Copper plus zinc equals brass. However, it doesn’t end there.
That’s the beauty of alloys; you can create interesting combos with the right choice and proportion of metals. Standard brass combos can have between 60 and 95 percent copper, and between 5 and 40 percent zinc. Although the industry has a standard for naming alloy combos, they’re often referred to by their composition. An alloy of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc is called “95/5 brass”.
When you add a soft metal like lead into the copper and zinc combination, you get a brass that can be easily crafted into equipment parts and the like. Lead content can range between 0.5 and 3 percent due to its softness. As with regular brass, leaded brasses are referred to by their composition, albeit in a different way. A leaded brass alloy with 65 percent copper is called “65% copper, 1% lead.”
Special brass alloys are composed of other metals like aluminum, tin, and arsenic. Tin content results in brass designed for marine applications–28% tin results in admiralty brass, while 38% tin results in naval brass. As their names imply, the brass’ tin content mitigates corrosion when the material is exposed to fresh or seawater. You can find these brasses in heavy-duty industries.