Vintage Bakelite and Catalin Radios

When many people think of plastic Art Deco radios, the word Bakelite immediately comes to mind. That’s understandable enough, since Bakelite was the first molded plastic used in radios, and it’s the oldest of the most common early-20th-century industrial plastics, the others being Catalin, Plaskon, and Beetle.

One of the limitations of Bakelite for 1930s designers was its dark color. Bakelite radios from that period are invariably brown or black, the product of their carbon-based ingredients, phenol and formaldehyde, being mixed into a resin, cooled and crushed, and then heated again under intense pressure, a process called thermosetting. Marbling and other surface variations could be produced by adding fillers to the recipe, from rags to sawdust, but the earliest Bakelite radios were somewhat somber in appearance.

The look of plastic radios changed dramatically, however, when Plaskon was introduced in 1933. Originally developed by the Toledo Scale Company as a replacement material for its heavy porcelain and iron scales, Plaskon allowed radios to be white or beige.

While some Plaskon radios were also made in colors such as red, the plastic most associated with brilliant hues was Catalin, which could be dyed in a variety of colors. Catalin radios were cast rather than molded, which meant their edges and seams had to be finished by hand. Initially used in costume jewelery (many so-called "Bakelite bangles" are really made of Catalin), by 1937 Catalin was favored by radio manufacturers such as Emerson and Fada to create colorful cabinets, behind which hid their radio’s wiring, speaker, and tubes.

Because Catalin was cast as a solid resin with no reinforcement, cracks were common, making surviving pieces highly collectible. Also, many of the originally vibrant colors have faded, due to the lack of UV light protection in the resin.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Deco Radios

Deco Radios

Tune in to Steve Davis' collection of 1930s and 40s Art Deco style radios, featuring stunningly crisp high resoluti… [read review or visit site]

Jim's Antique Radio Museum

Jim's Antique Radio Museum

Jim Tripp's showcase of radios from the 1920s to late 1950s, organized by style and theme (wood, console, plastic, … [read review or visit site]

The Radio Attic's Archives

The Radio Attic's Archives

This photo gallery of over 7800 vintage radios, categorized by manufacturer and model number, is a group effort wit… [read review or visit site]

AntiqueRadios.com

AntiqueRadios.com

Alan Voorhees' reference resource for vintage radio collectors includes a photo gallery, article library, PDF archi… [read review or visit site]

Radiomuseum.org

Radiomuseum.org

This vast archive and community of radio collectors features over 120,000 radio model listings and 350,000 photos a… [read review or visit site]

Phil's Old Radios

Phil's Old Radios

This extensive collection of antique radios includes beautiful photos and detailed historical descriptions. The sit… [read review or visit site]

Radiophile.com

Radiophile.com

John Pelham's collection of wood and plastic radios from the 1930's and 40's. What sets this site apart is the deta… [read review or visit site]

