Brass vs Stainless Steel—Which One Should You Use for Your Project?

Alloys are among the oldest and most valuable discoveries of mankind. They’ve helped expand our capacity for construction and served as the building block of innovation. For millennia, we’ve mastered the craft of creating alloys to meet the ever growing demand for superior materials and managed to succeed every time.

Two of our greatest creations are, arguably, brass and stainless steel. Packed with useful properties, they are staple materials for a vast range of applications, including construction, transportation, machine building, and plumbing. But which of them is better? Or is it necessary to compare? Let’s find out the truth about the “brass vs stainless steel” quandary.

Composition and Properties

The best way to differentiate between brass and stainless steel is to know their composition. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, while steel is an alloy of iron, carbon, and chromium. Just by their base metal, you can easily tell which has suitable properties for particular applications. For instance, in terms of corrosion resistance, iron pales in comparison to copper. In fact, iron is the metal that makes ferrous metals rust fast.

Simply put, brass is generally more corrosion-resistant than stainless steel. While the addition of chromium to steel makes a whole lot of difference to its ability to resist rust, it is still susceptible to corrosion at some degree.

When it comes to electrical and thermal conductivity, brass outmatches stainless steel by fifteen times. It also has a higher thermal expansion coefficient, which makes it perfect for applications that involve extremely high temperatures, including furnaces and engines.

In terms of manufacturing cost, there’s no significant difference between brass and steel, although steel is much more difficult to machine than brass. Brass, after all, is well-known for its machinability, which is why it is the metal of choice for applications that require small, precise metal pieces, so steel doesn’t stand a chance.

Stainless steel, on the contrary, has a higher resistance to petroleum products and many acids than brass, and it can be passivated in either citric or nitric acid solutions. Some grades of stainless steel are also superior to brass in more-aggressive marine environments such as fast-moving currents.

Where to Find Brass

Finding the right metal for your projects can be daunting, but if you go to the right supplier, it won’t be that hard. How do you find a good supplier then? Well, there are a few things you need to watch out for.

First, and most important, is the number of years the supplier has been established. After all, it makes more sense to trust someone who’s had many years of experience than someone who’s just starting. An experienced supplier has tackled virtually all kinds of material needs from all sorts of customers, so there’s a good chance they can meet your needs pretty easily.

Next, make sure that they specialize in copper products. This way, you can be sure of the quality of your brass supplies. Some of the country’s brass metal sheet suppliers, such as Rotax Metals, offer an immense selection of brass supplies. You won’t run out of choices unlike when you go to a supplier that offers a wide range of metals.



Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Brass and Why You Need the Help of a Muntz Metal Supplier

Metals are a staple material for construction, industrial, and art projects. They are prized for their many beneficial properties, which are impossible to find in other materials. Even rock, wood, glass, or plastic pale in comparison to metal in many ways. Each metal has its own set of properties that suit specific applications. Fortunately, because there’s a wide variety of metals available commercially, you have a big chance of finding the specific type you need for your own projects.

Copper and Its Alloys

As previously mentioned, each type of metal has a unique set of properties. Many of these properties may not be useful for broad-spectrum applications, which explains why some metals are more extensively used than others. An example of metal whose properties are essential to many basic applications is copper.

The use of copper dates back 10,000 years, making it the first metal to be discovered. It was first used for making weapons and cookware as it exhibits high malleability, a property that is critical in making flat and sharp items. Another reason for its popularity is that it was most likely the only available metal at the time. Even after the discovery of gold and silver, copper still dominated due to its abundance.

With the discovery of copper came the realization that metals can be combined with other metals, a discipline we now know as metallurgy, and the output we call alloys. Thankfully, it was copper that man first discovered. If it was other metals, alloying would have been difficult or almost impossible. Bronze and brass should have been discovered much later, which means there could have been no Bronze Age. History must have been very different. Thanks to copper’s extreme workability, another property many of today’s metal workers prize it for, the industrial age was able to catch up fast.

While copper has over a hundred different versions, or rather alloys, brass and bronze are its greatest gift to the world. Of the two, however, brass seems to have the upper hand when it comes to useful properties. There’s no denying how important bronze is in various industries, but brass, being a much younger copper alloy, has brought something new to the world of metals.

What is brass?

