03 August 2016

Van der Spek meets Lefax

Over the last two or three years I have gathered together a small collection of Lefax inserts, mainly radio related ones. Although I am aware of other inserts out there such as the Mathematics inserts. As a former radio engineer myself I'm naturally more interested in the radio ones.

Now whilst modern radio devices have come along way in the last 90-100 years, the principles behind them (physics) has not changed! So reading through these old inserts I've often come across ideas and techniques that I have done research in to back in the 1990's, but the applications used of course were somewhat different... and the equipment considerably smaller! So these inserts have given me quite an insight in to what radio engineering was like back in the 1920's, which is about the time my late parents were born.

So to recap and link back to the original posts over the last two or three years. My awareness of these inserts started off with the Lefax Radio Logbook which Paul kindly donated to me. It dates from 1928.

I then obtained a set of Radio Engineering inserts, these date from the 1950's and they came in a simple cardboard cover. A lot of the articles are reprinted from earlier dates.

Then last year during our visit to North America I was presented with a wonderful Lefax Radio Handbook. This has lots of inserts in it from the 1920's. I have enjoyed looking through these inserts a lot because there is a lot of information contained within them.

These three are quite delicate articles, the Radio Log as you might recall isn't in the best of condition. Both Paul and I have tried to treat the cover to preserve it a bit longer. The cover is quite fragile and brittle. I therefore removed the inserts from it and stored it carefully.

The Radio Engineering cardboard cover restricts access to the inserts, you can't for instance open them at a particular page and leave it open on the desk and refer to it whilst doing on-line research. There are also some multiple page inserts with fold out sections too. So to be able to read these sensibly I have been removing them from the cover each time. Over time this cover has become quite fragile as well.

And finally the Radio Handbook. This dates back to the 1920's, the binder is in excellent condition, the rings are rust free and still very shiny.

The one issue I have had with this one is the huge number of pages in such small rings

The pages are actually curling around the rings!

So I wanted to preserve all of these items for future years, but how to do this and who to get advice from.

Back in June, I visited the Van der Spek family, they have over 90 years of experience of working with leather going back four generations, a good starting point I thought. So I took my little collection with me and asked Petra and her father Rene for their advice.

The first thing they confirmed was that the cover on the Radio Log isn't leather but some sort of textile mixed with a wax type substance. Over time this has hardened and hence the cracks in it. Where the cover hinges we could see the threads of the textile material in fact.

Petra suggested making new binders so we went and looked through the leather store to pick out something suitable. I wanted to keep the finished result as close to the originals as possible. So having chosen some black leather, we sat down and designed three new binders. Two with 13mm rings for the Radio Log and the Radio Engineering inserts and a 25mm one for the Radio Handbook. This would give plenty of capacity in each case.

I specified no clasps, no internal pockets and no pen loops just like on the originals. I also emphasised there was no rush for these I knew that Petra would have several orders from the meet up to deal with first.

Then last week Petra sent me a photo of one of the binders, I was floored by it and was over the moon when I saw it. They had managed to match the gold lettering on the front covers very accurately both in type face and size. They had also fitted gold Krause rings to them, the combination was outstanding.

And here they are:

Each one is made with 'Janet Leather' 105 but with a dimpled finish on the exterior and a smoother finish on the interior.

New out of the box they need a little training to lay flat, but that is to be expected.

With repeated use the cardboard cover had become detached on the original Lefax Radio Engineering inserts cover, so I took the decision to punch some holes in it and use is as a cover inside the new VdS binder for these inserts.

And I can now access the information so much easier in all of them.

The Radio Log inserts in their own binder are also easy to read. I've also added my Lefax catalogue 137, which we think might be from 1937 to this binder as well. This old catalogue was given to me by my late father in law back in the late 1980's!!

The Radio Handbook inserts are now much easier to read and more importantly I can now turn the pages on these! As you can see the black and gold go very nicely together.

The article shown here at the bottom of the left hand page on Line-Radio Communications is something I worked on in 'modern' times in the 1990's! Amazing how things don't change 70-80 years apart.

With a bit of spare capacity in each binder I thought wouldn't it be nice to add some pages of my own. Well I could have done this using a computer and spreadsheets etc. But where is the fun in that.

So using some Davinci paper I was given by our friend Richard (Crofter) when I visited Denver last year. I have been creating hand written notes and graphs of various radio related reference sheets. The one below is for coax cable losses.

I'm also considering writing some hand written notes about my own career in radio, not too detailed but just some of the fun memories I have.

So thank you to Petra Van der Spek and the team, I can't say thank you enough for creating these three simple binders that will allow me to enjoy their contents in the coming years.


  1. What a fabulous outcome to protect your memorabilia so elegantly. They are all beautiful!

  2. Gorgeous! What a cool set of binders.

  3. That looks amazing! What a very nice craftman ship. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Beautiful covers!

  5. Sweeeeet!!! I have the Construction equivalent to the Radio handbook, and it's binder is in pretty decent shape. Glad you found good use for the Tomoe River paper.

  6. Great idea and a perfect home for your Lefax inserts.

  7. Absolutely stunning Steve!

  8. These are fabulous! Well done Petra and family.

  9. Thank you Steve for such a wonderful article. The pictures are stunning and really tell the whole story, such a nice story :)

  10. Steve, John says "They look fantastic. Congratulations"