Retrotechtacular: Bakelite Plastics

retrotechtacular-bakelite-plastics

[ColdTurkey] sent in a really great video for this week’s Retrotechtacular. It’s a half-hour promo reel about Bakelite Plastic. There is so much to enjoy about this film, but we’ve been overlooking it because the first six minutes or so consist of an uncomfortably fake interview between a “Chemist” and “Reporter”. They are standing so close to each other that it’s violating our personal space. But endure or skip ahead and the rest of the video is gold.

Bakelite is an early plastic, and putting yourself in the time period it’s very easy to see the miracle of these materials. The dentures being molded above are made out of phenol formaldehyde resin (to us that sounds like something you don’t stick in your mouth but what do we know?). The plastic pellets take on the shape of the mold when heated — we don’t know if this where the name comes from or if it’s a variation on the name of the chemist who discovered the material: [Dr. Leo Baekeland]. This was the first synthetic plastic, and came at just the right time as it was heavily adopted for use in the electronics and the automotive industry. Both of which were forging new ground at the time.

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Antique phone provides a soundtrack perfect for restoring old cars

crank-phone-music

[Simon] is in the middle of restoring/building himself an Austin 7 Special out in his garage, and like most tinkerers, found that music helps to move the process along. He happened to have an old Bakelite generator phone out in the garage as well, and figured that he might as well have it do something other than simply hang on the wall.

Playing music from the 1930 seemed like a fitting enough task, so he picked up an Adafruit Waveshield and spent some time wiring it up to the old telephone. His new radio works simply enough, piping .wav files through the handset, provided someone has cranked the phone’s generator recently.

While cranking the generator is required to play music, the Arduino is actually powered off a pair of AA batteries. The cranking is all cosmetic, but he did program the Arduino to slow the music down every once in awhile, requiring that the generator be turned to get things back up to speed.

It really is a neat way to repurpose the old phone, and we like the fact that [Simon] did not gut it to put this project together.

Continue reading to see a short video of his new music player in action.

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