This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
Copper amalgam, or so-called Viennese metal cement, crystallizes with the greatest readiness and acquires such hardness on solidifying that it can be polished like gold. The amalgam may also be worked under the hammer or between rollers; it can also be stamped, and retains its metallic luster for a long time in the air. In air containing hydrogen sulphide, however, it quickly tarnishes and turns black. A very special property of copper amalgam consists in that it becomes very soft when laid in water, and attains such pliancy that it can be employed for modeling the most delicate objects. After a few hours the amalgam congeals again into a very fine-grained, rather malleable mass. An important application of copper amalgam is that for cementing metals. All that is necessary for this purpose is to heat the metals, which must be bright, to 80-90° C. (176-194° F.), to apply the amalgam and to press the metal pieces together. They will cohere as firmly as though soldered together.
Copper amalgam may be prepared in the following manner:
Place strips of zinc in a solution of blue vitriol and agitate the solution thoroughly. The copper thus obtained in the form of a very fine powder is washed and, while still moist, treated in a mortar with a solution of mercury nitrate. The copper powder thereby amalgamates more readily with the quicksilver. Next, hot water is poured over the copper, the mortar is kept hot, and the mercury added. Knead with the pestle of the mortar until the copper, pulverulent in the beginning, has united with the mercury into a very plastic mass. The longer the kneading is continued the more uniform will be the mass. As soon as the amalgam has acquired the suitable character—for its production 3 parts of copper and 7 parts of mercury are used —the water is poured off and the amalgam still soft is given the shape in which it is to be kept.
For cementing purposes, the amalgam is rolled out into small cylinders, whose diameter is about 0.16 to 0.2 inches, with a length of a few inches. In order to produce with this amalgam impressions of castings, which are made after woodcuts, the amalgam is rolled out hot into a thin plate and pressed firmly onto the likewise heated plaster cast. After the amalgam has hardened the thin plate of it may be reinforced by pouring on molten type metal.