On this page are items of news dating from the first launch of this site in March 2010, up to around a year ago, most recent first. These now include items relating to Gilbert Davey's death in April 2011.
19 April 2017
Another electronics career
launched by a Davey book
"John" (no surname) wrote enquiring if I could help him identify a radio
construction book his mother had borrowed from the local library for him
in 1961 when he was a nine-year-old ill in bed. He could not remember
the title, but described pretty well the sequence of projects that identified
it as almost certainly one of the early editions of Fun with Radio.
This book, by whoever wrote it, launched my interest in radio and electronic engineering - later to become my professional career spanning almost 50 years, and I would dearly love to read it again after all those years.
I wrote back giving him some details that might help him pin it down. John replied:
Many thanks for taking the time in giving such a considerate and detailed reply to my email. Based on what you have given, I will research further and get back to you.
Out of interest - we are probably a unique age of engineers that started our careers in the demise of the valve, and witnessed the very rapid growth in technology from the early "alloyed" semiconductor era!!
In 1969, I was fortunate enough to start work as a trainee engineer at Newmarket Transistors (NKT), where the last germanium alloy junction transistors were still being manufactured. I was initialy employed as test engineer for the "PC line" which manufactured small 250mW + complementary Class B audio amplifier modules, using these germanium transistors. I also worked in the new silicon diffusion labs, where we made (or tried to make!) BC108's and a few other popular silicon transistors. NKT's real speciality was making thick flim "micro circuits" (a bit of a joke in today's perspective!). In thick film I worked on some of the designs for TV circuits comms filters, Linear Audio amps and strain gauges for the development of the Rolls Royce R2-B11 jet engine.
NKT was a brilliant place to have served an apprentiship, because of the very wide diversity of technologies, all encompassed under one roof. Much of the test equipment used in production was built in-house, and was being switched from valve to semiconductor technology. When you are churning out literally thousands of transistors per week, this had to be done with in-house designed special equipment as there were no off-the-shelf solutions available. NKT also had a team of highly skilled mechanical engineers and a full workshop where they designed and built wire bonding machines and other dedicated mass production equipment - some very clever people worked at NKT. I worked with Ted Towers (T D Towers MBE) of the Semiconductor equivalents books and a good few others who were very talented, but we never hear of them!
I left NKT in 1973, having attended day realease and night school. Then, independently financed by evening work and under the old "education grant system", I took an HND in electrical and electronic engineering at Cambridge Tech and then went on to finally sit the IEE entrance examinations to gain my degree in engineering.
After some five years as a computer maintenance and design engineer working alongside Cambridge University's Computer Labs, I have worked for myself since 1983 as a consultant design engineer, contracting to many very diverse types of companies from large internationals to small one man-ers!. 7NBSP; I now design and manufacture my own products.
What a great career John has had - Gilbert Davey would have been delighted to hear his story! I wrote back asking John to let me know if he reached a conclusion about the book. He soon replied saying that he was fairly sure that the book must have been Fun with Radio, based on my confirmation of its sequence of circuit designs. His only doubt was the title, as he doesn't recall the "Fun with . . .", but then it was a long time ago! He also said that our interchange had sparked off another enquiry:
Re Robert Barnard Way [the prolific book illustrator who drew the diagrams for the first edition of Fun with Radio]: When I was young, we had family friends of the name of Way; the father was named Robert, so I am wondering if the Robert Way I knew is possibly the son of Robert Barnard Way (or perhaps of a brother). I have contacted his granddaughter via the blog site you have given on your own website. We lost contact with the Way family we knew a long time ago - it would be interesting if they are connected to the famous RBW!
I hope John finds a copy of Fun with Radio, and I will be very interested to hear whether he can prove the connection with Robert Barnard Way - see http://bearalley.blogspot.com/2008/10/r-barnard-way.html.
31 December 2016:
An "interim" update
However, I have found time to build a new Davey set. Some time ago, Hugh Castellan, several of whose Davey sets feature on this site, very kindly made for me a beautiful long- and medium-wave Davey-designed coil. (Please see the CONSTRUCTION RESOURCES page for the download with instructions for making this coil.) To do justice to this much-appreciated gift, I have built my own version of the Davey 1-valver as first published in Boy's Own Paper in June 1961.
This design proudly displays the coil and valve on top of the chassis, which has flanges deep enough to serve as front and rear panels. So all wiring can be concealed under the chassis. My chassis is of folded aluminium sheet for the top and sides, with front and rear panels of 3mm Tufnol. The 3-position rotary switch combines wavechange with a central "off" position.
I have added an image of this set to the BEGINNER'S 1-VALVER page; you can compare my set with the title illustration also shown.
26 December 2016:
American Radio History site
The American Radio History site
is a great resource for British radio enthusiasts as well as for Americans. There are
sections carrying scans of issues of several British radio publications including Amateur
Wireless, Modern Wireless, Popular Wireless, Practical Wireless, Radio Constructor and
Wireless World. This page
leads to scans of books by several well-known British authors, including some of Davey's books, listed
under "Gilbert Davy" (sic), and also to a scan of the BBC's own copy of the Focus transistor
set leaflet (incomplete - the entire leaflet is available on this site with the permission of the BBC
and other rights-holders).
Much of the material on the American Radio History site must still be in copyright (the BBC leaflet certainly is). If the site owner (David) has obtained reproduction permission for those of his claimed five million pages still in copyright, this represents a considerable achievement.
21 June 2015:
Radio Moscoow on a crystal set,
a Davey short-waver,
and Morse over the Internet
"Gerry", from Portsmouth, writes:
Hi Les, Came across your site about Gilbert Davey, when looking at pics of Morse Keys, as I was trying to find out some history of a couple of keys I have renovated recently. My father got me interested in radio as a boy of about 8 or 9 when he bought me an IVALEK crystal set (white plastic body looking like a radio) and fitted a shelf above my head, so I could listen in bed before going to sleep - many a night I listened to Radio Moscow, and classical music . . . magic!
At the age of 15 I joined the Navy and became a radio operator, and left in 1972, at 27 years old. I could have applied for my ham licence on leaving the Navy, but wasn`t that interested as I did not know where I was going to live, nor did I have any money to buy the equipment needed. However, I have always had an interest in Morse and Morse keys, as my father gave me a Baumuster T1 key when I passed my final exams before going to sea.  , I loaned that to a "mate" who never returned it . . .
So I had only a minor interest in radio, until a friend got me interested in renovating old Bush TVs, whereupon my interest was re-kindled. I found Fun with Radio in a local library, and copied out the Three Valve TRF circuit and components list, then spent the next few weeks making it. I had never made a valve radio before, only crystal sets and adding transistor amplifiers. Then I would have been about 35 years old.
I also made a power supply, and made my own slow motion drive pulley and system, to have a long linear tuning scale, similar to my Eddystone 750. I calibrated the scale using the 2.5, 5.0 and 10.0 time signals, and also had my Eddystone 750 to give me the true frequencies where the ham bands started and finished, and also other stations of note.
I used to plug in Denco coils to do the band changing, and it covered the medium wave and all frequencies right up to 30MHz. I had four sets of coils, and therefore four "tracks" on my tuning scale.
The radio worked very well on 66 feet of bell wire, strung out in the garden about 20 feet above ground. Sometimes it out-performed the Eddystone 750, pulling in some signals which were just in the noise on the Eddy . . .
One refinement to the circuitry was suggested to me by a radio ham I went to for some advice, as I could not get it to oscillate properly. He suggested using a 100k pot for the regeneration.
Unfortunately, I do not have the radio with me any more, having moved about 30 times in the past 35 years, and living on a narrowboat for a couple of years too. But it was a pleasure to build and get working. Your site brought back many memories.
I have a blogsite http://nemosphotography.blogspot.co.uk/ on which I tell tales about my morse key renovations. TYhere you can see that I managed to find a Baumuster T1 key on ebay - so pleased! Hope that this has been of interest. Regards, Gerry (Portsmouth, UK).
Thank you very much for your message, Gerry - I'm glad you have enjoyed visiting my site. Getting Radio Moscow on a crystal radio sounds quite a feat! As you say, there was "magic" in listening in with headphones to whatever the set plucked out of the air, and no batteries!
Your 3-valve TRF set sounds impressive. It's a pity you don't still have it, but maybe you could build it again . . . coils might take a while to find, though. (I take it that this is the one from Chapter 8 of Fun with Short Wave Radio, 1968 edition.) If you do build it again, let me know!
I thoroughly recommend a visit to Gerry's blog, (link above). It's interesting to see on Gerry's videos how the hand is used on the key, and it's always a pleasure to follow a write-up of a satisfying job such as his Morse key restorations.
Update May 2018: CWCOM is a "chat" program using Morse over the internet. For more information and download links, please visit Gerry's other blog at: https://morsepower.blogspot.co.uk/p/blog-page.html
26 April 2015:
90 volts across the filament!
Hi, I have enjoyed visiting your Gilbert Davey website and experiencing the nostalgia. I
used to get the Fun With Radio books from the Library back in 1968, and I built the
one-valve radio. A mistake put 90 volts on the heater of the valve and I never did get that
receiver working. However I went on to have more success with transistor circuits and it
wasn’t until 1977 that I tried again with a one-valve set, this time with a successful result.
