I got an email from Virgil requesting as many handsets as I could provide. It happens: somebody contacts me with an unusual request. Sometimes I can help them, and sometimes I cannot. Do you have 10 old handsets and dials for me? Can you provide 16 wall phones of the same type? Can I borrow a phone for an lingery photo shoot?
Well, sure I have some handset for you, I thought. Boxes full of them. More than I could ever need. Swapping the wrong handset for the correct one is a substantial part of telephone restoring. I have accumulated quite a few of them over the years.
Every now and then I buy a box of telephone stuff. Or more than one box. Or a whole car load full. I do that because it is a good deal, or there is some stuff in there that I want.
That is how I end up with huge amounts of certain parts. Like 100 new Ericsson dials, 3 small boxes of bakelite transmitter and receiver caps, 500 new black PTT line cords, and of course loads of handsets.
The problem with these parts is that they are not junk, at least not in the sense that they are worn, damaged, dirty, frayed, faded or cracked. They are perfectly good parts. The kind of parts I regularly need, just not so many of them.
They are the kind of parts somebody is looking for, only not in vast quantities.
They are too good to throw away and they may come in handy one day.
Buying an attic full of stuff
A couple of years ago I bought somebody’s entire collection of telephone stuff. It was in his attick, partially in boxes, partially randomly across the floor. Some of it was in his shed. It consisted of telephones, mostly from the plastic era, parts and random stuff.
While he and I were loading the stuff in our car, my wife had a chat with his wife. It turned out he had accumulated it all in 40 years, but had never actually done anything with it. Het just piled it up upstairs.
It took me weeks to sort it out. I found the oddest things. An old and rare post mans badge from the 40s-50s, a fake antique phone, a bag of rubber strain reliefs, a garbage bag full of plastic cords to name but a few.
I sold of a lot of it to other collectors, gave some away and about 1/3rd I took to the recycling yard as it was too rusted and beyond salvation, like those telephone relays, powersupplies and partially complete testsets (of which I managed to make one complete specimen).
They really do come in handy….
They really do. I have so many transmitter caps that I not only make sure that when I restore a phone, the caps are made by the right manufacturer, but also that the shade of the bakelite matches the rest of the phone. I often put a transmitter or receiver with a phone that matches the production date.
Next month I will give a special workshop with regards to telephony for my daughters primary school class. I think I will give every kid one of those 100 new Ericsson dials.
Every now and then somebody contacts me looking for a part. And sometimes somebody contacts me for something unusual, like this one lady that wanted some handsets with curly cords and fingerwheels to make handbags.
Or this gentleman that needed a dozen identical ringers for some kind of marble machine he was building. Not sure what it was. He promised me to send me some pics when it was finished, but I never got them.
And then there was Virgil, needing as much handsets as I could provide. Allrighty then. J
Gimme all your handsets!!!
“I need all the handsets you provide!” said Virgil. “Allrighty then” I thought: “We’ll see about that.” So I got that box of grey T65 handsets out of my storage area. I got these from that guy that accumulated all that telephone stuff for 40 years. At the time I wondered what I was ever going to with them and I had a feeling this was the time was right.
I put some aside for myself and offered him 24. I also mentioned that I had several bakelite handsets for him, if he wanted them. And sure enough he asserted again that he needed every single one I had.
So I dug out 2 different types of Ericsson handsets of which I also had plenty. So I informed Virgil that I had another 16 handsets of 2 different designs. And I could find even more.
This time however it was too much. Those 51 handsets were quite enough.
What is somebody going to do with 51 handsets?
A good question and of course I asked Virgil. He was going to make special microphones out of them. Using old receivers, which I also supplied, they gave a kind of distortion. They were going to be used for recording musical instruments in a sound studio.
Picture on the left courtesy of Virgil Bouws. Here is a link to the facebook of his sound studio:
Do I mind?
Of course most of the times people get parts from me to make their phone complete and functional. That is also the main reason why I announce on my site that I have parts on offer, to help people to make their phone original and working again.
Most collectors have adverse reactions, varying from mild shivers to foaming at the mouth or even panic attacks when seeing telephone equipment modified to fit an alternate use, like for instance those infamous telephone lamps. I am less so inclined, fortunately. Especially if it concerns parts that are abundant and not very valuable.
Some of the parts for Virgils project are 70 years old, but they are common items. They are abundant and not valuable. Now they found a far better use than I could ever give them. Of course I would rather have that they were used for telephony, but it is unlikely that that would ever happen.
So no, I do not mind. Do you? Please leave a comment below.