We show that overlapping sphere packs provide useful models for the microstructure and elastic properties of sintered bronze powders. In the early stages of sintering the dilated sphere (or cherry-pit) model is superior, while at low porosities the sintered powders are more accurately described by freely overlapping spheres. The dilated sphere model accurately predicts Young's modulus for materials produced by the selective laser melting of metal powders. This will help improve the match between designed and actual properties of net-shape components made using this process. (C) 2011 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.