Author Topic: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)  (Read 4266 times)

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Offline SGInut

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NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« on: June 26, 2013, 04:58:24 pm »
On my lunch break today, I thought I would run in to the local thrift store for a little walk around and was extremely surprised to find a Tektronix 545A w/ Type L fast rise calibrated preamplifier plugin.  Naturally I had to have it thinking I would do a full restoration so I picked it up, but as I was loading it into the car, I noticed the calibration sticker was from the JPL dated Dec 16, 1974.

Now I am in a bit of a pickle and could use some advice.  This is a piece I plan on keeping and passing down to my children (if they show interest in electronics) but my original thoughts of doing a full restoration are starting to feel like a possible disservice to the piece.  Granted there must have been hundreds of units purchased by the JPL over the years but still, in some way this is a piece of american history and I don't want to ruin that.

Am I just over thinking this and should go ahead and start tearing into it, cleaning every piece and putting it back into like-new condition? Or should I try to preserve the piece as-is only cleaning it so far as to remove the dust and debris and making just the minimum repairs to get it operational again?

Since this is my very first piece of Tek, I don't know much about the history behind this model nor how to even begin to restore it so if anyone has some good advice, I would be quite grateful if you would share them.

It would be awesome if someone knows how to read the serial numbers and could tell me when my unit would have been manufactured.  The serial number is 037375.  It would be even more awesome if you might have actually used this piece and would share any knowledge you have about where within the JPL it was located or any projects it might have been used on.

Better pictures will come once I can get some help carrying it into the house.
 

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2013, 07:24:49 pm »
In the art business they have invented a special word for old crusty dirt: patina.

Patina is all kinds of old dirt and rust that doesn't fall off on its own, but sticks rather well to some piece of art. In general it is recommended to not remove patina, i.e. to not clean or even polish something, if it should keep its value and authenticity. There are, of course exceptions, but even there the trend in art is to do less restoration.

The thing is, the oscilloscope is not art. So the question is if the rule to leave patina intact applies to it. Ultimately this is something collectors should tell you. Do they pay more for a dirty or a clean instrument? The thing with technical stuff is that its function is part of its identity. If it doesn't work it has lost a big part of its identity. So getting it to work should be a good idea.
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Offline c4757p

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2013, 07:30:50 pm »
I could not agree more. If I designed a beautiful piece of equipment, I'd want it restored to its original beauty, not left to get dirty and rusty because some artsy doofus likes dirt. Hell, I'd think the same if it were art that I made...
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Offline Anson

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2013, 08:23:12 pm »
You could always scan and replicate the JPL sticker to replace it after restoration. You have already documented its former history with pics and this post.
 

Offline edavid

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2013, 08:24:41 pm »
It's not  a rare model, it's not a low SN, the JPL sticker is not a big deal, there's no collector market.  I say clean it up.
 

Offline PaulAm

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2013, 08:46:43 pm »
Keep the JPL sticker (or scan and duplicate it) and clean the scope.

545As are pretty common and not worth huge amounts of money and the dirt is not worth much either.  It will be much more interesting  cleaned and calibrated.

I have one scope with a DOE tag.  I kept the tag but cleaned it up.

If you need to clean the insides, there are procedures you can follow, check the Tekscopes group on yahoo.  Tektronix used to wash them with soap and water (a very mild soap and rinses with deionized water followed by drying in an oven, but still ...)  Use isopropyl alcohol to clean the front.  I like to take the knobs off and scrub them with SimpleGreen and a toothbrush to get the ground in dirt off.  Clean knobs can make a big difference.

A lot of these get bought to strip the tubes for resale.  Always nice to see one saved.

 

Offline lemmegraphdat

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2013, 10:37:33 pm »
It's not a beautiful piece of equipment and a little dirt aint gonna kill you. I'd just shelve it and that's it. The JPL sticker is cool so why mess with it?
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Offline c4757p

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2013, 10:55:36 pm »
Maybe I'm alone, but almost any complex piece of equipment looks like a work of art to me, just because of the sheer amount of work and care that went into designing it. Yes, that's a beautiful piece of equipment.
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Offline Psi

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2013, 11:10:35 pm »
I vote clean it, but don't paint or replace anything just to make it look cleaner.

Also watch that you don't dissolve anything using cleaners, writing etc..
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Offline lgbeno

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NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2013, 11:36:16 pm »
I agree with opinions of patina...

It might not be worth anything but still, coin collectors say to never clean the coins, gun collectors say the same thing.

Restoring the inside so that it is functional again I think is a good improvement.
 

Offline Stonent

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2013, 12:02:50 am »
One of the MythBusers, Adam Savage, recently put out a video on youtube where he bought a vintage item and build a custom realistic looking distressed case for it.

He painted it, put NASA stickers on it,  wore it out, banged it around, put coffee cup rings on it, rubbed mud over it.

http://www.tested.com/art/makers/453823-one-day-builds-adam-savage-demonstrates-weathering-tricks/

So how about taking it to the next level like that? Put it in a vintage looking showcase?
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duskglow

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Re: NASA JPL Tektronix 545A (need feedback)
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2013, 12:17:34 am »
To me it comes down to this:  You're obviously not planning on selling it, you're planning on passing it down to your kids, so resale value really isn't an issue.  There are always dangers with taking apart relatively precision instruments such as this, so if it were me, other than cleaning it out with a duster and making sure it works, I wouldn't touch the insides.  It's up to you how you want the outsides to look, because only you know what you're after.
 


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