our fingers into and they use TUBES, those big hot energy suckers that are still, all these years later, fun to play with. Some of these radios work perfectly even today while others have been left for dead by a previous owner. The dead ones are the radios I really like to find! I enjoy the challenge of making an old clunker work again. A little polish and cabinet restoration doesn't hurt either.
An acquaintance of mine is a serious Atwater Kent collector. Me? I'm a hack. A couple of years ago he was whittling down his collection, anticipating a move to a smaller apartment. Among his beautiful AK speakers and radio treasures, over in a corner was a rusty bucket. It was a model 35 that had not had a happy life, he said, and seeing as how he didn’t want to pack and move it, he’d sell it to me for cheap! Our transaction was completed and the radio was moved out of his dusty corner into one of mine where it stayed for the next two years until one day, for no particular reason, I heard it calling! “Fix me…fix meeeeee!” Evil spirits were living in that thing.
Bird's eye view from the bottom.
Here am I, the proud owner of an Atwater Kent serial number 995496! It turned out to be a Model 35A, which logically enough is a later version of a Model 35 (serial number 900,000 marks the line between versions). Atwater Kent introduced the 35 in 1926 for around 70 bucks, maybe 2 or 3 week’s pay. It is a 6 tube TRF (“tuned radio frequency”) type of radio, a tried and true design of the day. No plug and play here, it requires 5 sets of batteries! The poor old thing looked to me as if it had been outside, maybe dumped in a barn or tossed in a field to rot. It was dusty and rusty and watever its history, the finish was very weathered and pitted. Its brown Bakelite knobs featured lots of water spotting and residual stains. On the bottom where 4 felt feet used to be, 80 year old holes now. Radios of the day were often built as luxury items in polished wood cabinets. Not this one! Mr. Atwater Kent (can you imagine being named "Atwater" today?) adopted a money-saving technique of stamping cases out of steel, shaping them like an upside down bread pan, and painting them maroon brown. No doubt the technique saved some money but this radio still cost a couple of weeks pay for a regular chap!
My radio had probably spent some time baking in the sun. Its crinkle-finish paint was chalky with spatters of white stuff, bird droppings?, and drips of something sort of dark and sticky. Stored open side up, water had pooled inside and left a coating of rust. With so many cabinet flaws It would never be a prime collector’s item, which is why I could afford to buy it!The good news, it appeared to be whole and I had something to tinker with! Yeah! next