Sources for material for welding practice?

Help Support HomeBuiltAirplanes.com:

gtae07

Well-Known Member
Anyone have some suggestions on getting steel for welding practice? I don't want to pay full price for good usable stock yet; I just want something I can make beads on for now and learn how to control the torch and filler before I start actually making things.

I've tried calling steel supply places looking for scrap and drops; some only sell to scrap dealers, and one said I could poke through their scraps--but the only stuff they had that was small enough and suitable for my use was in the "samples" box in the sales department :ermm:

I've emailed the local waterjet companies to see if they have scraps but no response yet.

I've inquired at work about scrap materials but no response there yet, either.

I have a couple of (quite rusty) pieces of rebar laying around; I guess they might be usable for stick welding practice?

Any other suggestions on places to ask or unusual/creative sources for usable practice material?

Eventually I'd like to move up to practicing on 4130 tube, but I'm not ready for that yet.

I considered electrical conduit (cheap!) but it's galvanized (bad).

Last edited:

Fred in Wisc

Well-Known Member
Around here, there are several scrap yards and recyclers where you can buy steel cutoffs and misc priced per pound. Look for metal recyclers in your area. It's going to be pretty hard to find 4130, but regular mild steel is usually pretty easy to get from places like that.

Wickes Aircraft sells some of the smaller common sizes of 4130 for $1 a foot, and shipping isn't bad if it's cut into 5' lengths or less. They also have a "bargain box" of misc short cutoffs for$20. that would be a pretty minimal investment to let you practice on the actual stuff you would be welding in an airframe.

Hot Wings

Grumpy Cynic
HBA Supporter
Log Member
Bicycle frames and desk top computer cases. Have to remove the paint and some of the computer metal is galvanized so that has to be removed too. Muriatic acid (HCl) will remove the zinc. If you choose to mess with the acid then electrical EMT is cheap for welding practice. A piece of plastic rain gutter with the ends capped makes an inexpensive container for soaking the EMT.

After you are finished with the acid neutralize the bath with baking soda and dump the resulting aqueous zinc chloride solution down the drain. Double check with the local authorities first as there may be stricter local regulation with regard to disposal. Zinc chloride is pretty harmless as long as you don't drink it or breath the dust.

gtae07

Well-Known Member
Around here, there are several scrap yards and recyclers where you can buy steel cutoffs and misc priced per pound. Look for metal recyclers in your area. It's going to be pretty hard to find 4130, but regular mild steel is usually pretty easy to get from places like that.
So far the local scrap dealers say they only buy, not sell... but yeah, I don't much care what type of steel it is right now, so long as it welds. Come 4130 time I'll buy the real stuff.

Wickes Aircraft sells some of the smaller common sizes of 4130 for $1 a foot, and shipping isn't bad if it's cut into 5' lengths or less. They also have a "bargain box" of misc short cutoffs for$20. that would be a pretty minimal investment to let you practice on the actual stuff you would be welding in an airframe.
That's not a bad price. It's better than the pricing at Spruce, which is a shame because I'm going to be there anyway this coming weekend. But I've heard the Spruce "bargain bag" is a little underwhemling. I guess I can ask to see one when I'm there?

If you choose to mess with the acid then electrical EMT is cheap for welding practice. A piece of plastic rain gutter with the ends capped makes an inexpensive container for soaking the EMT...
Sounds like a pain...

BBerson

HBA Supporter
Bicycle frames is good for thin wall practice. Also old folding tables, chairs etc. from Goodwill for $5. Start with 063" thick then practice with thinner and thinner like .020". Hot Wings Grumpy Cynic HBA Supporter Log Member Sounds like a pain... It does sound like a pain! But it's really no more of a bother than spraying the weeds in your lawn or bugs in the flowers and then properly cleaning the tools. The word - acid - elicits fear in many people. :shock: ekimneirbo Banned Go to a muffler and exhaust warehouse and either buy 8 foot long steel pipe and just keep cutting it of and welding it back together. You could also ask about buying all the old cut off pieces they throw away. Some of them will be aluminum coated but there should be plenty that aren't. Just take a big box to leave with them, so they can throw the scraps in it for you. Many years ago when our ship was in a shipyard for overhaul, we had a nuclear power guy who wanted to practice and improve his welding skills with a stick welder. He got an I beam a few feet long and welded on it till it was a solid bar......of course,he didn't have to pay for any materials. don january Well-Known Member Log Member ACS sells "Bargain Bags" of odd-length cutoff tubing for practicing. BARGAIN BAG 4130 TUBING from Aircraft Spruce Current price is about$28.
I really like Chris's answer. I think it's best to practice on the material you will end up using for your build. Bicycle frame's and old car stuff is contaminated with paint and oil's. IMO Don

