While brass is one of the oldest known alloys in the world, it wasn’t used as a material for boat and shipbuilding until the 18th Century. Even then, brass was only used to protect the bottoms of ships against barnacles and the dreaded shipworm. Everything changed in 1832 when a man named G.F. Muntz patented a new brass formula that contained 60 percent copper and 40 percent zinc, which is known today as ‘Muntz Metal’.
Muntz Metal, also known as ‘yellow metal’, is widely used in shipbuilding primarily because it is cheaper than the regular brass that was previously used, albeit just as effective. That said, Muntz Metal is also incredibly malleable and easy to forge—qualities so essential in an industry that runs on strict production schedules. In addition, the alloy is also easy to recycle, thereby ensuring that even scraps of unused Muntz Metal can be repurposed.
Nowadays, many shipbuilders use a specific type of Muntz Metal called ‘naval brass’, which has a one percent tin content as an additive. Aside from ships and boats, the alloy is also used to build plumbing fixtures and components. Other types of Muntz Metal are produced with little to no lead content, making them the ideal materials for applications that have strict regulations on the use of lead.