Brass - An Overview of This Useful Metal Alloy and Current Pricing(galvanneal vs galvanized Nick)

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Brass is a widely used metal alloy made up primarily of copper and zinc. Traces of other metals like aluminum, iron, silicon, manganese, and nickel are also commonly found in brass. The proportions of copper and zinc can vary to create different types of brass with unique properties and applications.
Brass has been utilized by humans for thousands of years. Archaeologists have uncovered brass artifacts dating back to 3rd millennium BC from regions like modern day Iraq. The Romans were prolific developers and users of brass. Today, brass remains an important industrial and commercial metal alloy due to its useful properties.
What Makes Brass Useful?
Brass possesses a desirable combination of properties from its main constituent metals, copper and zinc. Here are some of the characteristics that make brass so useful:
- Corrosion Resistance - Brass is more resistant to corrosion and oxidation compared to pure copper. This is very important for many outdoor and water-exposed applications.
- Machinability - Brass is relatively soft and easy to machine compared to other metals. It can be drilled, turned, milled, and tapped with standard metalworking tools.
- Strength - Brass is stronger than copper and can be made even stronger with high zinc concentrations. Its strength compares favorably to steel.
- Electrical Conductivity - Brass conducts electricity nearly as well as pure copper. Electrical components like connectors and wires are commonly made from brass.
- Cost - Brass is cheaper to produce than bronzes, another group of copper alloys. This makes it economical for many purposes.
- Attractive Color - Brass has a distinctive yellow color, even as it weathers and patinas. This makes it popular for decorative objects and architectural applications.
These useful attributes make brass suitable for a wide array of applications today.
Major Uses of Brass
Here are some of the primary uses of brass:
- Plumbing Fixtures and Pipe Fittings - Brass fittings and valves are ubiquitous in plumbing systems due to their corrosion resistance, machinability, and attractive appearance.
- Electrical Equipment - Wiring connectors, terminals, relays, and other electrical components often utilize brass parts.
- Architectural Features - Brass is frequently incorporated into decorative doors, railings, wall panels, lighting fixtures, and hardware in architectural designs. The Statue of Liberty is perhaps the most famous architectural object made from brass.
- Musical Instruments - Brass is the main material for many musical instruments like saxophones, trumpets, trombones, tubas, and cymbals because of its acoustic properties.
- Ammunition and Cartridge Casings - Spent brass cartridges from guns and artillery can easily be collected, recycled, and reloaded, making brass ideal for ammunition.
- Plumbing Fixtures and Pipe Fittings - Brass’s machinability, corrosion resistance, and aesthetic quality have made it the premier choice for faucets, shower heads, valves, couplings, and other bathroom and kitchenfixtures.
- Marine Components - Brass is often used for marine hardware and underwater fasteners because of its saltwater corrosion resistance.
- Locks, Keys, and Hardware - Brass has the strength required for locks and door hardware components while also resisting corrosion. Its color provides an attractive, upscale look.
Brass Classifications and Alloying
There are many different types and formulations of brass with properties tailored for specific applications. Some of the most common brass classifications include:
- Red Brass - Contains 15-20% zinc and highly copper rich. Used for plumbing fittings and marine hardware.
- Yellow Brass - The most common commercial brass with 30-35% zinc. Machinable and moderately strong.
- Naval Brass - Has around 40% zinc for increased strength and corrosion resistance for marine environments.
- Free Machining Brass - Contains lead additions to improve machinability when making precision parts.
- Leaded Brass - Small amounts of lead improve machinability without compromising strength. Used for valves and bearings.
- High Strength Brass - Very high zinc concentrations up to 45% to maximize strength for load bearing applications.
- White Brass - Has manganese substitution for higher strength and nickel for corrosion resistance. Used for ammunition components.
- Commercial Bronze - A high-zinc brass alternative containing 10% tin that is even stronger but more costly.
Alloying brass with elements like tin, manganese, silicon, aluminum, iron, and nickel creates varieties with enhanced properties tailored for specialized needs.
Brass Supply and Pricing
Brass is readily available from metal suppliers and distributors in a variety of common forms, sizes, and alloys. Here are some current representative pricing examples:
- Brass Sheet (12" x 12") - Around $15-25 per sheet for yellow brass sheet 0.020 inches thick.
- Brass Rod (1/2" diameter x 3ft) - Approximately $15-20 for 1/2" diameter rod of yellow brass.
- Brass Tubing (1" OD x 3ft) - Around $30-50 for 1" outer diameter yellow brass tubing with 0.035" wall thickness.
- Brass Angle (1" x 1" x 3ft) - About $18-25 for a 3 foot section of 1" x 1" brass angle.
- Brass Pipe Fittings - Prices vary by size and type but start around $1-5 each for common fittings like 90 degree elbows or T-joints.
- Brass Nuts and Bolts - similarly priced to steel fasteners, around $0.10-1 each for most common sizes.
So in summary, brass costs in the ballpark of:
- $15+ per pound for brass sheet stock and raw material
- $0.50-2 per pound for common brass hardware components
- $2-5 per pound for more specialized brass alloys and forms
These are general pricing ranges that can fluctuate based on specific alloys ordered, quantity purchased, and current market conditions. When sourcing brass for a project, getting supplier quotes for the specific items needed will yield the most accurate pricing information.
Brass has remained an important and versatile metal alloy for thousands of years thanks to its highly useful and balanced set of properties. It offers an excellent combination of strength, corrosion and tarnish resistance, machinability, electrical conductivity, and aesthetic appeal at reasonable cost. These attributes make brass ideal for plumbing fixtures, marine hardware, musical instruments, electrical parts, decorative architecture, ammunition casings, and numerous other essential applications. While more costly than steel or aluminum, brass’s unique benefits make it indispensable for certain uses. CNC Milling