A Zenith 6D311 Restoration
BY BILL HULBERT
Faced with a cabinet refinishing problem, you may well profit from Bill Hulbert's experience. (Editor)
"Why did you buy that piece of junk?" my friend asked, as we left an antique shop. He was talking about a heavily painted Zenith 6D311 I had just bought.
Figure 1. The "as found" cabinet seems to offer little hope.
I said, "Well, it's a Zenith, prewar, and Art Deco design." But, it really was a mess with at least three coats of paint! Figure 1 shows the "before" condition of the cabinet, which is molded Bakelite.
It sat in my workshop for a couple of years; then, one day, I started working on it. After I had replaced paper capacitors, filter capacitors, one resistor, and a noisy tube, in 45 minutes it was playing. So much for the easy stuff. Now, how do I remove all that paint?
I took the cabinet down to the local hardware store and asked about a paint stripper that would not hurt the Bakelite cabinet. After calling their factory reps., they said they couldn't help me and knew of nothing that would work.
Now, I have a friend, Matt Shamey, who works in an auto body shop. He has helped me out on several restoration projects and I have helped him out on a few auto electrical problems. He took one look at it and gave me two cans of flexible bumper paint stripper. I went home and tried it. It stripped the paint, but what a gooey mess! It took both cans, but it worked.
Once the cabinet was stripped, I found that it was badly scratched up. I felt sick. I took it back to Matt to see if he could paint it, but he asked me if I would still like it original. I said yes. This time he gave me sand paper 1,000 grit and 1,500 grit. He told me to wet-sand the set first with 1,000 grit and then 1,500. After that I was to bring it back to him.
When I finished sanding, I took it back to Matt. He used a buffing wheel and polishing compound. I then cleaned it up and waxed it. The results were unbelievable. Figure 2 shows the results and offer encouragement to owners of basket-case cabinets.
Figure 2. A front view of the radio in its refinished cabinet. Yes, it really is the cabinet shown in Figure 1.
So, in short, if you run into a radio restoration problem, the answer may be in the automotive field. Now when I play and look at my Zenith 6D311, I fnd it hard to believe it was once "that piece of junk."
(Bill Hulbert, 13683 Rt. 11, Adams Center, NY 13606)
Bill Hulbert, an auto radio repair mechanic, began collecting radios when he was a kid doing a paper route. He grew up with electronics, as his dad, a radar tech in World War II, was in the business in the 1950s and 1960s. In the past, he repaired theater equipment, and currently he does work for an antique truck parts supplier. His collection includes 400 to 500 pre-World War II sets.