02 03 The Recycle-ista...Adventures in Vintage: Collecting Bakelite 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Collecting Bakelite

 When I come across a button stash and make it my own, my first thought is, are there any Bakelite buttons in here? Bakelite is an early plastic and highly collectible in its many forms.

Bakelite was used widely for game pieces, billiard balls, phones, jewelry, buttons and more. The later development of other plastics makes it sometimes hard to tell at first glance if an object is made from Bakelite or not.

However there is a fairly simple test and I wrote about it here:

How To Tell if Your Vintage Buttons are Bakelite

´╗┐This test should work on anything Bakelite, not just buttons. Of course, this test has to be done at home. But what can you do while out thrifting to identify Bakelite. Well, once you've handled a few pieces of Bakelite, you'll start to recognize it. I also further narrow it down by a few simple questions:

~ Is there a seam or mold mark? If so, it's not Bakelite. Bakelite was carved, not molded and seamed. 
~What does it smell like? If the piece doesn't have a seam, my next step is to rub the bracelet or whatever piece it is with my thumb briskly to warm it up. Then I smell it. I really try to do this unobtrusively for obvious reasons. If it smells chemical-like, like formaldehyde, most likely it's Bakelite. Once you have a few confirmed pieces, do this test and smell them. The smell will stay with you and you'll recognize it out in 'the field'. 
If the piece passes these two tests, I usually take a chance to bring it home and confirm it with my Simichrome test mentioned in the above article.

Doing this, I've also uncovered some Bakelite bracelets, earrings and beads.

I've also found some Bakelite handled kitchen utensils, a Bakelite hand loom, and some Bakelite dice but one of my thrifting dreams is to find a Bakelite radio! Let me know what Bakelite items you find!

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