Identify Metals

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Introduction: Identify Metals

     If your like me and make scrap metal sculpture then it can sometimes be hard to identify what metal the scrap is made of. In this instructable I will show you how too identify some of the more common metals. NOTE: These are not all the metals there are, there are thousands and I couldn't possibly tell about all of them. Also if you bend tin it will make a light "snapping" sound.

Step 1: Ferrous or Nonferrous?

     Ferrous means that the metal has iron content which in most cases makes it magnetic and nonferrous means it doesn't have iron in it. An example of a ferrous metal is mild steel, also known as low carbon steel. An example of a nonferrous metal is copper or aluminum. Its always a good idea to bring a magnet to the scrap yard.

Step 2: Aluminum

     Aluminum is a shiny grey metal and has a clear oxide that forms on contact with air. This may not be the best thing for identifying it, but aluminums melting point is 658° C (1217°F). Also aluminum is non sparking. Aluminums density is 2.70 g/cm3, this is a good way to identify it because you can find the density of a material by density = mass ÷ volume. As i said earlier, aluminum is nonferrous.

Step 3: Bronze

     Most bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, but architectural bronze actually has a small amount of lead in it. Bronze has a dark coppery color and gets a green oxide over a period of time. bronze's melting point is 850-1000°C (1562-1832°F) depending on how much of each metal is in it. Bronze is nonferrous. Because bronze is an alloy densities vary. Bronze vibrates like a bell when hit.

Step 4: Brass

     Brass is another copper alloy but it has zinc instead of tin. Brass has a yellow gold color. Brass' melting point is 900-940°C (1652-1724°F) depending on how much of each metal they used. Brass is nonferrous. Because brass is an alloy its density varies. If hit brass vibrates like a bell, this can be used to determine if something is brass instead of gold.

Step 5: Chromium

     Chromium is a very shiny silver color and forms a clear oxide over time. Chromiums melting point is 1615°C (3034°F). Things are rarely made of pure chromium but lots of things are coated with it to make it shiny and not rust. Chromiums density is 7.2 g/cm3. Chromium is nonferrous.

Step 6: Copper

    Copper is made into many alloys like brass and bronze. Copper is light red in color and gets a green oxide over time. Copper is nonferrous. Coppers melting point is 1083°C (1981°F). Coppers density is 8.94 g/cm3. Copper, like brass, also vibrates like a bell when hit.

Step 7: Gold

     Gold is a shiny yellow color and does not have an oxide. Golds melting point is 1064.18°C (1947.52°F). Gold is very soft and is very heavy. Gold has a high electrical conductivity (more electricity can pass through it) which means that the connectors on many cords have gold plating. Golds density is 19.30 g/cm^3. Gold is nonferrous. Gold is a "precious" metal which means that it is very expensive and is used in coins and jewelry.

Step 8: Iron

     Iron is ferrous (finally!) and magnetic. Iron is a dull grey when unpolished and its rust is a reddish color. Iron is also used in a lot of alloys like steel. Irons melting point is 1530°C (2786°F). Irons density is 7.87 g/cm3.

Step 9: Lead

     Lead is a dull grey when unpolished but shinier when polished. Lead has a relatively low melting point, 327°C (621°F). Lead is nonferrous. Leads is very heavy, its density  is 10.6 g/cm3.

Step 10: Magnesium

     Magnesium has a grey color and develops an oxide that dulls the color. Magnesiums melting point is 650°C (1202°F). Magnesium is extremely flammable in a powder or thin strips. Magnesium burns very brightly and is very hard to put out because it is so hot that if you throw water on it, it separates it into hydrogen and oxygen, two very flammable gasses. Magnesium can also burn without oxygen making it even harder to put out. Magnesium is very light with a density of 1.738 g/cm^3. Because magnesium is so light it is used in engin blocks in cars, and because it burns so brightly it is used in incendiary weaponry (to incinerate things) and fireworks.

Step 11: Mild Steel

     Mild steel is black to dark grey unpolished and silvery polished. Mild steel has the same red rust oxide as iron. Mild steel is also ferrous and magnetic. Another name for mild steel is low carbon steel. Mild steel makes yellow sparks when ground down. Mild steels density is about 7.86 g/cm3but it varies since it is an alloy of iron and carbon (low carbon steel). MIld steel melting point is 1350-1530°C (2462-2786°F).

Step 12: Nickel

     Nickel is shiny silver when polished and is darker unpolished. NIckel is one of the few metals that is not an iron alloy that is magnetic (5¢ US nickels are not magnetic because there made of a copper nickel alloy). Nickels melting point is 1452°C (2645°F). Nickels density is 8.902 g/cm3.

Step 13: Stainless Steel

     Stainless steel is a shiny silver color and does not forme and oxide. Chromium (step5) is mixed into the steel, when it hardens the chromium leaves a coating of its oxide on top of the steel, this is too thin to see so the steels color shows through. Stainless steels melting point is from 1400-1450 °C (2552-2642 °F). Stainless steels density varies because it is an alloy. Depending on the alloy some stainless steels are magnetic, but all are ferrous.

Step 14: Tin

     Tin is silvery grey in color (like most metals) when polished and darker when unpolished. Tin has a comparatively low melting point of 231°C (449°F). Tins density is 7.365 g/cm3. Tin is nonferrous

Step 15: Titanium

     Titanium is a silvery grey metal metal when unpolished and darker when unpolished. Titanium gives off bright white sparks when it is ground. Titanium is nonferrous. Titaniums melting point is 1795°C (3263°F). Titaniums density is 4.506 g/cm3.

