By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
Forum sponsored by:
Forum sponsored by Allendale Oct 22nd

Alternative metal sources?

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
Reman22/09/2019 11:10:07
13 forum posts

Hi all,

I've been trying to get together a stockpile of useful aluminium/steel bar offcuts, and lumps of thick plate to keep handy so I don't have to buy materials (Then wait for it to arrive) whenever I have an idea for something I want to make..... Trouble is, Ordering multiple offcuts and bar ends on the off chance they'll be handy one day get's expensive REALLY quickly !!!

So I've been trying to think about alternative and cheaper sources for handy "Used" materials.

So far I've been thinking that FWD car drive shafts could be useful for inch or so diameter round bars, And in a few of Steve Jordan's videos he mentions old weightlifting bars and cast iron weights as a pretty good source of bar stock and iron slugs. I've seen some solid bolt on rear stub axles (From FWD cars) that you could get up to a 2"x3" cylinder of steel out of, And for chunks of steel sheet there's possibly the scrap bins at the local structural metalwork shop (If they don't start asking silly money for small bits).

Because larger billets of aluminium seem to be disproportionately expensive I've even been toying with the idea of cobbling together a propane bucket forge to melt down scrap ally and pouring it into coffee can "Molds". This probabbly won't happen, But just for the "Would be fun to give it a try" value the idea keeps surfacing in my mind.

So I'm wondering, What other cheap and cheerful sources of raw materials have people on here have come up with? Anyone got any epicly obvious metal "Recycling" ideas that'll make the rest of us go "JESUS !!! Why the hell didn't I think of that ?!?!?". Has anyone stumbled across a particular scrap item that yielded a disproportionate amount of usable material in it?

I'm sure it would be interesting to hear what other folks here are busy squirreling away to use.

Scott.

larry phelan 122/09/2019 11:19:36
515 forum posts
11 photos

Gone are the days when you could spend many happy hours poking around in your local scrapyard, and come away with a pile of useful material for a few bob. Not any longer ! Now they wont even let you into the yard, never let you poke around, and if they do sell you anything, they charge an arm and a leg for it.

Ah,, Happy days !

BOB BLACKSHAW22/09/2019 11:27:29
226 forum posts
50 photos

A fraction under 8mm round bar from old printers, also I have got several 4lb round weights which I will use for fly wheels.

I have found old triangular road signs[ Footpath Closed ] buried in the hedgerows which Ive used the angle iron.

From old cookers Ive used the oven bars which are chrome plated 3mm and 6mm round

Stainless steel sheet from old waste paper bins.

Great stuff if you are making small models

Bob.

Edited By BOB BLACKSHAW on 22/09/2019 11:33:01

Edited By BOB BLACKSHAW on 22/09/2019 11:38:36

Andrew Johnston22/09/2019 11:29:28
avatar
4893 forum posts
552 photos

The problem with used material of unknown provenance is that you don't know anything about it. Could be easy to machine, or be almost impossible to machine on a hobby lathe. Unless you're a masochist i'd advise against scrap material.

I tend to buy steel up to about an inch or two diameter from commercial stockholders in standard 3m or 6m lengths. Proportionally it's much cheaper than buying from the hobby market and it doesn't take long to build up stock. For aluminium (I mean alloy for the pedants) I used to buy offcuts by the kilo from the bin at the commercial stockholder I was using for work. That's now dried up so I tend to buy what I need from Ebay.

I recycled most of my scrap material years ago, as it was in the way. It's better to buy what you need and of known properties.

Andrew

jimmy b22/09/2019 11:36:12
avatar
523 forum posts
29 photos

Working for an engineering company has a few perks!

Jim

Hopper22/09/2019 11:36:14
avatar
3741 forum posts
76 photos

Local rubbish dump recycle shop has a lot of used supermarket shelving that makes a good source of stout sheet steel for lathe trays and splashbacks etc.

I gave up using bits of randomly found steel bar as lathe stock. Too many hassles with unknown material being hard to machine, poor finish etc. Worth spending the money to buy new from steel supplier and know what I am dealing with.

Edited By Hopper on 22/09/2019 11:37:46

3404622/09/2019 12:03:58
770 forum posts
4 photos

I just buy in new as required from a reputable source as per Andrew above.

Bill

Reman22/09/2019 12:35:03
13 forum posts

I agree that having nice rust free and "Known" materials to work with is always a big bonus, But having ANY useable material available is handy when you suddenly realize you need something like a spacer or bracket to finish a project late on a Sunday afternoon.

