Sunday, July 22, 2012

Motor-molda TV

A week ago Friday, I went to an estate sale in Affton on Valbrook Lane.  Some of the photos from the sale featured items in the basement which appeared to be mold-covered -- never a good sign.  I've been in some pretty bad sales where the basement is almost intolerably moldy to the point of making me sick.  But it was close enough on my lunch hour and had some promise, so I gave it a chance.

I had seen this on the posting for the sale:

Noting the mold on the side of the cabinet, I wasn't expecting much but water damage and warped veneer.  But seeing the tv in person, it seemed to be okay other than the surface mold.  The wet finger test proved the mold was superficial and had not damaged the cabinet (garage sailor tip for the day: don't lick the same finger again until you've washed it!)  The TV was marked $45 which in my opinion was crazy given it's condition.  Now, I already have a vintage Admiral television from 1952 which I bought at a garage sale about 8 years ago.  I attempted to get that one fixed, but parts were unavailable, so I ended up gutting it and putting in a new 20-inch tv.  That tv appeared as a co-star in a past blog.  I really didn't have the room for yet another tv, but I could see some definite potential under the mold, so I thought I'd throw out a low-ball offer and see what happened.  While checking out the other items I bought (nothing blog-worthy), I asked if they were taking bids on the tv.  The cashier immediately replied, "No."  Then she looked at me a moment and asked, "Did you ask if we had taken any bids or were we taking any bids?"  After clearing that up, and finding that they were indeed accepting offers, I threw out a less than 50% offer of $20.  Without batting an eye she said, "You're taking it home today."

At home in my garage, I began by giving it a bath of Pinesol and bleach.  Well, not a literal bath, but a wipedown with a dampened rag.  The grill fabric was very brittle, so I gave it a light dusting using a paint brush and wiped the fabric very gently with a damp cloth.

It cleaned up pretty nicely.  It's a Motorola.  Here it is with the front control knobs already removed:

On the back was a service sticker.  I'm guessing the guarantee has long expired.  Especially since the address now houses Grand Chinese Grocery:

With the back removed:

 The underside of the chassis displaying some vintage electronics and a "Do It Right" sticker:

The chassis removed.  Legal disclaimer: Do not try this at home.  Unless you understand working with vintage electronics and particularly television tubes, do not attempt to service them yourself.

As you can see, the insides were as dirty as the outside.  A little light cleaning revealed the components beneath the dust:

One interesting component was the addition of a "picture tube brightener". This was clearly an add-on that went between the wiring harness and the the yoke of the tube. I'm not sure if this really worked or was just a clever snake oil pitch from the television repairman.


While cleaning, I discovered the manufacturer's date stamp:

It reads November 15, 1948 or 1949.

The tv is a model 12VK11R (chassis model TS-23B).  Here's an original ad for this model, courtesy of (hence the watermark).  At an original price of $299.95, I got a real bargain.

A couple more ads

The cabinet minus the tube and screen frame:

In the above picture, what I thought was green painted metal behind the glass is actually a green painted rubber gasket meant to cushion the glass between the frame and the cabinet. I was also surprised to find that the screen glass is actually made of safety glass, evident by the thin layer of plastic between two separate pieces of glass.

What always amazes me is how simple it is to take old appliances apart. No special tools required and no rivets or welded joints. It was all meant to be easily serviced. If only that were true today. 

The tube diagram helpfully pasted to the inside of the cabinet:

When reading about testing vintage appliances, you'll always see the warning to never plug in an old appliance, but rather ramp the voltage up slowly using an autotransformer, commonly known as a variac.  It's also recommended that all paper capacitors be replaced with modern equivalents to safeguard against fires.  There's even the rare possibility that if the circuitry is bad, the tube itself could actually explode (actually implode as cathode-ray tubes are vacuum tubes).  My method is a little less surgical than using a variac.  I place the item in the middle of my driveway away from anything flammable and using a very long extension cord, plug it in and see what happens.  In this case, absolutely nothing.  I saw one tube glowing, but no other sign of life.  You could easily dump hundreds of dollars into replacing the antique circuitry and finding NOS replacement tubes, and that very well may be something I pursue down the line, but for now, I did the same thing I did with my Admiral: pulled the guts and replaced with a modern tv.  A 13-inch tv in this case given the smaller cabinetry:

I added a couple pieces of wood to support the new tv and removed the back of the new tv in order to fit it inside. 
The final cleaned up product.  I hot glued the knobs in place since there are no posts to attach them to.  Nothing that couldn't easily be undone should I get the original tube working again.  The right dial is missing the center post knob.  I'll try to locate a replacement knob, but I'm not hopeful.  I found the antenna tucked inside the cabinet:

Some shots of the tv connected to my Roku streaming Leave It To Beaver from Netflix:

And finally, my youngest daughter demonstrating how television was meant to be watched.

Lest your worry about my daughter's eyes, I'm sure the newer tv gives off a lot less radiation than the original tube. Had I thought to look at the estate sale, I'm sure I would have found the shadow of the kid who used to watch this tv burned into the wall.


  1. great find and teardown. SHE'S GONNA RUIN HER EYES -- TAKE IT FROM ME! i just got my first pair of bifocals! (excuse me, PROGRESSIVES, ahem)

  2. I used to sit just like your daughter. I still remember being in kindergarten and the teacher telling us to sit 'Indian style'. I would for oblige for 2 seconds then sneak into the more, comfortable for me, 'M' style. Of course when I got older, I realized that I wouldn't have gotten into trouble for not sitting as the teacher required.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...