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SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied

Article about: I've been studying further into the subject matter as I study more on the SS visor insignia but find little information on the complete process of not only Totenkopf & SS Adler productio

  1. #1

    Default SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied

    I've been studying further into the subject matter as I study more on the SS visor insignia but find little information on the complete process of not only Totenkopf & SS Adler production and finishes and the procedure of how this all was done. Even with a keyword web search of - what finishes were used on WWII German metal insignia and how was it applied I find nothing that describes the process.

    I understand tool & die work & how that catechism works to produce various items, but finishes become a question of great interest.

    With different materials used with plating and coating process which I understand both from previous experience with todays technologies, the technology in the 20's 30's & 40's were quite different as there was no EPA regulations (as an example) that controlled chemicals where toxicity has the cause of harm to humans.

    For instance, zinc finished insignia required some type surface prep, then etching for adherence, or at least over the last few decades etching by chemical procedure plays into coating performance over time of finish durability.

    Is there anything written on this subject of the bygone era of pre WWII and then of WWII time period of procedure for finish application?

    The importance of this with insignia collectors, where zinc finish which is designed to be a sacrificial anode consumes itself over time (AKA Zinc Pest within the collectors community) to protect the base metal. Acidic surface prep/etching plays into an obsolescence of the insignia and it's coating over time whether this was desired or not.

    As I've stated, I searched both the web and this forum but come up short, zero actually, on this subject.

    Did I miss a thread on this and if I hadn't, is there any publication that explains what this procedure was?

    If this is posted in the wrong area, Mods, please put it where it is best suited.

    Thanks for any replies & Best Regards,

    Rich

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  3. #2

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    Hi Rich....looks like a great thread is about to begin and feel you posted your thread in the correct forum.

    Looking forward to a good read

    Regards Larry
    It is not the size of a Collection in History that matters......Its the size of your Passion for it!! - Larry C

    One never knows what tree roots push to the surface of what laid buried before the tree was planted - Larry C

    “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” - Winston Churchill

  4. #3

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    Hello Larry,

    Will provide some insight into zinc based coatings and the makeup of solids within zinc coatings whether the coating is applied by electro plating or sprayed as a compound coating with a liquid carrier to allow the coating as a liquid to be applied.

    1st, I come from a background of sales of coatings, how they are applied and coatings used for corrosion control. Basically, my learnings of this subject were taught to me by various people in industry using technology that had been developed since the 50's.

    In that time frame & yet today, carrier products that were used were highly hazardous and yet today some remain this way and are highly regulated. A carrier could be toluene or zylene as an example which is hazardous to human health as long term exposure is known to cause various cancers and other illness.

    Back in the 20's, 30's & 40's it is known mercury was in use for various finishes which today with better chemistry is not in use & because of mercury use would result in ill match if used as a touch up or getting to a desired finish with insignia and other regalia.

    Regarding zinc, typically zinc is combined with aluminum powder aka solids, in a set micron size that is mixed into the carrier chemical.

    In certain application the carrier compound cures and the zinc/aluminum cold galvanizing occurs. In this process the small micron particles typically are suspended above the base metal and limited contact to the base metal occurs.

    There are coatings that can hold an electrical charge as the ions within the coating have anodic/cathodic ability of an magnetic attraction.

    Where the base metal may hold a negative charge or positive charge via an electrical system which the coating itself has either anodic or cathodic charge which means that the coating will be attracted to the negative or positive side of what is being charged, a magnetic attraction.

    In todays world automotive manufactures, platers etc. employ this system to have coatings adhere and then the coating is baked to provide a tight bonding of said coating.

    This process requires the surface of the substrate metal to have a good profile for best adherence of what ever coating is being applied.

    Hot dipped galvanizing works very similar but is an electro plating process in a hot bath. As to copper, brass, nickel & chrome plating there are similarities in the process.

    Where chrome plating is performed, the surface is profiled either mechanically or chemically, then goes through a process of copper, nickel and finally chrome plating.

    For this reason we see today some insignia with a copper appearance as surface coating/plating loss occurs. And as seen in the attachment taken from an offering from Kelly Hicks SS Steel.

    Note that the Totenkopf at one time had a aluma zinc coating applied as remnants still remain and that the coating has literally nearly completely consumed itself from oxygen which is the most corrosive element known to man.

    When oxygen is introduced with H20 & then combines with atmospheric chlorides and other chemicals that is direct cause for corrosion to occur.

    It is here where this subject of insignia and other metal regalia becomes one of what was the actual combination of zinc aluminum and what else was in the coating when application was performed. Also, how was this coating applied?

    Of course, solid aluminum is not a coating and is typically polished during the final process of production.

    With the attached Totenkopf via SS Steel K. Hicks image, the seen green is vertigas, a form of copper corrosion. This occurs because of the oxy-chemical exposure over time.

    Unfortunately the result of this is pitting of the copper where the charged corrosion cells are working into the substrate as seen as a green color (the spent energy that is stored in the copper from application via heat) as the flow of electrons that causes this becomes concentrated in a central area, partial area and over time will cover the entire surface and complete loss of the copper will result. At that point corrosion will begin attacking the coating/plating underneath it to finally consume the base metal. While that would be years off, if not controlled will become much worse over time.

