Steampunk radio jukebox

Spyrul breathed new life into his great-grandparents’ 1930s Westinghouse with a Raspberry Pi, an amplifier HAT, Google Music, and some serious effort. The result is a really beautiful, striking piece.

Steampunk Radio Raspberry Pi

The radio

With a background in radio electronics, Spyrul had always planned to restore his great-grandparents’ mid-30s Westinghouse radio. “I even found the original schematics glued to the bottom of the base of the main electronics assembly,” he explains in his Instructables walkthrough. However, considering the age of the piece and the cost of sourcing parts for a repair, he decided to take the project in a slightly different direction.

“I pulled the main electronics assembly out quite easily, it was held in by four flat head screws […] I decided to make a Steampunk themed Jukebox based off this main assembly and power it with a Raspberry Pi,” he writes.

The build

Spyrul added JustBoom’s Amp HAT to a Raspberry Pi 3 to boost the sound quality and functionality of the board.

He spent a weekend prototyping and testing the electronics before deciding on his final layout. After a little time playing around with different software, Spyrul chose Mopidy, a flexible music server written in Python. Mopidy lets him connect to his music-streaming service of choice, Google Music, and also allows airplay connectivity for other wireless devices.

Stripping out the old electronics from inside the Westinghouse radio easily made enough space for Spyrul’s new, much smaller, setup. Reserving various pieces for the final build, and scrubbing the entire unit to within an inch of its life with soap and water, he moved on to the aesthetics of the piece.

The steampunk

LED Nixie tubes, a 1950s DC voltmeter, and spray paint all contributed to the final look of the radio. It has a splendid steampunk look that works wonderfully with the vintage of the original radio.

Retrofit and steampunk Raspberry Pi builds

From old pub jukeboxes to Bakelite kitchen radios, we’ve seen lots of retrofit audio visual Pi projects over the years, with all kinds of functionality and in all sorts of styles.

Americana – does exactly what it says on the tin jukebox

For more steampunk inspiration, check out phrazelle’s laptop and Derek Woodroffe’s tentacle hat. And for more audiophile builds, Tijuana Rick’s 60s Wurlitzer and Steve Devlin’s 50s wallbox are stand-out examples.


Spyrul avatar

Well imagine my surprise to find my build featured on the Raspberry Pi site! Totally honored to be up here, I feel like I’m famous.

If you think it’s worth the vote, please visit the Instructables site and vote for me in the contests there.


Lukas Uher avatar

I see only how was old radio destroyed by good idea and very bad realisation.
He should use vacuum tube amplifier as sound output, not some fakes vacuum tube shaped led lights. And he had to connect old buttons on front panel to gpio pins for some basic commands (powering on/off, play/stop/seek, etc…)

Helen Lynn avatar

That does seem somewhat harsh given the starting point for this project was a non-working device, people can have their own preferences, etc.

Spyrul avatar

Hey, I appreciate your opinion but if you read the actual instructable I talk about why I did not use the cabinet. I could have restored it but there was little value in doing so. Now I have a unique piece, that no one else does.

As for your comments about the audio? Don’t knock the JustBoom stuff – its phenomenal for the price and size. Would I like to do straight mono block tube amps? Sure, but no way that was happening for just over $200.

Rabia avatar

Lukas, don’t let this distract you from building your Raspberry Pi spaceship to mars. Focus!!!

pcan avatar

Nice work! I love upcycling projects, if they are done with care like this one. I like the idea of the LED inside the backelite tube socket. I have a box full of dead radio tubes of no value that I may now use as steampunk decoration in this way.

Spyrul Radios is actually the Canadian Westinghouse model 898 built from 1948 to 1949. I am a tube radio collector and a generic post-ww2 floor standing radio with a deteriorated cabinet like this one has currently a low collector value, in the $100-200 range, so I don’t see a big issue at taking it apart and make something more useful from it. The original tube amplifier of this radio is comparatively cheap circuit (for the era) that will never sound very good anyway, even if properly restored. The speaker may still sound better than today average flat screen TV or computer, but it is low power, about 5W. Don’t connect it to a modern amplifier and crank the volume to max, it will be toasted in a minute.

To anyone wanting to build a project like this one with the tube radio they found in the attic, I suggest to look up the radio on Google, Ebay and/or specialized collector forum first, because a few similarly looking radios and old vacuum tubes may be higly sought after by collectors and have a value upwards of $2000 even in bad shape, so you will be sorry if you take it apart. I also suggest to make reversible modification to visible parts such as the cabinet and dial glass, because this way you may be able to revise the project later, or even resell the radio should it increase in value in the future.

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