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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2007-
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I got an email that's been circulating among the guitar community. It's about Bakelite. Evidently, it was used by the Fender company to make guitar pick-guards (back in the 1950s). The article claims that Bakelite has asbestos fibers and can cause cancer. This is worrisome because some say early sax mouthpieces were made from Bakelite. What about mouthpieces like vintage Link and Berg? Any asbestos used in their manufacture?

"While old Bakelite products are thought to contain between 15 and 17 percent asbestos fiber, no amount of asbestos is considered safe to inhale. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies asbestos as a Group One carcinogen, known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and the deadly cancer known as mesothelioma"
 

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Bakelite is the first entirely-synthetic plastic and is totally different from hard rubber, which is made from natural rubber (not that natural is always better, but in this case it is). The asbestos was used as filler, sometimes, apparently. Bakelite is often found in pre-WWII plastic products and is rather brittle. Bakelite - Wikipedia

There might be old Bakelite mouthpieces but the hard rubber pieces seem to be the ones that we know most about.

I know with hard rubber you can gently sand it and it makes a brown dust and smells rubber-like, while plastic usually sands black or white. I don't know what Bakelite dust looks like when sanded, though.
 

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Indeed they are not, although many people use the terms indifferently: ebonite and bakelite are very different.

I think that there may have been some brands which produced bakelite mouthpieces ( for example the weltklang look like they were made of something line that and perhaps even the very old Yamaha ( the ones with the ridge on top)). but by and large unless they are one of the many other forms of plastic.

In any case, rubbing an ebonite object with a cloth or tissue should result in the smell of burnt rubber and sulphur while this shouldn’t happen with bakelite, bakelite feels more brittle and smooth and heavy.

I am not sure that the early Yamaha were made of bakelite , those mouthpieces are characterized by a ridge on tope and have a 3 band ligature with a “ bump” to allow the ridge to slide in and position correctly (a very good idea which probably costed too much and that why it was abandoned , @bandmommy she should have one og these pieces since I sent her the ligature which looks like this)

9929


Weltklang moutpieces definitely don’t look made of Ebonite ( but I can’t say for sure they are made of bakelite) they feel heavy and dense and the parts that are scratched look “ white"
9930
 

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I have one of those old Yamaha pieces, marked YBS-M3.

Weight is about the same as a Yanagisawa mpc. for Baritone, but it doesn‘t smell like burnt rubber or sulfur if rubbed with a cloth.
Seems to be somer other kind of plastic?
 

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well that’s precisely the problem, what kind of “ plastic”? I doubt that there is any way to tell with precision, and by the way, even if it were bakelite there may not be anything wrong with that at all, because the filler material for bakelite may have been wood and not asbestos.

In any case , rubbing a ebonite mouthpiece generally tells you something about the ebonite, but if it isn’t you can only tell it is not ebonite, what is it then?

I don’t think that one may ever know what kind of plastic that is
 
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well, of course, once all vintage mouthpieces were “ new”, one day these new mouthpiece will be vintage and someone will discover that they may be bad
 

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Bakelite itself doesn't contain asbestos, and bakelite components don't necessarily have asbestos added to them. Even if a specific piece did have asbestos added to it, it's perfectly safe as long as the asbestos isn't floating around in the air so you can inhale it. The asbestos is bound very tightly in the pastic, so don't grind it into powder and you'll be fine.
 

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I’m not sure if I have ever seen a Bakelite mouthpiece. The only type I would suspect of being Bakelite would be the vintage ones with a metal table or metal chamber lining. I doubt that all Bakelite contains asbestos.

Chinese advertisements for mouthpieces sometimes have poor translations that call plastic “Bakelite“ even if it is a different kind of plastic.
 

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when in doubt.....



read this

 

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It's certainly possible but by no means certain, that some objects molded from Bakelite might have an asbestos filler.

The main point in asbestos hysteria is that asbestos is only a health hazard if it is present as a suspended dust in the air that a person can inhale. The concentration of that dust has to be pretty high (think, clouds of dust). And almost all of the people with asbestosis from the industrial facilities of the past are also heavy smokers.

The actual rate of occurrence of asbestos related illness from casual consumer contact is near zero.
 

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probably BA Selmer, in the WWII period Selmer produced horns with “ black” pearl touches for lack of mother of pearl, very nice

9958
 
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probably BA Selmer, in the WWII period Selmer produced horns with “ black” pearl touches for lack of mother of pearl, very nice

View attachment 9958
Apparently these are less desireable because of the Bakelite? (Or so i've read) but WOW i love it and have wanted one for the past few years since I first realized it existed.
 

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Turf3 is correct. The rules on asbestos disposal have changed drastically in the last 20 years. Non-friable asbestos, such as found in vinyl flooring, house siding, etc. is easily disposable. It is difficult to release the asbestos into fragments that are inhalable. The stuff you have to worry about is easily dispersed material like old style pipe insulation.

Also, Bakelite used mostly flour and wood as stabilizers. I've never seen a Bakelite mouthpiece.

Lastly, don't forget that there is a whole industry designed to hype asbestos hysteria. It's a lucrative industry because of the long tail of insurance claims and the average person will never be exposed to asbestos like pipe fitters, brake manufacturers, or ship builders of a century ago.
 

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Apparently these are less desireable because of the Bakelite? (Or so i've read) but WOW i love it and have wanted one for the past few years since I first realized it existed.
Not sure, I think generally speaking that the BA are less expensive than SBA and altos less than tenors.

I like their looks, in EU these are fairly common. Not long ago Matthews had two of them, not anymore
 

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This is a Bakelite base on a GE 7581A/KT66 power pentode (vacuum tube). It has a very high threshold for heat and is non conductive. The pins are of course conducting electrical flows of up to 500 volts.

9960
 

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I do have the old Yamaha mouthpieces with the ridge. One for alto, and one for tenor. Neither of them is Bakelite.
Being female and having had access to my maternal Grandmother's jewelry box and her vast collection of Bakelite baubles since childhood I can tell the difference.
My paternal Great Grandmother had tableware with Bakelite handles in red, white, blue, yellow, green, and black. Meals at her house were special when she let all of us kids choose a color or eat with a rainbow.
 

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In my 7th-grade science classroom in the mid-1960s, we commonly used asbestos gloves & asbestos insulating pads. We also rolled mercury around with our fingers, & breathed fumes of heated mercuric oxide.
 
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