Brass Alloys vs. Bronze

Neither brass nor bronze are naturally occurring elements, both metals are considered as alloys of copper which is naturally occurring and has its own unique properties and uses. Brass alloys are a combination of copper and zinc, bronze on the other hand is an alloy of copper and most frequently, tin. Both brass and bronze are used frequently although as unique alloys they also have unique properties, uses and history.

Properties:

1. Brass alloys are more malleable than either zinc or copper. Brass has a very low melting point, 900 degrees C and flows well when in the molten state. Although brass is predominately a mixture of copper and zinc, some grades have other additives as well such as aluminum, silicon, iron and manganese. These additives make brass more resistant to corrosion.

2. Bronze alloys are much harder and more brittle than brass. The normal melting point is 950 degrees C but this depends on the tin content. Bronze naturally resists sea water corrosion as well as being more fatigue resistant than steel.

Uses:

1. Brass alloys are used for decorative and low friction applications. Brass is found in door knobs, locksets, escutcheons and ammunition casing. It is also used extensively in applications where sparks must be negated and in musical instruments for its acoustic properties.

2. Because bronze is highly resistant to salt water it is used extensively for boat and ship fittings including propellers and bearings which are submerged. It too is used for musical instruments, cymbals and bells are bronze. Many sculptures are cast bronze as are electrical fittings for high tension use.

The actual composition of both bronze and brass alloys depends on the use they are destined for. Cartridge brass for example contains 30 percent zinc whereas naval brass had up to almost 40 percent zinc and was used aboard ships.

Brass is used extensively for musical instruments. Horns; tuba, trombone, trumpet etc are all made from brass alloy. Bronze also is used for musical purposes; some of the best bells are made of brass which contains 23 percent tin. Rarely will a professional drummer ever use anything other than brass cymbals; the particular alloy used for this purpose has been specially formulated for durability and timbre.

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