Author Topic: Polishing bakelite.  (Read 38479 times)

Offline Stephen Furley

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #30 on: October 02, 2011, 08:56:16 AM »
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


Certainly much that is described as Bakelite is not.  Phenol formaldehyde resin is a reddish-brown colour, so anything which is not brown or black is not going to be Bakelite for a start, unless it is painted of course.  The Ivory GPO 300 series 'phones for example are often described as Bakelite, but they are not, I think they are actually Urea Formaldehyde, which is more fragile than Bakelite is.

I think that Bakelite is strictly somebody's trade name, but if we accept that it has come into generic use to describe any filled phenol formaldehyde thermosetting resin, then all Bakelite is certainly not created equal; some of it will polish very well, while other will not.  While the best Bakelite used wood flour filler, asbestos was also quite widely used, I believe that it was both cheaper, and produced a stronger product, but did not look as good.  Where telephones are concerned my experience has been that British Bakelite is generally of better quality than American, though there are exceptions; I have an old SC 'curved' handset, which is good, and takes a very good polish.  Interestingly, with ABS plastic, the opposite seems to apply; the American material seems to be better than the British, which is more prone to warping, and shows much worse discolouration, which penetrates much deeper than the American material.

The handset on my SC 1543 for example is Bakelite, it was very dull and dirty when I received it; the dirt has cleaned off, but it will not take a good polish; it has less of a shine, and the surface has a courser, almost gritty look to it.  I'm pretty sure that the filler in this case is asbestos, rather than wood flour.  GPO Bakelite still seems to take a good polish, even when the original surface has been rubbed away.  The handset on my recently-acquired 'toaster' 'phone is also Bakelite, clean, but very dull.  I think somebody has used some sort of quite course abrasive on it.  It's getting better, but still looks rather like the 1543 handset.  In contrast, I have a GPO block terminal in front of me, on which I have polished out some quite deep scratches, and the surface still looks as good as new.

Could it be that on some of the courser Bakelites a surface layer of resin without  filler was used, either applied to the mould in the same way as the 'gel coat' on GRP mouldings, or sprayed onto the surface of the Bakelite afterwards, to improve the appearance, but which was not required on better quality Bakelite?  I've seen Bakelite parts which have been partly shaped by machining, where the finished shape would have been difficult to produce entirely by moulding, and the machined surface has polished up quite well.


Offline Bingles

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #31 on: March 13, 2012, 11:38:59 PM »
What would you folks suggest for maintaining the bakelite?  I just bought a Kellogg redbar phone that I use on a daily basis and want to maintain the shine of the phone and prevent the case from drying and developing cracks.  Do any of you routinely polish them up with SSS by just applying with a cloth?

Offline bingster

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #32 on: March 19, 2012, 04:47:20 PM »
If you use a bakelite handset on a daily basis, I'd think that putting something between your skin and the bakelite is the way to go to prevent wear.  I wax mine occasionally to provide a protective barrier over the bakelite.  Plus it makes it look nice.
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Offline Bill

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #33 on: March 20, 2012, 04:14:54 PM »
Bingster -

What do you wax it with? Car wax?

Bill

Offline bingster

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #34 on: March 23, 2012, 08:14:14 PM »
I think paste car wax is probably the best thing, but I don't have any, so I use plain old Minwax cabinet wax in the big yellow can.  Apply it, wait 15-20 mins, rub excess off.
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Offline Telephone Mike

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #35 on: April 03, 2012, 02:04:10 PM »
I found a can of Design Master triple thick Master Shine super gloss finish #354 and tested it on a bakelite cap off a Galion H270 wall phone.  I scrubbed the cap with a sos pad to remove any grime or polish and gave it a couple of coats of the 354.  Looks great as you can see in comparison. Has anyone tried this or anything like it?  Am restoring a "jukebox" wall phone and thinking about using it to restore the shine but don't want to ruin this very collectable phone.

Offline DavePEI

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #36 on: September 26, 2012, 09:39:51 PM »
I use the fine 00 steel wool. The length of time depends on the condition of the handset. Its more a feel of when it looks right. Usually under 30 minutes. You will know when its done as the bakelite will have a glow/shine to it, just be wiping off the bakelite dust. After the steel wool, then I add the Avon SSS.

I don't understand why some people claim the steel wool method doesn't work. I can only think that they might not be using 0000 steel wool, or that their supplier uses poorly graded steel wool. Buy the good stuff from a paint store, not the consumer grade from a box store.

I just finished doing a old handset which was in very bad condition, no pitting, but no gloss at all, and paint spotting all over it. It now even without the SSS has a beautiful soft glow and no scratching.

Also, in the past, I discovered that Novus #3 polish works well on bakelite. I don't even go down to #2. Bakelite seems to need the additional coarseness of the #2 polish.

Dave
 
« Last Edit: September 26, 2012, 10:07:01 PM by DavePEI »
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Online Doug Rose

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #37 on: September 27, 2012, 02:19:48 PM »
Dave....I've been using this method consistantly for more years than I'd like to remember. I have never had a bakelite that didn't have orange peel look good as new again....thanks....Doug
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Offline DavePEI

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #38 on: September 27, 2012, 02:59:51 PM »
Dave....I've been using this method consistantly for more years than I'd like to remember. I have never had a bakelite that didn't have orange peel look good as new again....thanks....Doug

Well, you are right - it works like a charm. Like I mentioned, I had been using Novus 3 on bakelite, but the .0000 steel wool treatment is faster and leaves a super soft glow to the handset. I will always keep good steel wool here for that job. I didn't need to use the SSS, because I love the soft gloss it left the handset with.

