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"Polymer" or Resin?[edit]

"Bakelite was the first synthetic polymer." Interestingly it is not a polymer in the true sense of the word. It is more of a resin.

"Due to its hardness and durability, it was considered as a material for making pennies during World War II, due to copper being needed for shell casings. Several patterns were made in 1942, but steel was used instead in 1943 and recycled shell casings in 1944 and 1945." - Where? The US, the UK, somewhere else?

Exactly what I was wondering.

Since pennies were made of steel in the US in 1943, I'd say it was there. Stubblyhead 23:50, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Correct, Stubblyhead. more info here. Well heck, there's already even a whole wiki page for the steel penny. DMacks 01:59, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

1912 use of plastic[edit]

Was there any plastic on the Titanic? Do we know for sure?

And are celluloid billiard balls really plastic?


I learned today in a University lecture that Bakelite could apparently become volatile over time and can spontaneously combust, setting alight (and that this is a reason it wasn't actually the viable replacement to metal or wood it was proposed to be in the twenties). A tutor says that they have even seen it happen with an old Bakelite eggcup that exploded as it was sat on a shelf in the room she was in...Is this right? Mr.bonus 21:12, 11 December 2006 (UTC) No. Celluloid is the material that is highly combustible.


The ORIGINAL BRAND NAME BAKELITE has expired many years ago. It is generally now agreed among most Phenolic resin Engineers/Manufactuers that all Phenolic resins fall into the 'Bakelite" catagory, though some products have their own brand names and trademarks, like CATALIN.


I stumbled across this today, Bakelite The Plastic Age it gives a really good history. -Ravedave 17:29, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

Proposed merge[edit]

There's been a proposal to merge polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride with this one. However, there's really nothing there to merge, so I think polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride should simply be redirected here to Bakelite. Rob T Firefly 13:53, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Support merge/redirect to here. Usually I think we'd go with the "actual" page at the generic name (vs trademark or product containing the chemical), but there's not much to say (or at least not much said) about the chemical and lots to say about the material itself (whose name has become generic). DMacks 14:00, 9 October 2007 (UTC)
It's been a while with no further comment, so I'm mergeing/redirecting as per above. Rob T Firefly 21:16, 7 November 2007 (UTC)


Dear Wikipedia,

I hope that you will be able to add the folowing link to your "Bakelite" page.

Many thanks,

Reindert Groot (talk) 17:59, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Patent and trademark section[edit]

The patent and citation links no longer work. Is this section relevant? Remove?Sandcherry (talk) 00:34, 17 June 2009 (UTC)

I added the original patent,:US patent #942,699 Method of making insoluble products of phenol and formaldehyde. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Asterladybug (talkcontribs) 19:33, 21 July 2011 (UTC) here i post the old link. This link was not relevant Patent1233298Asterladybug (talk) 20:01, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

Definition of Bakelite and "marbled plastics"[edit]

A recent edit added the following:

Bakelite was used widely from the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s for jewelry. Huge quantities of beads, bangles and earrings were produced by the Catalin Company which introduced 15 new colours in 1927, and created marbled and translucent plastics. [...]

Now I have no query with the broad statement of this addition, or even the individual facts stated in it. However I'm far from sure that "marbled and translucent plastics" have anything to do with Bakelite. AIUI, they are by definition going to be plastics other than Bakelite (in the technical sense) and thus out of scope for this article. If someone would please write Jewellery and decorative use of plastics between the wars, I'm sure that would be an excellent topic.

AIUI, the defining characteristics of Bakelite are phenolic resins used with wood flour. This gives an opaque finished product, with a tendency to dark colours, with some light speckling from the filler. Later pigments and fillers did give lighter colours, so long as they were strongly coloured. Bakelite can't deliver translucent or marbled effects. If a plastic of this period looks like that (and these were certainly common styles) it's celluloid or casein instead (maybe Lucite acrylics later on), but they won't be Bakelite. Andy Dingley (talk) 09:50, 14 June 2010 (UTC)


Structure of Bakelite
CAS number 9003-35-4
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
Infobox references

Maintenance categories
+cat:Unverified chembox (verification)

Does it make any sense to include this chembox in the article? Albmont (talk) 14:13, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

No, the diagram is not correct for phenolic (Bakelite) resins. The terminal group -OH (from phenol) is correct, but the linkage should be shown as an ether linkage ( -CH2-O-CH2- from formaldehyde), and there are no methyl groups. The correct formula is located at If someone uploads the correct formula, it would be a useful addition to the phenolic resin article. Sandcherry (talk) 13:05, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
Added correct diagram courtesy of JohnSRoberts99 to article. Sandcherry (talk) 02:46, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

Recent additions by user:Knowalitle[edit]

Can someone please go over this diff and address the copy editing. Although a GF addition, of content that warrants coverage, spome of the phrasing and particular issues needs improvement.

