Sea Green Capehart T-522 resto – Retro Radio Farm

Sea Green Capehart T-522 resto

This is a customer ordered restoration of a 1953-1954 Capehart Farnsworth T-522. Here's the model details at Radiomuseum. Looks like this model came in red, black, and ivory.

The customer inquired a few months ago about the restoration project. She wanted her original black T-522 repainted a sea green color with silver accents. 

Here's what the radio looked like originally (photo taken by customer)

 

Here is the service order the customer placed for the restoration project. She also wanted Bluetooth MP3 added.

After confirming the specific requirements for the new paint scheme, she boxed up her radio and sent it to me. Here is what it look like upon delivery and after initial disassembly:

 

The tuning pointer was not pictured above nor sent to me as part of the restoration job. I believe it was already finished in silver.

This is a nicely maintained and working radio. Here is the underside of the chassis.

Very clean but all original components. See the replaced filter capacitor? The original beeswax and paper capacitors have gotta go. The bumble bee .047uF capacitor has a tendency to blow up, so it must be replaced.

Here's the top side of the chassis:

A little dusty but everything is original and still functions as it was designed back in the mid-50s. See the paper baffle that wraps around the speaker frame? Nice original piece, not torn, or moldy.

The restoration of these old plastic cabinets is time consuming and involves many hours of preparation work. When I first embarked on this project, I thought this was a Bakelite cabinet which would have been a lot easier to repaint. The styrene plastic cabinets are much more reactive to modern paints, so many more layers of finish must be used with a lot more in between time for paint to cure.

A Bakelite cabinet needs one good thick coat and then polish. Half as much time.

After the prep work, the first coat of paint was applied. The customer wanted the sea green to match the 1957 Motorola 57H like this one.

After the initial curing, another coat was added and preliminary polishing was begun:

No runs, no drips, no orange peel. Nice!

Next, more polishing and buffing. A lot of this process is done by hand. A Dremel tool is fine but one slip-up and it's back to the beginning!

A week after this photo was taken, progress on this resto took a few steps back...

Oops!

The clear coat reacted with the base and started to curl. Back to square 1. 

Painting is a time intensive process. It's two steps forward one step back, with several days in between for drying and curl. Tests your patience. Not for someone in a rush or wanting something done yesterday!

So, after sanding back down to the bare plastic and respraying, I have this:

 

The color is the same. Different lighting conditions in my shop result in variances in color tone. The paint mix throughout this radio resto job has been the same.

After hand and machine polish, involving many stages, compounds, and secret processes, the radio cabinet looks like this:

See how it gleams in the afternoon sun!

Photography Lesson Rule #1: THE LIGHT! If you think it's the camera, you've been taking too many pictures on Ebay.

It's hard to tell under the bright sunlight. This paint finish is very glossy and reflective.

Even the bottom is shiny!

Sunlight is full spectrum light. With trees and grass around, it creates a yellow tone. So, colors appear more green than otherwise. Downstairs in my shop under fluorescent light light, the tones are more blue-ish.

Next step, fine polish and applying silver highlight and trim.

Applying the silver trim was more challenging than I anticipated. The metal adhesive foil did not work over the raised Capehart logo. The metal foil is extremely thin and cannot stretch. The instruments used to fit the foil over the raised lettering would cause the foil to rip.

I had to use chrome paint and apply in successive layers a thin dusting at a time. The results improve with the layers. 

Next step, peeling off the masking tape to reveal the results. Any number of things could go wrong at this point. The chrome paint could chip at the edges with the removal of the tape. The paint could have bled under the masking tape. 

The silver paint leached under the masking tape so it will need to be cleaned up. The silver chrom-ish paint is not exactly chrome chrome. It's more like a reflective silver. There's is no known product to get actual chrome from a spray can. Painting and chroming processes are very different and there is no known way to truly chrome plastic.The best processes for chroming plastic involves some kind of veneering or painting process as opposed to a electromagnetic chemical process. Alsa products comes close through a 3 step painting process but it only approximates true chrome finish. 

The silver paint needs longer drying and curing time. If you try polishing the silver before it has completely dried underneath, the metal flake top surface becomes disrupted and will look grey. The silver paint will need to be re-applied. Next step after the silver has completely dried and cured, I will try to apply a clear gloss coat over the silver to better approximate a chrome finish. There is a huge risk the clear gloss will react with the silver and cause curling (see above) so I may skip the clear gloss coat.

The silver paint attempts did not yield satisfactory results. 

Instead, I fabricated silver trim with individual metal pieces and glueing them to the trim areas. The overall look is better thus far than any paint process. The tricky part is cutting the little metal pieces so they fit together perfectly. Otherwise, there will be visible seams. Also, I will need to ensure the metal pieces are perfectly flat or the trim will have a wavy appearance.

This next stage is going to involve a lot of cutting, recutting, filing and fitting of trim pieces so the overall appearance is continuous and smooth.

Metal trim pieces were challenging to get right. Each piece had to be hand cut, trimmed, glued, filed, and polished. The individual metal pieces had to be hand cut carefully and then flattened to avoid waviness. Each trim section had to be individually fit and re-fit to avoid seams and misalignment. It was an iterative process of trial and error to get right.

Overall, I am more pleased with the metal trim approach compared with the chrome silver paint approach. 

Next step, painting the silver numbers. Should be easy. Although who knows the challenges I will face. 

 

 

 

Here's pictures in the natural light:

Here is the Capehart logo applied and with silver grill on a cloudy day.

The 55 and 60 have silver paint applied in the recesses. I am thinking metal fabricated numbers would look better but it would take a lot of time to make those. 1/8" strips of aluminum bent in shapes of each number and glued into the recesses. 

Fabricating metal numbers is not feasible given my setup. I tried bending aluminum metal strips but it did not look good. The bends could not be achieved with precision. The filing and shaping was extremely time consuming and the result was not perfect any way. Optimally, these numbers should be cast and pressed in. This would require casting tools, an oven to liquefy metal, and molds. I don't have any of these. Alternately, the numbers could be fabricated out of metal sheet into individual pieces. But, this would take me a long time. The result would not be guaranteed because each number would still have variances, and look hand made.

The silver painted recesses will have to do. 

So, after a long journey the radio will be ready to ship this week. The Bluetooth MP3 upgrade is all that remains. It is a fairly straight forward process that is tried and true. Then final polish, inspection, and burn-in.

Here's YouTube with Bluetooth added.

Final pictures:

 

Here are some photos of the finished radio with pointer in the customers house. Very sweet! 

 

 

 

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