Thursday, June 24, 2010
Paladin's Random Crap - Antique Phone Project
The latest creation from my workshop is what I always think of as a "Cobbled Project", as in something "cobbled together from various unrelated parts". My Steampunk lamp is such a project, combining a blowtorch, grease gun, plumbing line, and lamp parts into a desk lamp. The Steampunk Fan is another - combining an old fan, sewing machine motor, drive chain, etc. together to form the whirling blades of death :) This project is more properly termed "Victorian Punk" rather than Steampunk, though.
I love old telephones. I used to have a lot of them, but since we dropped our land line several years ago and went strictly with cell phones (and cable internet) I thinned out my collection considerably. About the only phones that I still have are an old Candlestick phone with ringer box that I restored, and an old Automatic Electric Monophone 50 that was my kitchen phone for years. Just couldn't bare to part with either of them.
I've always wanted a wooden wall phone, but they are hard to come by here in my part of the country. You can find them on Ebay, but they are expensive to ship and expensive to buy. Besides.... I wanted something a little more unique. I gradually started collecting bits and pieces from flea markets here locally and via ebay. Here's some of the parts I started with:
Those are wooden "ringer" boxes that originally held antique telephone wiring, magnetos, ringer sets, etc. They are incomplete, but the boxes themselves are in solid shape. That makes them inexpensive and perfect for my uses.
That's a Western Electric Interphone, which was an early style of intercom phone. You didn't use it for outside calls, just calls within your own house from room to room, or between bungalows on an estate.
I refinished the wooden boxes, and painted the metal Interphone. I also picked up a dummy receiver (part you hold to your ear) and a generic switch hook that I needed to hang the receiver on. I made a mounting board for the phone project out of oak. Here's how they look all combined:
I'll probably put a dummy crank handle on the side of the top box, eventually, to cover up the hole in the side for the original magneto crank handle.
I added the brass Montgomery Ward badge, just because I liked the way it looks. To my knowlege absolutely none of the parts for this project came from Montgomery Wards. I've had that milliamp gauge for years and years with no idea what I would do with it. I think it looks pretty cool on the bottom box, and it covers the old holes in the front nicely.
My plan starting out was to have the bells of the interphone hooked up to a battery so that when you pushed the button on the front they would ring, and the needle would move on the gauge. That worked fine in brief testing while I was figuring stuff out just touching wires and such, but apparently the old switch or wiring that I tapped into inside the interphone has a short of some sort. It lets enough current through even when the button isn't pushed to register on the gauge and the battery gets REALLY HOT! It also discharges the battery in a matter of minutes.
No biggie. I'll just have to make a stop at Radio Shack and see what kind of momentary switch button that I can swap out to make it work.
The wiring treatment is kind of interesting, I thought. I could have hidden all the wiring between the boxes, but I kind of wanted it to show. What I didn't want, though, was modern insulated wiring showing. You can buy good quality, new production cloth covered wire in lots of configurations. I've used wire from Sundial Wire in the past when I've rewired old fans, lamps, and radios. Its great stuff, but you have to order at least 10 feet and it runs $1.50 or so a foot depending upon which style you go with.
I didn't need anywhere close to 10 feet and I didn't want to waste $15 + shipping. So, I made up a decent substitute. I had regular 18 gauge insulated wire and I had paracord (550 parachute cord). I cut four pieces of paracord about twice as long as I needed, and stripped out the inner strands.
This left me with four pieces of paracord "tube" that was perfect for use as a wire cover when slipped over the modern insulated wire.
I just covered the parts that were going to be exposed. For one set of wires I twisted them together like old twisted wire sets that you can buy from Sundial. For the other set I coiled them up on a dowel and then spread the coils out a bit.
Both the top and bottom boxes are pretty much empty, except for some wire which is secured to the walls of the box. This leaves the insides available as small storage areas. If I'm successful in finding a switch that I can work into the phone to make the bells work, I'll post a short video so you can see/hear the thing work.