Vintage Electronics Hack Chat

Where there's a tube, there's a way

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Keri Szafir will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, January 25 at noon Pacific.

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The world of the hardware hacker is filled with smells. The forbidden but enticing waft of solder smoke, the acrid bite of the Magic Blue Smoke, the heady aroma of freshly greased gears, the unmistakable smell of hot metal -- they all tell a story, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

But the smell inside a piece of vintage electronics? Now that's a complicated story indeed. It might be the wax of the old capacitors, the resinous scent of well-baked resistors, the enameled wire in transformers, or just the smell of the hot glass of the vacuum tubes. Whatever it is, once you smell it, you'll never forget it

For some of us, that first whiff starts a lifelong passion for vintage gear. Keri Szafir knows quite well what it's like to be bitten by the vintage bug, so much so that she goes by "The Vacuum Tube Witch" over on her YouTube channel. Her projects include repairs and restorations of vintage amps and radios, and even new builds with old tubes. She'll stop by the Hack Chat to talk about vintage electronics, tube hoarding collecting, and even her new interest in retro display technologies. Where there's a tube, there's a way!

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney01/25/2023 at 21:15 0 comments

    Dan Maloney12:42 PM
    Yeah, he actually doesn't have that much in terms of traditional glassblowing gear. No lathe even.

    DrG12:43 PM
    on tubes and not capacitors :) ....on this piece they used a tube (maybe called a cat's eye) as a receiver strength indicator.....can you talk about those and can I get them for other aesthetic uses?

    Dan Maloney12:43 PM
    Dalibor is a great guy, love watching his glassblowing skills! We had him on for a Nixie Hack Chat once.

    Keri Szafir12:43 PM
    ah, Dalibor - makes me wish I worked for him :)

    Bil Herd12:43 PM
    Heh, I used to work in the salvage department of RCA back in the 70's, they had a lathe that could hold a full size picture tube and "re-neck" the tube with a new gun assembly.

    RichardCollins12:44 PM
    I do not care what others are doing on Hackaday.IO. I want to know what she wants to do and what she needs. The groups on H do not work together. They chat and there is no way to work together effectively. Hacking can be efficient. But not on this site, not these people. All fragmented, useless play. Good people each doing their own thing, never getting together to do anything larger. And so many needs in the world.

    Keri Szafir12:45 PM
    I know of a Polish guy named Aleksander Zawada, he works for a R&D institute in Warsaw and has a lab where he also did experiment with making tubes

    DrG12:45 PM

    Keri Szafir12:46 PM
    EM80 :)

    RichardCollins12:47 PM
    Do you want to work on anything more complex than repairing old radios? Plasma, fusion, accelerators. I work with groups working with gravitational fields. Lots of things happening in the world and not enough people to do them all.

    DrG12:47 PM
    hehe tks !

    Keri Szafir12:48 PM
    @RichardCollins that would be interesting, not for my knowledge yet :)

    RichardCollins12:48 PM
    @DrG Beautiful, not where is the data? And the models, control systems and guide for applications?

    Dan Maloney12:49 PM
    @RichardCollins - sorry you don't like the subject matter, feel free to come back when there's something more to your liking. But please don't continue being disruptive to the people who just want to enjoy the chat

    RichardCollins12:49 PM
    I am too old to talk to many people at once. Best wishes. Keri, if you want to, please write to me privately and I will see what I can do.

    Keri Szafir12:49 PM


    Read this on R-type

    phase268212:50 PM
    6E5 also for 'magic eye' tube

    DrG12:51 PM
    @RichardCollins - sorry man - it is chaotic but don't let gravity get you down :)

    phase268212:51 PM



    Description The RCA tube 6E5 is the first Magic Eye, designed by Allen Balcom Du Mont (born Jan. 29, 1901 in Brooklyn NY, died Nov. 15, 1965 New York NY). Starting 1924 as an engineer for Westinghouse Lamp Company, Bloomfield, NJ, developing manufacturing and testing equipment for vacuum tubes.

    Read this on Radiomuseum

    Keri Szafir12:52 PM
    a thing of beauty and a joy for ever - also note the base

    Keri Szafir12:52 PM
    old style 6 pins, not octal

    phase268212:53 PM
    where do you find odd sockets like the 6 pins above or special 1625 socket? Etsy, eBay, ...?

    Keri Szafir12:54 PM
    I look for them at online classified sited, other than that, eBay

    Keri Szafir12:55 PM
    and I'll also be doing some of my own research into making the Nixie tube sockets by 3D printing - these tubes run cold and while I wouldn't use 3D printing on regular tubes for thermal stability reasons, Nixies should be fine

    Nicolas Tremblay12:56 PM
    Just be carefull with HV

    Keri Szafir12:57 PM
    HV for me is 600V and above... lower than that is the regular stuff, haha

    Keri Szafir12:57 PM
    safety precautions apply

    phase268212:57 PM
    Who is building new equipment with tubes other than @Keri Szafir ? I recently built a portable QRP 40 meter transmitter. Runs on a 12V 3aHr LiFePo battery . Uses a Nixie supply to boost 12V to 215V, it is also RF quiet.

