[Dept. of Computer Science]

BFR (Unknown)

Our Department and University.
See my other radios too! (Here is the next one.)

A Radio that came from far

Most radio collectors are familiar with pulling in distant stations; but do you also pull in distant receivers?

This radio was bought in Rennes, France, as a souvenir to a meeting I attended there. The day after I searched the junk shops in town for something like a transistor radio or mini-radio; but I found vintage radios so plentiful and affordable that I soon realized I would be going home with something larger than a transistor radio!

I could have taken a set in good condition, take it home, put it along my other radios, and just look/listen at it. However, I chose for this set in poor condition (veneer coming of and as dead as a doornail) to have the additional fun of fixing it up and be satisfied about the job. It has `Art Deco' like metal rods over the speaker grille cloth, and a circular dial, which is in Europe the less abundant type.

At the back I found a little sticker with the letters `B.F.R.' and from then on I referred to the set as `the BFR'. Meanwhile I learned that BFR abbreviates `Brevet Francais Radio', or French Radio Patents, and many French radios carry these stickers. But I still don't know the brand or type of this radio.

Data for this radio
Type Unknown tabletop
Bands GO (Grandes Ondes, LW 700-2000 m),
PO (Petites Ondes, MW 195-565 m),
OC (Ondes Courtes, SW 19-51 m).
Cabinet Wood; WxHxD = 45 x 27.5 x 24 cm.
Tubes ECH3 (osc./mixer), TEF5 (IF stage), TEB4 (detector),
TEF6 (AF driver), EL3N (output stage),
TEZ3 (rectifier), EM4 (magic eye), 3 dial lights.
Controls Volume/off, tuning, band/PU switch,
Tonality pot at the back side; why?
Produced France, 1937 or 1938.
Condition Very Good.

Getting it to work again...

This radio was the most involving restoration project I did so far. The cabinet had to be glued together again, and new veneer was applied at some corners. I sanded and re-finished it because virtually nothing of the original finish was left. I soaked off the grille cloth, bleached, and re-applied it and de-greased the metal decoration bars with household ammonia. For the dial and knobs "ordinary" cleansing was sufficient.

The electrical work was quite involved; here is an image of the chassis:

The chassis was cleaned and I replaced the leaky filter caps. The set couldn't be switched on and I had to replace the volume/power potmeter. Then there was no B+ voltage because the EZ3 rectifier had given up (no emission); I replaced it first by silicon diodes soldered under the chassis, but later made an "EZ3Si", a solid-state plug-in replacement. There was positive voltage on the output tube's control grid, so I replaced the coupling condenser, but still no stations could be received, while scratching the control grid did produce sounds in the speaker. The pin voltages were normal for all the tubes.

Everything appeared to be fine, but the set didn't work; until I tried a replacement EL3N output tube while a strong antenna was connected, and I could hear some very weak voices. It became clear that the set was way out of alignment, and the output tube had burned out too far to produce the weak signals passed to it. With the replacement output tube I could improve the alignment and obtain some results of my labour: the set tuned several sets.

In the next year the radio developed an irritating hum problem and became almost completely deaf (due to some random tweaking of the IF cans). The hum turned out to be caused by the new volume pot; the switch part leaked some AC components to the runner, so it was replaced again. I also replaced the ECH3 by another one, and the TEF5 by an EF9, and replaced a handful of capacitors. Then I aligned the IF circuits to 472 kHz (a usual vulue in those days in that country) and obtained a quite sensitive radio with acceptable audio quality.

French Radios

This BFR, like the Point Blue A416, has the tonality control at the back of the radio. Don't the French mind pulling their table top forward every time they adjust the tonality? OK I admit Philips made a few portables (1, 2, 3) with the band switch at the back, but for portables it is different.

This radio illustrates what some people feel typical for French technicians: total lack of respect for what they are working on. Apperently the radio has been repaired by somebody not interested in using the Pu entry nor in the tonality control, and this person simply amputed these parts of the circuitry. (In another French set the dial was mounted with the paint outside so I got it with a wiped-out lettering.) Some day I should put a back on this radio and reconnect the PU entry (but how?).

The construction is a bit peculiar. There are neither boards nor terminal strips; rather the parts inside form a self-supporting `spider-web' like structure with B+ and ground as floating metal rods. It is quite a stress to replace components in this set.

Gerard Tel, gerard@cs.uu.nl.