About five years age I developed an interest in low voltage valve circuits and built a "2-valve" shortwave set using an ECC88 (double triode) valve, and with just 12 volts HT - the receiver performs very well indeed. It is a standard circuit that all valve enthusiasts will relate to, but I optimised the R & C values for low voltage. It has the advantage of using a potentiometer for reaction, and works well with 5 metres of aerial wire. The valve lights up with a brighter glow than with the 1.5 volt battery valves; it always produces a good feeling when you can see the fire in its belly! Best wishes, Geoff Gardner, G4ZEN.
I am glad you have enjoyed visiting the site, Geoff! I'm also glad that you eventually had success with a one-valver after the initial disaster. I’m with you in liking to see a nice bright heater (or filament) – but yes – 90 volts was too much!
Geoff sent a photo of his very well-made prototype, in which a home-made coil covers about 5 - 14Mhz. Geoff said that he was in the process of rebuilding the set in the style of the well-known H.A.C (Heard All Continents) receiver, where he intends to use Denco plug-in coils. He sent me the circuit diagram, which shows the reaction control (25kΩ pot) in series with the load resistor for the first anode. I suggested to Geoff that he should publish his details on the UK Vintage Radio Repair and Restoration Discussion Forum, where I was sure the design would elicit interest. Geoff also sent a picture of a beautifully-made crystal set that he built some years ago, inspired by an exhibit to the Occupation Museum in Guernsey.
11 March 2015:
Comments received about
my Focus set
Hello Les, I just had a quick look at your Focus Transistor Radio. Beautiful! You have
done a lovely job and I’m looking forward to checking out the whole site again. Kind regards,
Thanks Dan - good to hear from you again. Dan is still active as a constructor - I look forward to hearing about his next Davey project.
Dear Les, I just love the article about your Focus set. I don’t remember this one, but it looks as though you have had great fun with this, and the case design is truly inspirational. I nominate it for a Design Centre award (possibly just a few years too late!!). It all just brings back so many memories of the excitement of building projects when the first transistors become readily available. The mention of 50-foot aerials also reminds me of my first "masterpiece" – a one-transistor set all housed within a thimble – but unfortunately it still needed an aerial from the bedroom window down the full length of the back garden to get the Home Service. Great days. Thank you again for the memories. David Mercer.
Thanks for your kind words, and for the Design Award, David!
Graeme Zimmer, another of my Australian correspondents, wrote to comment about the Focus set's lack of selectivity:
I was wondering about the tap feeding the base. Your circuit implies that the tap is closer to the top end of the coil. Perhaps tipping the coil upside down would match the base's low impedance better. I'm not sure however if the LW section can be rewired to suit. Alternatively a few turns of wire around the coil might suffice as a coupling coil. It always strikes me as odd how these circuits so often have a diode in series with a capacitor. It's something which would be a no-no with today's diodes. Of course the high level of leakage current around the germaniun diode makes this possible.
This set is almost identical to one I built as a youngster. Of course living in Australia, I couldn't dream of buying the British coils, so had to improvise. Anyway thanks again, Zim.
Thanks for the ideas about the coil etc, Zim! Repanco's own diagrams for the DRR2 coil show the tapping as being near the "top", so I guess it must be (you can't tell from looking, but resistance tests would do it). It would be possible to transpose its two end connections and thus, presumably, bring the tapping towards the end that's joined to the LW winding.
With your idea of the coupling coil, I take you to mean that this added coil would be led to the transistor base (other end grounded). Arising from that idea, I suppose it might be worth trying the reaction winding (used as the aerial coil in Gilbert's Focus design) as this coupling coil.
Regarding the diode - yes - the one I used is years old, and was the best performer when I tried the front end as purely a crystal receiver. I'm not sure whether this necessarily means that it's the best performer in the Focus circuit, though. (Here's where my shaky grasp on theory gives up.)
I guess that being unable to buy coils was good for you - we were spoilt for choice over here!
My thanks to Graeme for these ideas, and for other expressions of appreciation from Alan Giles and John Pugh.
10 March 2015:
Gilbert Davey's pre-war
downloads of selected articles
Among Davey's Army records, recently returned to his daughter, is a list believed to have been typed by him as part of the formalities for enlistment in the Royal Signals. This has led me to over thirty articles for Practical Wireless and other journals, giving me a huge head-start in rediscovering his pre-war writing. (Image courtesy Claire Davey; reproduced by kind permission.)
There is seemingly an error - either in date or journal title - in the last three entries on the list. These three articles have not yet been traced.
Two articles that Davey did not list have so far been found. I am sure that this list is not exhaustive and that there are more to be discovered. Much thus remains to be done!
The vast majority of the articles consist of hints and tips for short-wave listening, including a 13-part series for Practical Wireless in 1935. However there are several designs for complete sets for both short-wave and broadcast-band use. The articles confirm that Davey was a keen short-wave listener and, by his early twenties, a seasoned experimenter.
Everything found so far is now listed on a new page: Pre-War Writing. This page will be expanded as my research continues and new material becomes available.
And with the kind permission and help of PW Publishing Ltd, current publishers of Practical Wireless, a selection of Davey's pre-war articles is available for download from that page. Enjoy!
10 March 2015:
My Focus Transistor Set
As the set is simply a crystal receiver with transistor amplification, I was not expecting it to have selectivity comparable with the earlier one-valver-with-reaction Studio ‘E’ set, and this indeed proved to be the case. I also had trouble with clipping in the amplifier, which I modified in accordance with another Davey design.
In spite of these difficulties, the set was fun to make, is perfectly usable, and has whetted my appetite to try a more advanced Davey transistor design. Read more on the new page, My Focus Set.
12 December 2014
UK Vintage Radio
Repair and Restoration
On 3 December, "Bactoreality", a member of the
UK Vintage Radio Repair and Restoration Discussion Forum
posted that he had acquired an ex-library copy of Fun with Short Wave Radio from which
pages 1-12 had been removed. Another Forum member, "Rupert", offered to send him scans of
the missing pages. A third Forum member, "David G4EBT" was prompted to post this kind testimonial:
Many forum members may know of an excellent website created by Les Franklin,
devoted to Gilbert Davey’s life and his radio sets entitled ‘Remembering Gilbert Davey’s Radio Sets’
but for anyone who doesn’t, it’s well worth a browse. This in turn reminded "Phil G4SPZ"
that he still had the remains of his BOP Ether Ranger" (progressive design for short-wave
receiver) in his shack.
I read this thread a few days later (I am also a Forum member (handle: "bileaflet_valve"). I posted to thank "David" for his kind comments, and to tell him that the next update should be of interest to short-wavers. As there are three editions of Fun with Short Wave Radio, I posted distinguishing details to help "Backtoreality" identify the edition he had. I invited "Phil" to send me pictures of his Ether Ranger for inclusion on this site, whatever state it was in!
The scans sent to "Backtoreality" proved to be from the correct (1979) edition, so he will be able to repair his copy. "Phil" replied that his Ether Ranger was now little more than a kit of parts. . . . but when it's eventually rebuilt I'll be delighted to send you a picture. I've bookmarked your excellent website in readiness!
"David" kindly posted again: I hadn't realised that you were a forum member Les, so I'm pleased that you saw my comments. The website is a real "labour of love" and must have taken you many hours to set up and maintain, not to mention all the research, responding to emails from people who contact you from the site, and . . . copyright issues.
Thanks once again to "David", and I look forward to hearing from "Phil" in due course about his Ether Ranger. Meanwhile, I take this opportunity to remind visitors of this excellent Forum, among the very best on the Internet, which constantly has something to inform, educate and entertain radio enthusiasts of all flavours.
28 November 2014
An impressive "to do" list
Following on from his Davey short-waver (see YOUR DAVEY SETS), my
correspondent Dan Bedford in Queensland, Australia, tells me that having fully retired now,
he is getting back into radio building. He says:
Three crystal sets have materialized in the last month or two, and numerous sets are in the pipeline - see attached “to do” list. I may have to go back to work for a rest! Regards, Dan.
Dan's "to do" list includes five receivers from Radio for the Millions (Popular Science Publishing Company Inc), a crystal set from the Boy's Book of Crystal Sets (W J May, Bernards Radio Manuals), a 2-valve Reinartz receiver from the AWA Year Book 1926 (I think that's Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd), and several more. He certainly hasn't time to go back to work, and I look forward to hearing about these sets!
24 May 2014
A Stateside one-valver
Dave from Dallas, Texas, writes:
Hi Les, Your web site has provided me with hours of fascinating reading over the past few months - many thanks. So much so, I am going to try and build the one-valver. [This is the one from June 1961 BOP - see the Davey coil download on the CONSTRUCTION RESOURCES page. Dave raised a query over the construction of the coil, which I think we sorted out, as he has tried it out in a crystal receiver.] My wife remembers the Studio ‘E’ programmes; her father was a physicist at the National Hospital, and supervised the family kids making the radio! She also remembers that he kept the accumulators for his transmitter under her bed! Regards, Dave.
Thanks for your kind words, Dave, and good luck with the one-valver. Please do let me know how you get on. If your wife has more details about the Studio ‘E’ radio her father supervised, I’d be glad to hear more about it!
4 April 2014
Some errors corrected
Hugh Castellan pointed out errors in the transistor design as published in the April
1961 Boys Own Paper, and in the one-valver design in the June 1961 BOP.
I spotted another error in the one-valver. This features in the download
for the 2" long/medium wave coil (see CONSTRUCTION RESOURCES).
