View Full Version : Why such huge swings in material prices ?

04-06-2006, 08:23 PM
I've noticed huge variations in the price of aluminum, brass and polycarbonate round rod from various vendors. They can be high on one and at the low end on another. I thought McMaster was high on one item and then found that another "on line" ;) supplier was about 40% higher. They were almost opposite each other on a different material.

Is this variation from imported (Brazil, India, etc.) vs. domestic (US & Canadian) suppliers?


04-06-2006, 08:28 PM
It depends when they bought the material. The commodities markets are going nuts. Copper is at an all time high.

04-07-2006, 12:20 AM
Actually, all of the metal suppliers I use charge a market rate for their material, as opposed to a markup on purchase price- that is, if stainless goes up, they charge more for all their stainless, regardless of what they paid for it.
And if it goes down, to be competitive, they have to charge less, even if they paid more for it than they are selling it for.
They dont try to keep track of how much they paid for each stick- they just hope they guess right in their buying patterns, and dont buy too much or too little.

Metal prices are complicated because they are both a commodity and a manufactured product.
If you were only buying ingot, in 25,000lb lots, then you would pay a straight per pound price, market price plus a small markup.

But different profiles cost different amounts to manufacture.
For instance, when I buy stainless, square bar is almost always a LOT more expensive than round bar. Sometimes as much as a buck a pound more.
Pipe usually costs more, sheet less.
Some flat bar is sheared from sheet- it has a funky edge, and isnt as flat. So it is priced cheaper than flat bar that is rolled to size.

I find most of the mail order prices have BIG markups. How much varies from place to place, and material to material, but it is all totally arbitrary, and has little to do with where they bought it, or where its from- its more to do with each companies policy.
The only way to get decent prices is to buy the minimum, whatever it is, from a real industrial metal supplier.
For instance, if you buy bronze in 3 ft pieces from some online price, its gonna be a lot more expensive than if you buy a couple of hundred pounds from someplace like Alaskan Copper.

For big quantities, they all price very similarly- I just got quotes on an order for 2500lbs of 1/2" round 304 ss. The big guys were within 2 cents a pound on their prices, including delivery. For something like that, they will bid a competitive price, even if the material is in San Francisco, and I am north of Seattle- in fact, both companies were bringing some from Portland, some from Seattle, to make up the order.
By the way- it was down to 1.90/lb, including freight- which is a darn sight better than the 2.30 or so I was paying a year ago.

But for little quantities, you are paying hardware store prices, even if they pretend they are a "metal wholesaler". And hardware store prices are whatever the owner wants em to be.

04-07-2006, 01:02 AM
Don't know about solids but the sheet prices are way down from a few months ago. Last year, one 48x96 sheet of 18ga. CR-1008 was about $76. I just bought one 48x120 sheet of 18ga and two 48x96 sheets of 20ga. for $110 total.

level head
04-07-2006, 01:32 AM
what is the price of copper of hand .Due to the fact at my work they trash about 10 pounds of wire each day .Since i only work weekends i got quite abit
-same with aluminum got 30 pounds over springbreak from all the wire casing..

04-07-2006, 10:26 AM
what is the price of copper of hand .Due to the fact at my work they trash about 10 pounds of wire each day .Since i only work weekends i got quite abit
-same with aluminum got 30 pounds over springbreak from all the wire casing..

Just be careful you don't get in trouble for taking "scrap". At a former employment, rooting through scrap barrels was OK, as long as you asked first before taking anything. I still get steel drums from them ocassionally, but rooting the scrap is no longer allowed. They used to leave the barrels out until there was enough to fill a dumpster, then call for one. The scrap dumpsters are now on site all the time, fenced in and locked. Someone probably got hurt rooting through the scrap barrels.

04-07-2006, 02:23 PM
Yesterday in London, the commodity price for scrap copper was 2.62/lb. That would be for pure stuff, in 40,000lb lots.
So at the dealer, they will pay less, sometimes a lot less depending on where you live.
I used to know a guy who had a junkyard, and he had to drive his scrap 4 hours each way, driving his own semi, to the big processor- so he subtracted a generous amount per pound to pay for his truck, fuel, and time.
Scrap could bring you as little as .50 per pound for insulated wire with brass mixed in, to as high as 1.90 or so a pound for big chunks of pure copper.
Depends on alloy, and what size and shape it is, and how much processing it needs.