twigg

How do you find a useful scrap yard?

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To be honest, I'm pretty embarrassed to have to ask this. How do you find a scrap yard where you can buy material? I've looked up some scrap businesses in my area, but if they do sell scrap to the general public, they don't advertise it. All the websites advertise that the yards buy scrap, but don't really mention selling any. Plus, I have yet to find a single business in my area that advertises itself as a "scrap yard" or "salvage yard". Instead, I find salvaged auto parts sellers and recycling centers, and I'm not sure which businesses would sell and which would tell me to get lost. What do you all look for?

I'm in Boulder, CO if that helps. I have a car. I have an angle grinder and hand tools, but I do not have jacks. So I'm not able to take leaf springs or axles from auto scrap yards unless they're already removed for me. (I would just buy jacks, I know they're cheap, but I am completely out of room to store more tools for the time being. On top of that, I've never used jacks before and I've got some anxiety about going under a raised car for the first time with a grinder and no one watching out for me.)

Of course, I do keep my eyes open for other sources of scrap. Last weekend I snagged a cheap metal desk off the curb and broke it down for rectangular pipe and sheet metal. I always keep an eye out for bed frames and such. The only construction sites I know of in town are on the university campus, and I haven't bothered asking for drops there because they're large outfits and the foreman probably wouldn't take the time. Other than that, I am networking with local fab/welding businesses, but, well, I'm a painfully shy individual and I'm taking my sweet time before I feel comfortable enough asking for anything. I prowl craigslist regularly, but I'm too slow on the draw. The big reason I'm interested in scrap yards is because it would be great to be able to shop a larger variety. Not likely I'm ever going to find A2 on the curb (not in my neighborhood anyhow :()

P.S. I do realize I could solve several of these mysteries by picking up a phone. It'll be less of a strain on my nerves if I have a better idea what to expect going in. I couldn't tell you why but my millennial instincts would rather get a broken arm than call up another human being :D

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Stop by the office and tell people what you're looking for and why. Be friendly. Bring doughnuts.

Don't discount the university construction sites. I've got a HUGE supply of various bits and pieces from construction sites on the campus where I work, and a couple of bottle openers made from rebar (showing the texture on the handle) make great thank-you gifts. 

Don't bother calling. Just show up and ask. The worst thing than can happen is someone says No. Not asking is worse than No, because the answer might have been Yes.

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Jacks are no problem in a scrap yard. Every car has one in it and there will provably be some just laying about. 

Having said that let me also add that i have been an auto tech for more years than i care to count, 20+, take heed to this : NEVER, EVER GET UNDER A CAR THAT IS SUPPORTED BY ONLY A JACK. Get something solid under there, that would be what jack stands are for. Around the yard you will be able to find a lot of stuff that can support the vehicle. 

There is also not much of a chance they will let you cut the leaf springs or something out of a scrap car, those they plan on reselling. And if they do, and they know you, one of the guys may just be nice enough to bring the fork lift over and flip the car to where you can get to what ever it is that you want. 

Go visit your local mechanic. We have a huge scrap pile in the corner of my shop. I specialize in transmissions but the shop does it all. That means on any given day i have a pile of axles, springs, sway bar links, etc., etc., etc. Most techs will let you rummage through the scrap barrel (my owner wants scrap price for it, most are happy just to get rid of it) but keep in mind clean up after yourself. Also with mechanics a box of doughnuts or a couple bottle openers will go a long way. Biscuits and gravy, they will call you when they get the parts off if you get them from Tudors.  

 

 

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Hey twigg,

 Walt is the name, and scrounging is my game :D 

Scrounging materials will depend on what you need them for. Are you looking for stock to make art, hardware, general household items, blades.....?

Wrecking yards out here have every car on stands, none are on the ground. Some yards remove the jacks so people can't flip a car off the stands, others do not.

But, you can get springs a lot easier from 4x4 suspension shops, auto body repair shops, and yes, even shops that make new springs as they have scraps. Also watch for cars being parted out. I have yet to pay for a car spring, and I have a pile of them.

