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  1. #1
    ScrapmanIndustries started this thread.
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    Stripping Copper Wire, is it worth it?

    I noticed a lot of people online recently, some here some elsewhere, asking about copper wire and if stripping it is worth it or not. So I made a video about it to try and answer some of these questions. Most of the video is boring math on a white board which some of you on here already know. Some of the video is a time lapse of me running the Copper


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  3. #2
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    My internet connection is a bit slow today so i couldn't run the video.

    I got a machine similar to yours a couple of weeks ago. There's a certain learning curve with it. Been running all different kinds of stuff through it. It seems to do the solid strand pretty well. It doesn't seem to do the finely stranded wire well. The twisted well pump wire like down at the bottom left of the pic is more work.

    Overall , it's quite a bit of labor. So far, i've got about 40 lbs of bare bright & 35 lbs of wire that stripped out as tarnished as black or green. I tried soaking one test batch of tarnished in white vinegar overnight. That cleaned up to pass for bare bright. Did another test batch in (dilute) Muriatic acid last night and that turned out as well when i checked it this morning.

    Maybe it depends on what gauge wire you're stripping ? I would imagine that you could really make some money if you had 6 ga cable with a single layer of insulation to slice through. That would go like nobody's business. 14 Ga that you pulled out of romex would be a quite a bit more work to rack up the same number of pounds.

    Hope to check the video later cause that's the work i'm doing today. Always up for learning better ways of doing the job.

    Later edited to add:

    I just ran a couple of 1/0 battery cables that were 4' long. Each weighed about 1.76lb and netted 1.39 of #2 copper after the insulation was removed. Took about a minute to strip each one.

    That would be about 83lbs -or- 140.00 $/hr.
    Last edited by hills; 03-07-2020 at 10:21 AM.

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  5. #3
    ScrapmanIndustries started this thread.
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    yes some wire is a pain to strip. Theres a lot of labor involved. I used to buy wire from the yard I used to work at and strip it at home. Even paying what the yard sold it for I was still able to make $20 an hour on some of the thicker 90% insulated. other stuff like this load I found for the video didn't turn out too well. I actually lost money stripping the stuff I found for the video. It all came from a dumpster but the yard I go to now pays slightly better for the insulated wire than the yard I worked at and their copper prices are not as good. so as it would turn out I would have done better just taking it in insulated. I'm not sure what kinda wire it was though. most of it came from a dumpster. I think its something the rail road was getting rid of. It's like a really complicated balancing act. It takes a lot of experience to master something so simple to learn. I've definitely noticed though that a sharp blade makes all the difference. Before i had chunks missing from the blade and it was a pain to strip romex and thhn. I wouldn't even touch it half the time. I just sharpened the blade with a bench grinder and knife sharpener. it works way better now.

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  7. #4
    ScrapmanIndustries started this thread.
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    This video is mostly just learning the math. But I think if I can find more wire here I might make another video focusing on the physical aspect of it.

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  9. #5
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    I wanted to thank you for taking all of the time to do the video. That's a nice machine. It looks to be better quality than the Chinese made " no name " i ordered off ebay. Not complaining about my machine though. It's a good entry level tool. Waay better than stripping by hand with a knife.

    I asked the ebay vendor about replacement blades and they got right back to me with a link to where they could be purchased. I would imagine that the tolerances could be pretty tight on those things. Maybe they're just part of the cost of doing business ? Throw in a new one from time to time like you would with a sawzall or skil saw blade ? All a matter of personal preference ?

    It really is a numbers game isn't it ? So much depends on what your yard pays for the different kinds of wire. Sometimes it makes sense to strip it. Othertimes, you put all that work in and end up with less money.

    Every situation is a bit different. It's a 50 mile run to the nearest scrap yard here so i don't go very often. Last time i was in was back in November.

    They have three grades of insulated wire:

    High grade @ .70 / lb
    Mid grade @ .40 /lb
    Low grade @ .05 / lb

    The most common grades of copper are:

    Bare Bright: 2.00 / lb.
    #1 copper: 1.95 / lb
    #2 copper: 1.80 / lb

    There's quite a spread between bare bright and high grade insulated.

    Let's assume that we took a pound of high grade ( 70 % recovery )

    Sell it as high grade and you would get .70 USD.

    Strip it and you would have 7/10ths of a pound of bare bright that paid you 1.40 USD.

    Big difference on that one. You could double your money by putting in some labor.

    The trick is to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  10. #6
    ScrapmanIndustries started this thread.
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    you're welcome. and yes this machine is slightly better than the entry level ones. I've never personally used the cheaper ones as I got this used from some guy but i've noticed others that use them in front of me seem to get wire stuck in the motor as it comes out the back of the machine because the motors are horizontal and sticking out in the line of fire. this one has the motor vertical and out of the way. The blade problem I've encountered is sometime recently they changed their design slightly and the new machines have a blade the same size as mine but the axle is on the blade and the slider just clamps around it. on mine its a through shaft with two set screws. so I guess I could get the new ones to fit if I got a hole machined through it. They may sell the old style blades as well I'm not too sure. but thats the only problem I've had with mine. The blade got chewed up when i was running hard core after work at the yard. I bought an entire gaylord one Saturday. It had 70% copper but it was that semi-conducter stuff. so I had to strip each section like 4 times. Going through the copper lining like i did just chewed it up. I made $200 that day though. even though I had to pay like almost $2 a pound for the wire.

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    Been buried in work for the last couple of days. The 13 hr work shifts don't leave much time for anything else in life ... like visiting SMF.

    I'm reminded of something JJ taught us. He said take a pound of wire and strip it out. Weigh up the copper you recovered and that's your percentage. I found this works really well.

    ==============

    I bought a couple of barrels of mixed higher grade wire last summer at .40 / lb. Wanted to make sure that i would have some inside work lined up for this winter.

    It's truly a mixed bag of stuff. There's a little bit of everything in there. It's been a good learning experience. What i do is write down the recovery and how time consuming each kind is. That way i can learn what's best to strip and what's best not to waste my time with.

    There's really no harm in selling off the difficult stuff as insulated wire at the yard. I bought at .40 /lb and can still make money by selling at .70/lb.

    I'll just have to see how this all plays out. I figured i would get through this load and then see about sourcing more material that i can pick up on a regular basis when i'm making my rounds.

    If that works ... maybe see about buying a better machine with the money i made on scrap.

    I was thinking that a variable speed machine would work best when you're doing a little bit of everything.

    Maybe someday.

  12. #8
    ScrapmanIndustries started this thread.
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    yes. that is a good way to find the percentage. At the yard I worked at if someone brought in wire and we didn't know the percentage we would cut off about a foot or so strip it and weigh it up on a jewelers scale.

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    Helpful and useful. Thank you!

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