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To renickel/refinish or not to , That is the question?

Started by rfkimba, July 08, 2014, 11:18:50 PM

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Dear Guys,
I realize that ideally one would want to collect late 1800 and early 1900 wall and desk  phones with all the original nickel plating present. However the reality is many parts are all or mostly brassed out usually from wear. Also early  nickle plated steel switchooks routinely corroded badly.
The black japan finish often is in a bad state on old phones also.

Personally when I get an old phone with a badly   corroded steel  switchook or fully brassed out bells when the originals were plated, I send the parts  to Dennis Hallsworth for renickeling.  If it is partially brassed out but not badly pitted or peeling I  polish as best I can and leave.
If the wood case has the finish mostly  intact I can usually refinish with Howard's Restore A Finish and steel wool and then some wax.   

I was wondering if there is a consensus across the hobbyists  as to when to renickel, repaint   and  refinish wood cases or not?
Doesnt  renickeling at some point add to value on a badly worn/corroded phone?

Your thoughts are most appreciated.
Bob Farber
ATCA 4685


I have found that I am capable of really messing up a perfectly good phone by trying to "restore" it.  Some things I am good at, but others I am not.  I am OK with standard woodworking restoration, but some metal painting, and especially plastics are things I should avoid.  I think I have ruined more than I am really proud of.

I think one should have a level of competency that they develop with run of the mill phones before jumping into any real prize.

Newly nickeled parts look so great that unless you do the whole phone, they may look out of place.  If you do the whole phone and mess it up, it will look even worse.

I would choose my restoration projects carefully, and maybe pass if I did not know completely how to do the work.

BTW, Dennis Hallworth does excellent work and I have absolutely no hesitation in sending work to him.  Its my own competency at restoring that I am often uneasy about.
-Bill G


I have had a number of parts re-nickeled by Dennis.  He does an excellent job.  For some projects  have had to tone down the shine so that it would better match the older nickel on the rest of the phone.  I have also had him skip buffing out some parts and polished them by hand.  I refinish a wood phone in order to protect the wood if the original finish is toast.  Sometimes I use shellac, sometimes I just rub in linseed or tung oil.
Greg Sargeant
Providence, RI
TCI /ATCA #4409


How do you tone down the shine if a newly renickled part is too shiny to match other parts?
Bob Farber

Liver of sulphur gives the parts a nice aged patina.  I use Mirlon steel wool (2500-1200-400) and or a rotary rock tumbler filled with steel shot. 



Not sure what Greg uses but Liver of Sulfur is commonly used for antiquing nickel plating to darken the appearance.

Dennis Hallworth