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Hints, Tips and Solutions (Do NOT post requests for help here) If you have any useful general hints and tips for vintage technology repair and restoration, please share them here. PLEASE DO NOT POST REQUESTS FOR HELP HERE!

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Old 14th Oct 2017, 6:38 pm   #1
David G4EBT
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Default Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

There was an article In the Spring 2017 BVWS Bulletin on an American 'Bestone' radio by Stef Niewiadomski (known on this forum as 'Saddlestone Man'). If not rare, the radio is certainly uncommon. Unfortunately, one of the three original wooden knobs was damaged, so Stef had fitted a set of three alternative wooden knobs, it being unlikely that an original knob would ever materialise.

Over the years, Stef has been a prolific writer (still is!) in the Bulletin and other magazines such as Radio Bygones. I’ve enjoyed reading his articles and built a capacitor reformer that he designed, so as a small gesture of appreciation for his efforts I got in touch to say that if he sent me the damaged knob, I'd have a go at making him a set of three replicas.

I'll say right away that the process is time consuming and a labour of love, involving a number of processes over a period of several hours, so I'm not in a position to make knobs to order, but given that quite a lot of forum members seem to have lathes, yet might not have considered using them to turn replica knobs, I thought it might be helpful for me to explain how I went about it.

Accurate measurements are called for, involving lots of stopping and starting of the lathe as the work progresses. As the knobs are sited close together on a radio, any slight differences will be immediately apparent. If knobs are in natural wood rather than painted, due to variations in timber grain and colouring, there's little prospect of just making one replica to exactly match the original, so really, a full set needs to be made.

The processes involved are:

• Turn a wooden square to a round spindle, 5mm larger in diameter than the knob.
• Part off a wooden blank from the spindle for each knob.
• Make a brass insert on a metalworking lathe for each knob, drilled out to the diameter of the radio control shafts. In my case, the insert needed to be 12mm outside diameter, drilled ¼” bore.
• Mount a wooden blank in the woodturning lathe and use either a 12mm Forstner bit, or end mill in the tailstock, rotating the chuck by hand while advancing the bit into the blank, not going any further into the blank than necessary. Don’t use an engineering drill as it may penetrate too far into the blank, being pointed at the tip.
• Coat the brass insert with two-part epoxy cement and with the wooden blank still in the lathe chuck, force the brass insert into the wooden blank with the tailstock.
• Make a metal mandrel on which to mount the blank when turning the blank to shape on the lathe.
• Drill and tap the blank and the mandrel 4BA and use a 4BA brass grub screw to mount the blank on the mandrel, placing the mandrel in the chuck.
• Turn, sand and finish the replica knob.
• Remove the knob from the mandrel and fit the knob on the radio control shaft using the 4BA grub-screw.

I had the damaged original knob from Stef to hand so was able to compare various hardwoods to try to get a reasonable match. Iroko and mahogany were not a good match, but English walnut seemed quite close, so I went with that. I drew a sketch of the knob with the critical dimensions and given that the largest diameter was 30mm and the height was 25mm, I turned a spindle 35mm diameter from which I parted off three blanks 30mm long.

The knobs required a 12mm diam brass insert drilled 1/4" for the control shafts of the radio, 16mm long and tapped 4BA for mounting the knobs on the shafts. To ensure that when mounted on the shafts of the radio the knobs would be exactly concentric and true, I turned mandrel on my metalworking lathe with 1/4" shaft for each knob, on which to mount the wooden blank in the lathe chuck for turning.

I turned the brass inserts, roughing the outsides with a junior hacksaw while the inserts were on the lathe, so as to provide a good key for the two-part epoxy adhesive when the brass inserts were glued into the wooden blanks.

The only complication in completing the knobs was that eight notches had to be milled out around the perimeter and I don't have a milling machine. I tried a number of techniques using a router jig and a Dremel in a jig, but not to my satisfaction, so in the end I had to get a chum to mill the notches for me on his monster Bridgeport.