This has been revised, and a note has been added to the relevant entry in
The Boy's Own Paper page.
Minor changes and corrections have been made to most pages for this update.
22 March 2014:
A splendid Shortwave Two-valver
from Down Under
My correspondent Dan Bedford, from Queensland, Australia, told me he intended
to build a Davey one-valver (see November 2013 update). Well, he's gone
one better - he's built a two-valver instead! It is based on Chapter 4 of
Fun with Short Waves, 1st edition, 1960. Dan writes:
It was this book, more than anything else, that set me off on a path of no
return in radio and electronics. It took me from the world of crystal
sets into the wonderful world of valve radios.
Dan's set is intended to be as faithful as possible to Gilbert Davey's 1960 design. He has used mostly British components, but didn't have the Osmor coils specified by Davey. So he has used some slightly later Denco coils. Dan also made replica high- and low-tension batteries for his set, carefully distressed to give them that 1960s look!
In December 2013, the set was entered in the Two Valve Device Competition held by the Historical Wireless Society of South East Queensland, his local club. Dan was awarded joint First Prize with the only other entrant!
You will find pictures of Dan's set, a circuit diagram, and details of some teething problems that he had to solve, on the YOUR DAVEY SETS page.
22 March 2014:
BBC Focus transistor set -
leaflet download now complete.
Until recently I have had to withold one of the four pages of this leaflet
for rights reasons. The download has always carried the entire Davey
design, but I had to exclude the last page, containing some advertisements of
great period appeal, because the BBC was uncertain of its rights to a cartoon on
that page. Following a contact from a site visitor in January, this issue
has now been resolved, and I am pleased to be able to include the entire
leaflet in the download. See
The Focus Transistor Set
I'm sure you'll enjoy the fourth page!
22 March 2014:
Two more stories by
those who built the
Focus transistor set
Two correspondents have recently sent their stories about the BBC Focus
two-transistor set. One constructor's pride at first-time success was
spoiled somewhat by a well-to-do schoolfellow showing off his powerful 6-transistor
commercially-made set - but it spurred him on to build a sinilar set from a kit!
For the other, the Focus set was the first step on a lifetime
career in radio - a story that Gilbert Davey would surely have been delighted to
hear. Both these stories have been added to the
The Focus Transistor Set page.
22 March 2014:
A constructor recalls
how a friend taught him
to troubleshoot his
Hi Les, What a great web site. Oh yes, I was a devotee of the
legendary Gilbert Davey - what a man! I actually have the Boys Own
Companion No 4, and it currently languishes on my "Technical" book shelf
in my Amateur Radio shack. I built it [I presume you mean the
one-valver in the Companion], but it didn't work
first time. A family friend, an electronics/Radar tech working on the
SRN series of hovercraft visited, and with his mentoring (he didn't actually
fix it) showed me a different approach to problem solving. I got the
beast up and running. Worthy of note is that the valve could also be a
6C4. I also have Fun With Shortwave Radio, the edition whose
cover shows a picture of the then London Science Museum's Demonstration GB2SM
(complete with a Creed 7B teletype). I came full-circle when years
later I was invited, by Geoff Voller - G3JUL - to become a GB2SM volunteer
demonstrator (I was G0JJQ back then). I always wanted to meet Gilbert
Davey, to get him to sign my stuff but alas that was not to be. I
can't tell you what happy memories your wonderful site has brought flooding
back, just marvellous. God Bless and keep up the good work.
Thanks for your message and your kind words, Wayne. Glad you have enjoyed the site! How wise your family friend was to get you into the way of fixing the set yourself rather than just fixing it for you!
22 March 2014
since November update
The discussion about the meaning of the districts listed on the back of the
21 October 1957 Studio ‘E’ script - see
The Studio ‘E’ Scripts
sparked off some memories for my correspondent Hugh Castellan. He says:
First in the list of towns given, I see Eastbourne. When I was a schoolboy I went to Eastbourne College. I had a friend called Frank Mitchell, who later became an Air Vice Marshal. Although a boarder like me, he knew Eastbourne very well as he lived with his aunt there in the holidays. We were talking about radio parts one day, and he said "Oh, you should go to Jacksons Radio in Terminus Place". So as it was a Sunday we went and sneaked a look at it. (I should explain that everything east of Terminus Road was out of bounds, and you had to get a chit from your Housemaster to go there.) Jacksons Radio was a boys' delight - stuffed to the roof with radio gear such that you could hardly get in the door. Mr Jackson was a middle-aged man at the time, and always seemed to be in the shop on his own when I went there. He was probably ex-Forces like a lot of men at that time. So that's where we all went in time of need. The shop and the road are gone now, redeveloped.
I don’t think that emporium has been mentioned by my other correspondents, although I’m sure I’ve heard the name before. It sounds like a great place!
Adrian Hindle-Briscall wrote to suggest Bentley Acoustic Corporation as a contender for London NW1 - it has duly been entered in the above list. He went on to recall how he was given a one-valve kit as a boy in the early 60s.
I was only about seven, and we had to get a friend to construct it. My parents had thought twice about the expensive high-voltage battery in addition to the kit which cost about 30 shillings (£1.50), but when we got it and found we needed high-impedance headphones as well this was an expense too much. I don't know what happened to it, but it was never used.
I replied saying that it was a shame that the one-valver was never used, and that surely a pair of high-impedance headphones could be picked up quite cheaply back then. Adrian replied:
Yes, I'm sure I got some high-impedance headphones from Lisle Street a few years later, though the low-imp ones were much easier/cheaper to pick up I think. I did take it up as a hobby, but I have no memory of having that set at any time after I was given it - I think you blot out those disappointments! I suspect it was also the 90v battery that was the sticking point, also expensive and probably not available at surplus prices. I might have asked for those things as a later birthday or Christmas present, but perhaps I was keener on something else. Most valves I had would have been audio ones as I got interested in old 78 records which became my big hobby interest.
I am glad Adrian got over this trauna and pursued the hobby in a slightly different form later
1 November 2013:
Two new downloads for
long-lost Davey designs -
the Holiday Radio and the
Simple Three-valve Set
Hugh's reconstruction of these sets, which he first built as a boy, are based on a combination of memory, experience, research and initial help from Gilbert Davey himself some years ago. These rebuilds amount to no less than a rescue from oblivion.
Hugh Castellan and I are pleased that we have been able to make the new downloads available during Davey's birth centenary year, and that they allow these long-lost designs to be enjoyed by enthusiasts once again. By kind permission of Lutterworth Press, both downloads include the original BOP articles alongside Hugh's circuits and components lists.
For both downloads, see YOUR DAVEY SETS page. Please read the copyright and usage notes on that page, and the copyright notice on the WELCOME page.
1 November 2013
A letter signed by
Dear Les, Your Gilbert Davey site has brought some wonderful childhood memories
flooding back. Brilliant, thank you. You might just like this letter
(attached) that I received from (or at least on behalf of) Gilbert Davey in 1957.
You can imagine the intense disappointment of an 11-year-old at being told that all the Studio ‘E’ one-valve leaflets had gone, but it was tempered by equal excitement at receiving a letter from the great man! I did get Fun with Radio as a present and made a few of the sets with varying degrees of success. I really wanted to make the Cycle Radio just to show off, but could never afford the bits. We had a wonderful radio shop in Southall, Middlesex, called ‘Gurneys’, selling components. I must have spent hours looking in the window at various bits and pieces and lusting over things like AVO multimeters, even though I probably had no idea what they did! Fun with Radio inspired a lifetime’s love of bits of wire and soldering irons, although I never managed to keep up with electronics generally. The book sadly disappeared a few years back, but the letter survived (just). I’d be really quite chuffed to see it on the site! All the best, and thanks again for a really interesting site. David Mercer.
Thank you, David, for your message, for your kind words, and for the image of the letter from Gilbert Davey. Well done for preserving the letter all these years! I have added the letter to The Studio ‘E’ Leaflet page. The supply of leaflets had clearly run out quite quickly after the series finished. Another print run was evidently out of the question, and no photocopiers then! It must have sweetened the pill of disappointment to receive a signed letter, though. David also wrote:
Unfortunately, none of the Davey radios I built have survived, although I still have my white Bakelite “Ivalek” crystal set. I remember getting into terrible trouble running about 100ft of aerial wire out of the bedroom window down to a neighbour’s tree at the bottom of the garden. Even then it only got the Home Service! I decided I could cram the same bits into a thimble from Mum’s sewing box, using a fixed capacitor, and that worked just as well. Eat your heart out, Clive Sinclair! (Oh, still have one of his Micromatic sets, by the way).
If David ever decides to get a grip on the soldering iron again and build some Davey set afresh, I hope he'll let me know.
1 November 2013
BOP listings now complete
A note from Hugh Castellan has enabled me to fill the two remaining gaps (February
and March 1964) in The Boy's Own Paper
page that lists Davey's articles. Hugh has checked his copies of two of the
editions missing from the British Library's collection. My thanks to him for this.
