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donquixote99

Ever see a Heathkit AS-103?

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Here's what they looked like when I got them: post-175813-0-52643100-1433649455_thumb.

None of the regular pickers at the GWO had ever seen them, apparently. So they were sitting around ignored and available when I got there. I didn't recognize them either, but I was intrigued by the heavy weight, and then I started to get it as I looked at the woofer paper. I had seen that distinctive type paper before, on some AR-93s I restored for someone. Then the notion that I'd heard of Heathkit making a speaker with AR drivers bubbled up.... GWO got $10.00 and I got the speakers.

Initial testing shows 5 of six drivers functional. One tweeter open. I plan to buy some modern tweets, since the vintage ones seem to be aging out on us. Probably the HiVi Q1Rs.

Both midranges sound OK, but one was missing the grill and damping from the front. I've now replaced this stuff--see seperate thread here: http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/IP.Board/index.php?showtopic=8433&hl=

The woofers match, and bear the part number 401-155 AR. That's the Heathkit part number. They both also have inventory tags from some outfit called "Speakers Unlimited," that bear a date in 1989. I figure that shop redid the surrounds at that time. It's time to do it again. Here's some views of the back of one: post-175813-0-21493800-1433651254_thumb. post-175813-0-22377500-1433650619_thumb.

Cabs came stuffed with this grey stuff, all torn chunks under what you see here. Not fluffy. A sort of rock wool I guess. Will replace with fiberglass. post-175813-0-89247500-1433651830_thumb.

The crossovers include the famous brick capacitor. I'll put in a poly type to replace the 6 uf, but I'm not sure at this point if the brick stays or goes.... post-175813-0-08960800-1433652028_thumb.

Haven't tested or pulled the pots yet, so don't know if they can be fixed up or not. Fingers crossed.

All in all, about as neat a project as I ever ran into, at least since I got the AR-93s out of the same GWO. (That project led to me learning to sew....) This will go sort of slow--basically, cash is tight, so I can't buy everything at once. Will appreciate hearing how everyone feels about keeping the brick capacitor at this point (and no, can't test it, my tester only goes up tp 20 uf.)

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Now, about the cabs. I'm real fond of the cabs, in fact I sort of regard the AS-103 as 'AR-3As in better cabinets.' But these are fairly beat-up. Here's pics of the top and sides of both of them, and a detail of one back corner: post-175813-0-70620500-1433653660_thumb. post-175813-0-20049100-1433653758_thumb. post-175813-0-98072600-1433653845_thumb. post-175813-0-65040700-1433653891_thumb. post-175813-0-53835000-1433653945_thumb. post-175813-0-32390700-1433653995_thumb. post-175813-0-13815000-1433654053_thumb.

I'm afraid i'm not much of a wood finisher. My usual products are Murphy's Oil Soap and Scott's Liquid Gold. So I'll take all the handholding I can get on this business....

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I found a pair of these a few years ago. The original owner, a tech school teacher had ordered them as a kit along with the Heathkit AR-1500A. I have the assembly booklets for them too. Mine are the AS-103a model. I am convinced that the Heathkit As-103a's are the kit form of the AR-3a with a couple of slight improvements. The Heathkit units have fuses which I thought was a good idea. I haven't touched mine yet. Been downstairs for 3 years now. One of the mids was replaced by the original owner......wierd looking thing but it works. I have a pair of restored AR3a's so the excitement to get these restored has been taking a back seat to other projects.

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I think the 'brick' incorporates two capacitors. If this is true you can replace the other and get rid of the 'brick'.

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Amazing find!

Those cabs don't look too bad.

I'd try cleaning them with lacquer thinner first. That will clean the wood and may remove the white paint.

If paint remains you can try scraping with a razor blade held at right-angle to the wood.

Some of the scratches look fairly superficial and may sand out. When sanding, if you use an orbital sander, just make a few passes and stay away from all edges--there is a tendency to "round over" when you hit the edge and you can easily go through the veneer. Only use a sanding block and hand sand the edges.

I would use fine paper, like 220 grit then follow with 360 grit.

As far as the corner bash, it's really not "too" bad. You can use either John's method or Roy's:

John's method:

  1. Get some clear 2-part epoxy and a bottle of Mixol #22 "Tobacco".
  2. Make a little dam or form around the damaged corner.
  3. Mix the epoxy thoroughly and add 1 or 2 drops of Mixol.
  4. Pour the stained epoxy into the dam and let it cure at least a day.
  5. Carefully file/sand the corner to shape.

