Chapter 18: Metallfärbung (1951)

Hugo Krause: Metallfärbung – Die wichtigsten Verfahren zur Oberflächenfärbung und zum Schutz von Metallgegenständen (Munich: Hanser, 1951).

published August 2020

The favourite book of Julia Lütolf

Continuing our popular series, Julia Lütolf, director of the Werkstoffarchiv at the Sitterwerk Foundation (St. Gallen), presents her favorite discovery in the  Iron Library: a detailed and experiment-led guide to achieving different forms of metal coloration.

The reader

Julia Lütolf

… has been in charge of the Materials Archive of the Sitterwerk Foundation since 2011. She trained as a cabinetmaker and studied conservation at the University of the Arts, Bern. 

Discovery in the Iron Library:
The diversity of books of mineral resource estimates and in general the beautiful concept of 'Probierkunst' (the art of estimating the qualities of mineral resources). 

The book I would like to try to read after my stay in the Iron Library...
Lazarus Ercker: Aula subterranea (1672) Frankfurt a. M.: Johann David Zunner 

The book we're all in...
Elizabeth Kolbert: The 6th Extinction – An Unnatural History (2016) Berlin: Suhrkamp 


The book I like to look at...
Lorenz Olivier Schmid: Anthologie Bd.1 (2013) St. Gallen: Vexer

The Book

Hugo Krause: Metallfärbung – Die wichtigsten Verfahren zur Oberflächenfärbung und zum Schutz von Metallgegenständen (Metal Coloring - The most important processes for the surface coloring and protection of metal objects). (Munich: Hanser, 1951).

In the course of research into various methods of metal coloration, the book by Hugo Krause proved to be particularly informative and helpful.

The chemist dealt with this little-explored branch of metal science and wrote a practical textbook aimed at practitioners. He seems to have spared no effort and carried out a large number of the coloring methods himself, using formulas from other books – as well as technical and patent specifications – in order to make the selection of well-functioning processes that were finally included in his book. Worthless methods, which, for example, do not produce a firmly adhering or only a "lean" coloration, were omitted or supplemented with suggestions for improvement. Hugo Krause's book is characterized by the combination of observations and practical experience with explanations of chemical processes and key topics. As a practitioner, one receives tangible instructions, whilst at the same time never being under the illusion of being able to implement and understand them successfully on a first attempt. In addition to clearly structured contents, he formulates in various clear ways that certain processes of metal coloration are not easy to classify. Regarding corrosion protection by metal coloring, he wrote: "The chemical processes which lead to the destruction of metallic materials by corrosion and which can also be used to produce metal colorings are of a very complex and complicated nature."

The book by Hugo Krause is also on the shelf of the art Library of the Sitterwerk Foundation. There it is located in the direct vicinity of a materials collection in which many variants of colored metal samples are stored and made accessible. The samples come for the most part from the production of the neighboring Art Foundry St. Gallen, where in the Patina Workshop the craft of metal coloring is being nurtured and further developed.