Jul 282013
 
bronze sculptures

Dancing Fire 1
silicon bronze with clear coat

Bronze Metals – Bronze Alloy Information

I only use C65500 high silicon bronze “A” for my bronze sculptures, such as Dancing Fire 1 (image at right). It has a beautiful gold color, slightly brownish. It can be patinated like copper from light tan to browns, blacks, all manner of greens, reds, blues: in fact, any color imaginable. But why? It is such a beautiful color. I like to celebrate its natural beauty. Coated with the proper outdoor-grade lacquer and the clear coat will last 10-20 years.

In addition, high silicon bronze is easy to mig weld, easy to tig weld, easy to shape, easy to cut, easy to finish. Its only drawback is that it is expensive, about 2x-3x the cost of copper which, in turn, is about 5-6x the cost of steel. You can see why most sculptors are using steel. Bronze has a small market (compared to steel and aluminum): the bronze suppliers have a virtual monopoly and can set the market price.

But there are many, many bronzes available for purchase for retailers and recyclers. Let’s take a look at some of them. Keep in mind that anything added to a pure metal will lower and widen its melting point and reduce crystallinity. Here’s an excellent overview from Atlas Metals, my primary supplier.

Other Bronze Metals

CS65100 Low Silicon Bronze “B” has about half the silicon level of “A” and a higher melting point. It has said to have excellent tig welding properties.

CS51000 is a Copper-Phos-Bronze alloy and contains about 5% tin and some phosphorous: the tin increases the corrosion resistance and strength; the phosphorous increases the wear resistance and stiffness. It has an attractive goldish-brown color. It is said to be reasonably good for tig welding. It is stiffer than silicon bronze and often used for springs and electrical contacts with high fatigue resistance. I am planning to try some soon.

C22000, C46400 and C38500 are high-zinc bronzes and technically brasses, stiff, hard to form and difficult to weld. Avoid the white zinc fumes: very bad for your brain and lungs. They are not recommended for tig welding: you may have success with brazing these with a small tip, borax flux and an oxidizing flame.

C95400, aluminum bronze, is very hard, tough and expensive and is usually used for casting only. It has a lovely silver-pink color though. Some bronze casting foundries offer it as a lower cost option – because they make their own from left-over aluminum and bronze. You will need to make your own tig wire or brazing wire from the scrapped runners of the same metal, in order to get an exact match for the alloy. Rio Grande sells rolling mills that can expedite this process. I wonder how aluminum bronze would function outside: I would expect a galvanic reaction between the copper and aluminum when wet.

A few of the bronzes I’ve mentioned are included in the table below, to compare their varying compositions.

 Copper  Silicon  Manganese  Tin  Zinc Phosphorus  Iron  Nickel  Lead  MP Tig?
 C65500 High Silicon Bronze “A”  97  2.8-3.8 0.5-1.3  1.5  0.8  0.6  0.05  1880 F  best
 C65100 Low Silicon Bronze “B”  98.5  1.5  0.7  1.5  0.8  .05  1940 F  xclnt
 C92300 Tin Bronze  85-89  .005  7.5-9.0  2.5-5.0  1.5  0.25  1.0  0.3-1.0  NR
 C92800 Tin  Bronze  78-82  .005  15-17  .80  1.5  .20  .80  4.0-6.0  NR
 C65620 Silicon Bronze (AMS 4616)  90  2.4-4.0 1.0  1.5-4.0  1.0-2.0  ??
 Phos Bronze CS51000  94.8  -  -  4.2-5.8  .3  0.30-0.35  .10  -  .05  1750-1920F  Good
 Phos Bronze CS54400  88  -  -  4.0  3.0 .25  .10  -  3.8  NR
 Commercial Bronze C22000  90  10  .05  .05  NR
 Naval Bronze C46400  70  30  NR
 Architectural Bronze C38500  57.0  40  3.0  NR

Bronze Metals Suppliers

A list of some US retailers for silicon bronze and other bronzes follow. Note that some of them have ‘drops’ and scraps lying around that they would love to sell. Ask if they have a ‘bone yard’ or ‘drop zone’.

  • Atlas Metals – Denver, CO – 800-662-0143 Atlas Bronze – Trenton, NJ 800-478-0887 – has 24″ x 120″ full sheets but will sell half and quarter sheets and ship UPS. They often have scraps & drops.
  • NB Metals – Houston, TX 1-800-231-0771 – has remnants in many sizes & thicknesses
  • Copper and Brass Sales (ThyssenKrupp Materials) only sell Naval and Phos Bronze, .003 to 3/16″, 800-926-2600
  • Farmer’s Copper -Galveston, TX – 800-231-9450 – inventories C65500 in sheet and plate
  • Alaskan Copper – Seatlle, WA – 206-623-5800
  • Metal Suppliers Online – Hampstead, NH 800-380-1470

I have spent a lot of time researching bronzes and wondering if there was a lower-priced, easy-to-use alternative to high silicon bronze. There really isn’t, at least not for me and my sculpture fabricating needs. I hope this saves you the research time and effort.

More: How to Mig Weld Bronze

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John Searles

Metal sculptor and metal artist John Searles lives in Southwest Michigan where he creates and ships his art sculptures around the world. Specializing in custom designs, sizes and materials and utilizing his expert fabrication techniques he enjoys every day transforming his imaginative ideas into metal.

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