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Receiver Smells

Started by whitedogfive, July 01, 2012, 04:17:41 PM

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I have an old western electric wood wall phone #317P.  When you pick up the receiver you really can smell an awful stench. I looked inside the receiver and it is clean. The receiver is unmarked, buit looks like a #144. The cap has the numbers 1370 on the inside. The smell is in the bakelite. Any ideas what this is?


Does it smell like burning rubber?  If the shell really bakelite, or is it hard rubber.  The hard rubber can have an unpleasant smell.



It does smell like burnt rubber. I have no clue if it is rubber or bakelite. I do have a 151AL candlestick with a 706A receiver and it is made of different material than the smelly one.


From what I understand, I think early receivers were rubber.

The More People I meet, The More I Love, and MISS My Dog.  Dan Robinson


Yup, early receiver shells were made of hard rubber before Bakelite was invented.

You have an original there. 
-Bill G

Russ Kirk

I have a couple of rubber receivers. The first one on the left is from my English Conner-Peel candlestick.  I know this one is rubber. The middle one is unmarked, but has that same smell of vulcanized rubber and off color. The third one on the far right is a bakelite on a WE stick.   For me,  the smell and off color is the dead give away it is an early rubber receiver.
- Russ Kirk


The WE one is actually composition and not bakelite.Not as durable as bakelite .Similar to 78 records. WE did make a 706 rec for upgrades that was bakelite and used the HA1 rec element.
I have a couple of the British sets with the hard rubber over brass receivers.


Receiver goes to the ear, not the nose.
These are not smellaphones.

I do agree that old hard rubber definitly has an odor, especialy when you keep the old phones in a closed curio cabinet.

Handsets tend to smell sometimes, you can't help putting them by your nose.


Quote from: HowardPgh on July 06, 2012, 02:16:14 PMHandsets tend to smell sometimes, you can't help putting them by your nose.

Especially Tenite ones, they're a pretty unique odour....  :-X


Yeah, a couple of other threads mentioned how WE soft plastic is Tenite butryate, with the cheesy rancid odor coming from butyric acid, which also gives rancid butter and ginkgo seed coatings their, ah, characteristic smell.

As for the rubber receivers, sulfur was one of the early agents used to vulcanize rubber, changing it from a soft, sticky substance into something more durable, even hard. Wiki says that

"Sulfur, by itself, is a slow vulcanizing agent...Even with natural rubber, large amounts of sulfur, as well as high temperatures and long heating periods are necessary and one obtains an unsatisfactory crosslinking efficiency with unsatisfactory strength and aging properties. Only with vulcanization accelerators can the quality corresponding to today's level of technology be achieved. "

Since the receiver is made to be quite stiff, a great deal of sulfur may have been needed, a predicament perhaps made worse by the more primitive chemistry of the time. The cure package may also have had primitive stabilizers; I expect that you're smelling some kind of sulfur compounds as the rubber slowly ages and breaks down.