Author Topic: Polishing bakelite.  (Read 36783 times)

Offline Brinybay

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2011, 05:22:41 PM »
I took the handset off and used the steel wool again on it for another 15 minutes or so.  I think that's the best it's going to get, since there was little change in the appearance.  It wasn't in bad shape to begin with, just minus the shiny outer coating, but that's ok, I kinda like the semi-gloss look.  I've recoated it in SSS and am going to leave it for a couple days, recoating it each day.  I dislike strong perfumey smells, but I found a way to minimize that by enclosing it in a 2 gallon zip-lock bag while it's soaking up the SSS.
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Offline djtownsend

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2011, 09:29:31 AM »
I can't speak for others but I give my hat off for suggesting the Skin So Soft and the process that goes along with using it.  I ordered it and worked on a bakelike handset including the SSS.  WOW.  It really did the trick.  One thing I have to suggest is that after sanding, use tack cloth to get all of the loose matter off of the handset before applying the SSS.  Tack cloth is used in woodworking to remove sawdust before applying a finish.  Overall, I can't be more satisfied with the results.

Thanks.

Dan

Online Doug Rose

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2011, 10:38:56 AM »
I can't speak for others but I give my hat off for suggesting the Skin So Soft and the process that goes along with using it.  I ordered it and worked on a bakelike handset including the SSS.  WOW.  It really did the trick.  One thing I have to suggest is that after sanding, use tack cloth to get all of the loose matter off of the handset before applying the SSS.  Tack cloth is used in woodworking to remove sawdust before applying a finish.  Overall, I can't be more satisfied with the results.

Thanks.

Dan
Over Twenty years ago I was walking a flea market and a seller had these really shiny bakelite phones. I asked him how he got them so shiny, and he said Avon SSS.  I asked him if he meant the smelly sh*t that keeps mosquitoes away. Yessir! How did you ever think to use it? He nodded to the seller next to him, my girlfriend sells Avon. He never explained the leap to the phones, but he was correct. The fine steel wool was just a guess on my part...Doug

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Offline GG

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2011, 01:20:49 AM »


About the leap to the phones:  how it must have gone. 

He'd just finished cleaning one and it was clean but dull.  Then his girlfriend came over and picked up the receiver, while she still had some of that Avon stuff on her hand.  When she put it down, he noticed the shine and asked her what she had on her hands. 

And the rest is history.  Except that Avon still hasn't traded its old doorbell sound for a C4A ringer!


Offline Brinybay

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2011, 03:03:23 PM »


About the leap to the phones:  how it must have gone. 

He'd just finished cleaning one and it was clean but dull.  Then his girlfriend came over and picked up the receiver, while she still had some of that Avon stuff on her hand.  When she put it down, he noticed the shine and asked her what she had on her hands. 

And the rest is history.  Except that Avon still hasn't traded its old doorbell sound for a C4A ringer!

It's the Original Bath Oil that's used, so she must have just got out of the bath.
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Offline Bill

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #20 on: July 10, 2011, 04:50:12 PM »
I'm going to jump in here, and you can beat me up if you want. I don't mean to sound preachy, and I apolgize in advance if it comes across that way.

In the very first post in this thread, Trainman said "you can't polish bakelite". I believe he is right - you can't polish real bakelite.

Bakelite is simply a phenol resin mixed with a fine sawdust filler. Molded bakelite can be smooth and glossy when new, because the phenol (a liquid) was pressed against the mirror-finish surface of an expensive mold. But later, if the surface of the part gets worn or scuffed, and you try to polish it, you expose the sawdust-and-phenol mixture below the surface - and it looks like hell. Trainman used the word "layer" to describe the glossy surface, but it isn't really a layer (like paint). It is simply the surface of the phenol liquid.

The confusion arises, I think, because the word "bakelite" is so often misused, to describe any plasticy material that was molded into a shape. I'm not directly familiar with the North Telephones that are pictured in this thread, but they look quite similar to Western Electric 302's. The shell of a 302 is often descirbed as bakelite, but it is not - it is a thermoplastic (except the early ones which were metal). Similarly, the E-1 and F-1 handsets are bakelite, but I don't think the G-1 is.  NOT CORRECT - SEE BELOW

In this thread
http://www.classicrotaryphones.com/forum/index.php?topic=2229.0
JorgeAmely, one of our more knowledgable members, observed that "Bakelite is a thermoset: once cast, it cannot be melted to be cast into another plastic part. You can think of it as concrete. What makes it shiny is a thin layer of plastic that coats the mold before they inject it with the bakelite compound.

Tenite and ABS are thermoplastics: once cast, it can be melted into another shape. Unlike bakelite, it is homogeneous all the way through, so if you find a defect, you can sand it lightly, polish it and regain the luster it originally had."

The "hot pin test" is often suggested as a way to tell the difference. A hot pin will penetrate into a thermoplastic - it will not penetrate into a thermosetting plastic like bakelite.