Roy's method:

  1. Get a stick of Mohawk wood-tone epoxy in walnut
  2. Cut off a slice and knead it in your hand until it is thoroughly mixed
  3. Press the epoxy wad onto/into the damaged corner and shape it roughly
  4. Let dry overnight
  5. Sand/file to final shape.

Probably best to do the epoxy work before sanding the cabs. ONLY use epoxy--"Plastic Wood" won't hold up.

Good luck!

-Kent

PS: If you download my KLH Model Eight restoration guide, attached to Post #1 here http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/IP.Board/index.php?showtopic=6387#entry101421 look at pages 8-9 for John's method. It includes photos.

For Roy's method, there is a video and color chart here http://www.woodshopproducts.com/Mohawk-Epoxy-Putty-Sticks-Standard-Colors-p/m743.htm

The epoxy sticks are available from many woodworker's shops.

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Howard's Restore is the easy way out on cabs. Your local box store has it.

The pots are showing some verdigris on the terminals so don't hold your hopes too high -- L-pad replacements are commonly used.

Nice find by the way :)

Roger

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I think the 'brick' incorporates two capacitors. If this is true you can replace the other and get rid of the 'brick'.

Yep, it's a 50uf + a 150. If replacing, I might spring for a poly for the 50, but the 150 will certainly have to be electrolytic.

The brick is a big plastic-coated paper capacitor. Plastic-coated paper, I think, is generally assumed to be OK until proven otherwise. And from an authenticity standpoint, I'd rather keep it unless there's a positive reason to replace it....

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Kent, thanks big bunches. I'll have further questions as I get into it, I'm sure. Such as:

1. How much do you sand it?

2. Then what do you do? (Is this where Roger's 'restore-a-finish' comes it?

As for John's method vs. Roy's method, Roy's sounds a tad easier. Which would you say looks better when you're done?

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Yep, it's a 50uf + a 150. If replacing, I might spring for a poly for the 50, but the 150 will certainly have to be electrolytic.

The brick is a big plastic-coated paper capacitor. Plastic-coated paper, I think, is generally assumed to be OK until proven otherwise. And from an authenticity standpoint, I'd rather keep it unless there's a positive reason to replace it....

I believe the general consensus regarding the Industrial Condenser Corp wax caps is they have all drifted high. I don't know if anyone has stacked 15 of the Madisound surplus 10's but it can be done -- cost $9 +$3 to stack the 50mfd per speaker and there will be some shipping charges.

I've never used the Howard's by the way but I hear it works well and is a minimalist approach. I prefer a wet-sanded Watco Danish finish but it is a lot of work. I believe AR did have a lacquer finish offered at some point -- a finish which has its own merits that I may consider using on the 6's since I have one that appears to have a factory lacquer finish and they are not so hard to hang on to with a slippery finish. It is better to practice finishes on less expensive speakers or furniture to see if you like the results since veneer is not very forgiving of mistakes.

Roger

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Do a test on the speaker bottoms before you do anything with chemicals. A lot of the Heath cabinetry was finished with a "printed grain" finish that was essentially a faux finish that made less expensive woods like poplar look like more expensive woods like walnut. Or lesser grade walnut look like better grade walnut. This was a fairly typical finishing technique used on televisions and console sound systems in the postwar era 1945-1970 (until it was replaced by woodgrained vinyl foils). If you do a test patch, you may discover that the color and some of the grain washes off, leaving you with a lighter colored, less grained wood beneath it. Some really low cost products even applied this faux wood finish direct to particle board, but from the photos I don't think that's likely here.

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Kent, thanks big bunches. I'll have further questions as I get into it, I'm sure. Such as:

1. How much do you sand it?

2. Then what do you do? (Is this where Roger's 'restore-a-finish' comes it?

As for John's method vs. Roy's method, Roy's sounds a tad easier. Which would you say looks better when you're done?

1. As little as possible, and very carefully.

2. Do not use Restore-a-Finish on raw wood. It isn't a finish. If you get down to bare wood, use Watco Danish Oil. If you get a good surface but have not removed all of the original finish you can use the Howard R-a-F to "even out" the appearance, THEN use Watco oil.

3. Roy's method is probably easier. I've always used John's method. Both yield comparable results. The attached photos show a FRONT corner bash on my AR-3, repaired using John's method.

I agree with Roger--you can make up a 50uF cap for $3 using Madisound Surplus caps. For the 150 you could use 5 surplus + 1 100uF NPE.

Gene's advice about testing is a very sound bit of advice but I think Roger is correct that it is oiled walnut.

Re: the wet-sanded oil finish Roger alluded to, here's how: http://www.antiquerestorers.com/Articles/SAL/smothoil.htm

-Kent

post-101828-0-75676300-1433734076_thumb.

post-101828-0-65854500-1433734084_thumb.

