How to make bakelite?

Why in the world is a woodworker interested in bakelite? You might ask. Well, because it was widely used to make some of the coolest objects we know. Early radio’s, telephones, light switches, knobs…

Before the invention of thermoplastics it was one of the few moldable materials available. Invented in 1907 by the Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland. Durable, quite resistant to heat, an insulator against electric power, relatively cheap, with a pleasant texture and looks, it could be made in a variety of colors. The material of choice for mass-produced new inventions that had to last. Radios, telephones, light switches, handles, car parts, etc… The futuristic shape of these products is still and inspiration to many (guitar)designers.

Some of the parts of electric guitars of the fifties were made of bakelite; knobs, pick guards, tuner buttons, parts of switches, element covers…

While we often look at the end products we rarely see the production itself. Even though it’s often very interesting. Last week I found this presentation film from 1942. One thing that always strikes me about movies, but also books (like those by Leonard de Vries) and newsreels from this era is the optimism and confidence about new technologies that speaks from them. Like the universe was one big playground that waited to be discovered through science.

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One Response to How to make bakelite?

  1. alexholdendotnet says:

    Fascinating, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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