Ever since I started working with electronics it seems like I have a never ending flow of random electronics appearing in my workshop. Abandoned stereos and radios, Retro toys, Clocks, Printers, you name it. But what to do with all these broken down wrecks? In some cases if the devices are still in some kind of working order they can be hacked, repaired or circuit bent into usable order (either for their original purpose or some new one) but in the case of a device which is broken beyond usefulness such as this LXI series Sears brand clock radio I turn to salvage.
There are a host of excellent reasons for salvaging parts from old broken electronics. It is an excellent way to fill out your parts library and can often provide you with unique or interesting components you would not normally buy (or even be able to find in some cases). Also it can really help clear out rubble both in your work space and in local landfills. Instead of a shelf full of old stereos you could break them down, remove the casings and reduce them to a box or two of components. Further taking apart a device piece by piece can give you untold insights into how it was manufactured and how it works, you can learn vast amounts and sometimes interesting new tricks.
What to Salvage
Similar to choosing a circuit bending victim the ideal candidates for salvage are made before the year 2000 as generally items made after this point are almost entirely made up of surface mount components. Generally speaking the older the device the better, just make sure you aren’t ripping apart a valuable antique. As far as what types of devices to cannibalize, It really depends on the type of work you are doing. Since most of my projects work with sound synthesis and amplification I typically go after audio equipment like old stereo systems, radios, mixers, amplifiers, guitar pedals and so on. If you have a different focus though other items may be more useful tho. For instance if you are interested in robotics printers have an excellent array of motors and gearboxes ripe for the picking. The more you open things up the better a sense you will get for which devices are going to be rewarding for you and which are best left alone, as with most things the best way to learn is to start opening things up.
Lets Get Started
Make sure before you start tearing anything apart make sure the device is unplugged and all batteries are removed
Removing the case from a device for the first time is like unwrapping a present, I usually spend some time after doing so to look over the device and see what parts I’m most interested in, already I can see there’s a good sized speaker on the left side, a couple interesting potentiometers and switches, and a host of trim pots, resistors, diodes, transistors and caps. There are also a few stranger radio parts connected to the tuner which have peaked my curiosity.
Before I get to deep I remove any parts which hang from the board such as the speaker, transformer and any battery clips to free the circuitry entirely from the casing. I discard the casing and begin removing any other mechanical or supplementary parts.
Pictured above are the mechanical parts from the tape deck and tuner, I was able to get some good gears and a working motor from the tape deck. I’ve left the pulley system from the tuner intact as I feel I may be able to re purpose it down the road as a fine tuning knob for a potentiometer.
Once you’ve got the main circuit board by itself you can begin de-soldering components using a soldering gun and a solder sucker or wick. Typically at this point I will add the circuit board to my “Board Bin” and remove the components as I need them but if you prefer or if there are specific components you are most interested in you can take them off immediately. Remember to test all components before using them elsewhere as sometimes certain parts will breakdown over time or through abuse the device may have taken in it’s lifetime.