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Painting 500 / 554 telephones and their numbered dials

Started by Rotorman, September 12, 2017, 06:11:12 PM

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I suspect this has been covered before, but I couldn't locate it.  I have a number of ugly flesh colored working phones that I can't bear to look at.  It's probably pretty straightforward to sand them slightly, apply primer, and a top coat of gloss paint, but what the heck do you do with the dial area?  The numbers, of course, would be obliterated, and would somehow have to be reapplied.  I suppose an accurate photo copy could be printed out on the old inkjet and be applied at the dial area, but it wouldn't wear well with fingers rubbing over it for any length of time, and would probably look tacky.  Any ideas appreciated, but leaving the ugly dial area as-is will be out of the question.  Is there a quality decal available for this?       

Jim Stettler

You could always use a dial overlay. You can find them in "big #" style and glow-in-the-dark. Some are even " Authorized attachments* " .
I have seen self adhesive and double stick styles.
You could use l adhesive numbers over a painted dial ring.

Another option would be  swapping out the number rings or entire dials
Jim S.
* "Authorized attachmen"t means it has a Bell  symbol on it.

BTW I have a large box of used rotary number plates packed away somewhere. I think  it has various brands and colors of the dial plates.
You live, You learn,
You die, you forget it all.


Just thinking about it - not planning on doing it, you could go a couple of ways:

1) GTE Method: Paint the entire dial bezel and then attach the numbers as a clear label - the numbers didn't rub off (it's just a simple sticker label that was professionally made).
2) Paint the bezel, apply numbers as through a transfer process (anyone remember Chartpak?), then coat with a finishing layer (either matte or glossy clear coat).
3) Paint the bezel, then meticulously scrape the paint off the existing numbers/letters - probably a lot more of a pain than it's worth.

I may (hint may) try option 2, if I run across the right size/close font numbers/letter.  Always wanted to create a purple 500 phone...

A phone phanatic since I was less than 2 (thanks to Fisher Price); collector since a teenager; now able to afford to play!
Favorite Phone: Western Electric Trimline - it just feels right holding it up to my face!

Jim Stettler

You could mask the numbers and letters, before you paint.
That's what they did on this SC 1543.
Jim S.
You live, You learn,
You die, you forget it all.


What's the intent or purpose of painting, just to change the color of the phone?

Painting plastic is problematic. If the paint is meant to stick well to the plastic, the paint solvents could dissolve the plastic when applying the paint. WE put Polane on plastic but that's an expensive 2 part resin paint/coating that once applied is near impossible to remove.

There are a lot of topics dealing with paint removal in the restoration board

but I can't remember any dealing with painting plastic.

So, again, why are you thinking of painting them?


I considered painting them because the tannish pink flesh color seems to have been common for a massive number of WE phones.  Can't tell you how many I've seen lying around for weeks at the flea markets with no takers, so there must be a lot of others that feel the same way.  I'll only buy them for parts to use on another desirable color phone, but hey, beauty is in the eye...   


Okay, I can buy that if it's your phone to keep and use.

Ever think about sanding down the bezel to make it look like new and just paint the housing a matching color or compatible color and turn these into a 2-tone phone?

What you do with the handset is up to you but if the coiled cord is original and in good condition, leaving the handset alone (just restored) with a matching cord might look good.

But, again, rattle can paints contain solvents, as do canned paints, that may dissolve the plastic upon contact. I very thin coat of primer might stop that. Don't know, never tried it.