Electronic Classics Book Review

Valve Radio and Audio Repair HandbookThis book by Andrew Emmerson is aimed at collectors of a wide range of vintage electronic equipment, not just radios. Other areas include television, hi-fi and telephones. However the book is not chopped into sections for these different aspects, because the vast majority of the information is equally applicable to a wide range of equipment and collectibles.

The aim of the book is to cover those areas that are not normally covered in printed material (or on the Internet). So you will not find a vast about of information about the electrical repairs, nor is there any electrical theory. These areas are left for other publications, such as Chas E. Miller's new Valve Radio & Audio Repair Handbook.

The emphasis in this book is much more on collecting and restoring. It has been divided into five parts, although there is inevitably quite a lot of overlap between them.

Part 1 - A Great Hobby and More

In about 60 pages, this section contains a great deal of advice about collecting, dating and valuing, buying and selling, auctions and antique fairs, spotting fakes, and making a business from your hobby. There is a very interesting section about obtaining equipment from less obvious sources, which should be rewarding for those who wish to invest the time and effort required.

Part 2 - Means of Making Good

This is the main section of the book. In about 130 pages, the author gives a vast amount of practical restoration and repair advice. In particular, cabinet refinishing techniques (for wood, Bakelite, plastics and metals) are described in great detail. There is also a lot of general information on electrical and mechanical repairs, cleaning and lubrication etc.

This section does not present a single solution and leave it at that. Instead the author has gathered suggestions and opinions from a wide range of sources and presents various options for tackling particular situations, leaving the reader to choose the method most suited to his/her situation, facilities and ability.

Part 3 - Resources

In these 78 pages you will find a vast list of dealers, auctions, swapmeets, suppliers of service data and information, professional services, and clubs and societies. Unlike other lists though, this contains the author's comments and description of many entries.

Part 4 - Expanding your Knowledge

This section is similar to Part 3, but covers sources of information and knowledge. The main sections are recommended reading, museums and the Internet. Again this is more than just a list - many entries have comments and other information.

Part 5 - Reference Department

Although it may be overlooked at the back of the book, this section is actually very useful. In over 70 pages the author covers safety, useful data (resistor and capacitor colour codes, fuses, mains supply voltages, telephone connections, and colour codes for mains cables, battery leads, receiver wiring, transformer wiring etc.). This is followed by a comprehensive list of materials and finishes likely to be encountered in vintage technology, cleaning materials, adhesives etc. As if that isn't enough, we have a detailed breakdown of valve, transistor and CRT type numbers from around the world (including military codes), and a list of terms and abbreviations.

Unlike some books, which merely regurgitate previously published information, this section has clearly been carefully assembled, checked and detailed by the author. It is also the sort of information you don't find in other books, and will therefore form a useful source of information.

The book is superbly written, in a friendly yet informative manner. I found it extremely difficult to put down once I had started. The information is presented in bite-sized chunks, so you don't have to read from start to finish - you could open it anywhere and start reading. It is clearly a book by an enthusiast for enthusiasts.

If you want to buy just one book on repairing and restoring vintage electronics, buy this book. I have read a number of books on the subject, and this is by far the best!

Electronic Classics - Collecting, Restoration and Repair by Andrew Emmerson is published by Newnes. The book is priced at 19.99 and can be obtained from major booksellers (such as Waterstones), probably by special order. Quote ISBN 0-7506-3788-9. It is also available by mail order from On The Air (see Suppliers page), and through companies like Amazon.co.uk. To view the book details at Amazon click here.

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Last updated 14th April 2006.