Scrap carbide isn't always easy to come by, but if you know where to look, it could mean a good payday. July's Metal of the Month is Carbide, so let's dive in a learn everything a scrapper needs to know about it.
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Hey scrappers, it's Tom from the iScrap App. And we are here to talk about scrap and we're so happy that you're joining us this month is July and we're going to be talking about carbide, you know, might not be something that you deal with every day. But you probably have seen some of the prices of that before and we just want to go over a little history of it, where you can find it, how you can scrap it, where you can scrap it prices to expect, just gives you a little better idea. So carbide is not actually a metal carbide is generally an alloy as are most of the things that you're going to deal with in the scrapping world. Even steel is primarily an alloy because they normally combine it with something else like silicone or something along the lines. But carbide is generally a mix of tungsten, it's a word that can be used as a blanket statement, because I've recycled carbide silicon wafers before where they have very little to no metal and a lot of plastic inside. But we also have different types of carbide that are tungsten based. And these are the ones that we really want to focus in on because those are the ones that are going to be worth money. And when you deal with silicon, excuse me, tungsten carbide. Right off the bat, a real easy way to know if you have tungsten carbide or not, is to look to see if there's any writing on it. And on most forms of tungsten carbide, you'll see the word excuse me the letter W. And W stands for tungsten, which is the periodic table of elements. That's what tungsten is, you know, letter is, if you will, you know, copper would be CU gold would be AU tungsten for whatever reason is W. So if you see the letter W on the carbide right off the bat, you're going to know where it's coming from what it is something that you might see when you think you have carbide could be HSS, which stands for high speed steel. And that's one of the most common misconceptions when customers have come to Rockaway Recycling to sell carbide before we know when we take it. And right off the bat, we put our magnet on it. And you should know that tungsten carbide will be magnetic. But when you use your magnet and you stick it to it, it's not going to have a heavy pull, it should have a very slight pole. So if you have a real hard pole, where you have to pull the the bit or whatever it is off of your magnet, that probably means that it's too strong. And that means that it's going to be high speed steel, you want to be able to deal with tungsten carbide, and that W on it will have a very soft pull to it. And if you've seen any of the videos, which we've made on carbide, which has been many of them, you'll see the soft pull that carbide has with a magnet. And that's a really good indicator. Now, carbide is used in all types of different places. But one of the most common places that we've seen has primarily been in the machining industry. Why extremely precision precise cuts, the edges that are on the carbide tips and bits are so incredibly sharp. But more importantly, they stay sharp longer. Because when you're dealing with the density scale, carbide is so strong that when it cuts things like aluminum or even steel, it stays sharper for a longer period of time. And that's what's made it so attractive to machinists. So if you do any type of machining scrap, that's where you want to be able to look for the carbide and really make sure that you're separating it, so you don't have any problems. Now, there's a lot of other types of carbide like we mentioned before earlier, silicon carbide, but these are wafer forms and these are generally used for the micro chip industry and they don't really have metal inside of them. And you're not going to deal with those a lot of the times but if someone says that they have something like silicon carbide wafers, please do not be confused with tungsten carbide, tungsten is the key word, because carbide is you know, really a chemical compound, where carbon is kind of put in there with you know, metallic structure like tungsten non metallics, something like the wafer that you would put in there, sometimes they'll use plastic and they'll kind of use it as a blanket phrase. So, know that tungsten carbide really is what you're looking for. Now, tungsten carbide can last for a long period of time, but will we have found is that most scrappers machinists, tool makers tool and die makers, they like to deal with tungsten and deal with carbide. And when it starts to get dulled, because they do inspections generally after every 10 cuts or a series of cuts. When it starts to get dull, they take it off and they put into a bin and we've seen tungsten carbide bits be as high as $30 to $40 per bit, where regular tool bits, if you buy a pack of like DeWalt tool bits, just regular hardened steel, they're going to be super cheap. If you buy them at Home Depot, you might be able to get 25 different bits for $10 bucks were one individual bit could be $15, $20, $30, $40. And some of the thicker ones we've seen carbide that's been over an inch thick tungsten carbide over an inch thick. With these really large bits, those bits could be $200-$300 each. And when you have carbide and you find a really good tooling bit, sometimes you might want to use it as opposed to just scrap in it. Yeah, it's worth a lot of money. Over the years, we've seen it since you know mid 2000s in the anywhere from $3 to $9.50 per