Submitted by: Kent Klein
Brass is a great metal to cast with as it can provide some really great looking results. Many believe that brass, an alloy of zinc and copper, has been around since our prehistoric ancestors. Today brass is used for a multitude of products from coins to trumpets not to mention a whole bunch of other musical instruments.
The low melting point makes brass a really great material for metal casting since even the smaller home grown furnaces can be used. By adding and subtracting alloys from bronze one can successfully make hard or soft bronzes. Aluminum and tin are sometimes added to bronze to create a layer that is not corrosive and very durable. Of course, for the home foundry users, playing alchemist isn’t really an option or necessary and scrap brass is perfectly acceptable in many cases. Locating scrap pieces of brass should be sufficient enough for whatever project you have in mind. Due to brass’ gleam and yellow shine, many artists will use the alloy for sculptures, jewelry, and other decorative items. Other metal casters may choose to use brass for general hardware needs or vintage car restoration, and of course, whatever else they may choose.
Generally there are three casting methods that prove to be suitable for brass casting. Metal casters may choose to experiment with different methods and should not allow themselves to be limited.
Lost Wax casting is usually associated with bronze casting but can also be used for brass and for really any other metal. By using a wax model and covering it with a ceramic shell, artisans are able to inject the molten alloy which replaces the wax. Chipping away the shell will reveal the brass piece. Lost wax casting is used when a high attention to detail is needed. Artists or metal casters looking to create decorative brass pieces or sculptures will find that the lost wax casting technique will meet their needs far better than other techniques and methods.
Die casting is yet another method used for brass casting. Die casting is normally used in commercial foundries since the initial start up cost is undesirable for the smaller home foundries. By using a reusable mold created from steel, the caster will be able to create scores of identical products. Die casting with brass should be used if the caster or artists is planning to make multiples of one product and can find a viable market for those pieces.
Sand casting is probably the oldest type of casting and is still a popular method especially for small foundries. The brass is poured into sand molds and can create a unique look which may be preferred for the artisans. Sand casting tends to be the most economically sensible for small foundries and if the casting does not have to be incredibly attractive then this method is preferable for many.
Whichever casting method is used for casting the brass really depends on the individual. Many find that casting brass to be fun and easy since it does melt rather easily. A large expensive furnace is not a requirement when casting brass so first timers using small home made furnaces will find this alloy attractive. Many have even been able to melt brass in small ceramic pots using charcoal!
Some ideas of what to make with brass include candle holders, plumbing fixtures, and even musical instruments.
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