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Author Topic: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?  (Read 16883 times)

danickstr

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I was wondering how much it would cost to recreate a tube factory that could meet the specs of great old tubes in the past...any idea what the costs would be?
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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2006, 12:44:00 am »

Hello Nick,

to recreate a good tube factory that can made tube in the style a la Telefunken and Philips, that is nearly impossible today.
It is not just that you go and pick up some "Pumping/Getter Mills" as well as the needed activation stands.
Over the years I collected blueprints of tubes, tube making equipment as well as the needed raw material specs, but it is honest to say that the tube production like in the old days is a definitely thing of the past.

All current tube manufactures that are left have a hard time to make tubes and than also to stay alive. It looks like that EI is finally done, six month ago the company was sold to some guys that worked there, but not a single tube has produced since. And the tubes they made in the last few years were just plain old garbage.

There are some talks to reopen the former Tesla factory in Prague, but Tesla was never famous for making high quality tube that could be used in studio gear. And the tubes they made before they went into liquidation in 91 were borderline to begin with.

To answer you question it is possible to make high quality audio tubes today, but not in the old fashion.
A small handmade tube production could be established to remake the desperate needed tubes for vintage equipment. The startup cost would be close to a million so not the best return on investment.....
And I do not want to talk about the price of handmade tubes....

Best regards,

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maxdimario

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2006, 11:42:56 am »

100,000 people who offer 10 bucks for something in return (anything) makes a million.

there are plenty of millionaires who could finance it for fun.
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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2006, 12:44:25 pm »

Hello Max,

before someone finance a VF14 production for fun I would like to see that someone finances environmental issues....

And with the 100ooo people and $10, I would be amazed if there are 5000 people that would buy a VF14 remake! Otherwise we would not talk about it....

Best regards,

Oliver
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Oliver Archut
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rankus

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2006, 02:45:19 pm »

Oliver Archut wrote on Sat, 02 December 2006 09:44



I would be amazed if there are 5000 people that would by a VF14 remake!




Once every Ten years...
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danickstr

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2006, 08:08:56 pm »

5000 people paying 800 each would do it.... Twisted Evil

i could see that working actually....

the only real monkey wrench that could get thrown in to the mix would be some software hotshot kid coming up with a near perfect software algorithm of a  VF14, but judging by the plug-in progress to date, that is not likely to happen.  

Obviously it is possible to create a similar sound through judicious use of other high quality components, but a great tube seems to still elude the world. Profits would continue to come through the years without much overhead if the factory was an add-on to an existing one...

just in case someone is crazy enough to do this, they would need your expertise, so stop eating those greasy trans fat bloodsausages...
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Nick Dellos - MCPE  

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2006, 08:39:50 pm »

The guy that bought the rights and re-established Western Electric/Westrex brand is in Huntsville Alabama and seems to still be in business making matched pairs of 300Bs at $1200 a pair.  I wonder if it would be worth his while to turn out a run of VF14s and AC701Ks?
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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2006, 10:09:17 am »

Hello Alan,

about six years ago I started talking with Charles Whitener that is the man behind the Western Electric tubes.
After talking with him several times on trade shows he invited me to see his production rooms, that durring that time were still in the original WE location in Kansas City/MO.
He has some of original WE machinery as well as upgraded modern tube making machinery; he designed a cathoporessis tunnel to make his cathode/filament for his 300B, very impressive.

Aside some of the WE stuff he has a bunch of other "vintage tube material", like glass bulbs made at Ruhrglass/Germany, plate material, tooling for making sockets, etc.

After our talks in KS he invited me to his "that time planed" new production place in Andrews/NC that I visited but we never came to a conclusion for making tubes due to his business ideas and practices.

To his accounts he is also somehow involved with SED in St. Petersburg, winged -C- tubes (formerly Svetlana). Last thing I hear that he moved his factory to Huntsville/AL.
He might make an O.K. 300B (in my opinion his new 300B are same as good or bad than the $50 EH 300B) but all his other plans to reissue KT88 as well as other "Power Tubes" failed/or maybe are just delayed to this point.

He is missing all vital machinery and knowledge to make good studio useable (pre-amp) tubes, he also claims that he has the RCA as well as the GEC name (only for electron tubes).

Best regards,
 
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Oliver Archut
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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2006, 08:07:05 pm »


Got today a confirmed message that Charles Whitener bought the EI factory with a group of investors. As far as who those investors are is not clear yet, but PM components was named.