1 November 2013
The Studio ‘E’ sripts:
an intriguing theory
The back page of Davey's 21 October Studio ‘E’ script has a handwritten
list of districts. My guess was that these were perhaps musings in connection with
some aspect of his insurance work. Two correspondents (Alan Giles and Doug Brown)
have suggested that the locations match up with component supply businesses advertising
in the radio press at the time. Doug Brown kindly took time at the British Library
to research this for me. (During this exercise, he discovered that the Library's
copies of Practical Wireless are formerly from the Patent Office Library, and are
bound together without their covers or advertising - sacrilege!!) So he consulted
copies of Wireless World, and came up with results that you can now see on
The Studio ‘E’ Scripts page. It's
a compelling theory. But I must admit to doubts: the BBC was then - and still is - very
careful about advertising; perhaps the suppliers in these places had undertaken to stock
the parts, and the hints were given to assist viewers having difficulty buying them.
Judge for yourself!
Doug Brown has also kindly pursued another niggling query. Copies of Davey's books are often seen listed on booksellers’ web sites, ostensibly published by Sportshelf & Soccer Associates, New Rochelle, New York State, USA. Doug's findings show that Sportshelf & Soccer Associates was an importer of many English-language books for the USA market - many years after publication in some cases - and distributed them with their own stamp on the title-page.
1 November 2013
since March update
Hello Les, I have just been scouring the web looking for an image of the book
Fun with Short Waves by Gilbert Davey, and I came across your site. How
pleased I was to see what you have done. It was the above book, which I seem
to have pilfered from the school library in the early sixties, that set me off on a
lifelong career in radio and electronics. Prior to this I was heavily into
crystal sets, and the book set me off on a new path of 1T4’s, Denco coils and Jackson
I am about to go to the USA to deliver a presentation at the Antique Wireless Association’s Annual Convention, and I wanted to emphasise the fun aspect of radio by including an image of the two books that did it for me. I have misplaced my copy of Fun with Short Waves - probably retribution for my past sin! Do you by any chance have an image of the front cover? Kind regards, Dan Bedford, Brisbane, Australia.
Glad you found my web site, Dan. I’d like to say I never pilfered any books from the school library – but I can’t! I wasn't able to help Dan with the image he wanted, but I wished him good luck with his presentation. I drew his attention to the UK Vintage Radio Repair and Restoration Forum, and asked him what direction his career had taken.
What a find! Finding your site and your reference to the UK Vintage Radio site has opened up yet another exciting prospect. . . . My radio interest led to an apprenticeship as a radio and tv technician. From there I ended up in a Nuclear Medicine Department, working on medical imaging equipment, then 15 years as the service department manager for a large pathology lab, servicing all the lab equipment. After that I started Labtronics and for the next twenty years serviced all manner of lab gear in all types of labs. I’m now retired and finally getting back to having, “Fun with Radio”! Kind regards, Dan.
Dan found his copy of Fun with Short Waves, and wrote again when he had returned from giving his well-received presentation in Rochester, New York State. He took with him a beautiful radio set made in tribute to the Amercan radio inventor and manufacturer Atwater Kent. He gave a presentation on the building of it, and the set itself won First Prize in its class at the Convention!
Dan is putting together his own Vintage Wireless site, and asked my permission to put a link on it to this site - of course I said Yes! I look forward to seeing his site when it goes live.
Dan also intends to recreate a one-valve set he built from Fun with Short Waves, so of course I also look forward to hearing how he gets on with this.
20 March 2013
A versatile Davey coil -
Boy's Own Paper article
available to download
This coil has aerial, medium-wave, long-wave and reaction windings. Like most homebrew coils, this is a bulky item at around 4 inches high and 2 3/4 inches diameter. But this genuine Davey design is a worthy substitute for the commercially-made coils (Teletron D/R, Repanco DRR2) he often specified, provided sufficient space can be found for it. And if made as well as the example pictured in the download, it will enhance any set! This one was kindly made for me by Hugh Castellan, whose own version of the Davey triode one-valver (see YOUR DAVEY SETS,) uses the same coil design.
20 March 2013
Other site additions
I have been able to fill in two further gaps in the
DAVEY SOURCE PAGES >. Purchase of a copy of the last
edition of Boy's Own Paper (February 1967 - missing from the British Library)
enabled me to check its contents and find that it contained nothing by Davey.
There remain just two gaps in the BOP listings.
A number of other minor changes and corrections have been made for this update.
20 March 2013
since October update
Hello Les, Thought I should let you know how much I enjoyed your articles
about Gilbert Davey and his radio sets. I well remember constructing
the Focus set when I was twelve years old and avidly following the advice
each week on television. My soldering iron was the type which had to be
heated in a gas flame and the solder was a large bar from which small droplets
of solder had to be melted onto the components to be connected! Needless
to say, the finished product was not very elegant but it worked very well.
Sadly I no longer have the set which I think was sacrificed to build something
bigger and better.
The cost of transistors seemed very high at the time; I was devastated when one of the legs broke off a transistor and I had to start saving more pocket money to buy a replacement! In old money a red spot transistor cost me 7s6d, which represented several weeks' pocket money! The risk of heat damage to germanium transistors whilst soldering was also considerable, and I remember using damp cloths, metal hair grips and pliers as thermal shunts.
I went on to make many of the Practical Wireless domestic and short wave receivers such as TRFs, super-regeneratives and finally superhets by authors such as F G Rayer who must have been a contemporary of Gilbert Davey.
Constructing the Focus was the start of a lifetime involvement in radio, both as a hobby and profession. I have recently retired after 45 very interesting years as an electronics/radio engineer working on military radio systems and antennas. I can't help thinking that this was largely due to Gilbert Davey's influence on an enthusiastic schoolboy! Even now, my main hobby in retirement is radios and antennas, but unfortunately I don't get paid for doing it!
Many thanks for the effort you have put into this very interesting website, which has enabled me to reminisce about my early years playing with radios. Best regards, Ray Collins.
Thanks for your memories, Ray, and for your kind words about the site. Have you thought of doing a rebuild of the Focus set? The coil is the biggest problem to find, but examples do come up on ebay from time to time. The leaflet download is ready and waiting here on the site – let me know if you do get round to a rebuild! I’m glad you’re still getting fun out of radio in your retirement.
In January, I was contacted by a gent who signed himself just "Walter", who very kindly sent me some details from his copy of the second edition of Fun with Radio, which I had not then been able to inspect. This information drew attention to an error in my listings for later editions, and the Author's Note threw interesting light on why Gilbert Davey reprieved the Cycle Radio - a design he considered outdated - for the second edition, having decided to cut it. I have recently been able to purchase my own copy of the second edition, and it is now covered fully on the Fun with Radio page. I am nonetheless extremely grateful to Walter for his time and trouble, and also for his reminiscences. I include a precis of our email exchange below.
Hi Les, I just found your website by accident. I have to tell you how interesting it is for me. I have two of the Davey books - Fun with Radio - I didn't know there were so many editions, and I didn't know about the BBC connection . . . It's really a great site which I shall visit regularly. Thanks, Walter.
I wrote back asking Walter which editions of Fun with Radio he had, and whether he had built, or planned to build, any of Gilbert Davey's designs. When he responded that one of the editions he had was the second, which I had not then seen, I asked him if he could let me have a note of the Contents list. Not only did he do this, but he sent me scans of the Author’s Note (referred to above), and of Chapter 14 (Transistors and Transistor Designs)! With these items, Walter wrote:
Les . . . Just looking at these circuits and articles, I am remembering how I was interested in radio back in 1959, when I started high school. I made my first crystal set with a design from The Boy Electrician by Morgan and Sims. I wound the coil around a square UHU glue tube box. [I used] the TV aerial and the washing machine earth. I experimented and experimented . . . and really had fun with radio - just as the master said!! My first active set was with an 1T4, the Repanco design, with the then ubiquitous DRR2 coil. I was totally unaware of GD's articles at the time - I suppose in those days a 10-year-old really was just 10 years old . . . My parents had Practical Wireless delivered to the house from May 1960 onward. W.
In thanking Walter for his help and his recollections, I pressed him for his full name which he had not given me, so that I could properly acknowledge that help on this page. He replied:
Les, Just noticed that the Focus transistor circuit (a crystal receiver with two stages of LF gain) looks very similar to the Chapter 14 circuit in Fun with Radio edition 2. I have often thought about relating the beginnings as I saw them . . . anyway, I'm pleased to have been of some help. My name - yes, the "D" is for Davey - no relation [to Gilbert (Walter) Davey]!! Best regs, Walter Davey.
As stated above, even though I have since obtained my own copy of the 2nd edition of Fun with Radio, I am deeply grateful to Walter for his kind help. And if he should decide to build a Davey design and tell me about it, it will certainly deserve a place on this site as a doubly genuine Davey set!
Les, Thanks so much for your wonderful site. I built the Studio ‘E’ radio in 1957 when I was ten years old. I didn't remember the name but for some strange reason the designation of the valve I used (DAF96) was in my mind recently, and some searching brought up your site.
From your nostalgia page it seems as if our experiences were remarkably similar. Like you and your father, I soldered the joints with a plumber's soldering iron (I got mine from from Woolworths) heated in our coke central heating boiler. My mother took me into Newcastle to buy the parts from the service counter of a radio shop. This was definitely a problem and I would have been much better with a kit of the "right" parts. My biggest problem was with the coil which had a completely different physical layout from the one specified, though it was electrically equivalent. The coil was wound on a green polythene spool and the terminals were straight wire pins sticking through a ring moulded at the top (quite unlike the specified part which had nice flat solder tags on a paxolin disc, if I remember correctly). With no previous experience in using an iron I made a real mess of the coil, which melted much more easily than the solder! I had plenty of dry joints elsewhere as well and I had particular difficulty with the battery plug. I used many similar plugs in later years without problems - of course, you just have to know how to do it!
