Nickel alloy types

Hi all. In the early 20th century, Keystone Type Foundry advertised “Nickel Alloy Types” does anyone have any knowledge of the metallurgy of adding nickel for casting type?
Was it harder, better, etc?

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Pat, I suspect in the day, type founders were looking for a magic additive to bring about the same increase in hardness that small amounts of carbon did with iron to make steel. My opinion is that there is none and their advertising departments got ahead of reality. Same with comments about copper additives to type metal, more contamination than a significant percentage of any alloy. Simple harness testing could be done, but what is the point nowadays? My opinion is the best type metal is a known and consistent content through out the run, as you may agree from many hours on your Super Caster.

Ramblings and a little extra (Possibly) and corroboration of the above, my I.D. and handle may speak for me,!!
Identured on the Monotype as from 1954, and still around.
Way back then, before the demise of Hot Metal inc. Monotype Linotype, Ludlow and Elrod, virtually all of the, In House,Type Casting Plants would operate to well established and specific standards, as regards metal content/composition.

Well documented that for *monotype* casting composition,
5-14 Pt. and display up to 36 Point, >the limit for composition machines equipped with Display attachments, and/or Skeleton machines (Stateside you call them Orphan Annies, from the prefixes to the serial numbers, = O A.)<<

Virtually all of the above would have used, the grade 10/16, 10% Tin 16% Antimony, etc.
In House,s than ran a Supercaster in parallel, mostly everbody stayed with 10/16 rather than upgrade and save intermixing 10/16 and a harder grade.

Bona Fide Typefounders used a harder grade for more longevity.??

Although 10/16 did not stand up as long as the harder grade, The Display Matrices from the lending library were rehired as a matter of course, and being 10/16, metal was just re-smelted In House.??? . Of course strict directives regarding Re-melting Mono, Lino Ludlow, Elrod, when and how,?? including the addition of the correct ratio of reviver ingots, normally colour coded from the Assayers, Re processors.

Quote from very tatty (coffee stained) Info publication, ex Monotype, / / / METALS NOT REQUIRED (in the mix) — Injurious metals can be included UNLESS re-melting is done with scrupulous care.

Aluminium produces a persistent skin in the metal pot, obstructing the flow from pump to mould.

Copper (as per Dan J. above) . . (if above .05%) may crystallise in the nozzle; its presence is shown by a pinkish-blue tinge in the ingot or cast type.

Nickel can be detected only by the crystallisation it produces in the nozzle.

Zinc (more commonly found than aluminium) also forms a persistent skin.

The above quote almost word for word! Coffee stains omitted.!!

Having been fortunate with several visits to the Monotype works over the years, have been shown in the *Black Museum* actual examples of all the above contaminates.
And a complimentary Nozzle,?? in the Hospitality suite.

Learned the hard way about crystallisation in the nozzle, Monotype (generally) in 5 - 14 Pt. only requires a nozzle of 1/16” final bore, into the mould.

Thanks for the information, Dan and Mick. I think you may be correct in your assumption that “Nickel Alloy Type” was more an advertising gimmick than an accurate description of their type. I’m going to search through my cases of old foundry type to see if I have any Keystone types. Unfortunately, it costs $75 for an analysis, so I’ll just have to smell it, and bite it to see if it tastes like nickel!

Though ATF included 1% copper added to their type metal and an invoice I saw from Theo Rehak’s metal supplier listed 1% copper as part of the alloy, and Theo went strictly from ATF specifications. ATF had several alloys, specifically No. 1 regular (1% copper), No. 2 Italic (1% copper), No.4 Hard (2% copper) and No.5 Soft—Lino (0% copper). This is on page 60 of Theo’s Practical Typecasting. He does say “The presence of copper and other trace elements in type metal alloys is so minute as to be insignificant.”

I hesitate to reply here, even though I have some data at hand, because it seems that this particular question very quickly becomes unnecessarily emotional. So I’ll start by saying that I think Dan J’s comments are spot-on.

