Jim Bakker Misses a Grift

Over at Vice, they ask: “since copper is anti-microbial, why isn’t copper everywhere?” [vice]

It’s true, too. Jim Bakker’s missed a trick and is selling more expensive silver water, when he could just dissolve a penny in a million liters of water and sell the result for $19/bottle.

In 1852, physician Victor Burq visited a copper smelter in Paris’s 3rd arrondissement, where they used heat and chemicals to extract the reddish-brown metal. It was a dirty and dangerous job. Burq found the facility to be “in poor condition,” along with the housing and the hygiene of the smelters. Normally, their mortality rates were “pitiful,” he observed.

Yet, the 200 employees who worked there had all been spared from cholera outbreaks that hit the city in 1832, 1849, and 1852. When Burq learned that 400 to 500 copper workers on the same street had also mysteriously dodged cholera, he concluded that something about their professions – and copper – had made them immune to the highly infectious disease. He launched a detailed investigation into other people who worked with copper, in Paris and cities around the world.

Copper dissolves easily in acids or salts and apparently the resulting flow of ions is lethal to bacteria and viruses, so the writer at Vice asks “why isn’t everything copper?” Well, the answer to that is: “are you going to polish all that copper?” The stuff corrodes (that’s where the ionization comes in) in the presence of salt or acid – you can get a piece of copper all beautifully polished up, and drop a drop of sweat on it, and it’ll eat a cavity right into the surface. That’s why we have stainless steel and plastic everywhere: you can wipe those down with bleach and everything on the surface is dead, even the tardigrades.

On old French friend of my dad’s had some copper cookware that had been in the family for – literally – hundreds of years; saucepans from the mid 1700s. It wasn’t usable (needed to be re-tinned) but what was interesting about it was that it had been polished so much, for so long, that it looked slightly melted in spots. The old way of polishing the stuff involved sand and vinegar (acid -> more ions!) so it must be literally dissolving and scraping material off the surface. Over a couple hundred years, even a buffer would begin the change the shape of the pan.

This has some cool footage of some of the processes involved in making copper cookware. I like the custom-built burnishing lathe and I have to admit I was thinking it wouldn’t be too hard to build an attachment to hold a burnishing wheel on my tool post… On the other hand, it seems like a good way to wind up with a face full of spinning copper. The other stuff, about the branding, I find less interesting, and I think that the “chunky handle” look is appropriate for the pans, but it could be prettier. Machined titanium comes to mind. Watch the part where he tins the pan. I was expecting that to be a more complicated process but it looks like it’s a matter of surface preparation and practice.

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Do not use your expensive copper cookware to cook in a forge; it’ll turn into a puddle.

I have seen bar-tops of polished copper. All I could think was “I bet the boss doesn’t polish that.” It was gorgeous, though.

I suspect kestrel’s mokume-gane jewelry is antibacterial! (it’s nickel and copper) And if you bathe it and a piece of zinc in lemon juice you could maybe light a dim LED with it. So it’s a “survival tactical LED antibacterial ion-flux necklace.”



  1. says

    Well, the answer to that is: “are you going to polish all that copper?”

    Am I really the only one who thinks that metals (including copper) with an antique patina look pretty?

    (My own door handles are from brass with an artificially created patina.)

  2. Bruce says

    Some peoples’ skin is irritated by the toxic effects of copper ions. Many copper items that are hand-crafted are from countries where worker safety regulations are not enforced. Be careful.

  3. kestrel says

    LOL I was thinking of mokume gane as I read this… However, I coat the metal in some way or other, so that getting a drop of sweat on it can’t happen. (Well… I suppose eventually the coating would wear off and then you would see that effect.) Copper does turn the skin interesting colors but not everyone likes that.

    Is it still a “thing” to wear a copper bracelet to supposedly treat arthritis? That used to be something I’d see fairly commonly. Even when they weren’t wearing the bracelet you could tell they did, because of the odd coloration around their wrist.

  4. cartomancer says

    What surprises me is that we haven’t had more Christian nutcases warbling on about how this is the prophecied First Horseman of the Apocalypse – Pestilence, wearing his crown (corona):

    Et vidi: et ecce equus albus, et qui sedebat super illum, habebat arcum, et data est ei corona, et exivit vincens ut vinceret.

  5. lochaber says

    I’m with Andreas Avester on this, I really like the look or patina and such on metal, more than the pristine polished surface.

  6. Jazzlet says

    Most of those copper bars are sealed with polyurethane varnish. I’ve seen one that wasn’t and while most of it was shiny it had bits of patina in the nooks and crannies such as a millimetre or so round the taps.

    I’m another that likes the patinated look, it is of course also a protective layer, but that really only works on things like copper roofs that don’t get handled regularly.

  7. says

    I spend an inordinate amount of my time worrying about patinas and polishes. Usually, polishing a blade is half the work (or, as we say, 1/10 of the fun!) so I’m mostly concerned with the idea that you want to achieve a certain patina and then keep it there – which is the hard part. If I have a nice shiny copper bar, I want it to stay shiny.

    My copper cookware is all green and stuff; it was only shiny for a few minutes. My katana is mirror polished and I want it to stay that way.

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