Selling scrap metal can be a great way to earn extra income. Carbide, in all its various forms, can be highly valuable. You may even have scrap carbide already in your home, waiting to be turned in for cash. This article details scrap carbide prices per pound as well as everything else you need to know prior to making the sale. By the end of the article you’ll know how to find it, where to take it, and how much you’ll get for it.
Where to Find Scrap Carbide
Tungsten carbide is primarily used in cutting and drilling equipment in industrial applications. Some of the most common sources of recyclable carbide are end mills and drill bits left over from machining projects. In fact, lots of machining leftovers, even non-solid leftovers, might have a high enough carbide content to be valuable. While larger machine shops are very aware of the value of their scrap carbide and will likely either resell or recycle it, you may be able to pick up leftover industrial carbide scraps – particularly carbide inserts – from a friend with a home machining shop or from the owner of a tire-changing establishment, for instance.
Carbide can also be found in household products. You might find carbide in sporting equipment (snowmobile spikes, for example), in knife sharpeners, in light bulb filaments and in high heat coils, in jewelry (men’s wedding rings, for example), in fishing equipment (especially lures), in hiking equipment (the tips of a trekking pole, for example), in tire studs, in working components of ballpoint pens, and in razor blades. Carbide is unusually heavy, so if the metal in these types of objects seems heavy for its size, it could be carbide. You can try the magnet test (explained later) or a variety of other identification tests to get a better idea of whether your scrap metal is carbide.
Types of Carbide
Carbide generally comes in three types: solids, sludge, and powder. All three types are recyclable. Solids include any solid pieces of carbide left over from machining or found in household items. Sludge is a liquid byproduct of various machining processes. Carbide powder might be left over from machining; the metal can be purchased in this form as well.
- Examples: Drill bits, inserts, taps, router bits, end mills, cutoffs, round stock, dies, punches, reamers, etc.
- Selling solids: Any recycler that takes carbide will take solids.
- Pricing: If your solids are pure carbide, they will sell for the current price of carbide. Be aware that not all solids are made from carbide alone; if only part of a solid needed to be very durable, for instance, then it may be that that part is carbide and the rest is a less valuable metal like high-speed steel. Some drill bits contain carbide only in the tip, for example. Use the identification tests mentioned below to get an idea of what the carbide content of your solid scrap is.
2. Grinding Sludge
- Examples: Sludge is the byproduct produced from grinding, cutting, shaping, and manufacturing carbide tooling, inserts, and other carbide items.
- Selling sludge: Sludge is recyclable, but not all recyclers have the facilities to process and recycle sludge. Be sure to call and confirm that your recycler accepts sludge before you make a trip.
- Pricing: The value of sludge depends on what percentage of it is carbide and what percentage are contaminants. The heavier your sludge, the higher its carbide content. As benchmarks, a 40-pound gallon of sludge probably has high carbide content. A 24-pound gallon may or may not have enough carbide to be recycled, it will depend on moisture and contaminants. A 12-pound gallon is probably not recyclable. The recycler will only be able to confirm the carbide content and final price after an analysis is done.
- Examples: Carbide powder may be left over from machining processes with carbide parts.
- Selling powder: Powder is recyclable, but not all recyclers have the facilities to process and recycle it. Be sure to call and confirm that your recycler accepts powder before you make a trip. Powder is easier to separate than sludge, so recyclers can buy it even when the percentage of tungsten is as low as 20%.
- Pricing: The value of scrap carbide powder depends on the percentage of contaminants. As with sludge, the heavier your powder, the higher the carbide content. Tungsten powder is used in processes like thermal spray for hardfacing and other processes; so if your scrap comes from a process that began with tungsten powder, it will have a higher tungsten content and thus be more valuable.
How to Identify Carbide
There are two types of solid carbide scraps: clean and dirty. Clean scraps are solids, such as drill bits. Dirty scraps have braze alloy in them, which is a type of solder that appears as a white-gold substance. These dirty scraps, such as saw tips, are still valuable. You can identify carbide by weight or by using the tests described below.
- Weight: Carbide can be identified by weight because it is very heavy; two tablespoons weigh over a pound.
- Spark Test: Carbide is usually found in end mills, inserts, or saw tips. When put on a grinding wheel, carbide will make sparks that are dark reddish-orange, short, and dim rather than white firework-like sparks.
- Magnet Test: True tungsten has little attraction to a magnet; tungsten carbide will not stick to a magnet and will pull away easily. If the magnet sticks, the material is probably steel.
- Scratch Test: Scratch the material with a known piece of carbide. If it’s steel, you’ll immediately notice scratches. If it’s carbide, you’ll see little to no markings.
- Rust Test: Steel will rust; carbide won’t. If what you’ve got is rusty, it’s definitely not carbide.
