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Mike M
01-14-2008, 06:32 AM
How good is copper?

I was wondering if anyone has ever had failures with a fixture, directly or indirectly attributed to copper material. Could "harmless" surface corrosion interfere with seals/gaskets, or cause seizing? Does it look far less appealing over time vs. brass/bronze?

Ever-obsessed with the details,

Mike M.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-14-2008, 07:35 AM
Mike. I have never had a fixture failure that I could directly attribute to the copper that the fixture was made from.

As for the appearance over time vs Brass, I find that brass (from the same manufacturer) is more "reliable" in its finish (more even shade, less variations) but that copper is a pretty close 2nd. I would much rather see the patina of raw copper then the failure of a powder coat (fading, staining, etc).

I prefer the look of copper fixtures because they are usually more finely designed and produced then what you can get with a cast product. As an example compare the NS Copper Postliter to the new CAST postlight. Each have their application, but IMO the NS product is more refined.

Regards.

Mike M
01-14-2008, 03:59 PM
James--Cast post light? Do you mean the deck light?

If you have a pic of older copper bullets, fixtures, with the patina I'd appreciate it.

Tanks.

Mike M

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-14-2008, 04:09 PM
Mike. I was just at a trade show and saw a couple of new CAST fixtures. One is a small pathlight, an MR11 bullet and a small post light.

Sorry but I dont have pictures (close ups) of older copper fixtures, only distance shots of the effects. I will have another look through my files for you though.

Regards.

Mike M
01-14-2008, 05:06 PM
Thanks, James!

Unique's copper bullet is economical and I like the hardware. I like Cast and Unique for many reasons, including the 25' leads.

JoeyD
01-14-2008, 05:20 PM
Mike you dont have to justify your liking of Unique and Cast. We all know why!!

Mike M
01-14-2008, 07:37 PM
Joey,

So what happens in the fifteenth year of a copper fixture's life? Does it become so ugly that it has to be replaced, or does it actually lose structural integrity?

I'm serious. It is less nobel than brass, but what does that mean over time on a plastic stake under a tree with a hot light inside?

Pics? Anyone?

irrig8r
01-14-2008, 08:12 PM
Mike,

No disrespect intended, but sometimes I get the sense you tend to over analyze things.

Install the fixtures in the field and monitor the results. Learn from your mistakes and your successes.

A fixture that survives fifteen years exposed to the elements is a good product.

To be honest, half of the homes you've worked on will probably have changed hands once or twice by then, and subject to the tastes or whims of the new owners...



Our work, like much art, is impermanent and unenduring. It's the harsh reality of working in a medium that requires regular feeding (electricity) and maintenance, and is surrounded by living things.



Such is the lot of the under-appreciated artist....





:laugh:

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-14-2008, 08:23 PM
Mike, don't worry about Copper fixtures not standing the test of time. Copper has been used as a roofing, flashing, and eavestrough material for hundreds of years. One of the reasons is because it lasts so long. I would expect those copper fixtures will outlast most of us.

Regards.

irrig8r
01-14-2008, 08:36 PM
Mike, don't worry about Copper fixtures not standing the test of time. Copper has been used as a roofing, flashing, and eavestrough material for hundreds of years. One of the reasons is because it lasts so long. I would expect those copper fixtures will outlast most of us.

Regards.


Copper is very durable.

As a matter of fact, back in the late 70s I was working at a former summer home of a US Senator that was turned into a public park called Hakone Gardens. We came across some copper solar water heating panels mounted on an old garage that dated back to the 1920s.

Another couple of homes, landscaped by a famous architect named Thomas (Tommy) Church had copper sprinkler pipes installed in 1948 and '49 and that I encountered and were still working in the 90's.

Mike M
01-14-2008, 08:52 PM
So what you are saying is it just gets ugly?

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-14-2008, 09:17 PM
To each their own I suppose.

You could always have the copper fixtures powdercoated if you didnt like their appearance as they age. I have had a few clients who love the shape of the NS postlighter in copper but want a colour coat on it. They take the paint very well.

pete scalia
01-14-2008, 09:27 PM
Mike. I have never had a fixture failure that I could directly attribute to the copper that the fixture was made from. What do you think of this NS copper fixture-guess you haven't been around too long in this game. never saw a failed NS trans (several pics posted) and never a copper NS failure. Well now you've seen both. Ring the bell schools back in

As for the appearance over time vs Brass, I find that brass (from the same manufacturer) is more "reliable" in its finish (more even shade, less variations) but that copper is a pretty close 2nd. I would much rather see the patina of raw copper then the failure of a powder coat (fading, staining, etc).

I prefer the look of copper fixtures because they are usually more finely designed and produced then what you can get with a cast product. As an example compare the NS Copper Postliter to the new CAST postlight. Each have their application, but IMO the NS product is more refined.

Regards.

