Truetone (Wells-Gardner) Series 7J Tombstone

The Truetone Series 7J is a large 7-tube AC Superhet circuit radio that receives the broadcast band and one short wave band.  Truetone was a brand sold by Western Auto Supply. This particular radio was made by Wells-Gardner (W.G. 24).

The radio had seen some servicing in the past. There was a radio shop label still on the cabinet. Three wax-paper capacitors had been replaced, the power cord replaced, and some tubes likely had been replaced. Since the radio was still largely original, I decided to try to get it working yet maintain the original top and bottom chassis appearance and to reverse any previous repairs to the extent possible.  

The schematic for the radio can be found on Nostalgia Air.  Any part numbers will refer to numbers on that schematic.  

My antique radio restoration logs


This radio was purchased at the 2014 CC-AWA Antique Radio Conference and Flea Market in Charlotte, NC. Being made by Well-Gardner, the build quality is very high. The working status was not stated by the seller. The cabinet finish, grille cloth, and knobs were original and in good condition.  All tubes and tube shields were in place. The often missing chassis retainers (L-shaped and threaded) were in place, as were the chassis cushions. There were no shipping bolts present.

Previous Repairs

The radio had seen a minimal amount of repair in the past, and all repairs were far in the past, judging from the vintage of the components used.  This was a well loved radio that someone paid a lot to have repaired. 


My usual restoration procedure is to first make a complete survey of the condition of all components.  The survey results guide my restoration strategy.  If major and unique components are defective or missing and cannot be restored or replaced, I may elect to sell the radio rather than restore it.  I always assume that all paper and electrolytic capacitors are leaky and thus should be replaced (I always "restuff" the original containers if possible).  Any mica capacitors are assumed OK until testing proves otherwise.  I never apply power to an unrestored radio, even through a variac or "dim bulb" tester.


The chassis was very dirty. All tubes and shields were removed and dust was removed using an air compressor. Before starting repairs, I took photos of the chassis bottom so that routing of wiring and component placement could be restored.  Lead dress is often critical in radios.  The tuning capacitor was removed for cleaning and for replacement of the mounting grommets.  The two can type filter capacitors were removed for restuffing and chassis access for cleaning.

I then removed all of the non-original capacitors, documenting their locations and connections. When I replace a component, I always remove the original part completely from a terminal.  Other components such as mica capacitors and in-tolerance resistors connected at the terminal are protected from heat using old medical clamps (hemostats).  Excess solder is then removed using a solder sucker in order to expose terminal holes for reattachment of the rebuilt or replaced component.  

The top and sides of the chassis were cleaned with GoJo hand cleaner and 00 steel wool.  Since this process may leave metal residue, I then went over the chassis with a vacuum cleaner followed up by a small magnet and masking tape.  The tuning capacitor trimmer hardware and mica insulators were removed to prevent damage during cleaning. I noted the original positions of the trimmer adjustments so that they could be returned to the original positions. I do this by counting the number of half-turns of the adjustment screw to fully tight. The tuning capacitor was cleaned using in my old Heathkit ultrasonic cleaner using dilute ammonia, followed by soap, water, and old toothbrushes. After drying, the bearing surfaces were lubed with automotive distributor cam lubricant.  The tuning capacitor grommets were replaced by GLg-Tuner grommets from Renovated Radio, thick side up.  These worked OK, but the center hole was slightly large and allowed some movement of the capacitor.  These grommets were also slightly too short, so flat washers were added between the capacitor body and the grommets.


Filter Capacitors

The original wet type filter capacitors were still in place. One (C25, 14mfd/400 volts) was insulated from the chassis. The other (C26, 18mfd/300 volts) was not insulated from the chassis.  I was able to remove C25 easily using a large socket wrench. But the threads on C26 were stripped and I was NOT able to remove the part.  I was forced to cut off the body and then grind off the remainder of the capacitor.  I found a similar part in my junk box to replace it.  Both capacitors were restuffed with suitable new electrolytics.  I used 15mfd/450 volts for C25, and 22mfd/450 volts for C26.

