RCA sign rebuild

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Post by willy3486 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:36 pm

I hope nobody minds all the pictures. I picked up a sign last weekend. Here is the sign.

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I took the pole to hold it,hangars,and plastic off the sign so I could take it to my local electrical place to see if I could get the lights for it. I also wired a plug on it so we could test it. We tried the new tubes but they didn't work. The ballast was bad. They are no longer produced so I decided to update with new tombstones and a ballast. I had a box of t12 tubes at home so I went that route. To give you an idea of the difference here is a picture of the new ballast. The new ballast is the smaller one.

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So I completely gutted all the electrical parts . I then was able to mount the new tombstones onto aluminum brackets I made. The brackets sort of look like a stretched out "Z" . I needed a little bit of spring. The original tubes were the types that had only one round pin on each end. They were also shorter. I got lucky as on this sign the original tombstones were mounted on boxes that I took out so that gave it enough room to mount the new tubes. Here is the dry fit of the tubes.

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With that underway I went ahead and wired it up and tested out. The lights worked great. With the light working I then took it apart so I could polish the aluminum. I also needed to sand and repaint the hangars and pole. Here is the sign apart.

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To clean and shine the aluminum I found a system that works pretty good for me. I get some oven cleaner and spray on the aluminum. This will eat the grime and coating off from the factory. They put a coating on aluminum many times and with age it turns milky. After a bit a time I clean it. The time varies, I learned from expirence how it looks. A good indication is to have gloves on and scrub it with a piece of steel wool. If it is ready when you scrub it lightly the aluminum will be shiny. If you try this on a piece of aluminum check it every few minutes and always wear gloves. After it is good to go I take a wet rag and wash it down,then I spray it with water and wash it off good. Today was a great day here as it got close to 70. I let it dry then I go over it all over with a coarse steel wool pad. I then follow that up with a fine steel wool pad. The last thing I do is to polish with a product called silver wadding compound. You can get it at walmart and I have seen it at advance auto. Its made to clean silver, it looks like a brown cotton piece that you can pull some off to polish. I will rub it all over good then when it dries up I then polish it with a paper towel or a rag. Here is a piece that I polished like that on the left and the piece on the right has only been cleaned with the oven cleaner and dried.

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While I was polishing the aluminum I would take time out to spray the pole, brackets, and some bolts with primer, then paint. I had sanded the items when the aluminum was being cleaned with the oven cleaner. Some of the big bolts I did not have replacements so I just repainted them. I use old hard drive magnets to hold the bolts. I just put the head up and the magnet hold them up. To paint the poles and brackets I hold them up with whatever I find. In this case a tree. Here is the pole just before I took it down.

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After all the parts were painted or polished I mounted the pole up in my shop. I put a bolt through a oak post to bolt the end of the pole on. I also fastened a board across two rafters. I had two eye bolts in the board to hold the wires that supported the end of the pole. I think this pole was not original to the sign. The pole was thicker and bolts would not line up to the pole. But since the sign is not outside I left it for now. Here is the sign without the tubes or plastic after I got it on the pole.

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Here is a side picture to give you a idea of the shine on the aluminum as compared to a weathered 50 to 60 year old sign. It really shined up great as compared to what it looked like. I don't think the sign was up too long. It was in way too good of shape other than just signs of age. I found another sign with the same name on the web. It looked like a Sylvania sign from around 1960. So I don't this was out too many years.

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Here is a picture of the sign up but not on. you can see how it looks. I have a newspaper ad from the 30s I found of a RCA wish list. I plan on making a frame for it and putting it over my bookshelf next to the sign. You can see the edge of the newspaper ad on the right of the sign.

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And here is a picture with it on. I am pleased with it. I looked for about a year for one. From what I have dug around I think the sign originated from the Rhode Island area. I am thinking the shop may have been closed for a couple of decades as I can't find any info. Tomorrow I hope to clean up from this rebuild. I also need to find new homes for the items I had placed on top of the cabinets. I had to move those items. I also need to finish sorting tubes, I hope to finish that tomorrow. I then can rebuild some items like the old 40s waterman scope I picked up last year. I have quite a few radios to go through as well as other projects.

