January 1, 2020

Sources for Materials

You end up needing steel when you are doing welding. (And you need other materials, like aluminum, when you start doing machine shop work).

The following places are some options in Tucson, Arizona:

Industrial Metal Supply

This place has totally changed everything about buying metal supplies in Tucson. Now you can just go to the store, find what you want, and deal with friendly people. There is frankly no reason to do business with anyone else.

You pay by the pound, and when I made a purchase in December of 2020, the prices were:

Aluminum (6061) -- $3.99 per pound
Steel (cold rolled bar) -- 1.79 per pound
I was buying foot long precut pieces.

Santa Rita Steel

Santa Rita says "do-it-yourselfers welcome", but I wish they would tell this to the guys at the front counter. (They are getting better, or accepting me as a "regular", or something).

As of November, 2010 they sell plate steel in 4x4 and 4x8 foot pieces. They will cut plate, charging $4 per minute using their plasma cutter. They quoted me $87.24 for a 4x4 foot piece of 3/16 plate (which should weigh 125.5 pounds). This works out to $0.695 per pound.

One nuisance with this place is that they do not maintain a price list, either in the store or on their website, so it is always a complete mystery and surprise what the price of some piece of stock will be. Assuming they are really selling steel by the pound regardless of shape, the above quote can be extrapolated into prices for other smooth plate:

Carrying this a bit further, let's predict the price of some square bar and rod stock:

In August of 2011, I visited this place again, and they seem to be much better now. I called on the phone and asked a price -- and got one!! In 15 seconds or so and no hassle. I bought two items:

The give you one free cut per piece. An extra cut on a piece I wanted in 3 pieces cost only $0.50

On another visit in April 2012, the following prices were in force:

Superior Steel

Superior Steel is a bigger place, and perhaps the only place to get big pieces of plate and things of that sort. They sometimes have "cutoff" pieces they will sell to a small buyer like myself. I called in June of 2010 to ask a price of an item on their website (a roll of remesh) and was told they don't sell it and haven't carried it for at least 10 years. That should give you a clue as to how often then update their website. (Still on their website in August of 2012).

They have hot rolled bar in all kinds of sizes, but always in 20 foot lengths. This is A36 steel:


This place looks promising. I especially liked their guide to steel. A36 is the ubiquitous hot rolled steel you find everywhere. If you have a piece of angle iron, very likely it is A36. 1018 is cold rolled, and it notably better for machining. 12L14 is a very nice steel with some lead added to improve machinability.

I particularly liked the following:

At OnlineMetals, we all failed shop class. Multiple times. As a matter of fact, our employment applications specifically ask to see people's grades for their high school shop classes. If they're too high, they go into the rejected pile. We're also not engineers, and cannot make any specific recommendations about the suitability of a given alloy, temper, or shape for your project or application.


This means different things depending on whether you are talking about plain steel, galvanized steel (thicker), or aluminum (thinner). For plain steel, the thickness in inches is as follows:
	10 gauge	0.1345 inches	9/64	90 oz/sf
	12 gauge	0.1046 inches	7/64	70 oz/sf
	---		0.0830 inches   ----
	14 gauge	0.0747 inches	5/64	50 oz/sf
	16 gauge	0.0598 inches	1/16	40 oz/sf
	18 gauge	0.0478 inches	1/20	32 oz/sf (2 pounds per sq. foot)
	22 gauge	0.0312 inches	1/32	20 oz/sf
Note that anything 1/4 inch or thicker is called "plate" not "sheet". The metal gauge system is intended to make weight calculations easier, though the details have yet to be described to me in a way that makes any sense.

Steel weights 41.82 pounds per square foot per inch thick.

Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's Welding pages / tom@mmto.org