The Space Needle – Radio and Art Combined

Space Needle Tube Radio

This set is the first attempt at building what I call 'DESIGNER' radios. I simply pirate good schematics put together by masters like Dave and try to assemble the components in a unique and hopefully attractive presentations.

My very first fascination has been with the magic of crystal sets. I recall trying to build one as a very young boy but enjoyed little success. Twenty years ago I saw a galena diode at Radio Shack and bought it out of curiosity and later that night, with the help of Adolf Coors, I strung a copper wire out the side door of the garage, wrapped the end of it to a picket on the fence and came back inside. I attached one lead off my little earphone to my gas pipe and was considering where to put the diode when the other lead came into contact with the antenna. Holy Smolie! I got a signal and a loud one at that! And without the diode! Blew my little fuzzed mind completely. I later discovered that I lived a short distance from a cluster of radio and televison towers concentrated on my side of Tulsa, Ok.

My responsibilities of a demanding career and a young and starving family stunted my pursuits at the time but that sense of discovery never faded. And now that I'm retired I find myself submersed in this radio thing that I have such a flimsy comprehension of. That limitation of technical knowledge confines me to my 'artistic' renditions of the real engineering work of others.

Around 1955 I recall laying around in front of my Uncle's big short wave receiver and being captivated by those strange transmissions coming in from unknown places around the world and this memory dominated my first attempt at building a 'Designer' set. I searched around for a short wave schematic and found what I wanted with Dave's Single Tube Short wave set. I'd seen some pictures of what I thought were very old short wave receivers that had coils made out of 1/4" copper tubing. I know now they were probably transmitters but I was smitten with those big old coils.

I bought an inductance/ohm/frequency-counting/resistance/microwaveoven/flight-simulating meter and went off in search of 50' of 3/16" copper tubing. A few bucks later I managed to waste the entire length trying to fashion it into a coil. Then came careful study and contemplation before another expenditure was considered. This time it worked even better than I'd imagined. Plus the inductance of this main coil was exactly what the inductance calculator said it should be. The primary was quickly wound and a mounting frame was constructed of padauk wood. This is a fascinating specie being so hard you can machine it and it's natural crimson color unlike any other I've seen.

I had lots of brass tubing left over from other projects so it was quickly decided to mount the tube on brass stilts and arrange the components encompassing it on their own little stilts. Then came the wiring. And then came the wiring! Did I mention the wiring?

After days of frustrating solderings, un-solderings, cursings, re-solderings and attempted suicides it dawned on me that what I had in front of me was a mirror image of what the schematic was trying to seduce me with. So with this patch of wisdom I began re-soldering, un-soldering, cursing and, when the air around it was cobalt blue from the verbal abuse I'd been screaming, the set suddenly started to work! Halleluiah Brother!

The hand capacitance is an issue like Dave speculated that it would be but not as troublesome as one might think with all those long leads. The control knobs are so far away from the circuits that very little problem is noted. The ugly knobs I got off Ebay were, however, were a persisting problem until Dave recommended that I try and making my own wood knobs for it. And that, my friends, led to a whole new endeavor for me.

I'd love to sell everything I build because I like the money more that I like the sets. This one, however, would understandably be very difficult to pack with any hope of safe deliver so it would have to be a pick-up thing only. But living in the heavily populated hub of humanity of Crescent, Oklahoma should be short trip for most folks.

My thanks to Dave Schmarder for his guidance, encouragement and confidence.

Space Needle Tube Radio