Arvin the lefty

On Sunday, Tim and I met up with our friend Chaos at a New England Antique Radio Club swap meet. Chaos collects radios, and Tim was looking for some tubes for a sound project. I just like looking at old radios – especially the bakelite ones. And there were plenty!

A butterscotch beauty.

A butterscotch beauty.

I love the rotary dial on this one! The shape and the herringbone pattern in the speakers are great, too.

I love the rotary dial on this one! The shape and the herringbone pattern in the speakers are great, too.

Another stunner.

Another stunner.

I learned the difference between bakelite and catalin, thanks to a gentleman who saw me petting one of the lovely radios. He asked if I knew what it was made of – I told him I didn’t know exactly, but I would guess bakelite. Then he explained that they were similar, but that catalin was heated and cast, and if it was heated again, it would explode. I suspect there’s more to it than that, but my mechanical engineer husband and our physicist friend both said, “Basically,” when I shared my new-found knowledge. An internet search for “bakelite vs catalin” turns up a ton of results, most of questionable authority. Fortunately, I’ll probably never have to REALLY understand the difference.

A cluster of catalin radios.

A cluster of catalin radios.

One vendor also had my beloved Cobramatic turntable for $300, but I’ll wait. Someday I’ll get another one.

Isn't that green gorgeous?

Isn’t that green gorgeous?

Great color here, too. And I love the name "Bendix."

Great color here, too. And I love the name “Bendix.”

I am a sucker for typewriters. Would love to own this old Corona, but... where would I put it?

I am a sucker for typewriters. Would love to own this old Corona, but… where would I put it?

I kept going back to one table. Partly because it was a small-ish space and we were there for several hours, partly because I really dug one particular radio and the first time I pet it, the owner told me he’d give it to me for $30, as opposed to the $50 it was marked. Finally, about the fifth time I visited the radio, the vendor rolled his eyes at me. “You can’t just touch it and take pictures of it. Come on,” he said. I reached for my wallet.

And there was Chaos right behind me with money. “Happy birthday,” he said. “It’s an Arvin. And it’s a lefty – the knobs are usually on the right, it’s rare to find them on the left.”

So Arvin the lefty came home with me.

Arvin the lefty.

Arvin the lefty.

Close up of the display. Great 1948 styling.

Close up of the display. Great 1948 styling.

I love the glossy black shell, the font of the numbers, the white knobs, the richness of detail in the needles. I think I’ll build him his own shelf–he’ll get a special corner in my office. It’s one radio–not the start of another collection. I promise. I think. 😉

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