Mat alloy questions

Good afternoon.
Trying to save some Linotype mats and need to know what scrap price is for comparison. Scrap dealers have a wide range of pricing depending on what type of brass they are buying, ie; yellow, hard, aluminum, etc.
What is the alloy that mats are made of? Have done some research and have come up empty handed.

Thanks in advance.

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Pick the most expensive and go with that. No arguments that way. The other option is to get them to zap a hairlined or mangled mat with their metal identifier machine. I’m not sure how accurate they are, but it might give a good idea.

or try to guess which ligature matrix you will not need. — Alan.

P.S. If anyone does find the composition of the alloy used for linotype matrices, I suggest they notify anyone else they can, including Briar Press. Especially if the info is authentic.— A.

and would it create a false (raised) market price if letterpress enthusiasts undertook to notify scrap-metalers that they may be prepared to pay above scrap prices for matrices? Here, an Intertype in good working condition was sent to scrap, where it was dragged off the back of the truck by a steel cable around it. — A.

Most folks tend to think of linecaster matrices as a yellow brass.

A scrapper won’t pay one cent more for anything than they have to—take it or leave it. Unless you’re buying mats out of the scrapyard, it really won’t matter what the perceived value is. The scrapper might hold them, but only until he can get the best price, which is usually less than the utility value for us.

Still, if buying mats, scrap value is pretty much the floor. Appealing for preservation may help a little, but cash on the barrelhead speaks loudest.

Looking at a model 31 Linotype with assorted mats. Seller is pricing everything at scrap price , whatever that is….. Free would be better for me, grin, but I understand the sellers need to at least break even on this deal.

Pricing on brass is all over the map, depending on alloy. I don’t want to cheat the seller, but also hate to pay a premium if don’t have to.

Main outcome is that I want to save this machine and all its mats. And keep my wife happy at the same time.


Remember, whatever is going to scrap, has to be hauled to the scrapyard.

Location is going to affect scrap price. If you are inland, away from major ports or mills, the price will suffer.

I’ve been figuring $200 a ton for cast iron equipment not broken up and $2.00 a lb for brass—hope those are not solid brass magazines (brass backs are heavy enough!) If magazines are Alumilite, they aren’t worth a whole lot, since they are made with mixed metals—figure 25 cents a pound.

Here for example, is an East Coast scrappers price offerings

Again, one fair offer and seamless removal will go much further in getting stuff done. Some folks will stick and hold out and then finally give the stuff to some gypsy junk man—it happens. If your price is too far out of reason on the low side, you will be called on it, but be assured that many other folks will try to drive the price down as far as possible, so they can have a profit. That is your advantage.

Good luck in getting the machine. Let us know how it goes.

My friend Mark Turpin has access to an X-Ray Fluorescence material analyzer, so I sent him several matrices to check. He reports the following values:

Matrix: Cu / Zn / Pb
Intertype 8pt 2348: 61.2 / 37.8 / 0.9
Intertype 9pt 2754: 61.6 / 37.2 / 1.0
Mergenthaler 5 TRI 2: 63.7 / 35.5 / 0.1
Mergenthaler 8 TRI 26: 63.4 / 35.7 / 0.8 [ w/ 0.1 Fe ]
Simoncini 12 ~ KN: 64.7 / 35.2 / 0.0 [ w/ 0.04 Ni ]
Star Parts 9 STR A319: 64.1 / 35.5 / 1.3

I’ve rounded values to one decimal place, so they may not sum to 100.

David M.

David, that is good information; for the record, English Monotype reports the following values:

Composition mats (bronze) 94-95 copper 3-4 tin 0.8-1.2 lead

Display mats (brass) 86-88 copper 10-12.5 zinc 0.9-1.3 lead

Lead is typically added to alloys for machinability; I’m guessing however the Monotype’s lower zinc levels might be due to the higher operating temperature of typical Monotype alloys and the relatively low melting point of zinc (around 790 degrees F). Typically, English Monotype chrome plated the display mats.


Thanks for the last two posts. Dan J’s compositions are intriguing.

Whilst pure zinc (and very high zinc brasses - roughly >90% Zn / <10% Cu) do indeed melt at 787 deg F / 420 deg C, other compositions of brass have higher melting points, climbing somewhat unevenly from 420 deg C for roughly 90/10 to roughly 700 deg C for 66/33 (the composition of most mats as very usefully noted above by David M McMIllan), to roughly 950 deg C for 87/13 Monotype display mats; the melting point for 95/5 bronze (Monotype composition mats) is roughly 900 deg C however.

Once brass compositions climb away from 90/10 the melting point of pure zinc grows irrelevant as the alloys behave differently to the two individual metals.

I’ve only read the two-dimensional phase diagrams for Cu/Zn and Cu/Sn. I haven’t checked three-dimensional phase diagrams that also include lead. The low percentages quoted in the last two most interesting posts are unlikely to radically affect melting points, I believe; mostly to influence machineability.