Elmer G. Osterhoudt
The Modern Radio Laboratories Catalog 

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From the Modern Radio Labs catalog, October, 1973. MRL had been a source of plug-in coil forms for decades after other manufacturers stopped making them. However, by 1979 this item was no longer being sold.
A coil form like this one is what started MRL. In 1932 Elmer was in his radio shop and ran out of coils. He rigged up some celluloid forms on tube bases, and Modern Radio Laboratories was born. Notice a vacuum tube base has been cut horizontally and the cut part is used as the top ring.

Forty years later Elmer could no longer obtain tube bases, so he made the bases himself. Later on this site we'll see that it once took him an entire day to make one set of six.

  This form was made between 1934 and 1938. In 1973 they were still the same price, but the designation "TYPE F-4" was no longer used. Instead, they were listed as CAT No. 7-33.

A dollar in 1938 was only worth 32 in 1978, so Elmer was selling them for about 8 cents each. They should have been 80 cents. How did that one slip by him?


This catalog item shows a switch lever. If you had never seen one, could you tell what it is? Elmer didn't use perspective or draw anything at an angle. In this case we are looking at it sideways. The switch lever is mounted to a panel and we can see both the front (left) and the rear of the lever.
The switch lever in use. It's not just a lever, it's part of the switch. In this application it is selecting the taps on the coil of a MRL No. 2 crystal set. If a rotary switch were used here, the clicking of the switch would knock the cat whisker off the hot spot on the crystal.
Switches from an MRL Number 10 set.


Switch Stop
What are these? What is the drawing showing?
Switch Stop
Switch Stop
Switch stops stop your switch! Elmer's "New Method" stops are just soldering lugs, but they do the trick. He even wrote "Lug" on the drawing. Elmer "preferred" this type. In reality, actual switch stops were no longer made.

When did MRL begin making their own switches?
  1945   1958  
Here are excerpts from two drawings of the MRL No. 2 crystal set. The drawing on the left was published in 1945. The second drawing was published in 1958. Even in 1945 these switches had been out of style for decades. EO had to invent his own switch and switch stops when his supply ran out. According to Radio Builder No. 34, it was in 1952.


MRL coil slider
This drawing in the catalog looks pretty much what the actual slider looks like.


MRL coil slider
In 1979 the slider was 25, the rod was 10. If you requested it, Elmer would drill the holes in the rod for 5 each.

Elmer provided instructions somewhere in his documentation to make almost everything he sold. The slider on the right is made of five different parts. Do you want to find all the materials and make one yourself, or just order one from MRL?

Considering what went into the construction of the slider, 25 was a great deal even in 1979!

Elementary Electronics March 1975
Crystal radio with two MRL inspired sliders. This photo is from the March - April 1975 issue of Elementary Electronics, page 55. The article was written by Art Trauffer. MRL is listed as a source for "most of the hardware."

At the time the magazine article was written, Elmer was 76 years old. In April of 1975 he wrote that he  had been in the hospital for four days to have a polyp removed. He then went back for another ten days to have part of his colon removed after cancer had been found.

Upon returning home he had over 150 orders waiting for him, mostly due to the magazine article. He had to make hundreds of coil sliders to fill the orders. Some of the orders were large, over $100. At the same time, Mabel Osterhoudt, who had had cataract surgery five years before, developed nerve damage in her right eye. Along with a drooping eyelid, her right eye would not track with her left eye.

Two months later, 70 of the 150 orders had been filled with another 80 to go. Elmer included notes with each order thanking his customers for their "extreme patience and consideration."

Just as he was catching up with the backlog, the exact same article was published six months later in
Electronics Hobbyist magazine. Links:  Elementary Electronics Electronics Hobbyist


What's this, a lint roller? Screwdriver? Should we order some? They are only 5.
They are the tips for your headphone cord or anything else you want to plug into your radio.


This drawing was obviously not made by Elmer, but neither was the coil. The exact same
drawing can be found in old Philmore catalogs. Philmore made hundreds of radio parts and sets.
Doesn't match the picture but this came from MRL. By the 1980s this was no longer available.
MRL "DATA SHEETS" Vol 1, pages 2 and 3 show two circuits using this coil.


1982 drawing
1986 drawing
MRL switch
MRL switch
Closing the MRL switch adds a second set of variable capacitor plates to the circuit. Some builders of the MRL 1 Tube set
put a switch on the front panel for this purpose. Elmer's method doesn't add any inductance in the form of extra wires.


Catalog entry for the MRL No. 2-A
Click on picture for full sized catalog page.
An actual MRL No. 2-A.
Here is a 2-A from 1957, built by Northe Osbrink. The knob isn't original and the Philmore cat whisker
detector didn't survive. The Philmore detector cost 20 cents in 1957. Today it costs 200 times as much, if you can find one.

This photo shows a No. 2-A remarkably similar to the one built by Northe Osbrink in 1957. Same unpainted front panel, phone jacks and dial scale.

A modern reproduction of a 2-A. An attempt was made to duplicate how it would have looked in 1933.

Why doesn't the switch in the drawing match the one on the 1957 radio? At one time, it did. Elmer probably made the drawing of  the radio in 1933 and then used the same drawing for the next 50 years. When he designed the No.2 and 2-A crystal sets, commercially made switches were readily available, and that's what you got.

In 1969 Elmer and Mabel (and MRL) lived at 12041 Sheridan Lane in Garden Grove, California.
From 1972 till his death in 1986, Elmer and MRL lived here at 10322 Ballard Drive in Garden Grove, California.
While MRL was at this location, Elmer's niece, Laverne Osterhoudt (daughter of Elmer's brother Melvin) visited many times with her father. According to Laverne, Elmer and Mabel worked from 5AM till 11:30AM. They would then have lunch at noon and take a nap. Because this schedule never varied, they could only visit in the afternoon!

The house was sold on May 4, 1988 by Melvin Osterhoudt, who handled Elmer's estate. Mr. Paul M. Kim paid $99,090 for it. It is now valued at over $800,000. According to Laverne, Mel was in the process of retiring and had no desire to continue Modern Radio Labs.