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How to Identify A Metal

If you are interested in selling your scrap metal, it’s a good idea to do a few tests to verify that the scrap you have is the metal you think it is. That way, you won’t get confused or disappointed when the scrap metal yard gives you the price for your scrap. By familiarising yourself with different metals and the various metal tests that can be done, you can work out exactly which metal you have got in your possession. 

Metal Tests

The appearance test is the easiest and most obvious way to determine the type of metal that you have on your hands. This test involves simply examining the physical features of your scrap metal. You need to be familiar with the physical characteristics of a wide range of metals in order to carry this test out effectively. Certain metals look similar so you may need to carry out other metal tests in order to determine the correct type.

A test which can be extremely helpful when identifying metals (especially metals which look similar to one or more other metals) is the magnet test. Non-ferrous metals such as aluminium, copper, brass, lead and nickel are usually worth more at the scrap yard than ferrous metals (those containing iron). You can use a magnet to test whether metals are ferrous as the iron in ferrous metals makes them magnetic. Non-ferrous metals are generally non-magnetic as they do not contain iron.

Please note: iron is not the only metal which is an element that attracts a magnet. There are actually three common metal elements that are ferromagnetic (meaning they attract a magnet) – iron, nickel and cobalt (there are others but they are mainly rare earth metals).

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Another common metal test which is fairly easy to carry out is the spark test. In order to perform this test you will need a fairly large sample of metal and a grinder of some kind. Then you can examine the stream of sparks the metal produces when it touches the grinder in order to distinguish which type of metal it is.  The colour and length of the sparks as well as any sprigs and forks in the sparks will assist you to determine the type of metal.

Familiarise yourself with common types of metals

There are a number of books and online resources you can use to familiarise yourself with the characteristics of some of the most commonly found scrap metals. Our blog contains many useful articles which you can read to learn about the differentiating characteristics of commonly found metals such as brass, copper, and many other valuable scrap metals. Once you have done a bit of research, you will know some key things which will come in handy when identifying metals such as the fact that when iron rusts it looks red. Another example of such information is that brass makes a vibrating sound like a bill when you hit it. This is handy to know as brass looks like gold and at first glance you could misidentify it.

If you’d like some advice about scrap metal recycling in Melbourne don’t hesitate to contact our friendly metal recycling Melbourne team on 03 5941 6677. We can help you with some metal identification tips and arrange scrap metal pickup from your property at a time convenient for you.