What are Bakelite Sockets?

Bakelite is a plastic (or phenolic resin,a thermoset synthetic polymer) commonly used in producing electrical light sockets.  It began to be used in Christmas light strings in the late 20s and was commonly used in the 30s, 40s and 50s. The earliest Bakelite sockets were mottled with red and green, while later examples are usually solid brown or black in color. Light sets with bakelite sockets along with the type of wire used are indicators of the age of a light string.  Collectors love the bakelite socket sets and it is important to be able to verify that your set really does have bakelite sockets. 

Bakelite Socket Light Set

Bakelite Socket Light Set

Bakelite has a distinctive smell when heated slightly. I usually rub the item on my hand until it emits an odor.  (This odor has been described as a formaldeyde/carbolic acid or Lysol smell.) I then sniff it to determine if it is bakelite.  The best way to learn what the smell is like is to do the test with an object that you are certain is bakelite.  Then compare the smells.

 

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