Historic Monel: the alloy that time forgot – by James E. Churchill (The Nickel Institute – March 23, 2021)


James E. Churchill believes that telling the history of Monel and renewing the scientific data will empower conservators to educate and preserve key metallurgical heritage.

In 2019 I was introduced to a material I had only heard of in passing, Monel®*. Having previously come across it through the wrought craft of Samuel Yellin, a field trip to the southern tip of Manhattan placed me in front of a gleaming Monel elevator in an art-deco lobby. My interest was piqued. What was this alloy, how was it used and was it still popular?

In an attempt to hunt down interiors, I found redevelopment of department stores and banks, where the metal had flourished, had sadly led to total loss. I also discovered I was not alone in my ignorance.

The break-up of the International Nickel Company (INCO) had thrown proprietary research to the wind, while conservators relied on dated marketing material for information. Worse, contractors were dumping Monel significantly before the end of its life cycle.

The history

Monel has been with us since 1905. It was one of the sole “natural” alloys refined directly from its ore and fit to any and every purpose, a trailblazer for stainless steel that is still found in our built environment today.[1]

Like many metallurgical quests, Monel had its roots in alchemy. Chemists David H. Browne, Victor Hybinette and Robert C. Stanley were all attempting to find a more affordable route to nickel silver from the sulphur laden ores of Sudbury, Ontario.

For the rest of this article: https://nickelinstitute.org/blog/2021/march/historic-monel-the-alloy-that-time-forgot/