Other scrap can be picked up at the source if the scrap yards won't sell to you. Look for businesses that use machinery, machine shops, repair shops of all kinds, welding companies, and also hit up the guys driving around and collecting scrap. Tell them what you are looking for. Scrap is running $40 a ton in Las Vegas, and Utah is not paying at all unless you have 5,000# minimum. What does that mean? Yards may be more willing to sell to you , and many shops will give it to you instead of tossing it into the dumpster.

Again, what are you looking to make?

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The absolute best scrapyards I have ever been privileged to loot and pillage HAVE NO WEB PRESENCE AT ALL!

They tend to be small family run places, often rural and I'm talking to the folks who own and run the business.  Large places have much more liability concerns or 100% contracts where everything they get goes to a single buyer.

I would never buy springs from a scrapyard trying to make money selling car parts. Getting them free from places that replace them is more efficient.  I would never try to cut one off in a scrapyard where free gasoline vapors may be way too close to angle grinder sparks.

Tip for millenials: The net is NOT the best way to do a lot of types of business!  Like I have said in hunting for anvils---trying to find a good deal on anvils by only checking with folks who are trying to make the most money selling them is an exercise in frustration! 

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Wish I could help but I'm pretty much in the same situation. There's a recycling place close but I don't think they sell to people, nor do they seem to have much heavy scrap.

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Thanks all! 

7 hours ago, BillyBones said:

NEVER, EVER GET UNDER A CAR THAT IS SUPPORTED BY ONLY A JACK. Get something solid under there, that would be what jack stands are for.

5 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

I would never try to cut one off in a scrapyard where free gasoline vapors may be way too close to angle grinder sparks.

Really appreciate the heads up, both. Definitely out of my comfort zone. 

6 hours ago, BIGGUNDOCTOR said:

Again, what are you looking to make?

I'm hoping to make straight razors and kitchen cutlery, so that would mean scrap tool steel (O1, A2, W1, etc) or 1095 for the razors and I probably want to experiment with a variety of mid to high carbon content steels for the kitchen knives. I have a feeling 5160 will probably be the most available knife steel, if I manage to get some scrap springs. I'm also trying to learn to weld, and have plenty of small fab tasks, so I'm always on the lookout for A36. 

Putting together all the advice thus far, it sounds like my best options are to ask for the foreman at the university construction site, and to try the nearby mechanic. I have a hunch that the price of scrap must be relatively high around here, but it's still worth a shot. I'll definitely take your advice and show up armed with pastries. I'll start asking around and letting people know I'm looking. 

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I like 1080 for blades. If you have a way to cut them, tractor plow discs can yield enough 1080 for many knives. Tractor dealers and ag repair shops often have a stack of them around. Old junkyards are great too - cars used to have a lot more steel in them. Trunk and hood springs, sway bars, and torsion bars are all good sources for high carbon round bar.

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I've bought a lot of scrap at the stoplight, McDonald's parking lot etc from guys with pick-ups loaded to go to the recycle center. It's mystery steel but everything at the scrapyard is. The guys that are "scrapping" for cash are more than happy to sell some stuff to me for a few bucks vs. the scrapyard for a few cents. I have given my number to the guy who does it for a living and told him I'd be happy to hear from him. 

The scrapyard here has a single buyer contact so no go on that front. I also buy remnants from the steel supplier near me. They sell the leftovers for 40cents a pound. It's a little expensive but it's known steel and you can find everything from 10xx series steel to tool steel. I don't mind paying 40 cents per pound for known steel. The only drawback is you are limited to what is left over. You can also buy 20ft. Full length bars of anything you might need that isn't in the remnant section but it's full price. 

Pnut

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Note that old disks/discs are usually a straight high carbon steel;but newer ones may be boron alloys that won't make a decent blade.   If you are doing razors; buying *known* steel will probably save you a lot of hassle and heartache.   Smithing takes up so much time that the cost of even new steel is usually trivial compared to labour costs.

