Brass is an alloy of zinc and copper which can be joined with other metals to make various products. Many musical instruments are made of brass such as trumpets, trombones, French horns, and tubas. Orchestras and concert bands both have brass sections made up of these instruments.
Other common items you may not realize are made of brass include doorknobs, railings, plumbing fixtures like faucets and sink drains and some watches. Many technical instruments are made of brass, such as compasses and barometers. Vehicle radiators are generally made from brass as well. They are less expensive to manufacture than radiators using other metals, they last longer, and are easy to recycle.
This very versatile alloy produces reliable products but does require some precaution on the behalf of the welder. Let’s explore what this means in greater detail.
What Makes Brass a Good Metal to Weld?
Welding brass can be a challenge. The zinc in the brass melts faster than the copper and other compounds in the brass. The zinc reacts with atmospheric gases to create the toxic gas, zinc oxide, which can cause short-term illness and permanent lung damage if inhaled.
On the other hand, although it is not the easiest metal to weld, brass is malleable and can be joined with other metals to create sturdy and durable joints. It is a good metal to use because it:
- Has good electrical conductivity and is resistant to overheating.
- Is corrosion resistant. This makes it a good material for sheathing ocean vessels since it can withstand oxidation from corrosive salt water.
- Is one of the easiest metals to machine.
- Is durable.
- Is malleable. Lead can be added to reduce malleability when needed.
- Has a high tolerance against fatigue and can withstand intense pressure.
What Components Make Up Brass?
As already mentioned, brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Generally, copper makes up about 67 percent of brass and the other 33 percent is zinc. The ratio can be modified to produce a specific type of brass.
Before you begin your brass welding project, you need to identify the percentage of zinc in the metal. Zinc melts at a lower temperature than copper, and you do not want to overheat the piece. Overheating can cause the brass to crack. Selecting the correct shielding gas can prevent cracking.
What Methods Are Used to Weld Brass?
Welding methods used include:
- MIG and TIG welding.
- Flame welding. Use a neutral, carburizing, or oxidizing flame depending on the results you are looking for and the percentage of zinc that is in your metal piece.
- Soldering may also be used to join bass pieces.
Gas welding should be avoided. It will cause the zinc to vaporize causing toxic zinc oxide fumes to be released.
Safety Precautions When Welding Brass
Welding brass creates safety issues, and the welder must use safety precautions to guard against negative health effects. Specific precautions include the following.
- Wear protective gloves and boots to prevent burns from zinc spatter. Zinc spatter is an inevitable part of the brass welding process.
- Use a fume extractor and respirator. You need protection against inhaling toxic fumes from gases like zinc oxide that are created by the brass welding processes. On a short-term basis, inhaling these fumes may result in flu-like symptoms that last from six to 24 hours. On a long-term basis, inhaling these toxic fumes can cause permanent lung damage. In addition to the fume extractor and respirator, be sure the area where you are welding is well-ventilated.
- A helmet with an auto-darkening feature is needed. When using MIG or TIG welding, it is important to protect your eyes from the bright arcs which can damage your eyesight.
- Remove all fire hazards from your work area. Never light your welding torch with a match or cigarette lighter.
Vern Lewis Welding Supply, Inc. Will Assist You With Your Brass Welding Project
At Vern Lewis Welding Supply, we maintain a complete supply of products needed for all types of welding. Our professionals help you choose the proper materials and tools for your welding needs.
We also offer classes and welding training to help you hone your welding skills. For more information, contact us online, or stop in at one of our eight convenient Arizona locations.