How to Mix Metals to Make Bronze

By Robert Paxton
Bronze is a metal alloy made from copper and tin.

Thousands of years ago, metallurgists discovered that mixing copper and tin created an alloy that was harder than copper and less brittle than tin. Since then, people have used this metal to make weapons, jewelry and sculptures. Metallurgists have also discovered how to make unique, bronze alloys by removing tin and adding other metals to the mix. To make bronze, you will need a high temperature metal furnace. Remember to wear goggles and gloves before smelting the bronze.

Smelt copper and tin to make the standard, modern bronze. Tin will melt at around 232 degrees Celsius, but copper does not melt until it reaches 1,100 degrees Celsius, so you should be prep the furnace at that melting point. Use 88 percent copper and 12 percent tin for this mix. Place the metal ore in a crucible, seal it and place it in your furnace or kiln. Let it cool for a day before removing.

Smelt copper and zinc to make commercial bronze, which has a brighter finish. Follow the same smelting instructions, but add zinc, which melts at 420 degrees Celsius. Use nine parts copper and one part zinc for this mixture.

Smelt copper, lead and zinc to create architectural bronze. The ratio for this mixture is 57 percent copper, three percent lead and 40 percent zinc. Because it has a lower copper content, the color of this bronze will be much lighter.

Add nickel and bismuth to the mix to make bismuth bronze, which holds a polish better than other bronze alloys. Nickel will not melt until it reaches about 1,453 degrees Celsius, so you will have to fire the kiln to that temperature. The finished product should have a composition of 52 percent copper, 30 percent nickel, 12 percent zinc, five percent lead, and one percent bismuth.

Tip

If smelting a small amount of bronze in a crucible, wear heavy, protective clothing, goggles and gloves to protect against sparks, which can result from impurities in the metal.

About the Author

Robert Paxton has been writing professionally since 2002 when he published his first novel. He has also published short stories and poems and writes ad copy for various websites. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in creative writing. Paxton is a trained Montessori instructor who has taught at both the elementary and the secondary levels.