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Great info, thanks to all. Appreciate the links Kent, have some reading to do....

The surplus Madisound caps will get some use I now think. I'm having fun thinking about how to hook up 15 of them to make a 150....

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Gotta love variations.

I have done the wet sanding thing a few times now and personally think it is the only way to go. I've used Watco once, boiled linseed, and Teak oils depending on what the original is. I like the BLO on the AR type walnut cabs and my big Altecs that are now beautiful and smooth. Watco on the JBL's. There are some demonstration videos on youtube of it.

Lpads will be the least expensive route for the pot replacement, and if it is good enough for those like Roy, it is good enough for me! 150! Thats a big mutha.

Have fun!

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The surplus Madisound caps will get some use I now think. I'm having fun thinking about how to hook up 15 of them to make a 150....

It can be done, and if you buy 50 they're just 0.50 each, or $25 to do both speakers.

post-101828-0-89082700-1433776706_thumb.

post-101828-0-34894900-1433776720_thumb.

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1. As little as possible, and very carefully.

2. Do not use Restore-a-Finish on raw wood. It isn't a finish. If you get down to bare wood, use Watco Danish Oil. If you get a good surface but have not removed all of the original finish you can use the Howard R-a-F to "even out" the appearance, THEN use Watco oil.

3. Roy's method is probably easier. I've always used John's method. Both yield comparable results. The attached photos show a FRONT corner bash on my AR-3, repaired using John's method.

I agree with Roger--you can make up a 50uF cap for $3 using Madisound Surplus caps. For the 150 you could use 5 surplus + 1 100uF NPE.

Gene's advice about testing is a very sound bit of advice but I think Roger is correct that it is oiled walnut.

Re: the wet-sanded oil finish Roger alluded to, here's how: http://www.antiquerestorers.com/Articles/SAL/smothoil.htm

-Kent

I never read an article on how to wet sand -- I just started doing it using 320 and 400 grit and liked the results. One of my mistakes was using Dark Walnut Watco on a scratched cab. Well, not a mistake if you want to emphasize the scratches as they take on a darker appearance than the surrounding veneer. It all depends on how you want to allot your time and what end result you are seeking to reproduce.

Here is a bank of Madisound surplus 10s installed inside the original wax cap case on AR-5's: http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/IP.Board/index.php?showtopic=8205&p=100441

Roger

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Really fun project, dq99, and it should be stated that you did a great job repairing that midrange driver. Except for that one nasty corner crunch, those cabs don't look bad at all, and I agree that it appears to be real walnut, as noted on pages 2 and 3 of the Heathkit Assembly Manual, which I really enjoyed seeing (thx, Roger). With than thin edge front profile, yours will end up looking like the Euro cabinet styling.


A few minor observations. On the crossover, can't say I've ever seen original A-P pots with inked lettering on the ceramic portion. Also, your combo cap brick is easily removable with those pan head slot screws on the metal straps - - - AR's more typically used riveted connections which are annoying and tedious to remove. Same thought applies to the coils if you have any need to remove or relocate - - - another simple wood screw. Clearly, these are all results of being a DIY kit product rather than a factory assembled item, but very welcome features for the thrift store restorer of 40 years later!


Like yourself, my budgets for this hobby are severely limited, but I also like to adhere to the KISS principle whenever possible, so I guess I'll be the contrarian voice here regarding cap replacement and urge you to listen to your own instincts from post 7. The 50 and 150uF might be just fine - - it's always worth measuring - - - but more often than not these wax blocks will benefit from replacement. I agree that it is probably a good idea to select an affordable high quality cap for the tweeter, but the 50uF mid cap is the challenge since film caps tend to become rather large and expensive. Even though it rubs against the tenets of KISS, the suggestion of 5 surplus 10uF caps for the midrange driver could be a very good value-conscious decision if you choose to replace the original 50uF cap.




For the woofer, when you can purchase a good quality single 150 NPE cap for under two bucks, the idea of combining six, or even more extreme fifteen caps for this purpose makes no sense to me (but I do like Stella Artois :) ). This can be sliced any number of ways, but not only are these multi-cap solutions more costly to purchase, they are also appreciably more time-consuming to assemble and significantly more difficult to install and require umpteen more solder connections that could become vulnerable with time. Besides, it is the low frequency driver - - - with the single NPE cap solution, I seriously doubt you would ever find yourself wishing you had spent more money and added another fourteen caps to that woofer circuit in an attempt to capture some theoretical performance benefit that is most likely inaudible.


Even from this brief selection, you could re-cap each speaker for about $5 per cabinet.