Here is my restuffing process for these wet type electrolytics:

Wax-Paper Capacitors

All the wax-paper capacitors in the radio were marked with a part number starting with 46X, and also marked with the value and voltage rating (normal and peak). The capacitors used by Wells-Gardner are unusual in that their voltage ratings are values such as 180, 240, or 360 volts etc. Their construction is also unusual. The capacitor is assembled inside a cardboard tube, the ends of which are crimped. Inside both ends is a metal disc, to which the component leads are soldered. The foil roll is soldered to an extension of each lead on the inside.  The tube is filled with wax (and in one case, with tar). These capacitors are difficult to restuff without the repair being visible. There is really no way to "uncrimp" the ends without making a mess. My restuffing process is as follows:

  1. The original lead length required is documented.
  2. One end of the cardboard case is removed using a sharp single edge razor blade.  The cut is done as close as possible to the end, and great care is taken to keep the cut line straight. 
  3. The cardboard case is then heated using a heat gun. The part is held using pliers by the lead on the opposite end.
  4. While warm, the outside of the cardboard tube is wiped clean using a paper towel.
  5. The case is held using a paper towel and the lead on the cut end is pulled.  This will remove the metal disc as well as one component lead and will break the connection to the foil roll.
  6. The case is then again heated with the heat gun and the contents pushed out from the opposite end (I use a small socket wrench for this purpose - it is hollow inside to accept the component lead). The contents are then discarded.
  7. The component lead on the cut end is cut flush with the metal disc, and then unsoldered from the disc. The center hole in the disc is cleaned of any solder so that replacement leads can be attached.
  8. If the lead length required is longer than those of the replacement components, the leads are extended using buss wire.  The splice is made close to the body of the replacement part so that the splice will not be visible.
  9. The metal disc previously removed in step 7 is inserted back into the cardboard tube in its original orientation.
  10. The replacement capacitor is wrapped with a narrow strip of paper towel in order to center it in the tube, then one end of the replacement capacitor is passed through the center of the metal disc and soldered to the disc on the outside.
  11. The cut end of the tube is then filled with melted rosin salvaged from servicing RCA Radiola Superhet catacombs!  Some collectors use beeswax or even hot glue to secure the part in place.

Three original capacitors had been replaced: C6 and C21 (0.1mfd/360 volts) and C9 (.25mfd/240 volts). I collect both branded (Zenith, Philco, etc.) and generic dud capacitors. However I did not have the correct original Wells-Gardner parts in stock. For C6 and C21 I used Wells-Gardner part number S46X98 (.1mfd/180 volts) restuffed using 0.1mfd/630 volts.  For C9 I used part number 31077 .25mfd/400 volt restuffed using 0.22mfd/630 volts.


All resistors in the set were old style dogbone types and were all original. Seven resistors were out of tolerance by more than 20%.  I maintain stocks of NOS and used dogbone resistors, and buy all I can find that are reasonably priced.  I also NEVER throw away a used dogbone resistor, even if out of tolerance.  One resistor (R7) was inside the second IF transformer shield can, and thus hidden.  I replaced this one with a standard 1/2 watt carbon resistor. For R2 and R8 I found NOS dogbone resistors in my stock that were in tolerance.  For the remainder, I found replacements that were the correct size and in tolerance for the needed values.  These were repainted to the correct values using hobby enamel paint.

Other Repairs

The missing pilot lamp socket was replaced by a similar part.  The original socket was screw based. The only suitable part I had in stock was bayonet based. The extant power lead was reused. The missing shipping bolts were replaced by 4" 1/4-20 carriage bolts.  I think they should have been 5/16" diameter. The bolts were shortened by about 1/4" to prevent them protruding from the bottom of the cabinet.  I have never seen original shipping bolts and nuts, since these are normally removed and discarded by the original owners.


The cabinet was vacuumed and then cleaned using GoJo (the white type, not pumice) hand cleaner and 00 steel wool.  The grille cloth was simply vacuumed. 

Testing and Alignment

Once the radio was reassembled and the tubes installed, power was brought up slowly using a variac. A DVM monitored the B+.  The radio came alive immediately and worked.  It was then aligned.

Restoration Results

Most of my restoration objectives were met, but not all.  There was no intention of restoring the set to factory new appearance!  My objective is usually to reverse any prior servicing and make the radio appear to have never been repaired.  I do not go so far as to artificially "age" solder joints, as do some collectors!  Here are some of my "misses":

Before and After Restoration Photos

Chassis Bottom Before and After Restoration