Beneficial Properties and True Worth of Brass

brass bowls and incenseBefore brass became one of copper’s most essential alloys, it was first thought to be just the result of a flaw in the manufacturing process, considered as either bronze or copper depending on which it resembles more. Today, brass is identified as a metal on its own just like bronze and copper as well as extensively utilized for a wide array of applications. But where does brass come from and what applications is it used for?

What is Brass?

Brass is produced by mixing zinc and copper. It is believed to have been discovered purely by accident when early metallurgists melted zinc-rich copper ore. Until the post-medieval period, the zinc vapor that such copper ore contains was not recognized as a metal. Various other metals are added into the mixture to produce a variety of brass types. Adjusting the amount of zinc also helps produce brasses of different qualities.

By adding just a little bit of other elements, such as arsenic, lead, phosphorus, aluminum, manganese, and silicon, and experimenting on their proportions, you can produce a wide variety of materials. It’s no wonder there’s an endless list of alloys under the brass category, each of which has a considerable level of industrial function.How much is brass worth?Well, the best way to understand brass’s quick ascent to popularity, and how it caught up with copper and bronze in a heartbeat, is to know its properties. After all, a metal’s usefulness is determined by how many useful properties it has.

Properties of Brass

Compared to bronze, brass has higher malleability and lower melting point, making it very easy to cast. Make no mistake, though, as this does not make brass any less durable. Brass also does not belong to the ferromagnetic class of metals. Meaning, it has a significantly low to no susceptibility to magnetization. This makes it easy to separate brass from ferrous scrap for recycling. Almost 90 percent of all brass alloys are recycled, making brass one of the most eco-friendly metals to use for large-scale applications.

Creating a ferromagnetic type of brass is also possible. You just have to mix a little bit of iron with it. This is often done when trying to increase brass’s wear and tear resistance. Of course, other elements are added along with iron, including silicon and manganese, to reach a desired durability. Otherwise, brass will only adopt iron’s ferromagnetic property without any increment in its durability. With these qualities alone, it wouldn’t make sense to keep asking “What’s brass worth?”

Because of the softness and malleability of brass, it’s very easy to cut and machine after being extruded, eliminating the need for a cutting fluid, which not only adds to the cost of manufacture, but also affects the metal’s overall quality. When mixed with aluminum or tin, brass becomes stronger and more resistant to corrosion. It forms a thin layer of oxide that acts as brass’s shield against corrosion by harsh substances. The resulting material is highly suitable for seawater applications, since seawater is ten times more corrosive than fresh water.

In case you want to force corrosion on brass to produce a particular color or texture, you can apply a variety of chlorides, acetates, ammonia, and certain acids. Unlike other metals, however, the corrosion of brass manifests as an additional layer of material called patina, as opposed to depletion of its surface. Those who are asking the question “Is brass worth anything?” can re-educate themselves of the many beneficial properties of the metal.

Classifications and Alloys

Brasses are classified according to the amount of zinc they contain. Those that contain below 35 percent zinc are called alpha brass. Having a high proportion of copper, these brass alloys are extremely malleable and resistant to corrosion. They are also recognizable in their gold-like appearance. Brasses with 35 to 45 percent zinc, on the other hand, are classified as alpha-beta brasses. They are obviously harder and stronger than alpha brasses, which is why they are often hot worked.

If you increase brass’s zinc content to a little under 50 percent, you’ll create beta brasses, which are harder than both alpha and alpha-beta brasses, and also requires a higher temperature when hot worked. It has the brightest color among all the classifications of brass as well. Increasing the zinc content of brass from this point isn’t advisable as it makes brass too brittle to use.

So far, there are over 60 different types of brass, each of which belongs to one of the classifications discussed above. The most prominent types include the admiralty brass, which has a little bit of tin to fight off dezincification; aluminum brass, which is extensively used for making heat exchanger and condenser tubes; manganese brass, the most ideal material for gold coins in the United States; Muntz metal, used as a lining on boats to prevent fouling; and nickel brass, used for making pound coins.

So is brass worth anything today? There’s your answer. As long as the industries that rely on it continue to grow, the worth of brass won’t diminish. Unlike gold and silver, brass isn’t very popular. Neither is copper and yet it is used for more applications than all famous metals combined. Brass, being an alloy of copper, will remain in demand for a long time. You just have to make sure that you’ll source your brass supplies from a reputable provider like Rotax Metals.

Properties and Applications of Copper Sheet Metal

Metals are classified into two types. Those that contain iron and are widely utilized for large-scale construction and industrial applications are classified as ferrous metals, while those that don’t contain iron and are often exploited for their electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, and antibacterial properties are classified as non-ferrous.

