Friday, May 22, 2015

My newest toy: the Lionel CDV-700 6B Geiger counter

Here's a short list of the things I've been shocked by:


  • Electric fence charger (I had the misfortune of holding it in both hands when it bit me)
  • Wall socket (horribly stupid school prank gone wrong)
  • Coverless light switch (felt around in the dark for said light switch)
  • Water heater (gas water heater, but it had an electronic thermostat)
  • A 9V battery taser (worthless for protection, by the way)
  • Bare house wiring in a customer's attic (didn't bite me until I grabbed a copper pipe)
  • A ton of other things I can't remember at the moment


As of about an hour ago, I can add "Cold War-era Geiger counter" to the list:

Ain't it a beauty? Came with the original headset, too.

Yes, I knew the insides were high voltage. No, I didn't take the proper precautions when poking around inside. Yes, I felt the jolt right in my heart. I would rate this shock between the bare wiring (surprisingly mild) and the cattle fence charger (surprisingly strong).

I've been trying to get one of these for about a year and a half, but most eBay listings were either a little too damaged or a little too overpriced. I suspect the current price on these units is due to Fukashima-concerned consumers trying to screen their produce. Just so you know, most Geiger counters are pretty much worthless for this application. If you have no interest in using a Geiger counter properly, don't buy one.

I got this one for $60 because the seller didn't know what was wrong with it or how to operate it. Aside from battery corrosion (I have an $8 replacement compartment on the way from UraniumRocks.com, which also sells refurbished units for $180 a piece) and a bit of rust on the can, the unit is in good condition. A sticker indicates the civil defense calibrated it in 1983, the year I was born, and I wanted the Lionel-manufactured unit because A) it uses two D-cells instead of four, and B) it's just cool that a toy company (well, model train company) manufactured it.

Baseline readings at my own house are a little higher than average (in my admittedly limited data set, anyway). The "hottest" thing I found was an old breadbox my parents used to keep our pills and vitamins in. The second hottest was a mysterious box in my father's garage. The thrill of opening the newspaper-packed box up was more exciting than anything that ever happened to me while metal detectin', but I was disappointed, if not relieved, to only find lantern mantles inside.

As is, it's a pretty good unit for detecting potential sources and listening to that great Geiger counter sound, but I imagine it will be a while before I purchase a newer check source and get it properly calibrated. Nonetheless, it's a pretty piece of Cold War history for my shelf.

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