Where can I learn about brass working?

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Forum topic by Benvolio posted 06-20-2014 12:57 PM 1805 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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148 posts in 1953 days

06-20-2014 12:57 PM

... it seems like every man and his dog is chattin wood work on youtube/blogs/tutorials etc these days, but I really want to get better at working brass to include in my projects

I’m sure there’s people out there sharing their knowledge and expertise (not least because of the steampunk trend), but can anyone send me to any resources as my searches are comin’ up empty?

much thanks


-- Ben, England.

15 replies so far

View reelman65's profile


35 posts in 2701 days

#1 posted 06-20-2014 01:33 PM


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3953 posts in 1709 days

#2 posted 06-20-2014 01:36 PM

Ben, I don’t know of any sources off the top of my head, but it would help to know what you want to do with brass. For example, cutting, bending, turning, soldering, casting, etching, etc. I have a little experience, but not much. Do you have specific questions on working with brass?

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works

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196 posts in 1830 days

#3 posted 06-20-2014 01:40 PM

This is your calling to create

-- Josh // "If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." - Jack Handey

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1458 posts in 3007 days

#4 posted 06-20-2014 02:03 PM

Just like woodworking is divided into many subdivisions, so is metalworking. Brass is very soft and works very easily. A lot of work can be done with common woodworking tools. More specifics would allow the community to give you better information.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

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7950 posts in 2171 days

#5 posted 06-20-2014 02:42 PM

Every now and then, the woodworking magazines do some pieces on working with brass. I’ll look later tonight to see if I can find any articles. First place I might look would be Shopnotes since brass is typically used with shop jigs.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Planeman40's profile


1179 posts in 2782 days

#6 posted 06-20-2014 04:33 PM

Try Also find books on metal working. There are a number of old books that are very good that you can read online for free at Google Books.

Having done a lot of it over the years I can say there are a few things to know like hammering shapes and soldering. Much of this is well covered in videos on YouTube and through Internet searches. You will have to learn to “soft” solder and “hard” solder (lead-tin based solder and silver solder). Its not difficult, but it does take some knowledge. A good place to start is with sheet copper as it is soft and easily workable. Brass (which contains copper) is harder. Even soft aluminum is good for practice, though you can’t solder it except with highly specialized solders.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3265 days

#7 posted 06-20-2014 05:10 PM

260 Brass (Cartridge Brass)
260 Brass is known by about a zillion different names, but the most common are yellow brass and cartridge brass, the second because it is generally used for shell casings. As a rule, it is only available in sheet, and is not very machinable, but is a great combination of formability and workability.

330 Brass (no nickname for this brass, and it gets picked on by the other brasses)
We’ve never figured out why this material doesn’t have a nickname, but that is the metals industry for you. It is normally only available in tubing products, and has a good balance of both workability and machinability (the latter due to the presence of lead).
If you’ve ever seen a brass fire pole, or, um, any other kind of brass poles, chances are you were looking at 330 Brass.

360 Brass (Free Machining Brass)
Free Machining brass is the most commonly used of the brass rod and bar items. The presence of lead in the alloy creates a highly machinable material that can easily be cut and shaped into whatever you need. It is not so good, however, at forming operations.

464 Naval Brass / Naval Bronze
Used primarily in applications where corrosion resistance is important, the material has a small amount of tin added to help deal with corrosion, especially in seawater.

770 (Nickel Silver)
Nickel Silver is named for its silvery appearance, but surprisingly contains no silver at all.
C770 Nic

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2327 posts in 2449 days

#8 posted 06-20-2014 07:31 PM

Go down to your local scrap dealer buy some brass. Get what tools you have and start cutting, filing, drilling, hammering, and what ever floats your boat with it.
Get off your computer and get into your shop. – That is where I am going right now!!!

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3163 posts in 3130 days

#9 posted 06-21-2014 12:59 AM


for starters and then branch off. Iron workers are pretty common, but I have yet to find that much for copper smithing. I do some copper smithing and asked Martin to start a forum for copper smithing many years ago, but his plate was full with the three you find here.

To me, brass is more of a machining/casting alloy, as opposed to copper, which can be hammered. I realize brass can be hammer formed, but I haven’t dealt with it much that way.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

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2762 posts in 2047 days

#10 posted 06-21-2014 03:55 AM

Brass, like copper, work hardens and is prone to fatigue cracking. If it gets too work hardened, you can restore its workability by annealing with heat, repeating as necessary.

Another way to make joints with it is with a brazing torch, using phos-copper as the brazing rod. This will require the right flux (and I don’t remember what that is). Makes a very strong joint. I made a copper coil for heating water in a wooburning heating stove one time using phos copper, because it could stand the heat. Worked very well.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3265 days

#11 posted 06-21-2014 08:16 PM

Here is a good source for all metals.

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1953 days

#12 posted 06-21-2014 08:40 PM

ah you’ve all been so knowledgeable, thank you for sharing.

A few of you asked what specific questions I wanted answered – not so much any specific, just an end to end understanding of working with brass, types of brass, annealing, working temperatures, tools to avoid and collect, melting/smelting/suitable fluxes, casting, hinge pressing, engraving, polishing, sculpting, soldering, welding, brazing, riveting, tempering etc etc etc

I guess kind of like when you start learning woodworking, you can’t know what you don’t know there is to know – so going into the shop and having a bash seems like an expensive (even irresponsible re: casting) way of learning.

but the resources you guys have posted so far – and especially what you’ve shared: Planeman, MrRon, RunsWithScissors has been super helpful so far. Out of interested, where did you guys learn about working brass?

much thanks


-- Ben, England.

View Planeman40's profile


1179 posts in 2782 days

#13 posted 06-22-2014 04:25 PM

Where did you guys learn about working brass?

Just by messing with it off and on over my 60+ years of building stuff (beginning with model airplanes at the age of 10). Trial and error plus occasional reading. All of the information is available for free if you know where to look. Brass working is a very old craft that hasn’t changed much over the years so old information is still good information.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3265 days

#14 posted 06-22-2014 04:37 PM This site lists many books on metal working and forming. I hope it helps.

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104 posts in 3761 days

#15 posted 06-22-2014 06:55 PM

The best general metal working book I have seen is The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight.
I have been recommending the Illustrated Handbook but see there is now a “professional” edition which is probably worth considering. This book gives excellent coverage to many metal working topics including those you listed as well as some of the inherent dangers in metal working. It covers the basics well and will allow you to ask more detailed questions.

Working with brass isn’t particularly difficult and you can do much with woodworking tools. There is really no need to experiment with practice materials. I have been restoring antique clocks for over 25 years so have some experience with this material. If you plan on incorporating brass into your woodwork I will guess this means inlay or wire work. Inlay is fairly straightforward all you need is a piercing saw, bench block, and some small files to form the metal pieces. Alloy, hardness, or even material really doesn’t matter.

Piercing saws.

Bench block with small files.

I did get a great demonstration of wire work at the last CLA show (Contemporary Longrifle Assoc.) but haven’t had a chance to try it out so no photos. However, the tools and technique are fairly simple; it is merely a matter of practice.

If you plan to do more complicated work, skill with a piercing saw and files will still serve you well.

-- Troy in Melrose, Florida

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