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Old 24th Oct 2020, 2:47 pm   #1
BrianAllen
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Default What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

Good afternoon all,

I have acquired a GEC radio with a very distressed casing.

The case is Bakelite with wood grain effect side panels, so my question is, what should I do to make the radio look presentable again?

At first I thought, should I just get the radio up and running again and leave the case to show how they look if not looked after but then I thought no, I will try and make it look presentable again.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what I should do with the case and how to go about rubbing down and what paint and colours to use to paint/spray it.

I am also seeking some new material to replace the material on the baffle board, so any information as to suppliers etc will be very welcome.

Regards,

Brian
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Old 24th Oct 2020, 3:13 pm   #2
stevehertz
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

Well, having decided to make it look presentable you now have two choices, either restore the bare bakelite by polishing it (lots of previous threads on this), or go a stage further and apply a wood finish effect on to it.

The latter can be done using paint and old fashioned faux woodgrain techniques of which there's lots of information on the internet and also suitable paints available for the technique/style. Alternatively, easier but obviously no so nice in the final analysis, apply wood grain effect, self adhesive plastic sheeting. if you use the plastic sheeting, you could 'touch in' just the edges of the end pieces using brown paint.
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Old 24th Oct 2020, 3:42 pm   #3
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

Yes, difficult choice, there seem to be a lot of these where the owner has removed all the woodgrain finish and polished it up and they would look fine if you didnt know it should have a print finish.
I would never have the skill to put a paint finish back on it again, I dont think
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Old 24th Oct 2020, 4:13 pm   #4
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

Thank you gents, just the information I needed.

Brian
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Old 24th Oct 2020, 8:26 pm   #5
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

In times-past, I've 'reworked' nondescript broadcast-band radios with tatty bakelite or wood-veneer cases by sanding them back and respraying with 'wrinkle finish' black paint as sold by the likes of Frost for repainting MG car-dashboards.

Replace aged sagging/discoloured speaker-fabric with expanded-metal mesh-grille sprayed matt-black, fit 'industrial' pointer-knobs and the result can have an intriguing "WWII-utility/amenity-radio" aesthetic - which fits in well with my home situation - though it will never look as good as something like the genuine 1943 Pye PCR that's my kitchen-radio-of-the-month.
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Old 24th Oct 2020, 9:09 pm   #6
paulsherwin
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

I would just spray paint it dark brown unless there's a particular reason to put a huge amount of effort in.
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 9:48 am   #7
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

Brian, best bet is to use the "Search" facility. As there is heaps of valuable info on Bakelite & its restoration. Generally, "rubbing down" - if that means using sandpaper/emery cloth or wirewool - is a no no. Some folk have recommended "Brasso", but some types of bakelite dont respond to it very well. I find that a really good car body finisher's compound is best. Farecla is what I've been using. No6 for initial polishing, and No10 for final polishing.

Regards, David
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 10:15 am   #8
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

I think the wood grain effect must come off fairly easily and the plain bakelite polish up on these, the radiomusuem link shows one original and one plain shiny bakelite.
Steve.

https://www.radiomuseum.org/r/general_el_5445.html
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 10:30 am   #9
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

No need to paint it if you remove the paint the Bakelite is brown.
I had one that was a lovely chocolate brown I didn't realise it had been stripped until I saw one with the painted wood effect. I don't know if the plain brown case was an option or if the brown ones you see are stripped ones.
Something must attack the paint on some sets as I have seen perfect ones with no signs of deterioration and others where the finish has gone patchy, the paint seeming to be soft.
As others have said you have your options. I would remove the grotty paint and polish it.
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 2:11 pm   #10
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

Thanking you all for some great information/ideas.

I love this hobby/pastime, which was new to me prior to lockdown.

I have learned so much over the past six months, so whatever I decide to do with the Bakelite cabinet will be another new project for me.

Brian

P.S. Most of what I have learnt has come by way of your generous time spent answering my queries/questions, thanking you all once again.
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 3:49 pm   #11
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

An easy way of removing flaky paint (well most of it) is sticky tape, rater therapeutic too.
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 5:18 pm   #12
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

I don't think sticky back plastic would be easy to apply on s curved surface. I've had it go horribly wrong on a flat surface!
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 5:32 pm   #13
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

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I don't think sticky back plastic would be easy to apply on s curved surface. I've had it go horribly wrong on a flat surface!
Ah, indeed. I didn't realise that it was a curved surface. A definite no-no!
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 5:52 pm   #14
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

I meant using tape to remove the paint, you can put Fablon over curved surfaces with a bit of heat, it drags back if not held in place though.
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 7:36 pm   #15
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

For spray paint, a good match for “ dark” Bakelite( Bush Vhf61 etc) is Vauxhall “ Brazil Brown”
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Old 25th Oct 2020, 10:58 pm   #16
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

The old paint effect used to be a real trade, otherwise known as marbling and graining. May still be the odd person doing it as a profession but they are probably very thin on the ground. It used to be seen in most victorian houses, internal doors and casings used to be pine but 'grained' to look like a more expensive wood. To my eyes most of it was meant to be oak. It was done to a pretty good standard too. I saw lots of it in the 70's and 80's. Being sparkies mate saw to that. It's pretty much all been ripped out now.
I suppose you could give it a go if you felt inclined. The worst that can happen is that you have to remove it. One day I'll have a go. I've already done it in terms of fake wood grain - that is on wood but I've not done it on bakelite.
As others have said you could just go through the grits and stop when the scratches are no longer visible to the naked eye. That will get you to a certain level of shine/gloss. You could leave it at that or you could put shellac on it, shellac pretty much sticks to anything and has a strong reputation for doing so. That's also a way of subtly altering the colour of the bakelite (should you wish) by putting a pigment in the shellac. Number of ways you can go with your cabinet.

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Old 26th Oct 2020, 8:03 am   #17
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

In the 1940's several smaller sets were available in painted or urea formaldehyde cabinets the colour suited for the tastes of the time.

As the cabinet is in need of painting or otherwise improvement you could consider painting it a bright colour to fit with modern life.

I have a Bush DAC90A in Mineral Blue it looks really nice the cabinet was badly damaged so it wasn't any loss.

I am not suggesting any vandalism here just changing something dull to something bright.

Cheers

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Old 26th Oct 2020, 10:04 am   #18
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

More interesting recommendations, thank you all.

Just as a matter of interest, are there many women on this forum as I have slipped up a couple of times and posted "thank you gents".
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Old 26th Oct 2020, 1:01 pm   #19
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael.N. View Post
The old paint effect used to be a real trade, otherwise known as marbling and graining. May still be the odd person doing it as a profession but they are probably very thin on the ground.
Here's a 'before' and 'after' of the wood grain effect on a mid-50s GEC I once did. After removal of the remaining original finish, brown acrylic was applied over a plain gold coating, drawing the grain using a fan-shaped brush. Then a light overcoat of clear lacquer.

Steve
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Old 26th Oct 2020, 2:16 pm   #20
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Default Re: What to do with poor condition Bakelite case?

Excellent job Steve.
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