Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tockolith: a series of paints named after their inventors, the Toch Brothers

Tockolith is a patented paint combination invented by the Toch Brothers, claiming that Tockolith makes steel protection permanent and prevents corrosion of, for example, bridge steel, when it is exposed to high-temperature locomotive gases containing sulfur. In their neat book about Tockolith, published in 1914, the Toch Brothers explain that their paints are the only ones which combine with rust and form calcium ferrite, inhibiting progressive oxidation [1].

The Toch Brothers' iron and steel protecting formula, first sold in 1903, included organic lime salt as a binder, alumina silicate and other components of Portland cement [1,2]. Therefore it's longer name: Portland Cement Paint (see pages 15 to 17 in [1]). But the Toch Brothers distinguished Tockolith from Portland Cement by the way the final, hardened coating is chemically formed:
It must not be inferred that Tockolith sets in a few hours when applied to iron or steel, in the same manner as Portland Cement; such is not the case. The binder holds the cement in place and the setting process continues with exceeding slowness, under certain conditions requiring four months. It dries to the touch, however, in about six hours. When the binder has fully disintegrated an exceedingly hard cement coating remains on the steel, and this coating is a perfect preventive of corrosion. 
The older Toch brothers were Jewish immigrants from Bohemia (today part of the Czech Republic) living in New York's Lower East Side. Their business, the Toch Brothers firm, imported and sold paints and varnishes, and eventually ventured into manufacturing paints. Maximilian Toch, one of the sons of one of the brothers, had a passion for science, art and photography. He studied industrial paints and focused his research on protective materials for the modern urban landsacpe [2].

The word “Tockolith” combines the brother's family name “Toch,” changed into “Tock” with an appended letter “o” for easier pronunciation, and the word stem “lith” from the Greek word lithos, meaning stone or rock. Thus, the designation “Tockolith” underlines Maximilian Toch's “struggle for permanence” within his family's paint-manufacturing firm leading to the invention of quality paints for enduring steelworks.

Keywords: chemistry, steel, concrete, cityscape, pollution, deterioration, restoration.

References and more to explore
[1] Toch Brothers: Tockolith, R. I. W. Paints. 320 Fifth Ave., New York, 1914 [].
[2] Augustin Cerveaux and Evan Hepler-Smith: Quest for Permanence. Chemical Heritage Spring 2013, 31 (1), pp. 20-26 [].

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