Great find, nice project, take it slowly, keep us posted.


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thanks, ra.ra. One step at a time, that's the ticket.

Step the next will be the cab refinishing, I think. Makes sense to just pull out everything and go to town on them, then reassemble with new parts as called-for. I will look into the pots when I get them out, just to see what I've got....

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Exactly ....... slow and steady wins the race. After seeing your surgery on the mid driver, I'm sure you'll enjoy this restoration, and it will be fun to watch your progress. A pair of pseudo-3a's for $10 (plus parts and miscellaneous materials) is a terrific purchase no matter how you look at it. Quite possibly your biggest expense could be new grilles, unless you opt for the thrift store drapery. :unsure:

About the decision on caps - - I hope you understand that the only point I was trying to make is that you have to balance several factors: your own performance expectations, out-of-pocket costs (product + shipping), time investment, complexity vs. simplicity, and opinions about specs and measurements. BTW, that 10uF surplus cap has proven to be an excellent value as well as an excellent performer - - I learned about them on this forum and have used them myself in AR restorations - - and it is just my personal opinion that I'd prefer to plop in a single NPE rather than a large wad of smaller value caps, particularly for the big LF driver.

That Dayton GW has been a very good source - - - you just never know what may turn up at any time.

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.... AR's more typically used riveted connections which are annoying and tedious to remove.

... I agree that it is probably a good idea to select an affordable high quality cap for the tweeter, but the 50uF mid cap is the challenge since film caps tend to become rather large and expensive.
For the woofer, when you can purchase a good quality single 150 NPE cap for under two bucks, the idea of combining six, or even more extreme fifteen caps for this purpose makes no sense to me ...

The 4's are the only ones I've seen with riveted cap straps and that is because it is part of the electrical circuit.

I could go with the NPE caps as a cost cutting measure but ten years from now I'd be wondering if I have to pull them apart and replace again. Since these speakers were designed with film caps there is also the possibility of changing the overall timbre by switching to NPEs -- KK's rule -- probably just picking nits here since won't have anything to compare the sound to for a reference anyway. As Robert says: go with your gut and the speakers will end up being a reflection of your character ;)

Roger

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That Dayton GW has been a very good source - - - you just never know what may turn up at any time.

I live about 5 minutes from the Dayton GWO, and I've been haunting the place for about 4 years now, that is maybe 2 to 4 visits a week. Have bought bunches of stuff, that's either refurbed some and sold, or is still here. At quick count there are 20 Goodwill audio equipment items, electronics boxes and speaker pairs, hooked-up and working in various rooms here. There's also a bunch more in the basement that are backup, or will be sold, or awaiting work, or too hard to fix but too good to pitch, or definate junk. (I'm actually in one of my rare clear-out-the-basement phases at the moment.)

Mostly, I paid $5.00 a box or less, or $10.00 a speaker pair or less. I have paid a marked-up price for certain things: $30.00 for Sansui SP-200s, $40.00 for Boston A-150s, $40.00 for a Marantz SR-4500 AV receiver. And I gave $120.00 for the Sansui AU-G99X, easily a Goodwill record.

It's fun when you find something.... :)

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dq99 - even with your purchase of over $100, remember that your charitable "donations" are going to a good cause.

Roger, I'm pretty sure those metal cap straps were used on many installations of the larger wax blocks where staples might have been insufficient, as shown in these AR-3 pics. Plus, I'm curious about your statement that these speakers were originally designed with film caps - - - I don't think I've ever actually seen the dielectric material identified from these wax blocks, and the Heathkit manual simply refers to them as paper capacitors. Even the AR-3a restoration manual does not specify this material, but does then go on to state that the second version of crossovers used individual NPE capacitors.

It could be just another faulty brain synapse of mine, but my understanding of Kantor's philosophy on this topic is 180 degrees from yours - - - yes, his idea concerns a capacitor's effect on the speaker's overall tone, but I thought he has been cautioning against the prevalent practice to automatically replace original NPE's with modern film caps, which is so common these days. In fact, my reading was that he was advocating that NPE's may be the preferred choice in many cases.

I am not sure there is much solid evidence to support the notion that today's NPE caps are only good for ten years, and I'm also reasonably confident that any suitable cap used in my own projects will outlive me. We all tend to overthink these things a bit much, and I certainly am guilty-as-charged, but this is a discussion forum and we enjoy the debate and the variations of experience and opinion.

post-112624-0-01010900-1433874790_thumb.

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dq99 - even with your purchase of over $100, remember that your charitable "donations" are going to a good cause.

