MrLentz

Aluminum or Brass zippers

14 posts in this topic

Hello,

I am finally learning to sew a zipper into a case, a small dopp kit. I was wondering if there is any big difference between the aluminum zippers vs. brass? I like the aluminum color better, but are there any downsides in using them? To me aluminum seems like a soft metal so possibly it could fail much faster.

 

Thanks!

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I am posting because I would like any information on zippers at all. They are a mystery to me. Thanks.

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I stay away from teh nylon zippers for all but the smallest projects.  Otherwise, I've had a pair of insulated cover-alls with an aluminum zipper for years now... no troubles - and they do get some hard use (now if I could just find them after moving!).

 

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I go by color of leather. Black leather gets aluminum, Browns and reds get brass. Just my preference.

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Related but not exactly the same, the chain of the zipper doesn't usually wear out, even with nylon zippers (unless you're dealing with really low quality stuff).  I have handbags with nylon zippers come back to me with years and years of use and it's almost always just the pull that wears out; I open the end, slide on a new zipper pull and you're good to go.  

The pulls themselves are metal and eventually it just fatigues with use.   The only time I have a nylon zipper fail is when the teeth get damaged some way. 

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Thanks everyone, that certainly helps clear things up.

 

@Bikermutt, I am getting a lot of my initial zipper learning just from the Al Stohlman book on Making Leather Cases volume 2. On page 28 he breaks it all down. Then there are a few cases that illustrate techniques for attachment.

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12 hours ago, MrLentz said:

Hello,

I am finally learning to sew a zipper into a case, a small dopp kit. I was wondering if there is any big difference between the aluminum zippers vs. brass? I like the aluminum color better, but are there any downsides in using them? To me aluminum seems like a soft metal so possibly it could fail much faster.

 

Thanks!

do more research..

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2 hours ago, MrLentz said:

Thanks everyone, that certainly helps clear things up.

 

@Bikermutt, I am getting a lot of my initial zipper learning just from the Al Stohlman book on Making Leather Cases volume 2. On page 28 he breaks it all down. Then there are a few cases that illustrate techniques for attachment.

Thanks, I have been thinking of getting that series.

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As above; quality zippers last better than cheap ones whether they be plastic, aluminium or brass. However, in damp or wet environments the aluminium one will corrode faster and seize up sooner.eg, a case for a fishing reel; use plastic or brass for quality, but not aluminium

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I do a lot of zipper replacements in a variety of goods, in my commercial leather shop. here's my 2 cents worth...

I try to choose the best zipper for the project. When I replace a wrap-around, double pull zipper in a small pouch, I prefer a #5 plastic coil zipper. Ditto for money belt zippers. Jeans typically use short brass #5 zippers. Light weight jackets and blazers are fine with a #5 zipper of any material. But, heavy weight leather jackets are best fitted with a #7 metal tooth zipper. Very heavy items and items under a lot of stress along the zip line will benefit from a #10 zipper retrofit.

I either match the color of the original zipper and tape, or ask the customer if they mind if I choose, based on what I have in stock, or have easy access to.

In most cases, I use YKK zippers and pulls. They are the most reliable and long lasting whether made of plastic coil or formed Vislon, aluminum, nickle, or brass. If only the pull is bad, but the zipper is not a YKK, I will try a Zlide-on (see below *), or else I must replace the entire zipper set. For this I usually charge a long wheelbase 5. If the zipper is very long, as in a rifle bag tarp or tent, my price goes up exponentially. You can purchase bulk zipper tape in various size rolls from Ohio Travelbag (OTB), Wawak and ZipperStop.

If the tape and teeth are okay but the pull won't close the teeth, a zipper plier can be used on the back of the zipper to close the gap until the teeth merge again. You can buy this tool from Wawak or OTB. It resembles a common nickle finish pair of pliers, but there is a wide open gap in the center of the teeth on both jaws. This gap lets the teeth grab the rear sides of the zipper without hitting the pull tab or its mounting bracket. I've saved many a zipper for customers when all that was wrong was the pull needed a little clamping down. It can give the owner a lease on life of the zipper at a very low cost (beer money).

European garments may have the separating zipper pull on the left, rather than the right side, which is typical in the USA. You will probably not be able to find left hand pulls mounted on separating jacket zippers. If the zipper is a #5, you should be able to sew it in backwards to place the pull on the left. Some zippers will allow this, while others will warp and fight the pull all the way up and down.

If a pull has stopped closing the teeth and clamping down on the back of it doesn't fix it, you can buy Zlide-on* zipper pulls from Ohio Travelbag. They can be popped open to slide them over the teeth, then clamped down to lock them into the path. Zlide-ons are life savers for a zipper repair person.

In addition to stocking a wide range of Zlide-ons, you can buy a zipper repair kit containing numerous pulls, end stops and closure brackets. I got mine from OTB. They also sell special pliers to install the little end stops.

I usually keep about a hundred zippers and replacement pulls in stock and bags upon bags of end and closure stops, in various colors. ZIppers can be a bonus service and a good money maker for a leather shop.

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Thanks Wiz. That was as always lots of information.

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They are both soft metals.  For hardness see https://www.tedpella.com/company_html/hardness.htm

Aluminum 2 to 2.9, Brass 3 to 4.  So supposedly, brass would wear better.  But rugged applications need wider zippers, regardless.

Tom

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The general view is that brass is the most durable of the zipper options.  I should say that this is the public's perception. The point is debatable, but it is a safe way to go. Due to the cost of brass, they are also more expensive.

 

I recommend YKK primarily. They are one of the biggest zipper manufacturers, and have a good reputation.

 

Nylon coil zippers have a few advantages: they slide smoothly, they are inexpensive, and in something like a dopp kit there is no chance of teeth rubbing against the hand when reaching in. One disadvantage is they don't look especially premium.

 

Vislon zippers have a few advantages: they are less expensive than metal, they are supposed to be self-cleaning and usable even when dirty, and they are supposed to be durable. They are used a lot in military gear. Disadvantage: very utilitarian-looking.

 

Metal tooth zippers have the perceived advantage of strength/durability. Aluminum looks dull compared to brass, and perhaps lower quality (looking, I mean). Nickel zippers look better, but are mostly available in short lengths.

 

All told, for durability as far as sheer strength, the larger the size of the zipper teeth or coil, the stronger it is. The main sizes are:

 

 3, used on skirts, small coin purses, etc.

5, used on jeans, jackets, etc. By far this is the most common size.

7, used on some coveralls, some coats, other gear intended to have rugged use.

10, used on zippered windows (eg Jeep), heavy coveralls, hockey bags, etc.

 

A dopp kit will get light use over a long tim.e. For that application I would probably choose a #5 metal zipper in brass or a 5 coil zipper in a color that matched the leather or stitching. You could use 7, as well.

 

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Some good zipper info in this thread.

I really like using YKK zippers on my work when possible.

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