RCA sign rebuild HPIM7950_zps48fc5304

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Post by Bill Cahill on Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:04 am

Beautiful job! That is a classic sign.
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Post by ChrisH664 on Sat Jan 12, 2013 6:46 am

Wonderful, wonderful!! Congratulations and thanks for taking time for taking and posting of the pictures.

I too couldn't find any information regarding the shop with a Google search. I am sure the Guertin family would be happy to know a relatives/grandpa's legacy lives on.

Maybe a Facebook search or whitepages.com search of the last name in the Rhode Island area might reveal some names?
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Post by willy3486 on Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:50 pm

I have tried to find any info I can. I found one repair business that does appliances called G and R owned by a Guertin in RI. I emailed them but got no reply. I have posted on a few forums and no info either. Thats one reason I think it may have closed many years ago, no one remembers it, or at least they won't reply if they do.

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Post by Guest on Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:43 pm

Ancestry.com for the name? Excellent job on the sign!

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Post by N7ZAL on Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:45 pm

Excellent job. You can search city directories that might provide the info. Ancestry might work, but you have to pay in order to use them.
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Post by Guest on Sat Jan 12, 2013 7:19 pm

That is a great job! Do you plan to put it back outside after all that work?

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Post by willy3486 on Sat Jan 12, 2013 7:34 pm

I plan on keeping it inside my workshop. I have it at the edge of a bookshelf and just above the back of some of my Howard W Sams filing cabinet. It extends the wall so to speak. Too much invested in it in time and money. I saved for quite a while to get the 350 I got in it. I try not to put in "paycheck " cash in my hobby. I usually fix items and I have sold a lot of scrap copper and aluminum cleaning up the shop. I have spent the afternoon today cleaning up from this rebuild. But like a lot of times I got sidetracked. I did get a shelf put up for a radio and my drills.

I figured after I got my sign I could relax a it as far as finding stuff. I want to finish with the tube sorting I was doing. I almost have them sorted. If I get any more signs I will have to mount them flush with the ceiling. I have a few things on the ceiling now.

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Post by W8WHO on Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:40 pm

What great pictures . Beautiful job. I would keep it in the shop as well to display. i have a small CBS Lighted tube sign that I display in the window of my shop. Looks great when you drive in. Signs around here at auctions and flea markets are really getting to be costly
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Post by stringbender31 on Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:58 am

Fantastic job! It turned out great. That is really something to be proud of Smile
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Post by ve1arn on Sun Jan 13, 2013 6:24 pm

Awesome job! Good luck in finding info on the original owners too.
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Post by willy3486 on Sun Jan 13, 2013 6:42 pm

Ken G do you have a picture of yours posted? I seen one similar online a while back that I bet was like yours. I really like the odd shape of the one I found. I would like to find info on it but I may not be able to. I posted all over the place and no info yet. w8who Yours would good to show as well. I wish years ago I had tried to get these things but I didn't give a second thought. Thanks for all the positive replies folks.

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Post by Ken g on Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:32 pm

RCA sign rebuild Cl011


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Post by willy3486 on Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:50 pm

Nice sign. I lot easier to find a place for I bet. It looks like it was Perrys . I wonder what years this artwork was used for RCA.

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Post by Bill Cahill on Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:06 pm

Looks like late fourties, to early fifties to me.
Wish I had one of these signa.
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Post by Ken g on Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:20 pm

This design must have been used alot by shops using RCA tubes .
mine is one sided and hung on the front of the guys shop .

