Instructables
Picture of Building with Brass
Working with brass is fun and easy. It is a favorite of machinists, metal artists, and the Steampunk crowd. Using a few simple tools you can form and solder brass sheets and shapes.

For this particular project, I had a motor gearbox and servo to mount in a box (separate Instructable TBD).
 
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Step 1: Brass Types and Tools

Picture of Brass Types and Tools
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There are many types of brass, but for my projects I mostly use:

C260 half-hard sheets and tubes - It is low lead and easily formable (bendable). If you want high polish, try to get sheets with protective film that you leave on till the last possible moment. You can put tape on the sheets to minimize scratches. It is also known as yellow brass or cartridge brass.

C360 rods, hex, square bar - It machines very nicely. It has 3% lead so I wash my hands after working with it and clean up all the residue.

Brass anneals (becomes less stiff) with heat but cannot be heat hardened. It hardens by bending or stretching it. In the home shop you cannot really harden brass. When you bend it too tightly or too many times it will crack from hardening stress. Half hard brass is a nice balance between stiffness and workability.

For this project, used .032 inch thick (20 gauge) sheets and strips from K&S bought from the local hobby store, or eBay
For larger projects and to stock up, I use OnlineMetals.com, they have a nice sample pack here.

Tools
Compound Aviation Snips - There are straight, right and left cutting. A nice pair is $16
Rulers and calipers - I love my $2 plastic calipers
Step drills - good for clean hole drilled in thin sheets
Twist drills - not as good a step drills on thin metal, but can get more exact hole sizes
Center punch - lightly punch centers before drilling so the drill doesn't wander
Files - rounding corners, removing small amounts of material
Deburring tool - clean way of making softly rounded edges
Fine-point magic marker
Tinsmith or ball peen hammer - not a woodworking hammer please
Cereal box cardboard - for templates and mockups.
Drill press or electric drill
Vise with soft jaws - I made soft jaws from HDPE plastic scrap, (like plastic cutting board material)

For soldering
Propane torch with cylinder
Stay-Brite silver solder with flux - 1/2oz package will last a long time. No cadmium or lead or other undesirables
C-Clamps or vise to hold parts in place

Cleaning and polishing
Ultra fine sandpaper
Bar Keepers Friend cleaner and polish
pfred22 years ago
I use scrap sheet steel because it is readily available, I have tons of it, it is mechanically superior to brass, and if I need it to look good I can always slap a coat of paint on it when I'm done.

When I need to pierce large round holes through sheet material I use hole saws or knock out punch dies. Other odd shapes I use cut off discs and file finish. Maybe a saber saw sometimes too. I have a high speed pneumatic saw that does a number on sheet goods. I have pneumatic shears and a pneumatic nibbler too. I don't like using the nibbler though. It shoots these sharp little half moons of metal all over the place. They're nasty! They get stuck in your boot soles and well anyways.

I save brass to use sparingly making custom electrical contacts if I need them. There it is nice. Though sometimes I'll use plain copper too. I think these are copper:

http://i.imgur.com/uB4rl.jpg

I made that whole barrier strip on my milling machine. It is tough to buy an 11 terminal barrier strip. :)
astral_mage pfred211 months ago
actually it not that hard. try looking at alibaba.com
Great tips, thank you :)
great information i was considering using brass for a project i am working on. after reading this i am pretty sure it's the right approach
ProBodger2 years ago
Just what I've been looking for, thankyou

A wonderful instructable. It will be a great help