Some of you might remember my beautiful Bakelite cherry brooch from Pj for Christmas. When I got it, the stems had seen better days. One of the stems fell off on the first day that I wore it so I knew they would have to be fixed. Then, Olivia got her hands on it and picked every cherry from the base. Ah, the joys of motherhood.
Many Bakelite cherry brooches have stem damage- some worse than others. If your cherries are holding on for dear life (or have surrendered to age and dropped off) you can replace the stems. Original stems probably make the piece worth more to collectors but to me, a brooch with new stems is worth more than a brooch with no cherries!
Pull the remaining cherries from the base (if there's damage to the remaining stems)and chip away the lacquer and glue on the back of the base where the stems are glued in. Use a pair of tweezers, pull the stems from the cherry. Some of the stem may remain down inside of the cherry. I used a long, thick sewing needle to scrape out that leftover bit.
Drilling the cherries out
Using a tiny drill bit, slowly and very carefully drill down into the hole. I attached my bit to a handle and spun the bit by hand. Using a power drill could drill too deep. I marked my drill bit at 1/4 inch so I could see how deep I was drilling. Take this slow and easy so the cherry doesn't get destroyed. Be sure to wear a dust mask while drilling or filing Bakelite. Drilling will help to get those last scraps of stem out and will create a clean space for a new stem.
Making new stems
My original stems were made of cotton string covered in some kind of lacquer. I experimented with a few coatings on string but nothing worked like the original. I found this green electrical wire at a local hardware store. Small hardware stores have a better selection of these things than big home improvement warehouses. Bring a cherry along to make sure it fits in the hole. This wire is very cheap and is sold by the foot. I suggest a foot and a half just so you have more than enough
Cut the wire to various lengths and glue into the cherries. I used Weldbond but E6000 also works beautifully on Bakelite. Look for a clear-drying glue that works on non-porous surfaces. Let the glue dry till tacky, then wipe off the excess. EDIT: 2 part slow dry epoxy is really much better for repairing broken bakelite. I've used it on bangles broken in 4 parts and they wear like they're brand new.
Attaching Cherries to the Base
Allow the glue dry completely and insert stems into the base. My 6 cherry stems didn't fit into the base so I used a very small, round file to make the hole a bit bigger.
Insert all stems, arrange the cherries into place. I made my stems a bit longer than I needed so that they could be trimmed during this step.
Squeeze a little glue into each end of the hole in the base and wipe off the excess from the cherries and the base. Check the directions on your glue for dry and cure time.
That's all there is to it! Now you can wear your brooch without fear of losing one of those precious cherries.
For other posts on Bakelite: