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How much is enough?

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  • How much is enough?

    One of my ongoing "frustrations" with machining is that no matter what project I start, I am almost certain not to have the right size or type of metal. (There are no ready sources nearby so I end up using one of the internet sellers.)
    I try to keep some standard sizes and types, but I have limited storage and budget. Moreover, I only a hobbist and am not interested in putting a large amount of time into acquiring all manner of raw material.
    My quesstion to you all is "How much and what type/size of stock do you keep on hand?"
    I realize it depends on your areas of interet, but I'd still like to know if there is an "average" among us.
    Much thanks for your comments.

  • #2
    These sizes & shapes will get you through almost any project:

    Square tubing, 1"x1"x.083 (14 gauge) about $1/foot. Fifty feet.

    Angle iron, 1.5"x1.5"x.125. Fifty feet.

    Round bar stock, 12L14, 1/4" throught 1" by eights, twelve feet of each size.

    Flat stock, 4"x .179 (7 gauge). Twenty feet.

    Everything else gets purchased as needed. Small pieces, like 3' of tool steel flat or round, come overnight from J&L (no extra charge for next-day delivery).

    Barry Milton
    Barry Milton


    • #3
      I keep about what Barry does in my inventory, plus things like old bed rails and scrap you seldomly find, like sheet nickle and copper.

      Plus I keep pieces of truck leaf springs on hand because I can get them free.

      I have tried to keep small to medium sized steel and aluminum plates on hand, but they generally are not the size for the project that I am working.


      [This message has been edited by jfsmith (edited 05-15-2005).]


      • #4
        I am not a metal worker per say,
        I am a hobbiest to home shop machining,
        I have found that ordering a 6' flat bar of 6061 aluminum 1/2" by 3" wide will do a lot of my projects that come up, and a value pack of aluminum squares from 1/4" up to 1",
        aluminum round bar value packs 1/4" to 1"
        and a value pack of 12L14 leaded steel round bar 1/4" to 1", 3 ft. long will suffice for almost any project I need to do. any thing else gets ordered special.


        • #5
          <font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I realize it depends on your areas of interet, but I'd still like to know if there is an "average" among us.</font>
          I wouldn't expect there to be an average, unless it's for a particular branch of metalworking. I don't have Barry's structural steel and seldom use it, but have a decent supply of 12L14, 360 brass and 303 SS all in hex, round and some square to support modelmaking stuff he may not do. Under the bench is a bunch of drill rod, bronze and aluminum.

          Under some shelving are the larger stuff, 2" and up of 304 SS, 4130, 1026 and such (up to about 6") in rounds and squares (there's also some salvaged drive rod for a drill rig's cathead - tough stuff, someday I'll find a use). Next to it is a collection of bronze of various specification but all useful for bearings. Most of this bigger stuff came from my father-in-law's shop - they made and repaired oil field equipment and when it was shut down the scrapper wanted money to take the spec material away, so I got about 3000$ of it for nothing than the hauling. It comes in handy but turning down 3" round 4130 for a 1/2" shaft gets tiring (sorry, just kidding).

          Other than that I've got the usual scrap odds & ends - a box of plexiglass I often use to prototype something, big chunks of cast iron for the odd gib, some A2 and 440C for making knives, etc.

          If you're making models and such I'd suggest biting the bullet and simply ordering in some of the "variety packs" of materials from one of the online suppliers. If you use a lot of 12L14 and brass a couple of those packs would do you pretty well. The accumulation of all the other crap will come with time, it might even get used. Heck, I recently used something I recognized from it's last use in high school about 30 years ago.


          • #6
            I frequent estate and garage sales looking for useful tools (I am NOT a "collector", in that I buy only what I can and will use.)

            While there, I make a habit of picking up any steel and brass etc that I see for reasonable. Generally they are only too pleased to see it go, and wonder what I could possibly want it for.

            If I see chunks, I will nearly always pick them up, as "lump steel" is otherwise harder to get and pricey. By chunks, I mean things like a square foot of 80 lb plate, a piece of 4" round 5" long, a 5" cube, a foot of 1 x 2 bar, etc.


            Keep eye on ball.
            Hashim Khan


            • #7
              When you do have to special order material, round the amount you need up to the next foot (where feasible), and over time the variety and quantity of material at hand will grow.


              • #8
                As K39 says, when ordering from online sources it can be surprising how little more there is cost wise to 2-3x the small order size. If you need a foot of tubing, chances are ordering 4'or 6' won't add more than a few bucks to the shipping charge and materials cost. Bar and rod in smaller sizes is the same. Once you get up to 1" size solids, though the weight piles up fast but you can still order a couple of feet for what 6" would cost. Cutting and minimum shipping charges account for this. Steve


                • #9
                  Being pretty cheap I scrounge for mine. I find it at the roadside and always have time to stop and throw it in the trunk. Don't believe in "Dumpster Diving" as you can get hurt doing that but "Heavy trash" day in the neighberhood (never my own hood!) is a great source. My projects are frequently redesigned around the material at hand.

                  Or, you can go out like some guys do and lay down your hard earned cash and get that special thrill that your new project just cost you as much as it possibly could have

                  I use Metal Supermarkets only when needed.
                  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                  Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

                  It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


                  • #10
                    I do the same as J Tiers, estate sales and auctions. I avoid stainless and tool steel, as the need for it in the home shop is limited, and it causes more grief than needed in machining difficulties for the neophyte.

                    McMaster Carr and some of the other on-line sites mentioned are also good. When buying stock for a project, I will will frequently buy twice the amount needed, the extra supplements my inventory.

                    Leaded steel and stress relieved are good choices. Bed rail, especially the mill angle may not be a good choice. It is the sash weight of structural steel and is made of mystery alloy that will destroy more saw blades and cutting tools that the cost saved.
                    Jim H.


                    • #11
                      try a scrap yard. they will sell as well buy. i have over a ton in stock and still have trouble getting what i need. i just bought over a hundred ends of 3" channel 32" long for $1 each.


                      • #12
                        I buy extra when I build something,even at work because the drops will come in handy later.Most time I buy what I need when I need it,but when I hit the scrapyard I look out for the hard to find or otherwise expensive items.
                        I bought an aluminum disc once,5' in diameter and 2" thick,paid $150 for it,best money I ever spent on scrap,I've been whittling on it for 3 years now and still got plenty.
                        I figure I have 5,000 lbs or better of metal rat holed away for my own use not counting structurals I have collected over the years.
                        It really doesn't take much room,unless you get 40' sticks
                        I just need one more tool,just one!


                        • #13
                          Scrap yards, eh?

                          The local ones have either closed, or are almost empty, all the scrap going on a ship for china faster than they can collect it.

                          And, the most convenient ones have a new doubt because they needn't fool with individuals.... "naw, cant do that, insurance won't let me. Get the f(*&^ out of here"

                          Keep eye on ball.
                          Hashim Khan


                          • #14
                            Several people mentioned "value packs", Please, who sells such? An assortment at decent prices is just what I need. Thanks


                            • #15
                     sells "value packs" of 7075-T651 aluminum in 30 pound lots at $2.00 a pound. He will even try to give you pieces that meet your requirements as long as no cutting is involved. I recently ordered from him and was very pleased with what he sent.
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