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Recycling the Earth: Scrap Iron Reclamation Empty Recycling the Earth: Scrap Iron Reclamation

Post by Forerunner Fri Nov 20, 2009 10:48 am

This is an article I wrote several years ago.
The prices mentioned herein may be a little different now.
Hope this enlightens some to their own profit.

Of all the pastimes and occupations that a man could
undertake to sustain himself in the modern day, the
salvage metals industry must be one of the most
conducive to independence. Over the course of the last 25 years
I have had extensive experience and success in the scrap metals industry.
Due to the high price of scrap steel at the current time,
there are more people than ever who are taking up the recycling trade.
Below is a work that I have drawn up from my own experiences, back
when scrap metal was not quite so valuable. Hopefully there are some
out there who might benefit. If so, drop me a line, sometime.

At the time of this writing, scrap yards are still
able to purchase metal from the private citizen, in
quantity down to a bucket full of aluminum beverage
cans. There are even yards still in existence that
will pay green cash for your metals.
The key to profitability in the metals business is
labor. Raw materials are abundant, and the sources
nearly unlimited, but it is in the dismantling,
sorting and preparing of the individual metals and
their respective grades that really gives the trade
it's potential to be financially rewarding.
In recent years, base metal stock prices have seen
record-setting levels and still fluctuate slightly
lower than their all-time highs. This has given the
grassroots end of the industry a singularly competitive
However, given the wasteful tendencies of the greater
portion of society, there are still metals everywhere
that are going to landfills or being abandoned in
ditches and fence rows across the country.
Welding shops, lawnmower repair shops, large truck
service centers, automotive dealerships, tire shops,
farmers, implement dealers, construction sites, liquid
propane gas dealerships, service stations, cleanup
week in various towns, abandoned/condemned houses
(ALWAYS get permission), dumpsters(again, get
permission before diving), electrical service centers,
plumbing jobbers, siding and roofing contractors,
grain elevators, auto body repair shops, sawmills,
factories-if you have an inside connection, schools,
hospitals, restaurants, even township commissioners and
municipality street department managers are all good
sources of raw scrap metals.
The key to getting "in" with a source is to know
someone who works there, or, be confident and informed
in your approach to whomever is in charge, and, under
certain conditions (know your values) you will be able
to offer a reasonable percentage of your final price
to the proprietor, in exchange for him letting you
clean up his refuse pile.
Some scrap yards will even strike a deal with you to
dismantle electric motors, process old liquid propane
tanks or remove the steel from various grades of
aluminum at your location. They will supply the
materials, usually at a percentage of their scrap
value. You supply labor and transportation. The outset
of this type interaction can be slow to start, but
with persistence, as the yard manager gets to know and
trust you, this can become very lucrative.

Anything made of or containing base metals has value.
You will develop an eye for scrap metal opportunities
over time.
Items to look for would include lawnmowers, electric
motors, heavy structural steel, steel roofing. waste
concrete reinforcement bar, rolled fence wire,
appliances of all kinds, copper and brass tubing and
valves, electrical wire-insulated or bare, stainless steel
restaurant equipment, abandoned automobiles, steel or cast iron culverts,
bath tubs, sinks, cast iron soil pipe, world war II vintage corrugated
aluminum roofing (common on older outbuildings),
aluminum window and door frames, outmoded farm
implements (watch that you don't cut up an pays to learn the various sources of
value in any given material or object), automotive
engines, car parts, tires on the rim,
tin and lead pipe and tubing, lead/acid batteries,
cast iron steam heating radiators, air conditioners,
aluminum lawn chairs, beverage cans, foil, house
guttering, obsolete playground equipment, school
buses, small liquid propane bottles, etc.
The possibilities are endless.

In every endeavor that a man may undertake, it seems
that tools are indispensable. The honorable trade of
salvaging scrap metal is no exception. There are
various levels that can be sought or settled for in
salvaging, from the back porch operation that only has
a garbage can full of aluminum beverage cans to crush,
to the full-scale, small one-man operation salvage
yard, complete with a full dismantling shop, acre of
graveled outside work area, loader tractor and