Two other differences I remember among the parts I bought. My terminals, unlike those specified, were four separate beautiful brass screw terminals consisting of 4BA bolts with lovely knurled circular nuts. Also the three-ohs-five tuning condenser was an antique-looking air-spaced type with a ceramic and brass frame and brass fixed and moving blades. I can't think why because the reaction condenser looked exactly like the "official" one.
Needless to say "set now works" did not happen for me. My father took the mess into a local radio shop whose service engineer diagnosed and corrected all the problems and provided me with a list of what I'd done wrong. What a great learning experience, and it set me on a path to electrical- and then computer- engineering from which I've now retired. Thanks again for all your work in putting this stuff on line. Kevin Patfield, Port Angeles, Washington.
Thanks for your message, Kevin, and for your kind words. To build the set yourself at ten years old with no prior experience was a big undertaking! Was it one and the same radio shop that both supplied the parts and then diagnosed the faults, or two different shops? Although many viewers were successful, I often wonder what the failure rate was - today's TV "how to" projects seem much less demanding! I was lucky to have had my set built for me.
That's an excellent question! No it wasn't the same shop - that would have been an interesting scam! From what I can remember, I bought the components at the parts counter in the back of a large electrical store in Newcastle. My father had the radio diagnosed in an electrical repair shop in South Shields, much closer to home. I bet I could have got the parts there a lot better in the first place.
A couple of years later we did get quite a good electronic components shop in Sunderland called "The Red Radio Shop". That's where I used to buy my parts for transistor radios. I remember that an audio stage needed an OC71 driver and a matched pair of OC72s which cost over a pound each - quite a strain on my pocket money. Around that time I learned to buy mail order from Henry's Radio, Lasky's and the other advertisers in the back pages of Wireless World and Practical Wireless. I remember well going to London when I was about 14 and spending a whole day gawking in the shop windows in Tottenham Court Road and Edgware Road: we had nothing like that.
I'm sure you're right to wonder how many viewers were successful in building their radios. I'm sure that the essentials of soldering must have been covered very briefly during the programme, but there's nothing at all in the leaflet about techniques. Of course, dry joints and shorts between pins on the valveholders were the only things we had to cope with then. Later we had to learn to use heat shunts on transistor leads and then deal with CMOS ICs that would fail if you just looked at them funny!
What fun it was to build stuff in those days. There's no way you could build anything today for anywhere close to the price of an assembled unit. Kind regards, Kevin.
Thanks to Kevin, and to all who have contacted me since the last update.
27 October 2012
A Davey Studio ‘E’ prototype?
There is no reference to the image within the book, which contains the usual (inverted tray) version of the Beginner's One-Valver. Its inclusion on the dust jacket, along with other images of radio sets, was clearly just intended as an indication of the subject-matter.
I have added the image, in enlarged and enhanced form, to the top of The Studio ‘E’ Leaflet page, so that it can be compared with the leaflet's drawings. The resemblance to the drawings is so striking that it is tempting to think that this image is of either the prototype that served as the basis for the drawings, or possibly the set that Gilbert Davey built in the studio during the live broadcasts.
27 October 2012
Davey Source Pages:
lists for post-war writing
now substantially complete
Since the last site update (July), I have been working to fill in the remaining gaps in
the DAVEY SOURCE PAGES. Details of the projects in
Fun with Electronics (two editions), Fun with Transistors (two editions),
and Fun with Hi-Fi have now been added. All the pages within this section have
been enhanced visually for greater ease of use, and I hope to improve the cross-referencing
in future. As they are, I hope they will nonetheless be a useful resource to those
wishing to trace a particular Davey design. To the best of my knowledge, all that
is now missing from the current pages are details from Fun with Radio (2nd and 3rd
editions), and possible Davey articles in three editions of Boy's Own Paper
(February and March 1964, and February 1967).
Apart from these omissions, which I will make good as opportunity arises, my lists for Gilbert Davey's post-war radio writing is now substantially complete. We know from the newspaper article that appears on the GILBERT DAVEY page that he wrote freelance articles on radio before World War II. It's my aim to find this body of work and add the details to the site, but as I don't yet know which publications he wrote for, this will be a matter of guesswork and searching. This is a big task to be tackled as soon as possible.
27 October 2012
since July update
Les, I have just found your website following a contact with another radio ham.
It appears we both started building radios from Gilbert's book circa 1959. I lived
in Peterborough at the time and had the book almost on permanent loan from the library.
I was most intrigued to see that Gilbert also lived in Peterborough in his latter
years (I left in 1967). I have a website at
http://www.qsl.net/g3tso/ depicting some of the
radios I have built over the years, and I can't help but feel that without Gilbert's
book I might not have got started. I learned the art of chassis-bashing when I
built Gilbert's designs on a sheet of aluminium I found in my dad's garage. I still
have the original valves from 1959, but sadly nothing else left, and no pictures!
Keep up the good work with the site.
Best regards, Mike Grierson, G3TSO.
Thanks, Mike. Your site is most interesting, and I see that your sets have earned a lot of praise for their build quality. I love the period photos from way back!
Les, I've just got around to looking at the enlarged Gilbert Davey site in detail. This goes from strength to strength - really excellent. Your Studio ‘E’ rebuild looks very neatly done, and your workshop puts my garden shed-cum-workshop to shame! I would like to have a go at another Gilbert Davey design at some point but there are too many other calls on my time at the moment.
Best wishes, David Green.
Thanks to David for his kind words. Since completing his own Studio ‘E’ set a year ago, he has now progressed to the ambitious task of restoring a Philips 371A radio. In answer to my enquiry, he wrote back:
Hello Les, The Philips is getting there. All three wavebands get stations although I'm still getting a bit of interference, particularly on short wave. However, I've nothing to judge it against, so not sure what is the norm etc. Some of it might well be local, external interference. Anyway, I felt I had probably gone as far as I could with it at the moment, so thought it was time to spruce up the case and put it back together with the intention of returning to it at a later date. That done I think it looks absolutely superb and sounds really good where reception is half-decent, and I'm really pleased with it. However, it has a fault with the volume control which wasn't apparent when the chassis was out (any slight knock and the volume drops or comes back) which I need to investigate, pending completion of a round of decorating, etc.
All the best, David.
This should be a simple fault to cure - but better get that decorating done first!
Les, I like your latest Studio ‘E’ radio. I have now found the Jackson Dilecon condensers, but I'm still searching for the Teletron coil. It is only a matter of time!!!!
Regards, John Pugh.
Thanks, John, and best of luck with finding a Teletron D/R – if you do find one, please let me know how you get on.
Hi again Les, Thanks for the update on your website. Will have a careful read. I'm still chasing copies of Fun with Radio. A couple of purchases did finally arrive, but both turned out to be "Thomas the Tank Engine" books! Apparently there is a duplicate ISBN out there somewhere which confuses the cataloging system. When I get time I'll research this further. A couple more books have arrived since, but as I'm in Thailand for a few months I'll have to wait till I get back home to look at them.
Thanks again, Zim, VK3GJZ (Graeme Zimmer).
Yes, I've come across that ISBN problem too. Many ebay sellers, especially the commercial ones, seem to rely heavily on the ISBN number to come up with the title, without apparently inspecting the book or uploading a picture. Perhaps you could start a "Thomas" web site . . . ?
11 July 2012
My new Studio ‘E’ rebuild
At last (May 2102) I have got around to rebuilding (for the second time) my
Studio ‘E’ one-valver according to the BBC leaflet.
See My Rebuilt Studio ‘E’ Set
for new pictures and details, and compare it with Hugh Castellan's set on the
YOUR DAVEY SETS page.
11 July 2012
In step with the ongoing expansion of this site to cover Gilbert Davey's wider work,
the page previously entitled "Your Studio ‘E’ Rebuild" has been re-written,
and now appears as CONSTRUCTION RESOURCES.
Much of its content is likely to be useful for many other Davey designs, or indeed many
radio projects in general. The page will be added to over the course of time as useful
information and sources are found.
11 July 2012
Use of copyright material from
this site by way of trade -
possible risk to permissions
In late April, I was contacted by a book-search company who had been asked to obtain a copy of
one of the BBC copyright leaflets available for download from this site. Much copyright
material on the site is reproduced by permission of the rights holders on the understanding
that it is for the benefit of enthusiasts, and that any commercial value of the material
will not be exploited.
I had no objection to the company passing on a download (or a link to it), but expressed concern that if a commercial firm were to charge a customer a fee for either directing him to my web site or for providing files or printouts, that might be seen as commercial use of the copyright material - even though the end-user himself intended to use it for private purposes only.
Such use of the copyright material could put at risk the permissions I already have from rights holders, or might jeopardise my ability to obtain future permissions. Furthermore, I claim copyright on the site as a whole, and likewise offer its contents for the non-commercial use and enjoyment of enthusiasts. I was gratified, therefore, when the company informed me that they had decided not to charge its customer for finding and passing on the download.
I have revised the copyright notice on the Welcome page to reinforce this point.
