Introduction to Brass

Did you know, the earliest form of brass would have been made by accident?

As early as 3000 B.C. early Syrians knew how to blend copper with tin to make bronze. Tin and zinc (a primary component of brass) are remarkably similar in terms of colour and behaviour, and often zinc would be used mistakenly, creating brass.

Around 20 B.C onwards, metalworkers around the Mediterranean were able to tell the difference between zinc and tin ores, and began to blend zinc with copper to create coins, and other rudimentary household items.

Fast forward to 1746 when the German scientist, Andreas Sigismund Margraff determined the properties of zinc.

Soon after this, the process of mixing copper and zinc was created and brass was formally patented in England in 1781.

Righton Blackburns Brass

With one of the largest in-stock ranges of brass in the UK, we are able to offer a truly diverse selection of sheet, plate, bar, tube, wire, extrusion and composites across a wide variety of industries and markets.

Brass and its many manufacturing processes allow for a substantial range of diverse applications. Add to this its very unique properties such as acoustic quality and desirable look, and brass can expect a highly sustainable and prosperous future.

As laid-out, its uses are only limited by its manufacturing processes which continue to expand by innovation and creativity, and make brass a dependable and extremely flexible resource in today’s ever-changing world.

Righton Blackburns sincerely aims to be at the cutting-edge of these advancements and continue to supply an ever-growing customer base with professionalism, courtesy and a substantial ‘ready-to-go’ stock range.

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What is Brass?

  • Brass is an alloy created by mixing copper and zinc, the proportions are adjusted to create different brass applications and uses.
  • Basic brass is 33% zinc with 67% copper but these levels can vary considerably.
  • Lead is sometimes added to improve machinability.
  • Brass is noted for its high levels of corrosion resistance, it is highly machinable and easy to form into different designs. It is also known for its conductivity, toughness to extreme temperatures, spark resistance and low magnetic permeability.

Brass Types

How malleable the brass depends largely on its zinc content. Brasses containing more than 45% zinc cannot be ‘worked’ irrespective of whether they are hot or cold. These ‘white brasses’ are not used in the industry, though can be used for soldering in a granulated form. They also form the base for certain alloys used for die-casting.

The more malleable or workable brasses can be divided into those that are worked cold, which generally have less than 40% zinc, and those with a greater zinc content, which are best applied to hot working.

  • The primary group, known as the alpha brasses are widely used in the production of screws, ammunition casings, pins and bolts to name a few.
  • Beta brasses are less ductile but much more resilient and are best used for taps, windows, door fittings, and other fixtures.
  • Lastly, the alpha-beta brasses or the ‘hot-working’ brasses contain a higher zinc component - not as tough as the beta brasses but stronger than alpha brasses, they mix characteristics of both. Among this collection of brasses are the lead brasses, the lead element makes the brass more machinable. Then there are the naval and admiralty brasses, these utilise a small amount of tin to improve corrosion resistance, and are ideally used for saltwater. And finally, the aluminium brasses, which provide strength and resilience.
Brass Rod

Brass rods are tough sections of brass that are cut to specification, best utilised where electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance are the main factors, most often used for various fittings and fasteners.

Properties of Brass

Brass Characteristics

Brass Characteristics

  • More malleable than zinc or bronze
  • Anti-Microbial
  • Desirable resonance and acoustic quality
  • Low Friction
  • Ductile
  • Low chance of sparking
  • Low melting point
  • Good conductor
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Non-ferromagnetic (making it easier to separate from other metal for recycling)
  • Easy to cast
  • Easier to thanks to being non-ferromagnetic

Brass Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process used in brass production involves mixing raw materials into molten metal, which are then allowed to solidify. The properties and design of the solidified elements are then adjusted through a series of controlled operations to produce an end ‘Brass Stock’ product.

The brass Stock can then be utilised in many diverse forms depending on the required outcome. These include rod, bar, wire, sheet, plate and billet.

Brass tubes and pipes are formed by extrusion, a process of squeezing rectangular billets of boiling hot brass through a specifically shaped opening called a die, forming a long hollow cylinder.

The defining difference between brass sheet, plate, foil and strip is how thick the required materials are:

  • Plate brass for example has a thickness larger than 5mm and is large, flat and rectangular.
  • Brass sheet has the same characteristics but is thinner.
  • Brass strips begin as brass sheets which are then shaped into long, narrow sections.
  • Brass foil is like brass strip, only much thinner again, some foils used in brass can be as thin as 0.013mm.

Machining and Cutting of Brass Pipe, Bar and Tube

Machining is a ‘subtractive’ manufacturing process, meaning it removes material from a central design block, or ‘workpiece’ to create the desired part or product. It is a highly versatile process applicable to a whole host of metal and non-metal substances.

‘Pre-machining’ is a process where a roughing operation is used to remove significant amounts of material quickly and to produce a part-geometry close to the desired shape.

Both of the above methods all mass-producible central models from which varying products can be created, the end effect being that Brass projects can be completed in a much faster, and cost-sensitive way.

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Find your local Service Centre

An extensive UK network of Service Centres, backed up by a central distribution facility.

  • Experienced multi-product specialists

  • In-house state of the art processing facilities

  • Large fleet of bespoke delivery vehicles

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Introduction to brass