An rare Achilles heel in these mighty O’Keefe & Merritt stoves – the Bakelite control knobs. After collecting four of these stoves, I discovered about half of the knobs had broken collars, where the valve stem fits into the knob. If the brass stem fits too snugly into the plastic knob, metal wins. The collar will eventually crack and break.
If it is difficult to separate the knob from the valve stem, there are two options. The knob opening needs to be enlarged or the brass stem can be pinched slightly to narrow it.
So I wondered if epoxy putty would work to fill-in for the missing pieces. It couldn’t hurt to try and definitely less expensive than having someone custom fabricate the entire knob.
JB Weld’s HighHeat epoxy putty seemed worthwhile enough to try. I coated a plug’s valve stem with layer of petroleum jelly so the putty would not stick to it, pushed the stem into the knob, then pushed the putty into and around the stem; then carefully pulled the plug out trying not to distort the putty. Eight hours until it fully cured.
After eight hours, a Dremel with a grinder attachment did a fine job in just a few minutes to remove the excess putty so the patch was at the same level with the knob’s collar.
The putty seems sturdy enough, comparable to the bakelite in hardness. Time will tell if is as durable.
Removing rust stains from white Bakelite
The knobs with bezels attached by steel screws and many of the Bakelite door handles with the chrome caps that are attached with steel screws will, over time get rust stain from corroded screws. What I did to remove those rust stains:
- Heated the Bakelite in very hot water until the Bakelite is almost too hot to touch
- Saturated a cotton swab with phosphoric acid and swabbed the rust spots
- Keep swabbing until those spots lightened or even disappeared, depending on how deep the stain penetrated the plastic.
In other situations, if phosphoric acid wasn’t available or couldn’t reach the entire stain, I’d sand the stained area with 300-400 grit.