A friend of mine does have access to an XRF (X-ray fluorescence) machine at his work, and can run the occasional sample. XRF is a standard modern industrial method for elemental/metallurgical analysis. I’ve had him run analyses on a score or so of types (and also some matrix and mold materials). I’m sure he’d be willing to test a Keystone type - contact me offlist and we’ll see (dmm at Lemur dot com).

Writing up this information is yet another unfinished project. For quick reference and partial confirmation of Fritz’s remarks, though, here are two samples:

ATF Typo Text. 10pt: 70.89/17.68/10.65/0.77 Pb/Sb/Sn/Cu

ATF Wedding Text, 14pt: 67.67/13.52/18.19/0.62 Pb/Sb/Sn/Cu

So, yes, there was copper inATF type - also in types from other foundries, sometimes in larger percentages. None of the types that I had tested had any nickel in them (but only one was Keystone, and it was a space).

However, modern technology presents us with as many problems as it solves. A different friend of mine has access through a university to a PIXE (Particle-induced X-ray Emission) machine - another modern form of elemental testing machine (more common in research than in industry, I think). He’s done considerable testing, including testing of some of the same samples that I had tested using XRF. The results he is getting are substantially different on these same samples. So, just as a person with two watches never knows what time it is, we have a conundrum. I cannot cite his results, as they are currently pending publication and were shared in confidence. It should be an exciting, and ground-breaking, paper.

If anyone knows of a reliable laboratory which is doing real, old-fashioned, destructive chemical assay, please let me know. It would be VERY interesting to test the types which have already been tested by XRF and PIXE by early 20th century methods.

David M.

Using what my metallurgist dad describes as ‘wet bucket chemistry’ to assay typemetal seems pretty dangerous; as a johnny-come-lately typefounder trying to do things properly, I looked into one method which involved using a platinum dish with a gold cover (to avoid any reactivity) and very strong (I think nitric) acid. Unless you’re a commercial lab, I think it’d be hard even to acquire the necessary equipment. If there’s any interest, I’ll see if I can dig out the paper on the method.

The other thing to mention is that copper as a component of typemetal for foundry casters (rather than Mono- or Lino) in the 1936 edition of Fry’s “Printing Metals”, as follows …

‘Such [harder] alloys contain from 10 to 25% tin and from 20 to 30% antimony. An addition of up to 1.5% copper is sometimes made.’

(a table follows, including 1.5% copper as a component of three out of six alloys, followed by …)

“The introduction of copper into metals containing a high proportion of tin increases the toughness of the type, but the casting conditions must be properly adjusted. It is worse than useless to introduce copper into metal for use in a fast-running machine where the temperature of the metal, nozzle and mould cannot be maintained at a relatively high level” [from context, ‘fast-running’ tends to mean printer-based, rather than foundry-based, machines]

“It is probable that the maximum benefit from the use of copper can be secured by accompanying it with a high proportion of tin and a proportion of antimony rather lower than the normal. Such a metal is excellent for type with overhanging kerns, and the specification recommended is 20% tin, 20% antimony, 1.5% copper, 58.5% lead”

Finally, nickel is regarded as an impurity:
” The effect of nickel in a printing metal is similar to that of copper, which has already been described. It forms a compound with tin in the form of hard fine crystals.
“In spite of the high melting-point of nickel it is possible when melting nickel-plated stereo plates for a trace of nickel to become dissolved in the stereo metal. Fortunately, it does not stay long in solution, and with prolonged heating (such as always takes place with stereo metal) the nickel separates and is skimmed off with the dross. The main objection to this impurity is, therefore, that it increases the formation of dross”

My suspicion is that even if nickel were added to the composition, under normal casting conditions in a working foundry it wouldn’t stay long in solution, and would be skimmed off by the operator.

Sorry, I’ve wittered on for ages. Hope someone finds it of interest.

