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Blacksmithing and metalworking questions answered.

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Brass and Bronze Forging

Forging brass, bronze and copper alloys

George Dixon calls for using 16 gauge naval bronze and describes it as having good hot forging and cold chasing properties. Only problem with it is that it doesn't seem to exist. I called my local scrap dealers, the warehouse at the fabricators I deal with, and two metal dealers in Richmond. The closest thing they had was some HIGH dollar 1/4" diamond cut plate that had to be imported from one of those Pacific Rim countries called California.

My efforts once again insured me of a place on the far left side of the research curve. I have absolute confidence in the fact that if George Dixon said he was using naval bronze, that is what it was. He probably found it at the Yellin shop and it had probably been there since WWI.

  1. What is naval bronze?
  2. Where does it live?

P.S. Which just goes to prove why even if you are not totally lazy and to attempt to root out the answer to a question still need ANVILFIRE. Keep this site alive. . . . Donate!

Can you recommend a suitable substitute and a possible source of poundable sheet bronze?

L. Sundstrom - Wednesday, 06/20/01 20:32:53 GMT

Naval Brass: Larry this is most often mistakenly called Bronze, it is a brass. Also nearly the same as Muntz metal C28000.

Alloy 464 or C464000 to 467000

Cu 60%
Sn 0.8
Zn 39.2

Forgeability 90 compared to Forging brass alloy #377 at 100. This is similar to Cartridge brass. We have cartridge brass C26000 in our on-line store in almost any size and thickness you want.


Cu 70%
Zn 30%

The trick is that MOST of this stuff is delivered as-rolled in a hard temper. If you anneal it then it works like butter. Try forging some large brazing rod at a low red heat. . it says BUTTER! (like the TV commercial)

- guru - Wednesday, 06/20/01 23:06:08 GMT

Thanks, that really clears it up. one guy kept saying naval brass and I kept correcting him. "No, I said, BRONZE"

I also heard the word "Muntz" and I said "No, I want bronze". So, want should I ask for if I don't want the typical brass look, but want the look and color of what I am thinking "bronze" statues have. Would the C26000 you have in the store work. Maybe its a question of finishing rather then of materials. I've seen silver colored brass so maybe I have a mistaken concept of brass, origin...DRILL SARGENTS(grrrrrrrrrrrrin). Thanks,

Larry Sundstrom - Wednesday, 06/20/01 23:53:31 GMT

Brass vs. Bronze: Larry, "Brass" is Copper and Zinc. "Bronze" is Copper and Tin. Like brass the high copper bronzes are the most forgeable. "Gilding Bronze" is similar to one of the more forgeable bronzes.

When shiny brass looks very gold in color. Bronze looks more coppery. When well oxidized or patinated they both have a very similar green.

- guru - Thursday, 06/21/01 02:46:09 GMT

A few years ago, I received this information from the Copper Development Association, 260 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.
"Forging Brass" UNS C37700
Copper 59.5%
Lead 2%
Zinc 38%
"Architectural Bronze" UNS C38500.
Copper 57%
Lead 3%
Zinc 40%
Both are forgeable with heat. Some smiths tell me they have luck forging silicon bronze hot. It's the bronze they pour nowadays at the art foundries.

Frank Turley - Wednesday, 08/15/01 22:38:42 GMT

Guru, do you think I should worry about burning (as I have experienced in normal brass) muntz metal? If I'm correct the melting point should be lower than in normal brass(zinc having a lower melting point than copper) but I don't know how this will effect it's likelihood to disintegrate. BTW I'm torch heating it. Thank you guru.

Adam Smith - Thursday, 05/10/01 20:01:00 GMT

Brass, Muntz: Adam, most of these alloys show a slight blush just as they reach forging temperature. A little hotter then they melt. Generally these alloys don't fall apart too bad unless they have some lead in them. Many have lead to make them easier to machine.

- guru - Thursday, 05/10/01 20:22:41 GM

Non-Ferrous: Other than a few small articles in books like Dona Meilach's Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork there is little on non-ferrous forging other than industrial references.

There are MANY monels including some sold for architectural work. Monel 400 is one of the most common and is the most forgeable. It is worked at 1700 to 2150 (max) F. and shouldn't be soaked for long periods of time.

The most forgeable of the copper alloys is Forging Brass followed by Naval Brass. These are worked at around 1300°F. In bronze the Mangananese-Aluminium bronze is the most forgeable being 75% as forgeable as Forging Brass. Remember that brass and bronze is denser thus heavier than steel but it is not as strong so sagging is a serious problem in gates.

The biggest problem with working both these materials is removal of the oxidized surface. This requires pickling or sandblasting. It is a LOT of work if you want bright metal. This has to be done before polishing (another expense) which is very labor intensive.

The second problem is temperature control. Brasses and bronzes melt just a few hundred degrees above the forging temperature. It can be done in a coal forge but is very tricky. I always used a torch. You should plan on a temperature control furnace.

Actual forging of these metals is like working hot butter. Much detail or final work is done cold (or warm) the heat having annealed the metal.

