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Soft Plastic Model 554's

Started by jsowers, September 15, 2009, 04:47:44 PM

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If anyone that read my first posting on this light gray/dark gray phone experienced deja vu, you might want to click the link to a thread Just4Phones started last May.  Lightning really can strike twice.

Dennis Markham

Stephen that is pretty amazing.  It's not the same one is it?  Maybe lightning can strike again?


Quote from: Jester on January 09, 2011, 11:34:47 PM
It looks like the paint is polane.  Oh well, I've been there before.


Congrats on the Oxford Gray phone. Unfortunately, it seems like the early paint jobs were made with Polane. I'll be interested in seeing how you tackle the logo. Perhaps you can use a very fine spray gun (used by hobbyist) to just paint over the logo with some custom made Oxford Gray paint.

Looking forward to see the results.



Quote from: Dennis Markham on January 10, 2011, 02:57:47 PM
Stephen that is pretty amazing.  It's not the same one is it?

Looking at the auction and Forum pictures, the one Just4Phones had was more worn on the earcap than the one Stephen got, and Stephen's has a light gray backboard and a few dings on the corners. But they are eerily similar. They did probably go through the same refurb process. When light gray came out in 1957-58 would be the time I'd think it could have happened. Maybe they took leftovers and turned them into new models? I can imagine dark gray 554s were not popular at all, so it stands to reason they had some left over.

Stephen, it's great you have that backboard. I remember when you got it. Spare parts have a way of generating the rest of the phone sometimes. I've bought a couple soft plastic "phones of many colors" that soon donated their parts to phones I got afterwards. Once I found a 500 that was part dark gray and part red and I managed to combine that with another part dark gray phone and make one complete dark gray. And the red caps left over from that went to yet another phone.

Good luck getting the paint off. I hope to see the finished product someday hanging on your wall in the display.


That is pretty wild, at first glance I would say that is the same phone. Is Rod Serling nearby?
Harry Smith
ATCA 4434

"There is no try,
there is only
do or do not"


No that is not my phone.  Dennis has first dibs on it anyway if it goes  ;D  When I saw this thread I thought hmmmmm that does look like my phone.  Maybe W.E. made this a practice in the late 50's and these are as rare as the oxfords?   I'm holding out for a med blue or red or green 500 with gray cords as a trade.  Alas...... one day  :-\   I'll own one.  Joel


I am finally ready to show the forum what came with that dark gray backboard that was mentioned previously.  I was more than thrilled to win this dark red 554, but slightly disappointed in its overall condition when it got here.  As I soaked in all the things wrong with it, my disappointment gave over to pure amazement-- I still can't explain why certain things done to the phone during its removal from its resting place of many years didn't cause more extensive damage or destroy it completely!

To begin with, someone tried removing the cover by PRYING the latch open instead of pushing the tab into the mouse hole to release it.  In the process, the D shaped tab broke off the latch, and there were gouge marks around the mouse hole, and a rib on the left side of the latch broke off & went missing! :o  With the force needed to remove this piece of metal from the latch, it surprises me that the cover didn't crack somewhere along the bottom edge.

After the cover was released from the bottom of the base, more damage was caused when the cover was lifted up over the large switch hook.  On these early 554's, the only way to remove the cover is to depress the hook down, or there won't be enough room to pass the cover over the hook.  This resulted in several deep gouges along the upper circumference of the dial opening.  These did not prove easy to remove, because care has to be taken to smooth this rounded, sharp edged shape, or you will turn it into an oval.

Once I removed the cover, I discovered the entire inside was covered in thick black mold.  This phone had obviously been in service in a VERY damp place, and the mold had even grown on the lacquered insulation, hiding the different colors.

Finally, I discovered areas on the outside cover had been painted over--with lacquer-based varnish! The painters had been somewhat careful with their job, but all four corners & a few spots along the edges had definite marks left on them.  And, since it was lacquer based, it reacted with the tenite cover in a way that brightened the color where ever it contacted.

Even so, this early wallphone was able to be saved.  Below are some shots I took today.

Dennis Markham

Very nice, Stephen.  You did a great job making it look original again.  That is a very nice telephone!  Is that hook the brushed aluminum type?


The hook is the early style with the dull/rough finish.  I used some techniques you mentioned in an earlier thread to clean it.


Stephen, it's a beautiful phone now. No wonder it took a while to bring this one back to original. I've seen varnish on plastic before and it's not easy to remove. You do really good work! Kitchen phones get lots of gunk inside them. Not everyone had an exhaust fan in the kitchen in those days.

I remember this auction and I remember bidding on the phone because of the backboard, but I don't think any of that damage was visible or mentioned. I've gotten several 554s with damage like that--broken ribs and dials not mounted correctly. It's incredible how many people can't figure out how to get them open.

I see you've changed the backboard to a red one. If it's not too much trouble, could you post a picture of the dark gray backboard? It's the only one I've ever seen. I hope it leads you right to the dark gray 554 to go with the backboard. A rare phone indeed.


Another amazing rescue operation from Steven. I am glad it will probably be admired and kept around for another 50+ years.


Beautiful job, Stephen.  Amazing work.   What did you do to get rid of the black mold and minimize the risk of it returning?   And what do you do when you get one with a housing that's warped? 


Quote from: jsowers on May 11, 2011, 09:53:51 PM
If it's not too much trouble, could you post a picture of the dark gray backboard? It's the only one I've ever seen. I hope it leads you right to the dark gray 554 to go with the backboard. A rare phone indeed.

Here are a few fresh shots of the backboard.  I have included a 172B-3 for contrast.  You may have forgot this, but there was an earlier pic. that I provided above.


Quote from: GG on May 12, 2011, 05:23:21 AM

What did you do to get rid of the black mold and minimize the risk of it returning?   And what do you do when you get one with a housing that's warped? 

I squirted the entire cover down with sudsy ammonia and water and let it soak for @ 15 to 20 minutes.  I then rinsed it in warm water & scrubbed clean with a soft sponge.  The water tends to leave a cloudy film on soft plastic, and soaps & cleansers make this more noticable.  Polishes, such as Novus 2, will remove this film, so I have not worried about the effects of water & cleaners.  The only "sealers" I have ever used are Novus 2 & F21 protectant.  So far, I have been pleased with the results.

Regarding warpage--I have been "lucky".  None of my 554's have shown signs of warpage.  In the few cases that I have run into it, a hairdryer & some pressure using thumb & forefinger have produced positive results.


Last month my son got me an ITT 554 with the 172B-3 backboard. When he took it off the wall where is was at (it was still in use) he almost didn't take the board. He even got the screws that Bell used to mount it on the wall. At the time I had never seen the board used. My board is black.
"Oh lord it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way. I can't wait to look in the mirror, I get better looking each day"