I think they call this the NS rustlighter. Look at the pitting and clear through holes in the body and shield. Long Island soils are very acidic. God forbid this was a water pipe . We'd a had a catastrophe on our hands .

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-14-2008, 09:39 PM
I think they call this the NS rustlighter. Look at the pitting and clear through holes in the body and shield. Long Island soils are very acidic. God forbid this was a water pipe . We'd a had a catastrophe on our hands .


If you are going to refer back to my posts here please try to be more accurate.

I have never had a Nightscaping Powercenter fail.

I have never experienced a copper fixture that I have installed fail because of the material it was made of (copper).

I have been in this business long enough to have seen many things... That fixture you show above clearly has failed but I cannot say why. Similarly I have seen photos of Powercenters that appear to be mis wired and have failed. I have seen many many more photos of other brands of tranformers in horrible states of failure.

Mike M
01-14-2008, 09:41 PM
Greg's right. I need to buy some and throw them around my property. Then I'll over analyze. I told Joey I should throw one in a crab trap for a week.
I already took a copper path and threw it on the ground next to my garage on some dirt. What I want to do is show my prospective customers the natural progression of "antiquing" and "patina" they might expect.

If I'm going to install something, I want to know what's going to happen to it. I thought the bronze bullet was so awesome, only to be embarrassed by a disappointed homeowner.

Side note: a customer laughed at me yesterday when I said the word "patina." He worked in metals, so I asked him what he called it, and he laughed and said "corrosion." :laugh:

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-14-2008, 09:48 PM
Mike, be prepared to do some waiting. I advise my clients that the copper fixtures will take at least 9 months to reach a full patina. It all depends on the environmental conditions on site. Perhaps in a salt air environment this takes less time.

As for patina vs. corrosion, well I can assure you that Patina goes over better with the clients!

Mike M
01-14-2008, 09:48 PM
What was that Pete??

Mike M
01-14-2008, 09:53 PM
James, it's okay if it doesn't get the patina right away, I just want to show them it won't be perfectly shiney for long.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-14-2008, 10:01 PM
Looks like a Clayliter to me. It is a small, direct burial fixture for uplighting that makes use of a MR16 lamp.

Pro-Scapes
01-14-2008, 10:52 PM
Mike I installed some copper paths about 3 weeks ago that are already turning darker. With saltier evniorments i think you will get a little more green than we do.

Personally I hate the shiny copper finish and will start pusing pre patina treatments a bit more. I also hate raw brass as well. That shiny gold spearance just stands out too much for my taste. Unique has the finish down pat with the weathered brass. Shouldnt take you long at all to get your coppers to turn pretty dark... if it does it here in a matter of weeks I would think you should have "corrosion" pretty quickly. Try mixing amonia and vinegar and hitting a few raw brass ones ... add salt and turn em green.

Pete.. that failed nighscaping fixture... any chance of electrolisis ? Maybe over fertilized and too high on the amonia ??

pete scalia
01-15-2008, 12:17 AM
Mike I installed some copper paths about 3 weeks ago that are already turning darker. With saltier evniorments i think you will get a little more green than we do.

Personally I hate the shiny copper finish and will start pusing pre patina treatments a bit more. I also hate raw brass as well. That shiny gold spearance just stands out too much for my taste. Unique has the finish down pat with the weathered brass. Shouldnt take you long at all to get your coppers to turn pretty dark... if it does it here in a matter of weeks I would think you should have "corrosion" pretty quickly. Try mixing amonia and vinegar and hitting a few raw brass ones ... add salt and turn em green.

Pete.. that failed nighscaping fixture... any chance of electrolisis ? Maybe over fertilized and too high on the amonia ??

I don't know about the over fertilization. Like I said soils on LI are naturally highly acidic. Perfect environments for Azaleas, Rhodies, Yews, Junipers, Holly, Hemlock etc.
I do know one thing though. There is not only Granola peddling that goes on north of the border but also a heck of alot of back peddling. This guy should be a politician.

Mike M
01-15-2008, 07:17 AM
According to my half-assed googling research, not unlike aluminum, copper becomes more prone to corrosion in soil that is either above or below neutral pH. I would think with plastic stakes, they should be ok, but I just want feedback from the guys that have been pulling the old stuff out of the ground and forming practical, field-based opinions.

Personally, I like copper, old and new. Unique and Nightscaping have copper fixtures, as well as Cast and Gambino. It's much cheaper than brass, and it seems a superior choice over powdercoat aluminum.

The old phrase: buyer beware. Before I commit to a few years of copper bullet installations, I want to know if it may be a mistake. What are the potential problems, if any?

Tanks,

Mike M

Pro-Scapes
01-15-2008, 08:35 AM
if you use a quality fixture you shouldnt have much of an issue. The brass would be preffered in my book but thats a simple prefference.

The cost diff in cast and the copper is pretty marginal... you got kinda a very good... better and best thing going on. You decide what fits where.

