Bronze vs Brass, What is the difference?

Bronze vs Brass, What is the difference?

Metal alloys are mixtures made from two or more chemical elements, one of which is metal. Essential in many industrial applications and in people’s daily lives, they bring together the best characteristics of different elements, but could you tell the difference between copper, bronze and brass?

Made from copper, these three alloys are very important to the industry. Its use varies according to the needs and applications of a business or activity and, in order to choose the best alloy, it is important to understand the difference between them.

Next, see the differences between copper, bronze and brass and see how to apply them to your business!

Copper: metal alloys and applications

Copper and its metal alloys are the third most traded metal in the world, you know? One of its main features is its high potential for thermal and electrical conductivity, in addition to its mechanical strength.

With a density of 8.94 g/cm³, copper is a metallic alloy that has high durability (slightly greater than that of steel). It is fatigue resistant as well as heat resistant with high melting temperature.

When commercialized, copper is mixed with other elements to achieve maximum performance in the industry.

  • Its main features include:

    Excellent electrical conductivity (it is widely used in places of electrical current to ensure a more directed flow);

    Resistance to wear and corrosion;

    Resistance to bacteria and microorganisms that cause disease (in most modern hospitals, door handles are made of copper, for example).

Brass: characteristics and applications of the metal alloy

Brass is part of the family of metal alloys. Its composition includes the combination of copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn). The material has an intense shine and this characteristic is essential for the aesthetics of products that use the alloy.

Its application is very wide, mainly in wind musical instruments (such as trumpet, flute and saxophone), parts of machinery, and production of tubes, weapons and faucets.

  • The main characteristics of copper include:
    High ductility;
    High thermal and electrical conductivity;
    High cost-effectiveness;Moreover,
    high production versatility;
    High corrosion resistance;High mechanical strength.

Bronze: composition and characteristics of the metal alloy

Bronze CNC machining parts

Bronze is also a metallic alloy composed of 67% copper and 33% tin. This ensures greater rigidity to the metal, as well as wear resistance.

Bronze metal alloys are used for a variety of applications, including making medals, bells, coins and statues.

Other possible applications, especially in industry, are: bearings, gears and related parts.

In addition to tin, other elements that can be incorporated into the mixture to produce bronze are zinc (Zn), lead (Pb) and phosphorus (P).

  • The advantages that this product offers to industries are:
    High mechanical strength;
    High ductility;
    High wear resistance;
    High corrosion resistance.

In today’s post we have set out to make clear the differences between brass and bronze. These materials from our product catalog are manufactured in different formats and have very varied applications in the DIY and industry sectors.

Stay with us to discover its manufacturing process, most common characteristics and differences!

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, which varies its physical properties depending on its composition. That is, depending on the amount of each of the two materials (copper and zinc) used in its manufacture.

As a general rule, it is usually made up of 60% copper and 40% zinc. However, these measurements may vary and, therefore, we can find brasses with different properties. It all depends on the proportions of copper and zinc that are used for its materialization!

  • Currently, brass stands out for having certain remarkable properties, such as:

    It is a material with a shiny appearance, easy to machine and malleable: it can be cold-formed, cut and welded to size easily and simply.

    It acquires a very good thermal conductivity : its melting temperature is 980ºC

    In addition, it has a very good electrical conductivity.

    It is also a hard and corrosion-resistant element and, therefore, is usually used as a material suitable for the manufacture of tap products.

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What is bronze and What is it use for?

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. Approximately, this alloy is made of 88% copper and 12% tin. However, these percentages can be altered and their characteristics, consequently, be affected.

Next, we highlight the main characteristics and uses of bronze:

  • Excellent handling:we highlight a widely malleable material with very versatile physical properties
  • Its melting point is more or less similar to that of brass: between 830 and 1020ºC
  • It also has a high electrical resistivity.

Main differences between brass and bronze

Both copper and brass have something in common: they are both alloys made with copper as the main element. What sets them apart is their transformation process. In other words, to obtain bronze it is necessary to expose the copper to very high melting temperatures, while for brass the opposite occurs.

Likewise, bronze is a material with low ductility, while that of brass is widely recognizable. Furthermore, brass turns out to be a more malleable material and its acoustic properties make it the ideal product for making musical instruments. However, bronze is harder and more resistant.

Finally, brass takes on a much brighter, gold-colored result, unlike bronze, which is usually darker.

Brass —which   has a shiny, golden appearance— is the product of an alloy of two metals: copper and zinc. It is a material that is easily molded (it has a lower melting point than iron, steel, bronze and copper), it has easy plasticity when hot stamping, it conducts electricity and heat well, it has good resistance to corrosion,… which means that its use has proliferated in utensils, ornaments and taps.