    There is much more to look at when it comes to this as todays collectors are in a constant battle against corrosion. Many say that Vaseline helps preservation. This works because of near elimination of oxygen not being able to get to the surface and substrate. I say near elimination as Vaseline is a petroleum based product, highly refined for use on human skin. But because of high refinement Vaseline has a window of efficacy as do all corrosion inhibitors, be they coated, wiped on, electronically applied & baked on.

    For now I will leave this here and as other collectors may have a deeper understanding and may wish to add to this and as well, may have questions regarding what we all deal with, corrosion. Corrosion is seen on near all daggers if not preserved correctly which makes for a similar subject and as well, other metal regalia.

    We all face this issue unless your living in the desert or perhaps in the artic and other super low humidity areas.

    Lastly & additionally, the finishes we see vary as much as how each producer performed the application.

    The shame is I doubt any RZM spec applied thus I found little in the process. If anyone has an era resource guide that was used in production for this subject, please share!

    Best Regards,

    Rich
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied  

  5. #4
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    Hello Rich, thank you for starting this thread. It may help answer a lot of questions among our fellow TK collectors. Some of our members like Dos and Johanis1860 have a good understanding of the die and stamping process and possess the visual acuity to detect subtle variations. Others like another ant are very experienced in TK's and have a good working knowledge of metallurgy and the effects of chemicals, soil and other factors on the finish of these badges. Our esteemed colleague's like carlsson1982 , Winkleman and Robin Lumsden have a wealth of knowledge and a keen eye for detecting authenticity. Also an honorable mention to Buster for amassing a nicely varied collection in the shortest period of time.
    While I don't have a real working knowledge of the "finish" process, I do own a lot of different skulls with various finishes and stages of wear that I can post for discussion. I hope this provides value to the thread.

    I'll start with the Overhoff skulls and see where that leads us. It's my understanding that the Overhoff skulls were painted or sprayed as opposed to plated or dipped. I don't know if that was exclusive to all Overhoff produced TK's.


    These are my cupal Overhoff TK's. You can almost detect the "paint strokes / spray" texture on all three. Of course you can see all the copper layer exposed due to wear.

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied
    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied
    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied
    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied

    Then I have this one which has had a hard life. You can see the aluminum layer exposed under the copper layer highlighted by the red circles. You can also see remnants of the paint bubbled up highlighted by the blue circles.

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were appliedSS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied

    The zinc variety tends to blend in a bit more with the silver over the exposed dull grey zinc.

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied

    Then this zinc TK which has succumbed to corrosion from zinc pest I assume

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied
    Regards, Al

  6. #5

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    Al, Thank you for posting.

    I'd been trying to discover what the coatings were that were used as well as required plating and surface preparation used in finishing application. What I think is remarkable is how long the coatings have been able to survive over time as we see today many specimens remain in near issue to mint condition. Even in warehouse storing over time degradation albeit minor possibly could set in.

    When examining these things I've yet to see hand paint strokes or mudding, pooling of coatings when applied too thick in recesses seen both on the front and rear of the insignia.

    This is what leads me to believe the application process involved charging the insignia as well as the coating to set up a magnetic attraction as the degree of perfection attained is remarkably high & seemingly exceeds hand spraying or even dipping procedure.

    Was the insignia connected to each other when produced, referencing what a model with parts attached to a plastic tree that someone would build? To attain the degree of uniformity seen reflects a very high degree of uniformity and it is difficult to imagine each piece being done one at a time.

    Sadly, and as your aware, the destruction of Germanys industry I believe plays into the loss of this information.

    I've researched to see if any of the well known insignia manufacturers remain in business today to try to request information but that also ended up being a dead end.

  7. #6
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    I think about this unmarked type of skull that has surfaced frequently, and considered controversial by many collectors. Mint condition finish that certainly looks sprayed on particularly on the reverse.

    I've also worked in machine shops creating small metal badges and sent out the prepared parts to be electro plated silver, gold etc.... The process required the platers to fashion hooks / wires to each individual badge in order to submerge them in the tanks. Somehow I feel the German industry was more regimented in it's approach.


    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were appliedSS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were appliedSS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied

    Minty Unmarked TK
    Regards, Al

  8. #7

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    Al, Thank you for your updated post with the minty Totenkopf.

    Looking closely at the image it looks like the speckling comes from too thin of a coating and that may have allowed the onset of corrosion/speckling to begin as the base metal certainly looks like it was originally of possible zinc coating. Note area highlighted in yellow.

    Also with this particular example, the prongs are coated as well. Is that unusual?
    Attached Images Attached Images SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied 

  9. #8
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    Rich, the speckling is what made me think of spray on coating but your explanation makes more sense. It is unusual to see the prongs coated as well except in these minty unmarked TK's I've seen lately. here is another example from the Collectors Guild website

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were appliedSS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied


    And these posted by Marten, owned by Finn all exhibit the same speckling

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were appliedSS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied
    Regards, Al

  10. #9

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    The applicator has to be flexible to gain a complete coat on all areas and I suppose that perhaps this is what makes people suspicious of these being original era produced insignia. But the prongs being coated, is cause for wonder.

  11. #10
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    As I look through folders of pictures most of my skulls exhibit prongs with no coating, just bare metal like brass. That may be just due to wear. Here is one example of a Deschler no longer in my collection but you can see the remnants of silver on the prongs. So it's not out of the question that some had coated prongs.

    SS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were appliedSS Insignia (applies to several branches within the 3rd Reich & the era) and how these were produced and finishes were applied
    Regards, Al

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