bakelite I'm looking at.
Bakelite was a kind of early plastic that was made from wood filler. It's production involved formaldehyde, and the process was smelly and kind of complicated, compared with that of plastic. Plastic kind of made Bakelite obsolete, which is part of the reason that old bakelite products are so collectible now: hardly anybody makes it any more.
There are still a few niche uses for it, though - mostly industrial applications where plastic just won't do. Why's that? Well, bakelite (sometimes called "phenolic" by old timers like my dad) has a few interesting properties that differ from plastic. Normal plastic melts at a fairly low temperature. Your stove will melt most standard plastics. But bakelite is a "thermoset polymer", which means that after it's initial liquid state, it hardens forever and can't be melted. Epoxy resin is another kind of thermoset resin that you may be familiar with. Once you mix the two tubes of goo, let no man nor god make them soft again. So let it be written! The curing process for epoxy can be sped up with heat. After curing, these materials can be destroyed with enough heat, of course, but they don't so much melt as simply burn. The top end of bakelite's thermal tolerance is not easy to find online. Elm industries says that phenolics can tolerate 450 degrees. They seem pretty geeky with the plastics and stuff, so I'll take their word for it. I do know that like most plastics, bakelite really really stinks when it burns, and probably causes neurorlroguical probelmkns and drain bamamge.
Carbon fiber is exciting high-tech stuff at the moment, so much so that auto manufacturers sometimes decorate their steering wheels and dash boards with it, even though it was developed as a structural material. So it once was with bakelite. Bakelite jewelry can be found at most antique stores, but don't expect it to be out on a shelf. You'll probably find it in a glass case, and it will be surprisingly expensive. Like I said, people collect the crap out of it.
Thermoset resins are useful for situations where you want something lighter than metal but with higher heat tolerance than plastic, and less likely to shatter than ceramic. So, parts for electrical components, brakes, and - ta da! - toasters are all common applications for bakelite. Want some? You can buy it in sheets here. It kind of looks like reddish brown wood, with the cross section having a finely layered look. It's weird stuff.
Graphic gift time. Here are the Santas from today's picture, presented to you in vivid JPEG format lovingly compressed. The backgrounds are solid white, as opposed to transparent alpha channel, because tracing around all the trees would have been a pain. I'm not MADE of pen tools, people! Big and small. Left and right. Right click them onto your hard drive for easy Christmas e-card pasting in three, two, one...
|881 x 1200|
|220 x 300|
|1200 x 901|
|300 x 225|
|1200 x 990|
|300 x 248|
|1200 x 1047|
|300 x 262|