  • Expanding the name in full isn't a good thing, if it then breaks the wikilink to the personal article.
  • Copy-editing (throughout). No-one has a goal, "to develop a [...] that could be used [...] after he discovered it in 1907". You have a goal, which is to discover something. After it's discovered you might use it. No-one's goal is to discover it in 1907.
  • What particularly did he desire? Did he desire (as previously) a "hard, mouldable plastic" (i.e. a need) or did he desire (as edited) "a phenolic resin" (i.e. one solution). Was he only looking for phenolic resins? Did he already have this goal in mind, and why and when had he already come to that particular conclusion? Would he have been a bitter, disappointed man if he'd discovered acrylics or urea-formaldehyde resins instead?
  • My empirical observation as a consumer of Bakelite is that it disappeared from decorative use during WW2 and disappeared from commercial use (knobs for electrical switchgear is the last use I recall) in the 1970s. So this fits with two reasons for its removal, fashion and the new brightly coloured plastics post WW2, and some relation to air pollution in the 1970s. One doesn't invalidate the other. Both would need referencing.
  • The edit under 'Properties' that described the clean air act just doesn't hang together - it makes three or four separate statements (CAA, hardness, jewellery use, non-brittleness), all run-in as one.
  • "the Art Deco Period due to the shortage of metal" What shortage? This is the Jazz Age boomtime.
  • "As an individual [...] I can attest to ". Not here you can't. WP:POV and WP:OR are a problem. It's WP:RS or nothing. Sorry, you can be right here, but unless it's WP:Verifiable (hopefully both right and verifiable), it doesn't go in.

Sorry to sound so negative, but this useful addition still needs work. Don't worry about reversion though - it's still in the page histories, so you can extract the actual work and re-use it. Andy Dingley (talk) 13:01, 26 February 2011 (UTC)


Sir James Swinburne apparently discovered this substance independently.--MacRusgail (talk) 15:08, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Citation? Sandcherry (talk) 20:43, 22 April 2011 (UTC)


There aren't enough to support the article as it stands, and unless additional sources are brought be bear, the article should be trimmed back. Just a head's up.... --Nuujinn (talk) 12:43, 28 May 2011 (UTC)

Update Link[edit]

I have updated the external link to the American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks (NHCL) resource about this topic and corrected the NHCL name in the body of the entry. I am the program coordinator of the ACS-NHCL program, and the page that was referenced has been replaced with KLindblom (talk) 16:37, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

Invention country of origin[edit]

The question about citing inventions' country of origin was submitted to the Help desk. Let's hear what the broader user community says as this is obviously not just a Bakelite issue. Sandcherry (talk) 23:52, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

The Telephone is tagged as being a Scottish invention. I am using this as a precedent to tag Bakelite as being a Belgian invention. The argument for Bakelite not being elegible for the tag "Belgian" Was because Baek eland was abroad when he invented it. Same for A.G. Bell. Double standards are ugly things. Removal will be seen as vandalism. Kind reagrds83.101.79.45 (talk) 23:52, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
As you wish. I listed Bakelite as both a Belgian and an American invention. Cheers! Sandcherry (talk) 02:42, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
See WP:OSE and also Wikipedia talk:CAT#Belgian inventions Simultaneous invention in two countries is not the same thing as invention in the USA, by someone who used to live in Belgium. Andy Dingley (talk) 02:56, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
Therefore, should "Belgian invention" be deleted from this article? Sandcherry (talk) 03:06, 17 June 2012 (UTC)