For those who prefer a more serious approach, a good
cutting torch is a must. A full set of mechanics hand
tools, including wrenches, hammers, punches, chisels,
pipe wrenches, hacksaw, wire cutters (good, heavy
ones) vise grip™️ type pliers, snap ring pliers, maul,
ratchet and sockets- both three-eighths and half inch
drive, and a full set of screw a huge
plus. A good, solid workbench, preferably fabricated
from welded structural steel or heavy oak planking,
complete with a large vise and maybe even an old
anvil, will serve you well for a lifetime of
scrapping. A gasoline powered, concrete cutoff saw,
with diamond or abrasive wheels, is an incredible
time saver. You won't be using it often to profitably
prepare steel to length, but it is priceless in
working with the softer, more valuable metals such as
copper and aluminum. A good axe can be surprisingly
useful for cutting heavy gauge aluminum wire, as well
as sheet. Have a solid stump of a tough species, such
as elm or bur oak, to serve as a chopping block
backstop when using the axe.
A good salvage artist will include light building
demolition in his list of services offered, and a full
set of pry bars, hammers and a chain saw goes a long
way in turning old houses and outbuildings into
reusable lumber and salvageable metal jackpots.
Lastly, but certainly not all inclusively for the
potential list of useful tools, would be a sound truck
to haul you to the job sites and your finished products
to market. This can be anything from the trunk of your
old car to a tandem axle dump truck, again, depending
on your level of enthusiasm and willingness to be
known for what you do.
In this day and age, a regular older pickup truck can
be fairly discreet and still quite serviceable.

The ferrous (magnetic/iron-bearing) metals.

By far, the most common metal that is available for
salvage is steel.
There are several grades, and combinations of grades,
but, for simplicity, we will suffice to describe the
four most common.

The most valuable of the common steel grades is
called, of all things, #1 steel. Current value of this
material at the larger scrap yards is roughly $160.00
per ton (2000 pounds, US)
The industry standard for finished prepared size for
this grade of steel is one quarter inch thick
(minimum), eighteen inches wide by five feet long.
Some yards or small foundries will pay you extra to
cut the material down to 18 by 24 inches. For a
minimum of a $20.00/ton premium, this can be worth
your while, especially if the steel is clean and cuts

Raw materials that are commonly cut to the #1 grade
include bridges, large concrete reinforcement bar,
truck and agricultural implement frames, scrapped
heavy equipment, such as bulldozer and excavator
frames and undercarriages, large bulk fuel/fertilizer
or water tanks, large propane tanks and any general
structural steel that is one quarter of an inch thick
or heavier. It is not likely that the beginning
salvage operator will come across an abundance of this
grade of steel, but opportunities are out there.
Welding shops turn out a very high percentage of this
material, and that already prepared to industry specs
or smaller. It is customary to offer the proprietor
half, but he may settle for a third. He may also take
the material in and collect the money himself. Assume
nothing. Investigate everything.

The next most valuable grade of scrap steel, for our
purposes, is, you may have guessed it, #2 steel.
Current value of this material at the larger scrap
yards is roughly $140.00 per net ton. Industry
preparation standards for this grade are one eighth of
an inch thick by eighteen inches wide by three feet
long. Unlike #1 steel, we can mix in a few impurities
with # 2 steel, such as heavy galvanized material, up
to 5% cast iron, items that have succumbed somewhat to
rust, a small percentage of lighter gauge than spec
material, such as small pieces of steel roofing, steel
cans, etc. But, don't abuse this. It is to be an
exception and not the rule to mix in lighter material.
5-10% of the load, by bulk, is a good target. Don't
abuse the convenience.
Automotive frames, farm implements, truck parts, steel
pipe, culverts,
fence posts, the sort of clean steel that would be
residual from what you dismantle in the shop, i.e.
electric motors, plumbing, nails, rivets, bolts, pins,
bushings, automotive wheels, fuel tanks (not gasoline)
and propane bottles, lawnmower parts, old scrap piles
out behind Grandpa's shed, etc. are all examples
and/or sources of #2 steel.
It should be noted here that any tank that was
manufactured or used to hold pressure, whether air,
gas or liquid, needs to be at least cut in half, in
two separate pieces or more, depending on it's
original size, before you even think of offering it to
your scrap dealer for finished product. Other items
that must be cut or crushed are shock absorbers and
torque converters (save all oils that are residual
from your salvage operation. Not only can they be used
for lubricants and even diesel fuel extender by you,
but used oils are now worth up to a dollar a gallon in
many areas) air compressor tanks, sealed gear boxes,
refrigerant compressors, butane bottles, fuel pumps,
etc. Anything that could have residual flammable
gasses, solids or fluids or sealed containers which
could explode from heat-generated pressure must be
rendered harmless before they can be sold for scrap.

The third most valuable steel commodity for our
purposes would be what is referred to in the industry
as "sheet iron", or "clean shredder sheet". Current
value of this material at the higher end is roughly
$120.00 per net ton.
Funny, though, in spite of the industry label, it is
not iron.
There are several distinct differences between iron
and steel, the carbon content of steel being the most
commonly known.
"Sheet iron" consists of any clean steel scrap that is
thinner than an eighth of an inch, free of plastics,
rubber, ceramic, insulation, wood, etc. This grade of
steel is generally of a large or bulky nature. Common
examples would be steel siding and roofing, steel
wire, fence, concrete reinforcing wire, steel fence
panels, automotive body sheeting, clean steel buckets
and drums(barrels), "tinned" cans, lighter
steel-framed materials such as bicycles and exercise
equipment (again, no plastic or rubber), clean
appliance housings, lighter gauge grain bin sheeting
and roofing, light steel culverts, etc.
There is no size stipulation to this grade of material
as it will be shred or baled at the scrap yard before
being sent to foundry. It is to your benefit, however,
to become proficient at stacking and consolidating
this type of material on your loads as best you can,
as it is a light material and tough to get much weight
accumulated in a load of it without some skill and