It occurred to me that replica wooden knobs could be turned to mimic Bakelite for some radios, so I later made two replica black knobs for an Ekco A22 - the larger being the tuning knob, the other - with a 'tab' on it - being the volume control on/off knob, (identical to the wave-change switch knob). I'll cover that in another post.

The aim in woodturning is to ‘sand the shape of the wood’ – not to ‘sand the wood to shape’ or sharpness of detail can be lost, so it’s important to keep the turning gouges sharp and to get a good finish ‘off the tool’ to minimise sanding. I gave the knobs a coat of shellac sanding sealer to seal the grain, then a light sanding, firstly with 220 grit, then 320, 400 and 600. (There’s no possibility of skipping and grades - say going from 220 to 600). I finished them on the lathe using shellac 'friction polish'

Not all knobs will lend themselves to wooden replicas, especially if they’re engraved with lettering or have intricate designs and fancy milled edges, and admittedly it’s quite a palaver. It takes hours rather than minutes to create a knob, involving the use of a metalworking lathe as well as woodturning. But that said, if a replacement knob can’t be sourced, for those with the equipment, skill and time, it provides a solution – in my case at minimal cost as the materials were all to hand. True, it’s time consuming, but we’re hobbyists doing what we do for fun and a sense of achievement, using our leisure time for enjoyment – not to make a living. What’s more, here in Yorkshire, ‘summat for nowt’ has a certain appeal!

As I said earlier, I’m unable to make replica knobs as a service to others, but I hope this rather lengthy post and the pictures might be of interest, use and even inspiration, to those who are equipped with lathes, but perhaps hadn’t considered using them for this sort of application.

Hopefully, the pictures might make things a bit clearer.

Pic 1 is the damaged original knob.
Pic 2 is a sketch I drew to show the critical dimensions.
Pic three, a couple of brass inserts turned and roughened up.
Pic 4, three walnut blanks with inserts fitted, and three mandrels turned from scrap alloy bar on which to mount the blanks for turning.
Pic 5, one knob turned and sanded, ready for the perimeter grooves to be milled.

Some more pics in the next post.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 6:48 pm   #2
David G4EBT
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Here are a few more picks of the replica wooden 'Bestone' knobs that I turned.

First pic shows three knobs awaiting milling. (I made a fourth in case of mishaps!).
Second pic is my engineering chum doing me and Stef a favour by milling the grooves in the knobs on his monster Bridgeport milling machine.
Third pic is of four completed replica knobs plus the damaged original.
Fourth pic, which Stef kindly sent me, shows the replica knobs mounted on the Bestone radio.

Hope that's of interest, and maybe some use to someone out there.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 6:54 pm   #3
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Outstanding!
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 6:57 pm   #4
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Brilliant, well done David they look excellent on the set.

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Old 14th Oct 2017, 7:02 pm   #5
David G4EBT
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

As I mentioned in my first post, while turning the replica wooden knobs for Stef's Bestone radio, It occurred to me that replica knobs to mimic Bakelite could be turned for certain radios, so I later made two replica black knobs for an Ekco A22 - the larger being the tuning knob, the other - with a 'tab' on it - being the volume control on/off knob, (identical to the wave-change switch knob).

As these were to be sprayed with black ‘ebonising’ spray – a speciality paint for woodturning - I cut the blanks cross-grained on my band-saw from beech, which is close-grained hardwood, so sands very smoothly. My aim was to make them look almost indiscernible from black Bakelite. I used my own brown A22 knobs as a pattern. The technique was similar to turning the Bestone knob, without the complication of having to get a good match to the original grain and colour, and didn’t involve any milling of grooves. The smaller knob needed a ‘tab’ to be made and to be neatly glued into a slot cut into the skirt of the knob.

As before, I gave the knobs a coat of shellac sanding sealer to seal the grain, then a light sanding to 600 grit. I gave them a coat of hi-build auto primer and a final sanding before a couple of coats of black ebonising spray. I was pleased with the end result and think they’re a good match for the originals.