11 July 2012
since March update
Hello Les, Thank you very much for the newsletter. Nice to see that you're going
strong and continuing to provide such an important service to the Internet world - and mankind
in general . . . I saw the new site and it looks very good. Nice to finally see a picture
of Gilbert Davey. Your site looks healthy on the whole, but you need to sort out your
Wikipedia article on Gilbert Davey because the links pointing to your old site are going 404 -
Page not Found - you've forgotten to update those . . .
TTFN, Peter Vis.
Good to hear from you again, Peter, and thanks for your comment on the updated site. The Davey article on Wikipedia was initiated by someone else, who cited my site (under its old web address) as source material. As can be seen from the discussion tab, I responded early on in order to safeguard my own interests. I don't really want to become a Wiki editor big-time, but would prefer to concentrate my efforts on this site! I have now corrected the broken links to lead to the new domain name. The article as it stands does not really give a complete picture of Davey's work, so if I can find time I will add to it to correct this.
Next, a note from my stalwart correspondent, Hugh Castellan:
Dear Les, Thank you for your new email about the revamped web site. It makes very interesting reading. Nice to see my latest effort there [Hugh's Studio ‘E’ set - see YOUR DAVEY SETS]. I have downloaded the transistor radio leaflet - so where do we find some OC71s etc? I have the coil already. Best wishes, Hugh.
I put Hugh on to a couple of likely suppliers, so we can expect to see a BBC Focus Transistor set from him before too long!
Hello Les, May I add my commendation to the wealth of them you must have received for this web site. It takes me back to 1963 when, as a young 12 year old schoolboy, I found Fun with Radio in the local library. I borrowed it many times over the next couple of years. It inspired me to become an electronics engineer for the rest of my career. Now in retirement, I have gone back to restoring vintage radios, even joining the BVWS [British Vintage Wireless Society] and going to many swapmeets and auctions. It fills me with joy in re-living the delights of the simple electronics [of that time]. Well done! David Pye.
Many thanks for your kind comment, David, and best wishes for a fulfilling retirement!
Dear Les, Thank you for your email - the updated site looks wonderful! Congratulations. I am currently in the UK for 4 weeks near Birmingham on the look-out for Repanco coils! Any suggestions? Thanks again – keep the updates coming. Stephen Curtis, VK3CAX.
Thanks for your comment, Steve. No suggestions for Repanco coils apart from keeping an eye on ebay. I believe Repanco were based in Coventry, but have been out of business for some years.
17 March 2012
The Focus Transistor Set
With the kind permission of the BBC, I am now able to publish the leaflet that
accompanied Gilbert Davey's second BBC-tv series (March-April 1959). The images
were kindly supplied by the BBC's Written Archive Centre. Leaflet downloads
and notes are available at The Focus Transistor Set
17 March 2012
A message from
Gilbert Davey's daughter
In November, I received this message from Claire Davey, Gilbert Davey's daughter:
Hi Les, First I want to thank you for the web site for my father. I know he would be very impressed and pleased to see his work published. I must admit there was information there that I did not know about. I remember as a child helping him proof read the technical drawings for his books. I also remember that after one of his BBC programmes we received six huge bags of mail from around the world, and to the best of my knowledge he responded to each one.
I have attached a scan of an old photo I found in my father’s records . . . taken October 1981.
Again thank you so much for all your work.
The photo Claire sent was taken by a press photographer for an article marking the publication of her father's last book, Fun with Silicon Chips in Modern Radio. I was able to trace the article at the British Library, and with their permission and that of the Assistant Editor, Peterborough Evening Telegraph, the article and photo now appear on the GILBERT DAVEY page.
In a later email, Claire wrote:
I have been following the changes you have made to the web site, and I think my father would be very pleased with the attention and the representation you give of his work.
It is very gratifying to have received this help and approval from Claire. She has now sent me another picture of her father as a young man, and this too appears on the GILBERT DAVEY page. I must apologise to Claire for the delay in adding her material to the site, due to the process of re-casting it into its new arrangement.
17 March 2012
New Domain Name
and Email Address
You probably reached this update via automatic forwarding from the address
www.thestudioeonevalveradio.org.uk, used since the site's original launch in
March 2010. But with the ongoing expansion of the site to cover Gilbert Davey's
general body of work in more detail, a more appropriate and convenient domain
name has been chosen - www.daveysradios.org.uk.
Automatic web forwarding will be maintained for the time being, but I will be contacting
the Webmasters of sites that carry links to the old web address, and asking them to
update the links to show the new address.
I also have a new email address under the new domain name (click HERE to go to new contact details on the WELCOME page). The old "studio e" email address still works, and will be kept on for the time being.
17 March 2012
Expanded Source Pages
The previous "Davey Source List" page has now been expanded into four separate pages
plus an introductory page. Three of these - The
Boy's Own Paper, BOP Offshoot
Publications, and Fun with Radio - are substantially
complete, with brief practical details of all projects published. A further page -
Other "Fun with . . ." Books - is present in
outline form with some expanded detail, and will be completed as soon as possible.
Research yet to be done in other areas may lead to more of these Source Pages
in due course.
17 March 2012
A "pukka" Studio ‘E’ set
Hugh Castellan has now beaten me to it, and constructed his own Studio ‘E’
one-valver, as close to the design in the BBC leaflet as he can get it. You can see
his pictures and comments on the YOUR DAVEY SETS page.
17 March 2012
Other "lost" Davey designs
Drawing upon Hugh Castellan's excellent work, I am working towards publishing
additional details for two of the early Boy's Own Paper designs originally
published in abbreviated form due to post-war paper shortages, and never re-published.
Watch this space!
17 March 2012
Baker's Soldering Fluid
I was shocked! What would we do without Baker's? :-) Just for balance and accuracy, attached is a pic of a modern plastic bottle of Baker's Soldering Flux recently purchased here in Oz. I remember Grandpa making "Killed Spirits" by dissolving zinc sheet in hydrochloric acid.
Regards, Zim, VK3GJZ
I'm happy to say after a spot of Googling that Baker's Fluid is still obtainable here - on the internet anyway! The plastic containers they sell it in now don't have the charm of the original metal tin, but at least it won't eat its way out as it used to . . . I had assumed it was now unobtainable, as for years I had not seen it on sale in the shops as it once commonly was. Hardware shops here are mostly a travesty of the bursting-at-the-seams establishments we used to have. Thanks to Graeme for prompting me to check on this, and I have amended my text accordingly.
17 March 2012
Hi Les, Just found your superb site concerning the Studio ‘E’
radio. I remember building that radio many years ago. I was 12 years
old at the time. It started me out on a career in radio and electronics that
is still keeping me fascinated. I still have some of the parts that have been
carefully kept in the 'junk' box (sorry better known as stuff in stock).
Original valve DAF96, 18s 0d plus Purchase Tax. Now if only I can find the
Jackson Bros. condensers and D/R medium wave . . . Many thanks for stirring
the old memory cell.
Regards, John Pugh, G0IKZ
Nice to know someone else is a hoarder too! Hope you find that D/R coil and those variable capacitors somewhere among the "stock". If you've lost the caps, you might find them on ebay, but I've never seen the coil for sale anywhere, and count myself lucky to have kept my original one. (One did come up on ebay soon afterwards!) If you do rebuild your set, please let me know!
17 March 2012
"Ham Radio" on Studio ‘E’
I recently received this message from David Pratt, who appeared as an 18-year-old on
the Studio ‘E’ programme just three weeks after Gilbert Davey's
one-valver construction series ended.
Hello Les - I have just been enjoying looking at your website and thought you might be interested to know that I appeared on BBC TV Studio ‘E’ as a young amateur radio enthusiast on Monday 9 December 1957. The programme was presented by Vera McKecknie, assisted by Elizabeth Lanchbury who then stood in for Vera during her maternity leave. I have a 20-minute recording of the audio of the programme. Sadly, video recording was not available at that time, although I was shown one of the BBC's first Ampex 2-inch recorders while I was at Lime Grove. They explained that video tape could not easily be edited as it required dunking it into a ferric solution so it could be spliced at the beginning of a frame pulse . . . Attached is a photo that was printed in the January 1958 issue of Short Wave magazine. I hope you find it of interest.
Best regards, David G4DMP/G3KEP (also BVWS member).
The photo shows the temporary station set up in Studio 'E', for which the GPO had granted an appropriate temporary callsign GB3LG (Lime Grove). David is seen working a contact in Pennsylvania on 10-metre telephony at 150 watts transmitting power, watched by Arthur Garratt (who often introduced technical subjects on BBC Children's TV) and Gerald Garrett of the Science Museum (no relation).
David kindly sent me the audio recording of the broadcast item, in which Arthur Garratt first describes the WT equipment aboard the liner Queen Elizabeth. He and his namesake talk about amateur radio, describing the equipment in the studio, explaining some "radio-ese" terms, outlining how the hobby could lead to a career, and asserting that an amateur could get on the air in those days for less than £10! The DX QSO is then worked, first by Gerald Garrett, then by David Pratt, and finally by announcer Elizabeth Lanchbury.
My thanks to David for this story, which underlines how the Studio ‘E’ programme was outstanding in its treatment of quite technical subjects. If I can get copyright clearance, I will add the photo to the site.