It's also handy to have cheap "Disposable" material kicking about for when you want to give something a go but don't necessarily know if the finished result are going to work. No point spending a fist full of folding money on materials to scratch build your latest new fangled contraption only to find out that "Part A" and "Part C" really should have been 50% thicker to prevent the whole doodad from flapping like a flag in a strong wind.

Raymond Anderson22/09/2019 14:17:28
avatar
727 forum posts
140 photos

I'm very fortunate that I get plenty of materials from the Brothers employer [ I went to school with the owner ] and built his house and the massive extension at the works to house 2 new Hermle 5 axis goodies and.. a WFL Millturn.yes Most of the materials they use are Oil industry centered eg.. En 16, En 24, Inconel 600 and 718, and PH stainless, Phosphor Bronze ect. but I also get more run of the mill materials aswell Really the only material I ever have to buy would be plain old mild steel like en1. or Cast iron. Certainly lucky that way.

Vic22/09/2019 18:00:50
2306 forum posts
12 photos

I’m still using materials from a large Gym machine they threw out at work years ago. The 19mm round bars were some sort of stainless, possibly 400 series and the weights are some type of plate steel. Both not too bad to machine and I hate to think how much it would have cost to buy.

Nigel Graham 222/09/2019 18:04:35
427 forum posts

Old car drive-shafts....

Well, you can try them! You'd certainly be using high-tensile steel but it could have been heat-treated and if so is basically un-machinable even with a carbide tool. I have tried.....

Also note that if you intend welding the assembly, many steels are averse to anything except whatever rods might be made for that grade, if at all.

And if it's EN1a (lead-bearing, free-cutting), yes, it's lovely to turn but is not made to be welded. Whilst you can "hot-melt glue" it with ordinary mild-steel rods, you can't guarantee the weld won't fail in service.

Cast-iron items not intended for any but very basic finish-machining if at all, such as weights and architectural parts. are another gamble. You can be lucky and find something that gives you the quality you want, but many such items are quite crudely made and can be full of blow-holes and inclusions. And if chill-cast, like old sash-weights, be practically un-machinable. Yes, I have tried that, too...

On the other hand cast iron extracted from a piece of scrapped machinery, is likely to be of very good quality. I once made some parts from fragments of cast-iron gleaned from a motor the scrap-dealer obligingly roughed down with a sledgehammer for me!

Old printers and scanners are a good source of small-diameter ground bar and a few other goodies, and they also contain potentially useful circlips, self-tapping screws, etc.

Phil Whitley22/09/2019 19:58:37
909 forum posts
125 photos

I like to use recycled materials, and we still have scrapyards that you can scavenge from in East Yorkshire, although they seem to be doing much less sorting than they used to, my local one puts all aluminium in a general scrap pile! I always have sheet steel available from the cases of old domestic appliances, and I let it be known in the surrounding area thatI am always on the lookout for "any bits of metal" If I can't use it, I can take it to the scrappers, and it gives me an excuse to peruse his collection.

Reman22/09/2019 20:36:11
13 forum posts
Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 22/09/2019 18:04:35:

Old car drive-shafts....

Well, you can try them! You'd certainly be using high-tensile steel but it could have been heat-treated and if so is basically un-machinable even with a carbide tool. I have tried.....

I did think they'd be some kind of high tensile steel, But it didn't even cross my mind that they might also be heat treated.any more than to relieve manufacturing stresses.

So that's one idea out the window. Anyone got more ?

SillyOldDuffer22/09/2019 21:16:15
4785 forum posts
1011 photos
Posted by Reman on 22/09/2019 12:35:03:

I agree that having nice rust free and "Known" materials to work with is always a big bonus, But having ANY useable material available is handy when you suddenly realize you need something like a spacer or bracket to finish a project late on a Sunday afternoon.

It's also handy to have cheap "Disposable" material kicking about for when you want to give something a go but don't necessarily know if the finished result are going to work. No point spending a fist full of folding money on materials to scratch build your latest new fangled contraption only to find out that "Part A" and "Part C" really should have been 50% thicker to prevent the whole doodad from flapping like a flag in a strong wind.

The keyword is useable! Painful experience taught me that readily available scrap is often more trouble than it's worth. The wrong metal can turn an easy job into a trial. Quite a lot of manufactured items are made from metals tuned for casting, stamping, extrusion, forging, welding, laser-cutting, corrosion resistance or some other purpose where machinability is bottom of the list. What's needed is a source of off-cuts from a professional cutting lots of metal to shape with machine tools - not so many of them about, and even fewer without recycling contracts.

