Westinghouse WR-8, The Columaire

Hobbies for me are a sort of hot and cold thing. I jump in all eager and ready to achieve great feats of creativity and discovery. This ‘hot’ stage is followed by the ‘accumulation’ stage in which I collect all sorts of items relating to the hobby of the decade. I literally surround myself with a mass of ‘neat things’ that I plan to arrange, display, repair, restore, or utilize in the final stage, the stage of ‘accomplishment’.

 

Unfortunately I almost never reach stage three. My skills are found to be lacking, my need for immediate positive results is rarely met, and my interest wilts. Where has this all led to? A short list would go like this:

  • A world stamp collection that was given away. All that remains are some dear covers and one partially used US stamp album.
  • Numerous old cameras and related literature stored in boxes, trunks and closets, all waiting for the day they are once again placed on display or my heirs sell them to an antique dealer.
  • About 50 license plates of all years and types stored in boxes and waiting for me to put up the insulation and plaster board in the new garage so they will have a home again.
  • Thousands of books found in numerous library sales and book stores; now reduced to just 2 small bookcases and a few boxes. Most went back to the library to be sold again.
  • Vintage military firearms that were once loaded and used regularly; but that now remain locked away in rented storage until the day I once again have time to join a club and shoot targets.
  • One old 1941 Buick that gets on the road about 10 times per year. Along with the Buick is a closet or two of parts waiting to be installed (it’s a long wait) and cans of paint not yet used.
  • An amateur radio station that is currently on hold due to a nasty RF interference problem that is yet to be solved.
  • Dozens of old radios in various states of repair and disrepair … waiting in closets, boxes, trunks, basement, and even in the shed, for the day when I learn how to make them come to life again.

 

 

One radio made me particularly sad. I purchased it several years ago from a fellow collector who lived in the suburbs of Boston. It was in his basement. The radio is a 1931 Westinghouse model WR-8, also known as the Columaire. Upon first sight you think that you have found a five foot tall grandfather clock of Art Deco design. Look more closely and you find that the clock movement is an ordinary electric model and is secondary to the piece. The primary focus is the radio. Inside this exquisitely designed cabinet there are two chassis. Together they comprise the power supply and RF deck of the radio. They are almost identical to the internal workings of an RCA Radiola Model 82 radio. Westinghouse got the chassis from RCA and just made those modifications necessary to support it vertically inside a grandfather clock cabinet.

 

 

 

The radio sat in my heated basement for several years. It seemed that every time I moved it another piece of flaking veneer would crack and fall off. When we moved a little over a year ago the radio went right to the unheated basement of the new home. It wasn’t long before I noticed that long sheets of veneer had become unattached and were literally hanging from the side of the unit. The radio was self-destructing and I was just watching. It seemed like another hobby was meeting with a dead end.

 

 

 

 

Then I watched some online videos posted by a Flickr friend of mine who had also acquired a Columaire. He made quick work of taking it apart and beginning the electrical and cabinet restoration. This motivated me. My son-in-law helped me move the radio two floors up to my radio room (heated) and I began to stabilize the cabinet by gluing down every loose piece. At this point almost all of the exterior walnut veneer is glued down and most of the cabinet interior is also ship-shape. I purchased some real nice walnut veneer on e-Bay and have successfully made my first ever veneer repair. Also, the chassis parts are on the workshop bench and I have begun their cleaning. I acquired some new tubes (still need 2 more), have a complete set of drawings, and am close to the point where I will replace capacitors and any faulty resistors. I may finish this project yet. Wish me luck and the will to see it to the end.

 

Shown above is a damaged area near center for which I have cut a replacement walnut patch.

 

 

 

 

 

The new patch was used as a template to cut out the damaged area.  Then the veneer patch was glued in place.   Looking to either side you can see that there is much work to be done.

 

Westinghouse Columaire References on the web:

Videos:
Bob Anderson’s WR-8 restoration, Part 1
Bob Anderson’s WR-8 restoration, Part 2
Bob Anderson’s WR-8 restoration, Part 3
Bob Anderson’s WR-8 restoration, Part 4
Bob Anderson’s WR-8 restoration, Part 5
Bob Anderson’s WR-8 restoration, Part 6

Photographs:
Grill Cloth in Antique Radios forum
Radio Attic site; with Remote Control, by Ron Potter
Radio Museum information page on WR-8
Bob Anderson’s WR-8 photo set on Flickr

Historical Information and Literature:
ShelbyDodge Imp Antique Radios – nice page on history of the Columaire
Antique Radios forum discussion with 20 posts and photos
Advertisement, Saturday Evening Post, on Old Time Radio Researchers Group, March 7, 1931; two full pages (last link goes to photo., other link to main site)
Advertisement stored at Duke University online archive
Complete Riders schematic for Radiola 82 (same as WR-8) from Nostalgia Air
Technical Lesson 46, RCA Institute, Radio & TV Course. This PDF is supplied courtesy of KM5Z. The lesson covers the WR-6, WR-7, and Radiola 82. The 82 is mostly the same as the WR-8.

 

 

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2 Responses to Westinghouse WR-8, The Columaire

  1. Mike says:

    Hi,
    I have a WR-8 myself, and it needs some work. (speaker cloth. orig. power cord, etc)
    Is there any value in it, unrestored/restored? Mike in Berlin, CT

    • Kenneth Carr says:

      Mike,
      They may go for as little as $50 or top out at around $400.
      Condition is everything. If all you need is a cord and a grill cord your example could be on the high end if it is fully functional and has a properly refinished cabinet. If it needs a lot of work it is only valuable to a restorer who will have to invest time, money, and skill to create a valuable radio. He will expect to pay a low sum

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