Brass Alloys and Their Applications

brass applications
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Brass is a general term for a set of copper-zinc alloys that may include additional metals such as lead. Different types of brass have different properties, but all brass is strong, machinable, tough, conductive, and corrosion resistant. This along with beauty and ease of production make brass one of the most widely used alloys.

Brass has, for centuries, been the metal of choice for many musical instruments.

It's an ideal alloy for the transport of water through pipes and fittings. It's also appropriate for use in marine engines and pump parts. It should not be surprising that one of the first commercial uses of brass was on naval ships. 

Another common usage of the metal comes from its non-magnetic nature. Clock and watch components, electrical terminals and munitions all require a metal that will not be affected by magnetism. 

While compiling a complete list of all of brass's applications would be a colossal task, we can get an idea of the breadth of industries and the types of products in which brass is found by categorizing and summarizing some end-uses based on the grade of brass used.

Free Cutting Brass

Alloy C-360 brass, also called "free cutting brass," is alloyed with copper, zinc, and lead. Free cutting brass is very easy to machine, but also offers the same toughness and corrosion resistance as other forms of brass.

Some uses for free cutting brass include:

  • Nuts, bolts, threaded parts
  • Terminals
  • Jets
  • Taps
  • Injectors
  • Valve bodies
  • Balance weights
  • Pipe/water fittings

Gilding Metal (Red Brass)

Gilding metal is a form of brass that is made up of 95% copper and 5% zinc. A soft brass alloy, gilding metal can be hammered or easily formed into desired shapes.

Its unusual deep bronze color and ease of use make it ideal for craft-related projects. It's also commonly used for artillery shells. Some other uses include:

  • Architectural fascias
  • Grillwork
  • Jewelry
  • Ornamental trim
  • Badges
  • Door handles
  • Marine hardware
  • Primer caps
  • Pen, pencil and lipstick tubes

Engraving Brass

Engraving Brass, also referred to as alloy C35600 or C37000, contains either 1% or 2% lead. Its name, not surprising, comes from its use in the creation of engraved nameplates and plaques. It may also be used for:

  • Appliance trim
  • Clock components
  • Builders hardware
  • Gear meters

Arsenical Brass

Arsenical brass (C26000, C26130 or 70/30 brass) contains about .03% arsenic to improve corrosion resistance in water. Like other forms of brass, arsenical brass is bright yellow, strong, and easy to machine. It's also an appropriate metal to use in plumbing. ​Other uses include:

  • Heat exchangers
  • Drawn and spun containers
  • Radiator cores, tubes, and tanks
  • Electrical terminals
  • Plugs and lamp fittings
  • Locks
  • Cartridge casings

High Tensile Brass

High tensile brass is a particularly strong alloy which includes a small percentage of manganese. Because of its strength and non-corrosive qualities, it is often used for products that undergo a good deal of stress.

Some examples include:

  • Marine engines
  • Hydraulic equipment fittings
  • Locomotive axle boxes
  • Pump casting
  • Heavy rolling mill housing nuts
  • Heavy load wheels
  • Valve guides
  • Bushes bearings
  • Swash plates
  • Battery clamps