Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bakelite Telephone Restoration

Bakelite Telephones are Iconic pieces of British History and luckily they can often be restored to 99.9% of their former glory provide the Bakelite is not chipped or cracked.

Although Bakelite is a Brittle material unlike modern plastics it is very resistant to ageing caused by acids pollutants and (UV) sunlight, making it extremely suitable for restoration, provided you have the patience and the know how.

This 60 year old 1953 British Bakelite Telephone (Model Number 314) was restored form its original state, see telephone photographs below.

Above Fully Restored 314 Phone, Below the same Bakelite Telephone before the restoration process.

The Telephone Restoration process can be broken down into three main areas.

  • Cleaning and Polishing Materials, such as Bakelite Polish etc = 10% of the process. Paste polishing No 5 was originally used by the GPO back in the 1950's and in our opinion it is still the best Bakelite polish on the market. Luckily it is still available from from Greygate Chemicals

  • Elbow Grease (Physical Effort) = 40% of the process, although the correct slow speed workbench buffing machine will help speed up the restoration process and provide a better finish.

  • Time and Patience = 50% of the process. For example the restoration of the Bakelite Telephone above took 9 hours of work over a three day time period. Even with the right tools, experience and compounds you are looking at a minimum of 9 hours to restore a Bakelite phone to this kind of condition.
Below are close up photographs of the vintage telephone restoration in detail. See if you can figure out which ones are the telephone before restoration and which are the ones of the phone after restoration :-)

Front View of the Bakelite 314 Telephone, with the rare extra 3 chrome buttons.

The Bakelite Telephone Handset, before and after.

Right side of this beautiful Vintage Telephone.

The Classic horn shaped (model no164) Bakelite telephone mouthpiece.

Rear view of the vintage telephone. Notice the reflection in the restored Bakelite.

No paints, coloured polishes or varnishes were used, the Restored Bakelite telephone is just that. The only extra /new parts are:

  • High Quality British made cotton Braided Handset Cord.
  • Metal 314 Badge (Bell On, Call Exchange, Bell Off)
  • Replacement Dial Number plate (Very high quality, made in the UK).
We hope this helps or encourages people to restore these iconic antique telephones.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Bakelite 232 Telephones Insides missing

WARNING, with reference rare 232 British Bakelite telephones like the one in the photograph below there has been a recent trend in a very worrying practice performed by some telephone restorers in the UK. This can be expensive to put right, potentially costing in excess of £60 in labour costs alone. Please see Bakelite 232 Telephone Problem Details

Bakelite 232 Telephone (No Bell Set)

I would urge you to check with whoever you are buying your telephone from that they are not doing this to the telephones as part of the restoration process.

If the speech quality of your 232 telephone is not as good as you think it should be check inside your telephone to make sure you don't have this problem first.

This removal of vital components degrades the speech quality of these telephones by approximately 75%. The telephone will still appear to work however the sound quality, usability, and compatibility with the telephone exchange is significantly reduced.


It has also been pointed out to me by a colleague that this removal will also cause permanent damage (over time) to the original telephone ear receiver, due to constant DC polarization.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Fitting a British Ericsson Bakelite Black N1071 model Wall phone

Fitting old British Bakelite wall telephones from the 1940's and 1950's can be tricky if you don't know how. This article has been put together to explain the easiest way to fit these classic N1071 model old telephones.

Step 1: Using a flat bladed screwdriver loosen the Bakelite telephone case retaining screw (it only needs loosening not removing). See below.

Step 2: The Bakelite case of the telephone should now hinge out from the metal base of the telephone as shown below.

 This gives easy access to the metal base.

The Base (or wall plate) has three mounting points.

Step 3: Using a pencil mark the wall through these three holes (one at the top and two at the bottom). Making sure the wall plate is level.

Tip: This is a lot easier if you use help, get one person to hold the weight of the Bakelite telephone while you position and mark the holes.

