The Tube Historian: Central Sales, Another Obscure Tube Maker

Ludwell Sibley

Reprinted with permission from the February 2014 issue of Tube Collector

Tube history is replete with little-known makers. This is particularly true of companies that sold tubes primarily in the military / government sector - operating mainly by bidding on supply contracts; they didn't need to build brand recognition by heavy advertising or distribution of literature.

 

One of these firms, known today mostly by its surviving tubes, is Central Sales and Manufacturing Corporation. This comp-any was located in the then-rural town of Denville, Morris County, New Jersey, at 2 Richwood Place. It was perhaps 30 miles north of the tube making center at Newark. Its personnel may have been veterans of ITT Federal or Kuthe Laboratories down in Tubetown.

Morris County was something of an eastern Silicon Valley in the '30s-'60s. It contained the Boonton Radio Company, Ferris Instruments, Measurements Corporation, and Radio Frequency Laboratories. It's appropriate that it also hosted a tube company.

 

The first known appearance of this vendor is a small display ad in Electronics from 1954. It offers 4C28 transmitting triodes, as used in the RT-15/APN-3 transponder for the SHORAN (SHort RAnge Navigation) precision-bombing system. (One of these Central tubes appears in the Al Jones Collection.) The November and December issues contain a small display ad, one-sixth page, boasting of the company's personnel and experience.

A full-page ad (Electronics, Sept. 1956) is more helpful. It reports a name change to Central Electronic Manufacturers Inc., as a division of the Nuclear Corporation of America (later Nucor). Tubes illustrated in the ad include gas switching tubes (with a drawing of what looks like a 1B40); power triodes (it's possibly a 6623), high-voltage diodes (with a big "something" looking like a graphite-anode 8008), and an ionization gauge (like the VG-1). The company also claimed to make test equipment, glass-fiber waveguide parts, and general equipment. It claimed to have been in business "many years," and to be the world's biggest maker (!) of ion gauges.

 

“Regarding the change of company name, the Rockaway Record for March 8, 1956, stated matters as: CENTRAL SALES IS BOUGHT BY NUCLEAR CORP. Central Sales & Mfg. Corp, of Rich-wood Place, Denville has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Nuclear Corporation of America, Inc. a pioneer in commercial peacetime uses of atomic energy.

 

No changes in personnel, policies or methods of Central Sales are planned. Lyle A. Backer, president of Union Hill, and James V. Cosman, vice president of Haledon, will continue in these posts. Central employs 60 persons in engineering and manufacturing of electron tubes for industrial communications, rectification and special purposes; leak detection and high vacuum systems; electronic test equipment; miniaturized transistor circuitry and micro-wave devices. Its sales have risen from $12,000 in 1947 to more than $500,000 last year.

 

Nuclear Corp. is the successor to the old Reo Motors, Backer explained. It is now a combination of several small but active companies whose association bridges the gap between nucleonics and electronics. Its stock is listed on the American Stock Exchange; 408,000 shares were exchanged for Central’s assets and business, owned jointly by Backer and Cosman.”

 

A classified advertisement" in the same paper, January 1, 1953, had read: "YOUNG MEN: To Train as Glass Workers On Electron Tubes. An Opportunity for High Paying Jobs for the Right Men. CENTRAL SALES AND MFG CO, Denville. N. J., RO9-1004."


On the Spot: Lullaby Sound Design

Nick Pittman

Reprinted with permission from the Dec. 18, 2015 issue of The IND Monthly

 

Jason Harrington is a guitarist who builds his own amps. He and his wife have opened Lullaby Sound Design at 3237 Kaliste Saloom Road, Lafayette, Louisiana (in the two old orange houses with the wrap-around deck). The complex features an amplifier workshop, showroom and sound studio, plus live music.

 

How did you get started building amps?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in this stuff. As a kid I experimented with circuits: mostly mixing around parts of broken stereos. I remember one ill-advised attempt at a helicopter involving a couple of metal clothes hangers and some speaker wire. When I plugged it in, it didn’t fly, but my hair stood up! Later in life, I studied sculpture at UL. Here, I was introduced to formal design concepts, and I began to develop creative methods and processes for working with woods and metals. I spent a lot of time in Dupre Library, where I read stacks of engineering texts from the ’30s and ’40s; attempting to wrap my brain around vacuum tube principles and electromagnetic theory. Then I’d go in the garage and see what I could make of it all. Throughout all of this, I’ve loved and been led by music. Ever since I realized that I can hear, I’ve been drawn to things and people who create music. As I hear it, there is no better music in the world than the music made in and around South Louisiana. I aspire to build amplifiers as diverse and unique as the artists who drive our culture.

 

As I see it, these three elements — Engineering, Sculpture and Music — are the mind, soul and heart of each Lullaby.

How long have you been building amps?

In 2009, I began building amplifiers from scratch in my garage. I’d bend and cut the metal to form the chassis, build the cabinets by hand and wire the vacuum tube circuits using old point-to-point wiring techniques. By 2012, enough interest had been generated in these amplifiers that I felt encouraged to launch Lullaby Sound Design. By 2014, this interest had caused me to outgrow my garage, and my wife and I broke ground on the Lullaby Sound Design.

Why do you build them instead of just buying them?

I think of quality as the ability to age, develop and improve over time. Since 2012, I have restored hundreds of amplifiers and radios. One unfortunate trend that I have seen is the steady progression towards disposable, non-serviceable electronics. Manufacturers have clearly adopted the belief that their products should be replaced rather than repaired. As a result, amplifier manufacturers have gotten very good at building thousands of amplifiers that sound and perform just like the other thousands of amplifiers that they produce. They seem to have taken the fast-food approach to manufacturing: cheap and predictable. The problem I see is that musicians are not a homogenous group. They are each unique and have something different to express.

 

Lullaby amplifiers are built to heirloom standards. Each Lullaby amplifier is a one of a kind creation that offers the complex personality seen in master-built violins or pianos. These amplifiers listen to you and respond accordingly. In fact, different players are likely to get distinctly different tones from the same Lullaby amplifier. This is because they are designed and optimized for touch sensitivity, allowing them to respond to a musician’s playing style while allowing the intricacies of an instrument to shine.

 

My approach to achieving this is simple: I build the best amplifiers that I am capable of building, using top materials and components, each one individually voiced toward an ideal. The result is an amplifier with its own personality, as complex and unique as the artist who uses it.

 

Building amplifiers has allowed me to bridge the gap between music and sculpture. I feel as though through circuitry and design, I am able to create a tool which allows for the sculpting of sound. It’s a joy to witness a master musician as they explore the possibilities in one of these circuits. It’s like magic!

Tell me about your favorite amp.

It is actually the first amplifier that I built entirely from scratch. In 2009, I made the pine cabinet, steel chassis and point-to-point circuit for what was to be a small 5-watt
tube-powered combo. Over the next few years, I re-imagined and rebuilt that little amplifier at least a dozen times. With each revision the circuit became more responsive, more opinionated and more versatile. I’d estimate that I spent well over 1,000 hours soldering and de-soldering that little monster before arriving at its specific voice.

 

Since then, this amp has been traveling the country behind one of Louisiana’s most talented musicians, Dax Riggs. If you’re familiar with Dax’s music, you know how unique and powerful his performances can be.

 

Dax says that his Lullaby has a soul of its own. I don’t know that I could be more proud of another amplifier.