Bakelite in PhotographyBakelite is an early plastic or resin made from synthetic materials. It was developed in the early 1900's and used to make items such as jewelry, billiard balls, toys and game pieces, radios, flatware sets, and many other products produced from the early to mid 20th century. In photographic equipment, the most common items produced in Bakelite were cameras, light meters, lens caps and cases, developing tanks, and projectors. Kodak and Coronet are two of the more popular brands to use Bakelite regularly.
|Coronet camera made of Bakelite|
|Lens cap made of Bakelite|
Smell tests: Because Bakelite contains formaldehyde, it has a certain smell when it's warmed. You can warm the material by rubbing your fingers over it creating friction until it's warm, or by immersing the piece in hot water. Some places also recommend a hot pin or needle test to test for smell, but this is NOT a good idea since some plastics are flammable, and the hot pin test can also damage the piece by leaving a melted mark on it. The intensity of the smell can vary, and this only works if you already know what formaldehyde smells like.
Cleaner tests: 409 All Purpose Cleaner, Scrubbing Bubbles, and Simichrome Metal Polish are all known products used to test for Bakelite. For these tests, you put some cleaner on a cotton swab and then wipe it on a small area of the Bakelite. If the swab turns yellow, it's Bakelite. If it turns any other color- brown, gray, no color, then it's not. Be sure to clean off the Bakelite or other plastic after using the cleaner with a little soap and water and keep in mind that cleaners may strip some of the shine from the Bakelite, so proceed with these tests with caution and do your test in a small, discreet spot.
|Light meter made of Bakelite|
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