Story goes , there was a repair shop here in town that ran from the mid 30's to the late 70's . He did about everything electronic . I heard of this place a few times .
One day a guy told me where he was . It was in a house on a main drag through town . I lived 5 blocks from this and drove past it for years .
Being only a normal looking house ?? oh well . The day i went there i noticed 2 front doors . An older guy answered the door and let me inside . One door led upstairs into his house , other door downstairs basement into his shop . It had been closed down for aprox 15 years .
He took me downstairs to see all of it . It was a full blown repair shop as a time capsule . Messy workbenches and shelves piled over flowing with all kinds of vintage stuff .
I asked him what he is going to do with all of it . He said ''sell it'' so i asked him to decide on a price to buy the whole basement full and call me back later , no rush . We looked around a bunch more and i found a white painted atwater kent tombstone . I then found a box full of real interesting old transistor radios . He just gave me that box .
A week later he called me back over and told me his price . I paid & removed the contence . The sign was on the front of his house back in the day . He had his name in black tape over the blank ( perrys ) area .

That was a fun time , that one !

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Post by simplex1040 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:56 am

Neat story Ken, And I like both signs!
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Post by Bill Cahill on Tue Jan 15, 2013 9:42 am

Though much simpler, I wish I had the sign my old boss had. It was a table top sign with a light, and, a clock, both electric. The sign said in old script, "Use only Genuine RCA Victor Radio and Television Tubes." .........
It showed two of the 40's, early 50's style tubes,And theeir old circle with the RCA and, lightning bolt under the letters.
That was a neat sign.
It was in a simple grey painted square open back case. Not real large, as it was meant for a shelf, or, counter top. Used a 115 Volt lamp bulb.
It lit up mostly the ad, and, somewhat the clock face.
It was neat. He kept it when he went out of business in 1979....
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Post by ve1arn on Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:49 pm

I have often thought about trying to make one of these older signs like in this thread. More like the one you mentioned Bill, a counter top one, since my space in the man cave is limited.

I would use more up to date technology in doing it since the electronics would not be visible.
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Post by Guest on Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:37 pm

I've seen a few newly made lighted wall panels and clocks up on Ebay.

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Post by willy3486 on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:34 am

I agree, good story Ken.. I love to hear these stories. One time when I was just out of tech school this guy wanted me to buy his tools. I paid so much and he would give me a piece until I paid him what he wanted. The scope went out and he told me not to worry about the last amount. Anyway we were cleaning out his storage building and he found his sons pot stash from HS. He picked it up ,said a few choice words and slung it across the room.

Hey Bill post on somewhere like Craigslist you want one. Thats how I found this one. I had been looking for one for about a year. It was more than I wanted to pay but I had a little extra cash and my wife said go for it. I am glad I did because someone else had asked about it. I really wanted this one over others but when I found out that similar in age in my area were going for over 3 times what I paid for this one I got it.

As far as making one if anyone does post it. I would like to see it. I plan on making a few myself. Maybe one of the old "on air " signs and a radio station ID sign. Years ago I stopped at a sign company and bought some plastic sign scraps. I needed some to make some pieces to my jukebox. While I was there since I was interested in the signs they showed me how they made them. They used a specially made plastic that would form easily. They had a wooden form table that had a vacuum on it to suction it to the form. To make the letters and such they painted it from the inside. They started with the darker colors and worked their way to white.

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Post by Bill Cahill on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:55 am

Hey, that sounds neat. You ought to post one on the subject with detailed pictures.
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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:24 am

I have a friend in Richmond who trades in Coca Cola and Gasoline signs. I'm going to check with him and see if he has any radio/TV signs. I guess I'm getting the bug from this thread!

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Post by mikehall on Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:43 pm

Beautiful signs!!

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Post by willy3486 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:07 pm

Thanks, Mike you missed getting the sign. The guy I got it from got it from Seiverville in East TN. He was a vendor at a car show swap meet. He trades in car parts and signs. The vendor next to him had it and wanted a sign he had so they swapped.

As far as signs goes everyone keep Bill in mind if you see the clock sign he described. I looked for a year for one so lets see if we can help a fellow member find one.

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