Forum Archive : Equipment

Bakelite checkers

From:   Albert Steg
Date:   28 November 1998
Subject:   Re: Why are BAKELITE chips so special?

> Recently I came across people selling Backgammon games emphasizing the
> fact they contain "Bakelite" chips. What are they and why are they so
> special?

For anyone who cares about such things, bakelite has a superior aesthetic
feel than later forms of plastic (eg. Crisloid's crap product).  Bakelite
was a company that developed a "thermosetting" plastic in the early years
of this century -- one that retained its shape under high temperatures.
As such it had plenty of industrial uses, but it also became popular as a
material for jewlery, (brooches, bracelets, much in demand) and various
other decorative items , such as playing pieces.

If you've ever held a handful of bakelite checkers, you should have
noticed a rich lustre, a heavy, "massy" heft to them, a sensuous "click"
as they jostle about.  It's very distinctive.  Modern Crisloid checkers
are lighterweight. ...just cheaper feeling.

Same goes for doubling cubes.

Bakelite is like "kleenex" -- a leading (originating, here) brand name
that became the standard name for the product.  The later plastic,
"Catalin" is a species of bakelite, as I understand it.  Many great radios
in the 40's/50's were made from Catalin.  It's a little lighter, but
alomost sparkles.

As you can tell, I'm keen on bakelite.  I use vintage bakelite pieces
(green/yellow) on my Crisloid board when I go down to Harvard Square
(rarely these days).


One last dig at Crisloid: to widen their profit margin, they shrank the
sixe of their checkers about 10 years ago, so they no longer fit snugly in
the game sets.  They slosh around.  Grrr.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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Bakelite checkers  (Albert Steg, Nov 1998)  [Recommended reading]
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