The life of this alloy is well known to be precarious and I know of several collectors who have despaired over the years trying to save a machine that seems intent on self destruction.
It’s worth remembering that these machines were only built to last three years, after which they were intended to be destroyed or exported out of Germany in order to keep the industry in work.
So it is astonishing to realise that so many are still working around the world 62 years later.
Where they haven’t survived too well it tends to be in castings that experience stress, shock or movement with pressure during the natural cycle of play.
Evidence of deterioration within a casting can be as sudden as ……
Or gradual …...
- flaking and cracking
The approved professional method of repairing is basically recasting and/or reinforcing with fresh low temperature alloy or solder.
Few if any of us have those facilities and over the years the improvements in modern synthetic multi part adhesives and malleable chemical putty now provide us with powerful adhesives that do more than just stick things together. With practice it’s possible to use these products to strengthen and even fashion missing bits.
First let’s look at what we’re actually dealing with and its history.
I referred to it as Monkey Metal or Pot Metal which is how it is commonly known in this country, another common name for it here is “What the hell’s happened to that!?” The trade name for it is Zamak as coined by The New Jersey Zinc Co. They had imaginatively constructed an acronym of the ingredients in German which comes out as Mazak ……
M - Mush
A - A heap of crud
Z - Zero tensile properties
A - Abomination
K - Kebab
In 1929 German engineer Hans Neiz unt Bumpsadazy discovered that by adding dust from his trouser turn ups and the crusts from his Bananen-Sandwich he was able to pad the stuff out three fold.
Thus this popular alloy became commonly used for manufacturing all things that needed to be slightly stiffer than plasticine. It was to be found everywhere, World War Twice was reported to have only lasted 6 years due to Mazak wings dropping off bombers and it being impossible to queue up for a whale’s head for the cat without Flying Mazak Buzz Bombs plummeting into the North Sea 128 miles short of their target.
With the now known shortcomings of this material you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world will have moved on since 1929 and eagerly forgotten all about this dreadful material.
However you’d be wrong, it was learnt in the nineteen ninety nighty nighties that it was possible to chrome plate it. Although I suspect the plating costs were more than the manufacturing of the product it does help, probably, because it adds a sort of exoskeleton and seals the porous alloy from air and damp. Consequently fitted kitchen drawer handles and current car door handles are made from it.
Other related products have surfaced over the years with similar names, but few were able to shake off the poor public image. Muzak was one such failure. The Americans fitted it into lifts and supermarkets. It was quickly recognised as a very poor imitation of Heavy Metal and professionals such as Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden would have nothing to do with it.
So, why do I blow hot and cold about machines manufactured using Mazak/Zamak?
Simple really (which is how a lot of people describe me) it all depends really on whether I’m buying or selling.