Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Did you know? # 7

Did you know that Bakelite was developed in 1907 by Belgium born chemist Leo Baekeland, that it was the first wholly synthetic plastic and was heralded as the material of 1000 uses?
Bakelite is a thermosetting plastic made from a compound of phenol formaldehyde and wood filler. It is formed into objects by the application of heat and pressure and once made cannot be melted. Its resistance to electrical current and heat means that it was and still is commonly used for knobs, switches and handles and its ability to be finished with a high shine meant that it was a popular choice for small items of furniture such as radio and television cabinets, heating appliances etc. This material lent itself readily to mass production and although the colour range was limited Bakelite was the material of choice for domestic as well as industrial applications.

A frequent expectation of summer visitors to MoDiP is to see something made of bakelite on display.  More often than not our temporary summer exhibition includes few or no examples of bakelite so in an attempt to address this and so as not to disappoint those who have made the effort to find us, this year we have put together a small display drawn from our own collection and from the Plastics Historical Society collection. 
Included in the display are objects as diverse as a set of stair carpet clips with Art Deco styling,

an electric foot warmer in the shape of a hot water bottle

and a shell cap from WW2.  These objects will be on display until the autumn.

Pam Langdown
(Collections Manager)


  1. i like to know what is the plastic bakelite, phenolic, galalith, all these are used very loosly apart from being a trade name, i am trying to identify the diffrent plastics,

  2. Thank you very much for your comment Bakelite is indeed a tradename but one whcih has come into the language to mean phenol formaldehyde in general. If you would like to find out more do get in touch