Refinishing a Vintage Radio with Modern Technology

Antique Radio new home in Library JENRON DESIGNS.jpg

Refinishing a Vintage Radio with Modern Technology

Hi friends, today I have a great DIY I am so excited to share! We are refinishing a vintage radio with modern technology, so it can play directly from your phone or tablet like a modern day jukebox.

This is a DIY project that is so near and dear to our hearts and has really been a long time in the making. We honestly started refinishing this beautiful vintage radio almost two years ago, when we purchased it at Lakewood Antiques for a total steal at $60. While she is in rough space it is project I have been looking forward to completing for a while now.Getting Antiques Steals JENRON DESIGNSIt has honestly taken it a little while to track down the proper technology to add in to this piece in order to refinish it so it could be used in a more modern fashion. By using modern technology inside, but still keep a majority of it’s beautiful vintage charm it will update this piece to be more practical and useful in today’s home. Plus it will be functional and conversation piece in any room you place it.Antique Radio Before Refinishing JENRON DESIGNSAs you can see the cabinet itself was not in the best of shape and really just needed to be completely sanded and refinished. Due to some large cigarette burns on the top corners that could not be sanded down, so I opted to go with a dark custom blended stain I mixed up myself. This allowed me to cover the burned wood damage and still have a pretty rustic looking finish which would have been present during the time period of the radio. Antique Radio Empty Cabinet JENRON DESIGNSThe first step was to lightly sand the entire cabinet, these were a few of my favorite supplies that came in handy to get down to base wood. Which there were several different types of when I started to sand. This could be problematic if you plan of going with a lighter stain. Since I was going darker, not so much. Refinishing Supplies JENRON DESIGNSOnce I had gotten the sheen and lacquer off, I could then add back in a stain color of my choice. I ended up making my own custom blend of Jacobean and Gray Minwax stains, for a dirty vintage pecan, cherry tone. The gray add a funky dusty look which was kind of antiquey, by way of you never dusted it. Antique Radio Sanding Cabinet JENRON DESIGNSWhile it is not it’s original honey color, it does tend to cover up all  the burn marks nicely and matches the original copper hardware around the TrueTone window screen as well.  I personally felt the color of the window clashed with the honey tones of the original cabinet.Antique Radio After Stain Refinishing JENRON DESIGNSAs you can see below, you can still see a few of the deeper cigarette burns, but they are not nearly as bad as they once were. Now they feel like they are more suited for the piece and tells a story, where before they were clearly were heavy damage to the piece. This color reminds me a bit of my parents of Danish furniture, which dated back to 1940’s- 1950’s, so that is what made me really land on this color.Antique Radio After Burn Refinishing JENRON DESIGNSI also like the gray antique hues that are left behind in the crevices that give the illusion of age or dust. I have a bedroom suit with this same antiquing method and still love it to this day. Plus it always looks old and dusty, so you never know if it is dusty, a secret on the cleaning front. Antique Radio Adding Mesh Speaker Screen JENRON DESIGNS The front speaker fabric was also badly damaged as well, so we opted to replace the screen with a metal screen from a local home improvement store located in the hardware section. I opted for the screen in a black color just to keep it basic and hide the speakers we were adding into the cabinet. Tacking In Mesh Speaker Screen JENRON DESIGNSAfter we cut the screen to size with a pair of tin snips, we simply tacked it into the cabinet with our brad nailer, or you could use a staple gun. It was such a simple fix. Just make sure you secure it tightly so it does not rattle when you crank up the volume of the speakers. I know my Bose speakers are no joke and will shake the house, which is probably why I deaf now, so we really had to secure this screen. Adding Bose Speakers JENRON DESIGNSSince the radio did not have any speakers,when we purchased it but we were able to repurpose a really nice set of Bose speakers we already owned, that just happened to fit and sound great in this cabinet. All we had to do was add in some shelves to house the set. Like I said I used to really rock the house out with tower unit stereo, our previous neighbor hated us when I would get on tear! It was like living next to Hollywood Bowl, LOL!Antique Radionew Technology JENRON DESIGNS.jpgWe also added in a Bluetooth tuner that will sync to our smart devices. We can easily set our iPad right on top with a fun playlist for the evening, or a party like a modern day jukebox. I also recently purchased a Bluetooth record player for all of my vintage vinyl so that is fun little add for this unit as well. Replace the Back JENRON DESIGNSOnce everything was inside we reattached the original back on the radio just to keep all the wires protected. We also ran a new surge protector to keep it safe from any power surges we might get these days. Since our area is prone to those on a regular basis. Antique Radio Closeup Before Refinishing JENRON DESIGNSThis is actually a 1937 radio and does still have all the original bulbs and pieces intact, however we opted not to used them at this time, and simply add in LED glow tape to simulate color changing glow for the Truetone window. The tape was a quick buy on Amazon and installed in with double sided tape.Antique Radio with color changes LEDs Blue JENRON DESIGNSWhile green was the original dial tone, we can change the colors with the season now. However I tend to like the retro orange tone, while Ron does like the classic green.  It is a good thing that with a click of remote we can easily change this option. I feel like the fairy Godmothers in Sleeping beauty, pink no blue, no pink, no blue. Antique Radio with color changes LEDs JENRON DESIGNSHere she is in her new home, the Books and Bourbon Library. The acoustics are really nice in this room for the music and it echos nicely into the dining room and living room as well. It is also thee perfect little cozy spot to have a cocktail and listen to old vintage vinyl and tunes. We have had several neighbors visit and enjoy the drinks and tunes in this very room. We may have even inspired a few to create a room or radio of their very own. Which is what this blog is all about, sharing creative ideas.Library with Antique Radio JENRON DESIGNS.jpgI must say I really love the stylization, and it is the perfect retro vibe for this space. It really is a nice way to unwind at the end of the day, while sipping your whiskey or if you wish bourbon; which I feel might be on the way out, since it has had it’s day. I for one am really into Mezcal these days, but to each their own. Just put on a little Sinatra or some Jazz and really feel that speakeasy 1930’s feel, it is really fun. Plus the sweet glow from the radio is a romantic little night light too. Antique Radio in Books & Bourbon Library JENRON DESIGNS.jpgWell I hope you have enjoyed this little DIY, I know we have, even if it took a while to complete. We considered it a labor of love and really great weekend hobby project during this crazy pandemic. Hopefully this will inspire you to do something fun too, who knows you may just create a vintage work or art like we did!

