How to Restore a Vintage Console Stereo
By Erin Moseley
Updated September 28, 2017
Items you will need
Stereo or components
Radio or components
Wire cutters & crimpers
Vintage console stereos are all-in-one home entertainment units from the 1960s. They comprise an external wooden cabinet that typically has an opening on top to access a stereo turntable, and a radio, usually a combination AM-FM type. Cabinet space is also provided in many models for a small record collection. Restoration of one of these units depends on how true to the original form you want to get. You might find whole or replacement parts that require some assembly experience. But in general, refurbishing the cabinet exterior, replacing non-functioning parts and upgrading electrical wiring can restore your vintage console stereo to its original state.
Inspect the exterior cabinet to see how extensive the wood damage may be. If it’s in good shape without dents and marks, you may be able to simply apply a good polish and buff it. If the exterior is not in good condition, use wood putty to fill existing gouges and small dents before you sand and stain it. Replace veneers with similar wood veneers if damage is extensive. Check the condition of metal footings and sand them lightly, then buff to a semi-shine.
Check out the condition of the stereo turntable and see if the radio works. If your cabinet is empty, you’ll need to replace all the equipment. Or, you may discover that everything works and you only need a new needle for your record player. Look to vintage stereo suppliers in your area, or check out online sources like eBay, Craigslist or Vintage Stereo Equipment to look for stereos, radios or components that you can assemble and install yourself. Hire out help if needed.
Replace any electrical wiring, including the power cord. An appliance that is decades old could be in great condition if it was stored properly, but chances are the wires will be brittle and frayed. Even if the equipment works and wires don’t look to be in poor shape, they could be very old. Purchase the necessary replacement electrical wiring components, such as wires, connectors and cords. You will need to replace each one, so take samples along with you if you aren’t sure what to get.
Erin Moseley is an advocate for science education. Since 1985, she has written numerous technical, user and training manuals for major corporations, public agencies and universities. She holds a Bachelor of Science in geology.