When you combine copper with zinc, you get brass. Specifically, brass consists of about 60% copper and 40% zinc. It was found that brass is more malleable than bronze, which is one of the reasons why many consider it to be a better metal. The malleability of brass, however, depends on its zinc content. Brasses with more than 40% zinc are harder to work. That’s because zinc is notorious for having low malleability.

To better understand how using brass could help you achieve your goal for your own project, let’s discuss its properties. After all, whatever you will do in your project will depend on the properties of the materials you will use. Malleability and workability had already been discussed so let’s talk about brass’s other beneficial properties.

  • Corrosion Resistance. Copper being the base metal, it’s expected that brass does not rust. Considering that zinc is also corrosion-resistant, there’s no real chance brass will form rust in its lifetime. Instead, it will form a patina on its surface as it makes contact with oxygen. Increasing the amount of copper in the alloy boosts this property.
  • Low Melting Point. This property may seem a drawback rather than a benefit but in some cases, it is actually useful. For instance, because brass has a low melting point, it is easy to cast. That could help significantly reduce the amount of energy you need for the entire manufacturing process, which means you can also reduce your carbon footprint.
  • High Electrical Conductivity. We all know that most electrical wires in use today are made of copper. That’s because copper is a highly conductive metal. Although it only comes next to silver, it is still preferred for electrical applications because it can take high temperatures without burning. The same can be said about brass.
  • Exquisiteness. Are you looking for an elegant but cheap material to match your luxurious interior or exterior decoration? Brass may just be the metal you’re looking for. It has brighter hue than bronze and can be really shiny when polished. To the untrained eye, it may even be mistaken for gold.

Brass Applications

People started using brass just about a couple of millennia after copper’s discovery. Around 5000 B.C., it was already mass produced and widely used in China and across Central Asia. Brass-based products at the time include cookware, cutlery, pipes, navigation instruments, coins, and adornments. As industrialization spread across the continent, brass became increasingly in demand, making its way into even larger industries.

Today, as brass spawns different variants, including the famous Muntz Metal used for making ship parts, this amazing metal is used for a great deal of applications, including:

  • High Tensile Brass. Brass can also be alloyed with manganese. The result is a high strength, corrosion-resistant material that is perfect for making hydraulic equipment fittings, locomotive axle boxes, pump casting, and heavy rolling mill housing nuts.
  • Muntz Metal. When a trace of iron is added to the regular brass mixture, you produce Muntz Metal. Also known as yellow metal, this brass is often used as a replacement for copper sheathing due to its ability to resist fouling.
  • Engraving Brass. As the name suggests, this brass type is used primarily for making products meant to be incised, such as name plates, plaques, and medals. It is the 2 percent lead content that creates a balance between firmness and softness required for engraving purposes.
  • Red Bras Also called “gilding metal,” this brass type contains only 5 percent zinc. As a result, it is very malleable, perfect for applications like grillwork, jewelry, architectural fascia, and door handles.
  • Free Cutting Brass. Containing a little bit of lead, this brass type is very easy to machine. It is used for making nuts and bolts, threaded parts, water fittings, and valve bodies.

If you ever need brass supplies for your projects, make sure to get your materials from a trusted supplier, such as Rotax Metals. Especially if you are looking for special brass types like Muntz metal, you should only go to a trusted Muntz metal supplier to ensure that the materials you’ll get is superior in quality.



What You Need to Know before Choosing Engraving Brass Sheet Suppliers

Engraving is the practice of carving a design, pattern, or message on the surface of a material. It is arguably the oldest form of art, dating back 500,000 years. The ancient people continued using engraving as their primary channel of visual art and communication until over 400,000 years later when they finally discovered that soot and animal fat, when dissolved in water or oil, could make paint. Surprisingly, even after the emergence and development of other art forms, engraving lingered. In fact, it is currently a booming $2 billion industry in the United States alone with an annual growth rate of more than 4 percent.

What to Engrave

Any material with sufficient hardness is a good candidate for engraving, but it has to be softer than the burin or any standard engraving tool to make incision possible. Early engravers used stone and metal because they are durable and accessible. Plastics and ceramics came in much later when engraving applications became more diverse. Wood was also widely used but not preferred for applications that require a hard-wearing output due to its poor resilience against the elements. Stone and metal are more suitable in this case.

