Author Topic: Browned bakelite  (Read 564 times)

Offline JimNY

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Browned bakelite
« on: September 07, 2019, 04:34:10 PM »
Hi All,
I'm brand new to collecting and this forum so I hope my question is relevant and appropriate. I stumbled upon what appears to be a pretty complete WE 317.  It has a pony style receiver that has browned considerably over the years. Is this receiver bakelite, and if so, is it safe to clean using brasso, or the other common methods mentioned on this forum?
Thanks for listening!

Offline Key2871

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2019, 05:33:00 PM »
Hey, and welcome. Sometimes they just don't come back.
I had a lathe at my disposal to use and using tools and steel wool got mine cleaned up well enough. And used black shoe polish to give it a nice black shine again.
I don't really recommend a lathe per say
 Because it can be very dangerous if something we're cracked and you didn't notice ahead of time.
But there are lots of people here with great advise to bring that baby back.
KEN

Offline Ktownphoneco

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2019, 06:19:22 PM »
Jim   .... Welcome to CRPF.  There's a lot of good information available here, and a lot of people who enjoy helping other collectors.     The 122W OST receiver had some material variants over time, but those parts of a 122W receiver that turn brown, are made of whats called "hard rubber".     They left the factory a nice deep black color, but over time, the ultra violet rays of sun light cause the hard rubber to turn a brownish color.    The top cap and the receiver cap are hard rubber, but I'm not sure about the shell, since it doesn't seem to have discolored as much as the aforementioned parts.      I'm attaching some photos of a hard rubber 122W OST receiver I repaired in October of 2017.   As you can see, the entire receiver housing has started turning brown.    Once the repairs were completed, I sanded the entire receiver housing right down to 2500 grit wet / dry sand paper and then polished it on a buffing wheel, and finally put everything back together.    The sanding and buffing brought it right back to it's original condition.

Jeff Lamb

Offline JimNY

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2019, 07:01:57 PM »
Ktownphoneco, that is an amazing transformation! Just to make sure I understand, you achieved that black color and shine from wet sanding and polishing only? No shoe polish, etc..  I'm excited that there is still some original life left in the old parts, but I certainly don't want to damage anything. I love the re-plated terminals as well!

Offline Ktownphoneco

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2019, 07:19:13 PM »
Yes, sanding and polishing "ONLY".     Other than the new nickel on the terminals, everything else is as it was just sitting under the brown discoloration, just waiting to be restored.   I use the wet / dry paper as mentioned, and I do it in a bucket of warm water sitting in the laundry tub.   Unless you have some heavy or deep scratches to get rid of, start with something around 600 grit.    If there's a small area with some scratches that the 600 grit is taking too long to get out, drop down to say 400 grit first, then start working your way up to 2500 grit.   If you  find that the brown discoloration is deeper than you first thought, you might want to start with something around 320 grit.    Be careful around the threads that the receiver cap (the large cap) threads onto.    It doesn't take much to cut through threads in hard rubber.   I use a buffing wheel once all the sanding is done, and use a product called Dico "PBC" (Plastic Buffing Compound).     It's made in Utica, NY and it's carried by a number of retailers including Ace Hardware.    I believe it's available on Amazon.com as well.      Also keep in mind, that as long as the receiver is on display on a telephone that's exposed to sunlight or even indirect sunlight, hard rubber will slowly start to turn brown again over time.     I'd say if you managed to get rid of all the brown, and achieved a nice "black pearl" shine, you'll start to see a little discoloration in about 4 to 5 years, depending on how exposed the receiver is to sunlight.

Jeff

Offline Key2871

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2019, 07:19:34 PM »
Jeff did an Awsome job on that. I too tried doing mine the same way, but didn't have that much success unfortunately.
I had to resort to shoe polish. I tried, I really did. But for what ever reason mine didn't respond as well.
KEN

Offline Jack Ryan

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2019, 12:46:05 AM »
As Jeff said, the receiver is hard rubber, also called Ebonite. It goes brown over time with oxidation and can be returned to black by a "cut and polish" method as Jeff described.

