Monday, February 29, 2016

OJ Sun Splotch

It's been a while since I posted an orange juice button and this one is quite a specimen. The carved handiwork looks like an angular pattern of scrunched up curves and creases. To me, this bright button has the look of an origami sun. Remember that orange juice is the nickname given to Bakelite that combines apple juice with nontransparent orange, which causes a cross-bred effect that's strewn with pulp-like swirls. Summery as Florida, this Bakelite button is high in Vitamin C.

-Sherbert McGee 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Golden "V" Stunner

This kingly button hypnotizes me every time I look at it. The gold "V" is a sturdy, foil ribbon. The plastic is 100% Bakelite, probably harking back to the early 1940's. It's possible that this button's design is a "V-for-Victory" emblem, which was a popular fashion theme during WWII in the form of pins and brooches. As far as Bakelite buttons go, I consider this to be a chocolate masterpiece. 

Until next time, this concludes my week of Bakelite buttons with various metallic bits. 

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Aluminum Stitches

Whoever thought of threading a strand of metal through the rim of a Bakelite button gets a big huzzah out of me. Barely tarnished at the seams, this black dazzler would be a no-frills commoner if it weren't for the woven edging. I've seen this kind of button in other people's collections, but usually with no more than ten stitches. Lucky me, mine has twelve.

Visit Doreen's online store

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nickel & Green

Imagine a big green chunk of Bakelite on a tin-plated throne. That's what this buttton is! It measures over two inches across and the Bakelite juts half an inch above the metal platter. Whenever I study this button I always have the same vision of a flamboyant cowboy who sported a whole row of these buttons up and down his cowboy blouse. I was told that the metal base of this button is depressed tin or Mexican nickel. The emerald Bakelite is slick as a jade custard cake. A very unusual button.

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mystery in Brass

It's kind of mesmerizing, this rootbeer wishing well. It's like looking into a cauldron and making out bits of moving lifeforms in an ominous brew. The Bakelite is smooth and thick. The metal foundation is right out of a gladiator's arsenal. I don't think I own a heavier button than this one since the brass backer is extremely weighty. This button must've been sewn with miles of thread for a trusty fix on a magical jacket.

-Sherbert McGee 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sterling Stripe

As I mentioned last Monday, starting today I'm posting an entire week of Bakelite buttons with various metal components. This maroon button is belted with a sterling piece that's divvied into 7 squares traveling over the button like a train track. The way the light hits the silver, I see a pinkish iridescence here that's very pretty. The maroon plastic is legit Bakelite, probably from the 1930's.

-Sherbert McGee   

Friday, February 19, 2016

Dinosaur Eggs

All month long I've been looking forward to sharing this photo of my 3 Bakelite dragon egg buttons in a funky shade of iguana-butt green! See how the edges along the dots are exhibiting a rusty tinge of orange? That's an aging effect that happens to green Bakelite sometimes. At any rate, I bought these eccentric toads from a fellow-Bakelite collector in California who boasts some of the most unusual Bakelite I've ever seen. Like avocados from Mars, these are among my favorite buttons.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Slug, or Unphotogenic Bakelite at its Slimiest

Don't blame it on the photographer! I took dozens of pictures of this large button at every possible angle and this slippery thing is 100% camera-shy. In real life, it's an eyeful of highly-polished Bakelite in a hypnotic tone of espresso...not to mention an S-shaped anomaly with shark-fin points and a laminated veneer that catches the light like a tar-dipped boomerang. I promise this is a truly sensational Bakelite button, even if this photo would have you believe it's just a glossy slug.

-Sherbert McGee 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Slashed Butter!

As pretty as this button is, it appears to have undergone some violence. The etches around the border look like the random slashes of a mad butcher (or a mad barber...Hello! Sweeney Todd). Otherwise, maybe this would be the outcome if you asked Edward Scissorhands to "pass the margarine." Texturally, this neat-o button is a cream-colored model of Bakelite notches and slices. With so much chiseled detail, it goes without saying that no two Bakelite buttons are exactly alike.

-Sherbert McGee    

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Red Rescue

Usually, I avoid buttons that were previously owned by chain-smokers, but every now and then I'm up for the challenge of scrubbing down a nicotine-infested antique. This striking red square is a case in point. When I first laid eyes on this button I was as awestruck by its brilliant art deco carving as I was appalled by the level of ash that was embedded in its carved-out grooves. Braving the task, I purchased this cancerous baby and went to work on scraping out seven decade's worth of cigarette-related grunge. The project took days of intense elbow grease, but even now I still see some of the blackish residue that I've yet to dislodge. She's a work in progress, but this Bakelite beauty is almost fully restored to her heyday shine.

-Sherbert McGee   

Monday, February 15, 2016

In a Silver Girdle

Black Bakelite in a silver's today's rather attitudinous button. Her edges are scalloped and her face is sculpted to the point of resembling onyx koi scales. This could be my Cruella de Vil of buttons; and style-wise, she is not holding back! If this button could speak, she'd curse volumes. Starting next Monday (Feb. 22nd through the 26th), I'm going to post a full week of Bakelite buttons with metal components. Consider this a chic teaser.

-Sherbert McGee

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rebel Heart

My friend, Doreen, sent me a small wooden easel last year for the purpose of showcasing buttons in the upright position. I experimented with a lot of different buttons and finally decided to use this maroon (Bakelite) heart in honor of St. Valentine's Day. The button appears to be pierced by a sword, which gives it a soldier-like, Joan-of-Arc look. Vive la France! 

