Part of Historic Environment Scotland

Conservation of Non-ferrous Metals

Dates: 06/03/19
Days of the week: Tuesday
Total hours: 37.5
Taught hours: 17.5
On-site instruction: 9.5
Off-site instruction: 8


Explore a variety of issues associated with the manufacture and use of bronze, brass, copper, lead and zinc in Scotland’s historic built environment.

Learn about the manufacture, use and conservation of non-ferrous metal products found in traditional Scottish buildings. A range of non-ferrous metals will be examined, although the architectural use of bronze and brass is the main focus of this module. (Copper, lead and zinc and the various non-ferrous alloys are covered in more detail in Module S: Roofing.)

The module begins with a historic overview of non-ferrous metals in Scottish architectural traditions from the medieval period to the 20th century. A look at the traditional manufacture of non-ferrous metals for architectural purposes emphasises the metallurgical processes for producing alloys.

Understanding the fundamental characteristics and physical properties of non-ferrous metals is the starting point for studying their means of conservation. Discover what’s involved in each stage of a repair programme, from how to survey and document a site to the specification, sourcing and fitting of new material – all according to best practice in conservation. There is an emphasis on the importance of planned maintenance to slow down corrosion.

Entry requirements

Individual modules are open to anyone with an interest in the subject matter. Applicants for the Advanced Professional Diploma should have a relevant degree or professional experience.

Classes, lectures and presentations

  • Use of Non-ferrous Metals in Scotland
  • Metallurgy, Properties and Characteristics
  • Manufacturing Process of Non-ferrous Metals
  • Non-ferrous Metals – Repair and Maintenance
  • In Situ Repairs
  • Health and Safety Issues
  • Site Work and Practice

Potential site visits

  • British Overseas Airways Corporation office, Glasgow
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Wanlockead and Leadhills, Dumfriesshire
  • Current or recent projects by Lead Contractors Association members
  • Bronzework in Stirling
  • City Heritage Trust lead/copper roof projects
  • Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme lead/copper roof projects
  • Historic Environment Scotland estate lead/copper roof projects


Historic use of non-ferrous metals and the Scottish industrial dimension

  • Copper – e.g. decorative details, flashings, cladding to domes, turrets
  • Bronze (copper/tin alloy) – e.g. railings, statuary, decorative doors and gates, lighting fixtures, memorial plaques
  • Brass (copper/zinc alloy) – e.g. ironmongery and door/window furniture, lighting fixtures and fittings, memorial plaques
  • Zinc – e.g. flashings, windows casements
  • Lead – e.g. roofing, pipes, decorative details and statuary, terne-plating, cames for leaded lights
  • Chromium – used in stainless steel, plating in 20th century
  • Material properties and characteristics of copper, bronze, brass, zinc, lead – from thermal conductivity and movement to weathering and patina
  • Manufacturing processes of non-ferrous metals – reverse engineering, foundry work, construction techniques and fixings

Repair, conservation and maintenance

  • Repair issues – from mechanical breakdown and damage to corrosion and incompatibility with adjacent materials
  • Project work – from site practice and work sequencing to application of coatings including for artificial patinisation
  • In situ repairs – e.g. cleaning, welding, patching, reinforcement (plating), replacement, brazing, filling, stitching
  • Health and safety issues – e.g. toxicity of cleaning or repair methods, lead poisoning, working at height, hot working on site