pound range. But if you're able to find some carbide bits, they will drill through some metal that otherwise you would have an issue with or possibly even need a torch. You know, I've used carbide tips before on regular screwdrivers, and it goes through steel so much more efficiently, especially when you pair it up with something like air or even some type of a water cut. You know, if you put water and you have carbide, it cuts so incredibly easy. Some of you have probably seen some of your sawzall blades, right. And you see them say, diamond tipped or carbide tipped, and these little ends on the end of those blades, they have a little bit of carbide on there. And that helps you cut through things quicker and smoother. And it's nice, because it makes your job easier. It's not nice, because they're more expensive. But what we have found really, I mean, my grandfather told me years ago right tool for the right job. And if you have the right drill bit, the right saws, all blade, whatever it is the right vise, whether it's moving stationary, if you have the correct tool, you're going to get those jobs on a lot quicker. And sometimes it's really tough buying expensive tools. Don't get me wrong, I bought dozens of sawzalls over the years, and we've graduated from the ones that are $60 off of the Harbor Freight shelf to the $150 ones because they last longer. You know, when you buy something that lasts longer like carbide tips, you're going to get more bang for your buck. And one thing that we have found is how much better we keep those tools when we put them in special bins because we know that they're more money. When we're done using them, we make sure they go into the scrap carbide bin. And when we do these things, we try to give you these different ideas because it's just easier to work with better tools. And we found that that industries like the aerospace industry, the machining industry, they use a heavy amount of these carbide, these tungsten carbide based tools. Because they cut things quicker, they quite cut things more efficiently. Some of these cutting blades can be put onto these CNC machines where the computer is using it to laser cut things out. Sometimes it leaves a laser, but sometimes there's grooves that has to be put into things like aluminum or steel, I saw a video of where they made an an iPhone, and they took the block of aluminum and they were able to use the water jet with it looked like a carbide bit to be able to get all of the aluminum out of the way to create the hollow shell for the battery to go in for the the circuit board that it contains, you know, the essentially is the phone to go on top of. It's really interesting just to see where carbide has been used in so many different ways. Another place that you could find carbide? Road Mills, road mill bits are generally these big knuckles and on the end of each knuckle there's five or six small carbide bits. And I was driving on the highway earlier today. And I saw these humongous drills that go into the road into the ground into the earth into the rocks in the soil. And with these carbide tips on them, when these these hammers kind of go into the ground, and they start ripping around and they start cutting, they can go through anything that they really face steel, cement, old debris, rocks, granite, things like that they can go right through them, and the machine operators will change the bit ends on them so they're able to keep them fresh. And then those I call them knuckles because that's kind of what they look like was once you go to scrap them with these big heavy steel knuckles with carbide tips on the end, and that might be another place that you would find them in the road industry in the construction industry. And some people have asked us about taking the tips off and it's so hard to break those tips off of the steel that they're kind of welded or soldered on to that it generally makes more money to sell them. And you'll probably sell them for about 50% higher than steel price, even though the carbide is on there, and it could be worth $6, $7, $8 bucks a pound, you want to look at it and say how hard is it going to be to take it off plus, you're generally going to have either a loss factor because there's going to be pieces broken on you, it's also so hard to take off that sometimes without the right tools, you're going to just be hitting a piece of steel hoping that this piece of carbide comes off. So when we go to the other when we go to carbide, and we talk about things, and we look at all these different facts, it's like what does it look like? What is it used for generally silvery, it generally is going to have a soft gray color to it, it's not going to be that bright or shiny, you're not going to normally see a colored except some of the end mill bits, you might see them in gold, or blue. But generally they're triangular, they have a small hole in them, your regular cutting bits look just like any regular drill bit, except of course they have that letter W on them. So when you look at carbide, it is not only one of the strongest metals that's out there, it's one of the most useful, and I don't know if you remember all the way back in junior high. My high school science teacher, Mr. Peterson, he always talked about the Mohs Scale, and it was talking about mineral hardness. And the diamond was generally one of the hardest. And you know, something like aluminum is one of the softest. Well, a diamond falls in the 10 out of 10, which means nothing's going to cut a diamond except another diamond. Carbide tungsten carbide comes at a nine. So that means that it's going to be so many other