RCA cabient from scratch and help needed on the next steps

Posted: 11/25/2005 9:19:58 PM

From: Brooklyn, New York

Joined: 11/25/2005

Hi. This is my first post.

I am building an RCA cabinet from scratch using Jason's drawings from this site. Thanks Jason! They've been very helpful!

I wanted to post some of my process photos and ask a few questions.

I am trying to make it as faithful to an RCA theremin as possible, although I have not seen one in person and am adding a few changes and expecting it to be unique and different.

Here is all the mahogany wood cut down to parts:

A little more work done on the parts and imagining what it will look like finished:

I added corner brackets so I can remove the legs for transportation:

It's almost done! I have just a few things left to do and then have to finish it:

Hand rounded trim:

I have some brass precision knife hinges that I'm getting ready to install into the doors:

I've spent a couple of weeks on this spread out over a few months.

So, what is the size/diameter of the brass knobs for the back doors? What about the kill switch in the cabinet that shuts down the theremin if the doors are opened? How does that work and how is it installed? Does anyone have measurements of the shelf for the guts of the theremin?

The next steps are to make the brass antenna and loop and start on the tube electronics. I vaguely remember reading something about a guy in NY who made replacement antenna for RCAs. I would love to either buy antenna or get more info on how to bend the brass, what type to use, and how to connect it to the cabinet. Does anyone have this info? I've seen some stuff on this site but am still not confident enough to do it myself yet. There was another post about getting a trace of the original volume loop. Anyone have one?

Pierre Genet's Tube Theremin schematic looks really good and also seems to be the only RCA style one that I can find. Has anyone tried this? Does Pierre read this forum? My expertise is in design and sculpture and not electronics, though I really want to get into this. I want to make this myself, but wouldn't mind a lot of help!

Thanks for looking
Posted: 11/26/2005 6:39:53 AM

From: Madrid, Spain

Joined: 2/19/2005

Really beautiful cabinet.
Can you give us the measures or a plan?

Posted: 11/26/2005 11:34:41 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Mike - Welcome to the Theremin World forum. Excellent job on the replica RCA cabinet. You do very nice work. It must also be nice to have access to such a well equipped wood shop.

I don't have an RCA Theremin (I wish!), but I have "spoken" with people who do.

If I remember correctly, the diameter of the brass knobs for the RCA theremin is 3/8". This is about half the size of the knobs on the Victrola cabinet I have, but I assume they are the same profile.
I tried to add a link to a picture of the knob, but I just couldn't get it to work for some reason.

my_photos (http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/jaygeeess/album?.dir=6dd6&.src=ph&store=&prodid=&.done=http%3a//photos.yahoo.com/ph//)
Posted: 11/27/2005 1:20:57 PM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

This cabinet is gorgeous! Nice work indeed! Lots of people have mailed me over the years saying they plan to do this, but I think this is the first actual replica cabinet I've seen - and what a beauty! Thanks very much for the photos!

The replica builder from New York is Floyd Engels. I think he'd appreciate the level of detail you put into this cabinet. I met him at Ethermusic 2005, but unfortunately, I do not have his contact information. I'll do some digging to see what I can find.
Posted: 11/29/2005 10:24:34 AM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

You might also consider getting in touch with Mark Keppinger (http://www.ThereminMaker.com). His design is extremely detailed and makes use of "authentic" components - cloth wrapped wires and the like.

I've gotten a few e-mail addresses for Floyd and fired off mail to each of them to figure out which is correct. As soon as I hear back, I'll post again.
Posted: 12/6/2005 6:38:52 PM

Joined: 10/8/2005


I have constructed an RCA Theremin from scratch and have also restored an original RCA Theremin to new original condition for the Cantos Foundation Museum in Calgary. I have detailed physical and electronic measurements of the cabinet and all the electronic components as well as photographs of most of it. If you need any details on the cabinet I can send them to you or a set of dimensioned drawings. The cabinet in the photos looks very like the original. The safety interlock switches operate off a lever attached to each door. A sketch or photo can be sent to you if you still need it. For anyone else reading this reply I can provide almost any info you need because I measured every physical and electronic component such as capacitors, inductors, resistors, etc. during the restoration.

Posted: 12/6/2005 8:22:00 PM

From: Brooklyn, New York

Joined: 11/25/2005

Oscar - Thank you. The drawings that I used came from this site. http://www.thereminworld.com/gal_rca_cabinet.asp

Jeff - Thank you. Yeah, the wood shop here is fantastic. I will miss it when I have to leave it. If you do get the images of the knobs, please send them my way.

Jason - Thank you again for the drawings, the post on the main page, and for helping me find Flyod. If you do get his email or other contact info, please let me know. I have not contacted Mark Keppinger yet, but plan to.

Mark - That is wonderful! I'd love to get all of the information that you can give me. Let me know if you need anything from me. I'd love to have dimensions for the shelf and safety switches so I can get started on that before the finishing stage. Do you know what kind of finishes where used on old RCA theremins? Thanks!
Posted: 12/6/2005 11:55:13 PM

Joined: 10/8/2005


Drawings of the cabinet are at the following"
RCA built theremins as cheaply as possible using parts and technology of the radios of the era. The power supply is the same as is used in a Radiola 60 radio and the cabinet was made by the same manufacturer as radio cabinets, Jamestown Mantle Co. The finish is nothing special, radio manufacturers used lacquer, sometimes tinted. I stained my cabinet with danish walnut to cut back on the mohogany red and then used sanding sealer,0000 steel wool, clear gloss, 0000 steel wool, and then clear satin for a realistic vintage finish. The safety switches are two spst switches hooked up in series with the power switch on the front of the cabinet. They are mounted on a upside down "U" shaped bracket that holds them just high enough for the bottom leg of an "L" bracket fastened to the doors to close the switches when the doors are closed. You can see the switches and brackets in the following photos:
The switches are also shown in the connection drawing in the original manual (which you can download if you haven't already done so) is on the Theremin websites. Trying to find duplicates of the original switches would be pretty tough, you'll have to adapt or rig up something. The shelf slides into the cabinet on two wood brackets fastened to the sides of the cabinet. The drawings show the details of the slides and where they go. The shelf itself is just a piece of wood with appropriate holes for the cables etc.

Posted: 12/6/2005 11:56:33 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

I can't send it or post it here, but here's a link to my photo album.

my_photos (http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/jaygeeess/album?.dir=6dd6&.src=ph&store=&prodid=&.done=http%3a//photos.yahoo.com/ph//my_photos)
Posted: 12/7/2005 8:20:35 AM

From: south carolina

Joined: 12/7/2005

Hi Mike - Great cabinet! I wish I had that kind of woodworking ability. The cabinet knobs look similar to those use on Victrola cabinets. They came in two sizes that I know of. You can usually find them on ebay or through a google search for Victrola knobs or on the windup phonograph sites.

Would you consider making an identical unfinished cabinet for me (just the parts - I'd assemble and finish on this end). If so, how much would you need to charge? kenbarbdae@yahoo.com

You must be logged in to post a reply. Please log in or register for a new account.