Baekeland had emigrated to the US, therefore everything he did there counts as an invention done in the US by a former Belgian (assuming he became a naturalised citizen). Saying he was abroad when he invented it is a bit like saying he invented it while on a short trip to the US, as opposed to living there full time. Double standards: both articles should be listed under the country where the invented lived full time. On these grounds, I propose removing "Belgian invention" from the article (but only if consensus for this is formed in this discussion). Note: I say this as an Australian who tends to side against the US in "US vs the world" arguments.  Stepho  talk 

Baekeland was a Belgian citizen at the time of his invention, I have no idea if A.G. Bell was. More so , having multiple countries listed is not the exception. Telephone has 4 countries listed , Degausing has 2 , Television has 4 etc etc.. (talk) 13:36, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
Another example is the Crossflow_turbine Solely tagged as Hungarian . Wasn't invented in Hungary , The patent is held by a German . A Hungarian worked on it together with a German and an Australian. In this case , taking precedents into account , it would be valid if it got the Australian and the German tags as well. This just to illustrate. (talk) 13:46, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
Mr Dingley , if a Belgian crapped in your proverbial potato field some time in the past I would like to take it upon myself to apologize , in his name , and in the name of all Belgians who today are getting targeted due to that person's inconsiderate action. I am also imploring you to stop your "eccentric" behavior that's been going in the last couple of days when it comes to Belgian inventions. Let me again specify , that about a week ago there was no such category. On the Wikipedia:WikiProject_Belgium we were made aware of this fact , and were asked to start tagging articles. We , anytare doing this to the best of our knowledge , and taking precedents into account when it comes to form. That is the sole reason why there has been activity concerning Belgian inventions this week. Nobody is trying to prove the planet was invented by Belgians .. I am happy to see you have at your disposal the amount of free time needed to question every single entry in our newly created category trying . And hope , with the recent spell of good weather we've been having you'll consider spending some of that time in the fresh air . Trying with all the force you can muster to discredit all those tags takes it's toll I imagine. Friendly Regards Phoenixxl (talk) 14:08, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
This isn't about Belgium, it's about the same trite claims and over-blown nationalistic self interest that pops up regularly any time one of these 'Inventions by country' categories pops up. I'd like to see some clear policy emerge for how we handle them: the same issues of expatriates, multiple inventions, early, failed inventions etc. are regulars. Andy Dingley (talk) 08:53, 19 June 2012 (UTC)
Ah yes , the nationalistic Belgian ... Good luck finding one of those.[1] And if you do find one , Stick him in a jar and mail him to me. [2] (talk) 09:48, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

I submitted the broader question regarding listing inventions' country of origin to an admin.Sandcherry (talk) 03:03, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

I'm not an admin right now (explanation), and even if I were, this isn't a matter specifically for administrators. I don't really have a strong opinion on the question, and one article's talk page isn't the best place to discuss such a wide-ranging question. A better place would be WP:VP/Pr, a community forum where this kind of thing is frequently discussed. Nyttend (talk) 03:07, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
I submitted this issue to WP:VP/Pr where it is currently being discussed.Sandcherry (talk) 12:14, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
I removed the invention by country categories per village pump consensus, and added location of invention to article. Sandcherry (talk) 02:29, 4 July 2012 (UTC)

why not merge[edit]

Why is it not merged with Phenol formaldehyde resin?--Jsjsjs1111 (talk) 16:38, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

Because it's not just a resin, it's the resin mixed with a filler material to form a substantially different material.
Secondly because Bakelite is an important material, as a recognisable and branded product in its own right. Andy Dingley (talk) 16:44, 22 August 2012 (UTC)


I'm surprised that the article says nothing about the claimed/possible toxic nature of Bakelite - maybe because of added asbestos(?). Myrvin (talk) 17:55, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Colored button images[edit]

Bakelite Buttons 2007.068 (66948).jpg

This article is about Bakelite, the material developed by Baekeland. As such it cannot be colored as shown in the button image. This is well known. The producers of such colored items in the 1930s used a brand name Catalin, which is another phenolic resin, but it is not proper Bakelite. WP has other articles for other types of phenolic resins and this article should not confuse the issue. Kbrose (talk) 15:43, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