Major Industrial Applications

In industrial uses, its most important property is machinability, since it can be machined well by chip removal (improving when it contains the lead alloy). As it has a high resistance to wear, it is used to manufacture bearings, crowns, etc.

Many centuries before it was recognized as an element, zinc ores were used to make brass. The son of Lamak, of the seventh generation from Adam, is considered the master of blacksmiths and tinsmiths.

There is a wide variety of brass alloys. The most common contain between 30-40% zinc.

Brasses with a percentage of zinc below 20% are known as red brasses, because of their color. They are resistant to corrosion and cracks.

Yellow brasses contain between 34-37% zinc, have better manufacturing conditions but are less resistant to corrosion.

The most common has a bright yellow color, very similar to gold, which is why it is widely used in jewelry and decoration elements.

How do you differentiate between copper, bronze and brass?

Brass   is an alloy of copper and zinc, while bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.

Brass usually has a bright golden-yellow color, unlike bronze which usually has a darker color.

Thanks to its acoustic properties, brass is used in musical instruments such as the trombone and the trumpet. It is more malleable than bronze, which is harder and more resistant.

Copper is the origin, bronze and brass are alloys. The first one needs a very high fusion and its ductility is low, and in the case of the second it is the opposite, that is, low fusion and high ductility. Brass varies in color depending on the percentage of the alloy and what it is intended for.

Technically speaking, bronze is called any alloy based on copper, this being the majority component. There are tin, brass and aluminum bronzes, but also silicon, iron, etc.

Brass bars for turning machining

Usually bronze is the alloy with tin and brass is the alloy with zinc.

As is normal, most alloys are not binary, so we can find bronzes and brasses that include other minor alloys in their composition.

Aluminum bronze with low magnetic properties, resistant to corrosion and cavitation erosion, is known as marine bronze. Its typical composition is 83% Cu, 9% Al, 4% Fe, 4% Ni. Aluminum gives it low magnetic properties, iron and nickel increase its mechanical strength, and manganese is also often added to improve its ability to fill moulds.

The color is not a clear indication of its composition, although it is related to it; for example, a 90/10 brass (90% Cu and 10% Zn) is reddish, while a 70/30 brass (70% Cu, 30% Zn) is yellow.

Minor elements and surface treatments can also modify the color, so it has to be observed on a flat and polished surface of the material.

The surface appearance has nothing to do with the composition, but rather depends on the manufacturing process.

Brass and bronze and their differences

Knowing what brass is and what is bronze, it is easy to tell them apart. Both come from the transformation of copper through an alloy.

On the one hand, brass is the alloy formed by the combination of copper and zinc. On the other hand, bronze is an alloy formed by the combination of copper and tin.

Brass has a shiny appearance and stands out for being malleable and easy to machine. It also has optimal thermal conductivity as well as good electrical conductivity. In addition, it is resistant to corrosion and a highly durable material.

Bronze has great electrical resistivity and physical properties that give it great versatility.

However, it is a material with low ductility and less malleable than brass. His appearance is also darker.

These two materials differ even in the copper transformation process. Both are made by fusion, but while bronze requires very high temperatures, brass requires the opposite.

How to clean brass and bronze?

Both brass and bronze are materials that can get dirty and have a worn look.

It is not necessary to replace them with new materials, but we can clean them in many ways and restore their original appearance.

To clean brass we can choose between the certified cleaners for this material that are on the market or use natural remedies. In fact, there are many options for it:

  • We can combine lemon juice with baking soda to get a paste that we will apply on the surface. After 30 minutes, rinse with warm water and pat dry.
  • We can also cut a lemon in half and cover its surface with salt. Rub the lemon across the worn brass area, squeezing out a little juice at a time. Then apply warm water and pat dry.
  • The combination of flour, salt and white vinegar also allows us to create a paste with which to clean the heel. Let it act for an hour before removing it with warm water and drying it.
  • To clean bronze as it happens with brass, here we have several options, from choosing specific market products for this material, to home remedies:

    In a container with water put a tablespoon of salt. In another container with water put two tablespoons of baking soda. Put the bronze piece in the first container about 10 minutes. Then put it in the second container the same time. Use a paper to remove the accumulated rust; you will see that it comes out easily.

    Spray a little vinegar on a cloth. Wipe the tarnished brass surface with the cloth, and then dry it with another cloth that is not damp. Multiple passes may be required.
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