Roger, I'm pretty sure those metal cap straps were used on many installations of the larger wax blocks where staples might have been insufficient, as shown in these AR-3 pics. Plus, I'm curious about your statement that these speakers were originally designed with film caps - - - I don't think I've ever actually seen the dielectric material identified from these wax blocks, and the Heathkit manual simply refers to them as paper capacitors. Even the AR-3a restoration manual does not specify this material, but does then go on to state that the second version of crossovers used individual NPE capacitors.

It could be just another faulty brain synapse of mine, but my understanding of Kantor's philosophy on this topic is 180 degrees from yours - - - yes, his idea concerns a capacitor's effect on the speaker's overall tone, but I thought he has been cautioning against the prevalent practice to automatically replace original NPE's with modern film caps, which is so common these days. In fact, my reading was that he was advocating that NPE's may be the preferred choice in many cases.

I am not sure there is much solid evidence to support the notion that today's NPE caps are only good for ten years, and I'm also reasonably confident that any suitable cap used in my own projects will outlive me. We all tend to overthink these things a bit much, and I certainly am guilty-as-charged, but this is a discussion forum and we enjoy the debate and the variations of experience and opinion.

attachicon.gifAR-3 cap strap.jpg

Re: regarding the wax cap straps you mentioned "rivets vs screws." I mentioned I've only seen the rivets used on the 4's where they were part of the electrical circuit but AR was know to change horses in mid-stream :)

My understanding of cap usage is continuously evolving. I think you are correct about KenK's cap theory. I ran across a mention that he designed at least one crossover with polys and npe's. The old wax caps were paper/foil if I remember correctly. I tend to look at caps as electrolytic or not electrolytic in relation to crossovers.

At the moment I have a bias against using npe's in general but that is just me. Equipment design parameters should remain within tolerance during the normal lifespan of the equipment. The classic AR's are going on ten times their design parameters already so anything goes at this point. As we are all aware, any acoustic evaluation is by necessity highly subjective.

Gives us something entertaining to talk about :)

Roger

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dq99 - even with your purchase of over $100, remember that your charitable "donations" are going to a good cause.

Roger, I'm pretty sure those metal cap straps were used on many installations of the larger wax blocks where staples might have been insufficient, as shown in these AR-3 pics. Plus, I'm curious about your statement that these speakers were originally designed with film caps - - - I don't think I've ever actually seen the dielectric material identified from these wax blocks, and the Heathkit manual simply refers to them as paper capacitors. Even the AR-3a restoration manual does not specify this material, but does then go on to state that the second version of crossovers used individual NPE capacitors.

It could be just another faulty brain synapse of mine, but my understanding of Kantor's philosophy on this topic is 180 degrees from yours - - - yes, his idea concerns a capacitor's effect on the speaker's overall tone, but I thought he has been cautioning against the prevalent practice to automatically replace original NPE's with modern film caps, which is so common these days. In fact, my reading was that he was advocating that NPE's may be the preferred choice in many cases.

I am not sure there is much solid evidence to support the notion that today's NPE caps are only good for ten years, and I'm also reasonably confident that any suitable cap used in my own projects will outlive me. We all tend to overthink these things a bit much, and I certainly am guilty-as-charged, but this is a discussion forum and we enjoy the debate and the variations of experience and opinion.

Indeed, I'm way into habitually shopping at GWO, and it just becomes a place to shop, but one can see that if nothing else they are employing some people who would have great difficulty in the private employment market....

The Heathkit manual was my source also for calling the brick in the AS-103 a 'paper capacitor.' I said plastic coated based on direct examination, but i now see that's only on four sides. Wax is exposed on the ends, and pierced by the emerging connection wires. Given that I don't have equipment to test it, I'm thinking now I'll replace it.

The only question now is with what? 15 x 10uf Madisound caps was just a fun idea, not practical, but 5 x 10uf for the 50 uf part seems probably sane, considering I kind of want poly for the midrange. So, what about the 150uf part?

ERSE npe, 150uf: $1.89. Dayton 5% poly, 90uf + 60uf: $44.64.

Now i try to avoid making decisions based on my impending motality, it interferes with my denial, and besides, what if I'm wrong? But $3.78 vs. $89.28? That's sort of decisive for me.

Gives us something entertaining to talk about :)

Roger

Yeah, I can't shake the idea of15x10uf. Let's see, would I want them all in a line, or maybe in a circle? Maybe stacked 2 high, in a circle. Or, I could make 3 clusters of 5 each....

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....

Yeah, I can't shake the idea of15x10uf. Let's see, would I want them all in a line, or maybe in a circle? Maybe stacked 2 high, in a circle. Or, I could make 3 clusters of 5 each....

Sky is the limit :D

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