This image is sourced from a Wikipedian In Residence at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. On the whole, I'm inclined to take their word for it, as WP:RS.
I agree, two of the green buttons are dubious, as they look as if they might be transparent - which I think we agree, Bakelite isn't. It's not that good a photo that I can tell if they are transparent or not.
However it's simply not true that "all Bakelite is brown or black". Bakelite is filled with a wood flour filler, which makes it opaque, but if this filler was light coloured and the resin was either undyed or dyed another colour (such as green - even if not the green buttons in this particular image) then the sort of yellow-sand colours and certainly the reds of these buttons are easily obtainable with Bakelite of the period. Andy Dingley (talk) 15:50, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Even the Chemical Heritage Foundation web page that displays this image states that the colored versions were made by a process "based on" the Bakelite process, which is the correct statement, only the figure caption incorrectly states it being Bakelite. Their web developer didn't know the difference. Bakelite proper was made only with wood and asbestos and cannot produce bright colors. When wood is subjected to 200 tons of pressure with the heat that is developed, it does not stay light in color. There are no "light" fillers that make the material still "Bakelite". When there is substantial doubt about its composition, WP should not proclaim this as fact. The facts point another way, and a webpage is not a reliable source. When the glove doesn't fit.... you know what to do.Kbrose (talk) 16:07, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
I've a pile of '30s Bakelite here. Including these straw-coloured pieces, even some buttons. They pass the "Simichrome test" (OK, Autosol in this country) because polishing releases traces of their wood filler onto the swab to colour it. They are filled, therefore they are Bakelite rather than Catalin. As Catalin was pressed in much the same moulding presses as Bakelite, and to the same pressures, why does one "change colour" as you claim and the other not? The difference is that Bakelite is filled Catalin, nothing more. Filling makes it opaque, it makes the palest colours impossible, but these yellows and reds are still within the bounds of Bakelite.
No, Bakelite is not filled Catalin. Catalin is a phenolic resin that doesn't use wood or asbestos fillers, and is a much more delicate process develop after Bakelite. All phenol-based resin respond to the Simichrome test, it is not specific to any particular brand. Kbrose (talk) 16:26, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
I would agree though that the green dog is probably Celluloid and not Bakelite, as those pearlescent swirls are, AFAIK, Celluloid only. Andy Dingley (talk) 16:19, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Two of the major industries that used Bakelite in the 1930s were the radio and telephone industries. They used Bakelite exclusively for the brown and black housings. When it came to making color products they resorted to Catalin and called it such, but it was expensive and the telephone industry mostly waited for cellulose acetate development for easily colored material and for cheaper products. If Bakelite could be colored cheaply at the time, they would surely have done so. Kbrose (talk) 16:21, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
This site offers an extensive history, that appears highly credible, IMHO: It also states unambiguously:

End of 30s Bakelite increasingly entered into competition with other plastics like Catalin, Melamin, Plaskon, Nylon a.o. ( dictionary) which all had a decisive advantage: in opposite to Bakelite, which was only deliverable in dark colours, they were easily colorable in any color you wanted. So the way was paved for all the tastlessness of the coming decades.

