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Old 24th Feb 2013, 23:36   #1
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Valve Radio Conversion: Thermionic Logic - 26/01/14

Hi everyone, I am currently building my first custom case (in fact my first mod of any type) and would like to share the experience with you all. I have built numerous PC's over the years for myself and others but these have been purely standard installations in stock cases. It is time to change that trend.

Having been drawn to steampunk art, the synergy between old and new technology captured my imagination, albeit without the fantasy element often present in steampunk designs. My idea is to modify a vintage valve radio cabinet as a case for my new PC build.

I will admit I'm a little nervous presenting my humble project amongst the works of art being crafted by many of the forum users here but you have to start somewhere after all!

Anyway, enough rambling and on to the project log...


The donor radio - Was lucky enough to find a local guy with a 1939 Murphy D72 valve radio for sale cheap and on inspection it looked in reasonable condition and pretty much the exact size I was looking for.







First job was to strip everything down and refinish the walnut veneer exterior.




Original speaker cloth was shot so got hold of some reproduction Fender cloth. Glued it onto the mount ready for installation.




Plan is to use a single fan to draw cool air from in front of the case through the speaker hole and vent it via a couple of smaller fans at the rear.




Projects are never without problems. The alloy of the speaker bezel had deteriorated so much that the bezel disintegrated upon removal leaving me with a serious headache. Being over 70 years old it was impossible to get a replacement part so a new one would have to be fabricated. I explored a number of ideas including aluminium fabrication and 3D printing but it was going to be prohibitively expensive (as a married father of two such expense can't be justified). Eventually I found a second hand router going cheap so made my own by means of a homemade circle jig and a lot of patience!



New bezel painted alongside tuning dial bezel.




Removed the old 6v light bar from the tuning dial and replaced it with a warm white LED strip (which I forgot to take a photo of... duh)!






Initial thought was to convert two of the control knobs into bespoke USB memory sticks with the ports hidden behind them although I'm now toying with the idea of fan controllers instead.




I always envisioned having rotary power and reset switches to retain the feel of the original radio. Rotary momentary switches however have proved extraordinarily difficult to source. Eventually I found these rotary limit switches which, although rather large, could be modified to work nicely.




My first PC was based on an AMD K6-2 350 CPU and being the sort of person that sticks with companies as long as they serve me well I have used AMD ever since. I snapped up a FX8350 Black Edition that I found on discount but that decision has caused me more headaches (will teach me to do a little more research in future). With space inside the case rather tight a micro ATX motherboard is essential. No problem I foolishly thought.... wrong! There are a sum total of ZERO uATX boards on the market with the most recent 990 chipset. Beggars can't be choosers however so I had to plump for an Asus M5A78L-M/USB3 in the end.




Now having a small shed to work in can be difficult at times so when I saw the sun out and clear skies this morning I decided it was a great day to make up a bench outside and get the MDF cut for the internal compartment.




So here we are. Just waiting for a few small pieces for the exterior then I can start putting the internal structure together in anticipation for component installation.


Thank you for your interest.


Boorach

Last edited by Boorach; 28th Jan 2014 at 21:59.
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 01:28   #2
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Nice idea and a gorgeous old radio, looking forward to seeing how this goes
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 01:34   #3
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What a great view you have. Radio sounds like its going to be really cool with the rotatory switches .
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 08:55   #4
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Love the old conversions, great looking radio too!
Good luck.
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 09:25   #5
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Looking great so far! I was wanting to convert an old radio last year but found them a bit pricey so ended up using an old budget VCR lol

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Old 25th Feb 2013, 18:13   #6
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Thanks guys. Hope to do the radio justice and lose as little of its exterior originality as I can.

Dave Lister - Internet auction sites tend to hold very few bargains, best way is to keep an eye on local furniture/bric-a-brac auctions and these sets appear fairly regularly. Saying that I don't know how popular they are/were in France!
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 18:51   #7
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Lovely replication of the bezels. The wood shined up very nicely too. I do love this kind of conversion as opposed to the ones who take a saw to the casing. I'd avoid knob-shaped usb too unless you set them up so the port turned. There's always going to be a curious guest who would give them a twist.

...Also, Dayum! Nice back yard! -I hate you now because I don't live in a national park.
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 20:25   #8
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Dave Lister - Internet auction sites tend to hold very few bargains, best way is to keep an eye on local furniture/bric-a-brac auctions and these sets appear fairly regularly. Saying that I don't know how popular they are/were in France!
Lol,eBay was the only place I checked! I'm up in Scotland just now and in desperate need of a PC so will have a look around some local junk shops for some old radios to insert one in thanks for the tip!

