brass furniture

The Best Way to Clean Tarnished Metal and Other Essential Facts You Shouldn’t Ignore

Metals are the most rigid materials on the planet. They provide a framework for buildings and make up heavy industrial machines. Many of your home and office equipment consist of metals, too. But like everything else, they have their kryptonite. They corrode when exposed to the atmosphere, certain chemicals, or other metals.

It’s important to note that metals corrode in different ways. They differ in how they react with the substances that they come in contact with. Oxygen is by far the most common catalyst for corrosion. It affects most metals both in liquid and gas form, which is why corrosion is sometimes referred to as oxidation.

Tarnish vs. Rust

As mentioned, metals differently corrode when exposed to the same element or compound. We can classify metals into two types—ferrous (iron-containing) and nonferrous (non-iron-containing). The presence or absence of iron in a metal’s composition significantly affects its corrosion.

Ferrous metals corrode by transforming into iron oxide or rust, while nonferrous metals corrode by developing a layer of oxide on its surface. This layer of oxide is also called tarnish.

Unlike rust, tarnish stays on the surface of nonferrous metals. It doesn’t spread into the metal and wreck the metal’s properties. Instead, it continues to grow on the surface as it gets further exposed to the atmosphere. In other words, unlike rust, you can scrape or polish away the layer of developed tarnish on the surface of a nonferrous metal without diminishing its quality.

Everyday Metals That Tarnish

Before I teach you the best way to clean tarnished metal, let’s first identify some nonferrous metals around us. Let’s get the popular and rare ones—gold, silver, and platinum—out of the way and focus on the more common.

Copper, brass, bronze, aluminum, zinc, and tin are the most common among all the nonferrous metals. Not only are these metals abundant in supply, but they also display qualities that are valuable to a vast range of applications. Big industries, such as construction, telecommunication, electronics, and transportation, rely on their production.

Tarnish isn’t that much of a big industry problem because the metals are often used for their mechanical properties. But for industries that rely on the metals’ appearance, such as jewelry and furniture making, it can be rather pesky. Maintaining the lustrous appearance of these metals takes effort.

Some metals tarnish faster than others. For instance, copper can lose its sheen just a few hours after exposure to air or water. The same goes true for its primary alloys—bronze and brass. If neglected, the tarnish can grow and change copper’s color. This new layer of material that has a different color is generally referred to as patina.

Patina changes color as it develops. You can tell how long copper has been exposed by the color of its patina. However, various factors may affect how the process ends. Depending on what chemical copper is exposed to, it may form a brown, blue, or green patina.

How to Clean Tarnished Metal

Tarnishing is inevitable for metals like copper, brass, and bronze. The good news is you can fix it. As explained earlier, tarnish is just on the metal’s surface so that you can wipe it away. But it doesn’t come off quickly like typical dust or grime. You may need to apply a polishing agent. Here’s a simple procedure for removing tarnish from metal you can follow.

    1. Check if the item you will be polishing is pure copper, brass, or bronze. Some furniture pieces only have one of these metals on their surface and underneath them is an entirely different material. This will give you an idea of the safest technique for cleaning tarnished metal. The last thing you want is to buff away the outermost layer along with the tarnish and reveal the underlying metal.
    2. Decide whether to use commercial polish or a homemade one. The material and tools you need for the process will depend on your decision.
    3. Prepare the things you need. If you are using a commercial polish, all you need is a clean cloth, and the polish. But if you are using homemade metal polish, there’s a handful of ingredients you need to prepare.It’s important to note that you can combine many products in your home to make a concoction that works on tarnish. In this procedure, we will focus on the most common ones – vinegar, flour, salt, lemon juice, baking soda, and ketchup. You won’t be mixing all of them, but you can make different polishing agents by creating different combinations.For instance, you can mix vinegar, flour, and salt to produce a metal polish paste. Or you can mix lemon juice and baking soda. Ketchup, on the other hand, may serve as a metal polish without mixing with anything.

      You also need to prepare a clean, dry cloth.

    4. When you finish preparing your concoction, it’s time to prepare your metal item. Wash it thoroughly until its surface is free of dust or grime. Tiny dust particles have sharp edges that can scratch your metal as you rub it with the cloth.
    5. Apply the metal polish you prepared on the metal item’s surface and let it sit for several minutes.
    6. Buff the surface of the metal piece with the clean cloth until the metal’s original sheen appears. Remember not to wet the fabric with water because water, containing oxygen, is among the substances that can trigger tarnishing.

Sometimes, the metal’s quality affects the rate by which tarnish forms. For instance, low-quality or unrefined brass or bronze may tarnish faster because it may contain other elements that are more reactive to oxygen than the primary metal. If you are working with a non-ferrous metal, such as copper, brass, or bronze, make sure to obtain your supply from trusted sheet metal suppliers, like Rotax Metals. This way, you can create outputs that can maintain their quality longer and require minimal maintenance.

