Radio Cabinet Repair & Refinishing Made Short, Simple & With Minimal Tools- Part I

Step 1: Evaluate

  1. What Do I Do First?
    1. Order is important, don’t work yourself into a corner!
    2. Usually, but not always, in the following order:
      1. Structure
        1. Structural joints- bottom, sides, etc.
        2. Major parts- legs, braces, etc.
      2. Secondary structure
        1. Delamination of plywood
        2. Shelves, speaker mounting boards, etc.
        3. Warped lids, doors, etc.
      3. Veneer
      4. Finish
      5. Non-wood parts (knobs, escutcheons, etc.)


Step 2: Record

  1. Photograph (NEED: camera)
    1. Before and After photos
    2. Record of what went where in case you get in trouble…
    3. More the better—if digital photos, cost=$0


Step 3: Disassemble

  1. Remove non-wood parts (NEED: screw drivers- straight, Philips)
    1. Mark parts (NEED: Sharpie, blue tape, sandwich bags)
      1. Mark anything you remove that is not obvious where it goes
      2. Use sandwich bags to organize, Sharpie to mark bag
      3. Use 3M blue tape to mark large parts without damage
        1. Write on the tape before you put it on any parts to avoid the Sharpie bleeding-through onto your part
  1. Remove damaged wood parts

(NEED: flexible putty knife, mini diagonal cutters, steam iron)


  1. Carefully disassemble down to unbroken parts/sound structure
    1. Take photos as you go/mark parts and/or their orientation
    2. Flexible putty knife one of the best tools to use for gentle prying
    3. Mini diagonal cutters for pulling or cutting small nails
    4. To release partially unglued pieces without damage:
      1. Use a steam iron on a non-steam setting
      2. Careful to not burn anything!
      3. Heat will soften and release the hide glue
      4. Use putty knife to pry apart
      5. Careful: that glue will be hot!

Step 4: Replace

(NEED: wood veneer, scissors, blade knife)


  1. Source, fabricate or replace wood parts that can not be fixed
  2. Veneers:
    1. Identify species
      1. Lesser expensive sets used only a few kinds and cheaper woods for veneers
      2. Consoles and high-end sets used more variety and more obscure species
      3. Books of wood species is a good place to start
      4. Google search
      5. Ask an expert at Woodcraft Supply or Rockler
    2. Find source to buy replacement
      1. More obscure species might need to be bought online
      2. Google search for “veneer” will provide sellers
  3. Plywood:
    1. If it can’t be reglued, it must be replaced
    2. Replacement might be difficult to source
    3. Flexible plywood or 1.8mm Masonite are good options for cathedral radios
  4. Use blade knife and straight edge to cut paper-backed veneer, 1.8mm Masonite and Flexible plywood


Sources of Supply:

The Home Depot

  • 3M Blue painter’s Tape
  • Screwdrivers- Philips and straight, multiple sizes
  • Flexible putty knife
  • Small diagonal cutters
  • Blade knife
  • Scissors
  • Straight edge or long ruler



  • Small diagonal cutters


  • Steam Iron

Crosscut Hardwoods (adjacent to 4th Ave. S. Bridge)

  • Paper-backed veneer
  • 1.8 MM Tempered Hardboard (A.K.A. Masonite)
  • Flexible plywood

Rockler Woodworking (Tukwila and Northgate Stores)

  • Non-paper-backed and paper-backed veneer
  • Hide glue
  • Straight-edge or long ruler

Woodcraft Supply (Corson Ave. S. in Seattle)

  • Non-paper-backed and paper-backed veneer
  • Hide glue
  • Straight-edge or long ruler

© Jason Rogers 2015 May not be sold or reproduced without permission