Monday, 8 May 2017

200 Series Bakelite Telephones

Model 162 & 232 Telephones

In the late 1930's the 200 series Bakelite telephones were the first British rotary dial telephones to be made out of Bakelite (the original synthetic plastic). Before the 200 series range all old telephones in the UK were predominantly made of metal and wood.

At the time Bakelite was a big improvement as unlike metal the Bakelite Telephone bodies were made of electrically non-conductive material, whilst at the same time Bakelite is very resistant to damage by both by heat (unlike modern plastics) and corrosive liquids such as acid.

Why do you need a Bellset !

When it was first introduced the 200 series Bakelite phone did not contain an integral telephone bell. Back in the 1930's it was still thought to be a good idea to have the telephone bell separate to the main telephone body. So basically you had the "Telephone Instrument" as one item and the telephone "Bellset" or "Bell box" as another. This is explained in far more detail in the following video.

Using the "right" Bellset !

Today these "Art Deco" early antique telephones are regarded as very collectable. However to achieve the maximum desirability it is VERY important to have them paired with the correct "Bellset" or "Bell box".

The Model No 162 Bakelite telephone (the first of the 200 series) should be paired with a (1930's - 1950's) Bakelite Bellset No25 see Information on Bellset no 25 . Alternatively it should be paired with the less common (older, 1920's 1930's) wooden Bellset No1 ,see Information on Bellset No 1.

This matching of "Bellsets is particularly important for a No 162 telephone as the components required for "correct speech" were housed inside the Bellset along with the bells not in the main telephone instrument. Without this speech component (induction coil) it is not possible to restore the 162 telephone to is full potential. In simple terms without the correct bellset No25 poor speech quality and potential interference with other telephones or broadband reliability would be a big issue.

The slightly later (first appeared in 1935) and far more common Model No 232 (200 series telephone) are easier to match up to a bellset correctly as by that point the "telephone instrument" contained all the speech components and the Bellset only housed the bell mechanism.

For the avid collector the 232 telephone should be paired with a (1930's - 1950's) Bakelite Bellset 26 or at an absolute pinch the the older Wooden (1920s - 1930's) bell box 1A. They will technically work OK paired with a modern bell mechanism such as the 1960's metal Bellset 64D but that,s not ideal from a collect-ability point of view, as back in the day they would never have been originally paired together.

If you are thinking of adding one of these wonderful vintage telephones to your own telephone collection please make sure you read the advice give on the following website Bakelite Telephones: Tips and advice

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Bakelite Telephone Restoration

Bakelite Telephones are regarded as 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 almost perfect restoration. You just need "lots" of patience and the know how.

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

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

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

  • Cleaning and Polishing Materials, such as Bakelite Polish etc, this is 10% of the total 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 directly from the manufacturer Greygate Chemicals

  • Elbow Grease (Physical Effort), this is 40% of the process. However, if you have access to the correct "slow speed" workbench buffing machine this will help speed up the restoration process and provide a much better final finish.

  • Time and Patience = 50% of the process. For example the restoration of the Bakelite Telephone above took 9.5 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 near perfect condition.
Below are close up photographs of the vintage telephone restoration in detail. See if you can figure out which ones are the vintage telephone before restoration and which are the ones of the Bakelite phone after restoration :-)

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

The Bakelite Telephone Handset, before and after restoration.

See how shiny and "near perfect" the right side of this beautiful Vintage GPO Telephone looks after restoration.

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

Rear view of the vintage telephone. Notice the lovely 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 used in the above restoration were:

  • 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/vintage GPO telephones. Remember lots of patience is the key.