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Thread: Is it Stainless Steel, Chrome-plated Brass or Aluminum?

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    Mick started this thread.
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    Is it Stainless Steel, Chrome-plated Brass or Aluminum?

    I had this happen today and figured I can't be the ONLY person in the world to get confused. I'd done a "quick sort" and had a barrel of what I thought to be Stainless Steel turn out to be some brass that was chrome-plated and one piece of aluminum. What confused me was not thinking that faucets are likely brass; not stainless steel (the tub or sinks will perhaps be stainless steel). So, this is the "procedure" I came up with:

    (This applies only to those "shiny" pieces).

    First- Is it magnetic? If it is, It's probably Stainless Steel (or chrome plated steel). If not; it could still be Stainless, but might be Aluminum or Chrome-plated Brass. Second - Test with a grinder - sparks means Stainless Steel. No sparks means Aluminum or Chrome-plated Brass. Third - Use the grinder to grind off a section - if it stays silvery, it's Aluminum. If it's more yellow or gold colored, it's Brass.

    A lot of times, pots and pans will be marked on the underside - "Stainless Steel" or "Aluminum". Another thing is to consider the object's use. If it's used around high heat, it is more likely Aluminum (ie: heat sink, motors). If it's used around water, it's likely copper (as in lines) or brass (as in faucets or valves).



    Stainless Steel is made using Chromium (chrome), so if it's true Stainless, it will have a uniform appearance throughout. Cut or grind through the piece of metal to make sure it's not just chrome-plated steel.

    Check with your yard regarding how to separate various grades of Stainless Steel. My yard has me throw any magnetic stainless steel with #1 iron.

    Please feel free to correct or dispute any of this as it's just what I came up with.
    People may laugh at me, but that's ok. I laugh all the way to the bank.

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    Glad you posted this Mick...I broke down a bunch of faucets this weekend and the trim plates on a few had me scratching my head because magnet didn't stick, silver color all the way thru but no sparks. It was pretty sunny so maybe I missed them, not sure. I put them with the brass for now and thought I would look at them again before going in.
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    "Give them enough so they can do something with it, but not too much that they won't do nothing."

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    Antennas are brass, but they are almost always silver colored. If you're ever rushing and not going to grab whole TVs, boom boxes, etc, at least snap the antenna when you cut cords and run. However, with more time and attention, antennas are simple to unscrew.

    Another brass item used around hot water --- espresso machines. Not the regular coffee makers, but espresso machines often have brass components, and they are rarely yellow. Silver colored and non-magnetic. Brew basket and portafilter are usually brass. Milk steaming pitcher is usually stainless steel. If it's 16oz or bigger it's worth selling instead of scrapping.

    Bent knitting and crochet needles are quite often aluminum. Cut off the little magnetic back end. Light weight, so resell the good ones at the yardsale. They'll go.
    Last edited by Scraplogic; 05-31-2011 at 10:40 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mick View Post
    I had this happen today and figured I can't be the ONLY person in the world to get confused. I'd done a "quick sort" and had a barrel of what I thought to be Stainless Steel turn out to be some brass that was chrome-plated and one piece of aluminum. What confused me was not thinking that faucets are likely brass
    When sorting brass items, you need to keep nickel brass (cupronickel, copper-nickel alloy) into consideration as well. It is worth more then regular brass, just as dense, more corrosion resistant, except it is white/silver colored. If cupronickel tarnishes and corrodes, it will have green spots like yellow brass or copper.

    Also, many items that are made of brass, can just as easily be made of zinc. Zinc is just as heavy as brass, except it is dull grey. Zinc is commonly bought by yards separate from aluminum, but the two are commonly confused for one another because of the similar color.

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    dang I just posted asking some of those questions. one faucit I cut through, is white all the way through, but heavy like brass ir is not alu and gives no sparks ?

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    Mick started this thread.
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    I just answered your other post, but didn't think of nickel. I don't sort zinc (just throw it with aluminum) so never even a consideration.

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    Die Cast is also common in Faucets (handles and plates). It looks a lot like aluminum and doesn't spark on grinder but is heavier than aluminum, much like zinc. Some yards keep zinc and die cast separate, and some don't.

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    A nonmagnetic stainless is most likely "303" series. The most common magnetic stainless is "304". I have had alot of yards try to pay straight steel rate on the 304 stainless. 303 usually pays pretty good.

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    I get scrap from a locksmith and much of it at first was hard to sort. For the exact same reasons. A lot of plated brass and die cast zinc ( which pays about half as much as al at my yard). I use pretty much the same process as Mick for this type of scrap as well.

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    I need to save this thread and re-read it over and over. There should be a book on how to figure out the different non-ferrous metals.

    And why is some SS magnetic and some not? Do they need to be sorted differently? I will see if there is a thread on this topic.

    So much to learn. I'd buy the book, if there was one.

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    Mick started this thread.
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    Jill, have you read this thread: Scrapping Basics - Getting Started

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    I think you ARE reading the book Jillyenator. BTW, thanks for pulling up some old threads. I need to review the book myself.

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    I have run across The bottom plate of faucets being chrome covered copper as well. It was a designer type faucet not sure if that matters.
    Nothing like grinding expecting silver or yellow and getting orange
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    Quote Originally Posted by erewen View Post
    I think you ARE reading the book Jillyenator. BTW, thanks for pulling up some old threads. I need to review the book myself.
    Thanks, Mick. Am reading them now. I thought I'd already read those, but I must've been focusing on the random esoteric threads somehow.

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    Getting confused with all that is surely a common thing. Besides that magnet trick you can also judge that by simply hitting on that material with your fingers, as every material vibrates in a different way, but for that you need to have the experience. If you don't have experience then just take a small piece of different materials with you, analyze them one by one and then check that targeted item in order to know about the material.

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    Regarding 303 and 304 sst. Magnetic sst isn't 303 or 304. Both are basically and 18-8 sst meaning 18 chrome 8% nickel. Both are nonmagnetic. You I think are talking about 403 sst which is basically a chrome plated steel with VERY little nickle. If your yard is telling you 304 is magnetic you may want to look for another yard because they are 100% incorrect.


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