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  1. #1
    Platinum Member Furu's Avatar
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    Default Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    I have been picking up steel in various types and lengths for the past couple of months for some delayed projects. Lots of frustration as you can't get a straight answer on the price of steel. One individual in the same company will sell me 20 ft of 2.5 x 2.5 x 0.25 inch square tube for one price then another guy will sell it to me for $38 less. Makes you feel like you are are being cheated somehow. You have to have a company account to get the good prices. In addition, you either buy in 20 ft segments, pay ridiculous cut fees or look at what they have in the remnants building to see if it will do. Of course the remnants are never less than 48 inches and most of the time (80%) much larger, 120 inches or so. Often times it works out well, but sometimes you are looking for a relatively small section and don't need 10 or 20 feet of 5/8" x 3" strap.

    Today I finally got what I think was a straight answer on the no drops available issue.

    Being in the PNW with all the aerospace and airline parts manufacturing; several years back enterprising folks went in and picked up various drops and machined them into parts, sold them to FAA regulated companies and thus did not have the proper documentation for proper tracking of steel from mill to final product. Did not have a PMA.

    Unapproved aircraft part - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Several people went to jail, a couple of companies ceased to exist, and most steel companies now track every piece of steel so that it is known where it comes from. Prices go up and scrap is no longer available from the drop pile. All steel is apparently tracked to the recyclers.

    Thus price of steel goes way up and no drops are available. I read where folks elsewhere get drops all the time and I had been wondering why I could never find them. Now I at least partly understand why. I understand the rational but it sucks how it affects the general person who does not run a multimillion dollar machine shop.
    JD 4720 - 400CX FEL, Woods BB-720 Brush Bull and BH90X backhoe, Salsco 6210XT PTO Chipper, Farmi 501 Logging Winch, Bo-Dozer Grapple, LP RBT4096, Cammond Road grader/leveler and Rankin Trash Forks

  2. #2
    Platinum Member Buckgnarly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    My local place always has tons of drops, most between 1-2 feet. I'd hate to not have drops available, I almost always come up with crap to make just by browsing!

    I avoid the cut fee by bringing a friend and a cordless sawzall...works great as my truck can only carry 10' lengths. I don't mind buying full lengths, then I always have left overs for even more stuff to make!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    i can say that it's virtually impossible to keep track of every piece of steel - particularly in the grades that you will be buying at your local supply yard. even the best of intentions will not help. i can think of many times where a certain piece was bought for a certain application, but it was nowhere to be found when it was time to make it. what happens is you buy a 22' piece of a certain size to make part y. tomorrow, part x is being made, and calls for a 21' piece. the guy on the shop floor can't find, doesn't want to look for, or maybe just mistakenly uses the 22' piece instead. next week when it is time to make part y they tell you that they can't find the material. after a few hours of looking you find the piece that was purchased for part x and you are able to solve the case without shaggy & scooby. many times a switch like this will happen and nobody will ever know, because both pieces that were switched were of a size large enough so nobody came looking. other times a screw up will try to be hidden, and they will take the piece out of different stock. a fab shop will get an mtr for everything they buy, but once steel is machined or blasted, it all looks the same. it's very to say with authority were common sized small pieces came from. i'm sure that with exotic alloys it may be a little easier, but unless you have a real small shop, it's hard to keep track of what everyone does. i'm sure that with the airline industry there is also a little more motivation to track materials, and you aren't dealing with 2000+ tons per job, and the cost per piece factors that amount of work in.

    i think a lot of places / people just don't want to deal with small sales, and that's where some of it comes from. i get most things from a small supply shop now. they have a pretty good stock, but it's like one or two 20' pieces of everything light. most of their sales are a few feet at a time. often you can't even get a full 20' piece, but they do have a lot of different sizes. they don't charge per cut, but they do give a discount if you buy a full length piece, so they make it up that way.

  4. #4
    Veteran Member chim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    Quote Originally Posted by Furu View Post
    .......................All steel is apparently tracked to the recyclers.....................
    The company I work for does a lot of projects that have "Buy American" requirements. Part of the purchasing process includes obtaining and forwarding the certs. If we don't insist on getting copies of the certs, we won't get them. The suppliers we deal with get certs with the steel from the manufacturers. Copies are sent to us with the steel we purchase and we forward the certs to the project Owner. If wouldn't provide certs for the material, we would not be paid for the work. We could also be held responsible for the cost of removing the material and replacement.

    As far as I know, the manufacturer doesn't track anything other than to provide the correct documantation to accompany the steel. After the steel leaves the manufacturer with the papers I don't think they care where it goes as long as they get paid. Whatever we determine is scrap goes into a dumpster with other metal from demolition, old washing machines. etc. When the dumpster is filled we call the scrap guy and he hauls it away and sends us a check.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    Quote Originally Posted by Furu View Post
    I have been picking up steel in various types and lengths for the past couple of months for some delayed projects. Lots of frustration as you can't get a straight answer on the price of steel. One individual in the same company will sell me 20 ft of 2.5 x 2.5 x 0.25 inch square tube for one price then another guy will sell it to me for $38 less. Makes you feel like you are are being cheated somehow. You have to have a company account to get the good prices. In addition, you either buy in 20 ft segments, pay ridiculous cut fees or look at what they have in the remnants building to see if it will do. Of course the remnants are never less than 48 inches and most of the time (80%) much larger, 120 inches or so. Often times it works out well, but sometimes you are looking for a relatively small section and don't need 10 or 20 feet of 5/8" x 3" strap.

    Today I finally got what I think was a straight answer on the no drops available issue.

