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Brass vs. Bronze: The Difference Between the Two Metals

by Judith Lepage
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Brass and Bronze are both copper-based alloys that have a wide range of uses. But when it comes to picking between the two for a hardware job or project, you should compare brass vs. bronze in terms of price, strength, and unique properties. The differences are subtle but can make a big difference depending on the application. This blog will give you a general idea of how to decide between the two.

What is Bronze?

Bronze

When you compare brass vs. bronze, the main difference you will note is the metals they are alloyed with.

Bronze is a metal alloy that consists primarily of copper with about 12% tin but may also include other metals such as aluminum, manganese, nickel, or zinc. Bronze was the first commonly mined metal and has a history of use that goes back to 3500 BC.

Traditionally, bronze was made by heating the tin ores and copper till they both became liquid and combined to form a new substance when dried.

Today, however, bronze is made with pure copper and tin and may also include non-metals or metalloids to help achieve a certain property, such as arsenic, phosphorus, or silicon.

Properties of Bronze

Properties of Bronze

#1. Bronze is hard but not as hard as steel. It has a tensile strength of 34,800 psi whereas steel generally has a tensile strength of over 58,000 psi, to give you a numerical comparison.

#2. Bronze is brittle. It requires a lot of force and can be bent slightly but beyond a certain point will snap.

#3. The melting point varies slightly depending on the alloy, but it generally melts at approximately 1675℉.

#4. Bronze is a better conductor of heat and electricity than steel.

#5. Bronze is corrosion-resistant.

#6. Bronze is reddish-brown in color.

Applications of Bronze

Applications of Bronze

#1. Because it was easy to make, bronze was popularly used for making coins over thousands of years and is still used for coinage in some countries.

#2. Its present-day industrial applications include bearings, clips, springs, industrial castings, and electrical connectors.

#3. Because of its resistance to corrosion, bronze is also used to make sculptures and works of art.

#4. Bronze creates a warm, deep sound when it’s struck, making it great for use in guitar strings, bells, gongs, and other instruments.

#5. Because of its resistance to seawater corrosion, bronze is also used to make various watercraft engine parts, pumps, and propellers.

What is Brass?

Brass

Brass is also a copper alloy but made with zinc, and there’s usually no tin. It’s a far walk from bronze in terms of mechanical properties despite the two being copper-based. The primary reason for this is the higher ratio of zinc to copper in brass as compared to bronze. Brass typically has 66% copper and 34% zinc.

It’s believed that brass first came to be used around 500 BC. There have been brass bowls excavated in Egypt dated back to the 5th Century BC. Eventually, brass became more common throughout Europe, especially Rome, for being tougher than bronze and easier to mine and smelt than iron.

Properties of Brass

Properties of Brass

#1. Brass is harder than Bronze and comparable to steel. It has a tensile strength of 52200 psi although this can vary with the percentages of zinc alloyed to it.

#2. Brass is much more machinable because it doesn’t snap. It’s malleable.

#3. Brass has a melting point of approximately 1710 ℉.

#4. Brass is an excellent conductor of both electricity and heat.

#5. When combined with iron, aluminum, and silicon manganese, brass is also pretty corrosion-resistant.

#6. Brass is a shiny, reflective yellow in color.

Applications of Brass

Applications of Brass

#1. Because of its luster and warm tone, brass was commonly used for jewelry and ornaments throughout history and is still used for decorative purposes today.

#2. Brass is widely used for mechanical applications such as fasteners, connectors, tools, appliance parts, and ammunition rounds.

#3. Like bronze, brass is also used a lot in various musical instruments for its acoustic properties. Although brass produces a much richer sound.

#4. Due to its corrosion-resistance property, brass is also used in plumbing lines.

#5. Brass is great for applications that require low friction, such as locks, gears, and bearings.

#6. Brass is an excellent conductor of electricity and is used in many electrical components and circuits.

The Differences Between Bronze and Brass

Copper is enhanced much better when combined with zinc instead of tin, which gives brass its higher strength and ductility. When it comes to strength, in a match of brass vs. bronze, brass wins.

Brass is also a better conductor of electricity than most bronzes, with a difference of as much as 21%. On average, brass tends to have a lower melting point too, so it’s easier to cast.

When it comes to price, however, bronze is slightly more expensive than brass because of the differences in their distinct manufacturing processes.

Bronze has a slightly higher level of resistance to corrosion, so it’s more commonly sought after for ship components than brass. This is also why it’s used to make sculptures and works of art.

Which is Better — Brass or Bronze?

Because they’re both so similar, sometimes it’s tricky to make the decision of whether brass would be better for you or bronze. However, instead of settling it with a coin flip, assess what sort of application you intend to use it for.

If you need something that’s more corrosion-resistant for watercraft components, it’s bronze. But if you seek a tougher metal that can withstand impact, such as ammunition, brass is a better choice.

A Few Parting Words

Hope you found this brass vs. bronze comparison insightful. They’re both prolific metals with a history of use dating back to the ancient period. Both offer extensive versatility at an economic price. So, when you’re choosing between the two, it comes down to the specifics of the application to determine which one is better.

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