From the historical perspective, the copper/nickel additions to type metal appear to be an advertising gimmick. In April of 1876 the Central Type Foundry in St. Louis began advertising nationally its “copper-alloy type,” saying it was stronger and lasted for several million more impressions that other companies’ type. Two months later, Barnhart Brothers and Spindler came out with “superior copper-mixed type.” Some time later the Union Type Foundry of Chicago introduced “copper amalgam type.” Eventually, sometime in the 1890s, Keystone brought out the term “nickel alloy type.” It all looks like an advertising promotion, something that Theo Rehak also states in his book on typecasting. He suggests that copper mixed type may have been using a copper stirring rod in the melting pot.

That said, the Central Type Foundry did sell two grades of type: copper-alloy and regular type (or, in their words, the regular grade metal used by other type foundries). The copper-alloy sold for ten percent more than the regular grade and it sold well. They even claimed their copper-alloy type contained up to 9.5 percent copper (their published numbers varied) and actually weighed ten percent less than other foundries’ type. It seems like that could be easy to prove or dis-prove by a metallurgist. A Chicago correspondent for the St. Louis-based Artist Printer felt that both Central’s and BB&S’ type was actually harder than other type, giving the nod to BB&S as the better type because Central’s type, he said, was brittle and broke the kerns more easily. Nothing scientific there, just one man’s opinion, and who knows what incentive he may have had to write that. But, it’s an interesting speculation.

ATF actually continued to advertise their type as being cast with “copper-alloy type” for several years after they bought out Central in the 1892, still using the term in their 1900 specimen book. Rehak’s charts on ATF’s alloy mixtures indicate one to two percent copper for some uses. Did Carl Schraubstadter of the Central Type Foundry actually figure out how to mix copper into type metal, and ATF continue to use that formula? If so, Central’s info-advertisements certainly exaggerated the amount of copper used in their metal and its benefits to the printer.

As for Keystone’s nickel alloy, I have found little or nothing about it except that nickel might be found in trace amounts—and for the recent post by effrapress. Thanks.

Yeah, whether copper of nickel, it was probably just a good sales promotion.


One overlooked & (generally) unquoted *rider* as hinted at above (author?) Monotype differs in One major aspect, from Ludlow, Elrod, and Linotype, i.e. those 3 Machines, (A) have large Throats for the injection of the Lead into the Matrix apertures/mould openings, AND (B) throat heaters, by implication, can deal with impurities in the mix, up to a point!!! . . But still cause problems with sticking (pump) pistons etc.

>>cleaning kit on E bay just gone.<< ???

We all share, Basically, the same methods for cleaning, Pump,s Piston,s Melting Pot,s and after the Mid to Late 70,s (when all other supplies had dried up) resorted to *Zeebrite, or Zebra, etc. CAST IRON stove black, exactly the same as original product, Just a brand name @ 10-15% extra??

The Monotype as implied, above, has to pass everything through a 1/16” bore Nozzle, up to 14 Pt, although the pump & nozzle rise and fall, when in casting mode, and even though the mould is liquid cooled, the nozzle is relatively a long way from the Level of the Metal and does not transfer heat easily, consequently *freezing* needs a constant monitoring of the coolant.

No idea whether cupric-alloy types are truly harder or more durable than standard typemetal, but I can say that actually alloying copper into the mix would likely be fairly complex. Quaternary alloys can be really funky and unpredictable.

Copper doesn’t melt until 1985º F (1085º C). That’s well above any typefounders’ remelting furnace or caster pot I’ve ever heard of, so I doubt there would be any transfer of copper into the alloy by using the old Kelsey technique of “tossing a penny into the pot” every now and again. But then, Bill Kelsey was a con-artist anyway.

There does appear to be an eutectic Copper-Antimony alloy with a melting point of only 995º F (535º C) that has 23% cu and 77% sb. It might be possible to melt that alloy into a low-sb typemetal alloy to get a final mixture like that of ATF’s without too much trouble. This might again give an eutectic with a melting point low enough to cast at standard type temperatures or it might just require a hotter pot; I don’t know.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN