Copper and its Alloys

Alloys of copper with tin, zinc and lead have been used for at least 2,000 years due to their ease of casting, good strength and corrosion resistance.  Early uses were for brooches, mirror cases, church doors, fonts and statues.  The use for cannon in Mediaeval times led to the term ‘gun metal’ being adopted; this use is now obsolete with the manufacture of steel ordnance.

Today, in the UK, the term ‘gunmetal’ is applied to a family of copper-based casting alloys containing between 2-11% tin and 1-10% zinc.  Modified forms may contain, in addition, such elements as lead (up to 7%) and nickel (up to 6%) when the alloys are classified as ‘leaded gunmetal’ and ‘nickel gunmetal’.

Gunmetals are noted for the manufacture of intricate castings required to be pressure tight such as valves, pipe fittings and pumps.  They are also frequently used for bearings where loads and speeds are moderate.

Gunmetals are the first choice for modern statues, an example being the 2.1 metre high sculpture of Sir John Betjeman by Martin Jennings in St Pancras International Station, London.

Related ResourcesHere are related resources.  To browse and search all resources, visit the Resource Library.
    Pub 042 - Copper and Copper Alloy Castings
    £ 0.00
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, design, gunmetal, Industry, manufacturing, products
    Discusses the applications of all copper casting alloys commonly available in Europe with recommendations as to choice of alloy. Casting processes and product design considerations are considered. 1991. 62pp.
    Pub 106 - Corrosion Resistance of Copper and Copper Alloys
    gunmetal, alloys, brass, bronze, copper-nickel, coppers, corrosion, nickel silver, resistance
    This large table gives information on the suitability of copper and copper alloys with many different chemicals. Data is given for copper, brass, copper-nickel, aluminium bronze and gunmetals at three temperatures and shows if specific materials can be used with chemicals giving an indication of corrosion resistance. 5pp.
    Pub 225 - Copper Alloys in Seawater: Avoidance of Corrosion
    alloys, bronze, copper-nickel, corrosion, gunmetal, property, seawater
    Practical guidance for engineers on the avoidance of corrosion in copper alloys for seawater applications. 2016. 20 pp.

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Statue of  Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras Station, London
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