None of those early WE receivers was Bakelite. The first WE Bakelite receiver was the 706. Kellogg used Bakelite much earlier. I think all of WE's receivers were Ebonite except for the 143 (composite) and the 706 (Bakelite).

Jack





Offline tubaman

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2019, 05:48:01 AM »
This is interesting as the GPO receivers of the time have a brass shell with a hard rubber coating that is quite thin - and also goes brown with age. I'm not sure you can do the same to them as if the hard rubber cracks it starts to fall of and is pretty much impossible to repair (unless anyone here knows how perhaps?).
This is why you often see them in polished brass, as the outer hard rubber has been completely removed.
 :)

Offline Jack Ryan

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2019, 09:31:19 AM »
This is interesting as the GPO receivers of the time have a brass shell with a hard rubber coating that is quite thin - and also goes brown with age. I'm not sure you can do the same to them as if the hard rubber cracks it starts to fall of and is pretty much impossible to repair (unless anyone here knows how perhaps?).
This is why you often see them in polished brass, as the outer hard rubber has been completely removed.
 :)

The UK receivers are finished in Ebonite (hard rubber) which goes brown with age. it can be polished back to black with the same "cut and polish" approach. Chips and nicks can be polished out but I don't know the best way to repair serious damage other than to fill with epoxy and paint. Sometimes they were painted when refurbished.

I think they are more often brassed out because some people like them that way.

Jack

Offline Sargeguy

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2019, 08:56:52 PM »
Early Western Electric receivers and mouthpieces were usually made of gutta percha rubber, which is not the same as Ebonite.  Gutta percha is a natural rubber that comes from several different species of trees.  Ebonite is a brand name for a type of vulcanized hard rubber that contains sulphur and linseed oil.  Quality control was difficult for gutta percha because it was harvested from different species. As a result there is a lot of variation in how the receivers discolor over time.  A cap, mouthpiece and top could all fade to different shades.
Greg Sargeant
Providence, RI
TCI /ATCA #4409

Offline Jack Ryan

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Re: Browned bakelite
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2019, 10:30:19 PM »
Early Western Electric receivers and mouthpieces were usually made of gutta percha rubber, which is not the same as Ebonite.  Gutta percha is a natural rubber that comes from several different species of trees.  Ebonite is a brand name for a type of vulcanized hard rubber that contains sulphur and linseed oil.  Quality control was difficult for gutta percha because it was harvested from different species. As a result there is a lot of variation in how the receivers discolor over time.  A cap, mouthpiece and top could all fade to different shades.

Thanks for that. I'd be interested in any sources you have as this conflicts from what I have found.

Even a dictionary definition:

hard rubber (in American)
a firm, inelastic substance made by treating crude rubber with a large amount of sulfur and subjecting it to intense heat; ebonite: used for combs, electrical insulation, etc.


treats "hard rubber" and ebonite as the same material. The basis of both is natural rubber but both are treated and contain fillers to obtain the properties required. As with many materials, different fillers and variations in procedure result in slightly different materials with different properties.

[Edit]
I forgot to mention that lots of consumer items and decorative pieces were also made from hard rubber. There are numerous lists where collectors of items such as hard rubber fountain pens discuss such issues as "how to remove the brown colouring from my pen?". The consensus on most of them is that the brown finish that develops over time is the natural result of oxidation and is caused by the sulphur that was used in its manufacture. They suggest sanding and buffing to remove it.
[/Edit]

I do not claim any particular expertise with this material but a consensus has been that US hard rubber is the same or very close to UK ebonite. It is true that Ebonite was a trade name for hard rubber but it has long since become the general name for hard rubber.

US hard rubber and UK ebonite are used for very similar applications, both are black and both turn brown with age. Both can be returned to black with a cut and polish procedure.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a definition for the material any specific manufacturer uses for comparison. Many US manufacturers made hard rubber receivers but the hard rubber was probably not the same. Quite a few UK manufacturers made ebonite and I doubt they were the same either.

It would be great if you had some definitive information.

Regards
Jack

« Last Edit: September 10, 2019, 01:26:16 AM by Jack Ryan »