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Early Television Museum

CRT Rebuilding at the Museum

The last remaining picture tube rebuilder in the United States, Hawkeye, closed its doors in 2010. RACS, the last rebuilder in Europe, ceased operation in 2013.

Now that they are gone, there is no place to get tubes for vintage TV sets rebuilt. More importantly, the techniques for rebuilding these tubes will be lost forever.

The museum has undertaken a project to attempt to rebuild tubes for collectors. Our hope is to eventually be able to rebuild black and white, color, and prewar tubes for collectors at reasonable prices.

Updates on progress will be posted here.

The rebuilding process
The project - 2010 to 2015
CRT Workshop, August, 2015
First successful CRT rebuild at the Museum

Progress Report - December 10, 2018

After much deliberation, we have determined that it is not currenty practical for the museum to rebuild CRTs for sale to the collecting community. Though we have the equipment and the expertise, we don't have the management to undertake the project. Maybe at some time in the future this will change, but for now the facility at the museum will be used for demonstration purposes. We also intend to include the rebuilding room as a display area for the museum, so that visitors can see the equipment and understand the rebuilding process.

There is another alternative for rebuilding, though. Nick Williams, who lives in Maryland, has purchased all the equipment needed to rebuild tubes. His plan is to start doing this after he retires from the Navy in 2020. Here is a recent status report he prepared on his progress:

As you may or may not know, the museum presently has facilities for CRT rebuilding. The central issue for getting a regular rebuild schedule going has been the unavailability of an operator in Ohio (me), since I’m the only one with the necessary training and I happen to live out of state.

That being the case I took it upon myself to acquire another set of rebuilding equipment identical to what’s at the museum, and moved it into my workshop here in Maryland. At the moment I’m busy getting the equipment into operating condition, since it requires work like replacement of old gas lines, lubrication of bearings and things of that nature. I hope to complete this work by January. Right this moment I have all the old lines removed and need to order replacement ones, I have also taken the liberty of constructing a preheating torch similar to the equipment I trained on in France, which should help avoid any issues with glass cracking caused by thermal shock during lathe operations.

Once the glassworking lathes are operable to my satisfaction, the next step will be constructing a suitable oven to process the tubes. This is not particularly difficult, just time consuming. I’m still active duty Navy looking at retiring in August of 2020 and I’m also a single parent, so finding the time for these things is a challenge.

Another issue has been the availability of replacement parts for tubes; complete electron gun assemblies or cathodes to rebuild old ones, and piece parts such as getters and glass stems to mount the gun on for installation in a tube. Fortunately a supplier has been located in Russia, and they are very willing to work with us in the states to get old tubes going again. I remain in contact with them, hoping to come to a suitable business arrangement.

Lots of moving parts to this, and none of it will be solved overnight. I feel confident that I can have the plant machinery operational in the coming year, so as long as parts are not an issue tube rebuilding should be a reality as soon as I’m in retirement from the military.