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Collectible Insulators

Insulators were first developed in the mid-1800s to be used on telegraph and telephone lines to contain the electrical current and prevent the current from entering the ground below. Vintage insulators are most commonly made out of porcelain or glass materials, and they come in a wide variety of colors and shapes, making each item a unique piece that can make a great addition to a collection. Collecting insulators is a fun and unique hobby that will allow you to learn much about the history and make of these unique objects.

What are the parts of an insulator?

Insulators may vary in shape and the parts included, but all have generally the same components that allow them to contain electricity and powerful currents effectively.

  • Dome and crown: The dome and crown make up the top. The dome is the very top of the object, and the crown is the surrounding area between the dome and the wire groove.
  • Wire grooves and ridges: This groove is an indentation to hold the wire wrapped around the insulator. The ridge is a protrusion between the wire grooves.
  • Skirt and inner skirt: The skirt is a flared section of the piece below the wire grooves. The inner skirt is another section inside the skirt at the entrance to the pinhole.
  • Pinhole: This is a threaded inner opening that allows for the piece to be screwed onto the peg of an electrical post.
  • Base: The base is simply the bottom of the insulator, and it sometimes has beads or points on the bottom.
Why is glass a good insulator?

Glass is a good insulator because this material doesn't conduct electricity or heat due to the tightly bound electrons. Because of the composition of this material, electrons are not able to move freely and transfer current between one another. This property made glass a popular choice on telephone and electrical wires for safety reasons, preventing high currents from spreading.

How do you clean glass insulators?

The glass pieces are a very valuable item, so they should be cleaned periodically to keep them in good condition. However, they should be cleaned with care to maintain their quality. Avoid the use of highly abrasive scouring pads because this may scratch the glass material. Also avoid the dishwasher, because high heat and rapid changes in temperature may crack the glass. To clean stains from the insulator, use oxalic acid mixed in heated water, and soak the glass for a few hours. For more simple cleaning, use dish soap and a rag or sponge to wipe dust from the surface.

Why do insulators come in so many colors?

Glass insulators come in a wide array of colors, from clear and light aqua glass to deep orange and green glass. They come in a variety of colors because they were made by many different glass companies that used different glass materials for various things. Clear and aqua glasses are the most common and natural colors, whereas chemicals added to glass materials resulted in more vibrant colors.

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