Most books on valve radio repair and restoration take the reader through the operation of the set and possible faults stage-by-stage. Cabinet restoration is handled in a similar way, with "how-to" type instructions. This is fair enough, because it should allow the author to cover most likely eventualities.
However this is like learning to cook by reading a recipe book. Yes, you can learn this way, but it is often much more useful to watch Delia make the recipe, because you pick up other little tips along the way.
In "Restoring Valve Radios - A Comprehensive Guide", Tony Thompson has attempted to convey this idea in a book, by describing actual repairs and restorations in detail. This shows why particular decisions were made, and details exactly how parts of the work were completed. No matter how detailed, no written description can ever equal watching an experienced restorer actually repairing and restoring a valve radio, but the descriptions in this book are about as good as you can get while remaining reasonably concise and to the point.
In the early chapters of the book there is an interesting tour around the chassis of a typical valve radio. Those of us who have been restoring sets for some time will of course be familiar with this, but for someone who has been bought up with PCBs, ICs and even surface-mount components, the first glimpse inside a valve radio could come as something of a surprise. This section explains what's where, and what it all does.
There are also sections on tools and test equipment, initial testing, what to look for when buying sets etc. This is not as detailed as in some books, but since it is only the introduction and not the main body of the book, this is fair enough.
The main part of the book is the detailed repair and restorations. There is a great deal of useful practical information in here, not only about tracking down illusive electrical faults but also about repairs and restoration of wooden and Bakelite cabinets. Each repair/restoration is introduced with a description of the set, how it is made, what condition it was in when obtained etc. This section is well illustrated with black-and-white photographs of key stages in the work.
Interspersed with the repairs and restorations are several single-page discussions about particular topics such as soldering tips, Bakelite and HT batteries.
The final section of the book covers specific repairs, such as replacing a broken dial glass by scanning, repairs to Bakelite, repairing torn speaker cones and casting replacement knobs.
The appendices contain useful formulae, suppliers and website addresses.
As with Tony's previous book, "Restoring Vintage Radios" is self-published. It is A4 format with laminated card covers. The spiral binding allows the book to lay flat open at a page, or even be folded back. It is printed to a high standard on either a laser printer or a good quality photocopier. The only unfortunate side effect of this is that some of the photographs are a bit dark, but not so much that you cannot see what they are showing.
At £13.95 this book represents very good value for money. It contains a lot of useful information and tips that you won't find elsewhere. It concentrates on the practical aspects of radio repair and restoration, and does not include any "how-it-works" type explanations. This is fine, since there are several other books containing this information, including Tony's previous book "Vintage Radios, Collecting - Servicing - Restoring".
The book is priced at just £13.95 and is available directly from the author. For ordering details etc., email Tony Thompson at vwr (at) tesco.net or visit his website at http://www.vintageradioworld.co.uk. It is also available via Radio Bygones magazine for the same price.