12. Gerard's Radio Workshop

The size of my hobby corner in our house does not quite relate to the volume of Gerard's Radio Corner on the Internet. Already quite early in my collector's carreer I realized that there is hardly a point in stuffing more and more objects into your house, until it is so full that you can hardly get to anything. So I decided that the space in which I exercise my hobby should have its limits, I would do whatever I could in that space and avoid extending it whenever the hobby "requires" this. With this policy the hobby would remain a pleasure also for the other members of the family. Folks, when your wife urges you to clean the kitchen table waving with a print of this page, tell your beloved this: I didn't succeed completely to avoid having radios in other rooms.

A Little Place Under the Sun

The little place in the attic was a left-over space after a reconstruction of the house in 1993. Two bedrooms were created and this corner of about 4 square meters was filled with all kinds of junque. Soon after I started collecting radios my eye fell on this place and I realized that if I would claim this place for the hobby, nobody would be bothered and I could enjoy my hobby forever there. So I carpented the workbench and placed the shelves and filled them with radios. In later years followed several shelves nailed to the walls, also used for displaying objects: meters and the like.

The hobby area is small, about 4 m2 as mentioned, but organized very efficiently. On the left of the Radio Corner you see the high cupboard with many radios, and behind it (barely visible) the Siemens Debeg ready for DX-listening. Behind the blue curtain there are some radios waiting for repairs, and a few parts sets and boxes of parts. To the right is my workbench, with two shelves of spare parts above it, some meters and test wires, and sockets for mains power (230V grounded and ungrounded) and a VHF/UHF antenna terminal.

Many photos of the smaller radios are made simply on the workbench, the white support and back make it quite well on pictures.

My Workshop Tools

Because I have some extra interest in old measuring devices (see the orange category in the main menu) I have a few more meters than some radio collectors do, but most of these are hardly used for practical work. Of course I use a lot of working tools like screw drivers, plyers, saws, and the like; things like these are found in any workshop, radio-related or not. More special to the radio (or electronics) hobby is the soldering iron.

By far my most important and most used measuring instrument is the Velleman digital multimeter depicted here. Actually, a simple one measuring only DC and AC volts suffices to diagnose most radio faults, say a 90% or so. But to cure the next 5%, the current, resistance, capacity, frequency measurement, and continuity testing come very handy, and to satisfy my curiosity at some times it also measures temperatures. By the way, I have several multimeters so as to be able to measure various sources simultaneously. I am usually quite satisfied with the meters, except that I don't like the meter pins that come with them. I always replace the pins by banana plugs, on which I can stick clips when necessary. The standard pins are unhandy and even dangerous because you have to hold the pins agains the contacts while measuring.

So what do we use for the last 5% of defective radios? Since I bought it in 1998, the tube tester enjoyed increasing popularity in my repairs. I realise that testing a tube is far from the final word on its usability, because often a tube tests bad but behaves good and vice versa. An often heard advice is to replace the suspected tube with a good one. But how often I simply don't have a good one, but only can hunt for one when the tube is proven to be bad! My tester is just an emission tester, of the simplest type, but it gives me very useful information about the condition of a tube.
Oscilloscope I very much appreciate this oscilloscope, both for playing with signals and see what happens, but also for cases where a radio does play, but the sound is distorted or weak. I trace the signals with it and see if all the expected stuff (modulated RF, oscillator signal, audio) is there and looks right.

Workshop resources

Of course the hobbyist also needs a stock of parts; I have several hundreds of old tubes, some resistors and capacitors stacked in various places in the workshop. I also have a few schemas and use not only the schema for the set at hand, but also take schemas of other, similar sets to compare. There a few books, the most often used is the tube manual (1969 Philips). Nowadays, most tube data can be found on the Internet, for example on the excellent site of Frank Philipse.

Central Heating Stove

Some time ago I received the question: what is the large white box hanging to the left above your workbench? The large machine hanging there is the stove of the central heating installation of our house. Some readers may be aware of this kind of machinery, but appearently Gerard's Radio Corner is also visited by readers from tropical countries where heating installations do not exist.

Inside is a black unit (with orange label) containing a gas flame heating water, which circulates to all places in the house through flat panels. The panels, called radiators, become hot and heat the area. The water cools down because heat is transferred to the room, and fed back through other pipes to the stove. Observe that this is a closed system: the water circulates all the time. (There is provision for refilling the circuit if the pressure becomes too low.) A heat exchanger also warms water for an open system, namely for showering; a tank of hot water is kept as a buffer in styrofoam (yellow).

The machine operates entirely automatic, including changing temperatures in the house between day and night (different times on Sunday), it just blinks a few lights when it is unhappy and then I caress it a bit from time to time. Nice machine, I can recommend it to everybody living in cold places.

Gerard Tel