One example of a stone engraving that has endured for a long time is the hieroglyphs of Egypt. Because they were engraved in stone, it would take more than the elements to wear them away. While metal is generally just as durable as stone, it has a weakness most stone materials don’t have—moisture. When exposed to oxygen or any corrosive substance, most metals would corrode and disintegrate. The rate of corrosion depends on the type of metal and the corrosion agent involved.

What Metals to Engrave

Metals react to oxidation differently. Some metals, particularly iron and alloys that contain iron, corrode very quickly, while others altogether slow down oxidation or repel oxygen by forming a protective layer, called patina. Metals that have high resistance to corrosion are well suited for engraving. This was known even in the ancient times, which is why they were able to tell which metal could last for many years as evidenced by the countless engraved metal artifacts found around the world, some over 5,000 years old. Most of these artifacts are metal plates with writing on them. Perhaps they were used for the same purpose paper is used today.

As expected, most engraved metal artifacts are copper-based, particularly containing if not completely made of bronze or brass, simply because these are the first metals to be discovered. Their resistance to corrosion is so great they can last for thousands of years. Unlike stone, however, they can still sustain significant damage from many years of weathering. Naturally, the patina formation will have covered the entire metal surface overtime and render the metal completely useless, especially because the patina may be difficult or even impossible to remove.

Why Engrave on Metals

Metals were not as appealing for engraving applications in the ancient times as they are now, and there’s a good reason for that. In the ancient times, metals were rare and quite difficult to produce. As the useful properties of metals slowly came to light, engravers became fascinated with them. Metals eventually replaced stone as the primary engraving material, leading the way to the creation of today’s rich and flourishing engraving industry. Here are three reasons why metals are a highly preferred material for engraving.

  • Lightweight. As huge blocks, metals can be really heavy, but they also have unique properties that allow them to lose their weight without compromising density. Some metals are malleable and can be flattened into thin, light plates. Others can be alloyed with other metals to adjust their molecular structure in such a way that the resulting material will be frothy but tough.
  • Flexible. Malleability allows metals not just to be flattened but to be molded into different shapes as well. Increased malleability even makes a metal easy to carve. Also, since most metals can be alloyed with other metals, you can produce alloys of different colors, textures, and sheen. You can even customize by combining different metals or manipulating their patina to achieve the right properties for your engraving project.
  • Durable. With today’s technology, it’s quite easy to find non-corrodible metals on the market. It’s no longer difficult to find a metal that you can count on to last for many years, especially if you want your engraving to endure for future use.

Modern Applications

Engraving played an important role in the progression of each era in history. During the Renaissance period, for instance, engraving was a well-utilized technology, particularly in producing images on paper in artistic printmaking, mapmaking, and reproduction and illustration for books and magazines. At present, it’s being used for quite a number of applications. Here are some of them.

  • Interior Signs. Whether you want to put up a signage in your lobby with your company’s name on it to draw clients into your office or simple labels for each room in your office, engraving is a method that could definitely come in handy, and brass is the perfect material to use. Brass has the most appealing qualities among copper alloys, with a sheen comparable to gold, and is extremely durable as well.
  • Award Plaques. While printed labels are a great option for adorning plaques and medals, nothing compares to the beauty and robustness of engraved labels. They look professional, just as important items like special awards should look like, and would absolutely hold up to the elements.
  • House Nameplates. Having a nameplate for your residence is sure helpful for anyone who might want to visit your home. It wouldn’t be practical to use a printed nameplate as it will be installed outside where it’s completely exposed to the elements. An engraved house nameplate could last longer and would look at lot better.
  • Pet Tags. Engraving also proves to be the most appealing option for making pet tags. An exquisite engraving brass with the name of your beloved pooch or kitty on it is certainly a lovely sight.
  • Memorial Plaques. Engraving information about a person or event you want to be remembered is most efficiently done on a brass sheet as it promises fine and lasting results. Top engraving brass sheet suppliers such as Rotax Metals can provide you with a plate that has just the right grade for your needs.

No matter what you want to engrave, you must find the perfect metal to be able to produce guaranteed high-quality output. Of course, you can achieve this by trusting only the best supplier in your area. They can even teach you how to engrave brass or other metals if you ask them to. Most of these suppliers offer a vast selection of materials apart from engraving metal sheets and plates. If you need tubes, bars, or angles, they can certainly deliver.



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