Forums :: Resources :: Features :: Photo Gallery :: Vintage Radio Shows :: Archives :: Books
Support This Site: Contributors :: Advertise

Basic Materials:
Spray Paint
#0000 steel wool
#220 silicone carbide sandpaper
#400 wet/dry sandpaper
Tack rag
2 blocks of wood wrapped with felt
Lemon or butcher block oil
Auto Body filler

This little Emerson radio has two major cracks in it as well as having nearly 10% of the case missing. It's been repaired and painted and withstands close inspection.

Repainting Radios

Repainting radios so that they appear to have an original factory finish is somewhat difficult. Factories have specialized air-powered spray equipment that can place a very even layer of paint on a set. Duplicating this with ordinary spray cans poses a challenge.

Because spray can spray larger drops of paint and in an uneven pattern, it's necessary to put on a thicker layer of paint initially and then smooth it out.

The first step is preparation. Usually the easiest method with radios that have scratched and chipped paint is to sand the case smooth (removing the chassis and other parts first, of course). Start with #220 silicone carbide sandpaper and sand the defects in the finish, feathering out the paint so that it is smooth with the surrounding areas. Inspect the sanded spots both visually and by touch; lightly running your fingers over the area feeling for uneven surfaces. Wipe off the cabinet and use a tack tag to remove any stray dust.

Now you're ready to paint. Make sure you do this in a well ventilated area. Wearing a respirator is recommended.

Rather than follow the label and use several light coats, we're going to do just the opposite. This means that you can only paint one surface of a cabinet at a time, and that surface must be horizontal, facing up. Using a good quality spray paint (I use Krylon which has five shades of off-white) spray on a coat of paint until it looks uniformly wet (and stopping before it runs). Let the paint dry a couple of hours or overnight, then turn another surface up and paint it. Repeat the process until the case is finished.

Let the cabinet sit until the paint is completely dry and cured. This should be a least a day, waiting a few days won't hurt.

Now comes the tricky part, sanding and rubbing out the finish. Lightly sand the radio surfaces, first with #220 sandpaper, then wet the cabinet with water and continue with #400 wet/dry sandpaper. The object is to smooth the paint without sanding through it. Be extra carefull around the edges. If you sand through the paint you'll have to stop and repaint that area and sand again.

After the paint has been sanded smooth, you need to "rub out" the finish. This will allow you to make the sheen as flat or as glossy as you need. It is quite easy to rub out the paint to the point that it appears to be plastic instead of paint. You can use this method for repairing broken plastic cabinets and disguising the repairs.

Rubbing out a finish for paint is exactally the same as for a lacquer finish. Directions for that are included in Recreating a 1930s Lacquer Finish.

Reparing Cases

Repairing plastic cases is fairly easy with auto body filler (such as Bondo). These fillers come as two part mixtures, the filler and a hardner which is mixed in just before use. The broken or missing areas are built up with the filler which hardens in several minutes. It can then be shaped and sanded with hand tools and sandpaper to form the original shape of the radio and painted. With proper rubbing out the finished surface can look like original paint or original plastic. However since the fillers are opaque, these repairs can be detected by holding the case up to the light.

Additional Resources:

Recreating a 1930's Finish
A process for recreating the look of a factory finish using materials available to the radio collector.


The Weekend Refinisher; How To Make The Most Of Your Furniture: A Step-By-Step Guide
Johnson, Bruce E.
Written by the popular syndicated columnist of "Knock On Wood," this informative, lively guide turns the mysteries of refinishing and repair into good, old-fashioned common sense. 75 illustrations.
The Furniture Guys Book
L'erario, Joe/Feldman, Ed
"The Furniture Guys" are the zaniest, funniest how-to duo on the air today. Watch them on the "Learning Channel" juggling expert furniture and home repair, pop culture hilarity, throwaway historical asides, and sudden swerves into B-movie lore, and you`ll ditch earnest old Bob Vila and never give Home Improvement another look.

The Furniture Guys Book presents ten projects, complete with step-by-step guidance on stripping, staining, varnishing, upholstering, basic repairs, and troubleshooting touch-ups such as stain and scratch removal. Projects include a pine Hoosier, a Victorian throne chair, a roll-top desk, a pine hat-rack, and more. More than 250 black-and-white photos and drawings illustrate every detail, and a full-color insert displays the finished projects in all their glory. Plus there are handy tips on everything from setting up a work area to sizing up the potential of yard sale bargains.

All this, and funny too! A must for the millions who watch them on the "Learning Channel" or who will be tuning into their forthcoming nationally syndicated radio show -- and for any would-be refinisher looking for advice that`s as entertaining as it is effective -- this book will find a prominent place on workbenches all over America.

Back to Antique Radios