The latter is regard as high-end for a number of reasons apart from the above-mentioned properties. Most of the metals that belong to that class are quite elusive or hard to come by. Their ores are either entrenched deep into the earth or simply rare. Furthermore, the industries that utilize them also belong to a sophisticated bracket, including electronics, telecommunication, and aerospace.

Of all the non-ferrous metals, copper is arguably the most influential. There’s gold and silver that everyone knows about, but when it comes to usability, they don’t come close to copper. The fact that this metal has been around for longer than all the timelines of all other metals combined is a proof of that. Man has used copper for over ten thousand years and its reign is far from over. It’s not difficult to understand why copper is still extensively used despite the emergence of numerous other non-ferrous metals. It has to do with its amazing properties.

Properties of Copper

Our dependence on copper for many of our daily necessities comes from its many properties, which allow it to be turned into materials that are valuable in manufacturing basic commodities and utilities. There are many other metals that have similar properties but they are either not as stable or far less abundant. Let’s take a look at some of the properties that make copper a great metal.

  • Malleability

    – Copper can be hammered or rolled into thin sheets or plates without breaking. In fact, there’s a vast range of thicknesses copper can be manufactured into that distributors have made an entire copper sheet thickness chart. Each option can be used for highly specific functions from machine plating to surface embellishment.

  • Ductility

    – Copper can be drawn into small wires as well. Most of the electrical cables used in buildings have a copper core. Unlike other metals that become breakable in strips, copper remains hard even when it’s drawn into strands of very small diameters.

  • Corrosion Resistance

    – Many artifacts that date back several thousands of years are made of copper, which gives us a clue how long this metal can last. Copper, surely, corrodes just like any other metal. It’s just that the substances that can corrode it aren’t as common as those that corrode other metals.

  • Electrical Conductivity

    – It’s not just copper’s ductility that makes it a favorite material for making wire cores. Copper is also known to have superior electrical conductivity. It’s the second most highly conductive metal on the planet, next to silver.

  • High Heat Capacity

    – Copper can withstand very high temperatures, including heat produced by high voltages, which is also a reason why it’s the ideal material for making electrical wires. While silver has a higher electrical conductivity, it heats up very fast, causing fire hazards.

  • Antimicrobial Property

    – Most non-ferrous metals have the ability to release ions that damage certain proteins in microbes, killing them in the process. Copper, being the king of the non-ferrous, can decimate a great deal of bacteria in a short span of time, which is why it is ideal for making tubes and containers for water distribution and food processing.

Copper Sheet Metal Applications

Copper can be manufactured into different forms but it’s most popular in sheet form. After all, there are tons of applications that require copper sheets. Regardless of the copper sheet thickness, there will always be a use for it. This metal product is so popular you have trouble identifying where to buy copper sheets whenever you find the need. Here are some of applications of copper sheet metal.

  • Welding Fixtures

    – Before welding product parts, their geometry must be secured using welding fixtures to ensure the quality of the final product. Copper alloys are ideal for such application. In case you are building your own welding setup and asking “how thick should my copper sheet be?” there are guides online that you can follow.

  • Ground Straps

    – Any system or machine that runs on electricity must have a ground strap to protect essential components and people from electrostatic discharge (ESD).

  • Plumbing Fitting

    – Copper, being resistant to corrosion, is an ideal material for flashing. It’s even perfect for roofing but, since copper is expensive, many people don’t find it practical.

  • Power Transmission

    – Most sprockets, sheaves, belt pulleys, and bushings used in power transmission systems are made of durable and wear-resistant metals. Many alloys of copper fit the criteria.

  • Heat Exchanger

    – The majority of components of heat exchangers are made of copper or its alloys, thanks to copper’s high heat capacity.

If you are planning to use metal sheet or plate in your project, copper sheet metal must be first on your list of options. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if you get expert advice from a world-class copper sheet supplier like Rotax Metals to know which metal is most suitable for your project or whether or not the standard copper sheet thickness would suffice. Moreover, you can easily get lost in the plethora of choices available so it pays to have a detailed discussion with the supplier.


Copper Alloys and Their Architectural Applications—Bronze Curtain Rods, Brass Railings, and More

copper rods for recyclingWhen we think of construction, the first metal that comes to mind is steel. While it’s true that steel plays a vital role in a building’s stability by acting as reinforcement to columns and beams, it’s not the only metal used in construction. There are many others, most of which are copper alloys. You’ll see them when you take the stairs or the elevator, when you open the door to your home or apartment, or when you take a shower.

