View Full Version : Machined T6 vs. Cast Brass?

Eden Lights
02-22-2008, 05:52 PM
While I understand if your in a coastal environment the need for brass, but for us inland guys I don't see any advantage? Please educate me? I just can't seem to get excited about all this cast Brass/Bronze product when there are such beautiful machined T6 units available for even less cost. When I have a client with a taste and a budget for something better I prefer machined aluminum over cast brass myself, am I missing something? All the fixture features I like come with machined fixtures: sealed stems, glare control, infinite knuckle adjustments, and etc. I would love to keep brands out of this debate, but if you guys want to go there we can.

02-22-2008, 06:44 PM
while I am technically far enough inland to use Allum I do tend to favor brass and copper fixtures. I have seen some really stunning machined t6 and also machined brass latley but the price is higher than a casted fixture. I have on my desk a billet brass light that is like a surgical instrument but in my area its a hard sell.

Eddie I will email you some other specifics.

Chris J
02-22-2008, 08:20 PM
I will admit that that the majority of my installations have been of the marine grade aluminum nature even though I live in a coastal environment. This was mainly due to my lack of knowledge in the beginning years, and the non existence of a brass line from Kichler when I started out with them. I will say that now that I have the needed experience in coastal environments, brass is a much better option. The marine grade aluminum will last for an abundant time frame depending on several factors, but it will eventually start to bubble and oxidize after several years. On the other hand, it depends on how you want to look at it. Even though the finish may be oxidized a bit after 10 years or so, the guts of the luminary itself are the same as they will be in the brass model. As long as the lamp and the socket are in tact, then there is not a problem. The effect of the portrait will still be the same, and the luminaries will be hidden in most cases.

02-23-2008, 01:44 AM
I have a "sample" allum fixture here... after 3 weeks in the yard with what i assume is a fair dousing of my lab Rangers golden shower the finish is already blistering. I think this fails my tests and will be discarded with the coke cans. I will take pics of it before it gets tossed

02-26-2008, 11:21 AM
Other than cost what are the benfits to aluminum?? That would be my question. Aluminum is not as corrosion resistant and does not have the value attached to it as brass and copper does. When you buy soemthing brass and copper you know it is going to be with you forever. There is also percieved value there. I just see no reason to buy aluminum other than you are putting in a cheaper product to help save you or your client money initially. Unfortunalty they will end up sepnding more to replace it over time. This is not something I see you doing eden, I am sure the T6 aluminum product you buy is of high quality, it is how you sell it. Guys are pushing crap aluminum all day to customers who belive they are buying "quality lighting products"

Eden Lights
02-26-2008, 02:43 PM
Thanks for the post Joey, There are a whole list of benefits of the quality machined T6 fixture lines over the cast products in a non-corrosive environment. I will post more when I get in tonight, but I have yet to see a quality cast brass product in the market, the Kichler 15384 probably has about the best tolerances that I have seen, but you can't get away with just using the 384 due to glare control issues. The cost is about the same for a quality machined T6 fixture vs. the mass produced brass fixtures out there once you add in a quality stake and etc. Joey I like the Unique line, but I just think it's a little overpriced when compared to a Quality machined T6 fixture. I look at your line a little different than most since I don't use the cheap pars to get the overall price down with the brass mixed in here and there. In my mind to sell a all Unique job, I have to use all brass Unique product and I also have to supplement your line with machined brass fixtures with glare control anywhere multiple viewing angles exist and when it all shakes out a all machined T6 fixture package is just as good for my environment and in my mind is of higher quality. I would still ask the original question? and I already posted some of the benefits of the machined T6 lines in the original post, do you really need more?

02-26-2008, 03:04 PM
well I find it hard to belive there is not a quality cast brass product in the market. Maybe there isnt a cast brass product that has the glare control features you so desire but I can tell you it is hard to argue that our product is not quality. It is far supperior to Aluminum in many ways. I think you would need to use our line extensilvly before making the claim that you cannot produce very good designs with 360 angles. We do it everyday as do hundreds of customers around the country and world. That is why we provide lenses and hex louvers with just about all of our products, as well as fully adjustable angle cut shrouds. Sure sometimes you have to sacrifice one view over another but thats lighting design.

