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Bow of the Cutty Sark

Muntz Metal is a form of alpha-beta brass with about 60% copper, 40% zinc and a trace of iron. It is named after George Fredrick Muntz, a metal-roller of Birmingham, England. Muntz commercialised the alloy following his patent of 1832, although one William Collins had patented a 56:44 alloy in 1800.

Its original use was as a replacement for the copper lining placed on the bottom of boats as it maintained the anti-fouling abilities of the pure form. As it cost around two thirds of the price of pure copper and had identical properties for this application, it became the material of choice and Muntz made his fortune. Later it was used to sheathe the piles of piers in tropical seas, as a protection against teredo shipworms, and in locomotive tubes. Muntz Metal is still the term this form of brass is known by. It is a form of brass that must be worked hot and is used for machine parts that must be corrosion resistant.

After successful experimentation with the sheathing Muntz also took out a patent for bolts of the same composition and these also proved a success, for not only were they cheaper they were also very strong and lasted longer.

A notable use of Muntz Metal was in the hull of the Cutty Sark.[1]

Muntz metal came to be known as "Yellow Metal". [2]

Company history

Muntz started production in Water Street, Birmingham, but moved to Swansea in 1837. In 1842 he bought the French Walls Works in Smethwick, formerly the site of James Watt Jr's ironworks. The 4.5-acre (18,000 m2) site soon proved inadequate, and in 1850 a further 6.5 acres (26,000 m2) were bought, on the other side of the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Stour Valley Railway. Eventually as the business outgrew Muntz’s own rolling mill in Birmingham, he joined in partnership with Pascoe Grenfell and sons who produced it at their Swansea mill as ‘Muntz’s Patent Metal Company’. They and other partners then fixed the prices of the alloy at £18 per ton lower than the market price for the equivalent copper product, serving to establish Muntz Metal as the sheathing of choice where transport costs still kept it as an efficient competitor. As an example of their success in entering the market, 50 ships were metalled with Muntz Metal in 1837, over 100 in 1838, doubling in 1840 and doubling again by 1844.

With Muntz successfully supervising the manufacturing operations, by 1840 Muntz’s Patent Metal Company employed 30 men to smelt and roll the alloy and were producing 2,000 tons yearly. Three years later the Company had over 200 men producing 3-4000 tons yearly at £8 per ton profit. By then the Grenfells had left the partnership, for the agreement with Pascoe Grenfell & Sons had been terminated with some acrimony in 1842. When Muntz’s patent expired in 1846, they and others began making fastenings and sheathing to the Muntz patent at will.

Muntz died in 1857, to be succeeded by his eldest son, also called George Fredrick, who sold it in 1864 to a joint stock company, Muntz's Metal Co. Ltd. In 1921 the company was bought by Elliott's Metal Company, which became part of ICI's Imperial Metals division (now IMI plc) in 1928.[3]

References

  1. ^ James Watson (21 May 2007). "Blaze Guts Cutty Sark". Birmingham Mail. p. 5. http://icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk/mail/news/tm_method=full%26objectid=19145269%26siteid=50002-name_page.html.  
  2. ^ McCarthy, Michael (2005). Ships' fastenings: from sewn boat to steamship. Texas A&M University Press. pp. 115. ISBN 1585444510, 9781585444519.  
  3. ^ McCarthy, M. (2005). Ship’s Fastenings: from sewn boat to steamship. Texas A&M Press. College Station.  

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