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 How Bakelite was made and used
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 Return to top of page · Post #: 1 · Written at 9:08:09 PM on 4 March 2015.
GTC's avatar
 Location: Sydney, NSW
 Member since 28 January 2011
 Member #: 823
 Postcount: 5737

This fascinating 1937 film shows the major impact that Bakelite and associated phenolic resinoids had on manufacturing a wide range of consumer and industrial products in its day:


 Return to top of page · Post #: 2 · Written at 9:54:55 PM on 15 July 2015.
Clip's Gravatar
 Location: Sunshine Coast, QLD
 Member since 21 April 2015
 Member #: 1732
 Postcount: 11

Absolutely fascinating, thank you.

 Return to top of page · Post #: 3 · Written at 4:11:25 PM on 31 July 2015.
NewVista's avatar
 Location: MilwWI, US
 Member since 10 May 2013
 Member #: 1340
 Postcount: 695

Have heard it said "bakelite has asbestos in it", and sure enough the film mentions the 'A' word once along with other "fillers". Hazardous to grind and cut, especially in those finishing steps in manufacturing? Or is it stable in bakelite form? Lots of hazardous jobs in manufacturing back then like toxic fumes when heating etc.

 Return to top of page · Post #: 4 · Written at 5:35:37 PM on 31 July 2015.
Brad's avatar
 Location: Greenwich, NSW
 Member since 15 November 2005
 Member #: 1
 Postcount: 6064

Asbestos is only stable if it is left alone. I've seen several photos in the past of rows of workers using files to trim 'dags' off new radio cabinets. Breathing in the dust would have surely shortened the lives of many with asbestos and formaldehyde being two of the airborne nasties.

One thing that may have saved many of these people from a certain early death is another nasty - smoking. Most blue collar workers smoked in those days and the resultant tar lining on their lungs may have prevented asbestos fibres from digging into tissue and causing asbestosis. Well, this is what I've been told by a number of people anyway.

A valve a day keeps the transistor away...

 Return to top of page · Post #: 5 · Written at 10:22:48 PM on 18 August 2015.
Relayautomatic's avatar
 Location: Canberra, ACT
 Member since 24 April 2012
 Member #: 1136
 Postcount: 118

I appreciate that this post is a bit late but just to confirm Brad's comment that asbestos was frequently used as a filler in bakelite especially for items such as telephone cases and other parts that were expected to be subjected to rough handling. During WWII much military equipment using bakelite parts contained asbestos and wood pulp as the filler as it made the parts less susceptible to breaking. The surface of these bakelite parts often degraded over time and particles of the filler can be released. Polishing degraded bakelite only exposes more filler so do not buff it on a wheel.

What I have done is to paint/spray the part with a clear urethane varnish but I do not guarantee that this will provide permanent protection.

Asbestos is only one of a number of toxic materials that can be found in old electric and electronic equipment. Beware of mercury, thorium, arsenic, phosphors, lead, cadmium as well as selenium dust from old rectifiers. PCB may be present in many capacitors. Radium was used in some valves as well as in paint on dials. (I researched the subject when I had to write a paper on hazards in museum collections as part of a cultural heritage degree.)

There's no doubt that there are more risks than just high voltages and RF levels but it adds to the fun of collecting and restoring old gear.

 Return to top of page · Post #: 6 · Written at 12:00:02 AM on 28 June 2016.
Austfox's Gravatar
 Location: Sydney, NSW
 Member since 27 May 2016
 Member #: 1930
 Postcount: 10

Just watched the interesting video.

Did anyone else notice the size of the soldering iron at around the 18:40 mark... bigger than a curling wand!

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