Comparing price with my brass light and an aluminum light is like comparing apples to oranges, do those fixtures carry lifetime warranties, do they come with lenses in the box, quality lamps, wire leads pre crinmped, mounting options in the box, are you sure they will not corrode over time? It is hard to compare my lights to any aluminum light out there. But I do understand each person has different needs and has different taste and views. But I also know it is hard to generate a real true honest opinion of ones product line without really using it and giving it a real go with your best foot forward. And if cost is a concern why not look at our Copper Knights line or even our new Brass Knights line. Some would say that copper is better than brass and we make a very competitivly priced copper line with all the same benefits minus the life time warranty and the lens packs. Same goes for our spun brass line. But you still get great lamps, mounting hardware and stakes,as well as wire leads and high quality sockets.

But this thread isnt about Unique it is about aluminum (T6) and its value and benefits and really I dont see many companies out there makeing a high end aluminum light for the average landscape lighting contractor. Maybe for the high end specifaction market but not for the average Joe. We try to cater to both and I think we have a pretty darn good product to accomplish this without needing to drop down to a less expensive and highly corrosive aluminum line.

02-26-2008, 05:55 PM
Joey I know the line Eddie is speaking of. It is VERY nice for alluminum and I would not hesitate to use it when the situation calls for it. There is a bullet with a 360 shroud in there that is low profile and very clean looking. Its also avalible in brass. It is spec grade and it is priced in line with your brass but you spec the options you want.

I do really like the unique line so dont get me wrong here but the line Eddie is speaking of is most definatly spec grade and of high quality. The price of it is on par with your quality products as well. T6 and your copper knights is pretty close but minus the leads... the brass and your brass is not far off either but again minus all the bells and whistles but you can spec thoes as needed or install on site.

Eden Lights
02-26-2008, 06:00 PM
I think you would need to use our line extensively before making the claim that you cannot produce very good designs with 360 angles. We do it everyday as do hundreds of customers around the country and world. That is why we provide lenses and hex louvers with just about all of our products, as well as fully adjustable angle cut shrouds. Sure sometimes you have to sacrifice one view over another but that's lighting design.

Let's just talk about this because it is where most lines really fail us. Joey you know that no one around the country has a magic wand to take a fixture with a convex lens above the shroud as with your Pulsar and produce acceptable results it doesn't matter if you stack a dozen hexcell louvers in there the lens still causes unacceptable glare when viewed from all angles. I am not picking on Unique your just the only one here, but the spec grade world of machine grade fixture manufactures is kicking all the big boys tails in the catergory of fixture designs, how long is going to take for Kichler, Cast, Unique, Hadco, and etc. to provide the equipment that is necessary to follow the design principles that they all preach. As far as sacrificing one view for another I hope my competitors keep on believing the same as you because it is a walk in the park to educate a customer about good and bad lighting design.

Eden Lights
02-26-2008, 06:21 PM
Vision3, HK, BK, Kim, Lumiere, FXL, Hevi-Lite, and others all have a fixtures with a focus on various glare control options to completely eliminate design destroying glare.

Even Vista has the new 2220 LS as a cast option for just a few pennies.

02-26-2008, 07:12 PM
I guess I just miss what it is you mean by full glare control. we used to use a flat lens that sat more recessed into the light but it began to pool water and debris. Our convex lens does not stick out above the shroud as you claim, I am looking at one on my desk as we speak. I can see from certain angles that it is noticable for sure but you are going to sacrafice one thing for another. But I always feel there are areas we can definitly improve on and today i had a call for a deeper shroud for an uplight. So I think I need to look at it a bit closer and see what it is we can do to adapt this glare control designs into our products.

02-26-2008, 08:18 PM
some lights out there have a flat lens with 360 shroud and a good sized drain hole as an option. I agree in some applications you need a deeper shroud to help keep glare down. A convex lens will inheritly offer more glare than a flar lens. It projects light more in other directions. This is why you have the bubble on the nova isnt it ?

02-26-2008, 10:49 PM
Another way to reduce glare is to use a fixture like the FX Macchia Ultimo with internal recessor rings that hold the lamp deeper inside the fixture body.


They also make a 360 degree shroud on their brass Lampada Ottone.

02-27-2008, 11:43 AM
some lights out there have a flat lens with 360 shroud and a good sized drain hole as an option. I agree in some applications you need a deeper shroud to help keep glare down. A convex lens will inheritly offer more glare than a flar lens. It projects light more in other directions. This is why you have the bubble on the nova isnt it ?