24 October 2011
Gilbert Davey's Studio ‘E’ scripts
In late May, I heard from John Winter, a friend of Gilbert Davey's family, who kindly
sent me scans of four Studio ‘E’ scripts which Gilbert Davey had
preserved from 1957 until his death. Selected images from the scripts were
placed on a new page, The Studio ‘E’ Scripts.
24 October 2011
Was Davey a UK radio "ham"?
It is known that Davey operated a short wave transmitter in Berlin at the end of
World War II, and was awarded membership of the American Radio Amateurs of Berlin
(ARABS) by his US friends (Jack Cox's Foreword to Fun with Short Waves,
1960). Davey states (ibid. p10), that he kept in touch with his home for
several years while overseas. This presumably refers to the same end-of-war
period in Germany. At its simplest this might have involved transmissions
at agreed times to which his family could listen. He surely would not have
risked such transmissions during his reported earlier clandestine activities in
occupied France. But did he ever carry a UK licence?
My tribute to Davey that appeared in the July 2011 edition of Practical Wireless led, both before and after publication, to some efforts being made to establish this. Before publication, Ian Brothwell G4EAN consulted old callbooks to which he has access. Subsequently, both the Rev. George Dobbs (columnist) and Steve Jones (reader) made further efforts. All these searches have drawn a blank. So, unless someone out there knows differently, we must for the moment conclude that, after returning home from Germany, Davey maintained a keen interest in short-wave matters but was not a UK licensed operator.
24 October 2011
UK Vintage Radio Repair &
Restoration Discussion Forum
A thread about the BBC 1-valver on this forum was one of the things that inspired me
to search for the BBC Studio ‘E’ leaflet and set up this site.
Following publication of the leaflet on this site, I registered with the Forum
and announced that the long-lost leaflet is once more available. Use this
link to view the thread.
24 October 2011
Another Studio ‘E’ set
At the end of September, I heard from David Green, the beginner who has been building
a Studio ‘E’ set to my "conjectural" design (published on this
site before the leaflet came to light), with just a very few tips from me along
the way. After some frustrations and teething troubles, his first radio project
sprang to life. Pictures of David's set are now on the YOUR
DAVEY SETS page. Latest: David has now embarked on restoring a Philips 371A.
24 October 2011
Comments and recollections
received since June update
Dear Les, I was very pleased to find your website as, although I do not remember
the name of Gilbert Davey, I often wondered who designed the BOP Cycle Radio I built
back in the early 1950's. I was away at school in E Yorkshire and my mother
sent me the BOP every month. I was taught about radio by a very knowledgeable
boy who encouraged me to have a go at the Cycle Radio. We must have sent away
for 'more info', as we had a theoretical diagram, full circuit description, and a
practical layout diagram. I remember getting the two HL2 valves as 'swaps'
with other boys, but went to the local Radio Relay station to get a PM22A output
valve. I could not get a miniature loudspeaker, so I got the set working with
earphones from a one-valver I already had. It worked fine, but I hankered
after complete portability and made a frame aerial version of it. I never
tried to use it on a bicycle! I both kept up with the hobby and made a
career out of it. I went into the Royal Signals for National Service as an
electronic technician, and on demob carried on with studies at the Regents Poly
in London. I ended up in a design lab working on military airborne
radios/radioaltimeters etc. Later on I went on the road for Texas Instruments,
and eventually ran the Hitachi Europe semiconductor operation. In retirement
I still like to design my own radios, mostly using field effect transistors which
are a bit like mini valves! It's like a virus in the bloodstream, and sets
like the 'Cycle Radio' started it off for me. Late extra - I have just
managed to locate the 1957 Fun with Radio on Amazon and look forward very
much to reading it. Thanks again for your letter to Practical Wireless,
which brought this to my attention.
Thanks for your message, James - it's always good to hear how people got started. If James builds the Cycle Radio, it will be interesting to compare his set with Hugh Castellan's set (pictures already on this site).
In July, I received the following messages from gents who both remember building the BBC Focus transistor radio in 1959:
Hi Les, Just happened across your website . . . EXCELLENT! I built the [Focus] 3 transistor radio in 1959 - remember being ill in bed and being allowed up to watch one relevant session! I remember the leaflet - like a folded sheet of Radio Times - but alas it has long since disappeared. I remember being sold surplus transistors that generated an immense amount of noise, later replaced with Mullard OC71, from memory at £1-10s-0d each, an immense amount at the time! All was constructed inside a cedar cigar box from a friend’s father who supplied all my “cabinets” for years!
73, Stephen Curtis, VK3CAX, but currently doing some work in Cheltenham!
Hi Les, just found your site while looking for info on my first transistor radio that I thought was featured on Blue Peter around 1958-ish. I remember writing in for a leaflet, and spending weeks of accrued pocket money on 2 transistors, red spots if I recall correctly. Anyway after looking at your site I guess it was probably the 1959 [Focus] design - Hmmm . . . This was just after my 14th birthday - and I used my pocket money and birthday money to buy the 2 red spots. I can still remember the look on my mother's face when she saw what I had spent ALL my money on! Over the next year or so, I added an audio amp and speaker, and Dad built a box to house it all. It had a wire with a croc clip, and we'd go out on Sunday afternoon in our old van, stop somewhere with a wire fence, and hook it on! A couple of years later I applied to Southampton University for one of a handful of places in the new Electronics course. They had many applicants, all with top grades - so the tie breaker was "Tell us what you have built." I know that this project, and the subsequent mods, were key to me getting accepted. That's how I got started down the career path that lasted 50 years, most at IBM, and ended with billion-transistor chips running a Ghz! Without that I would probably have become the 3rd generation in the family Fish Shop.
Glad you both enjoyed the site. That's quite a career path, Chris - red spots to gigahertz chips! I will be seeking permission to publish the Focus transistor leaflet on the site in due course.
Hello Les, I came across your web site today, and it brought back a lot of memories. I was 9 years old in 1962 and got a copy of Fun with Radio from my local library, and it was this that set me off on my professional career. I built a lot of radios in my youth and then went to University, and became an electronics engineer in the mid-1970s. When you do it professionally, the "fun" goes out of it and so my hobby died. A few years ago out of nostalgia, I asked a book shop if they could get hold of a copy of Fun With Radio. Six months later they called me and said they had a copy - it's the 4th edition and it came all the way from New Zealand. It has a written inscription: "Happy Birthday Donald, 11 yrs Sept 1966", and is stamped Marsden Book Co., Napier. I am now 57 and unemployed, (due to age discrimination - they don't want old electronic engineers it seems) and discovering your web site brought a smile to my face. Perhaps I'll knock up a three valve TRF "For Bedside or Camp" - just for Fun. I like your battery box idea.
Regards, Phil Robinson.
Thanks, Phil - I will be very interested to hear if you do decide to build the "Bedside or Camp" set, or indeed any other Davey design! I am planning to widen gradually the scope of the site to include sets other than the one-valvers. And if "Donald" is out there somewhere, it would be great to hear from you!
23 June 2011:
Practical Wireless magazine
carries tribute to Gilbert Davey
The July edition of Practical Wireless (on sale since 9 June)
carried my tribute to Gilbert Davey, an edited version of the sketch of him that appears
on this site, but also drawing upon information supplied by Mr Tom Dougall, a former
colleague at the Pearl Assurance Company. Tom's own tribute to Gilbert Davey
appears online at
https://www.pearlstaffpensionscheme.co.uk/Members/Documents Under "Pensions News",
click the link "Pension News June 11.pdf".
23 June 2011:
The Studio ‘E’ leaflet
With the permission of the BBC and that of Doug Brown, I am now able to make available
Doug's images of the Studio ‘E’ leaflet (copyright © BBC).
My sincere thanks go to both. With their help, my principal aim in first setting
up this site has been realised.
That I should hear on 5 May of Gilbert Davey's death, then a few days later (18th) receive news of a copy of the elusive leaflet, is pure coincidence, but curious and piquant nonetheless. I am pleased that this previously "lost" aspect of his work is once more available for the enjoyment of the many people who remember the Studio ‘E’ series and either built a set or had one built for them.
Downloads are available on the The Studio ‘E’ Leaflet page. Choose either a PDF file (for printing a full-size leaflet in page order), or individual JPEG page images. Please read the copyright and usage notices on that page.
23 June 2011:
Messages received since the
news of Gilbert Davey's death
Hi Les, Thank you very much for sending me the sad news of Gilbert Davey’s passing.
Congratulations upon your receipt of the long awaited copy of the Studio E leaflet.
I look forward to seeing Mr Davey’s obituary as I have wondered many times about
the person who gave me the radio bug all those years ago. Knowing that he was in
reasonable health well into his older years, it would in retrospect have been marvellous to
let him know what a great following he had.
Regards, David Muir.
I agree that it would, David. I have to accept all the "might-have-beens" that go with my decision not to attempt contact.
Hi Les, It’s always sad when death occurs and especially so when the person concerned is one whose work has given so much instruction and pleasure to so many over the years. 97 isn’t a bad innings, though, and if as you say he was in comparatively good health until shortly before he passed away we can’t really complain. If only it were to be so for us all. All good wishes with your researches and your excellent website.
My thanks to Tony (author of Vintage Radios) for this kind message.
