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Thread: Plumbing brasses

  1. #1

    Plumbing brasses

    I've been gathering brass plumbing fittings for casting, but I was wondering about the differences between old plumbing, and modern lead-free brass. The old stuff is standard 85-5-5-5 I believe, but modern lead free brass uses bismuth (in addition to zinc and tin) to replace the lead. This effects torch soldering for pipes (new stuff doesn't conduct heat as well so takes a little more care with the torch), but how would it effect casting? Is it possible to tell the difference in color? I've heard of yellow versus red brass, but this isn't ornamental stuff so I wouldn't think the cheap brass is usable in plumbing. Is it fine to mix? I would think the end product would just split the lead content with bisthmuth in amounts depending on how many of each kind I have.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Wolfcreek-Steve's Avatar
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    I would take a small amount of each, melt them down together and see what I get. Fluidity, gas bubbles, etc. One good experiment is worth a thousand expert opinions!
    What is that squeaking noise?

  3. #3
    Good idea! I'm assuming the old crummy looking ones are 85-5-5-5 but the nicer looking ones are harder to tell a difference. I wish I could say for sure which is which, otherwise I can't be sure of the results of an experiment. I might try to melt the batch I have now into an ingot and see what happens, I just got a bunch of screws that I think are zinc so adding lost zinc in small amounts would be easy.

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    Senior Member HT1's Avatar
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    dont just melt it all together... I would sort out the obviously cast red brass fittings, and separate them from any fittings that appear to have not been cast at the very least and then make a third I dont know pile . this gives you at least one pile that you know will work as a cast alloy.

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    [QUOTE=Rufledt; I just got a bunch of screws that I think are zinc so adding lost zinc .[/QUOTE]

    If you check those screws with a magnet you may find they are zinc coated steel. A better source of zinc would be pennies minted after 1985.

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    Senior Member HT1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by So. Addison View Post
    If you check those screws with a magnet you may find they are zinc coated steel. A better source of zinc would be pennies minted after 1985.
    go to a boat shop and ask for zinc anodes that comply with MIL-A-18001 K , they are 99.5% zinc. an unthreaded rod is probably the cheapest way to get them, if you cannot find a boat marina throwing used ones out...A little note zinc anodes are only used in salt water so they maybe hard to find in landlocked locations

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    Senior Member Bob S's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rufledt View Post
    I've been gathering brass plumbing fittings for casting, but I was wondering about the differences between old plumbing, and modern lead-free brass. The old stuff is standard 85-5-5-5 I believe, but modern lead free brass uses bismuth (in addition to zinc and tin) to replace the lead. This effects torch soldering for pipes (new stuff doesn't conduct heat as well so takes a little more care with the torch), but how would it effect casting? Is it possible to tell the difference in color? I've heard of yellow versus red brass, but this isn't ornamental stuff so I wouldn't think the cheap brass is usable in plumbing. Is it fine to mix? I would think the end product would just split the lead content with bisthmuth in amounts depending on how many of each kind I have.

    I have been mixing reds and yellows together and haven't run into a problem. I mainly do it when remelted red brasses start to get too red in color from the zinc burn off and adding high zinc yellow brasses like 70-30 to keep them in a close color match to other pieces already cast and needed to have the same color on an assembled project.

    When did the EPA issue a requirement to stop using lead go into affect on plumbing castings? I have read about it in my monthly foundry mags but didn't see the starting date but have heard of the problems they have had on producing them without lead. To date I haven't run into any scrap that's been that new to see a problem if mixed.

    The main reason for wanting to keep 5% lead in red brass has to do with machining pieces after casting. Same goes for small amounts of lead placed in steel like in 12L14. If you get a chance to cut threads first on a rod of cold rolled steel then do the same on a rod of 12L14 you will soon see the difference, it cut like butter. Down side it can't be welded. Bob
    I used to spend my time to save money but now I'm willing to spend my money to save time.

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    Senior Member HT1's Avatar
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    http://www.wateronline.com/doc/are-y...lead-free-0001

    once again California is jerking us all around.
    It seems the earliest was 2010, with 2014 being nation wide including Canada to the north. so really you probably are not seeing lead free brass as scrap yet in a quantity to be concerned with.

    V/r HT1

  9. #9
    These new ones are still cast and aren't exactly yellow brass. I'm new to this so I might be wrong, but yellow brass is copper with a high amount of zinc, right? Like a third or so? This new plumbing stuff looks a lot like the old stuff, and is copper with some zinc, some tin, and some bismuth. I don't know percentages though.

    My small assortment of plumbing brass fittings comes from some scrap and also some newer pieces. I'm an appliance repair guy in real life, and many kits, especially for ice makers or dishwasher installs, include a brass fitting or two in case of an old house with copper plumbing or old machines with no longer used brass fittings. The water here destroys copper pipe (and many appliances) in short order so we often replace rotten copper pipe with plastic line and fittings. Until recently we just pitched it all in the trash, but now that I have this foundry I'm saving them. As a result I have a small but steady source of plumbing brass, but the new fittings we don't use from the kits may or may not be the new stuff. It was a couple years ago only that the switch went nationwide, and these kits likely sat in a warehouse for some time, then sat in the truck for sometime.

    I suppose I could go to the hardware store and buy a new brass fitting that should be the new bismuth-zinc-tin brass and use it for a basis of comparison?

  10. #10
    for zinc, we dont have any salt water around here. the zinc screws were tested with a magnet, non ferrous. they are from a junk LG washing machine. the door hinge too is a big chunk of cast aluminum and zinc. they use a lot of zinc in samsung and LG washers, its part of the reason for the tubs breaking off (and exploding in the case of samsung toploaders). the tub is stainless, but the shaft and struts are zinc. Add soapy water and potentially softener salt (in my area) and the struts get eaten away.

    the good news is i can melt the remains. cant do that with a Whirlpool or speed queen.

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