1950 RCA TC166 16" Restoration

My 3rd restoration was a 1950 RCA TC166 16 inch console with the model KCS40A chassis.  The set is not particularly rare or valuable.  I bought it from a party in the Chicago area from an ebay auction.   This was the first RCA TV set that I acquired. 

This set uses the 16GP4 16 inch round metal picture tube.



Inside the set I found the original RCA factory quality control tag dated April 27, 1950 with rubber stamps indicating that the chassis had passed all the various tests that were performed before the chassis was released from production. 

Overall condition of the set was about average for it’s age.  The top needed to be stripped and refinished but the rest of the cabinet was fairly nice.  I stripped and sanded the top.  Then I did some blending of the stain.  I followed the stain with 2 coats of 2 pound cut shellac and then a light sanding.  The final finish was 6 coats of automotive acrylic lacquer, which were wet sanded between coats with 400 wet sand paper.  Then I applied 2 coats of the same lacquer to the entire cabinet body so the overall finish would be the same.

The speaker grill cloth was completely rotted and needed to be replaced.  Correct, exact original television speaker grill cloth is not easy to find.  Often the original grill cloth had metallic threads.  This kind of material is no longer available.  I needed something fairly neutral that would blend with the mahogany stain of the set.  After some searching I located a store in town that has thousands of upholstery samples in sample books.  After about two of hours looking through the samples, I chose a plain brown fabric that would complement the color of the mahogany cabinet, but without a pattern so as not to clash with the geometry of the wood lattice of the speaker grill.

Chassis restoration was very straight forward.  The original 16GP4 picture tube tested very good.  Small tubes were tested and replaced as needed from my inventory of vacuum tubes. I made a list of all the capacitors that were needed from the Sams Photofact schematic.  When the new capacitors arrived I changed all the old wax paper capacitors with new Metalized Polypropylene Film and Metalized Polyester Film capacitors rated at 630 WVDC (working volts DC), and also re-stuffed all the electrolytic aluminum can capacitors.

Being my first RCA restoration I had a chance to compare this set to the quality of construction on the Zenith Porthole and the Hallicrafters 820 sets.  I have to tell you that the quality built into this RCA chassis is head and shoulders above the first two sets I restored.  In future years I would be able to compare the quality of the RCA sets to many other brands, and there were very few that were able to equal the quality built into the RCA chassis.  It is hard to describe the specific things that made RCA sets better, but suffice it to say that RCA did not skimp on things.  They always used a power transformer, where cheaper sets did not. Picture tube bezels were always an injection molded heavy duty plastic, where many sets had cheap vacuum formed bezels.  All the small electronic parts were best available quality.  Unfortunately, in my earlier restorations, I had no idea that someday I would be creating this web site and so, I didn’t take a lot of photos, and especially I did not have photos of the chassis restorations on all my projects.  So for this set the best I can do is some after photos of the restored chassis installed in the newly refinished cabinet.

After the chassis was restored, I powered the set up on my variac, and made a few adjustments.  Pretty soon I was rewarded with a very nice picture.  I was impressed with the quality of the picture on this set.  The focus was very sharp.  The video was extremely clear and well defined with excellent resolution, and the sound was quite good.

I can truthfully say that RCA was a cut above most and certainly equal to brands that were much more highly touted.

Here are some more photos of the completed restoration.  The live screen shots were taken in my workshop which is brightly lit with large fluorescent lights and so the picture looks washed out.  In a normally lit room the picture is excellent and has good brightness and contrast.