Why do I care? Like Briny, I have an F1 handset (true bakelite), which is scuffed dull dull dull. Dull enough that it is not in any way attractive. I would love to make it glossy again. But I've had the same experience that Briny sounds like he had. I spent a lot of time trying to polish it, and simply made it more dull. Applying oil, like SSS, simply gave me an oily handset, but it still looked dull, so I had to clean off the oil with a solvent. Shoe polish made it blacker, but not glossier. The only solution, I think, is to paint it with a glossy paint.

Finally, cihensley recently posted a link to a WECo patent on re-covering Bakelite. The process is complex, involves many steps, special equipment, and noxious chemicals. If a little bit of oil or shoe polish or a buffing machine could do it, WECo would not have sunk all the money into developing this re-covering  (not polishing) process.

So I agree with Trainman - true bakelite can't be polished.

In the antique radio community, it is common to find radios from the 1920s with a black bakelite front panel, and these panels are usually dull and dingy. Although they can be cleaned, it is accepted that they can't be polished. Many (including me) have tried, and it simply looks worse after polishing.

I'll get off my soapbox now. But if we are trying to help new and old members with their phones, it is better to give real advice. I know I wasted a lot of time and effort trying to polish bakelite, and in the end I just made it worse. I will paint it instead.

Bill
« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 10:55:23 AM by Bill »

Online Doug Rose

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2011, 08:46:44 PM »
Bill...how do you explain my Brown North Galion and my Green North Galion in the beginning of the post? When you wipe the Avon SSS off the bakelite, it does not remain oily. Its seeps in and dries. I think the two Norths had a rather dramatic change and remain in the same condition today. I don't have all the facts as you do, but I think I have the proof. They are not oily and in my estimation, pretty shiny; not dull and very faded as they were in the original "before' pictures. I think they are an upgrade over the condition that they were in, whether there are layers in bakelite or not, but just my opinion. What do you think? Are these Norths not "real bakelite." Not trying to beat you up, BUT I really just do not understand. They sure look good to me. I've been using this refurb method for years on bakelite, 99% black bakelite, but I thought it was real bakelite. What is the difference?

« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 08:40:53 AM by Doug Rose »
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Offline Bill

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2011, 08:30:59 AM »
Doug -

As your pictures show, your Galions look great, and are a great improvement over the "before" pictures. But no, I don't think they are true bakelite. Like WECo 302s (also referred to as bakelite very often), I think they are a thermoplastic. It would be interesting to try the hot pin test.

Bill
« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 08:51:50 AM by Bill »

Online Doug Rose

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2011, 08:54:37 AM »
Yes I read your post, over and over.

As for this comment
 
"But if we are trying to help new and old members with their phones, it is better to give real advice. I know I wasted a lot of time and effort trying to polish bakelite."
 
Hard to be happy after seeing that.

What is true bakelite? I really need to know.

I have only been able to use steel wool on bakelite.

Tenite. One pass of steel will would destroy it in a second. The green North had hours upon hours of steel wool and SSS. WE 302s are not bakelite. Only thing WE made in bakelite, that I am aware of, are black E1, F1 and early G1 handsets. No shell that I am aware of was made by WE in bakelite. I would strongly advise anyone not to use steel wool on them, but again, just my opinion and not real advise...Doug


I am amazed the SSS had to be removed with a solvent. I let it sit a few days and wipe it off with a rag. Not oily at all.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 08:57:13 AM by Doug Rose »
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Offline Bill

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2011, 10:51:12 AM »
OK, it is an interesting topic, so I followed my own advice. I pulled out a beat-up 302, took off the base, and applied the point of a hot fine-tip soldering iron (I was doing some repairs on something else) to an inconspicuous spot inside the case. As the kids say (or used to say, I can't keep up), it was "like buttah!" I could have pushed the hot point right through the case in two or three seconds. It is thermoplastic, and melts easily as described by JorgeAmely.

On the other hand, I was wrong about the G1 handset. I pulled one out, unscrewed the earpiece cap, dropped out the element, and pushed the same hot soldering iron against the back of the cavity. It didn't even make a mark. The G-1, like the E-1 and F-1, is apparently bakelite. I will modify my post above so that there is no confusion.

So how to tell the difference? Real heat seems to be the ultimate test. But I noticed a couple things that will help me in the future. First, the 302 case is rather flexible - once the case was off the base, it was easy to bend the sidewall back and forth by an eighth of an inch. Bakelite seems to be much more rigid. Second, bakelite "feels" heavier. The 302 case felt lightweight, not quite cheesy but not heavy and sturdy, either. When I picked up the G-1 handset, I noticed immediately that it felt solid and heavy. Jorge used the analogy of concrete, and that isn't too far off. I suppose it takes some practice, but these will help me in the future.

As for your Galions, I have never seen/touched/bent/burned one, so I don't know. But they look like 302s, and they polished up wonderfully, like 302s, so I still tend to think they are not bakelite.