At the same time I got a confirmed message from Mike Matthews that owns the Russian factory that had problems over the last two years with the russian mob. He told me that everything is resolved and that Sovtek, EH, Mullard and the Tung-Sol marks are going strong.... Even Mike makes good tubes for Guitar amps (I used his standard EL84 in all of my Oahu amps), up to this point there is no useable pre-amp or microphone tube in Mikes product range that can live up to NOS Telefunken or Philips.

Let see if Mr.Whitener can finally make some good tubes; EI had the finest tube making machines original build for Philips, they took over some of the Siemens machinery as well...

Anyway, up to today good alternatives for tubes such as AC701, EF86(804/804), VF14 as well as many others are missing.
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Oliver Archut
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Arf! Mastering

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2006, 12:56:03 am »

Maybe there is hope yet!
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2006, 07:37:27 am »

Oliver, so glad to you this forum with you again!

Would you please mind explaining the factors that make a tube acceptable or unacceptable for studio use?  Thanks.
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studio info

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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2006, 07:56:50 am »

The easiest answer is, a tube that performs like historic Telefunken or Philips tubes. A very long life, nearly noise free, hardly any microphonics that sound good to great.

With the tubes that are currently in production sometimes only one factor applies, but mostly none. Russian tubes are very low microphonic, but the noise is to high and they do not sound that good, the Chinese 12AX7 (and other mic pre tubes) sound great but lifetime  is miserable.
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Oliver Archut
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2006, 12:09:04 pm »

Thanks, Oliver.  But what I mean is, what are the factors in production or materials that make some tubes suitable and other not so?  What specifically are the Chinese or Czechs doing wrong that the Germans understood?  What made a Tele EL34 sound better than a Tesla EL34?
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studio info

They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2006, 05:22:23 pm »

J.J.,

it is like with cooking, it is all in the raw material and knowing what goes together and when it is ready.

One of the biggest secrets of electron tubes is the activating process, it is similar to a cheese cake, you do it to long, the cake gets dry, you do it to short it is mushy.

Here is a link for some Chinese tubes... Take a look at the pics and judge for yourself...

http://www.ks-hifi.com/artical/shuguang/shuguang.htm


Best regards,
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Oliver Archut
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James Craft

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2006, 07:41:20 am »

Oliver Archut wrote on Sat, 09 December 2006 22:22

J.J.,

it is like with cooking, it is all in the raw material and knowing what goes together and when it is ready.

One of the biggest secrets of electron tubes is the activating process, it is similar to a cheese cake, you do it to long, the cake gets dry, you do it to short it is mushy.

Here is a link for some Chinese tubes... Take a look at the pics and judge for yourself...

http://www.ks-hifi.com/artical/shuguang/shuguang.htm


Best regards,


Hi Oliver

This is wild looking at these pics. I worked for GE for ten years at the Memphis Lamp plant. I started off in the "Bulb Plant" making the glass envelopes for the lamps we made including Halogen which were made with 180 grade pure silica, no lead, run though a 1400 degree leer oven. I also made a ton of lead based bulbs, never dealt with the lime based glass. Spent the better part of my career though as a “Mount” mechanic in the Halogen dept. The “Mount” refers to the filament assemblies which I made including winding my own filaments when I worked in the miniature and sub-miniature departments. The sealing process machinery in the photos look pretty much the same as our sealex machines, complete with mercury based vacuum pumps. I also used a lot of getter, nasty stuff, could paint a house with a thimble full of that junk.  I always wondered how the tube making process compared to what we did. I never realized that the internal construction of an electron tube was hand built. You're quite right about the cooking part, I had to deal with so much in balancing the strain/compression in glass it got to be almost an art form. Any other pics or maybe a blueprint would be appreciated.

JamesC
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RMoore

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2006, 10:50:27 am »

Oliver Archut wrote on Sat, 09 December 2006 23:22

 

Here is a link for some Chinese tubes... Take a look at the pics and judge for yourself...

http://www.ks-hifi.com/artical/shuguang/shuguang.htm


Best regards,



Interesting pics!

Some years ago I bought some tubes from a retired TV repairman - he said his wife had done that type of work assembling tubes at a Philips plant here in Holland,


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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2006, 10:35:07 pm »

Hello James,

vacuum tubes are nothing else than modified light bulbs so the manufacturing is related and the "Pumping Mills" of the light bulb was incorporated into the commercial tube production.
All radio tubes were made with those sealing machines and only some specialty tubes were made on "Straight Pumping Stands".

