Select Page

Metalex Products – All about brass

Metalex products include brass, and we’re leading UK brass sheet suppliers. As stockists you’d fully expect us to be au fait with every aspect of the material, and you’d be right. Here’s our in-depth exploration of brass, its types, properties and uses.

Metalex Products – All about brass

Metalex products include brass, and we’re leading UK brass sheet suppliers. As stockists you’d fully expect us to be au fait with every aspect of the material, and you’d be right. Here’s our in-depth exploration of brass, its types, properties and uses.

Exploring metal supplies – What is brass?

Brass is an alloy which blends copper and zinc in a variety of proportions to create a range of different brasses, each with its own special properties. It’s a substitutional alloy, which simply means that the atoms of the two ingredients can replace each other in the same crystalline structure. Brass can also contain small amounts of arsenic, phosphorus, aluminium, manganese or silicon.

The ancient history of brass

Brass has been used for thousands of years. The old English word ‘brass’ can mean any bronze alloy, or copper, and the earliest versions of the metal were probably perfectly natural alloys created by smelting zinc-rich copper ore. The Romans made brass using copper and zinc minerals via the cementation process, a technology that lasted well into the 1800s. Another method, called speltering, involved copper and zinc metal being directly alloyed, something that was introduced to Europe in the 1500s. The famous Benin bronzes, some of the most magnificent and sophisticated African tribal art, are actually made from a lead-rich zinc brass.

How do you tell if it’s real brass?

It’s easy to identify genuine brass, simply because a magnet won’t stick to it. If your magnet sticks, it means you’re probably dealing with a piece of brass-plated steel or iron.

How to clean brass

A proprietary brass cleaner is good. But you can also clean brass using ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, yoghurt, white vinegar or a blend of milk and water, all of which contain the right kind of acids.

What is brass used for?

Brass is frequently used as a decorative metal because of its lovely gold-like shine. It’s perfect in low friction environments like locks, knobs, screws, valves, gears, bearings and ammo casings, and it’s often harnessed in plumbing and electrical applications. It’s traditionally used to make brass musical instruments too, combining easy workability with great strength, impressive durability and excellent acoustic properties.

It’s also commonly seen in applications where a spark or flame could be lethal, for example tools for use in environments where there are flammable or explosive materials. Brass is strong, beautiful, malleable, resistant to corrosion and able to withstand extreme temperatures. It’s also great for casting, easy enough to melt down and try again if things go wrong.

Brass and stress corrosion

Brass is vulnerable to cracking through stress corrosion cracking, particularly when ammonia and substances containing or releasing it are around. It’s often called ‘season cracking’ thanks to rotting brass bullet cartridge cases used in British Indian Army rifles during the 1920s. When they were stored in stables, close to ammonia from concentrated horse urine, brittle cracks appeared. The issue was solved by annealing the cases – in other words heating them then letting them cool down slowly – and storing the cartridges away from horses.

What is DZR, CR or DR brass?

You may have heard of dezincification resistant brasses, sometimes called corrosion resistant, perfect when there’s a high risk or corrosion and standard brass doesn’t fit the bill. Very hot water, chlorides and very soft water can damage ordinary brasses but the DZR types, while tricky to produce, are formulated to avoid long-term failure.

Brass as an anti-bacterial material

People have known about brass’ anti-bacterial properties for hundreds of years. It’s brilliant in marine environments, for example, where the copper in the metal works to kill micro-organisms remarkably quickly, often within minutes. It is even thought to play a part in combating the hospital ‘superbugs’ MRSA and VRSA.

Different types of brass

• Alpha brass is malleable. You can work it cold. It’s often used in pressing and forging and contains a high proportion of copper giving it a more golden colour than other brasses.
• Alpha-beta brass, AKA duplex brass, is perfect for hot work. It contains a higher proportion of zinc which makes it look brighter and shinier than alpha brass.
• Beta brass is perfect for hot work, and it’s both harder and stronger than the rest so ideal for casting. It comes with high zinc and low copper, making it the brightest and least gold-coloured than the rest.
• White brass is far too brittle for most uses, with more or less no yellow colour.

You need to ask questions about brass? No problem

If you have any questions abour the applications brass can be used for, its compositrion, the best type to use and what kinds of brass sheet we supply, we’ll be delighted to help.

Please complete the enquiry form located on this page, call +44 (0) 330 223 2653 or email us to discover how Metalex could be supplying you with premium metal products and professional metal processing services.

THE LATEST FROM THE BLOG

About aluminium tooling plate – Cast, rolled and moulded

A fine granular structure sits at the heart of aluminium tooling plate, a popular metal that rolls out of our place in large quantities - pardon the pun!About aluminium tooling plate – Cast, rolled and moulded A fine granular structure sits at the heart of aluminium...

Metalex news – Ups, downs and surprises in the world’s metal markets

Happy New Year! We hope 2021 will treat you well. Here's some news from our world to yours.Happy New Year! We hope 2021 will treat you well. Here's some news from our world to yours. China hits a daily record for aluminium production In November 2020 China’s primary...

About aluminium 6061 – Ideal for engineering and structural applications

Aluminium 6061 and 5052 are fairly similar, but 6061 is a lot stronger thanks to being a heat-treatable alloy. Loved for its many useful features, it is used more often than 5052 in engineering and structural applications. About aluminium 6061 – Ideal for engineering...

Ocean-floor exploitation, monolith mystery, sheet steel ships and golf clubs

As experts in metal supplies UK we're always on the look-out for exciting news. Here are four of the best stories form early December 2020, and here's wishing you luck whatever Tier you fall into.   Ocean-floor exploitation, monolith mystery, sheet steel ships...

About Aluminium 7075 – A popular engineering material

Aluminium alloys are known for their strength and lightness, which means they have a very wide range of uses. In the case of aluminium 7075 the properties of base aluminium are improved by the alloying element Zinc, which gives it new and exciting properties, plus...

Green controversy, copper fights back, super-yachts and more

Some metals businesses are fighting back against greener aluminium, a blow to sustainability and incredibly short-sighted. The latest all-aluminium super-yacht is making waves amongst the super-rich. Sustainable research vessel design takes a step forwards. And UK...

What is aluminium plate?

When aluminium is forced between rolls and placed under great under pressure, it gets longer and thinner. This is how aluminium plate is made, along with aluminium sheet and foil. Plate is probably the most widely used form of industrial aluminium, harnessed for a...

Sustainable aluminium cans, moderate falls in production, cool developments

As leaders in the UK metal supply scene, we're always fascinated by new and exciting stories about the metals we provide to our customers. This time around, as the pandemic rolls on, we're seeing some exciting stories around low carbon alternatives and re-usable metal...

Aluminium Extrusion – Everything you need to know.

Extruded aluminium can be formed into any shape or size. It's so popular and versatile that around half of all the aluminium we process and ship is extruded. If you're after round bar, square bar, flat bar, or hexagonal bar aluminium, they've all been extruded. Here...

Costly copper, rejected mines, tough emissions targets, and cool aluminium research

Copper prices have soared. The Philippines has rejected plans for a massive new copper and gold mine.  Brass is proving more desirable than anyone imagined in New Zealand. There's an innovative new way of recycling aluminium on the cards. One Brazilian mining firm is...

Accreditations & Associations

Aluminium Stockholders Association

Quick Enquiry

(no title)

  • South East
  • South West
  • London
  • South Wales
  • North Wales
  • West Midlands
  • East Midlands
  • North East
  • North West
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland

CALL METALEX NOW ON
0330 223 2653