Bill
« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 11:08:09 AM by Bill »

Online Doug Rose

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #25 on: July 11, 2011, 02:15:14 PM »
Bakelite is bakelite. Bakelite will tolerate putting paint stripper on it and the use of steel wool in it. Stripper on tenite and you have a melted mound of goo. Steel wool on tenite and you will cry when you see your damaged treasure. Done them both. The Norths are bakelite and just because you have not held them or done your tests on them, does not mean they are not bakelite.

Skin so soft is not just any oil and works better than Wesson! I recommended skin so soft as bakelite being porous, absorbs the SSS. If it needs more in an area, it will dry. Reapply. When no more absorbs, wipe it off. NO SOLVENT needed. It treats the bakelite as it would your own skin. If you did not use SSS, you did not use the correct product as directed.

Directions were to use fine steel wool until the bakelite produced a shine and then use the skin so soft. I have done this on hundreds of bakelite phone parts and it worked everytime.

"But if we are trying to help new and old members with their phones, it is better to give real advice."

I still have trouble with this qoute as it is directed at me, since it is my advice. The advice was sound and if followed properly, does work. Sounds like you altered the method and blamed the advice (me). If you had followed the directions, your F1 would have shined. Not like a new bakelite handset, but it would look darn good.

Early G1s were bakelite, don't try iit on later G1s or see mound of goo.....Doug
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Offline Kenny C

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #26 on: July 11, 2011, 04:09:18 PM »
Doug,
I have tried it on E1, F1, and G1 handsets and it never helped. The same happened to me,I had to scrub it off. I followed the advice to a T.

Black G1 bakelite handsets were used on all black 500's from 1949 until 1963-64. Tenite was only used in colored sets from 1954-1959 and they were G3 not G1. As far as I know a black G3 handset in tenite never exsisted. They made them in ABS in 1964 as I have one but the G1 was only produced in bakelite.
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Offline Bill

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #27 on: July 11, 2011, 04:13:22 PM »
Quote
I still have trouble with this qoute as it is directed at me, since it is my advice.
No, it certainly is not directed at you. It is directed at the habitual use, by nearly everyone, of the term "bakelite" to denote any plastic material. That is where the problem comes in, because it means that people have trouble choosing the right refinishing technique. If someone is told that he has a "bakelite" phone, he may try a bakelite-appropriate repair technique, such a vigorous sanding. And if his phone is really plastic, we are agreed that he will destroy his phone.

Sorry (again) if you were offended. It was not intended, and it certainly doesn't help anyone choose the right technique. Why don't you and I agree to just drop the subject. I'm willing to let people make the best choice they can.

Bill
« Last Edit: July 11, 2011, 04:24:01 PM by Bill »

Online Doug Rose

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #28 on: July 12, 2011, 09:55:35 AM »
Bakelite is a marvelous compound to refurb in my humble estimation. Real bakelite; not Tenite, not softplastic, not thermoplastic; not hard plastic: bakelite. Bakelite is thick and heavy. You drop it, it could shatter. I have dropped an F1 and had it broken in half. I have dropped an AE40 and had it crack down the middle. Bakelite only! Its tempermental and damages easily, see Kellogg 925 Ashtray. Bakelite was too thin, chips and cracks all the time. WE E1 spit cup, chips chips chips. Bakelite!

Lets forget Avon Skin so Soft. Take it out of the equation.

Bakelite and fine 00 steel wool. NO SSS. Fine steel wool on bakelite will give it a warm glow. It will become smooth and shiny. You can use paint stripper on bakelite. Remove the paint and the paint acted like a preservative. Bakelite will be smooth and shiny underneath. The bakelite has to be in smooth usable condition. The receiver caps on a WE F1 will sometimes get rough and course. When your bakelite is like this, trash it or paint it. That is the only time I will ever paint bakelite.  95% of the bakelite I can use fine steel wool on will come out looking great.

As you use the steel wool on it, you will see it start to shine. The SSS is just use to get moisture back in the bakelite as it is very porous, it will drink it up. If you don't like the smell or the oiliness, don't use use. I think its a wonder oil, but that's just me. The steel wool will do the trick. In my opinion, the SSS really makes a difference it the future of the bakelite.

I have been doing this for thirty years and it always has worked for me. I walked around my phone room last night and looked at the bakelite phones I have restored using this formula. This will be the last time I will mention bakelite or SSS or steel wool. I am just not understanding why this works for me and not anyone else.

Yes, bakelite is the most overused term in phones. Sellers call everything bakelite.

Doug
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Offline Babybearjs

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #29 on: September 16, 2011, 02:23:46 AM »
interesting thread....I just used WD-40 to clean mine up with... it does the job, but only for awhile. but it was mainly used for cleaning, not polishing.... I'll have to try some turtlewax and see what that does for me.  John
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