Curator or Detective

5 October 2022
There is no better feeling than finding an important nugget of evidence about an object, even if it proves we have got something wrong.
Ekco U122 radio, 1950.

Due to its age and colouring we had assumed, incorrectly, that the above EKCO U122 radio was made of urea formaldehyde. I was so pleased to have come across an advert placed by E. K. Cole Ltd, Plastics Division, in an edition of the trade journal ‘British Plastics’ from August 1950 which featured the very radio.  It proved to me that we had made a mistake - and that the case is actually made of polystyrene.
Advert for E. K. Cole Ltd, Plastics Division.  British Plastics, August 1950.

The text in the advert reads:

A good all-rounder
EKCO - pioneers of the plastic radio cabinet - design, tool and mould for many of the leading Radio Manufacturers. This particular example is a one-piece injection moulding in polystyrene, 1/8 inch thick, with a projected area of 72 sq. in. The carrying handle is moulded in, and conical tapered ribs are set in each corner for additional strength and rigidity. At the edge of each rib is a brass insert to take fixing screws. The all-round finish, colour and completeness of the cabinet is an excellent example of the moulder’s art - and further proof of our ability to serve industry.

Some additional points of interest

This polystyrene injection moulding is produced in three colours - ivory, green, and maroon on a 32-oz press, the minimum size required for a moulding of these dimensions. The apertures at the front, back and beneath the handle are for attachments of specially moulded lattice grilles which are permanently fixed into position by suitable solvents, this saving the incorporation of inserts or the use of fixing clips etc. When drilled, the injection port provides ideal location for the fixing of a boss carrying a trade mark.

In addition to the cabinet itself Ekco mould the lattice grilles, control knobs, daikon scale, trade mark and feet. The remarkably fine ‘all-round’ appearance of the receiver is due to a combination of brilliant design and technical skill.

E K Cole Ltd was obviously proud of their workmanship. The following edition of the British Plastics journal (September 1950) carries an article about the same radio with some technical details of how the case was moulded, taking care of how it cools after moulding. The details of both the advert and the article, which are contemporary to the radio itself, have now informed the catalogue record on our website which is more accurate.

An image from the MoDiP collection showing the case being drilled.

MoDiP has a number of radios of various ages in the collection along with an almost complete run of British Plastics magazines from 1931-1972 all of which can be viewed on request.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP