This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
The dead dip is used to impart a satiny or crystalline finish to the surface. The bright dip gives a smooth, shiny, and perfectly even surface, but the dead dip is the most pleasing of any dip finish, and can be used as a base for many secondary finishes.
The dead dip is a mixture of oil of vitriol (sulphuric acid) and aqua fortis (nitric acid) in which there is enough sulphate of zinc (white vitriol) to saturate the solution. It is in the presence of the sulphate of zinc that the essential difference between the bright and the dead dip exists. Without it the dead or matt surface cannot be obtained.
The method generally practiced is to add the sulphate of zinc to the mixed acids (sulphuric and nitric), so that some remains undissolved in the bottom of the vessel. It is found that the sulphate of zinc occurs in small crystals having the appearance of very coarse granulated sugar. These crystals readily settle to the bottom of the vessel and do not do the work of matting properly. If they are finely pulverized the dip is slightly improved, but it is impossible to pulverize such materia] to a fineness that will do the desired work. The use of sulphate of zinc, then, leaves much to be desired.
The most modern method of making 5 up the dead dip is to produce the sulphate of zinc directly in the solution and in the precipitated form. It is well known that the most finely divided materials are those which are produced by precipitation, and in the dead dip it is very importan that (he sulphate of zinc shall be finely divided so that it will not immediately settle to the bottom. Therefore it should be precipitated so that when it is mixed with the acids it will not settle immediately. The method of making the sulphate of zinc directly in the solution is as follows:
Take 1 gallon of yellow aqua fortis (38° F.) and place in a stone crock which is surrounded with cold water. The cold water is to keep the heat, formed by the reaction, from evaporating the acid. Add metallic zinc in small pieces until the acid will dissolve no more. The zinc may be in any convenient form—sheet clippings, lumps, granulated, etc., that may be added little by little. If all is added at once it will boil over. When the acid will dissolve no more zinc it will be found that some of the acid has evaporated by the heat, and it will be necessary to add enough fresh acid to make up to the original gallon. When this is done add 1 gallon of strong oil of vitriol. The mixture should be stirred with a wooden paddle while the oil of vitriol is being added.
As the sulphuric acid is being added the solution begins to grow milky, and finally the whole has the consistency of thick cream. This is caused by the sulphuric acid (oil of vitriol) precipitating out the sulphate of zinc. Thus the very finely divided precipitate of sulphate of zinc is formed. If one desires to use known quantities of acid and zinc the following amounts may be taken: Oil of vitriol, 1 gallon; aqua fortis (38° P.), 1 gallon; metallic zinc, 6 ounces.
In dissolving the zinc in the aqua fortis it is necessary to be sure that none remains undissolved in the bottom.
The dead or matt dip is used hot, and, therefore, is kept in a stone crock surrounded with hot water. The articles to be matted are polished and cleaned, and the dip thoroughly stirred with a wooden paddle, so as to bring up the sulphate of zinc which has settled. Dip the work in the solution and allow it to remain until the matt is obtained. This is a point which can be learned only by experience. When the brass article is first introduced there is a rapid action on the surface, but in a few seconds this slows down. Remove the article and rinse and immediately dip into the usual bright dip. This is necessary for the reason that the dead dip produces a dark coating upon the surface, which, were it left on, would not show the real effect or the color of the metal. The bright dip, however, removes this and exposes the true dead surface.
The usual rule for making up the dead dip is to use equal parts of oil of vitriol and aqua fortis; but these may be altered to suit the case. More oil of vitriol gives a finer matt, while a larger quantity of aqua fortis will give a coarser matt. When the dip becomes old it is unnecessary to add more zinc, as a little goes into the solution each time anything is dipped. After a while, however, the solution becomes loaded with copper salts, and should be thrown away.
A new dip does not work well, and will not give good results when used at once. It is usual to allow it to remain over night, when it will be found to be in a better working condition in the morning. A new dip will frequently refuse to work, and the addition of a little water will often start it. The water must be used sparingly, however, and only when necessary. Water, as a usual thing, spoils a dead dip, and must be avoided. After a while it may be necessary to add a little more aqua fortis, and this may be introduced as desired. Much care is needed in working the dead dip, and it requires constant watching and experience. The chief difficulty in working the dead dip is to match a given article. The only way that it can be done is to "cut and try," and add aqua fortis or oil of vitriol as the case requires.
The dead or matt dip can be obtained only upon brass or German silver; in other words, only on alloys which contain zinc. The best results are obtained upon yellow brass high in zinc.