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Old 24th Feb 2013, 23:36   #1
Boorach
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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, 18:13   #2
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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, 21:57   #3
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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, 23:34   #4
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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, 09:51   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Lister View Post
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

Sent from my cm_tenderloin using Tapatalk 2
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, 13:40   #6
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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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Old 26th Feb 2013, 17:06   #7
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Ah, ok. So it only used to modify the existing output rather than altering the system volume control. Would be difficult with 5.1.
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Old 26th Feb 2013, 18:22   #8
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Oooh, I like the look of that! Just as well I have a birthday coming up.

Edit: if I can find a UK supplier or alternative that is.

Last edited by Boorach; 26th Feb 2013 at 18:39.
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Old 26th Feb 2013, 19:25   #9
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It looks like a great controller but postage doubles the price.
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Old 27th Feb 2013, 08:09   #10
Boorach
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Cheers, only had to remake the circular bezel fortunately. The other one just needed rubbed down and painting.
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Old 2nd Mar 2013, 13:07   #11
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Cheers for that cheapskate but had found a Griffin Powermate on ebay which looked like it could be modified to do the job nicely.

Been thinking I need an actual name for my project as opposed to to a general description. What do you think of 'Thermionic Logic'?
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Old 13th Mar 2013, 00:27   #12
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Hi all. Has taken me a little longer than I had hoped to make some more progress on the radio but parts I have been awaiting have arrived and work has recommenced.

As per JRS' suggestion I have gone for fan controller and volume control for the other two main control knobs on the radio front. Got a cheap antec fan controller to operate the front fan and found a Griffin Powermate on ebay which will make a perfect volume control.




Main knob pulled off easily allowing me to mount the rest of the control body and attach a brass in line coupling to get the distances right for mounting the original bakelite knob.




Used another coupling on the fan controller.



Used some spare bits of MDF to mount the switch gear. For the powermate I bored a 38mm hole, about 0.5mm less than the diameter of the powermate itself. With a little gentle persuasion I was then able to insert the powermate into the hole to give a secure fit without any adhesive. The mounting of the switches isn't pretty but will be hidden once the internal sections are fitted.




Need to do some fitting adjustments and secure the fan controller switch which is very wobbly but looks pretty good if I do say so myself!




I have also started gluing together the sections for the internal compartment so will get some pics of that uploaded as soon as the clamps come off.
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Old 13th Mar 2013, 07:35   #13
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Rotary limit switch on ebay

Switches were the same as in the above link. The tuning dial is staying for originality, will be illuminated. There is however a small window to the left of the tuning dial which housed the magic eye valve. Still trying to work out how best to replicate a magic eye valve with my limited electronics knowledge.
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Old 13th Mar 2013, 09:42   #14
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Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.
KidMod - Thanks for the kind comments.

Nutman - Had never used a router before so was a fun learning experience.

jrs - Thanks for the advice, it works much better than the USB.
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Old 13th Mar 2013, 09:46   #15
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Beautiful morning here so thought I'd grab a couple of pics of the internal box before heading into work.




Thought it important to get a close up shot of the fan hole!




Have cut the cable management holes into the back panel.




Finally a gratuitous scenery pic just because it was such a lovely morning.

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Old 8th Apr 2013, 23:17   #16
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Been messing around doing a few bits and pieces but not really getting anywhere but thought I was overdue an update so here we go...

Bought some walnut effect vinyl to line out the internal compartment. Not overly happy with the result but doubt I'll get it much better without rebuilding the entire inner compartment out of hardwood.




Bought a larger fan for behind the speaker hole as felt the 140mm one I had there was a little weedy. Found this 200mm Corsair one on Ebay for a couple of quid.




Found this nice walnut blank online and it gave me an idea...




...it would make a nice valve mount, so I scrounged some parts from my mate Adam at PriestAMP and set to work.






Have sprayed my mobo tray bronze to match the exterior bezels. Will need to brace it against the back of the inner compartment but will hopefully do the job nicely.




Next thing on my to do list is to figure out how to mount the PSU. Toying with the idea of having a couple of right angled walnut runners with a small brass faceplate to screw into the bottom mounting holes on the power supply but not sure how hood that will look. If anyone has any ideas I'd be glad to hear them!!
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Old 9th Apr 2013, 08:16   #17
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Thanks Andy. It's all coming together slowly.
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Old 9th Apr 2013, 09:29   #18
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Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.Boorach is definitely a rep cheat.
Yep, power supply will be mounted in the bottom right hand corner. Will be on its side with the fan venting into the case (not ideal but will have to do).
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Old 9th Apr 2013, 18:18   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asouter View Post
Using runners would work or you could make a new box for the psu or maybe have no cover on the psu and have that vintage look ?
May do further mods at a later date but for now l plan to keep the PSU stock.
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Old 9th Apr 2013, 18:20   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Father-Time View Post
Valve mounting looks great!, Well done, more pics though

Oh man that view.....
Will have to start taking my updates out to different scenic locations for photo shoots then!!
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