VRW  PUBLICATIONS          HOME   |   BOOKS  |   SERVICE DATA   |   RESTORATION   |   RADIO HISTORY

 

BAKELITE RESTORATION  see also Bakelite history

WOOD  BAKELITE  CHASSIS  ETHICS  DIODE, TRIODE  TETRODE, PENTODE  STANDARDS PHOTOGUIDE  VIDEOS

PILOT  BUSH  EKCO  COSSOR  PHILCO  BAKELITE HISTORY VALVES DIODE, TRIODE  TETRODE, PENTODE  STANDARDS

 

Refinishing Bakelite cabinets

Bakelite lends itself to a straightforward cleaning and polishing process, for which 'Bake-O-Brite' polish may be obtained (see Radiophile magazine details by following the link from the BOOKS page). Many restorers prefer to use Brasso metal polish, which works very well. T-Cut car polish also works well, but is slightly more abrasive than Brasso and perhaps best for cabinets that have become badly dulled. Both Brasso and T-Cut do tend to leave a yellowish residue in corners which can be difficult to remove. Some surface marks can, with great care, be removed by the use of wet/dry paper but there is the ever-present danger of creating a light patch on the surface. Suitably coloured wax sticks can be obtained from woodworker's suppliers and Do-It-Yourself outlets. Although these sticks are intended for wooden furniture, it is possible to melt the wax into chips or dents in a cabinet, using a clean soldering iron or a match (carefully!). Once set, it can be carefully levelled using a craft knife blade held in the fingers, then gently buffed. This is not a certain repair and it has no inbuilt strength, rendering it unsuitable for cracks, but worth a try if all else fails.

Shattered cabinets may be repaired using Milliput. I prefer the superfine white variety. Obtain this two-part epoxy filler from stationers and craft/model shops. Follow the simple instructions enclosed. It has to be painted to match the Bakelite but with original spray-painted sets such as the one described below, that is not a problem.

The example preparation and finishing technique described below applies in general to any painted Bakelite cabinet. Select a suitable primer for your choice of gloss colour.

Marconiphone T18DA (pictured at the right of this page) Approx. date of manufacture: 1949

The very small cabinet is a cream sprayed single-piece moulding in Bakelite. Good performance considering the size limitations - these types of set were usually bought as second sets, perhaps for the kitchen or bedroom. The original finish was, as is so often the situation with painted sets, in a very poor condition. It was dull, had crazed over much of its surface and was quite deeply scratched.

Nitromors paint stripper removed the original paint. Surface blemishes that showed after stripping were filled with car body filler and finished with cellulose knifing putty, both products being available at car accessory shops. IMPORTANT: with regard to the cellulose putty, it must be applied very thinly indeed. It will not successfully fill deep gouges, because it gives the deceptive appearance and feel of having dried but after several weeks it will shrink to reveal the damaged area as a slight depression. If in doubt, use Milliput or a similar two-part filling and repairing resin as these products are stable and do not show a tendency to shrink, once fully cured.

Several coats of aerosol priming paint were applied, then rubbed down with fine wet/dry paper, used wet with soap as a lubricant. The top coats were then applied, again using car aerosol paint of a suitable colour. After a couple of coats, rubbing down was carried out. After perhaps five or six coats, after becoming hard dry the surface was wet/dry treated again, with very fine (1000 grade) paper, then cut back to a soft gloss with T-Cut.

It is worth mentioning that many Bakelite cabinets, when stripped of their paint, show beautiful markings and a pristine gloss. In such cases, careful consideration should be given to the final finish required: should it be repainted, or left alone? It is certainly permissible to leave alone if the set was originally available as a choice of colour or natural.

PILOT  BUSH  EKCO  COSSOR  PHILCO

 

VINTAGE RADIO world: SIXTEEN YEARS OF WEB PRESENCE