Yeah that is exactly why we have that bubble on the Nova. I am going to play with some different shrouds on our stuff and see what we can come up with.

02-27-2008, 06:40 PM
is this lamp made of extruded parts and then machined.or is it cast..Do you know if its 3003 or 6063 alloy... seems the only locigal choices 6061 is ugly for most extrusion apps

after 8 years in aluminum casthouses and extrusion die shops... I am curious...I see my old work everywhere i go..

just in case anyones intrested..

The letter “T” is always followed by one or more digits. These digits indicate the method used to produce the stable tempers, as follows:

-T3 Solution heat treated, then cold worked.

-T351 Solution heat treated, stress-relieved stretched, then cold worked.

-T36 Solution heat treated, then cold worked (controlled).

-T4 Solution heat treated, then naturally aged.

-T451 Solution heat treated, then stress relieved stretched.

-T5 Artificially aged only.

-T6 Solution heat treated, then artificially aged.

-T61 Solution heat treated (boiling water quench), then artificially aged.

-T651 Solution heat treated, stress-relieved stretched, then artificially aged (precipitation heat treatment).

-T652 Solution heat treated, stress relieved by compression. then artificially aged.

-T7 Solution heat treated, then stabilized.

-T8 Solution heat treated, cold worked, then artificially aged.

-T81 Solution heat treated, cold worked (controlled), then artificially aged.

-T851 Solution heat treated, cold worked, stress-relieved stretched, then artificially aged.

-T9 Solution heat treated, artificially aged, then cold worked.

-T10 Artificially aged, then cold worked.

Added digits indicate modification of standard practice.


Eden Lights
02-27-2008, 06:56 PM
Cap and knuckle: Machined 6061-T6 aluminum, C36000 brass, or 304 stainless steel caps
that come in four styles.

Tell what 6061 means please?

02-27-2008, 07:17 PM

6061 is an aluminum alloy, with magnesium and silicon as the alloying elements. It has generally good mechanical properties and is heat treatable and weldable. It is one of the most common alloys of aluminum for general purpose use.

02-27-2008, 09:22 PM
without boring you to tears.... and wasting hours of your life...

6061 is strong and machines well
6063 is not as strong but has a better unfinished finish... it is perfect for anodizing

but depending on how its cast/ homoginized/ extruded and heat treated 6063 could be stronger then 61

3003 isn't as strong but can be polished to mirror like finishes... we used to make copier tubes out of 3003

we made 50+ 6061s
30 diffrent 63s
and 3 diffrent 3003s

Chris J
02-27-2008, 10:04 PM
Sorry to interupt, but do you know what type of aluminum is used to make the T-tops on offshore boats? It also has a shiney finish which makes it look like stainless steel, but it is aluminum. I'm amazed at how they can put this stuff on salt water fishing boats, and I never see corrosion. Also, what about aluminum gutters? They last for years and years and years? What's that all about? Why is it so hard to make an aluminum lighting fixture?

02-27-2008, 10:36 PM
Chris, I have wondered this myself. Is it just too cost prohibitive to make them in the grade of aluminum we want. If it puts it up in the price range of brass, I would just as soon use brass over aluminum. Very good question though.

02-27-2008, 10:41 PM
63 can be shined/polished and then cleared.....it will look like stainless

most paintball guns are made of anodized 61... but shiny barrels are 63

gutters are 61..

alot of the apperance comes down to how it is processed


after the fact machined/polished/ streched/ drawn

what the aging process and heat treat is

I liKe the look of brass and love to machine it
I like the look of aluminum and its easy to machine too... and with metal prices out of wack cheaper

i don't think it has to be one or the other...i imagine there should be applications for both metals

here is some examples of Anodizing

02-27-2008, 10:46 PM
That's Extruded Aluminum. Usually almost pure aluminum- It's pushed through a die. Aluminum is pretty salt resistant. The aluminum used to make lights is a cast alloy. Anything thats cast has pours that let the salt in. Also, anything thats cast will leach efflorescence over time and this can effect the fixture's powder coat finish. Sure they can make an aluminum fixture that won't peel - Look at boat out drives and outboards. They are in SALT WATER all day! (if you live near the ocean) It's up to the lighting manufacturer to correctly process and finish their products so they last. Cheap products=cheap finish.

