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