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Subject: Bakelite


From: David Grattan <david_grattan>
Date: Friday, July 28, 1995
I found the discussion re: Bakelite vs.Cellulose Nitrate
identification to be very interesting. We at CCI found another
problem relating to bakelite identification. It is often confused
with ebonite. We have seen older collections of technological
instruments (e.g. telephone equipment) where the two materials are
used almost interchangeably and strongly resemble one another and
were wrongly identified by the Museum. It must be something to do
with Murphy's law, but if there are two possibilities, the wrong one
is inevitably bound to be selected. Of course, if you have ebonite
present in a collection, you should consider segregation and
ventilation since ebonite has been observed in many instances to
liberate sulphuric acid as it ages (For example, see Rob Stevenson's
paper in "Saving the 20th Century on page 183". Consequently any
acid sensitive material such as metals or paper nearby might be at
considerable risk.  We therefore have been developing simple tests
to distinguish one from the other, and we hope to make the test the
subject of a CCI Note in the not too distant future.

Scott Williams is developing the tests and he commented that for
ebonite recognition, the iodine/azide test for sulfur works nicely
on streaked samples and was confirmed on several samples obtained
during museum visits and surveys.  However, the bakelite test is
still under development--we are hoping to make it a single-reagent

Thanks for the comment re-Symposium '91, "Saving the 20th
Century"--we are still selling it at CCI--it costs $50 Can with a $6
shipping and handling fee in the USA. If you want to obtain it you
can either send a cheque in Canadian dollars (to "The Receiver
General for Canada) or you can use Mastercard or VISA and phone us
at (613) 998 3721 if you want to place an order.

David Grattan

                  Conservation DistList Instance 9:15
                  Distributed: Friday, August 4, 1995
                        Message Id: cdl-9-15-003
Received on Friday, 28 July, 1995

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