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Old 25th Feb 2013, 20:41   #9
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Looks really nice, will be a subtle build.

And wow that view, lovely!
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 20:54   #10
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It's lovely to see an old radio gutted and refinished with such care. I hope the innards were kept or at least pieced out if they were working.
Lovely and innovative reuse of all the parts, this has started really nicely!
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 21:57   #11
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Appreciate the positive comments. You are all right about the view, it is stunning. Will miss it if/when we move (need more room).

DL - where about in Scotland?

Cheapskate - that was my worry too so trying to source a couple of fan controllers with removable knobs and reasonably long shafts.

KidMod - most of the valves were shot and the pcb was damaged so gave the lot to a friend who builds custom valve amps to see if he could salvage anything. Since doing that I have been a regular visitor to vintage radio sites trying to locate the cosmetic parts I needed. Has made me feel guilty enough that I plan on doing a full radio restoration as my next project to appease the valve gods!
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 22:20   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boorach View Post

Cheapskate - that was my worry too so trying to source a couple of fan controllers with removable knobs and reasonably long shafts.
The knob you have will have ridges on the inside of the external knob that marry to the ridges on the external side of the internal knob, if that makes sense?
You could..... file of both sets of (ridges) on the knobs so they are smooth, insert the usb female into the internal knob, affix with glue so its tight, then just use the external knob as a "cap" to cover the usb, that way you would still have the originality you want...it could work

PS, not sure i have ever used the word "knob" so much
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 22:40   #13
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Whar in Shetland is du? I live in whalsay and thought i wis da only modder here
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Old 25th Feb 2013, 23:34   #14
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I'm in Nesting. Work in C Kelly Opticians. I am a Sooth Moother but been here 13 years.

Father Time - Have thought about that but may work best to incorporate analogue fan controllers and mount an I/O panel. Radio has a small base section which acts as a low stand. Could mount the I/O panel there without affecting the aesthetics much.

Last edited by Boorach; 25th Feb 2013 at 23:54.
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Old 26th Feb 2013, 00:39   #15
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Old 26th Feb 2013, 09:23   #16
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DL - where about in Scotland?
I'm in a little village called Kinlochewe in the highlands just now, very quiet and peaceful but probably not as much so as Shetland

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Old 26th Feb 2013, 09:51   #17
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I'm in a little village called Kinlochewe in the highlands just now, very quiet and peaceful but probably not as much so as Shetland

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I don't know, Kinlochewe is pretty remote! Have a sister in Beauly and I come from Caithness originally.

@Nutman - Thanks for the sub, will have to post some more scenery to keep you all happy.
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Old 26th Feb 2013, 10:38   #18
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@Nutman - Thanks for the sub, will have to post some more scenery to keep you all happy.
Amen to that!
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Old 26th Feb 2013, 11:27   #19
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Very nice recovery and well done bezel-replicas aswell.

I'd not put USB-ports in the front, but into the top infront of the tuning-dial. The old big knobs would be great as fancontroller and volume-controller and the small ones below as power and reset with momentary rotary switches.

Oh, and momentary rotary-switches are actually easy to find, if you know the right places. In scandinavia we have elfaelectronics for all the electronics we need, and they have a variety of momentary rotary switches. They ship to the rest of the world aswell.

I even found one on amazon.com for $9.95 that should suit you well
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Old 26th Feb 2013, 13:40   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77 View Post
Very nice recovery and well done bezel-replicas aswell.

I'd not put USB-ports in the front, but into the top infront of the tuning-dial. The old big knobs would be great as fancontroller and volume-controller and the small ones below as power and reset with momentary rotary switches.

Oh, and momentary rotary-switches are actually easy to find, if you know the right places. In scandinavia we have elfaelectronics for all the electronics we need, and they have a variety of momentary rotary switches. They ship to the rest of the world aswell.

I even found one on amazon.com for $9.95 that should suit you well


Cheers for the advice JRS. A volume controller would be a great addition. Didn't even realise you could set up a volume control knob except by using a soundcard with front panel controller. Any suggestions on how to do this?

Had a look on the elfaelectronics site and they had a lot of similar components to what I have seen on the UK sites (Farnell and RS components). Nothing there that I can find that is quite suitable although I may be missing it due to not knowing the terminology. The amazon one, I think, uses a notched control knob to activate a push switch and doesn't have a shaft to which I could fix the original radio knobs.
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