Brief History And Why D.I.Y?
Do It Yourself (DIY) has never really gone away... it was not even resting! A newer, younger group just moved into town to claim the process as their own. Not so fast, you guys! It was we older guys who adopted it and nurtured it as our own. The main drivers were lack of money, desire and inquisitiveness, coupled with the love of music.
The world came out of the Great Depression and World War II was over. So many young kids mustered out of the service with new skills in radio technology, which the field greatly expanded with ideas. Television, short wave radio, FM and Ham radios, wire recorders all wanted a piece of the market. Wartime shortages were over, and everything was looking better. Better, that is, if you had a job. Many people had a lot of time on their hands, and DIY became a hit. Stores and Catalog houses had lots of parts and kits. You could select many items "assembled" or in kit form. Radio Shack, Allied Radio, Lafayette Radio, and Heathkit, were all active in the DIY field. Branded items from H.H. Scott, Fisher, Altec, Macintosh were all the rage, but not necessarily affordable for the average Joe.
So, with our noses pressed up against the window panes of the new "Radio Stores", we lusted for something better, something we could call our own…something we could afford. We decided to Do It Ourselves. My first assembly was a piece of cake. My brother-in-law had money, but little mechanical talent. His cousin worked for an electronics store in New York, so we went shopping. We carried home a 12-inch Whittley Stentorian Speaker, and a kit enclosure. The enclosure was horn loaded and made by Electro-Voice. Some screws, glue, and a little time finished the job. Money was raised to buy a record changer (Garrard) and an Interelectronics Mono Amp. These were factory assembled, and the tubes glowed in the dark. The new speaker sounded great. Stereo had not yet hit the market.
A dozen years would pass before my next venture. Family came first, and spare cash was hard to accumulate. D.I.Y was still going great, and even more choices were on the market. "Raw" speakers were popular, and Heathkit and Dynaco were strong. I acquired a Dynaco Stereo 70 Amp (Kit) and Dynaco PAS 2 Pre-Amp (assembled). Ran out of cash, and settled for a pair of Phillips 8-inch speakers. Made some boxes, mounted them, and voila...no sound, no inputs. A friendly store-owner was going out of business, and donated a mono Altec FM Receiver. I purchased his demo Fairchild Camera and Instrument Turntable, complete with Arm and Pickering Cartridge. I was in Stereo heaven! O.K. mono radio yet stereo records.
Another dozen years or so go by, and I am assigned to London, England for several months work. What new choices! I have to update my speakers. Rogers, Wharfedale, Tannoy, Hartley and Kef are popular, to name a few. I am traveling with my wife and three children, so assembled speakers plus luggage do not equate. Raw Speakers! That's the answer, but which ones? We decided on a couple of 12-inch Tannoys Gold series raw drivers in nice compact boxes to carry on the plane. (Editor Steven's note: My dad truly means carry on the plane, as he did not want to check them in, thereby trusting the baggage handlers).
Romance is in the air! The Tannoys love tubes and sing their way out of every enclosure I can get. They literally blow the enclosures to pieces! Well, we did play them a little on the loud side (editor's note: by 'we' my father means he). D.I.Y to the rescue! Read, design enclosures, select wood hard and thick enough to hold those babies in! Solid Mahogany, just over two cm on the sides and three cm front panel, internally braced of course. Note that these are still going strong and survived a recent wood refinish. (Editor Steve's note: Dad will not sell me the speakers. Offers of bribes, trades and blackmail have not removed the Tannoy 12-inch Gold monitors from his music-loving grip.)
A freak lightning bolt traveled down the wires and fried one side of the Dynaco Amp. It was donated to a Dynaco owner for parts. The pre-amp was donated to my son, who enjoys tube equipment. The Fairchild Turntable (parts no longer available) was also donated to a poor but deserving audiophile. The Tannoys are still happy in the self-designed enclosures. And, yes, last time I asked, the Stentorian is still happy in the Electro-Voice Enclosure we built so many years ago.
Doing It Yourself teaches you so much, and gives you the freedom to experiment. In return for your work, you have something you can be proud to see and hear. I miss going to the shops I used to frequent, and fondly recall the clerk asking, "Do you want the matched pair of EL 34's in Mullards or British Gold Lions?" How sweet it was.
Give it a try, as there are so many new things out there!
Editor Steven R. Rochlin's Note: