Metals both ferrous and non

Last week I went on my first ever scrap metal run. The auction house has really helped take the pressure off my storage spaces, so I’ve been more willing to devote a bit of room to found metal.

Here’s a small sample of what I brought. Most of this stuff turned out to be junk because they pay for steel and other ferrous metals (ie: those with iron in them) by the tonne. This particular junkyard says they’ll only take steel, for example if you have at least 300 pounds. So, I ended up giving mine to some other scrappers sorting metal in their truck just down the street. That cymbal was good though (brass I think), and the grungy espresso pot was probably aluminum.

Copper is where the money’s at, at least for me. Insulated copper wire (ICW) is pretty decent…

… but copper tubing and pipe is the best. I found that big roll of copper in Nouveau Bordeaux months ago – I think it ended up being worth about 40$ on its own. I also picked up a couple long copper pipes a couple weeks back in Westmount, which you can see in the trunk of my car.

Going to the scrapyard was definitely a learning experience. We didn’t sort our things beforehand (I heard they did it for you) but apparently we should have. Fortunately my roommates were there to help, and the guy dealing with us was pretty helpful as well. I told him I was a “virgin” to the scrap scene which he seemed to find funny. Anyways, in this picture we can see the scale on the left, and a magnet (the round orange thing) on the beam in the middle.

I quickly realized that the magnet is an important part of the scrap industry. Ferrous metals, which are magnetic, tend to be less valuable than the non-ferrous, non-magnetic metals like copper and brass, and sometimes the easiest way to differentiate them is to see how they react (or don’t react) to the magnet. Thankfully we were each given free key chain magnets on the way out, which should make future sorting easier!

Even though about half of what I brought was junk I still earned a decent chunk of change – 111.45$ in all. It was definitely worth the effort! I now know better what to look for too. Copper and brass are good, aluminum is decent (old pots can be a good source), and batteries & motors are good as well. The ferrous metals definitely aren’t for me, as there’s no way I can fit a metric tonne of it in my little hatchback. I don’t intend on getting super into scrap, but if it’s just sitting around waiting for the garbage truck I might as well take it!

I recently read a book called “Junkyard Planet” by Adam Minter that provides an interesting look at the global scrap metal industry. I’d recommend it if you’re interested in knowing what happens to all this junk! In short, most of it goes to China because they’re one of the fastest developing economies and societies in the world – they need all this scrap metal to build new infrastructure. The different recycling practices used can be both brilliant and problematic, but overall it’s probably still better than mining new materials. The author concludes that recycling isn’t perfect, and that the best way to do good to the environment is for people to buy less to begin with. There’s lots of other interesting info in there, however. I linked to the eBay listings (I get a small cut if you buy via that link), but you can also try Amazon and maybe get a better deal.

I still like ferrous metal though, especially when they’re in the form of a bike. I’ve had good luck lately finding old bikes on the curb. This one was put out after that snowstorm a couple weeks back.

It was a cool vintage 70s Mercier with all original French parts, minus the seat. I loved the yellow color but this bike was made for someone much taller than me. I sold it pretty quickly for 90$. I don’t use Kijiji much these days, but I’ve been using it for bikes because I know there’s a lot of local people cruising those pages regularly (several of my friends are bike nerds).

Here’s an old Supercycle I found on the curb in Rosemont. This one was actually ready to go, other than the flat tires (which still held air when I pumped them up). It sold to someone on Instagram for 90$.

This Westmount pile contained three whole bikes. There was a decent Korean road bike that I’m trying to get 50$ for, an Italian Torpado that I sold for 50$, and a very unusual bike.

It’s a bicycle made for two, a folding one at that! It was made by Graziella in Italy sometime in the late 60s or early 70s and weighs an absolute tonne (getting it in the car was a challenge!). It needs some work, but I’d guess that I can get a couple hundred bucks for it. Montreal is a great place to sell bikes, and there’s always someone looking for an interesting project.

Still, my favourite metals are still silver and gold. This pile in Rosemont was an unlikely source. The garbage bags used were so cheap you could basically see through them.

In one of the bags I found a small three tiered Sterilite storage cabinet filled with jewelry. Most of it was actual garbage, but fortunately there were also precious metals to be saved.

On the left is the gold, and on the right is the silver (the thimble is probably just plated, but it’s a nice piece regardless). A lot of the gold is scrap, but there were a couple of quality pieces. For example, the ring on the far left in the middle is 800 (80%, or 19.2k) Portuguese gold and is adorned with a pearl and a few small diamonds. The hallmark looks like the one pictured here. The little heart shaped pendant, which was marked as 10k gold is also nice. I decided to give both a try at the auction house. I’ll be happy if I can get something above the scrap value for either piece.

