Copper is a soft, ductile metal, with its melting point at about 2.000° F. Molten copper has the marked property of absorbing various gases. It is for this reason that it is so difficult to make sound castings of clear copper. Molten copper combines readily with the oxygen of the air, forming oxide of copper, which dissolves in the copper and mixes homogeneously with it.

A casting made from such metal would be very spongy. The bad effect of oxygen is intended to be overcome by adding zinc to the extent of 1 per cent or more. This result can be much more effectively attained by the use of aluminum, manganese, or phosphorus. The action of these substances is to combine with the oxygen, and as the product formed separates and goes to the surface, the metal is left in a sound condition. Aluminum and manganese deoxidize copper and bronze very effectively, and the oxide formed goes to the surface as a scum. When a casting is made from such metal, the oxide or scum, instead of freeing itself from the casting perfectly, generally remains in the top part of the casting mixed with the metal, as a fractured surface will show. Phosphorus deoxidizes copper, and the oxide formed leaves the metal in the form of a gas, so that a casting made from such metal shows a clean fracture throughout, although the metal is not so dense as when aluminum or manganese is used.

Copper also has the property of absorbing or occluding carbon monoxide. But the carbonic oxide thus absorbed is in a different condition from the oxygen absorbed. When oxygen is absorbed by copper, the oxygen combines chemically with the copper and loses its own identity as a gas. But when coal gas is absorbed by the copper, it keeps its own physical identity and simply exists in the copper in a state of solution. All natural waters, such as lake water, river water, spring water, etc., contain air in solution or occlusion. When such water is cooled and frozen, just at the time of changing from the liquid to the solid state, the dissolved gas separates and forms air bubbles, which remain entangled in the ice. The carbonic oxide which is dissolved or occluded in copper acts in exactly the same way.

Hydrogen acts in exactly the same manner as carbonic oxide. Sulphur also has a bad effect upon copper and bronze. Sulphur combines with copper and other metals, forming sulphide of copper, etc. When molten copper or bronze containing sulphur comes in contact with air it absorbs some oxygen, and this in turn combines with the sulphur present, forming sulphur dioxide, which is a gas which remains occluded in the metal.

Tin is a soft, white metal, melting at 440° F. Toward gases it acts something like copper, but not in so marked a degree. Although copper and tin are both soft, yet when mixed they make a harder metal. When bronze cools from the molten state, the copper and the copper-tin alloy tend to crystallize by themselves. The quicker the cooling occurs the less separation will there be, and also the fracture will be more homogeneous in appearance.

Gun bronze contains copper and tin in the proportion of 9 or 10 parts of copper to 1 of tin. This is the metal used when an ordinary bronze casting is wanted. A harder bronze is copper and tin in the ratio of 6 to 1. This is often used as a bearing metal. When either of these metals is to be turned in the machine shop, they should contain about 3 per cent of lead, which will make them work very much better, but it also decreases their tensile strength. Bearing metal now generally contains about 10 per cent of lead, with copper and tin in varying ratios. The large percentage of lead is put in that the metal may wear away slower. Lead, although a metal having properties similar to tin, acts entirely different toward copper. Copper and tin have a good deal of affinity for each other, but copper and lead show no attraction at all for each other. Copper and tin mix in all proportions, but copper and lead mix only to a very limited extent. About 3 per cent of lead can be mixed with copper. With bronze about 15 per cent to 20 per cent of lead can be mixed. In bearing bronze the lead keeps its own physical properties, so that the constituent lead melts long before the metal attains a red heat. It sometimes happens when a bearing runs warm that the lead actually sweats out and forms pimples on the metal. Or, sometimes, in remelting a bearing bronze casting the lead may be seen to drop out while the metal is warming up. All of these metals, however, should contain something to flux or deoxidize them, such as zinc, manganese, aluminum, silicon, antimony, or phosphorus.