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Mercury: Reason for using it in hat making ???

Discussion in 'Members Lounge' started by eblc1388, Oct 9, 2005.

  1. eblc1388

    eblc1388 Active Member

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    Why is it necessary to use mercury in hat making? Does it do something to the leather?
     
  2. Jay.slovak

    Jay.slovak Active Member

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    I have no Idea, but I hope those hats are lead-free :D , I wouldn't want to wear such hat...
     
  3. Nigel Goodwin

    Nigel Goodwin Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    Is it still used?.

    Historically it was the cause of the phrase "as mad as a hatter", but I've always presumed it's not been used for a great many years now? (not that I've got any great interest in hat making :lol: ).
     
  4. dave

    Dave New Member

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  5. eblc1388

    eblc1388 Active Member

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    The question came up in BBC "Test the Nation -English" as what make the hatter crazy?

    Like you said mercury is the answer but I would like to know why. After Googleling for a while, I got what look like a plausible answer:

    Source: hat making industry

     
  6. Nigel Goodwin

    Nigel Goodwin Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    I didn't see it, my daughter had a gig last night - although I usually watch the "Test the nation" programmes.

    As with most questions, a simple google soon finds the answer:

    "Few people who use the phrase today realise that there’s a story of human suffering behind it; the term actually derives from an early industrial occupational disease. Felt hats were once very popular in North America and Europe; an example is the top hat. The best sorts were made from beaver fur, but cheaper ones used furs such as rabbit instead.
    A complicated set of processes was needed to turn the fur into a finished hat. With the cheaper sorts of fur, an early step was to brush a solution of a mercury compound—usually mercurous nitrate—on to the fur to roughen the fibres and make them mat more easily, a process called carroting because it made the fur turn orange. Beaver fur had natural serrated edges that made this unnecessary, one reason why it was preferred, but the cost and scarcity of beaver meant that other furs had to be used.
    Whatever the source of the fur, the fibres were then shaved off the skin and turned into felt; this was later immersed in a boiling acid solution to thicken and harden it. Finishing processes included steaming the hat to shape and ironing it. In all these steps, hatters working in poorly ventilated workshops would breathe in the mercury compounds and accumulate the metal in their bodies.
    We now know that mercury is a cumulative poison that causes kidney and brain damage. Physical symptoms include trembling (known at the time as hatter’s shakes), loosening of teeth, loss of co-ordination, and slurred speech; mental ones include irritability, loss of memory, depression, anxiety, and other personality changes. This was called mad hatter syndrome.
    It’s been a very long time since mercury was used in making hats, and now all that remains is a relic phrase that links to a nasty period in manufacturing history. But mad hatter syndrome remains common as a description of the symptoms of mercury poisoning."
     
  7. eblc1388

    eblc1388 Active Member

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    Yeah. Many people like leather and fur products but few know about the process in the back to make them available.

    Without that BBC question, I guess I would never Google such information.
     
  8. Nigel Goodwin

    Nigel Goodwin Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    Often it's best if you don't know :lol:

    If you ever happen to be in Nottingham there's an attraction called 'The Caves of Nottingham', which is underneath the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. The caves were used as bomb shelters during WW2, but have been used for various purposes over the centuries - including leather making. It's best if you don't know about the bodily wastes involved in curing leather :lol:

    Incidently, human urine has many, many uses, including the manufacture of explosives as well!.

    It's a long standing quiz question, I think your youth is against you 8)
     
  9. zachtheterrible

    zachtheterrible Active Member

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    And I always thought "mad as a hatter" came from alice in wonderland :lol:
     
  10. Nigel Goodwin

    Nigel Goodwin Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    It was used in that, and if you do the google I suggested the rest of the article I quoted mentions it.
     
  11. solidhelix

    solidhelix New Member

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    What component in the human urine that is necessary in building an explosive???

    I also thought that "mad hatter" came from alice in wonderland...
     
  12. Nigel Goodwin

    Nigel Goodwin Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    I believe it's nitrates?.

    Other way round :lol:
     
  13. dratomic

    dratomic Member

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  14. HiTech

    HiTech Well-Known Member

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    uric acid is also used in some skin lotions that women buy on store shelves... furthering the notion that some women do get pissed on by society.
     

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