Kbrose (talk) 16:46, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

In Britain, we also made ivory coloured, red and green telephones (pre-WWII). Ivory are Catalin, red and green are either 200 series pyramids in Catalin (slightly translucent, if polished) or the 300 series are Bakelite and fiendishly rare as they were pretty much civil defence only. There's also a fairly large trade in GPO and RAF switchgear knobs in Bakelite. Only Bakelite (and later CAB) was used for these, as they needed to be threaded internally (GPO "lever switches"). Almost all are black, but a handful are again red Bakelite (yellows too, but they're later and CAB). Andy Dingley (talk) 16:50, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
I do not believe that the green or red ones were Bakelite at all. I think the GPO used urea formaldehyde resins for these, which could be brightly colored, but were more fragile. There were even purely white, or almost white, ones, I believe (ivory?) Many colored plastic parts were also made from a melamine resin. Overall, people don't know plastics and tend to call anything Bakelite, because that's all they typically hear by crowd sourcing (Google). I am still hoping, that WP could avoid such practice? Kbrose (talk) 17:14, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Chip the corner and take a look. Urea formaldehyde was used, but much later. As noted, I'm talking pre-WWII. Andy Dingley (talk) 18:03, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Urea formaldehyde is pretty much as old as the phenols. Kbrose (talk) 18:24, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Earthenware is even older, but they didn't use that either. Andy Dingley (talk) 19:22, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
I think part of the confusion comes from the word "Bakelite" being an overloaded term. Would it help to work on the page and better differentiate these uses? "Bakelite" indicates
  1. Bakelite, a company
  2. Bakelite, a brand name (for a wide variety of products and materials)
  3. Bakelite, a specific material, polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride
The wikipedia page for Bakelite says it's about the material, but other meanings appear in the article. The page for Catalin, in comparison, says it's about the brand name. Whether the statement "It's not Bakelite" applies to the material or the brand can be confusing in the Bakelite article.
One thing to clarify could be that not all Bakelite (brand) is Bakelite (material). "Bakelite" as a brand name was historically used for a variety of materials and products. I've got a couple of 1940's Bakelite advertisements here that show Bakelite products in a wide variety of colors. One shows brilliant red and gold as well the traditional amber and brown/black, with the caption "They are all BAKELITE Plastics -- but all are different." Another, from "Bakelite Plastics Headquarters", shows vivid red, black, pale yellow! and brilliant green. Bakelite (product) *was* being sold in bright colors, but it wasn't necessarily made of Bakelite (material).
Catalin (material) or something very like it *was* apparently sold under the Bakelite (brand name). I've got a couple of sources here that relate: one is Meikle, Jeffrey L. (1995). American Plastic: A Cultural History. New Brunswick,NJ: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-2235-8. , which states "Catalin licensed its imported process to such firms as Marblette, Joanite, Fiberloid, Du Pont, and even Bakelite, which in 1933 claimed its own cast resins as a new development" (p.75-76) Another is the Bakelite Review, Silver anniversary issue, 1910-1936 (volume 7, number 3) which states under "NEW DEVELOPMENTS": "TWO-TONED CAST RESINOIDS As early as 1909 Bakelite resinoid was being produced in cast forms -- sheets, tubes, rods and many special shapes. These were supplied to fabricators who fashioned them into pipe stems, cigar and cigarette holders, umbrella and cane handles, buttons, buckles, and costume jewelry, including beads and artificial pearl necklaces. Soon the demand grew for an even greater variety of hues and colors -- translucent and transparent. Colorful new cast resinoids were developed to take care of these requirements. Latest in this particular avenue of research is the exclusive development by Bakelite Corporation of a patented two-tone process, whereby a variety of individual colors may be cast into one form. In this manner many beautiful articles, such as bracelets, buckles, and ornamental brooches, may be fabricated in two or more colors." (p.39) There are also mentions of "brilliant color" with respect to moldings.Mary Mark Ockerbloom (talk) 20:08, 29 January 2015 (UTC) (FYI, I'm the Wikipedian in Residence at Chemical Heritage Foundation, so I put up the images under discussion.)
Am I right that both Bakelite and Catalin are thermosetting polymers and cast phenol formaldehyde resins? I want to be sure I have the terminology right. The page for Catalin says it's about a brand name for another specific material, similar to polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride and developed using its patents, by the American Catalin Corporation.Mary Mark Ockerbloom (talk) 20:08, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for your input. The article is about the material, as it starts out with the chemical nature of it as being Baekeland's invention. By 1927 or so his patent expired and so competitors brought to market varieties of similar materials based on modified processes. So did the Catalin Company. You are right, the chemistry has the same foundation, reactions of phenol with formaldehyde. The conditions under which this reaction is performed and the additives to provide the result with desirable mechanical, electrical, and visual properties makes all the difference in the world. For purists, Bakelite is the resin that contains wood flour or asbestos. Catalin doesn't use structural fillers and therefore it is difficult to make large complex structures from it, and it is therefore also fragile, being kind of glassy. That though makes it possible to color it, whereas it was quite hard to obtain bright colors with Bakelite. Bakelite objects were always painted, if necessary, for example Western Electric painted Bakelite handsets into the 1950s. The surfaces of Catalin needed special polishing, I believe, which was not the case with Bakelite, which came out of the presses with high surface gloss. Therefore Catalin was mostly used for small pieces. The Bakelite corporation indeed also wanted to participate in that market, and probably used their existing market image. This may well be a factor of confusion. Kbrose (talk) 22:31, 29 January 2015 (UTC)