THRC12

Well-Known Member
Have plenty of chromoly scrap pieces that would only be suitable for welding practice. We generate alot of it that is too short for us to use in the race cars other than occasionally. Some are notched to fit other tubes, etc. I'd be happy to send you some just for whatever to shipping might be. Scrap price is so low right not they want us to pay them, LOL. Teddy

gtae07

Well-Known Member
So of all things, a Craigslist wanted ad seems to have done the trick :shock: And I thought nobody actually read those...

Anyway, it put me in touch with a welding shop up the road that will supposedly happily load my truck full for \$20, just to save the owner from having to drive to the scrapyard and unload. I'll be picking up a load on Tuesday.

Kyle Boatright

Well-Known Member
I went to the local metal shop and had them cut me a gazillion coupons out of .035 or thereabouts. I did all sorts of unspeakable welds on those - running beads, joining edges, making T's, etc. Then I moved to ACS's box of cut-off's. The problem there (at least in the samples I have) is that a bunch of the stuff in my two boxes was much heavier stuff than I'll ever need to weld for an airplane...

gtae07

Well-Known Member
I went to the local metal shop and had them cut me a gazillion coupons out of .035 or thereabouts. I did all sorts of unspeakable welds on those - running beads, joining edges, making T's, etc. Then I moved to ACS's box of cut-off's. The problem there (at least in the samples I have) is that a bunch of the stuff in my two boxes was much heavier stuff than I'll ever need to weld for an airplane...
Yeah, that's what I've heard about their grab-bags too. It's all their heavy-wall stuff.

Then again, I have plenty of uses for heavier stuff around the house. This guy has a bunch of 1/4 and 1/2 in plate; eventually I can stick-weld some of that together and make a hydroforming box, among other things. I may still wind up buying 4130 tube later on, or doing the acid procedure on electrical conduit if I can figure out a way to do that without killing any more of the grass than I already have (I'm not doing it inside, even in the shop with the doors open).

Go to a muffler and exhaust warehouse and either buy 8 foot long steel pipe and just keep cutting it of and welding it back together.
:hammer:
D'oh!
I'm an idiot. I never thought about that, despite it being bleeding obvious.

cluttonfred

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
You might also try finding a local certified aircraft welding shop and asking if it would be possible to buy some cutoffs and scraps. Like your general welding shop, they may be happy to get rid of the stuff, and you might make some contacts useful to have if there are things you are not comfortable welding yourself.

Little Scrapper

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Log Member
Ask a plumber for an old water heater. Remove the sheathing and insulation from the tank, takes about 20 minutes. Lay it on its side and practice welding beads in a line. This gives you about 23 square feet of surface area to practice on.

If you can absolutely master welding a straight line bead, move on to welding circles on the cylinder. Master that. Then move on to lap joints.

All good welding techniques have a foundation in learning to weld in the flat. Learning on tubing doesn't make sense at all.

If you can fill 20 square feet of cylinder with weld beads you'll be on your way to creating beautiful welds on tubing.

Little Scrapper

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Log Member
If you really want to get good, take as many variables out of the equation as possible. Master the basics.

Cut a 3/4" x 16" piece. Mount magnet strip to it. Use it as a guide to weld long straight beads. This allows you to focus on depth, heat and filler....which is a lot to learn in its own right. Once that has been mastered, remove the stick guide. Assuming you've mastered the other your new challenge is using your hands as a guide and because you've practiced the other steps you don't need to learn that. I love teaching welding, it's a complex art with numerous variables and quite fun. Newbie welders make enormous mistakes by skipping the basics and never really get good because of this. It's easier to focus on 3 things at once instead of 10. Always master the basics.

don january

Well-Known Member
Log Member
Get a good puddle going and go as straight as you can. Alum-steel-What ever, master the puddle and that's a good start. Learn to fill the void and make it even. Don