24 April 2014

Lefax Radio Log

You might recall Paul did a guest post on the Lefax Radio Log back in August 2012, well recently he offered to donate it to me for safe keeping and also because of my radio engineering background, which was very generous and kind of Paul.

We agreed the best way to get it to me and it arrived when Alison was at the London Book Fair a couple of weeks ago.

It arrived safely, but seeing it close up the leather organiser is rather delicate. But Paul had managed to remove the pages from the rings successfully without doing any further damage to the organiser.

I've been doing some research and I'm making contact with The Leather Conservation Centre in England, so hopefully I will have some better answers on how to preserve this leather artefact for many years to come! The ring mechanism is a little bit rusty, but they still work. I will be hoping to attend to the rust soon as well.

I have also scanned in all of the pages at a reasonably high resolution and I will be making these scans available for research purposes as well.

So although I read Paul's description a couple of years ago there was one small detail I sort of over looked. This 1920's Lefax organiser has a very different set of rings in it compared to the type we see these days.

The difference is how they work. No tabs on these, but the two sets of three operate independently of each other, watch:

Both sets closed

Open the bottom set

Open the top set

Close the bottom set
Because there are no tabs you have to use the rings themselves to open them. And as you know we strongly advise against doing this with any ring bound organiser these days. Simply because pulling apart one set of rings can twist the internals of the mechanism and you end up with the well known gaps in the rings issue.

However, if the rings are independent of each other, like on this one the problem is greatly reduced. I am not sure when the ring mechanism makers around the world stopped making rings like this, but there are definitely some positives about this type of design!

Having scanned in the pages I was able to read the pages much easier on my big iMac screen as my eyesight isn't so good with small print and trying to read things close up, old age sadly. But on the screen I am able to read the pages with ease.

Some of the following images you will have seen as photos in Paul's original post.

A huge range of inserts, some I can only guess what they are about.

This is just the first page of the radio log, I'm sure you don't want to see all 32 pages of it. But in case you do, hop over to my blog and you can see it in full.

As a comparison, come forward 60 years to the late 1980's and these are the sheets from the Filofax International Data Set that included the BBC World Service frequencies and broken down in to regions served. 

And the list of programmes for the BBC World Service from 1987.

Admiralty Handbook of Wireless Telegraphy 1938 edition which cost £0, 6s, 9d in 1940.. I have the receipt! an old Morse key, and the pages from the Lefax Radio Log! I like to keep up to date with technology!

When I got my first Filofax back in 1986 I was working for the UK radio regulator in the section that assigned frequencies for sound broadcasting transmitters in UK. I mainly dealt with the ones on VHF FM, but my colleague that I sat next to dealt with the MF (Medium Frequency - 526.5 kHz to 1606.5 kHz) assignments. So it was interesting to see the equivalent lists for the USA back in the 1920's.

Back in the 1980's BBC and IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority as was) used to produce their own Engineering Information Guides. These were small pocket books that listed all the radio and TV transmitters, the size of the books where about Filofax personal size, which for me at the time was very convenient.

I will enjoy doing more research in to how spectrum management was carried out in the 1920's compared today. I've already spotted something in the details that might be worth exploring in more detail, but I will tell you about that at another time!

Again thank you for Paul's generous offer to donate this radio log to me.


  1. -... .-. .. .-.. .-.. --..-- / - .... .- -. -.- ... / ..-. --- .-. / .--. --- ... - .. -. --. --..-- / --. . . -.- / .... . .- ...- . -.

    1. -- -.-- / .--. .-.. . .- ... ..- .-. . / .. - / .... .- ... / -... . . -. / ..-. ..- -. / .-. . ... . .- .-. -.-. .... .. -. --. / - .... . -- --..-- / --... ...--

    2. ---... -.--.-

    3. .- -. -.. / --- ..-. / -.-. --- ..- .-. ... . / .. -. / -.-. .- ... . / --- ..-. / . -- --- - .. -.-. --- -. / .- -- -... .. --. ..- .. - -.-- --..-- / .--. .-.. . .- ... . / - .... .. -. -.- / -.-. .-.. --- ... . / -... .-. .- -.-. -.- . - ... / --... ...--

    4. .- -. -.. / ..-. --- .-. / - .... --- ... . / --- ..-. / ..- ... / .. -. / - .... . / .-. .- -.. .. --- / .- -- .- - . ..- .-. / .... --- -... -... -.-- / .-- .... --- / -.. --- -. .----. - / -.- -. --- .-- / -- --- .-. ... . --..-- / .-- . .-.. .-.. --..-- / .-- . / .--- ..- ... - / -.-. .... . .- - / .- -. -.. / ..- ... . / .- -. / --- -. .-.. .. -. . / - .-. .- -. ... .-.. .- - .. --- -. / - --- --- .-.. / -.--.- .-- .. -. -.- -.--.-


      "And for those of us in the Radio Amateur hobby who don't know Morse, well, we just cheat and use an online translation tool (wink)"

      Seriously, wonderful find, and a damned nice job of renovation and preservation - colour me VERY impressed!

