Before our family got back into selling online we spent a couple of years growing a business doing Hauling & Metal Scrapping (aka Metal recycling). We are known local "scrappers" and we have continued to do this even now, although not on a daily basis. We get questions all of the time that range from - where do you find the items you scrap? to How to take certain items apart to make the most money? I have never written instructions on how to disasemble an item to earn a profit before, so please bare with me.This will be the first of many to come.I will be trying in the future to make them more like instruction format. This guide is just going to cover a simple item to dismantle and turn in to your local metal recyler for the most profit, and what to do with leftover non-metal parts.
A simple basic lamp, it is an item you can find many of. When a lamp stops working most people do not bother trying to repair it and just toss it out to the curb, or in a dumpster. When your out running errands you probably see at least a few out for trash a week. This week when you see them instead of passing them by decide to throw them in the back of your truck, or in the trunk of your car. An average lamp does not have tons of metal or extras for recycling, but they are out there aplenty and what you can get from them will add up. Also I will share with you other ways to make money with an old lamp that no longer works.
Ok, so now you have some broken lamps. Some might have metal bases, some might have a big glass bottom, some may be made of wood. Any lamp that the base is not broken, try to dismantle and keep the base part in one piece. The reason is this.... if the base is NOT metal I will be sharing with you other ways to use that part of the lamp to add to your profit from the broken lighting.
The first thing you will notice is most lamps are as simple as unscrewing a few different sections. You will also notice that besides the part of the cord/wire that you always see, there is also a good amount of wire that runs through the inside of the lamp. Removing the wire from the lamp in most cases is very simple once you unscrew the pieces of the lamp the cord in most cases is as simple as pulling it out away from the other pieces. Also in most cases at this point the majority of your lamp is taken apart. Sometimes you may have to cut the end of the cord if you cannot get the plug end through. Cut as close to the plug end as possible. Put your plug ends in a container dedicated just to those and do the same with your wire. Most lamp cords are considered to be #2 wire. Which falls in the middle, it is not the best priced type of wire but not the least either. Set aside the base and anything else that is not metal in a separate pile.
Now you will need a magnet. A really good trick to getting a magnet that is really strong but will cost you nothing is to take apart a speaker. Inside speakers there is always a magnet. The bigger the speaker, the bigger and stronger the magnet. This is just a quick tip on one way to save money by getting a much needed supply completely free. Now take your magnet and test it against each piece of metal. Even if the metal appears to be the same, test against each separate piece. I have found many of times there will be a lamp that appears to be brass but then turns out the biggest pieces stick to a magnet, which means those pieces are actually in fact steel. Now any parts that stick to a magnet put in a separate pile that is just for steel. Steel will wind up normally always being your biggest pile. Many people only want to bother with the precious or semi precious metals, but trust me when I tell you don't pass up on the steel, as it can be the bread and butter of your scrapping paycheck.
Now take any metals that did not stick to your magnet. You want to figure out what these metals are. Most places you will be taking your metal to will also help you when you are in doubt and as you are learning your way around the scrapping ins and outs. Never be afraid to ask questions. Now here for one example I will use brass. It is one of the more common precious metals you will find with lamps. Now the pieces that appeared to be brass and did not stick to the magnet, while they may really be brass they could also be something else such as aluminum or die-cast. The best way to tell if it is really brass that I have found is to take a knife or an old screw driver tip and scratch into the pieces, if they have a brass, yellowish metal underneath where you have scratched.... then you have brass and it should go into a separate bucket or tub just like your wire, and your plug ends buckets. Now what if it wasn't yellow underneath? If it turned out to be just average metal color under, then how I always tell is if it is a softer bendable metal then what you most likely have is alluminum, if it is very hard but breaks easily when hit on the ground or with a hammer then that is die cast. Both of these types of metal should also be separated into their own piles or buckets.
Now once you have tested all of your metals from your lamp and separated all the components, you will see the best thing to do is continue filling your buckets, or tubs for a while until you have at least a few pounds of each item. I personally like to have at least 500 lbs of steel, 10-20 lbs of plug ends, 10 lbs or more of wire, etc. I am sure you get the idea here. Really it depends on a few things. How close is the recycler to your home? How does your recycler feel about small amounts? How much space do you have to store up your metals before turning them in? Finally, what kind of transportation will you be taking it in. See if you only are working with your backseat and your trunk in a small car you will want to turn in more often smaller loads, but if you have a truck then it would be better to wait and save up a good amount and turn in less frequently.
Now all that should be left at this point is possibly a lightbulb, and whatever the base was made from if it was not a metal base, also possibly a lampshade. If the lampshade was in good condition or could be cleaned then that can be sold exactly for what it is, a lampshade. If it is a simple lampshade you can always add some trim or buttons, etc. and dress it up to make it a better sell. I have never tried selling lampshades on eBay but might be worth looking into. Myself I save them for once a month yard sales or local swap meets and flea markets.
Now the lightbulb, this is only if you really want to go all the way with the metal right down to the tiniest bit. I personally throw away the lightbulbs, however they do have a little bit of metal on the bottom of them, and normally that metal is aluminum. Test with your trusty magnet to be sure. Be sure to wear gloves for this part also. Now you don't want to just smash it and get little pieces of glass everywhere, and also many times lightbulbs can have gases in them that just is not a good thing to be breathing in. Take an old towel or old piece of clothing and wrap the bulb inside, lay it on the ground, now you can smash it with a hammer or any other hard object. Unwrap from towel carefully over a garbage bag or can to ensure not getting glass everywhere. Carefully, remove the little piece of metal. If when tested it did not stick to magnet then you have a little piece of aluminum, which this type is refered to as "sheet". Sheet should have a bucket all of its own. Another example of sheet metal is the aluminum siding on a mobile home, or possibly a metal shed if not magnetic is normally sheet aluminum. Those are examples of bigger pieces of sheet, what you have from the lightbulb is a very small amount and will need to be saved up a very long time to amount to anything, but if you don't want to waste any metal and have the space for a tub or bucket to dedicate for it, you might as well do it.
Now down to the last bit of the lamp. If you had a ceramic base, or a base other than metal. Ceramic bases can be turned into a planter normally very easily. When you look at it all by itself you will realize right away what I mean. Also if the base is unique enough you can take a working lamp that is not that pretty or interesting and mix & match by taking apart the working one and using the parts and wire with the nicer more interesting base, making an all new lamp you can resell. Be careful if making another lamp to look up a "How To" guide on eBay since you will be working with electricity and you don't want to make any mistakes. Also bases can have fake floral and plants put inside of them to make a nice table decoration. Wooden bases many times are great to use for other crafts, I am not big on turning the wood ones into other things currently, however if they are in good shape I do sell them at meets, and yard sales. I have found there is usually a buyer for everything and anything as long as it is in good shape.
I hope this helps someone getting started scrapping metal. I am sure I have not answered every question you may have, but if not don't be shy use the comments section I will reply. I just wanted to do this first guide on scrapping a simple, basic, and easy to find item. I will also be writing guides on other household items and how to take them apart for recycling profits very soon. Keep an eye out for more guides to come. Also if you have any questions or have a specific item you would like me to write about, just let me know. This is how I personally take apart a lamp. Many scrappers have their own ways. I just know what works for us and am happy to share any advice I can give to help someone else turn scrap into a few bucks, either for pocket money or to start a business