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I agree with Mr. Powers, especially if you are planning on making razors. You can make pretty decent knives and hawk inserts from a piece of coil spring but razors have to hold a much finer edge so it will be benificial that you use a known steel and find out the proper method of heat treating. The "Heat Treater's Guide Companion" is a free down loadable AP.

I thought i wanted to be a blade smith when i first started but the limited amount of time spent at the anvil turned me off. 

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Thanks all for the input. 

I hear you about getting known steel for razors. I've already started stockpiling 1095 and 52100 stock from ebay auctions for when I know what I'm doing. I've been practicing my forging technique on RR spikes in the meantime. I was thinking of scrap steel mostly for kitchen knives. I can probably get 6ish razors or 1 chef's knife or 2 paring knives from a single knifemaking billet like I'd buy online, so it's way more economical for me to buy known steel for razors than for kitchen knives. And I don't know if I'll really enjoy making kitchen knives until I get started. That's why I'm hoping to find some spring steel. Also, I'm just curious what the best quality I can get from scrap materials is (again, not for razors, I know from experience the feeling of shaving with a razor that doesn't hold an edge and all I can say is ow)

Also, I have no idea where my interests will lead me in the future. Razors are a nominal goal for me, just something tangible I can aim at while learning. I'm totally willing to be seduced by other crafts. It just turned out that razors were an interest of mine that lead me to blacksmithing in the first place. I started by restoring antique razors by hand, and it got out of hand from there. I'm a serial dabbler with no shame :D

I'll keep an eye out for plow discs. 

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One of the members here , Snail Forge, is an admin on the Straight Razor Place forum.

For knife stock from springs you may have to watch for micro cracks, especially in rust prone areas of the country. Good tool steel can be purchased pretty inexpensively from machine shop suppliers like MSC, who has gobbled up my other suppliers of ENCO, and J&L. They run specials on O1 and W1 fairly often as well as others. 

A straight is on my list of projects.

 

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Anything you can buy new you can find in the scrap stream---BUT the time and effort it takes to find oddball stuff may make it MUCH more expensive than buying new.

(I once got to hold a solid tungsten collimator that was in the scrap stream from Los Alamos for instance Gotta love a surplus store where EVERYONE on staff carries a geiger counter...and my local scrapyard has a bunch of jet engine parts is a pile due to some dispute.)

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Dont forget the good ol craigslist.  I try and search a few times a week for "helper springs," "leaf springs," and "suspension parts."

The unused helper springs are the best!

Also, if you go to the junkyard, take a look at the older f150/f250s.  A lot of them will have an "over load" spring on the rear, those are great as well!  And I know you dont like calling, but I know several junk yards that have "yard guys" (thats a loose term) that for $20 or so will pull the parts you want for you.  Not free, but for less than $50 you could have enough scrap to get your skills where you want them to be and start using your good stuff.

Its still free to run a want add on craigslist and FB marketplace, start there too.

And like everyone else has said, a dozen good doughnuts is your best friend.  

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Took my little pickup in Thursday morning as it was having some trouble starting---as in it wouldn't start at daytime ambient temps Wednesday down here at the border and was fully loaded!  Anyway I tried at 3:20 AM (using the traditional water clock alarm system...) It started! So NOT turning it off, I did the 3 hour drive north, not turning it off when fueling and not turning it off when unloading. (The Mechanic doesn't like fully overloaded vehicles on the lift...). Delivered it for it's appointment and turned it off.

The bad news: a rebuilt starter; the good news is that he offered me anything I wanted from the shop's scrap pile. I estimate 5 to 10 tons of stuff there including leaf springs, coil springs, various suspension members, etc. FOR FREE.  Didn't need anything right then; but of course at my next stop with my working pickup, I made a deal to forge some job specific tooling for an old friend of the family---who in turn is hooking me up with the stuff for my 20'x20' truckport/open air shop extension. Cheap telephone poles and roofing panel pull offs.  I may be ok if I have to accept retirement...(It's funny as I bring more and more shop stuff back from my rental casita; my shop I'm putting it all in is getting cleaner and more open space---Entropy running backwards!)

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