It is a slow Friday, and many of us, as we should be, are off the internets and at the lakeside or park. Yesterday we had thoughts of the country, its past glories, and its inevitable slow but increasingly rapid descent. Tomorrow is soon enough to go through our weekly catalog of doom.

Today a reminder that not only do all good things come to an end. But so do all bad things. If there is an end, there will be the beginnings of a restoration. How robust it is, how closely it adheres to Truth, Reality, God remains to be seen.

But in that spirit of repair, while acknowledging the laziness of the day, which accounts for this odd segue, allow me to point you to the curious genre of addictive restoration videos.

There are dozens of channels, but two rise above the rest.

One is Hand Tool Rescue, which should be loved if only for the video intros. Below is the latest from HTR. Watch the intro, and then watch no more than 30 seconds of the beginning of the (here, electric shears) restoration. This will be for you like the potato chip challenge. If you can eat just one and stop, you are a real man.

I can do this with potato chips, but not with these videos. Once I start, I can’t stop until they’re over. I want to see how it comes out!

There are many runner ups in the mechanical restoration category. Channels like ChuckE2009 (with social commentary, too), Random Hands, Really Random Channel, and the guy with maybe the best hands My Mechanics. When he says “perfect restoration”, he means it.

For whatever reason, most of these guys produce videos with no talking. Perhaps because not all are native English speakers. Words aren’t especially needed, though, except when something rare is being done. The lesser channels overlay the videos with annoying music. Probably they were raised with its ubiquity and are unable to think without out.

Never mind all that. For there is one channel to rule them all. One channel which never lets you down. One channel run by a true master craftsman—of the electrical kind. This is the inestimable Mr Carlson.

Mr Carlson’s Lab features repair videos of classic electronics.

I am imagining Mr Carlson (you can’t leave off the honorific) must have began life as a school teacher. He is a natural at the whiteboard, which he sometimes uses. He sits at the beginning of each video, wearing over-sized shirts, inside a cave of gigantic oscilloscopes and other test gear that look like they’re waiting for the right chance to attack.

He says “soul-der” instead of “SAH-der”, “ooooot” instead of “out”, and is therefore a Canadian. Come to think of it, Hand Tool Rescue might be Canadian, too.

Mr Carlson has never met a tube he did not know. He can lecture for hours about the horrors of leaky capacitors, often while using test gear he designed and built himself. Like all Canadians, he is politeness itself. He will tell you not to do what he does, that if you do “You’re doing this at your own risk. So take care.”

I am biased, it’s true, by beginning my professional life as a repairer of the same kind and type of equipment Mr Carlson features. In my case, it was old tube-driven electronic encryption gear. And of course radios. (Regular readers will recall I am a vain ham, K2JM. It won’t take new readers long to figure it out, either.)

Radio repair videos are my favorite. I have seen the The Belmont 636 Radio Receiver restoration at least twice, the same for the 1940’s Stewart Warner Tube Radio repair. I had to pick the best, it’s the Hammarlund HQ-120 restoration. Like many of his fans I await the finale of the 1939 Veolyzer restoration.

Mr Carlson doesn’t just tackle the cosmetic flaws in these old beasties, like many other channels. He patiently works through all the circuitry, explaining and fixing it as he goes. It is pure pleasure to watch him align the IF of the Hammarlund.

There’s the metaphor to tie it all together, weak as it is. If you only patch up the veneer and make it pretty without properly gutting the insides and don’t put forth the painstaking effort to rebuild and align in concert every foundational part, you will have done nothing.


  1. DAV

    I thought the photo was from Mr. Calson’s Lab before I even read the post. It’s distinctively claustrophobic to say the least.

    K2JM and not K8JM?

  2. Larry Geiger

    Telefunken. My dad brought it home from Germany after he had been working in oil fields in Saudi for six months. After a while the outside was dinged from moving, scratched, etc. But inside, every tube glowed bright, every connection was carefully soldered and all of the strings that made the tuner glide across the front were taut and clean. We got radio signals from all over the country and sometimes around the world on that thing. Fun!

  3. Richard Stevens

    I intuited there were more reasons to enjoy Mr. Briggs’s work. I’m a ham, too, although not skilled in radio restoration but a great admirer of those who are. What a fun way to start the day, with a big pic of cool vintage radio gear!

    Tube receivers and transmitters had a smell, especially when turned on, and especially when nice and warmed up. Each unit smelled slightly different, or a lot different. You’d walk into somebody’s radio room and there would be its signature scent — sometimes a combination of scents.

    And, of course, the radios glowed from their vacuum tubes. Some, like my RME 69, had a mercury vapor tube, which people today would consider like a “halogen lamp,” it projected eerily blue white light and bright.

    Great memories.

  4. Bryant Poythress

    Love these. Perhaps I’ll dig out my ’76 Sansui reciever and run through it. Thank you sir!

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