Step 16: Silver

     Silver is a shiny grey even before being polished but develops a black film over time and has to be polished. Silvers melting point is 961.78°C (1763.2°F). Silver has the highest electrical conductivity (more electricity can pass through it) than any other metal. Silvers density is 10.49 g/cm^3. Silver is nonferrous. Silver is a "precious" metal meaning that it is expensive and is used in coins and jewlery.

Step 17: Zinc

     Zinc is naturally dull grey and is very hard to polish. Zinc has has an oxide that flakes off carrying some of the zinc so other things are coated in it so the zinc "rusts" instead of the base metal, this is called galvanization. Because of its low cost zinc is the main metal in us pennies. Zincs melting point is 419°C (786°F). Zinc is nonferrous. Zincs density is 7.14 g/cm3.

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    152 Comments

    0
    Ravenclaw2263
    Ravenclaw2263

    11 months ago

    Does anyone know what metal this is? I spent a half an hour trying to polish it, so it is very hard to polish. I don't know it's magnetism. It was used for weights for wooden racing cars. It is somewhat heavy, close to brass, but a little heavier. It is probably somewhat easy to break, because it has crease lines specifically for breaking in to peices.

    IMG_20201113_223915.jpgIMG_20201113_223921.jpgIMG_20201113_223931.jpgIMG_20201113_223936.jpgIMG_20201113_223943.jpgIMG_20201113_223948.jpg
    0
    Rev Thompson
    Rev Thompson

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    It's the weights that go on the inside of a vehicle rim for balance.

    0
    djacobga
    djacobga

    Reply 8 months ago

    Definitely lead. California banned the use and sale of these several years ago, mainly because there are cheap alternative materials available so there really is no good reason to use a toxic material for this simple use.

    0
    seamster
    seamster

    Reply 11 months ago

    It's lead. It is too soft to polish and is toxic, so you should definitely wash your hands after handling it.

    0
    Rev Thompson
    Rev Thompson

    5 weeks ago

    I came across this non-ferrous metal while gardening. It's very heavy and extremely dense. Will not bend, dent, scratch, but will polish.. any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thank you to the community... Rev. Dr. ThompsonW

    16310720273744551387643068310869.jpg16310720706513082362521047125599.jpg16310721028996463471729660015665.jpg
    0
    WhatFerrousmetal
    WhatFerrousmetal

    Tip 5 weeks ago on Step 14

    Have a metal cylinder shaped object to identify. It is yellowish/bronze in color, ferrous, and rusts

    0
    dczamara
    dczamara

    11 months ago

    I have a heavy peice of metal of some kind 26 pounds the size of a brick none magnetic very hard can't scratch? The one pick is a small piece that I chipped off

    20201010_005209.jpg20201009_233616.jpg20201009_233602.jpg20201010_005200.jpg
    0
    grommit347
    grommit347

    Reply 3 months ago

    From what I know, looks like magnanese

    0
    Jaked1183
    Jaked1183

    Question 3 months ago

    I found these things in clay at the beach, sent a couple off for testing, but noone has any clue what they might be.. magnetic so has iron or chromite most likely, they dont look manmade to me but Ive been wrong before! Lmk whatcha think, i could use the help! Oh, Im in the pacific northwest, and these things are very hard and dont chip or break or dent really when hit with a hammer.

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    0
    bigroycesmom
    bigroycesmom

    Question 1 year ago

    Hi! So I came across your site today while trying to find out what this might be. My husband was putting in a gate segment on our fence today and hit this with his shovel. As you can hopefully tell it is encased in some kind of cloth. I tested and it is non ferrous. It is also light and soft but dense if that makes any sense? If you have any idea what this could possibly be I would love to hear it. Thanks so much!

    IMG_20191120_163436464.jpg
    0
    DeeS69
    DeeS69

    Answer 4 months ago

    If its wrapped in cloth obviously it has something to do with people, I would go as far to say something to do with a burial. Maybe consult a local university with an archeological department. May be native American.

    0
    kelseythorp
    kelseythorp

    Answer 10 months ago

    Holy cow did you ever figure this out?!

    0
    Jasonsorganic
    Jasonsorganic

    Question 4 months ago

    I tryed to use alumiweld to braze aluminum to a piece of a walker( for the elderly) I thought it was made of aluminum alloy but the alumiweld would not stick the aluminum (I bought from Lowe’s) melted and I used a wire wheel to prep the walker material then cleaned with acetone then Alcohol.Does anyone know what I’m doing wrong?

    0
    mspokie87
    mspokie87

    Question 11 months ago on Introduction

    Any idea wat this could be?? Found in a stream . Looks like a gold nugget but silver..


    has been cleaned up since discovered.

    20201031_071609.jpg
    0
    ryanodeskillbill
    ryanodeskillbill

    Answer 7 months ago

    Looks like melted aluminum to me?

    0
    russsickles
    russsickles

    Answer 11 months ago

    You should not have cleaned it up.
    That is a Meteorite

    0
    calvintleep
    calvintleep

    Question 8 months ago on Step 2

    I boughr this bowl and have done the platinum acid test as well as the base metal 10k test. With both acids doing absolutely nothing to the scratch pad. Surely this isnt solid platinum! There is a small X on bottom and thats it. So im not sure who made it. Can someone please help me?

    0
    nabzim
    nabzim

    Answer 9 months ago

    Looks like aluminum. Does it feel somewhat lightweight for its size? Like if you find a peice of steel or iron of a similar size, it should feel much heavier. Also, because it's been obviosly melted then poured on the ground, it's likely to be aluminum since it's much easier to melt than most metals, so it more likely to have been melted by some random dude (and it's incredibly common). Tin and lead are also much easier to melt, but they are also much heavier than even iron or steel. So, knowing the weight (but really, it's density) should give you the most information.