  2. Fascinating post! I hope there will be an update post with how this has fared after treatments (depending on what the LCC advise). How are the paper inserts? Are they brittle? The paper looks to have suffered from acidification in varying amounts. Sort of funny really in a way as this plagues paper made with post-Industrial Rev cheaper methods and materials and those who hate the standard flimsy Filofax paper probably sympathise that not much has changed in cost-cutting! Though I stress that I've examined many beautiful 20th century books that have suffered in the same way in terms of yellowing and brittleness...

    1. The paper is in really good condition, not brittle at all. But I will be seeking advice from a book conservator about that as well.

    2. Are you looking to archive the pages in the binder? Or boxed? I don't know how you archive your existing papers but I have used this type of box for loose leaf papers and the design is great - I interleaved pages with acid free tissue paper larger than the pages, these were cut and 'tabbed' like a divider with the page details in archival pen. The design allows pages to slide out rather than being lifted out. Unfortunately I can't locate any photos!

    3. Hi Holly
      No I am going to keep the pages separate to the organiser, I think that will need different conditions and treatment to keep it in good condition.
      Thank you for the the link I will get some of the acid free tissue paper and store the pages as you suggest.

    4. No problem - I'd deffo advise separate storage too but some owners of mixed media artefacts prefer in-situ storage for various reasons...Paper and leather can be quite compatible in terms of steady storage conditions but the metal is a concern - it may become more resistant to corrosion, treatment depending.

  3. Wonderful stuff! Has anyone ever truly established why 6.75" x 3.75" was deemed the optimum size? Filofax, Lefax and the others, all opted for it and we still have it today (standard or Personal size paper for Filofaxes is 171mm x 96mm in our metric world - USA excepted, of course!)

    1. A Lefax monthly news page I have from July 1914 has a section of questions and answers, and one question is about how Lefax can accomplish standardisation. The answer includes this - "By adopting the engineering pocket book size which is as good as any other."
      Only indirectly answers your question Tim, but to me it strongly suggests that the size was already a standard one in the US engineering community.

    2. My guess is probably incorrect. Is it the optimum size because it fits slim, compact, and personal size binders. Why make different size inserts and paper when one will fit all three size binders?

    3. You could scale the paper and binders arbitrarily up or down in either dimension and still achieve the same thing @Be, so it won't be a factor here.

    4. So it is not a factor in this case. In another case, making the binders larger would not work if one wanted to keep a specific binder (slimline) a certain size.

  4. I'm amazed that survived the ravages of close to a hundred years - it must have been stored undisturbed for many years! Thanks to all concerned for bringing it to light!

  5. So interesting to see those pages. Looking at the frequencies page, KDKA in Pittsburgh PA is the first one. They are still broadcasting to this day!

    1. KEX Portland and KFI Los Angeles are still around, too.

  6. So cool. What a great piece of history.

  7. That was fun...thanks for posting.

  8. Amazing! What a slice of history. A real gem.

  9. Sheridan Building on Sansom Street-East of 9th St


  10. Behind-the-Scenes of PhillyHistory.org
    Deep in the Philadelphia City Archives, in a little clearing surrounded by an almost uncountable number of boxes, sit a couple of tables, a handful of computers, and several dedicated interns. Together with the staff of the Philadelphia Department of Records, these energetic interns are working to preserve Philadelphia's past one photograph at a time. Five days a week, this little space amid the stacks hums with the sound of scanners as the interns digitally preserve each photo by scanning and uploading it to PhillyHistory.org, and then re-housing it in an acid-free envelope.

    the interns scan the photo and upload it to the previously created record on PhillyHistory.org. Then, with one simple click of a button, a photograph that was buried in the archives for decades is suddenly available on the internet around the world.

    The digital preservation of the photograph does not end there. In addition to placing the photo online, the interns convert the original scan of the photograph into high resolution and medium resolution versions. They store the medium resolution on a server that is accessible by the City Hall Photo Unit, the group that processes purchase requests for photographs. The high resolution images are burned onto CDs which are then labeled and carefully stored on shelves at the archives. The photograph now exists in three different digital forms, ensuring that the image is safely preserved and easily accessible.

    Photographic Triage
    Sometimes, though, the interns are too late. The passage of time has already done its damage. Negatives capture one quick moment of life, but without the proper preservation measures, they are at risk for irreparable deterioration.

    How do we save the image on this negative? Despite its appearance, this negative is still stable enough to be digitally preserved. With utmost care, the interns scan the negative, place the image on PhillyHistory.org, and then save digital copies of the image in two different locations for safe-keeping. The bubbling on the negative will cause faint white lines on the scan, but the creation of a digital version of the photograph ensures that the negative now exists in a form that can never deteriorate.

    One photograph at a time, the interns of PhillyHistory.org are shining a bright light on Philadelphia's past and giving a new level of accessibility to an amazing archive of history. But the users who purchase photographs from the website also help with this monumental task. Indeed, the funds collected from photograph sales on the website go back into the project to ensure that the interns can continue scanning the nearly two million images in the City Archives collection.

    PhillyHistory.org is a crucial part of the preservation of the photographs.

    And what was once damaged and inaccessible

    Can now be easily viewed and preserved on PhillyHistory.org:

    - See more at: http://www.phillyhistory.org/PhotoArchive/StaticContent.aspx?page=Preservation#sthash.WIlCX6eC.dpuf