Pic 1&2 are my sketches of the large & small A22 knobs.
Pic 3 is a blank cut on the band-saw for the large knob.
Pic 4 shows the blank in the chuck with a packing piece behind, trued up ready for drilling for the brass insert.
Pic 5 shows the chuck being rotated by hand, with a 12mm end mill in the tailstock to mill the blank to the correct depth for the brass insert.

Some more pics in the next post.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 7:10 pm   #6
David G4EBT
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

A few more pics of the A22 replica knobs.

First pic shows the large A22 knob mounted on a mandrel in the chuck, taking shape.
Second pic, large knob almost finished.
Third pic shows finished large knob alongside my original brown A22 Bakelite knob, and the mandrel on which the knob was turned.
Fourth pic shows the small knob taking shape on the lathe.
Firth pic is the small knob slotted, into which a tab shaped as the original was then glued.

In the next post I'll show the finished knob.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 7:27 pm   #7
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Last pics!

First pic is two original brown Bakelite knobs from my Ekco A22 alongside the two replicas.
Second pic is the original small knob alongside the replica black one.

In fairness to my chum who milled the 8 notches on the four 'Bestone' replica knobs for me, the last pic shows a knob on its mandrel in the chuck of the Bridgeport milling machine, on which the last notch had just been milled.

I'll be taking the knobs to Hornsea radio rally tomorrow morning, where my chum John ('60old john' on the forum), will do a quality control inspection for me!

I hope the thread is of interest, not too far off topic away from the electronics aspect of the hobby, and might encourage others who are suitably equipped, to try their hand.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 8:00 pm   #8
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

There was a lot of [justified] excitement when 3D printing became available David and parts for radios could be fabricated in plastic or metal [as an alternative to the resin mould technique]. These hand crafted replacements for wooden originals, though, are in another league-amazing

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Old 14th Oct 2017, 8:34 pm   #9
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Thanks for reading guys, and for your kind comments.

Yes Dave, 3-D printers seemed to offer much promise but have rather gone of the radar screen of late.

From my very limited knowledge, looking at items in exhibitions that have been 3-D printed, I think the main shortcoming is the standard of finish, but in many cases, that may not matter as appearance will take second place to functionality. But knobs of course are on display, so getting a finish that's very close to the original may pose quite a challenge.

I was recently at the V&A where they were demonstrating a range sophisticated 3-D printers, way beyond the realms of DIY jobbies.

They were making all manner of complex objects, large and small. The larger ones used large nozzles to build the object quite quickly, then to get a good surface finish, switched to finer nozzles. However, even with the fine nozzles, the end result had small and distinctly discernable ridges where the filament was applied. I'm not sure whether - if knobs were made using 3-D printing - the plastic can be sanded and polished with burnishing cream so as to look like original Bakelite or plastic knobs - say like those for the Ekco A22 for instance.

The other issue might be matching the filament to original colours, though I guess most plastic radio knobs were made in fairly standard colours such as cream, green red, white, black, brown. If a full set of matching knobs is made, they don't of course need to be exactly the same colour and finish as the originals - only to each other.

for me to get into that, the equipment would need to be so simply to use that I'd just need to point a scanner at an object and say 'make one just like that'.

The other option is casting in resin - I've had a dabble at that, making moulds from original knobs using Alginate, but so far, with little success.
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Old 15th Oct 2017, 9:35 am   #10
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Morning David.
As always first class work and an outstanding finish on the radio knobs. I bet the knobs put a smile on stef face

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Old 15th Oct 2017, 11:18 am   #11
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

An excellent and impressive standard of workmanship, as ever.

This struck a resonance with me(pun slightly intended) with the Audiophool thread. Many years ago someone was trying to sell wooden knobs with amazing sonic properties. They were ridiculed for charging $485 for each one. But looking at David's description of the work involved and considering overheads and profit margins etc., maybe that isn't an excessive sum.
I can't find a web link to the original part, but here's a contemporary comment:
http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.co.uk/...#axzz4vZNXwuMv

I note this is a thread about wooden knobs, not about audiophoolery.
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Old 15th Oct 2017, 11:26 am   #12
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

You have done a fantastic job of making those wooden knobs! I have a little lathe in the workshop (Micro-lathe II), but I lack the skills to make anything complex on it yet. I have used it to turn some wooden back plates for an old bakelite light switch though! It would probably help if I had more than one tool for it, and a better chuck.