Dear Les, Many thanks for notifying us of this. I was both surprised and of course saddened. Surprised because I had assumed Gilbert Davey belonged to that "golden age" of radio and that like many other leading practitioners of that time had long since passed away. You must be really pleased the Studio ‘E’ leaflet has turned up. Excellent news. I shall be very interested to see how it differs from your (and now my) version. No matter they may be "illegitimate children" of the original. I think it is commendable that you tried to revive something that may otherwise have been lost and which obviously meant a lot to a number of young (and now rather older) enthusiasts at the time. I've just bid for another pair of headphones, just hoping they won't be quite as rubbish as the last lot!
Best wishes, David Green.
David is in the process of building what promises to be a very nicely made Studio ‘E’ set - according to my (now superseded) conjectural rebuild. Thanks David for being so philosophical! I hope the latest headphones turn out to be goers, and I look forward to further news on your set.
23 May 2011:
Gilbert Davey, 1913 - 2011
All those who were inspired by Gilbert Davey's books and articles will have been saddened to
learn that he died on 6 April, aged 97. His funeral took place in Peterborough on 15 April.
I had not been in touch with Mr Davey, but was informed of his death in early May by a lady working for an agency that produces a newsletter for former Pearl Asuurance Company staff. The June edition is to include a tribute written by a former Pearl colleague, Mr Tom Dougall. On contacting him, he cast interesting light on Mr Davey's wartime role, and also told me a little of his work with the Pearl Company and his circumstances in latter years. He apparently had reasonably good health until shortly before he died.
Drawing upon Mr Dougall's information, I wrote a short tribute to Mr Davey, and submitted it to the Editor of Practical Wireless. I also updated the GILBERT DAVEY page on this site to reflect his death.
23 May 2011:
A Studio ‘E’ leaflet
By a most curious coincidence, a Studio ‘E’ leaflet has just
come to light, within weeks of Gilbert Davey's death. Doug Brown's message says:
Greetings Les. I have just discovered your website, having Googled on a whim
because I have a copy of the Studio ‘E’ leaflet
"Making Your Own Radio Set"!
Well, Doug, you made my day - and I am most grateful for your Google on a whim! Suffice it to say for now that the "theoretical" circuit is exactly the same as in Fun with Radio (1957 edition), but some resistor values differ. Unsurprisingly, my conjectural rebuild, for all the careful reasoning that went into its layout, is quite different from that given on the leaflet! One of my correspondents is considerably advanced in building a Studio ‘E’ set according to my conjectural rebuild. If he completes it, it will join mine as an entirely viable but illegitimate offspring of the original! Before distributing any images of the leaflet, I am in course of ascertaining the copyright position with the BBC.
1 March 2011:
Two more Davey sets from
Two more Davey sets from my stalwart correspondent Hugh Castellan: his Simple
Three-Valve Radio (BOP November 1949) and the Cycle Radio (BOP
March 1952, and Fun with Radio, 1st edition, 1957). Details of
these sets, together with Hugh's two sets featured in an earlier update, appear
on the YOUR DAVEY SETS page. I am most
grateful to Hugh for these splendid contributions to the site.
1 March 2011:
Comments and recollections
Hello Les,   I was looking at your website and thought I should contact you
to let you know how much I liked it and how inspiring I found it. I loved
the writing; it is very easy to read and informative. You should continue
building your site; it will be a huge resource for thousands of people.
I work in IT and my hobby is electronics. I was thinking of making a
one-valve radio for just old time's sake and saw a circuit online that runs
an ECC82 on 12 volts. I've now got to find the parts on ebay . . .
I'm glad you have enjoyed looking at my site, Peter - best of luck with the ECC82 circuit. As well as ebay, you could try Geoff Davies Radio (no web site, but you can send for his monthly list - see CONSTRUCTION RESOURCES page - or visit the BVWS National Vintage Communications Fair in Warwickshire on 15 May. Then why not try the Studio ‘E’ set after that?
Dear Les, I've recently become interested in old valve radios (am retired and, unlike others, radio passed me by in my youth). Not being familiar with electronics, let alone valve technology, I thought I would have a go at building a simple set to understand things more. I eventually stumbled on your site and decided to have a go at building a Studio ‘E’ set. I am currently getting together the components. Once I've built [it], I can experiment with things a bit for myself, but I'd like the first attempt to have a reasonable chance of success. I also wanted to say your web site is one of the best I've come across, not just for its content, but it's a real pleasure to look at visually - I for one appreciate all the effort you've put into it.
Many thanks, David Green.
I'm delighted that someone else wants to do another Studio ‘E’ build! Good luck - please keep me in touch with your progress - and thanks also for your kind comment about the site.
Hi Les, Thanks for your Gilbert Davey source page - Very interesting indeed. Attached are three cover pix for Fun with Radio. You might be able to use them on your web page. Thanks again, and best wishes for 2011.
Regards, Graeme Zimmer.
Thanks very much for sending the three scans of Fun with Radio covers - it's nice to see these as so often the dust covers are missing. I will publish them on the site if I can resolve copyright issues.
Hi Les, Just found your site - what nostalgia! I became interested in radio in the mid to late forties. The household radio was a Rentaset job, a three-station switched set up which was connected to the local substation which was only 50 yards away from our home! When we moved house to a rural area in 1950, we were supplied by Rentaset with a proper radio set with long-, medium-, and short-wave. The short-wave was "magic" and I was hooked on radio! My uncle gave me a Scott-Taggart ST 400 home-made radio which was a great performer. After this I made my own sets with items given to me by my uncle. I made a few radios using circuits from Newnes Wireless Encycopedia of 1932. I did not make the one-valver you describe, but I have made many others. I have started to build another one-valve radio but not got very far at the moment.
Best wishes, Anthony Glynne Jones, GW4TFS
Many thanks for your reminiscences, Anthony - glad you found something of interest on my site. Anthony has been busy - he has written again saying that he completed his one-valver (not a Davey design), is now working on another set using a Russian valve requiring only 18 volts HT, and is toying with building a Studio ‘E’ set! Let me know how you get on, Anthony. Does anyone else out there remember a rented radio setup as Anthony describes?
Well, that's one other Studio ‘E’ set on the way, and - perhaps, maybe - yet another before too long! I look forward to further news from David (the newbie) and Anthony (the seasoned constructor).
8 November 2010:
One-valver and Holiday Radio
Featured two sets by Hugh Castellan: his Davey One-valver
(a distictive take on the original triode design with a flavour of the past),
and his Holiday Radio (a resurrection of a lost but once-popular design,
the result of prolonged research and brain-cudgelling).   These two sets
now appear on a new page,
YOUR DAVEY SETS,
together with two more of his Davey sets as described briefly above.
More Davey set details welcomed for this new page!
8 November 2010:
Comments and recollections
Dear Les, Haven't a clue about the techie stuff but it all looks fascinating.
You obviously do need to get out more! The site is written and constructed
in such a way as to be accessible at a variety of levels. Congratulations!
Brought back a few memories, too. I do remember the Lady Jayne
hairclips. And could just picture your parents in the various anecdotes.
I know Tony will be interested too - maybe too interested? I believe he still
has a collection of radio valves and other parts in the cellar. So watch this space.
That's my cousin. Thanks, Hazel - but, uh-oh, am I going to get the blame here? Better stick to collecting those fountain-pens, Tony.
Hi Les, I came across your site by total accident. I thought I was the only one who remembered Studio ‘E’, eclipsed as it was so soon by Blue Peter . . . I still have my original Kaye and Ward Fun With Radio, Fun with Short Wave Radio, Fun with Transistors and Fun with Silicon Chips . . . Anyway, it's a wonderful site.
Kind regards, Alan Giles.
Fun with Short Waves is what inspired me as an 8-year-old - I can almost recollect the contents . . . how I would dearly love to get a copy! . . . All this was after learning to "twiddle the dial" of the Sobell table radio on short wave.
73s and all the best, David Smith G4COE.
A kind offer of Fun with Short Waves was passed on, so I hope you've got your copy now, David. Others who remember Fun with Short Waves might like to look at this blog: http://dominicrivron.blogspot.com/2009/03/fun-with-short-wave-radio.html
G'day Les, it was great to read on Mike Smith's MDS975 feedback pages your comment on Gilbert Davey and Fun With Radio.   I think that book was mostly responsible for leading me into a lifelong interest in radio. I remember reading that book in our school library way back in the very early 1970s as a small child, and I've been into radio (and ham radio) ever since! I managed to pick up a later edition of Fun With Radio some years ago whilst I was wandering through an old book store sale in Brisbane . . . It brought back wonderful memories, and it is still very precious to me!
Regards, Felix Scerri, VK4FUQ, Queensland, Australia.
Thank you very much for such a wonderful website. Gilbert Davey certainly fired me with enthusiasm for the hobby. I still have my copy of Fun with Radio that my aunt bought me for my 12th or 13th birthday. It has brought me endless pleasure. At the same time she bought me an electric soldering iron as she saw me soldering with a hot poker at the gas stove!!
Best regards, David Muir.
I just wish I'd had such a generous and imaginative aunt!
Many thanks for all the contributions above - keep them coming!
|2 May 2010||Many favourable comments received since launch in March 2010. Links added. Some "under-the-bonnet" adjustments made.|
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|Were it not for the many people who have viewed this site and then taken the trouble to get in touch with me, there would be no news to report (or to archive). My sincere thanks go to all who have contacted me with their thoughts, stories and suggestions.|