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JPH

Finishing 100+ year old bakelite

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Hello:

 

I have managed to get my grabbers on a couple of pieces of some pre WWI bakelite in what they called "tortoise or horn" and "ivory" material. OK I admit I have never used this stuff before so...how do I work it and finish it? I have used micarta (which came out about the same time as bakelite but a few years after I believe...) but this bakelite is new to me...

 

I have a couple of PW daggers that I think the horn/tortoise material would look great on with some fluting...it is semi clear...the "ivory" is white but has some "figure" in it...

 

Any suggestions??

 

JPH

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I have no idea how to work it, but this sounds interesting. I always thought that ancient plastic like that would have broken down and cracked by now.

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I have not used it, but when I was making pipes there was a craze for it so guys were talking... from what I recal, treat it like real ivory and it should be okay. No heat, sharp tools only, work wet if possible, that sort of thing.

 

I wanted to play with it, but I could never get my hands on any.

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I've dealt with old bakelite a lot in old electrical test gear.

 

You'll probably find it to be extremely brittle, and it doesn't like heat. Other than that, It pretty much works like any plastic.

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Hello:

 

Well I have some smallish pieces that I can putter about with before I tackle anything "important"...I think this will all be hand done..no high speed anything just files and sandpaper with hand rubbing... polish and buff.. Will post pics when I am done... I have enough for 3 or 4 grips in each material depending...

 

Thank you all for the advice.. I do appreciate it...

 

 

JPH

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Hello:

 

An update,,I have fitted the pieces to the tangs and the aroma coming off the stock as I was filing/fitting was very reminiscent of my days as a league bowler when getting my BB polished..smelled a whole lot like that "ebonite" that the older BBs were made from..

 

Will post pics once I get something pic worthy...

 

JPH

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Well now, that is an interesting idea for some quirky handle material...

 

... that "ebonite" that the older BBs were made from..

 

 

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Ebonite is easy to work, but it sure stinks. And melts, and clogs files, etc., but it takes a high polish. It's the standard material for pipe stems. Speaking of, I just looked at the entries for Bakelite on the pipemakers' forum, and one guy warned that the pre-WW2 stuff often has asbestos fibers in it, and that even if it doesn't it should be considered toxic. A little late for Jim, but don't breathe the dust! :ph34r:

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That reminds me that old fountain pens (another weakness of mine) are sometimes made of Ebonite. I can't remember if this is one of the materials that you don't want to soak in water, but for some old pens, that is a death sentence.

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Yeah, water and ebonite makes for lumps and discoloration. I think it's celluloid that just falls apart.

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That what I was thinking Alan, some materials would spot up or loose dimensions stability. I believe you are right that celluloid just sort of comes apart.

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Yeah, the antique folder collectors talk about old celluloid "gassing out". I have an old razor that has done this.

 

The bakelite should be okay.

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I just sawed an old Brunswick bowling ball in half (don't ask). It was ebonite, not one of the later acrylic ones. The outer jacket is about 3/4" hard (HARD) vulcanized rubber, with a core of softer vulcanized rubber. Once I had it mostly sawn through I got tired of sawing and took a chisel to the split. Not a good idea! The inner core didn't want to split, but the hard outer jacket split in places and shot out violently. I wasn't wearing a glove or anything, and one of those pieces cut my hand. Not bad, but it was small and flying fast enough to break the skin. So that ebonite can be really really hard and take a nice polish.

I took it to the grinder and it behaved, but I would polish it slow. It'll burn pretty quick.

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Hello!!

 

OK I have a few pieces finished to show off this material...

 

I will tell ya I had to work it very slow and careful ...This stuff was a bit brittle as well as "soft"..if you can understand that.. I mean as long as the tools were sharp and cutting all was going good..once they get a bit dull..chip out city..

 

Well..the "Ivory" Bakelite was a bit more cantankerous than the Tortoise/Horn version as far as chipping while fluting.. BUT it was "easier and a bit more forgiving" to smooth out and polish... While the Horn/Tortoise Bakelite was a bit "easier" in the cutting department..it was a real BEAR to finish...It seemed to be a bit "harder" and not as responsive to the polishing compounds... Both materials I had to work "wet"..not with water ...( that didn't go over all that well at all..NOT one bit...GEEZE...what a mess and GUMMY...) ...I had to use a slurry of light oil mixed with rubbing compounds to get this to polish up...But it did polish quite well...at least I think so....

 

Now the "Horn/Shell" Bakelite turned out quite nice...very interesting colours going on there..The "Ivory" Bakelite..well I can NOT tell from an arm's length away any difference between this and the real stuff... I did a bit more research and this is the same basic material that they used for pool balls..That tell me a bunch... Anyways...

 

I learned a bunch about this old stuff and I am going back to the guy as see what else he has in the Bakelite material..

 

Hope these photos turn out..

 

JPH

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Edited by JPH

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Hijacking this thread: does anyone know a source for black bakelite rolls, large enough to include 120mm length and 35mm diameter? For antique bicycles I restore, the original grips were bakelite, but are often missing. And the only still existing examples are those still attached to these bicycles, so they are impossible to replace once missing.

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DANG that turned out pretty, Jim!

 

Jeroen, here's all I know, from the pipemaker's forum:

 

I hope that your computers recognize Chinese characters. Because I have no idea what most of this stuff is I will just list it with its translation. In many of the stores, bakelite is listed along with a few other materials that they are selling in sheets and rods.

胶木棒=Bakelite rod
酚醛布棒=Phenolic cloth rod
环氧树脂棒, 环氧棒=Epoxy rod
耐高温棒= High temperature rod
绝缘棒=Insulated rod
玻璃纤维棒=Fiberglass rod

I got these translations off of google, so if some of the English names seem strange or are incorrect I blame it on google icon_smile.gif

I am sure that these online shops are selling to a people who are not making pipes.

Go to
www.taobao.comthen copy and paste the Chinese characters for bakelite in the search bar.
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I have a minimal supply of 100+ year old golden Bakelite which I've used many times.

I've never really liked it when I attempted a polished finish. I just take it to a 800 or 1200 grit finish and then rub out with 0000 steel wool. Rather pleasing.

 

DSCN2148-a-1x_zpsfbixkmf2.jpg

 

BBa1_zpsbc657829.jpg

 

Bduo1_zps4e6ebcca.jpg

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5 hours ago, Karl B. Andersen said:

I have a minimal supply of 100+ year old golden Bakelite which I've used many times.

I've never really liked it when I attempted a polished finish. I just take it to a 800 or 1200 grit finish and then rub out with 0000 steel wool. Rather pleasing.

 

DSCN2148-a-1x_zpsfbixkmf2.jpg

 

BBa1_zpsbc657829.jpg

 

Bduo1_zps4e6ebcca.jpg

I likey alot'eh !!

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WOW looks like some of the old handles on moms knives  and forks. ooops guess that dates  me as an old goat.  still WOW

 

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