Most of the  machinery in the Chinese factory is old Philips/GEC origin, but most of their Getter Mills are state of the art, diffusion pumps on every position with a mechanical roughening pump. Theoretical they should be able to make tubes that are out of this world, but there is no improvement in "Made in China" tubes over the last 10 years or so.
Even Telefunken never had those very high vacuum machines (their mills used rotary pumps) their tubes were still light years better, even today nearly 30 years after they stopped production!
The over all impression of the plant in China is a kind of dirty and to quotes of former Telefunken workers the production floor was cleaner than a surgery room in a hospital.

Most high volume tubes like the EL84 were automatically assembled but specialty tubes like AC701 were 100% handmade.

Thanks for sharing your experience of "Glass Working", if you have more info and pics, that would be highly appreciated.
All of the in-production tubes have big problems with stressed glass that was not properly tempered or sealed. Aside the glass and the raw material issues with in production tubes, the filament bears the biggest challenge to make those tubes usable in studio application. Most east european tubes have issues with magnesia vapor after a 500h lifetime.
With your knowledge in bulb manufacturing I guess you understand the difficulty of making double helix filaments, another staple of most Telefunken tubes, there is no in production tube that has that standard feature of most NOS western type tubes.

Best regards,
index.php/fa/3846/0/
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Oliver Archut
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James Craft

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #17 on: December 17, 2006, 05:51:33 pm »

Hi Oliver

I have no pics of our operation, that was a no-no. Somewhere though I think I have all my glass manuals, which has a ton of info on glass technology and it's good stuff, might be some other stuff too. I think these are stored in an unfinished house I own, might take a few months to find them though as there is a ton of junk in there. PM me some contact info and when I get the chance I'll try to round them up and get you a copy.

JamesC
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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #18 on: December 19, 2006, 10:12:14 pm »

Hello James,

I have all the Telefunken and Philips glass working manual on the needed glass for vacuum tubes, but thank you for your offer.
Glass working especially vacuum work is always great to see and I thought a bulb mill would be cool to see in relations to a getter mill.

Attached find a pic of the standard light bulb mill of the 1960s. Funny thing to add, technical it is possible to build filament lamps that would last 100ooo hour plus and we still have to buy the 1000 hour ones...

Best regards,
index.php/fa/3902/0/
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Oliver Archut
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Mike O

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2006, 10:59:45 pm »

Oliver Archut wrote on Wed, 20 December 2006 03:12

 Funny thing to add, technical it is possible to build filament lamps that would last 100ooo hour plus and we still have to buy the 1000 hour ones...

Best regards,



Here is an example of a fairly well documented one.http://www.centennialbulb.org/
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James Craft

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2006, 04:32:53 am »

Oliver Archut wrote on Wed, 20 December 2006 03:12

Hello James,

I have all the Telefunken and Philips glass working manual on the needed glass for vacuum tubes, but thank you for your offer.
Glass working especially vacuum work is always great to see and I thought a bulb mill would be cool to see in relations to a getter mill.

Attached find a pic of the standard light bulb mill of the 1960s. Funny thing to add, technical it is possible to build filament lamps that would last 100ooo hour plus and we still have to buy the 1000 hour ones...

Best regards,

Somewhere I have a bag of long life 194's I made. The engineer only needed 100 and I ran about 1500-2000. These were not put into production because they lasted too long, go figure?

Here is link my buddy sent me on the making of a triode:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_eLO0exato
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Oliver Archut

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Re: Oliver, How much would it cost to make a tube factory that you like?
« Reply #21 on: December 24, 2006, 01:07:02 pm »

Hello James,

Philips does have some cool tools for making vacuum glass stuff. The movie link for the audion triode is pretty cool and yes it is possible to make tubes by hand.
Over the years I talked to several engineers as well as prototype assemblers that worked at Telefunken and Philips/Valvo and of course the RFT guys (bought some of their prototype equipment off ebay last year).
All what is needed is a glass lathe, the right materials and a steady hand.
In my collection I have a bunch of the Telefunknen "Nullserien" tubes, the first handmade production samples that are working perfectly compared to the later production versions. Only problem is the high cost of making them.

Here is a pic of the final Version of the Telefunken EL34, the production/development file "Freigabevorschrift" clearly states that they were copying the Philips/Valvo EL34 and did some changes to it because they could not get them identical in technical specs with same dimensions.
Today after having both, the Telefunken and Valvo drawings and activation manuals it seems that the only difference was the activation procedure... and the sound of Telefunkens is generally thought to be smoother!

Best regards,index.php/fa/3921/0/
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