Recreating an Alfred P. Morgan crystal set


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Another view of the base. It's a wreck. Lord knows what all the holes are from. 


    The original plan was to gather all the old parts together, then remove the parts on the base. The parts would be cleaned and polished, then the wooden base would be restored by filling in the holes and sanding it.

    In these pictures you can see the holes from where the radio was upgraded to a transistor detector. In the left picture, the letters C B E can faintly be seen, as well as some dings from the Fahnestock clips. In the right picture you can see where the battery had been connected. A screwdriver was used to press "minus" and "plus" into the wood.


The front has evidence my dad ripped a piece of wood lengthwise to get the dimensions I wanted. For some reason I used the "bad" side for the front. The other side is perfectly smooth. The corners are all bashed in and rounded from 49 years of being moved from place to place.

Underside of the base with various scribbling, including some dates.

Then Andrea told me I couldn't take the old radio base apart. She said it was a part of history, so she made me a new base with perfect angles and sharp corners. I left the old base alone and used a combination of new and original parts to build a duplicate radio. The new base is the same size as the old; 7.5" X 3.5".

Xtal Set
The new radio and a pair of Trimm Professionals. The headphones are rated at 4000 ohms.

    In 1966 it looked more like this. A crystal earplug was used. I don't know if these things existed when Alfred Morgan wrote the series on radio and electronics. All the drawings show headphones. A "radio guy" may tell you the radio shouldn't work with a crystal earplug unless you put a resistor across the phone connections, but the resistor wasn't needed in 1966. Back then, the crystal earplug had an actual Rochelle Salt crystal inside. Today they contain a piezo-electric disc.

     I had absolutely no way of acquiring a pair of headphones in 1966, but a few years later I met a guy named Joe Jones who GAVE me a pair. Eventually I bought a pair of Trimm Dependables in 1985 from Modern Radio Labs. MRL is still in business, but these types of high impedance headphones are no longer made. I got the Trimm Professionals from Scotts Crystal Radios.

    So how well does the radio work? Um... it works. Not that well in Upper Gwynedd, PA, but I remember it working better when we lived in Philadelphia. I spent many hours listening to WIBG 99 on it. Some of the songs released in 1966 are still my favorites. Good Vibrations, Sunshine Superman, Summer In The City, Black Is Black, Cherish, etc., etc.

    There is no way to adjust the selectivity, so sometimes you get two stations at once. I'm not sure how far down on the AM dial it tunes. WFIL, AM 560 is the lowest station around here, and I didn't hear it at all. I don't recommend building one of these. There are hundreds of better circuits out there.

 Trying to coax more signal into the set using an antenna tuner. It didn't help.


An important note about the crystal earplug
Buy your crystal earplug from a reputable dealer; Mike Peebles, The Crystal Set Society, or Modern Radio Labs. Of the three brand new earplugs I bought on ebay, two were stone dead and the third had horrendous audio quality. That means my small sample had a 100% failure rate.

These three earplugs were marked "TAIWAN", but I suspect they were actually counterfeits made in Red China. Perhaps they're not even counterfeit, but if they were outsourced they shouldn't have "TAIWAN" molded into them.

If the earplug I used in 1966 was one of these counterfeits, I might not have heard anything from the radio. That would have been a lot of work for nothing. Heed this warning, don't buy your earplug on ebay.

Alfred P. Morgan crystal radio