Radio-Guy

Radio-Guy

Steve Erenberg's extremely wacky and well-done collection of vintage mad-scientist devices and contraptions. Writte… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Old Antique " Peid Piper " Very Rare Art Deco Bakelite Crystal RadioVintage 40s Truetone Antique Mid Century Bakelite Radio Swirled Catalin Colors Vintage 1940s Fada Bullet Art Deco Catalin No Cracks Bakelite Antique Tube RadioVintage 1930s Stewart Warner Art Deco Old Depression Era Solid Bakelite Radio Stewart Warner “campus” Antique Bakelite Tube Radio From 1940 Recently Serviced Exceptional 1940 Rca Victor "nipper" Bakelite Tube Radio Original Condition Gem!Vintage 1930s Old Beautiful Rca Victor Antique Bakelite Art Deco Tube RadioVintage 1940s Old Metalic Color Northern Electric Art Deco Bakelite Bullet RadioVintage 1940’s Air Clear Marblized Butterscotch Catalin Radio Styled BakeliteEmerson 5+1 Catalin Bakelite Radio W Solid Case & Handle Ready For RestorationZenith H-511 Consol-tone Ebony Black Bakelite Tube Radio From 1951 Working WellG.e, Bakelite Deco Radio Original 5 Tube Restored M-107 Nice Looker & Player!!Vintage Emerson Model 520 - Catalin Tube Radio Rca Deco Bakelite Radio, Original Gorgeous Post War Large Table Model Stunner!German Bakelite Tombstone RadioVintage 1950s Sentinel Art Deco Retro Swirled Catalin Color Brass Trim Radio Belmont 519, Extreme Deco, Bakelite With Plaskon Knobs, Rarer Than The Rabbit NrVtg Rca Detrola Am Tube Radio Early Multi Color Dial Art Deco Bakelite KnobsMoffats Crosley Model G 2465c Bakelite Tube Table Radio 1940's Old Airline Deco Style Bakelite Tube Radio ~l@@k!Antique International Vintage Bakelite Tube Radio Vintage Fada Radio Model 845 Bakelite Catalin 1940s Alabaster Art DecoBeautiful Vintage Bakelite Zenith Am/fm Tube Radio Model 7h820z-restoredVintage Bakelite Catalin Silvertone Am Tube Clock Radio Vintage Bakelite Philco Hippo Radio Model 48-460Motorola Model 57r1 Bakelite Tube Table Radio 1950's Mid-centuryVintage Rca Victor Tube Radio Model 9-x-561 Bakelite Cabinet -art DecoZenith Bakelite Radio Vintage Tube Type 1950's PinkVintage 1946 Clarion C100 Painted Bakelite Tube Radio Sentinel Tube Radio / Bakelite / No Reserve AuctionVintage Fada Model #l-96 Plaskon Catalin Bakelite Off-white Tube Radio~ Works!!Vintage Crosley Model 10-135 Am Tube Radio Retro Space Age Bakelite Gold DialVintage 1940 Silvertone Model 3451 Bakelite Tube Radio For Parts Or RepairSmall Lot Of Vintage Bakelite Radio Knobs...good Shape...look!Vintage Philco Transitone Pt-2 Bakelite Am Tube Radio / Watch The Working VideoAntique Emerson Catalin Bakelite Tube Radio - Parts-repair-restorationVintage 1941 Emerson Model Ec Brown Bakelite Tube RadioVintage Emerson Tube Type Am Radio Bakelite Model 602cVintage Zenith Bakelite Tube Radio Model 5r01-excellent ConditionVintage Rca Victor 9-x-641 Bakelite Radio Working Emerson 149 Deco Pre War Vintage Marbled Bakelite Tube Radio - Plays W/issueAntique Vintage Warren Telechron "musalarm" Am Clock Radio Bakelite C. 1940s UsaMotorola ~ Vintage Bakelite Radio ~ 77x M21 ~ Am / Fm ~ Two Tone ~ Nice LookingVintage 1948 Rca Victor Model 75x16 Am Wood Grain Painted Bakelite Tube RadioZenith R615y Long Range Radio Bakelite Vintage Working Restore Or Repair As Is Vintage Truetone #189 Ag Mid Century Bakelite Tube Radio Western Auto Rare Cool1950 Zenith Armstrong Am/fm Radio Model G725 7g01 - Bakelite ChassisNew Unused 1920s 3" Swirl Bakelite Knob F/ Old Ham Radio Tube Receiver Tuner AmpLot Of 2 Vintage Bakelite Dubilier Mica Condenser's Cap .1 Mfd A.c. Volt 1250Silvertone Model 2015 Bakelite Tube Table Radio 1950's Mid-centuryAntique Ge General Electric Plum Bakelite Radio Early Tube For Parts Or RepairNice Big 1920s 4" Heath Bakelite Knob F/ Old Ham Radio Tube Receiver Tuner AmpPhilco 49-905 Am Fm Vacuum Tube Bakelite Radio-serviced Gem!!Art Deco Bakelite Antique Radio BeautifulVintage Regency Signal Booster, Black Bakelite, Db-410