PIN This Project for Later and be sure to follow us on Pinterest at Jen @ JENRON DESIGNS

Refinishing VIntage Radio with Modern Tech JENRON DESIGNS

LOVE THIS PROJECT? Want to see more of my easy furniture refinishing projects check them out here:

How to Stencil a Game Table

DIY a Deconstructed Sofa

Refinishing A Rustic Side Table

Refinishing A Cast Iron Stove for An End Table

Stenciling A Dining Table


  1. Karletta

    I love it when old world meets new. What a beautiful piece for your home.

  2. Wow! This is an amazing transformation. I often go to vintage shops and see so many things that could look so good with a transformation but I’m not that type of creative. You’re amazing! I really like the color you gave it, it looks very modern but still has its vintage charm.

  3. Digitaldaybook

    Wow what a gorgeous piece! Love love love it so much!

  4. Another Wow! It looks so stunning afterward. I love the step-by-step guides. I am definitely going to do this with one of my old radios similar to what you have in the picture! Thank you for the ideas! But then again, you never let us down with all your designs and inspiration! 🙂

  5. Jenny

    Such a brilliant idea! You are one clever woman 🙂

  6. Wow you did a great job, it looks beautiful! And the changing LED lights are a nice touch.

  7. Krista

    This is really an awesome idea and it looks amazing! Great job! I really like that you show us each step and the tools you used. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Bella

    Wow turned out so good! what a fab job. looks great in your home

  9. Mama Maggie's Kitchen

    Oh wow! I love the outcome of this vintage radio! It’s so beautifully done.

  10. Wow this is amazing!! I love how you where able to beautify it nicely

  11. Wow, this is incredible! I love the final result

  12. Viano

    You have got to be kidding me! It legit looks brand new and the idea of changing colours to match the season… Awesome! Great job!

  13. This is genius! I love the finished product.

  14. Oh my goodness! What a find!?! And also so great that you could bring it back to life so that it’s more than just a statement piece.

  15. My mom has one such radio. I got inspired to refinish it. I am definitely saving this for later.

  16. This is such a cool project! My grandparents had a beautiful old radio in their living room I would have loved being able to do something like this to! Thanks for the great project!

  17. This is so pretty! What a cool and unique project to keep such a classic piece. Love the vibe with it too.

  18. Wow that’s a fantastic transformation and it looks just perfect in that room.

  19. Radio Luisteren

    I absolutely love your article on refinishing a vintage radio! The step-by-step instructions were incredibly helpful, and the before and after photos of the radio’s transformation were simply stunning. It’s truly inspiring to see how a little bit of time and effort can bring new life to such a treasured piece. Thank you for sharing your expertise and passion for vintage design. Keep up the fantastic work! – Mabel Chavez

  20. Thank You so much Mabel I am so glad that you enjoyed this post. I recently had a neighbor refinish a vintage radio as well, after reading this post and I am so happy to see so many people returning the vintage pieces, to play play vinyl and even to use as speakers for the more modern streaming versions of radio and music. It is a fun way to continue to listen to all of our favorite sounds.

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    Usually I don’t read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to do so! Your writing style has been a surprise me and the topic was great. Thanks, and very nice post.

  22. Toni Konopacki

    When I am relaxing, I would love to just hear some instrumental music instead of regular music.

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