I need a source for cheap/scrap metal for machining in Austin, TX
July 3, 2012 4:45 PM   Subscribe

I need a source for cheap/scrap metal for machining in Austin, TX

I've recently taken up machining as a hobby (milling machine and lathe) and need a source of materials. New steel/brass/cast iron/aluminum is expensive and a ton of material gets thrown away or recycled, and I want some of that.

I have visited all of the "scrap yards" in town that I can find out about and they BUY scrap, and they sell big ole bales of it or whatever, but they aren't places I can poke around and pick up pieces of pipe, plate, rod, bar stock etc.
posted by RustyBrooks to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had pretty good luck dumpster diving at machine shops and small manufacturing outfits. Summer evenings are good because it stays light after people have gone home.

If you're more sociable than I am, you might even try showing up during business hours, describing what you're looking for, and asking if you can buy scrap in less than bale quantities.
posted by Bruce H. at 4:52 PM on July 3, 2012

I'm not sociable but I guess I can ask around. I've been led to believe that these days scrap is worth enough that machine shops have someone come around and pick up their offcuts. I've *also* been told that they buy at much cheaper rates than anyone not in the trade can do, because of bulk, connections, etc. I basically have to shop at places that are willing to sell me ridiculously small quantities of material, and they kind of charge a premium for it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:29 PM on July 3, 2012

I may not be understanding the types of material you're after, but what about local pick'n'pull auto yards?
posted by carsonb at 5:46 PM on July 3, 2012

If all they have is car parts, I may be able to find some things or I may not. I'm not sure. It'll probably be in relatively rough shape.

Metal as it is sold is usually in reasonably formed shape, like long cylinders, sheets, pipes, etc, and usually in an annealed state that's reasonably easy to machine. Car parts, already having been machined (and sometimes heat treated) would probably require a lot of work. I'm not experienced to know whether or not they'd be a good source of material, but I guess there's no harm in checking.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:49 PM on July 3, 2012

One of these places may have what you need, or might be able to refer you to another resource. Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Gardner Metal Recycling, Austin Metal & Iron Recycling
posted by dtp at 6:46 PM on July 3, 2012

I've been to ReStore but it was years ago and I was looking for doors, so I don't remember what they had for metal. Thanks for the reminder, I'll check.

I've been to Austin Metal and Iron, and CMC Recycling. They all buy scrap and from looking in I think they probably have material I could use, but they don't really just sell small amounts to the public.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:53 PM on July 3, 2012

You want a scrapper that actually has "metals" in the name. Here in St. Louis, it's "Schapiro Metals". They do the ordinary scrapping - meth-heads steal a/c units and sell 'em - but back in college we'd go down there when we needed billets of aluminum to machine race car parts. You don't get the selection, i.e. you get "aluminum" not 7075, but it's a start. Other than that, it really may be worth your while to to to a Ryerson or such. You may also have luck looking for companies with "steel plate" in the name or just search on "steel plate austin". In the quantities you need for hobby work, you can get some really nice stuff.

Last place to call: airplane or airplane parts manufacturers. Perhaps it's just that St. Louis is a Boeing (formerly McDonnel-Douglas) town, but there are a *ton* of small jobber places that do aluminum parts and may let you tag along with one of their larger orders.
posted by notsnot at 8:19 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be careful what you toss in your machines. You could wind up with something that's harder than you think it is and chew up your cutting tool real quick.
posted by scose at 8:23 PM on July 3, 2012

Do you have any aircraft manufacturers / repairers nearby? We have two skip bins outside that are full of offcuts and used parts with minor damage somewhere but the majority of the material is fine.

We do have it collected and get paid a nominal amount, but they are outside/unlocked and no one cares if you have a look through.

Mostly flat sheet but some rod stock and some thicker pieces. Usually 2024 in various tempers or a 301 stainless.
posted by trialex at 4:03 PM on July 4, 2012

Aircraft manufacturers? Not that I know of, but I can check.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:17 PM on July 4, 2012

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