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Archive | April, 2019

When Bakelite emits a foul odor

When we think of overheating plastic, we think of plastic melting.  But Bakelite is a little different.  When overheated, it doesn’t melt, but instead breaks down into its constituent parts, one of which (formaldehyde) smells nasty, and isn’t good to inhale.

Bakelite is safe to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; putting it in an oven is not a good idea.  The most common culprit for overheating is a gas stove where the flames are too high, and the lick up the sides of a sauce pan and heat the handles directly.

While we always assumed that overheating was the only ways to cause problems, there is at least one anecdotal report that once overheated, Bakelite may be sensitive to overheating at a lower temperature.

After many years steady use, I’m getting toxic fumes when I use them on anything but very low heat. It smells exactly like burnt plastic and the fumes seem unhealthful, not just smelly. I’m assuming it’s the handles, but they don’t seem degraded more than normal for their age. I do have a gas stove and tried lowering the flame, since the flames can lick around the edge of the pan and up toward the handles. But I am still getting the fumes strongly, even when the handles are very warm at all.

If you have the same issue, or if your handles have previously been overheated and seem sensitive to even lower heat, it is probably safest to replace your handles.  If replacement isn’t an option (you have one that we don’t make) you might try restoring them as described here, being sure to remove any Bakelite that looks damaged, to get to undamaged Bakelite.

To to sure, Bakelite is known to be safe as it has been used on cookware, and many other products, for around 80 years.  When used properly, there is no danger.  But it does have the potential for misuse if it is used in the oven or on too high heat.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

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Revere Ware world tour

Every once in a while, one of our shipments goes on a while ride far away from where it should have been destined.  This seems to be some mis-routing by the USPS.  Once a package gets severely mis-routed, it usually disappears and never returns. The frequency of these mis-routings seems to has increased in the last year, and the one we discovered today is the worst.

It departed our shippers on February 27th destined for Canada.  From the shippers, it made its way to to Los Angeles, and then San Francisco, and then, um, Paris France.

Apparently someone figured out the mistake because it came back to first Jamaica, NY, and then Newark, NJ.  But then, for some reason, it went back to France where it arrived yesterday.

After 6 weeks of travel (packages normally take a week or less to Canada), and two visits to France, this one takes the cake.  I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

The moral of this story is, if your package seems inordinately delayed, please contact us.  If we determine it is unlikely to arrive in a timely fashion, or at all, we’ll send another package.

Update 4/12/19

Well the Postal Service in the US and France must be very proud of themselves.  Somehow they delivered this to someone in France.

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When replacement isn’t an option – restoring Bakelite

We sell quite a few replacement Bakelite handles and what now now, but there are some parts that don’t have enough demand for us to produce, given the minimum quantity we must order for each part we make.

Assuming it isn’t cracked, restoring an old, faded Bakelite part is the only option.  There used to be a restoration service (that was expensive) that was an option before we started producing parts, that involved sanding the Bakelite with progressively finer sandpapers.

But we just came across a guide that makes it sound much more simple.

Step 1

Wipe down the handle with warm soapy water to wash away as much of the grime as possible.

Step 2

Rinse with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.

Step 3

Buff away deep scratches gently with fine gauge sandpaper.

Step 4

Apply liquid metal polish in a tight circular motion with a clean cloth. Rub with as much pressure as needed to polish away the accumulation of stains and dirt. Wait for the polish to haze over.

Step 5

Rub with a clean, dry cloth to remove the polish.

In terms of what fine gauge sandpaper is required, I am guessing perhaps 200, 400, or 600 grit would be possible options.

 

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