I have made silicone moulds of knobs before, and successfully cast replacements, the difficult part being matching the colour and surface finish. All the knobs on my black and chrome Ekco AC76 are resin replacements, unfortunately missing the chrome inserts! For the resin I used 'David's Fastglass' from Halfords, you can buy the resin and hardener separately, on it's own it sets a sort of translucent pink colour, but you can add colouring to the mix.

A place I used to work had a 3D printer, it worked by building up layers of support material and some sort of plastic resin that it cured with UV light as it printed it. You were then left with the part you want encased in the support material which you had to clean off. The thing used to stink awful whilst printing! We would all have headaches by the end of the day being stuck in the same room as that... The parts that came off it were quite good, it all depended on the setup, if you wanted it quickly, you compromised on the finish quality. It was mostly used for making prototypes, and the occasional production parts that were hidden inside the main products (cable clamps being a favourite!). The major downside to the machine was the cost! it was about £16K, and the cartridges of material were stupidly expensive too, and they had a use by date.

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Old 15th Oct 2017, 2:45 pm   #13
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Very professional finish, but I guess you're a professional !

I heard Gerry Wells say in a TV programme once 'we've knobs for every kind of set, and if we don't have one, we'll make one'. I always wondered how he made his.
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Old 15th Oct 2017, 3:16 pm   #14
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dickie View Post
An excellent and impressive standard of workmanship, as ever.

This struck a resonance with me(pun slightly intended) with the Audiophool thread. Many years ago someone was trying to sell wooden knobs with amazing sonic properties. They were ridiculed for charging $485 for each one. But looking at David's description of the work involved and considering overheads and profit margins etc., maybe that isn't an excessive sum.
I can't find a web link to the original part, but here's a contemporary comment:
http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.co.uk/...#axzz4vZNXwuMv
I was amused by the comment "I can get you a wooden knob that performs way better for only $250".

I bet he could!
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Old 15th Oct 2017, 4:01 pm   #15
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Quote:
Originally Posted by McMurdo View Post
Very professional finish, but I guess you're a professional!
No - I'm a hobbyist Kevin - I don't do anything for money.

But there are two definitions of 'amateur':

One is someone who is 'amateurish' and not able to turn out work to a professional standard.

Another is someone who works to a high standard, but not as a profession.

I strive to work towards the latter.

The one thing that hobbyists have in their favour is that unlike professionals, they're not constrained by time pressures, and if hobbyists don't enjoy what they're doing, they can stop doing it. Professionals, on the other hand, have to work because they have to eat!
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Old 15th Oct 2017, 4:19 pm   #16
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Quote:
professional standard
Seems to mean the cheapest way these days, there is the profession of cost reduction of course.

Once the design department where I worked once (there where two of us!) was called, in writing, "A bunch of armatures".
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Old 16th Oct 2017, 8:25 am   #17
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

The original meaning of the word 'Amateur' is one who does something for the love of it. It comes from amo, amas, amat and all that oft-chanted latin.

Someone making something for the love of it might just do a better job than someone who was just doing it for a job. Not that many of us have th luxury of a job we're passionate about.

'Amateurish' is really a compliment, if the speaker was aware of what he was saying.

For a $485 wooden knob, individual pieces of hardwood would have to be auditioned. There might only be one bit good enough in an entire tree. Those microvibrations can be little devils.

There looks to be a lot more work in David's knobs than in the $485 job. Perhaps a lot of the money goes in hiring people who can write the advertising copy without dying laughing? (Shades of Monty Python's 'funniest joke in the world' sketch)

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Old 17th Oct 2017, 6:55 am   #18
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

David,

Absolutely stunning workmanship!

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Old 17th Oct 2017, 8:58 am   #19
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Wonderful work on the knobs David, very very impressive.
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Old 17th Oct 2017, 10:14 am   #20
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Default Re: Making replica wooden knobs on a lathe

Stunning, David!
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