Everything You Need to Know About CNC Machining Brass: Materials, Surface Finishes, and Design Tips


About Brass

brass is a popular material choice for various industrial applications. Brass is an alloy composed of copper and zinc, which provides it with excellent corrosion resistance, durability, and electrical conductivity. These properties make brass an ideal material for creating high-quality parts that require precision and longevity.

One of the advantages of using brass in CNC machining is its machinability. Brass is relatively easy to work with and can be machined into complex shapes with a high level of accuracy. This makes it an excellent choice for creating parts with intricate details or for applications where tight tolerances are critical.

Brass is also a versatile material that can be used in a range of industries, from automotive to aerospace, and even in the medical field. In addition, it is an attractive material with a unique golden color, making it a popular choice for decorative parts and fixtures.

Overall, brass is a reliable and cost-effective material for CNC machining applications that require high precision, durability, and aesthetic appeal.


Cartridge Brass (Copper C260)

Cartridge Brass, also known as Copper C260, is a popular brass alloy that contains 70% copper and 30% zinc. It is known for its excellent corrosion resistance, high ductility, and good workability. This alloy has a long history in the manufacturing of ammunition cartridges, which is why it is commonly referred to as cartridge brass. Apart from this application, it is also used in other applications such as hinges, radiator cores, and rivets. The addition of lead and iron in small amounts provides improved machinability and enhanced strength to this brass subtype.

Advantages of Cartridge Brass:

  • Excellent corrosion resistance
  • High ductility
  • Good workability
  • Enhanced strength due to the addition of lead and iron
  • Reliable and cost-effective for various industrial applications

Disadvantages of Cartridge Brass:

  • Lead content can pose health and environmental risks
  • Not suitable for applications that require high strength and hardness

Free-Cutting Brass (Copper C360)

Free-cutting Brass, also known as Copper C360, is a brass alloy that contains high levels of lead, providing excellent machinability. It is commonly used in the manufacturing of gears, parts of screw machines, and components for valves. This alloy has excellent corrosion resistance, high ductility, and is easy to form and shape.

Advantages of Free-Cutting Brass:

  • Excellent machinability due to the high level of lead
  • Good corrosion resistance
  • High ductility and easy to form and shape
  • Suitable for various industrial applications that require precision machining

Disadvantages of Free-Cutting Brass:

  • High lead content can pose health and environmental risks
  • Not suitable for applications that require high strength and hardness.


Surface Finishes

As-Machined Finish: As-machined finish is the surface finish that results from the CNC machining process without any additional surface treatment. It is a natural finish that exhibits the texture and character of the material. The advantages and disadvantages of this finish are:

Advantages of As-Machined Finish:

  • Cost-effective: As-machined finish eliminates the need for additional surface treatment, reducing production costs.
  • Time-efficient: As-machined finish is achieved during the CNC machining process, saving time and labor.
  • Unique character: As-machined finish exhibits the texture and character of the material, giving the part a unique and natural appearance.

Disadvantages of As-Machined Finish:

  • Inconsistent surface quality: As-machined finish can result in uneven surface quality, especially if the machining process is not precise or if the material has an irregular grain structure.
  • Limited aesthetics: As-machined finish lacks the luster and shine of polished finishes, making it less suitable for decorative applications.

Hand Polishing or Buffing Finish: Hand polishing or buffing is a surface finish that involves manually polishing the brass part with a polishing compound or buffing wheel. This finish results in a smooth and shiny surface with a mirror-like reflection. The advantages and disadvantages of this finish are:

Advantages of Hand Polishing or Buffing Finish:

  • Excellent aesthetics: Hand polishing or buffing finish results in a smooth and shiny surface with a mirror-like reflection, making it suitable for decorative applications.
  • Consistent surface quality: Hand polishing or buffing ensures a consistent and uniform surface quality across the entire part.
  • Improved corrosion resistance: Hand polishing or buffing can improve the corrosion resistance of the brass part, making it more durable.

Disadvantages of Hand Polishing or Buffing Finish:

  • Time-consuming: Hand polishing or buffing is a time-consuming process that can increase production costs.
  • Labor-intensive: Hand polishing or buffing requires skilled labor, increasing production costs further.
  • Not suitable for all applications: Hand polishing or buffing is not suitable for parts that require a natural or textured appearance.

Design Tips

  1. Consider the machining process: Brass is a relatively soft material, making it easy to machine. However, it is still important to consider the limitations of the machining process, such as the maximum depth of cuts and the minimum radii that can be machined. To ensure accurate and precise machining, it is recommended to design parts with clear and concise drawings that clearly indicate the critical dimensions and tolerances.
  2. Choose the right alloy: There are several brass alloys available, each with different properties that make them suitable for different applications. For example, if you need a brass part with high strength, you should consider an alloy that contains more zinc than copper. If you need a part that is easy to machine, consider an alloy with a high lead content.
  3. Avoid sharp edges and corners: Brass is a soft material that can easily deform or crack when subjected to stress concentrations. Therefore, it is recommended to design parts with rounded edges and corners to distribute the stress and reduce the likelihood of deformation or cracking.
  4. Consider surface finishing: Brass parts can be finished in a variety of ways, such as polishing, buffing, or plating. It is important to consider the intended surface finish early in the design process, as different finishing processes can affect the final dimensions and tolerances of the part.
  5. Consider the intended application: Brass parts are used in a variety of applications, from decorative fixtures to functional components. It is important to consider the intended application of the part and design it accordingly. For example, if the part will be subjected to high loads or stresses, it should be designed with additional features such as ribs or fillets to increase its strength and durability.


  1. Can brass be CNC machined? Yes, brass is a popular material for CNC machining due to its excellent machinability and unique properties.
  2. What is the best way to machine brass? The best way to machine brass is to use a high-speed tool with a sharp cutting edge and a positive rake angle. It is also important to use the correct cutting parameters, such as the cutting speed, feed rate, and depth of cut, to ensure accurate and efficient machining.
  3. What speed should I mill brass at? The milling speed for brass depends on several factors, such as the type of milling tool, the depth of cut, and the feed rate. Generally, the recommended cutting speed for milling brass is between 1,500 and 3,000 RPM. It is important to choose the appropriate cutting speed based on the specific machining application to achieve optimal results.
  4. What is the disadvantage of brass? One of the disadvantages of brass is that it can be relatively soft compared to other materials, such as steel or aluminum. This can make it less suitable for applications that require high strength or durability. Additionally, brass may contain lead, which can pose health and environmental risks if not handled properly. However, there are many different brass alloys available, each with unique properties and advantages, so it is important to select the appropriate alloy for the specific application.

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