Step 4: Drill the marked holes and use the appropriate screws and if needed raw-plugs for the type wall you as fastening it to.

Step 5: Once the wall plate is securely fastened to the wall, you can simply close the case (making sure you do not trap the wires) and gently re-tighten the case retaining screw as in step1.

You can now make test calls to your Vintage Telephone and make sure it rings correctly etc.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Fitting a 321 Bakelite Wall Phone

How to fit a 321 Bakelite Wall Telephone

1) The first step is to loosen the retaining screw at the bottom of the Bakelite case (using a flat bladed screwdriver).

Bakelite Wall Telephone

2) Next carefully lift the Bakelite case up off the 321 telephone from the bottom and slide the case gently up as shown below. The case hangs on two metal clips at the top of the bakelite case.

Bakelite Case

3) Note: The Bakelite case is attached to the telephone body via a strap to prevent it falling to the floor and breaking. Do not remove this strap.

4) You can now position your antique telephone against the wall and fasten it to the wall through the four holes in the telephone case, using the appropriate screws as shown below.

Note: Remember to make sure you have a telephone socket within easy reach of the length of the telephone line cord.

Bakelite Wall Telephone

5) Use the correct screws and fastenings for the type of wall (wood, plaster, etc)

6) Although there are four holes in the feet of the telephone (two at the top and two at the bottom) you can sometimes manage with three provided the wall is level. However be very careful, unlike the later 1960's Plastic Retro telephones  these antique Bakelite telephones are very brittle and impossible to repair if cracked, so you don't want it dropping off the wall.

7) Once the Bakelite Telephone is securely fitted to the wall you can replace the case on the telephone.

As you can see in the photograph below the bakelite case has two metal clips that fit over the telephone body to "hang" the case on.

8) TIP: Make sure the rubber cable entry grommet for the braided handset cord is located correctly in the Bakelite case as shown below.

9) Finally fasten the retaining screw in the Bakelite base as shown below and plug your line cord into your telephone socket.

10) Provided your Antique Bakelite telephone was restored and converted correctly it should now work and the incoming bell ring should sound fantastic :-)

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Telephone Manufacturers

Most Bakelite Telephone collectors agree that there is no substitute for the Classic British manufactured Bakelite Telephones. When it comes to Antique Telephones British is Best. Always look for UK Manufactures whenever buying or selling these Antique/Vintage telephones.

UK Manufacturers

British Ericsson
ATM (Automatic Telephone Manufacturing) Company
Siemens Brothers

If you Look underneath the Bakelite Handset, halfway between the earpiece and the mouthpiece, you should look for the following markings.


Avoid non UK Bakelite Telephone Manufactures

ITI (Indian Telephone Industries) made in India
AEP (Automatica Electrica Portuguesa) made in Portugal
Telrad made in Israel
AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australia ) made in Australia

Again I believe you should look for, and avoid bakelite telephones with the following markings on the underside of the Bakelite Handset.

At one end of the scale are the "Genuine Bakelite" telephones made in Indian these are of particularly poor quality when compared to the original British versions. The main reason for this is that ITI (Indian Telephone Industries) made these Bakelite telephones to a cost, out of cheaper materials and to a cheaper design for the local mass market in India. However at the other end of the scale AWA (made in Australia) telephones are of equal quality to there British counterparts, its just that UK collectors are not as keen to obtain them. In the middle the Israel (Telrad) and Portuguese (AEP) telephones are reasonable quality, however the AEP telephones often have slightly different cases and markings making them far less collectable on the British market. As an example for some unknown reason the bakelite handsets on the AEP telephones are not as good as there British counterparts.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Buying and Selling British Bakelite Telephones

This website has been set up to give guidance when buying and selling old British Telephones.

Genuine British Bakelite Telephones have become much more collectable in the last few years and hence more expensive, as such it is more important that ever to make sure you are getting the real thing.