This part of Rosemont isn’t particularly wealthy, but I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. I’ve generally had a lot of luck on the gold and silver front lately, and I’ll share more of those finds soon enough!

Spring cleaning season is finally here and I expect this coming week to be a good one. McGill move-out day is also quickly approaching… My first yard sale should happen sometime soon, perhaps next weekend if all goes well! I’ll let you know here if that’s a go.

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16 thoughts on “Metals both ferrous and non”

  1. Interesting post. You always give me ideas for new things to look for while I am out and about. And thank you for saving that stuff from a landfill!!!!!!! Nice start with the metal scrap run. Not too shabby $.

  2. I really enjoyed this post about your first scrap metal run … another of the numerous learning opportunities I get from reading your most excellent blog.You’re definitely covering all the bases in terms of information and experience for that book I hope you write. 🙂
    And the bikes! Golly, it seems they can make you a quick buck too.
    It looks like you’re having a good year in precious “junk” metal, as well!
    Trash can be very good!
    I’ll be coming to Montreal soon, so if you have any jobs for me, I’m happy to help. 🙂

  3. Your posts are always so interesting! I recently came into a whole mix of different jewelry that runs the gamut from quality to not so much. Do you have any recommendations for research about what to do with it? Thank you!

    1. Get yourself a magnifying glass (preferably a 10x or higher) and look for marks / signatures. You can get one pretty cheaply on eBay. Most quality stuff will be marked in some way. If something looks like quality but you can’t see a mark you can try posting on various jewelry forums to see what they think. Sometimes the marks can be hard to find, were removed due to repair or resizing (especially with rings), have worn off with time, or were never there to begin with (especially with custom and some indigenous pieces). Good luck!

  4. I leave the ferrous out for other scrappers. It eats too much of my storage space by the time I can get a proper load together. I scrap strictly copper and brass with a bit of cast aluminum here and there if I run across it. Gold and silver scrap I store while I keep and eye on the prices. I also keep a bin for high quality boards from electronics or computers that I can’t resell. Those get mailed out for scrap once the bin fills up. Been doing this solo for close to 10+ years and that’s what works best for me I’ve found.

  5. Hi Marty. The thimble is enamel and sells on eBay for $20. The pearl ring is very pretty and should do better on eBay than auction I would think. Your scrap metal experience in Canada is very different than the US which will take any quantity of non ferrous metal. It only bring .3 cents per pound. Aluminum has dropped from 54 cents per pound to 46 because manufacturers prefer new aluminum rolls. Airplane manufactures will not accept reused aluminum. It is interesting to watch the people in the scrap yard. The electricians and plumbers seem to make bank on all the old parts they remove.

    1. It might do better on eBay but I’ve found recently that random jewelry, even gold & silver stuff tends to sit a while before eventually selling for a bit over scrap. That’s not a bad thing, but if the auction house can sell it for a bit over scrap for me I’m fine with that (it’s also less work). It’s a nice ring but the diamonds were pretty small and the pearl as well, plus I’m not sure if the design is currently “in.” We’ll see how it goes.

      As for the scrap experience it could depend on the yard. This place seemed a little smaller so maybe they’re not well equipped for random steel loads. There are other yards in the area that might be bigger (for instance the one seen in the first video Galyn posted looks bigger), though it doesn’t seem worth it for me to take steel anyways. I agree that certain professions would certainly benefit from all the scrap they naturally run into!

      1. It has to be a really strong magnet and then the chance is still supposed to be very slight. But if you run across any hard drives crack one open, they normally have two strong neodymium magnets in them mounted on metal plates…they’re great for when you’re out scrapping etc, I use one to hang a wreath to my steel front door with…better than command hooks. LOL

  6. I am not a fan of Marie Kondo.Neither is Tim Gunn,the fashion guy.Read this article.

    Tim Gunn is no fan of Marie Kondo: ‘I don’t subscribe to her methods’

    By Mara Siegler

    April 22, 2019 | 8:57am

    Enlarge Image
    Tim Gunn and Marie Kondo

    Marie Kondo, who promotes getting rid of excess stuff, does not spark joy for style guy Tim Gunn.

    “I’m not a believer. I don’t subscribe to her methods,” the former “Project Runway” star said on “The One Way Ticket Show” podcast. Gunn explained, “I have a huge number of books, as I’m sure you do. Do they all spark joy? Roget’s Thesaurus does not spark joy. Am I going to get rid of it? No!”

    Gunn also said he’s been asked twice to interview Kondo for a panel at the 92nd Street Y, but turned it down. Not surprisingly, he’s not a fan of Kondo’s Netflix show, calling it “very slow.” “I can only take so much of her … Let’s speed it up, people!” he said.

  7. I go to a scrap yard on the South Shore of Montreal. They have a minimum of 100 lbs for ferrous metals. They currently pay $0.095/lbs for it.

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