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Phone suntanning

Started by allnumbedup, April 09, 2021, 02:52:27 PM

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Here is a reverse to this topic I have not seen discussed. I have run across now two 1980's beige phones--in both cases non-Western Electrics (ITT and SC) 2500's that were sun damaged excessively but to a reasonably attractive tobacco color--almost a 'harvest gold'  These must have been made with especially susceptible plastics because even the underside of the handset where not touching the cradle had an even color.  I have been able to clean these up with soapy water and a light scrub and the color remained undisturbed.  Only the cradles' resting spots and where they actually touch on the handset are lighter.  Has anyone had luck with UV or sunlight (or weak acid maybe) darkening them up? I don't really have an interest in restoring them to beige and have them out in the sun now.  I kinda doubt a weekend in the sun will do it but will keep an eye on the plastics. The one I have pictured ( the tray is in bright sunshine and has pink spray paint and the cement is painted light grey) has a motel-type 90v call light that I moved to tip and ring. I plan to add a brown faceplate for a seventies look. 
Analog Phones for a Digital World


Here is a follow-up:  I put this tobacco-colored phone on my roof for a month in the North Carolina heat, sun, and rain. I did not climb up there to check on it, but when I did I got a result I did not expect.  Bleaching versus yellowing in the sunlight for different colors has been compiled here:

In this case, the yellow/brown phone was restored to its ITT-13 light beige color.  The finger lift cover was not on the roof and is on top of the sun bleached phone for comparison. This last phone part is now being bleached to match.

I am currently subjecting an ABS aqua handset to the same treatment. The last picture is the 'before' with the greened aqua handset on the right and on the left, a true blue aqua handset that I believe is Polane painted.
Analog Phones for a Digital World


Interesting. Nice set up. And not lightening strikes!

As for going from a tobacco color to a white color, worked well for you in that you changed the composition of the plastic chromophores to reflect most light, stop absorbing certain colors which gave it that tobacco color. Sun light UV bleaching is the save as liquid bleach, sort of, and both will lighten any object bleached. The sun light didn't change the color, it just reduced the color absorbing chromophores, destroyed them, leaving the plastic the ability to reflect more of the white light, the reflected light now looks lighter and whiter.

Bleaching, by peroxide, bleach or sun light, will lighten plastics that have light or pastel colors to begin with. Darker plastics I don't think will turn out well using this method. The color will change but to an unknown shade.

Sanding off the thin layer of damaged color plastic is the only way to get the original, undamaged color plastic to be revealed.

In what you did, you allowed the sun to travel so all parts of the phone, except the back of the handset, to be exposed and the heat of the sun helped the UV to convert the chromophores in the plastic. How did the bottom of the handset, the side that never got direct sunlight turn out? I suspect not as light as the directly exposed sunlight. Your after photo needs better light to show the color well. How close is the exterior of the handset to the color of the inside of the handset?

And a small point, not sun tanning. It was sun bleaching the same way auto paint, house paint and anything else exposed to sun becomes lighter in color over time.

But over all, a very interesting experiment that turned out well for you.


the second picture is pretty accurately the "after" under inside light, while the first is "after" in bright sunlight making the phone look white.  The whole phone is even in color, even the back of the handset which was facing the roof for the whole time. The small  finger lift/plunger stop part in picture two wasn't out there so that this darker piece is the 'before" on top of the after.  The outsode color=the inside and I will post another picture to demonstrate that too.  I agree that the pastel blue isn't expected to do the same thing--- but I am willing to experiment with it to see anyway.  That greenish color the aqua turns is my least favorite color to peroxide, bleach, chemically treat or sand.
Analog Phones for a Digital World


Here is the finished 2500 "motel phone" relaxing in the sun. The red signal light is neon and wired now to light with ringer.  I do not know if it has an internal resistor but I did not need to add one.  This phone has a larger mousehole in the back so may have been on a system.  The faceplate is a 1980's SC one I had available.

Not exactly going to be the center of anyone's collection, but hope he will find a good home or maybe give someone else a start at a collection. I am learning each time I fix up a phone so I try to have fun and restore each as best as I can.
Analog Phones for a Digital World


Here is the result of sun bleaching the aqua ABS handset. Once again the truer aqua and polane painted handset is on the left and the other spent 3 weeks up on the roof. The lighting for this picture and the earlier side by side picture is exactly the same with the same unfiltered camera doing it's cellphone auto adjusting because I unfortunately used a different background.  I also cleaned up the polane phone on the left a little bit since the first shot by removing a sticker with goo gone. The second shot shows the outside versus inside color. The part of the phone facing the roof is still tinged a little more green and you can see this side here. It is the right side of the phone in the side by side shot that was face down on the roof.  As teleplay wrote earlier--I think the result is by a similar effect you might get from peroxide or bleach but without the white streaking these techniques can sometimes cause. Next time I am going to mount all the pieces on an aluminum foil pan but one secured to the roof so my phone parts don't blow away.
Analog Phones for a Digital World