PMPA Technical Member Profile: Chase Brass & Copper Co.

Chase Brass & Copper Company traces its origins to a business established in 1837 in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Chase Brass & Copper Company traces its origins to a business established in 1837 in Waterbury, Connecticut. Today, located in Montpelier, Ohio, Chase Brass operates a focused brass rod facility to serve its copper alloy rod customers throughout North America.
The company is a green facility, with more than 98 percent of its raw materials coming from scrap and other recycled products. The Chase product line consists of copper alloy straight barstock in sizes ranging from 1/4 inch to 4 1/2 inches. The rod is produced and shipped in cross-sections of round, hexagonal, square and special industrial shapes.

“Chase is best known for its Blue Dot brass rod, which has 100 percent machinability and a high degree of thread-rolling capability,” says Tom Christie, the company’s national sales manager. “It provides excellent lead dispersion and allows customers to increase their production of parts per machine hour.” Chase first introduced the patented rod in 1965.

Chase’s brass rod is used for a variety of products. Its low lead content makes it popular for plumbing fittings, fixtures and decorative hardware, while its durability and corrosion resistance make it ideal for industrial equipment. Other products include connectors for the cable TV industry and automotive components such as brake systems, temperature sensors and tire valve stems.

Despite the longtime popularity of brass, today’s suppliers face some serious challenges. According to Jim Palmour, vice president of sales at Chase Brass, the industry is in the midst of substantial change. “That change is driven, in part, by consumer demand for customized products, including faucets and fittings.

“Everyone wants a custom product, so our precision machining customers have had to provide smaller quantities of specialized products. The impact of customized products has been compounded by the recessionary decline in total demand and legislative directives limiting lead content based on end use applications,” Mr. Palmour says.

On January 1 of this year, a California law, A.B. 1953, went into effect regulating the amount of lead in materials that come in contact with potable water. Similar bills are being considered in other states and at the national level. The industry has had to shift its historical product portfolio to meet these needs.

“Chase Brass now offers its customers a variety of low-lead and no-lead products,” Mr. Christie says. “For example, we offer lead-free Green Dot, an Eco Brass alloy rod that has excellent strength, machinability and corrosion resistance characteristics. We believe this alloy has many potential applications, even beyond the plumbing marketplace.”

“If customers want to start making their products out of low-lead or no-lead alloys, we can help them,” Mr. Palmour adds. He says his company’s technical support team is an important benefit for Chase Brass customers. “When companies had to right-size during the recession, they lost a lot of their intellectual capital —things like shopfloor knowledge, engineering expertise and technical know-how,” he explains. “We’ve taken it upon ourselves to increase understanding in those areas by providing insight into materials, layouts, tooling, tooling design, thread rolling—all of the things that PMPA members deal with on a daily basis.”

As a PMPA technical member, Chase Brass has been actively involved with the association. Company executives have served on various PMPA committees, and technical staff members have made presentations at the National Technical Conference.

“We attend all of the national PMPA events and have representation at the chapter meetings,” Mr. Christie says. “Management Updates provide a great variety of speakers that give insight into pertinent aspects of our business—from economic forecasts to management development. We like the ability to interact with customers while providing technical support and information.”

“We get significant value out of PMPA,” Mr. Palmour adds. “It’s one of the most professional organizations we work with. From the meetings to the opportunities to participate in the educational process to the access we have to our prospective customers’ top management, it is a pleasure to be involved with PMPA, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Mr. Palmour sums up by saying, “The difficult times are not behind us. We must work hard to rebuild the manufacturing base in North America if this country is going to have a solid platform for future growth. At Chase Brass, we are still excited about being in the copper-based alloy rod business and will continue to meet the changing needs of the manufacturing marketplace. We trust that our customers see us as a company that provides innovative solutions and as a partner to address the challenges ahead.”