End mills, reamers, boring bars, and round toolings are often made from carbide but are sometimes made from steel. Inserts are almost always made from carbide, and steel inserts are easily separated with a weight test. Spade bits are almost always steel, but are occasionally made of carbide. A magnet test will easily reveal which is carbide. If you find that some of your scraps are not carbide, knowing the price of scrap metal recycling per pound will help you determine whether recycling them is worth your time.
Watch the following video to see examples of the weight, magnet, scratch and rust tests. You’ll also learn more about clean and dirty scraps and about how the quality of the carbide affects its value.
The quality of “soft scrap” carbide (the sludge or powder produced after grinding a piece of carbide) can only be determined in a laboratory, but you can estimate the quality yourself by its weight.
Is what you have not carbide? If not, you may want to head over to our article, How Much Are Various Scrap Metals Worth?
How Much Is Scrap Carbide Worth?
The price of scrap carbide correlates to the price of tungsten; scrap yards usually pay about two-fifths of the current price of tungsten for scrap carbide. Like most commodities, tungsten prices (and therefore the base price of scrap carbide) have varied significantly over the past ten years. Always call your scrap yard to confirm the current price, which will vary based on the carbide’s form (solid, sludge, powder, or grindings) and quality.
Be sure to inquire with the recycler to confirm current prices and check whether they can process a non-solid form of carbide. The iScrapApp is a great tool for checking up-to-date carbide prices; you can input your location to find recyclers near you, check their prices, and get the contact information you need. Some recyclers have online quote estimators, and you can use these to request and compare prices. There will likely be a bit of a delay, but these prices will be highly accurate because the recycler will check prices and reply individually to your specific inquiry (generally by email).
- Cutting Edge Tool Supply has an online quote request form and lists estimated current prices.
- Kennametal has an online quote request form and also accepts scrap carbide from Canada and the UK.
- Machine Tool Recyclers can give quotes via phone; you can contact them at (630) 964-5030.
- Lots of people sell scrap carbide on eBay; take a look at their pricing for ideas.
How and Where Can You Sell Scrap Carbide?
You can sell scrap carbide at a local scrap metal yard or to a recycler that buys via mail. For local scrap metal yards, try the iScrapApp to get started. It will give you contact information for local scrap yards and national average prices as well. The following list is a sampling of buyers who will accept carbide by mail. Most scrap carbide purchases by mail are for large quantities, but buyers will often accept small quantities as well. Depending on current scrap carbide prices, however, shipping costs may make selling by mail unprofitable.
1. Carbide Cutting Tools SC
- Quantity of Carbide: Carbide Cutting Tools SC Inc will purchase as little as 5 pounds of carbide and as much as 50 pounds in one shipment.
- Getting a quote and getting paid: Call (864) 320-0619 or (864) 244-1485 for the current price.
- Shipping: Will reimburse $11 of the flat rate shipping cost on shipments of 40 pounds or more. Recommends the medium flat rate box and 50-pound shipments. They can arrange trucking for larger shipments. Be sure to follow their video instructions for packaging.
- Location: Taylors, SC
- Quantity of Carbide: Kennametals generally buys larger quantities of scrap carbide, request a quote for specifics.
- Getting a Quote and Getting Paid: Fill out a quote request to find out current pricing. They can pay in cash or issue a credit.
- Shipping: Use the send carbide form to ship scrap carbide. They provide shipping containers for qualifying orders.
- Location: Recycling centers in Huntsville, AL, and Fallon, NV. Headquarters in Fort Mill, SC.
3. Machine Tool Recyclers
- Quantity of Carbide: Machine Tool Recyclers recommend shipments of 50 pounds to minimize shipping payments, but will buy any quantity.
- Getting a Quote and Getting Paid: Call (630) 964-5030 for a quote and current prices. They will send a check for solid scrap within 24 hours of receipt; non-solid scrap must be analyzed, so it takes about four weeks for them to pay.
- Shipping: They have instructions on how to package and ship carbide and recommend shipping in 50-pound increments to get the best shipping rates. For loads over 400 pounds, they can arrange shipping by truck.
- Location: Largo, FL
4. Tungo Co.
- Quantity of Carbide: Accepts solids, sludge, and alloys in various quantities. Inquire about specifics when asking for a quote.
- Getting a Quote and Getting Paid: Fill out a quote request form to find out current pricing.
- Shipping: Tungo Co will help with logistics for larger shipments; inquire to see it you qualify.
- Location: Madisonville, KY
It’s always nice to discover that the old machinery or spare parts you have could be worth something. The next time you are cleaning your garage or tool shed, consider testing some of the scrap metal pieces that you find. Although the price of scrap carbide fluctuates, it will always maintain some value because the tungsten in the scrap carbide maintains its quality. If you’re wondering whether now is the best time to sell your scrap carbide, compare current prices to historical trends. When prices are high, get on the carbide recycling bandwagon and sell, sell, sell.