Heavy metal made easy

Tracing the history of mechanical engineering – Episode 2: Needles, zinc and brass. In the Zinkhütter Hof Museum in Stolberg you can experience how inventors, workers and entrepreneurs contributed to the growth of the economy of the Aachen region. And how important visions are for progress.

Drop hammers, spindle presses, swaging machines – pretty odd-sounding names for the devices deployed in the early days of the needle-making industry, an industry which characterised economic and social life for many decades the Aachen region. In the Zinkhütter Hof Museum, about 15 kilometres from Aachen, historical machines give visitors a first-hand insight into the number of stages required for the production of one tiny sewing machine needle – a true marvel of engineering skills and craftsmanship.

This is also true for the exhibition on zinc. It shows how the raw material is sourced and processed, and boasts fascinating exhibits that illustrate the range of products that have been made out of this material. For example the weather vane from the 19th century, or the zinc bathtub that – back in grandma’s day and long before people had “bathrooms” – could be found in almost every laundry room. Back in 1956, the company Stolberger Zink AG employed over 3,900 workers, and had trouble finding the extra miners they needed – skills shortage in the days of the “economic miracle”!

As far as brass is concerned, the heyday of production in our region lies a lot further back in time. “Stolberger Gold”, as they used to call the alloy of copper and zinc, was produced here from the late 16th through to the 19th century. Visitors can marvel at the magnificent bowls, chains, hooks and ornaments exhibited in the Zinkhütter Hof. And the museum provides more than just an explanation of how brass is produced. For groups – school classes for example – the museum is pleased to open its “forger’s workshop”. Here, you can learn how to cast coins with 1,200°C molten brass – and see how, after grinding and brushing, they glitter more beautifully than gold itself.

Zinkhütter Hof
Cockerillstraße 90
52222 Stolberg
Tel.: +49 2402 90313-0
Tue-Fri 2 pm – 5 pm
Sat 2 pm – 6 pm / Sun 10 am – 6 pm
Guided tours by arrangement