Saxophone player. Saxophonist hands playing saxophone. Alto sax player with jazz music instrument closeup

Common Things Made of Brass and Other Useful Facts You Should Know

Statistics show that North America consumes around 2 million tons of copper each year. About 42 percent of that goes to brass mills. That’s almost 1 million tons of brass distributed across the U.S. and Canada annually for a wide variety of applications. Do you have an idea where all of that brass goes?

Most people are unaware of these statistics because they only encounter brass as finished products and not raw. In most cases, they can’t even identify brass from the different metals they come across. Let’s face it; metal production and processing aren’t common knowledge.

However, it pays to know a thing or two about brass. For instance, knowing the brass’s composition and properties allows you to identify the practical applications it is are suitable for. After all, using the wrong metal in any project may pose some risks. In this article, you will learn the basic properties of brass, a shortlist of things made out of brass, and the best place to purchase brass sheets, bars, and other supplies.

Basic Properties of Brass

Understanding the properties of brass is key to identifying ordinary objects made of brass. To understand brass’s properties more quickly, let’s learn about its composition first. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Basic brass consists of about 67 percent copper and 33 percent zinc. You can modify this ratio to produce various brasses, each with a unique set of physical properties. Now, here are the properties you will find in all types of brasses.

  • Malleability

    Copper is one of the easiest to work among all industrial metals. You can coldwork it into plates or sheets of different shapes and thicknesses. Brass maintains much of this property even if it contains other metals. Lead is added to the alloy if there’s a need to reduce its malleability.

  • Conductivity

    Brass is an effective conductor of heat and electricity. It can transfer high voltage of electricity without overheating. This property makes it perfect for applications that involve heat and electricity.

  • Corrosion Resistance

    Brass is also known for its high corrosion resistance. It can withstand oxidation not just from regular moisture but also from substances that are several times more corrosive. Some brasses are used as sheathing for ocean vessels because those metals do not corrode in saltwater, which is ten times more corrosive than tap water.

  • Fatigue Resistance

    Most metals tend to weaken from cyclic loading. This condition leads to progressive damage and, ultimately, to failure. Brass is among the handful of metals that have a high tolerance against fatigue.

Common Things Made of Brass

Although brass is widely used across a wide range of industries, it is not easily identifiable, and there’s a good reason for that. Brass is a flexible metal. Each of its over 60 different types come in a slightly different color or shade. Some look like gold, while others, silver. So, identifying things made out of brass can be tricky sometimes. Here are some objects you probably didn’t know made of brass.

  • Musical Instruments

    Trumpets, horns, tubas, euphoniums, and trombones are some of the musical instruments usually made of brass. There are quite a number of them grouped into one family called brass instruments. Claims that brass produces the best sound are still debatable though other metals exhibit similar acoustic properties.

  • Vehicle Radiators

    Many vehicle manufacturers prefer copper-based radiators to aluminum-based ones because they are more efficient. They cost less to manufacture, last longer, and have a lower air-side pressure drop. Brass radiators are also much easier to recycle.

  • Handles and Railings

    You may not notice it, but you have quite a few items made of brass within your reach. It’s highly likely that the doorknobs and railings in your home or workplace are made partly of brass. Not only is brass elegant, but it’s also antimicrobial. It doesn’t kill microbes instantly, but you can rest assured that high-touch surfaces in your building don’t contribute to the spread of diseases.

  • Ammunition Casings

    Brass is well-known for its spark-resistant, low-friction, and non-magnetic qualities, which make it the perfect material for cartridge shells. It also has a distinct gold-like shade that is characteristic of ammos. This shade does not quickly fade or get tarnished.

  • Marine Hardware

    As previously mentioned, certain types of brass are used for sheathing on ship hulls because it is resistant to both saltwater corrosion and fouling. As it turns out, a plethora of marine hardware components, including pumps, engines, and some navigational tools, are made of brass, too, for the same reasons. Brass is also tough, and so it can withstand intense pressures.

  • Plumbing Fixtures

    Most faucets, bidets, hose bibs, channel drains, and sinks are brass-based too. They can be copper, but that’s more expensive, and you may not like how it changes color from brown to green over time. Brass may lose its luster from constant exposure to moisture, but it can preserve its color for a long time.

  • Technical instruments

    Ever wondered how the tiny components of small devices like compasses, watches, and barometers, were created? With today’s metalworking technology, the process is already easy, but its success depends heavily on the quality of the metal used. Brass boasts of high machinability, which makes it perfect for this kind of application.

If you plan to manufacture any of these objects yourself, you have to make sure that you will use high-quality brass sheets, tubes, bars, or rods. In that case, the first step you should take is to find a reputable brass supplier. In North America, your best option is companies like Rotax Metals, with many decades of experience supplying copper-based products.

sheet metal fabrication facility

All About Sheet Metal Fabrication: The Technology behind the Metals in Your Home

We live in a metal-dependent world. While our ancestors could have done well with just wood and stone, it is after they discovered metals that the human race was able to ascend to the top of the food chain. Metals have since become the backbone of industrialization. And it’s going to take a while before we find equally efficient alternatives to metals.