Why Copper Alloys Are Architecture-Friendly

Ever since copper was discovered around 10,000 years ago, we’ve become obsessed with exploring its capacities, and all the hard work has paid off well as we now see so many alloys of copper being utilized extensively for various practical applications. But why exactly are copper alloys so in demand in construction? Surely there are many other metals out there that look as good as them. Well, as it turns out, copper alloys possess certain desirable properties that other metals are deficient in or lack completely.

Architects love copper alloys because they offer some kind of design freedom. No other metals are flexible enough to give architects so many options to create designs that are both stunning and enduring. Copper alloys come in an amazing diversity of colors and surface textures as well as a vast array of available product forms, including tubes, bars, and sheets. Thanks to their incredible malleability, copper alloys can adapt to all shapes, dimensions, and luster requirements.

Copper alloys are also very easy to join both mechanically and metallurgically. Having a stable molecular structure, they are extremely durable as well. Some copper-based items from the ancient times still survive today, thanks to copper’s unmatched ability to resist corrosion. Despite that, it’s amazing how many ways you can tint, oxidize, or alter their color. Their thermal and electrical conductivities are off the charts, too. Simply put, there are no metals out there that can match copper alloys when it comes to architectural litheness.

How Copper Alloys Are Identified

As the list of copper alloys grow longer each year, it’s becoming harder and harder to classify them. The risk of mistaking one alloy for another is increasing radically, and it’s not a simple problem. Even choosing an alloy that’s only slightly different from what you actually need could lead to a disaster. This is why we use the Unified Numbering System (UNS) for metals and alloys in North America. In this system, metal alloys are arranged into groups based on their chemical composition, or more specifically on the main and secondary elements they consist. For instance, all copper alloys with zinc as the secondary content are classified as brasses and those that have tin are classified as bronzes.

In the UNS, copper alloys are denoted C followed by five numerical digits. Each combination is unique and represents a particular alloy. UNS designations for other types of metals follow the same format but use different letters. There are currently about 800 copper alloys identified using the UNS. Imagine having to name them the traditional way; that would be utterly confusing. The UNS can help eradicate confusions even in the simplest of ways, such as when selecting bronze shower rods, bronze curtain rods, or stair railings.

Five Principal Families of Copper Alloys and Their Uses

As previously mentioned, copper alloy designations are determined by their secondary content, and so are their families. There are five principal families of copper, each of them with a different primary inclusion. Before proceeding to learning how to install fixed shower curtain rods or how to preserve the luster of your brass furniture, first find out the different families of copper alloy available and their uses.

  • Coppers

    – Although not necessarily alloys of copper (because metals considered alloys contain two or more metallic elements), metals of different grades and thicknesses that are made purely of copper belong to this category. Their differences in physical properties are due to their thickness and the manner by which they were manufactured. Copper material suppliers usually have a separate catalog for this group of copper alloys.

  • Bronzes

    – The oldest known alloy of copper, bronze is made up of copper and tin. A small portion of other metals are also added to produce different varieties, consequently benefiting diverse applications. Phosphor bronze, for instance, is 0.01% to 0.35% phosphorous. The resulting alloy can be used for fasteners, welding rods, and heavy duty bridge plates. Silicon bronze, on the other hand, is 2.80% to 3.80%, making it the most fluid of all copper alloys and it has excellent corrosion resistance as well. You may not notice it but many of your household furniture and fixtures may be made of bronze, including bronze shower curtain rods and bed frames.

  • Brasses

    – Replace tin with zinc as the secondary alloying content of copper and you’ll produce brass. This gold-like alloy is available in a wide range of product forms, including plate, sheet and strip for interior wall and column cladding, tubes and rods for fixtures and railings, wires for screens and grillwork. Like bronze, different types of brass can be produced by adding other metals into the mixture. Brasses can be find both indoors and outdoors.

  • Copper Nickels

    – Due to their high corrosion and tarnish resistance, copper nickels (also called cupronickels) are well-suited for coinage. Many of the coins we have in the United States are made from certain types of copper nickels.

  • Nickel Silvers

    – This group of copper alloys is often mistaken for brasses as both groups share certain qualities. The only difference is nickel silver’s warm, silvery white color (even though it contains no silver), which is why it is also popularly known as white silver.

Whether you’re looking to renovate your bathroom and include shower rods bronze setup or simply beef up your kitchen with a shiny counter cladding, copper alloys are your best bet. Remember to consult with a certified copper sheet supplier like Rotax Metals if you are not familiar with the different types and grades of copper alloys so that you can pick the right material for your project. By giving them details of your plan, they can help you narrow down the vast choices available.


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