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buying steel

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Currently I buy steel in 20' lengths. The prices are decent, and I am able to buy as much as I need with no minimum quantity necessary. I was looking at the prices of the steel coming right out of the mills, and it is about half the price as the steel distributor.

Does anyone buy steel directly from the mill? The mill near me will only sell in 10 tons of one size minimum. Not to mention that the shipping is very high if the order is below 20 ton.

I have talked to other smiths and have heard of them buying coal and industrial coke in 20 ton shipments up north. It would seem economical to buy it directly from the mill if you are able to shell out that kind of money, but it would seem that you would save just as much since you are getting the mill prices.

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It costs the mill to handle and store steel, the re-seller has those costs as well and passes them on to you.

Most steel re-sellers have discounts based on size of order---which is why a local business likes to sell steel on the side. If I come buy a couple of hundred pounds they may then get a bigger discount on their next order!

I do know of a few knifemakers that have bought the proverbial 20 ton order to get a special alloy melt---that they have then been using and selling to other knifemakers.

Just remember a week spend building storage racks and loading them up with steel besides taking up shop space is also a *week* you have not been producing anything. At a decent shop rate you run into the red pretty fast!

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I am surprised that a mill will sell direct that small a quantity of steel unless you are talking random length ends. Half price also sounds very high. A few years ago I saw prices for a distributor that bought from mills and then sold to lower level distributors. This was a distributor that would not sell in less than truckload quantities. Their prices were about 20-30% of what most of us pay.
Steel is something I find it is often worth shopping around for, and often the place that is cheapest for one thing is not necessarily the cheapest for another. The place I buy a lot of 4140 and 4340 from at $1.00 and $1.50 respectively, wanted about $3/lb when I wanted a couple of feet of 5" round 4340. I got it for $2/lb from another place that charges me more than the first for whole lengths.
I also made the mistake a few years ago of ordering a bunch of misc. mild steel from the place I buy that 4140 and 4340. I ordered it along with about $1000 of 4140 assuming it would be cheaper than my local place with no minimum order. I ended up paying up to double the price for the mild steel over my local place.

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The metal suppliers usually call that "B" grade. I get calls from one of our local suppliers that brings in large "rem", scratched, dented, rusted and miscuts from their other branches. On really good days I roll out with wholesale scrap prices on several tons. Our other supplier wouldn't dream of making deals like that and they either throw it in their scrap pile or just sell it as "A" grade steel. Because of that I don't shop around..... much, I'm usually getting a good deal. If I pay a couple bucks more for a 20' stick now and then it's a small price to pay for the relationship I have with them. They even deliver for free no matter what! That's usually a mandatory charge from the other suppliers, even if they're going by for another drop off, which can run into the triple digits if you're not paying attention to the final bill.

If you're always shopping around for the best price, especially when you're talking about a couple bucks one way or the other, you might be missing
a much bigger opportunity.

OH, they also recommend us for work for ornamental and fabrication customers and even high grade tire kickers from buyers. HUGE.

hmmmm, I need to send those guys some xmas presents.

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