I said it before and I said it again. Mike... your over thinking this :)

JoeyD
01-15-2008, 10:07 AM
I will tell you guys and this is not some outlandish manufacturer comment....I have NEVER seen one of our copper fixtures corrode to the point that the copper itself was deteriorating. I have never had a return becuase of the copper falling apart. For whats it worth I think copper should last 10 times longer than any aluminum light out there.

The Lighting Geek
01-15-2008, 11:28 AM
Mike,

What I did in the beginning was to install different fixtures I was interested in in my yard and monitor them. sometimes I would recreate situations and see for myself what happens. But you can waste alot of energy and time doing this, that is why I stopped doing it.

irrig8r
01-15-2008, 12:14 PM
According to my half-assed googling research, not unlike aluminum, copper becomes more prone to corrosion in soil that is either above or below neutral pH. I would think with plastic stakes, they should be ok, but I just want feedback from the guys that have been pulling the old stuff out of the ground and forming practical, field-based opinions.

Personally, I like copper, old and new. Unique and Nightscaping have copper fixtures, as well as Cast and Gambino. It's much cheaper than brass, and it seems a superior choice over powdercoat aluminum.

The old phrase: buyer beware. Before I commit to a few years of copper bullet installations, I want to know if it may be a mistake. What are the potential problems, if any?

Tanks,

Mike M

Mike,
It depends on the copper being used. Sheet copper (like copper pipe) is available in various thicknesses.

FX uses a much thicker gauge copper in some fixtures than others. Go to a stocking distributor like Ewing and compare them. Look at the TC-20 for an example of really heavy duty copper.

http://www.fxl.com/products/images/products/images/trave_casa_env.jpg

I would personally never install a couple of copper bodied Nightscaping fixtures, the Cameoliter and the Spaceliter, because the walls are thin and bend too easily when you go to service them.

Whoever installed that copper Clayliter fixture that Pete showed a picture of taught us all a lesson - copper in a direct burial fixture combined with a reactive soil is a bad idea.


Bronze or brass stakes should work for you too Mike.

BTW, sounds to me like Pete works in an environment that is tough on a lot of materials... I bet he sticks with brass, bronze or stainless... or did you say you had a problem with stainless and salt spray too Pete?

JoeyD
01-15-2008, 12:49 PM
Pete would you or do you ever use metal/brass stakes?

Mike M
01-15-2008, 03:40 PM
Mike,

What I did in the beginning was to install different fixtures I was interested in in my yard and monitor them. sometimes I would recreate situations and see for myself what happens. But you can waste alot of energy and time doing this, that is why I stopped doing it.

I agree Tom. Plus, I don't really feel like waiting 10 to 20 years before deciding on whether or not I like the copper bullets. :laugh:

The point of this post was to get some ex post facto information.

Pro-Scapes
01-15-2008, 06:02 PM
I agree Tom. Plus, I don't really feel like waiting 10 to 20 years before deciding on whether or not I like the copper bullets. :laugh:

The point of this post was to get some ex post facto information.

Mike actually what would be ideal for you is to have some different finishes in your demo kit. Patina a cast light... a copper path... then leave some natural... add some salt to the spray and make some more verde as well.

This morning I saw some copper paths I installed near a lake about 1 week ago today and they were already quite dark.

Doug has another finish in which you can sandblast the copper and get an antique rust finish too.

pete scalia
01-15-2008, 08:07 PM
Only brass stakes for me. PVC is no problem here also but they can break. Long Island is an Island . That means it's surrounded by water. I have seen some stainless steel transformers out there that look like they have some rusting on them. Again , I don't know if this is coincidence or what but they are NS transformers I've seen with the rust on the ss. It may appear as though I am beating up on them but I'm not trying to. I think their product was the first to be distributed on LI . Dating back to the early 90's Bissett Wholesale nurseries in Holtsville was big on selling their product and no one else's. So that's probably why all the corroded stuff I have found has been NS because they have been installed for the longest time. The ironic thing is that NS is hardly ever seen around anymore except on old installs.

irrig8r
01-15-2008, 08:43 PM
Not all stainless steel is created equal. I think NS uses a 304. It would be interesting if someone offered a "Coastal Climate" transformer case in 316.

# Type 304: the most common; the classic 18/8 stainless steel.

# Type 316: the next most common; for food and surgical stainless steel uses; Alloy addition of molybdenum prevents specific forms of corrosion. 316 steel is more resistant to corrosion than 18-8 stainless steels.... 316 steel is also known as "marine grade" stainless steel due to its increased ability to resist saltwater corrosion compared to type 304....

Mike M
01-16-2008, 06:27 PM
Greg, I got the dead channel set on my sirius radio! It came with my truck. It'll be sad when my free subscription runs out. Back to Johnny Cash CD's.

JoeyD
01-16-2008, 06:46 PM
Hey Mike, put it on Outlaw Country channel 63 I think. They play all kinds of good stuff including Cash, the Dead, Waylon, and all kinds of other good stuff!