We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Bakelite?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
About Mechanics is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At About Mechanics, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Bakelite is another name for phenolic resin, an early form of plastic. Today, objects made from Bakelite are considered highly collectible, although in its glory days of the 1930s and 1940s, it was seen as an inexpensive alternative to high-end jewelry materials such as jade and pearl.

A Belgian-born chemist named Leo Baekeland used his profits from the sale of Velox, a film treatment used by newspapers, to set up an independent lab in Yonkers, New York around the year 1901. Dr. Baekeland spent several years working on a durable coating for the lanes of bowling alleys, similar to today's protective polyurethane floor sealants. He combined carbolic acid and formaldehyde to form phenolic resin. This resin would remain pourable long enough to apply to hardwood flooring, but then become insoluble and impermeable after curing. Dr. Baekeland patented this early form of plastic and started his own Bakelite corporation around 1910 to market it to heavy industry and automobile manufacturers. Bakelite could be used for electric insulators or as an insulating coating for automotive wiring.

After a decade of primarily industrial applications, Bakelite soon entered the consumer market. Thomas Edison used it as the base for his early commercial phonograph records. It was also used to form billiard balls and as decorative handles for flatware and hand-held mirrors. Bakelite could be melted and poured into lead molds to form the shape of drinking glasses, flower vases, musical instruments and other consumer goods. It replaced an earlier, more flammable form of plastic called celluloid.

Bakelite products were not often mass-produced through an injection mold process. Craftsmen who wanted to create jewelry or other decorative items from would order it in the form of cylinders or blocks. Powered hand tools and grinders would allow artisans to carve out individual pieces for resale. Bakelite jewelry became the rage among fashionable consumers, but its relatively low cost also made it popular among the general public during the Depression. In 1927, the original patent expired and the rights to the process were bought by a company called Catalin. Manufacturers learned how to add a full palette of colors to the resin and Bakelite-Catalin continued to be popular until the late 1940s.

Ultimately, Bakelite-Catalin's labor-intensive process proved to be its undoing. After World War II, mass production became the plastic industry's buzzword and this early form became a pleasant memory. Collectors today prize it for its patina and its versatility. Unscrupulous dealers, however, have tried to sell other plastic items as authentic Bakelite. One test for authenticity is called the hot pin test. Interested buyers should find an inconspicuous area of the object in question and apply a heated pin. True Bakelite gives off a distinctive odor as it melts, very similar to the scent of burnt human hair. If the pin melts the object but no formaldehyde/burnt hair odor is detected, it is most likely an imitation.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to About Mechanics, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By khaledhabbab — On Jan 07, 2014

I would like to know how I can make the bakelite stiffer and more durable. I have a college assignment on it.

By anon241772 — On Jan 20, 2012

We're trying to make bakelite in school. We have a recipe but it isn't working! Can anyone give us a sure fire way of producing Bakelite safely in school? --Pen

By anon153925 — On Feb 18, 2011

Its usages in electric switches and plugs?

By anon152362 — On Feb 14, 2011

Do you have pictures of bakelite jewelry?

By anon147388 — On Jan 29, 2011

I would like to know the percentage of phenol and formaldehyde for making bakelite, and also the preparation or mechanism of bakelite.

By anon124253 — On Nov 05, 2010

20g phenol and 36-40 percent of 25g formaldehyde.

By tsvanmeet — On May 22, 2010

I would like to know the percentage of phenol and formaldehyde for making bakelite. Also need to know what coloring agent was used to get the dark brown on early distributor caps. What is the thermosetting procedure?

By anon74798 — On Apr 04, 2010

What are the newest types of plastics which are heat resistant and non-conductive of electricity?

By anon52591 — On Nov 15, 2009

Anybody know how to cut, carve, join and polish old Bakelite stock? Or can you direct me to a good source for this information? Thanks!

By ane6rh — On Jun 26, 2008

can we come to know how to make/prepare the bakelite rods/block ?. thanks.

By ane6rh — On Jun 26, 2008

please can i know the percentage/ratio of carbolic + formaldehyde to make bakelite resin.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to About Mechanics, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.