    Being in the PNW with all the aerospace and airline parts manufacturing; several years back enterprising folks went in and picked up various drops and machined them into parts, sold them to FAA regulated companies and thus did not have the proper documentation for proper tracking of steel from mill to final product. Did not have a PMA.

    Unapproved aircraft part - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Several people went to jail, a couple of companies ceased to exist, and most steel companies now track every piece of steel so that it is known where it comes from. Prices go up and scrap is no longer available from the drop pile. All steel is apparently tracked to the recyclers.

    Thus price of steel goes way up and no drops are available. I read where folks elsewhere get drops all the time and I had been wondering why I could never find them. Now I at least partly understand why. I understand the rational but it sucks how it affects the general person who does not run a multimillion dollar machine shop.
    Where in the NW are you? I buy most of my project steel from Pacific Welding Supply. They often have short pieces 1' and longer. I look in the shorts pile first. They only charge $1 for a cut off a long piece and prices are industry standard. They stock a lot of sizes and will order any standard shape. Non stock orders you have to take the whole 20' or the whole sheet for flat sheet stock. i has worked for me at buying $750-1,000 per year for small projects. by setting up an account I get a price break, especially good on gases.

    Ron

  6. #6
    Elite Member Baby Grand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    I can't imagine an airframer puts much mild steel into an aircraft.
    That's the problem with trouble.
    It always starts out as such fun."
    - Randall Brown

  7. #7
    Platinum Member Furu's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    Quote Originally Posted by Tractor Seabee View Post
    Where in the NW are you? I buy most of my project steel from Pacific Welding Supply. They often have short pieces 1' and longer. I look in the shorts pile first. They only charge $1 for a cut off a long piece and prices are industry standard. They stock a lot of sizes and will order any standard shape. Non stock orders you have to take the whole 20' or the whole sheet for flat sheet stock. i has worked for me at buying $750-1,000 per year for small projects. by setting up an account I get a price break, especially good on gases.

    Ron
    I don't know what industry standard prices are or where to find them listed but where I get my steel is less expensive than anywhere else I have gone (if I get the right sales guy the other guy uses a different rate). I am near Seattle (SE of) and the supplier is a big one for the local industries. They sell in very large quantities just about every alloy out there down to and including good old A36 steel. Pacific Welding Supply (aka Central Welding Supply) is who I go to for my gas but my outlet doesn't sell steel to the best of my knowledge. Maybe I should dig deeper into that.

    From what the steel supplier told me it makes sense considering some of the things that happened back in the late 90's and stuff I have read about counterfeit parts that have flooded the industry. They just like everyone else have to protect themselves from the legal beagles and the way things are anymore. They pointed out to me the coded numbers on labels on all the steel, even the remnant pieces, that they say allows each piece to be traced all the way back to the origin. (Angle iron is apparently an exception) It may be that this company is one of the ones that got caught up in the events in which folks went to jail and they just do everything the same no matter what the type of alloy is, just to forestall any issue. I do remember that some of the problems back in the 90's were parts made from steel of the incorrect alloy and sold as meeting the specs. That is why everything now has a pedigree that is traceable in aviation parts. I do know of one specific company that sourced parts from a supplier that was less expensive than the OEM manufacturer (redundant) and they got burned with some counterfeits.
    JD 4720 - 400CX FEL, Woods BB-720 Brush Bull and BH90X backhoe, Salsco 6210XT PTO Chipper, Farmi 501 Logging Winch, Bo-Dozer Grapple, LP RBT4096, Cammond Road grader/leveler and Rankin Trash Forks

  8. #8
    Veteran Member dstig1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    I'm with Baby Grand - A36 makes nice bridges and I-beams, but would make aircraft that won't get off the ground. Sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. They probably don't want the hassle of dealing with small customers more than anything, and this is the excuse. If you want proof - test them, next time just ask them something like that "what airplane company uses mild hot rolled in an airplane? That doesn't make sense..." Then watch the stammering and back peddling start.
    -Dave

    "Being a pessimist is great. You can't lose. Either you end up being right...or you are pleasantly surprised."

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  9. #9
    Veteran Member sparc's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    Seems a statement on the sales slip could remove any liability on their part.
    Heat or lot or QA numbers don't mean much w/o the paper to back them up.
    Years ago I worked on a couple nuclear power plants and we had to track the
    numbers on every piece of steel, pipe, etc so I know the problems that can arise.

  10. #10
    Platinum Member Furu's Avatar
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    Default Re: Steel Suppliers Drops or lack thereof

    Quote Originally Posted by sparc View Post
    Seems a statement on the sales slip could remove any liability on their part.
    Heat or lot or QA numbers don't mean much w/o the paper to back them up.
    Years ago I worked on a couple nuclear power plants and we had to track the
    numbers on every piece of steel, pipe, etc so I know the problems that can arise.
    You are right. That is why they said they track every sale as to pedigree of the origin. Thus they have no liablilty. They said that they could not track the drops as it would be impossible thus they don't/won't sell them. I looked at all my invoices and they have tracking data just like they said.
    It seems that some folks have missed the original intent of this part of the original post or I was not clear. No a/c manufacturer puts in mild steel that I know of either and no one said that they do. The FAA cracked down on non PMA parts due to substandard parts getting into a/c several years back. It was never said or even intimated that mild steel was part of the inferior parts or that OEM suppliers were doing it. Just that the company now tracks all material they sell as to source of origin.
    JD 4720 - 400CX FEL, Woods BB-720 Brush Bull and BH90X backhoe, Salsco 6210XT PTO Chipper, Farmi 501 Logging Winch, Bo-Dozer Grapple, LP RBT4096, Cammond Road grader/leveler and Rankin Trash Forks

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