Dave
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Offline axil

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #39 on: October 09, 2012, 11:24:23 PM »
I'm new to this forum as well as new to obtaining Rotary Phones and restoring them.
This thread drew me as I was out back in the shop trying to get an AE40 to shine using Novus #2.
Steel wool was the farthest thing from my mind. I am definitely going to try it. I already have the SSS as the in-law peddles avon :)
Only thing I'm not sure of now is if it actually is bakelite?
I also picked up a AE50 "jukebox" so that will be my next patient.
Great thread guys

Offline DavePEI

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #40 on: October 10, 2012, 12:44:11 AM »
I'm new to this forum as well as new to obtaining Rotary Phones and restoring them.
This thread drew me as I was out back in the shop trying to get an AE40 to shine using Novus #2.
Steel wool was the farthest thing from my mind. I am definitely going to try it. I already have the SSS as the in-law peddles avon :)
Only thing I'm not sure of now is if it actually is bakelite?
I also picked up a AE50 "jukebox" so that will be my next patient.
Great thread guys
Much as I support using steel wool on bakelite handsets, I wouldn't recommend using it on the body of an AE40 - you could completely destroy the phone. I would use it on a bakelite handset. I have always found the best thing to use on bakelite phone bodies is NOVUS #3, then follow that up with Novus #2. Once that is done, use SSS.

I don't know how the other fellows feel about this, but AE 40s are beginning to get expensive and I don't want to see you destroy yours. I would be very cautious. If you try this and try it on a hidden part of the phone first..

Dave
« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 01:02:42 AM by DavePEI »
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Offline axil

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #41 on: October 10, 2012, 01:04:15 AM »
Much as I support using steel wool on bakelite handsets, I wouldn't recommend using it on the body of an AE40 - you could completely destroy the phone. I would use it on a bakelite handset. I have always found the best thing to use on bakelite phone bodies is NOVUS #3, then follow that up with Novus #2. Once that is done, use SSS.

I don't know how the other fellows feel about this, but AE 40s are beginning to get expensive and I don't want to see you destroy yours. I would be very cautious if you try this and try it on a hidden part of the phone first..

Dave
Thx Dave do you use a polisher(ryobi) when applying the Novus products?

I use a home built buffer, Axil. And I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I get some pretty good results. See:

http://www.islandregister.com/phones/buffing.html

The reason a lot of us would try stainless steel on bakelite handsets (not plastic), is they often become very badly messed up due to the action of the environment and more importantly I think, skin oils on them. This very seldom happens to the actual phone body, and a body would have to be truly bad before I would even consider it.

Novus #3 is (on plastic) made for deep scratch removal. In my experience on bakelite, it works more like Novus 2 does on plastic, but yes, you do need a power buffer, or else it would take days.

With a power buffer, though, keep a really good grip on the body - a buffer can rip it right out of your hands and throw it to the floor - I've had it happen. These things do take experience, and unless your body is in terrible shape, for now until you have more experience, I would suggest just using hand rubbed Novus #2 and SSS.

Some day when you have a scrap phone is the time to play with buffers. With plastic using a buffer, you need to move the piece quite quickly on the wheel - you can burn (melt) the plastic with the heat generated during the buffing process. I really do recommend doing it for the first time on a phone which doesn't mean anything to you (something from a budget store such as I did when I started machine buffing). Please don't try it the first time on a phone you really care about.

That being said, I think a lot of people here will recommend machine buffing, but it is an acquired skill. You do need to move the piece at the correct speed, and use appropriate pressure, all something you are best learning on a scrap piece...

It is nice to see the difference it can make, though. Never mix grits on the same wheel - in other words, have a wheel for course buffing, another for fine compound.

I hear about a lot of people using Ryobis for buffing with good result. I can't speak for it myself, as I haven't tried it myself. It would likely be gentler and less likely to burn.

Dave

« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 01:35:25 AM by DavePEI »

Offline AE_Collector

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #42 on: October 10, 2012, 01:35:29 AM »
As for buffers, most will recommend a buffer in the 1700 RPM range or slower rather than the usual 3400 RPM range. 3400 is okay for metal but not most phones unless you are very experienced.

As Dave says, be very carefully with the steel wool too, Bakelite has a resin like shiny surface to it that in some cases isn't very thick and if you wear thought it, you are done.

Terry

Online Doug Rose

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #43 on: October 10, 2012, 08:48:30 AM »
I'm new to this forum as well as new to obtaining Rotary Phones and restoring them.
This thread drew me as I was out back in the shop trying to get an AE40 to shine using Novus #2.
Steel wool was the farthest thing from my mind. I am definitely going to try it. I already have the SSS as the in-law peddles avon :)
Only thing I'm not sure of now is if it actually is bakelite?
I also picked up a AE50 "jukebox" so that will be my next patient.
Great thread guys
Much as I support using steel wool on bakelite handsets, I wouldn't recommend using it on the body of an AE40 - you could completely destroy the phone. I would use it on a bakelite handset. I have always found the best thing to use on bakelite phone bodies is NOVUS #3, then follow that up with Novus #2. Once that is done, use SSS.

I don't know how the other fellows feel about this, but AE 40s are beginning to get expensive and I don't want to see you destroy yours. I would be very cautious. If you try this and try it on a hidden part of the phone first..

Dave
Fine Steel Wool worked really great on my Mahogany North Galion....Doug

http://www.classicrotaryphones.com/forum/index.php?topic=3509.15
« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 08:58:59 AM by Doug Rose »
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Online Doug Rose

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Re: Polishing bakelite.
« Reply #44 on: October 10, 2012, 09:02:19 AM »
steel wool worked fine on my Green North as well....Doug
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