Welcome to Ham Radio House, the Australian boatanchor shop!
More than 40 years ago, my father took me to Radio House in George Street, Sydney to buy an OA90 diode for (as I remember it now) 45 cents. My Dad had his old crystal set with Stromberg Carlson headphones ,the variable condensor and a baseboard. He showed me how with a diode, a set of high impedance headphones an aerial and an earth you could listen to radio. I was hooked, My first shortwave set was a Trio 9R4J which I still have.
I am an amateur radio operator with the call sign VK2ASC. I love valve gear and want to make it more accessible and where possible affordable. Gear is far more plentiful in the US, but is expensive to get here and you have to be able to work on equipment to keep it in working order. This gear is not at all hard to work on but it is high voltage gear and so you must be careful and vigilant - lethal voltages are present. There is no small shock from 300 to 3000v. As the AWA brochure says "LIVE WIRES MEAN DEAD MEN". Nevertheless they are not hard to work on compared to modern rigs and it is not generally that expensive. If you have a Foundation call then you can work on the receivers to get some experience, but you will need a General licence or above to work on transmitters or receivers, or a friendly "elmer".The sound quality from a valve rig is often inexplicably better than from a solid state rig - even a Kenwood. But valves are hard to get you say? And expensive. Check out the shop. Some transmitting valves are expensive, as are some sweep tubes - but not as expensive as you might imagine - and there are many of them still in existence - able to keep all of the valve gear going for many lifetimes. The oldest "new" valve I have has a 1944 date on it. But it is full of vacuum packed goodness.
I test valves where possible on a B&K 747 (solid state!) valve tester, or an ancient Precision if needed. Substitution is always the best way to test a valve though - at working voltages and loads. Still, it is a reasonable indication as a rule.
American gear runs on 110v to 120v. Where there are multiple primaries I set them up for 240v, but be prepared! I use the Proflex PRT-2000 transformer from CE Technology on eBay ...but look around..
Replace those old paper capacitors with 650v polyesters or orange dips. The electrolytics are 105 degree caps so they should cope with the heat of valve equipment better than the old 85 or 65 degree caps. I have some stock of variables as well..I can get multi section caps either modern, or reproduction Mallory's but they are fairly costly. You can of course hollow out the old cap and pack it with modern capacitors too.
Have fun looking around!