I also recommend 304 stainless. It is a little more difficult to forge than mild steel but the resulting surface looks just like fresh forged steel. It also has the cleaning problems above. However, I have had good luck with out cleaning. You can use a combination of the black with polished highlights that works nicely for details.

Beware of bimetalic corrosion from attaching items made of these alloys to each other or to other metals. Be especially careful not to use fasteners of dissimilar metals. - guru - Saturday, 05/12/01 17:08:14 GMT

My question concerns the forging of brass, and since I'm certain you've at least touched on it before, I'll just get to the quick.

I have purchased and found brass, and in both cases, it is neither particularly maleable nor ductile. The rivets I have just keep muching, but the bar splits, cracks and crumbles.

It is both hot AND cold short...

Are there that many differences in brasses? And can anyone suggest a supplier, or type of brass to look for?

I've seen it done, but with the narrow forgeability window of the stuff I have, I am not certain it's something I want to play with.

Greg Clasby - Saturday, 11/25/00 01:12:55 GMT

Brass: Greg, Brass has a very narrow forgability range but forges easily in that range. A lot of the brass bar stock you find is leaded free machining stuff for screw machines. The lead separates if the brass is slightly overheated and the brass crumbles. .

A good source for lead free forgeable brass is uncoated brazing rod. It comes in rounds up to 3/8" (9.5mm). However it takes some searching to find a welding supplier that will sell part of a container.

McMaster-Carr sells Naval Brass (Alloy 474) which is one of the most forgeable copper alloys.

- guru - Saturday, 11/25/00 02:05:56 GMT

Brass: Here in Holland we have a series of different alloys of brass.If you want to hammer it you will have to use an alloys with a larger percentage of copper in it.

(Cu63,3-65%); Fe 0,05%max; Pb 0,05%max; Zn fills the rest of the alloy.

This is the alloy I use for smithing cups, bowls and boxes (the raising technique). There is and even softer alloy for spinning and die-stamping:

Cu 69-71%; Fe 0,05% max; Pb 0,05%max; Zn fills the rest.

We use it as sheet and as rod. The zinc is the metal that gives brass its hardness. The paler the brass the harder it will probarbly be.

Flux: In reaction to your answers first a thank you and then a slap in my own face. In silversmithing I use sulphuric-acid. The reason I didn't think of it,is because if I would use iron or steel in the acid and the use it for my silver, it would colour my silver an ugly pink which is very hard to remove. We use this acid also to remove our borax-residues. Borax is used for high-temperature soldering.

Dries Van de Voort - Saturday, 11/25/00 12:19:23 GMT

What is case hardening? can you case harden brass? Building black powder pistol, has brass frame. Can I just torch it to get same look?

Dan Hale - Friday, 05/25/01 01:00:19 GMT

Brass: Dan, Case hardening is the result of iron or steel absorbing carbon to form a hard "case". Fancy case hardening colors are the result of a very special case hardening process that both hardens the surface AND produces those marbled temper colors.

No, brass doesn't case harden or flame color. It does WORK harden. It CAN be colored dull greens via harsh chemicals but it is NOT recommended for guns. Brass is used for places that are to be polished up real pretty in this type work.

- guru - Friday, 05/25/01 01:24:10 GMT

. . . in forging bronze, I know there are many things to consider; The most important being what kind of brass/bronze to use. Some are pretty toxic when heated and worked. I forged bronze years ago, but forgot what "kind" it was. Whats the most commonly used bronze? Thanks.

noiseyforge - Thursday, 02/07/02

Avoid Beryllium bronze. Beryllium dust is very toxic and produces pneumonia like symptoms so that it is rarely diagnosed until it is too late.

Beryllium bronze is used to make spark free wrenches, tools and springs.

- guru - Thursday, 02/07/02 18:21:38 GMT

I found these low percentage silver silver solder at the below web page.

Filler Metal name: Braze 090
Typical Applications: For copper base alloys such as in band instruments;
or joint brazing-cyanide case hardening of steels.
Solidus: 1410'F/765'C
Liquidus: 1565'F/850'C
Max. Recom. Brazing Temp. 'F: 1665
Nominal Composition,%: 9Ag 53Cu 38Zn 18Cd
Joint Color as Brazed: Brass Yellow
Density Troy oz/cu in: 4.49

Filler Metal name: Braze 202
Typical Applications: For simultaneous brazing and heat treating of steels.
Solidus: 1315'F/710'C
Liquidus: 1500'F/815'C
Max. Recom. Brazing Temp. 'F: 1650
Nominal Composition,%: 20Ag 45Cu 35Zn
Joint Color as Brazed: Brass Yellow
Density Troy oz/cu in: 4.58

Filler Metal name: Braze 450
Typical Applications: For ships' piping, band instruments, aircraft engine oil
coolers, brass lamps.
Solidus: 1225'F/665'C
Liquidus: 1370'F/745'C
Max. Recom. Brazing Temp. 'F: 1550
Nominal Composition,%: 45Ag 30Cu 25Zn
Joint Color as Brazed: Yellow White
Density Troy oz/cu in: 4.80

terry l. ridder - Sunday, 12/01/02 01:15:00 GMT

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