    Keri Szafir...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney01/25/2023 at 21:15 0 comments

    Dan Maloney12:00 PM
    OK folks, it's tube time! I'm Dan, I'll be modding today along with Dusan as we welcome Keri Szafir to the Vintage Electronics Hack Chat!

    Hi Keri, are you online yet?

    Bil Herd12:01 PM
    Hi @Dan Maloney !

    Dan Maloney12:02 PM
    Technical difficulties, please stand by...

    Dan Maloney12:02 PM
    Hi Bil!

    Dan Maloney12:03 PM
    Just trying to get the chat rooms sorted out

    Boian Mitov12:03 PM
    Hi @Bil Herd

    Bil Herd12:03 PM
    Hi Boian!

    Keri Szafir12:04 PM
    hello everyone :)

    jihernandez9513 joined  the room.12:04 PM

    Keri Szafir12:04 PM
    first time on HC, I got the rooms wrong :)

    Bil Herd12:05 PM

    Dan Maloney12:05 PM
    Hey Keri, welcome aboard!

    Keri Szafir12:05 PM
    haha, nice seeing you :)

    Dan Maloney12:06 PM
    Can you tell us a little about how you fell into the Dark Arts of old gear?

    Keri Szafir12:07 PM
    I was learning electronics in my teens in the '90s, and never having too much cash, I couldn't just go to a parts shop and buy new - I mostly salvaged them from old devices, so old stuff was no new to me even back then

    james.coleman12:09 PM
    Is there an audio visual aspect to this chat? Feel like I'm missing something...

    Dan Maloney12:09 PM
    Nope, we just roll old school and do text chat.

    RichardCollins12:09 PM


    Keri Szafir's Profile

    For getting out of my tiny lab to the broader world! Your regular mad scientist's plot to conquer the world. I've been building electronics for most of my life... Vacuum tube amps (guitar & hi-fi), vintage gear restorations, audio stuff, test gear, automation, fun projects etc. both for myself and for an occassional customer.

    Read this on Hackaday

    Dan Maloney12:09 PM
    Although we can post pix and links, ofc

    Keri Szafir12:10 PM
    vintage, as in vacuum tubes? it was more like early 2000s (2003 or so) when I was at high school; I was fascinated by Fallout 1 & 2, with the '50s retro-futuristic aesthetics, all tube stuff (semiconductors were not invented in the alternate timeline the game's world took after WWII) and this got me into an interest in old Civil War era electronics, restoring and repairing devices, building my own inspired by the past

    CJ joined  the room.12:10 PM

    Nicolas Tremblay joined  the room.12:10 PM

    Dan Maloney12:11 PM
    Old TVs were always a great source of parts for me. Just don't forget to discharge the caps!

    phase268212:11 PM
    when I was learning electronics tubes were easy to get, ICs and transistors less so. Everyone was throwing out their B/W TV for Color TVs

    RichardCollins12:11 PM
    I am older than transistors. In the 60's there were lots of vacuum tube devices and resources. By the 90's a lot of that was gone and inaccessible.

    Keri Szafir12:11 PM
    I got acquainted with a bunch of guitarists and did amp service and building for them too, that's how I got into almost living and breathing old tech

    Keri Szafir12:12 PM
    I never did TVs, though I liked restoring radios

    DrG12:12 PM
    Keri, have you "evolved" toward early digital? I have questions on both :)

    phase268212:12 PM
    Most of my builds were for Ham Radio, there were still WWII surplus parts available as well. 1625s made for great finals

    Dr. Cockroach12:12 PM
    I can never resist a good Hamfest :-)

    Dan Maloney12:12 PM
    I've been hitting thrift stores looking for restoration-worthy tube radios, but alas...

    CJ12:12 PM
    Cool, yeah I repair tube amps for many musicians. I've got some old Silvertone amps on my bench now.... there are parts in this thing I've never seen, like a big Condensor. What the hell is that?

    Nicolas Tremblay12:13 PM
    What's the best way to discharge those old caps?

    Keri Szafir12:13 PM
    @DrG kinda, I sometimes worked with DTL

    phase268212:13 PM
    Hamfests and swap meets tend to have vintage radios at better prices than other sources. Just be ready to negotiate and walk away

    Lt.Slothrop12:14 PM
    @Keri Szafir do you have any favorite boxes or websites for learning old school electronics like vacuum tubes, tube radios or maybe even nixie tubes?

    ... Read more »

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