How to cut bakelite

Written by sue williams
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Bakelite is the common name for phenolic resin, which was one of the first mass-produced plastics. Although it was once a mainstay in low-end jewellery, today it is most commonly used in laminate countertops and scientific laboratories. The strength and its superior non-porous nature make the Bakelite a perfect choice for these two uses. However, the same attributes that make Bakelite desirable also make cutting it a challenge. There is a tendency for Bakelite to splinter, but the use of a specific type of saw blade or drill bit will greatly improve the chances of a clean cut.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Ruler or straight edge
  • Non-permanent marker
  • Circular saw
  • Drill
  • Alcohol-based cleaner
  • 2 sawhorses or large wooden blocks
  • Diamond blade
  • Diamond bit
  • Dust mask
  • Safety glasses

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Mark off your cuts on the Bakelite with the non-permanent marker.

  2. 2

    Put on the safety goggles and dust mask.

  3. 3

    Drill a pilot hole in the Bakelite with a diamond-tipped drill bit if you are making interior cuts. If not, skip this step.

  4. 4

    Set the Bakelite on a raised cutting surface such as two sawhorses or wooden blocks.

  5. 5

    Rip the Bakelite with the diamond blade on the circular saw using the straightedge line as a guide.

  6. 6

    Clean the edges of the cut with an alcohol-based cleaner to remove any remaining resin dust.

Tips and warnings

  • For smaller cuts you can use a Dremel tool with a diamond or carbide saw.
  • Diamond blades cut the Bakelite very well but in a pinch a carbide blade will do.
  • If your blade has trouble cutting through the entire depth of the Bakelite, try running three or four shallow passes instead.
  • Always wear safety goggles and a dust mask while cutting any resin product. The dust can irritate the eyes and lead to long-term lung problems.
  • Never score Bakelite; the scratches will be permanent.

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