metals, copper, aluminum, brass, steel, it's even harder and more strong than steel. But it's so expensive that there's zero chance that you're going to see bridges made of tungsten carbon anytime soon. If they do, I would love to see that bridge, because you're going to have to have armed guards around it to protect it from scrappers that are out there, although it probably wouldn't break in any way, shape, or form quickly. So other things to look for in in carbide, how to sell it, you know, on our website, and if you're a Patreon supporter of ours, you've gotten tips on carbide, but we have videos, and we have blogs, just talking about carbide, where you can go on, you can click you can see different grades like carbide dust, sludge, powder, tips, bits, how to scrap it. You know, we have a lot of people that actually mail it to the group at Rockaway Recycling, because their scrap yards don't pay very strong price. And what we've found over the years is when you deal with people that know carbide, then you're able to get better prices for it, it's dense, you can package in the boxes. And through the iScrap App, we're going to teach you how to use us as a tool to learn about the different prices of carbide and of course where to sell it. Now not all scrap yards by carbide. So if you're going to one for the first time, you might want to call ahead to make sure that they have an XRF analyzer. Because while that that letter W is so important, it is not on every single piece of carbide. So when you show up and you have 15, 20 pounds of carbide and you're looking to sell it, well, we've heard stories about scrap yards refusing it. And they refuse it because they don't have an analyzer, they don't know how to sell it. And when you're dealing with a metal that's hundreds of years old, if a scrapyard doesn't know how to buy it correctly. Don't just take a cheap price from them, throw it back in your car, throw it back in your truck, and go to the next yard or use the I scrap app to find other scrap yards that are able to buy it better. And if you still can't contact us and hey, we'll buy it from you. Other things that you want to think about with carbide, where do you find it? Machine shops, machining industry. That machining industry is going to be a really good place to key in on. And we've talked to some scrappers that have made connections at machine and CNC part guys, and they pick their scrap away whether it's turnings or other things, but sometimes they don't ask about the carbide. And when you have the carbide, you're choosing the knowledge of carbide you might be able to work a deal out with some of these CNC operators. You know, at Rockaway Recycling, we have a few operators of blow through 15 to 20 pounds of carbide per week because of the volume that they're doing. So if you're able to find someone that's producing that much carbide, that gives you the ability to sharp to start to shop it. You know, carbide is not as similar as steel is where steel prices generally are, you're not going to have a humungous range from yard to yard, maybe $50. Yes, that's a big range. But if I told you that one scrap yard was paying you $3 for carbide, and another was paying you $6, well, that's a much bigger range, especially when you're looking at dense and heavy material. So when you look at carbide, if you ever want to learn about it, we have blogs about it, we have different things that could tell you its melting points, and where you find it and what it's used for, and places that it's mined out of like Austria, Sweden, Australia, Bolivia, Russia, all these different places have been able to mine carbide. But what we've seen over the years is it's become an excellent source of recycling has become one of the main driving factors for carbides reuse, because they're able to use more carbide bits, they grind it down generally into a powder form, they will go dump it into a boiler, make it super, super hot, and then start to pour into these other forms. And you're going to start to have carbide being reformed and remelted. And it really, it's very cool when you see it, you can look some videos up on YouTube, if you're looking to see carbide actually getting melted down. That's, you know, at Rockaway Recycling, we don't have a 10,000 degree furnace. So without having a 10,000 degree furnace on hand, we don't really have the ability to melt carbide down, let alone anything else. So you might want to just look up a video to see how complex it is to make it and it'll give you a better understanding about where it's used. Because we've seen carbide inside of electronics, microwaves household things, we've actually started to see a big carbide pushing the the ring and jewelry business, a lot of men's jewelry is now being made from tungsten carbide, or tungsten. So you'll start to see that and it's because you know, I have buddies that can buy a ring for $25 in the last them forever, and it's almost impossible to break it. So you know, you don't really get scratches on it because of its hardness. So these are other places that you can look for carbide. Now when you're looking for more information on scrap, you should follow us through our Spotify podcast account or our Apple podcasts. Follow us this way you can always be alerted when we have new podcasts coming out. If you want to learn more about carbide if you have questions about it, let us know and we'll get back to you leave us a review through the podcast forums, or become a Patreon supporter so you can learn about when carbide prices change or any other metals are going on. Scrappers, this is Tom from t e iScrap App, but until next t me, I'll scrap you la