02-28-2008, 12:30 AM

The billits that i used to cast for extrusion were mostly 61 and 63 everything that was extruded was far from pure aluminum.... 5005 was about the purest aluminum I worked with on a regular basis

the only difrence between cast aluminum and extruded aluminum is the process

Cast Aluminum can be made a couple of different ways. One common way is to make a pattern(say a fixture) out of wood. The wooden model is then laid on sand that is not too damp not too dry. A sheet of protective paper is laid over the layer of sand and the wooden mold. More sand is then laid on the top of the sheet covering the wooden mold. By applying pressure, the sand is compressed. The wooden mold is carefully removed and molten aluminum is poured into the casting mold. Cast aluminum can be more intricately detailed than extruded due to this method. It is however more expensive because each sand mold can be used only once. The sand is rewetted and formed again through the same process. Because the it's a solid piece cast aluminum is popular for those who like a heavyweight feel.

Extruded Aluminum can be explained with a simple analogy. We've all had or seen Play-Doh machines that when you turn the crank the machine pushes play-doh through an opening and it creates a tube of play-doh. The shape of the tube-like play-do can be anywhere from a smooth cylinder to zigzags to a hollow tube. or a holow tube surrounded by a pattern.

Extruded in the process of extrusion pushes a heated billet through a heated die..
it enters the die at `900 degrees and could come out much hotter... it must be cooled as fast as possible in order to make mechanical propertys...

The company where i worked made awnings rails,Sailboat sails ladder components, wheelchair and cruch makers for a very large companys... on the awnings the company had contracted another company to make cast parts to assemble the awning rails. mainly star shaped spinners that were used at locks.... i toured their facility a few times

the two peices are both subjected to the same envionment... both either powder coated or cleared ... so when you talk of "anything thats cast will leach efflorescence over time and this can effect the fixture's powder coat finish"

Efflorescence, in chemistry, is the loss of water (or a solvent) of crystallization from a hydrated or solvated salt to the atmosphere on exposure to air.

explain to me if you can how a solid metal either cast or aluminum can soak up salt water ... porosity in aluminum is usually only an issue with dirty sand and casting techniques and when trying to weld aluminum?, or heat treating that dosn't not have a sufficent cooling cycle...or when water jacketed billet molding improper gas cushion due to dirty mold chambers Not trying to be a dink.... just happen to have a ton of info and experience in this matter


02-28-2008, 12:40 AM
Nate, thanks for taking the time to impart your knowledge on the subject. This has cleared up a few things for me. I wonder which alluminum most of the manus are using. Good grade or bad. What is your opinion?

02-28-2008, 01:03 AM
Cap and knuckle: Machined 6061-T6 aluminum, C36000 brass, or 304 stainless steel caps
that come in four styles.

i machined a bunch of 6061-t6 now most of it very nice stuff.

but is like anything else... we made so many diffrent alloys of 6061 that it would be like me trying to describe to you how the vanilla ice cream i got at the store tastes ...your vanilla could be something much diffrent..

I do know if a good casthouse, good extrusion mill and a good machinist got together there is no doubt that they could build a product that rivaled the finest quality brass or stainless...

but at what cost? would the consumer buy? the general idea is to hide most of these lights out of general sight(from what i know)...other then maybe path lights you hardly see a fixture. In that case its like hiding the mona lisa behind a drape...

if they built a quality fixture at a price that was less then brass....that performed at at least the same level...then maybe it could be a winner....I am new but it suprises me that the jump from lowes to profesional is plastic to brass....what would be considered a mid grade fixture?

02-28-2008, 02:28 AM
some would consider a mid grade to be a powder coated aluminum product from a major professional line manu. Others might say a copper or spun brass might be a mid grade. It all depends on who is buying I guess.

Chris J
02-28-2008, 05:02 AM
I agree that if the cost of the high grade aluminum is going to be at or near the same as brass, then we might as well use the brass. I would simply rather have a high quality metal, with excellent heat dissipation properties, that is much less expensive than brass. If that aint possible, then so be it. Thanks for all the great info.

Eden Lights
02-28-2008, 08:20 AM
I have a few nice projects going and here are the required specs for the fixtures: sealed wire way, sealed optical (lamp) compartment, and etc. T6 or Brass will pass all the corrosion requirements, but very few fixtures will pass the rest of the requirements. These projects are a high-end as they get.