If you make a list of typical household items that are made of metal or have metallic parts, you are in for a big surprise. In your kitchen alone, you’ll find dozens of them: fridge, stove, sink, faucet, cookware, and even the nails and hinges that keep your cabinets from falling apart – they are all made of metals. You will also notice that many of them have flat and thin structures, including the casing of your stove or fridge, your sink, and many of you cookware.

Are you curious to know how these sheet metals end up being components of those household items? Would you like to take a peek at the manufacturing process? If you’ve ever been to a copper sheet supplier before, you probably have an idea of how these items first looked like before fabrication.

What is sheet metal fabrication?

Before catching a glimpse of the sheet metal fabrication process, let’s first take a further step back to know where the raw materials used in this process come from. Knowing the origin of these materials helps us get a sense of the immensity of work involved in manufacturing familiar metallic products.

All metals turned into industrial supplies start out as ores. Every day, thousands of tons of ores are being extracted in mines around the world. These ores are transported to smelting facilities where they are processed to separate the metals from the dregs. The collected metals then sent to foundries where they are melted and cast into blocks or plates of different shapes and sizes. Some foundries produce finished products, while others produce raw materials that need further work. And that’s where sheet metal fabrication comes in.

Sheet metal fabrication is a subset of metal fabrication that focuses on sheet metal. It’s the multifaceted process of creating metal structures out of sheet metals. It starts with flattening raw metals to a specific thickness and breadth through rolling, pressing, or hammering. Once the metal sheet or plate is ready, it goes through any of the following methods, depending on the desired output.

  • Cutting

    Possibly the most common of all processes involved in sheet metal fabrication, cutting produces metal pieces of precise dimensions, divide large sheets into several parts, and create accurate perforations. You can cut sheet metals manually using power tools or with laser cutters.

  • Blanking

    This cutting method involves cutting out a portion of the sheet metal based on a stencil. The excess material is discarded or recycled.

  • Bending

    Depending on the design, you may need to ben portions of the sheet metal cuts you’ve made. You can do this using press brakes and other tools. Large sheet metal suppliers like Rotax Metals use heavy-duty, cutting-edge equipment for bending metals parts.

  • Galvanizing

    To increase sheet metals’ corrosion resistance, their surfaces are coated with zinc. A good example of galvanized sheet metal is corrugated metal roofing panels. The zinc coating works effectively in prolonging the life of your roof.

  • Milling

    If the metal piece is still too thick and further reducing its thickness through rolling or stretching is impractical, milling is the next best course of action. It requires the use of a rotary cutter.

  • Shrinking

    Sometimes, the finished product has small dents on its surface that count as a defect. You can get rid of these dents by heating and stretching the metal piece a little bit until all of the dips disappear.

Types of Sheet Metal

Any metal with a considerable level of malleability can be transformed into thin sheets or plates and eventually fabricated through the previously mentioned processes. Tough and rigid metals are often combined with soft metals to produce malleable but strong alloys. Below are some of the common types of sheet metals.

  • Copper

    One of the most extensively used metals, copper possesses many valuable properties. Malleability is one of them, which is why copper is often cold-worked. Copper is also known for its high corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity, recyclability, and antimicrobial property. It combines well with other metals, too.

  • Brass

    An alloy of copper and zinc, brass is also extremely malleable. It’s no wonder many metallic products that consist of tubes and plates, such as musical instruments and cookware, are made of brass. This metal is famous for its gold-like appearance, but you can produce different colors of brass by changing its content proportions.

  • Bronze

    Another alloy of copper alloy, bronze is made of copper and tin. Both are corrosion resistance and extremely malleable, which is why bronze is a perfect material for a lot of machine parts and vehicle body. Many ships have bodies made of unique types of bronze.

  • Stainless Steel

    This metal comes in a vast array of grades. Like copper and its alloys, stainless steel is also corrosion-resistant even though it contains iron. The most common types of stainless steel are austenitic stainless steel (containing chromium and nickel), ferritic stainless steel (containing high levels of chromium but little nickel), and martensitic (does not contain nickel).

  • Aluminum

    There are many reasons why aluminum is a popular choice in both manufacturing and construction. For one, it’s corrosion-resistant like the previously mentioned metals. It also has an outstanding strength to weight ratio. And perhaps the most recognizable feature of this metal is its abundance. Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements on Earth.

Knowing which metals are malleable allows you to choose the right material for your sheet metal fabrication projects. Of course, each of these metals is available in different grades. To be sure which grade will work best for your projects, consult with expert brass suppliers. Explain the nuts and bolts of your project, and they can tell you the right type and grade of metal to use.

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