Visit Doreen's online store

 -Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 11, 2016

AJ Matrix

Like a magnifying glass, all the carved lines on the bottom of this apple juice button are slightly enlarged on the topside. Apple juice Bakelite is famous for playing with the laws of reflection. What's more, this handsome button is a fine-combed stunner with its tidy network of incised rows. Einstein would concur; there isn't a glitch in this matrix.

-Sherbert McGee  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cryptic Tangerine

You don't find Bakelite buttons like this too often. Sweet Jeepers! This button also functions as a Delphic fetish! I love this slightly sinister enigma with its tilted moons and puzzling outline. There's some kind of wizardry here and the color is an intense tangerine. I have another button like this, but larger, in a strange shade of olive that I'll post at a future date. Here's to esoteric Bakelite!

-Sherbert McGee 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Toggle Tuesday: Cocoons

These toggles, with their fat little midsections, remind me of how the string of a kite spools more thickly in the center of a reel. They also look like mummified beans or something a spider kidnapped before cocooning. The color on these is creamed corn. I bought them a few years ago on a trip to New England. Like everything else on this blog, these buttons tested positive as Bakelite.

-Sherbert McGee

Monday, February 8, 2016

For Amber Waves of Grain

I like to think of this button as chunk of Bakelite Americana and a tribute to the wheat fields that sway throughout the Great Plains, from Wichita to Weaverville. Maybe the windy lines on this button are the tornadoes that flatten those wheat fields from time to time. A button that truly honors the Midwest! The color of this old slab of plastic is rootbeer, a rich pool of splotchy brown.

-Sherbert McGee 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Rose Wonder

Last year I discovered this button at a "Roaring Twenties" expo in St. Louis and I couldn't believe my luck. You'd have thought that Clara Bow plucked this off her favorite party frock and handed it to me herself. Exploding with sculpted curves and a beaming charm, this cherry rose exudes everything I'll ever love in a button. It's red. It's Bakelite. It's perfect.

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 4, 2016

End of Day

So here's the theory: At the end of any given workday in the old-time plastic industry, before turning off the machines, factory workers would gather all the varicolored scraps of the day and toss them in for one last batch of Bakelite goods. In the world of buttons, this resulted in some very unusual color combinations. These five buttons are a toffee-like tan, but with rainbow freckles thrown into the mix. I was told that these are true, end-of-day buttons, churned out of a 1930's Bakelite factory right as the whistle blew and the workforce went home.

-Sherbert McGee    

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Blue Prystal and Blue Moon

Alas, blue Bakelite is not a myth. It's probably the rarest of all the Bakelite colors and the toughest to identify since it often manifests itself in arguable blue-greens and iffy teals. As far as I can tell, blue Bakelite comes in two varieties: 1. Prystal Bakelite and 2. Blue Catalin that (for some reason) didn't oxidize into another color over the years.

In the photo above I believe there are four Prystal buttons. See how the light leaves a fleck of blue within some of the shadows? That's an indication of Prystal Bakelite. Now notice that two of the buttons (at roughly 10:00 and 4:30) seem a bit more opaque with no trace of blue electricity in their shadows. I suspect that these are true blue Catalin buttons. Remember that "Catalin" is a brand of Bakelite. The Catalin company experimented with Bakelite's tones and color-blends and did indeed invent blue Bakelite. However, over the course of many decades, most Catalin-Bakelite that was originally blue has gradually turned green or black. Bakelite is a chameleon plastic in that it typically darkens over time and in many instances, changes color. Experts believe that excessive light may be what causes the color changes in Bakelite. Others suggest that it's the chemical nature of Bakelite to change. Whatever the case, these two blue, non-Prystal Bakelite buttons are still blue in 2016. Due to the extreme rarity of blue Catalin that's retained its original tone, this color of Bakelite is covetously referred to by collectors as blue moon.

-Sherbert McGee       

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Prystal Bakelite

The origins of early 20th Century plastics began with Bakelite In 1907. That's the year a Belgian chemist named Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite, though it took another decade before his formula became a household product that comprised everything from dominoes to kitchenware (to buttons). Between the years 1919 and 1942, Bakelite was the prevailing plastic. In 1927 the patents for Bakelite were acquired by the Catalin Corporation, which experimented with Leo Baekeland's original recipe, though most collectors of Bakelite don't differentiate between the Bakelite of pre-1927 and the Bakelite that technically became a brand of Catalin. By the 1940's, other plastics such as Lucite and Celluloid began to replace Bakelite since these cheaper brands were easier to mass produce. By the early and mid 1940's, Bakelite was gradually becoming a thing of the past.

Prystal Bakelite:
Bakelite came in a dazzling range of colors and one of those lesser-known color variants was a form of transparent Bakelite known as Prystal. (I believe the idea behind the name was to tout Prystal Bakelite as a type of "Plastic Crystal," though that's just a guess on my part). Truth be told, I'm not too keen on Prystal Bakelite because it lacks the intensity of the solid colors, but I do have a few Prystal buttons that I hold onto for the sake of keeping my collection well-rounded. I think it's wise to never underestimate the importance of variety.

-Sherbert McGee    

Monday, February 1, 2016

Basket Case: A Beige Button

Today's Bakelite button is a seldom-seen beige variety, or what I've heard described as nut brown, pale brown, khaki or fawn. Unlike higher qualities of Bakelite that are carved, this is what's known as a "pressed" button because the design was stamped onto the plastic by factory tools. I don't collect a lot of pressed buttons since they tend to be flimsy and oftentimes a bit cheap looking. Still and all, I'm glad I found this chintzy basket case. It's the only beige button that I own.

-Sherbet McGee