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davepeds 07-25-2012 02:48 PM

The Philco Keezer Project: Antique Radio
I'm excited to start this project. I've been enjoying many of the Keezer threads and have tried to absorb as much knowledge as possible. Now, I'm ready to embark on my own build project. I'll be expanding an antique radio to become a cabinet style keezer. I begin this thread, however, with a few regrets.
  • I'm starting with a 1941 Philco Radio, model 41-290 (see attached pics). I bought it for $50. The guy was getting divorced and needed cash. That's sad. What's sadder, though, is that the damn thing works! I plugged it in and listened to some Oklahoma local religious show about how homebrewing was what was really wrong with America - so I turned it off. I'm going to have to destroy this radio, and would do so with a better conscience if it were pre-fried. You'll all love this - but a robust community of nerds like us (NLU) run forums on restoring antique radios. Needless to say, to get this beast in working (not going to burn down my house) order, it would cost me time, money, and I'd have to learn a new craft. Eff that. So, for shame!, but I'm breaking down this radio.
  • Regretfully, I am posting this from an airport as I start a vacation in Wyoming for 10 days. I hate to post the initial thoughts and then not begin work. That's fine - I need the brilliant architects of yonder keezers to weigh in where they see fit.

I'll get back to gutting and building next weekend. Until then, let me show you the basics and my limited progress.

davepeds 07-25-2012 02:49 PM

2 Attachment(s)
The starting cast: a 14.8 chest freezer from CL for $125. It's friend, Johnson A19, is wired in back. Currently, my keg armada consists of 4 pin locks and two ball locks, a 5# tank, a 25# tank (free from a neighbor that works in the gas biz!), and a regulator.

The Philco 41-290, like I mentioned, actually works. It draws a lot of heat, has corroded terminals, dust, some tubes are burned out, the wires were insulated with rubber and are bare, but it's cool that it works. The back side shows the chassis (that's vintage radio talk for "all the tubes and metal stuff that weighs 20lbs." The front panel is super cool - tune into India, Havana, London, Berlin, Aircraft, the Police (there's a whole band dedicated to Sting and Company). There's no FM of course, as FM wasn't commercially broadcast until 1939. There's some cool stickers on the inside - one advertises the Philco "wireless" FM converter. I wonder how that worked.

Right now, the rear view and faceplate are struggling to upload. I'll get to it later - the faceplate will be important later.
Edit: STILL not uploading. Anybody know what's wrong here?

davepeds 07-25-2012 02:50 PM

4 Attachment(s)
So, even though I continue struggling against the picture uploading Billy Goat Gruff, I want to keep on keeping on with this thread. Above, you [should] see 3 pictures of the original Philco and one of the phreezer (that's right). Here I go, breaking it down.
The first thing anyone will learn, when unbuilding an antique radio, is that IKEA furniture's engineering is remarkably sh-tty. In 1940, they apparently couldn't afford those little metal screw-in brackets. Instead, coming out of the dust bowl, the manufacturers of the day used something called "carpentry," dove-tailing, and this awful crap called "wood glue." It makes for a miserable deconstruction.
I plan (see below - eventually) on using the sides of the Philco as the sides of the keezer. I am going to use the center piece & faceplate in the center with the speaker box below - but not quite as a coffin. To the sides of center piece I will have the tap towers coming out or some kind of TBD arrangement.
1) Taking the chassis off was no major event. There were screws underneath anchoring all the metal to the wood. Loosen those, and then gently wiggle the chassis backwards. Beforehand, I loosened the old veneer around the faceplate and carefully stored the old knobs, buttons, and veneer - I hope to use them again.
2) Now, taking down the wooden frame is another animal. From the back, you might be able to see that the two sides and the front were not designed to assemble at home. The sides are each made out of about 20 pieces of glued and screwed wood. First, I thought I'd determine which pieces of wood were critical to the sides vs the front. Then, I removed the specific screws (all flatheads, blegh) that were holding the side pieces to the front. Then, I learned that glue, more screws, and 70 years of proximity brought these pieces of wood intimately close. So, after removing what I thought were the ideal screws, nothing happened. I then took a short and wide flathead screwdriver and tapped it in between the wood pieces. I was able to separate a few more pieces of supporting wood with no major effect. Then, I said, "screw it," and removed all the screws. I separated a few more pieces of wood and was able to pry apart one side, then the next. The veneer on the faceplate was glued to the sides, so part of it tore off. This doesn't limit my overall available wood by much.
In the end, I'll say that I was able to take it apart without ruining any major pieces. Keeping it together like this was critical, so I can go ahead with my plans. Other than taking your time, I didn't learn a better way to get this thing apart.
(edit: I've tried 3 times to upload pictures, what is the problem?!)

davepeds 07-25-2012 02:51 PM

1 Attachment(s)
OK - I've been working on Google Sketchup pretty steady to get the plan down. Basically, I'm going to use the sides of the radio as part of the sides of the keezer. I'll have to expand with different wood going back to the end, since the radio isn't as deep as the freezer. I'll take the top portion off (radio faceplate, knobs, etc and the side that go up top) and put it center. The ribbed section over the speaker hole will be directly below this, in the center of the freezer - but no longer attached to the top.

I need some input here from you guys! The top part is going to be similar in shape, but shorter, than a coffin. If taps came off the top of it, they would be very high - plus, despite having the drip tray on top, you'd still be having beer run down the radio face. I'm planning on doing something to make the faceplate light up (at least), so no beer running down it. I could raise the whole top thing a little and have taps coming out of the sides of it - that might look a little odd. The plan that I've sketched has the center piece essentially without function. To either side will be a keg tower with taps (probably 2-3 each).

A third idea, that I have no idea whether I could pull it off or if it would look good, would be to build a coffin in the back like others have done before me. Then, the radio could fit into the center of that - but sit right in the middle. There wouldn't be much room for taps along the back, that I can think of, since the radio width is 27 inches.

Anyway, here's the plan that I've come up with so far. The wood tones are not accurate for the final plan. I don't think I can exactly match, but rather will complement, the Philco wood tones. The redder looking tones are the original wood and the lighter wood will be added.

kh54s10 07-25-2012 02:55 PM

Dude! I would check on the value of that radio before you mess with it.

It might be worth hundreds if not thousands AS IS!

davepeds 07-25-2012 04:13 PM


Originally Posted by kh54s10 (Post 4278731)

It might be worth hundreds if not thousands AS IS!

Nope - I checked. Some guy bought a mint condition one for $50 - and mine wasn't mint. You'd be surprised, really. There's a relatively 'flooded' market, as the folks who really one an old radio have plenty of old people ready to get one out of their home. Mine was possibly worth less than $50.

zachattack 07-25-2012 04:22 PM


Let me call my buddy who's an expert on vintage radios


davekippen 07-25-2012 04:23 PM

Thanks for the tease. Now I am all hot and bothered with no end in sight.


kh54s10 07-25-2012 04:35 PM

Not sure what they actually sell for. I searched Ebay and find a huge range from $9 to hundreds on other models.

I did find this one.


It looks the same.

Revvy 07-25-2012 04:47 PM

Great Idea. Funny I hauled one similar to it (does yours have the built in 78 turntable?)for over 15 years through a half dozen moves, always with the intention that I would restore it "one of these days." Which never freaking happened. I finally let go of it around 2000 knowing that I was going to be leaving the state for seminary and not knowing if I'd ever come back to Michigan....

I can't wait to see what you make of it.

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