Solar CB-160 Capacitor Analyzer (1945)
I got this Solar model CB-1-60 capacitor analyzer for a few dollars
at a swap meet. I use it for checking capacitors, although
it can also determine resistance.
The factory owner manual describes the CB-1-60 in detail and it
also includes a schematic. Click the icon below to download it
from the BAMA website:
My CB-1-60 sat forgotten on a shelf for a few years, until someone happened
to mention this model in an online forum and I remembered that I
owned one! When I saw how simple it is
inside, I decided to restore it and try it out.
The first photo shows the unrestored chassis. I'll replace those
four tubular paper capacitors and the rectangular box that
contains two electrolytic capacitors. (See my
recapping article for more about
I also checked the resistors, cleaned the controls, and tested the
CB-1-60's two tubes. Here's the restored chassis, ready to go.
You could put the new electrolytics into the original rectangular box, but I
simply mounted them on the nearby terminal strip.
The wooden case was a little beat up, so I cleaned it with mineral spirits
and then gave it a once-over with Howard's Restore-A-Finish. I also
removed the handle hardware to remove surface rust and blacked the
worn leather handle with liquid shoe dye. The next photo shows the Solar tester
ready to reassemble.
The old power plug was deteriorated, so I'll replace that, too.
My tester was missing its cover, which has a label with condensed
instructions. Shortly after I published this article, a fellow collector
emailed me this scan of the Solar instruction card.
Now, if I make a new cover, I can print out the card to go with it. Thanks, Kevin!
In the next photo, I'm testing an old "bumblebee"
(plastic-coated paper) capacitor. The Leakage lamp on the right is
glowing, meaning that the cap failed.
For this trial, I inserted the capacitor's leads directly into the
tester's test jacks. You can also plug in probes to connect to a
capacitor still mounted on a chassis (of course, one leg of the
capacitor should be disconnected for that test).
You can also test a capacitor's value.
Here, I have inserted a new, known-good capacitor to demonstrate.
In this mode, you watch the green magic eye indicator at upper left while turning
the big center dial. When a dark shadow in the eye reaches its maximum, you
stop turning and read the value from the scale.
More tests are possible (read the manual for details), but that's primarily
how I use my CB-1-60. A consumer-grade tester like this is suitable for everyday hobbyist
use, although it can't match the precision of expensive laboratory or military
equipment. And of course, like other 65-year old equipment, it doesn't comply with
all modern safety standards. But it's easy to use and effective, as long as
you use common sense and understand what it's designed to do.
I own another, similar tester, a 1965
EICO 950B. That article has more
to say about the uses of these devices.