FIRST LET'S HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING, I AM NOT EXPERT
IN PLASTICS and I AM AWARE THAT CATALIN and BAKELITE are
TRADE NAMES. HOWEVER, THEY HAVE BECOME (more of less) GENERIC TERMS
OVER THE YEARS. I ALSO WANT TO POINT OUT THAT CATALIN IS OFTEN
REFERRED TO BY MANY DEALERS AS BAKELITE.
The colorful jewelry that dealers (and most
books on the subject) refer to as Bakelite is really Catalin.
Bakelite is very common in the use of electrical devises,
handles for kitchen cookware, radio cabinets, ashtrays and thousands
of other products. It's always opaque, usually black or brown and not
a material to get all that excited about. The colorful material used
in costume jewelry, radio cabinets and lot of other colorful objects
is Catalin. Objects made of Catalin is translucent and
often marbled with one or more other colors. It has a different luster
than does Bakelite and can be polished to a glass like shine.
Objects such as radio cabinets and other large items were not commonly
made of Catalin and those that were are highly prized.
I HOPE (in simple terms below) TO EXPLAIN THE
DIFFERENCE IN THESE TWO PLASTIC'S and HOW TO TREAT THEM WHEN CLEANING
is a hard plastic that
can be cleaned and polished without fear of damage like Bakelite.
You can wash and clean it with any good household cleaner such as
ammonia, "409" etc. After it is clean & dry you can sand and polish
Catalin as you would a fine piece of hardwood as Catalin consist of
the same material all the way through. I would not recommend sanding
it unless it is badly scratched and scuffed unless you plan on
spending a great deal of time with it. If you do take on this task
you must have the proper sanding materials on hand such as the
"Micro-Mesh" sanding system. With wood you only have to go down to
about 600 grit but with Catalin that's about where you would start
and end with 6000 grit or higher.
After cleaning and (if necessary
sanding) , I use a polish called "Blue Magic"
it's a metal polish and you can usually find it in auto parts stores
or I can supply it if you can't find it locally. It works great on
all Bakelite, Catalin and other plastics.
The original "Alabaster" (marbleized
white) Catalin color will have oxidized to "Butterscotch" or yellow
in color, so if you sand and polish enough you will bring back this
original color but it will not stay, it will revert back to
"Butterscotch" in time. Some of the other colors will have also
iodized as well, for example a green color may actually be blue once
cleaned and polished or blue may oxidized to green. I once had a
dark yellow case that became lavender after cleaning and polishing.
is another matter, Catalin is a thermoset resin that is cold poured
into moulds and baked at a low temperature and hand finished when
cured. Bakelite although it consists of the same raw materials but
has a filler of sawdust, asbestos or other fibrous material. When
manufactured, it is heated and injected into steel molds at high
temperature and great pressure. This process results in the high
gloss finish that collects on the outer surface of the Bakelite
case. This finish however is very thin and can be dissolved with
alkali and ammoniated cleaners. It can also be rubbed away with
polishing, so care must be taken to preserve the finish as once it
is gone it cannot be restored to it's original gloss. If the case is
waxy and greasy you can clean it with paint thinner or cigarette
lighter fluid. DON'T USE ALCOHOL!
I first clean Bakelite with a non
alkali, non ammoniated cleaner like "Earth Wise" dishwashing liquid,
it's a biodegradable with no alkali's or ammonia. After it is
cleaned I use a product called
"Magnolia Glayzit" is a polish originally designed to polish
Bakelite telephones, I can also supply this product.
If a Bakelite finish is hopelessly
dulled or has been completely destroyed, the only remaining hope is
to go over it with a high speed cloth buffing wheel loaded with a
polish designed to use with a cloth buffing wheel. BEFORE
USING A HIGH SPEED BUFFING WHEEL, BE SURE THE MATERIAL IS
BAKELITE, CATALIN, UREA or PLASKON! Some
radio cabinets are made of other soft plastics which WILL
MELT when buffed with a high speed buffing wheel! If you don't
know for sure what type of plastic you have, test first on an inside
area where any damage will not show. The high speed buffing will
bring back some of the luster but never to it's original gloss.
After buffing, use "Magnolia
Glayzit". NEVER USE SANDPAPER ON BAKELITE!