Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Restoration of the Color Organ! (Part 1)

40 years ago my folks bought me a 3 channel color organ. With my fuzzy memory I had thought it might have come from Radio Shack but I can't find one that looks like it in any of their old catalogs. I believe it was a Christmas present so who knows where it really came from. All I can tell you about this color organ is that it was one cheap piece of equipment but it did put out a really cool set of colors while the lights were off and "In a Gadda da Vida" was playing! This is one of the few things that made numerous moves with me over the years, residing at the bottom of a closet for the past 30 years. It was too much a reminder of my youth to ever throw away.

This is the back of the color organ. The first thing you see is a large transformer. The original one was small and very cheap. It died after 6 months so my dad wired in this larger one he had in his parts box. The outer shell is just fiberboard and you can see the simple controls. It does not have a microphone so has to be wired into one of the speaker outputs from an amplifier to work.

Here is the front and as you can tell it is a total disaster! The plastic translucent cover with Moire design to scatter light is long gone. Over the years it became yellowed and brittle so I tossed it away about 20 years ago. The little bulbs had colored plastic covers on them. The heat from the bulbs melted most of them so I tossed them in the trash as well. There really isn't much to it, just a small circuit board with a couple of transistors and a few other parts on it. The bulbs are removed in preparation for the restoration. I also removed the cheap cardboard reflector with a thin aluminum coated paper glued to it.I attached leads from the color organ to my stereo and to my shock it still works!

Here are my plans for the restoration. I do not want to use those cheap plastic colored caps on the bulbs so I ordered a set of 6 high powered 6.3 volt wide angle colored light emitting diodes with bayonet mounts to use in place of the old bulbs. That way I won't need to fool with color filters. These came in yesterday and looked really cool but one of the diodes is bad. A replacement should arrive in a couple of days. I also ordered some Moire etched plastic which should be here in about 4-7 days. In place of the cheap coated cardboard reflector I will probably use some plastic pieces with a layer of aluminum foil attached to it. I also have a stack of junk CDs and I am pondering ways to cut and attach some of these to the aluminum foil to reflect and scatter the light like a prism. Those are the plans as they stand now. I will be posting periodic updates on how the project is going. With any luck in a couple of weeks I will have a working color organ that is better than the original.

No comments: