Bakelite Advice

Discussion in 'The Display Case' started by Matt Noir, Aug 10, 2007.

  1. Matt Noir

    Matt Noir One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Wichita, Kansas
    Hello all. I have recently decided to restore some old tube radios. For me, restoring and repairing the electrical components (tubes, capacitors, etc.) is the easy part. The hard part is restoring the bakelite.

    I am working on a 1946 Setchell Carlson 416 tube radio. I finished up soldering in the new capacitors and it powered up and sounds great. The bakelite case however is not looking the best.

    I cleaned the bakelite with a very mild detergent and very hot water - there was some splattered paint on the case as well as years of dirt and grime. When I was through, the case was clean as a whistle but very, very dull - like an old car that sat in the sun for 50 years - very flat with no shine.

    I can see that the bakelite is very nicely marbled - almost like a burly wood grain when you look close enough. I know it will look great if I can restore a great shine.

    I have read that some people use shoe polish to try and make the bakelite shine - this didn't sound like something I wanted to do as I think the shoe polish would cover up some of the natural beauty of the bakelite.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for polishing and restoring old, faded bakelite that is not pitted - just dull?

    Any advice would be immensely appreciated. :)

    Thanks,

    Matt
     
  2. Natty Bumpo

    Natty Bumpo New in Town

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    The Heart of Dixie
    Seems like a good paste wax would do.

    Just a notion, no experience. Shoe polish is wax based.
     
  3. Absinthe_1900

    Absinthe_1900 One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,628
    Location:
    The Heights in Houston TX
    You can use a clear paste wax like Minwax, you don't want to get into abrasive polishes, as you can damage the outer layer of phenolic resin, and expose the filler.

    Keep the radio out of direct sunlight, that will make the case dull as well.
     
  4. Matt Noir

    Matt Noir One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Wichita, Kansas
    Well, there are some fine scratches in the bakelite - hazy scratches. I was wondering if some type of mild polishing compound and a soft polishing wheel would buff those out and then perhaps something like a paste wax or beeswax buffed to a shine.
     
  5. Flivver

    Flivver Practically Family

    Messages:
    821
    Location:
    New England
    I've had good results polishing bakelite with mild automotive cleaner/waxes like Turtle Wax or Simoniz Vista. Either the liquid or paste variety will work fine. You need the cleaner part to restore the original gloss to the Bakelite. Wax alone won't do it.

    If you want a two part process, Simoniz Kleener followed by regular Simoniz wax works well, although the cleaner/wax combos are easier.

    Polishing compound can be used to remove scratches, but I don't recommend it...it's too abrasive.

    It's also important to get the Bakelite good and clean before you start to rub on it. I use a non abrasive waterless hand cleaner like Go-Jo for that.

    I've used these methods for years to clean Bakelite...with very good results.
     
  6. Absinthe_1900

    Absinthe_1900 One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,628
    Location:
    The Heights in Houston TX
    You can gently polish the bakelight with Novus #2, then Novus #1 plastic polish.

    You can find Novus at any plexi-glass supply shop.

    http://www.novuspolish.com/
     
  7. BeBopBaby

    BeBopBaby One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,176
    Location:
    The Rust Belt
    As a collector of bakelite jewelry, Simichrome polish is the best thing you can use on dull and scratched bakelite. It's pretty much the universal polish amoungst bakelite jewelry collectors - most collectors only trust simichrome. It's safe on bakelite, gives it a great shine and helps to fill in a lot of hairline scratches. I would be hesistant to use any other sort of polish or cleaner because I don't know how safe it will be on the bakelite.
     
  8. Absinthe_1900

    Absinthe_1900 One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,628
    Location:
    The Heights in Houston TX
    A good bit of what is called Bakelite jewelry is actually Catalin, which has a different core than the brown Bakelite radio cabinets.

    You can polish Catalin with more abrasive polishes, but be very careful polishing a Bakelite radio cabinet, as often the dull surface can be an indication that the surface has broken down, and become degraded from exposure to too much sunlight, causing the Bakelite to turn dull again fairly soon. which will keep happening over, and over.

    Once the outer surface is degraded, the only option is to spay a clear lacquer coat over the brown Bakelite, or paint the radio a color.

    Always keep a Bakelite radio away from windows, and direct sunlight.
     
  9. BeBopBaby

    BeBopBaby One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,176
    Location:
    The Rust Belt
    You're right, I had completely forgot about that.

    Here's a really good article that I've referenced in the past about catalin vs. bakelite:

    http://reviews.ebay.com/Bakelite-amp-Catalin-All-you-need-to-know-Testing_W0QQugidZ10000000000748322

    One item of note in the article:

    Bakelite is a thermoset plastic made out of formaldehyde, phenol and a filler to make the product stronger and cheaper; usually wood, rags, cotton, and sometimes asbestos. Therefore it should not be reworked, it could be very harmful to your health. Also because it has filler in it, once the first layer of Bakelite is destroyed it is impossible to restore to its original luster.
     
  10. RedHotRidinHood

    RedHotRidinHood Practically Family

    Messages:
    786
    Location:
    Phoenix
    Go with the Simichrome-it is the best, and I have many shiny bangles to attest to that! I've used it on bakelite/catalin for over 13 years, never had a problem.
     

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