I've not found a source of cheap machinable metal. Others have been more lucky, either knowing of a friendly scrapyard (rare as hens teeth) or having contacts in the trade. Living in a manufacturing area probably helps too!

Old printers are a good source of nice steel rod, but I have one example so hard a file won't touch it! It looks exactly like all the others. Unknown scrap is pot luck and I got on much better after flashing cash on suitable metal.

Sorry to be discouraging, but I don't think there's a simple answer.

Dave

Andrew Johnston22/09/2019 21:26:44
avatar
4893 forum posts
552 photos
Posted by Reman on 22/09/2019 20:36:11:

But it didn't even cross my mind that they might also be heat treated.any more than to relieve manufacturing stresses.

There's a lot to learn; you can either do it the hard way or the easy way. The choice is yours. smile

Threads along the lines of "getting a poor finish turning/milling" crop up regularly. In many cases the problem is one, or both, of the following:

Scrap/cheap material of unknown quality and properties

Cheap cutting tools

Andrew

Hollowpoint22/09/2019 22:26:16
225 forum posts
28 photos

Try to find out where your nearest Auto Jumble is. There is almost always someone selling off cuts for not much more than scrap price. I've had all kinds of metals aluminium, brass, bronze, copper and even titanium!

Mike Poole22/09/2019 23:00:04
avatar
2147 forum posts
52 photos

At the £0 price point material must be worth a try, if the exchange of drinking vouchers is involved then knowing what you are buying is a good idea. If it’s free and rubbish then you have wasted a bit of time and effort, if it works out well then happy days. Buying an unknown that turns out bad is an expensive lesson.

Mike

Sam Stones23/09/2019 00:06:33
avatar
652 forum posts
255 photos

I'd go along with Andrew and Mike if I were still making swarf.

A neighbour offered me a couple of winding shafts from a (Melbourne) city building where the old lifts were being completely refurbished. The shafts were about 3 inches in diameter and thinking they were mild steel, I imagined the steel could be turned into cutter arbors etc. for my milling machine.

Actually, to carry them home, my neighbour had them chopped into several smaller pieces with an oxy axe, leaving the burnt ends rather rough. That wasn't the problem however.

When I did get around to making something (a dovetailed adjustable milling head), the stuff was a nightmare to cut. The finish was rough, and the cutting edges of my tools, especially a dovetail cutter were dulled in minutes.

OK, it was free, and all I lost was my time and a blunt cutter, but Ugh!

Sam

PS - Watch out for case hardening and nitriding.

ChrisB23/09/2019 07:18:10
416 forum posts
171 photos

It's true unknown material is sometimes a gamble, but there's no loss in trying how the material behaves and then either use it or bin it.

For general machining projects requiring mild steel I normally go to the local supplier where I can get off cuts of black mild steel.

I also get quite a bit of scrap metal from worn aircrafts parts, most of the times the materials are of excellent quality but might be a bit hard to turn. I found that cheap second hand CBN inserts from ebay run at high speed will cut through any tough steel I've tried to date and with a mirror fininsh.

Douglas Johnston23/09/2019 09:33:24
avatar
628 forum posts
32 photos

Old cast iron brake discs provide very nice material as do flywheels. I have used an old flywheel as an anvil for years. When I scrapped my induction hob I collected a mass of electronic stuff and also a couple of huge aluminium heatsinks. Like some others I collect other peoples throwouts. Old stuff is usually better since more modern stuff tends to use thinner metal and less of it.

Doug

All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of Model Engineer or Model Engineers' Workshop? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find Model Engineer & Model Engineers' Workshop

Support Our Partners
TRANSWAVE Converters
Warco
cowbells
Meridienne; London MES
Eccentric July 5 2018
Eccentric Engineering
Ausee.com.au
ChesterUK
emcomachinetools
Allendale Electronics
Subscription Offer

Latest "Wanted" Ads
Get In Touch!

Do you want to contact the Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop team?

You can contact us by phone, mail or email about the magazines including becoming a contributor, submitting reader's letters or making queries about articles. You can also get in touch about this website, advertising or other general issues.

Click THIS LINK for full contact details.

For subscription issues please see THIS LINK.

Digital Back Issues

Social Media online

'Like' us on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
 Twitter Logo

Pin us on Pinterest