Telephone Identification, Repair & Restoration > Telephone Restoration Projects and Techniques

Japanning Trial

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So I've got this WE 20-AB that looked like somebody's unfinished project phone from decades ago.  It was brassed out but the entire phone is well patinated with a few small spots of verdigris here and there.  I got a regular 20 series hook to replace the railway headphone hook and a nickeled 277W transmitter for it.  I thought I might just take a crack at Japanning the phone (except the nickel transmitter, of course), since it needs a finish on it.  I am using the original transmitter cup for a test subject and if I like it, I'll take a stab at doing the rest of the phone.

For my Japanning, I used roughly equal parts of DAP Black roofing tar (contains asphalt and mineral spirits), mineral spirits, and spar varnish.  I think the main departure from a more traditional Japan finish is that the spar varnish likely contains synthetic resin instead of natural.  I have read that Gilsonite (asphaltum mined in Utah) was used for Japanning so I hope that the asphalt that DAP uses has similar properties.  And I hope that my proportions are suitable.

Here is the cup after 1st coat, and then baked in a toaster oven at 250 for half an hour.  I have the 2nd coat baking right now and after it's been in for 1/2 hour I will take it off the newspaper (which is in there baking with it) and turn up the heat to 350 and give it another 1/2 hour, then let it cool and continue to cure for a day or 2.  After that, I will see if it needs any smoothing or buffing, maybe give it a 3rd coat, or jump right to a final coat of just varnish.

Looks pretty good, Cliff. Please keep us updated. There is a post here somewhere where someone did a japaning job that was much more tedious This seems much easier.


--- Quote from: HarrySmith on April 17, 2015, 08:03:24 PM ---There is a post here somewhere where someone did a japaning job that was much more tedious This seems much easier.

--- End quote ---

I searched before trying this and searched again after reading your reply.  I found posts by cihensley where he mentioned rejapanning parts, but no details on the process were given, and I don't think I found any other members posting that they had done any Japanning.

Here it is after the 2nd coat and baking 1/2 hour at 250 and another 1/2 hour at 350.

As an FYI, those who collect old hand tools prefer japanning when restoring them. I started browsing their forums the last time japanning came up on the forum. One of them posted a link to this book back in 2006. Seems to be the original or first book written on the process. It dates to 1901, revised in 1913, and does not match what I have read about the WE process but it is interesting background on the process. Some of the materials used and the methods employed to "cook" them are less than desirable today.

A pdf print out of this link is attached in case the above link goes bad.

There is a topic somewhere on the forum detailing japanning but I have not yet found it either.

Of interest might also be this article of 1918:

George J. Kirkgasser, Electric Heat for Drying and Baking, Industrial Management 56(6), 489 (December 1918)


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