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.
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.