Last on the list of the steel grades, in value, for
our purposes, is "shredder scrap". Current value of
this grade of material ranges from $50-100.00 per net
ton. Shredder scrap is just about every steel bearing
product that doesn't fit into the previous three
grades. Complete autos (see accompanying article on
how to scrap an automobile) appliances, steel siding
and roofing that has insulation glued on, complete
lawnmowers, bicycles, etc. There can be some rubber,
wood, plastic and insulation in this grade of
material. Shock absorbers, torque converters,
refrigeration compressors, complete engine blocks, oil
filters, even small tires on a steel rim can go in
this load. Don't abuse the tire privilege, however.
Most yards will balk if you bring more than one tire
on the rim per pickup load of material. Also due to
bureaucratic pressures from the environmental lobby,
scrap yards are becoming more and more stringent about
enforcing rules that they must "officially" post
concerning fluids and certain components in household
appliances. Freon, all capacitors, mercury switches
and ballasts containing oil must, by the book, be
removed before the yards can accept the scrap. These
rules vary in enforcement from yard to yard, but it is
no longer a game. Know what you are up against before
taking any risks environmentally. This situation will
only get worse.

Second on the list in order of common occurrance would
be the irons.
Cast iron, to be specific. For our purposes, there are
two grades of cast iron; imagine......#1, and #2.
#1 cast is any casting that has had a machine
application. I.e. engine blocks, brake drums, heads,
exhaust manifolds, older air compressor housings, gear
box housings, industrial grade electric motor housings
and end-caps, heavy industrial machines, transmission
housings, tractors transmissions and rear end
housings, etc.
Current value at the high end is roughly $150-175.00
per net ton.
This grade of cast iron must be free of steel bolts,
pins and miscellaneous parts, greases, oils, etc. #1
cast can be sold in its original full-sized form, or,
if you want a 30-40% premium, break it down to 24 by
24 inches.

# 2 cast iron is all else that does not make the #1
grade. Current value at the high end is roughly
$100-120.00 per net ton. Many yards will just request
that you mix your #2 cast in with your shredable
steel grades. The shredder referenced runs off of a
4000-8000 horsepower electric motor and can turn a
complete school bus into potato chip sized scrap
pieces in 45 seconds.
Common items that fall into the #2 cast iron grade
would be cast radiators, bath tubs, sinks, soil pipe
(old cast sewer pipe) some older farm implement parts
and older cast iron culverts.
Watch the older soil pipe for lead inserts at the
joints. This can be removed by breaking the joints
apart with a maul. The mills do NOT want any lead in
their melt, AND, lead is much more valuable to you
than the cast iron. It not only must be removed, but,
it's worth it to you to do so. Also watch the older
radiators and tubs, sinks, etc. for brass fittings.
The maul or a couple pipe wrenches will do the job
here. Again, it is well worth your while to separate
and accumulate the brass.

A few notes on fuel tanks-- propane, gasoline and

Gasoline tanks are a grade of scrap in and of
For various reasons, they are segregated meticulously
from all other grades of steel. Few yards will buy
them. Most will accept them for "disposal". Remove all
gasoline tanks from automobiles, etc., drain the fuel
and remove all fittings before submitting them to a
scrap yard for recycling.

Diesel fuel tanks are not nearly as explosive in
Once the fuel is completely drained, and all threaded
plumbing fittings removed these tanks can be safely
prepared to industry specs for #2 steel with a cutting

Propane tanks are also far less dangerous than
gasoline tanks.
Release pressure.....use the propane if you can. You
can get propane tips for all brands of cutting
When the pressure is released, remove the main valve
and all other fittings from the tank with a pipe
wrench. Allow smaller bottles to air out for a day or
two, larger tanks (100-1000 gallon) for a full week,
after the valves and fittings have been removed. Then
cut to grade specs with a cutting torch.

Posts : 48
Join date : 2009-05-13
Location : West central Illinois

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Recycling the Earth: Scrap Iron Reclamation Empty Re: Recycling the Earth: Scrap Iron Reclamation

Post by amybyrd21 Sat Nov 21, 2009 11:34 am

I was letting a family that needed the money come get all of it I had. They had pushed it up in dozer piles and they were willing to dig thru them to find the metal. But now that the pigs have leveled the back field they have found tons more. Maybe I need to take it to the scrap yard this go around. The last time they found a rusted thru cast iron sink out there.

Posts : 1820
Join date : 2009-05-09
Age : 48
Location : wayland springs tn

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