If you’re new to welding or recently decided to take on a few welding projects on the side, you’re probably wondering where to find scrap metal--either for free or at a minimum cost. You don’t want to refine your skills or do minor repairs using metal you bought from a home improvement retailer. Check out their prices if you’re not sure why!
Getting free or cheap metal is a much better option, and it’s not hard to find if you know where to look. Here are the most common sources for scrap metal. When you visit these places, be upfront about your intentions to use the material for a welding project or develop your welding techniques. They will appreciate your honesty.
Where to buy scrap metal
Some of the following five sources might not be viable for everyone, but everyone should find at least one or two that work out.
1. Metal recyclers
Recycling yards are an excellent source for all kinds of cheap metals: iron, steel, aluminum, etc. The steel might be rusty, and the aluminum bars could be bent, but you can buy the mild steel for under $0.25 per pound and the aluminum bars for around $0.50/lb. You can remove the rust easily and straighten the bars with your welder.
2. Local manufacturers
Machine shops and metal fabricators are other sources for picking up metal scraps. They typically saw the materials for their projects from long metal bars, and there are almost always “drops” left from each bar. Some shops try to use these pieces, but most won’t invest the labor hours going through them.
As a result, they end up in the scrap bin and are eventually carted off to the recycling yard. If you talk to the shop’s owner or foreman, you will likely be able to get some of these drops for low or no cost.
3. Construction and demolition sites
There is plenty of metal debris on most construction sites. However, you can’t just show up and help yourself to the metal. Be sure to talk to the supervisor, explain why you want the metal, and offer to pay for it. It’s best to get permission in writing before the company finishes its project. That way, you’ll be ready to haul it off when they are cleaning up at the end.
Also, be on the lookout for demolition sites in your area since they could be helpful examples of finding scrap metal. You may have to pay for them, but more than likely, you will get them for free because you are taking them away, reusing them, and helping the environment.
You will probably find scrap metal at a reasonable price on Craigslist. Homeowners use Craigslist as a convenient way to get rid of broken appliances, auto parts, brass beds, metal pet cages, and so on. Most people are willing to let them go for free to get them out of the house or garage.
Keep posting on Craigslist, offering to help remove any scrap items from people’s yards or garages. If you consistently post, you are almost guaranteed to get some scrap metal.
5. Farms and ranches
If you live in a rural area, there will be farms and ranches nearby with some beat-up equipment standing idle and waiting to be repurposed. You can use old plows, harrows, tractor parts, steel tubes and pipes, and even horseshoes for your next welding project. And if there is a dumpster on the farm, don’t forget to take a peek in it—with permission, of course!