Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ironmonger Field Trip

Today we did one of our favorite local field trips. Anything that involves metal working, closely followed by great food is a winner. The first stop was a nice little salvage yard up in the north bay in Santa Rosa. There are several good scrap yards up at this end of the bay and they are all worth investigating for art and and mechanical project feedstock. Our target today was one of the smaller yards right off highway 101. Bataeff salvage .(don't ask how to pronounce it) Bataeff is what I would call a small metal recyclers and hardware store all rolled into one. Sort of a mad max parallel of McMaster Carr. If you were in a post apocalyptic society looking for resources this would be the short attack list.
As you come down Mountain View Avenue this is the BIG sign marking the spot. Hey, big signs are expensive. These guys are pretty thrifty and don't waste money on a big chunk of plywood for as sign. We found them on a scouting mission a while back and come by every time were in the area. I'm hunting for some large diameter steel rounds for another project so we make a scrap yard run fairly regularly now to see how inventories change. 
Their only defect is not being open on Sunday, and you cant bring your dog. Not really much of a defect but it would make elevate them to a 10 instead of just a nine on the scrap yard rating scale.
 The place is pretty well organized into sections. One of the most impressive area's are the fastener bunkers. Each bunker is separated by material type. One area for brass and non ferrous, with a whole room just dedicated to stainless and then the large bunker set up for steel fasteners. Prices are pretty decent and not your typical scapper with attitude prices.
Here is an example of their prices. This is a duplicator punch press made by the Canadian branch of the Strippit company. The yellow drawers are loaded with many new punches and dies. The price on it was $400. If you do some rough math that's like .13/lb Ok so maybe .20/lb. The point is that is well below the typical bay area scrapyard prices of say .90/lb for rusty crap steel and certainly well below the $2.00/lb or more for a entire machine like this. Granted its not a pristine Bridgeport with the cosmoline still on it but a fairly low risk proposition to try out at this price.
One of my favorite places is the office slash den. All over the yard the outbuildings are a series of old chicken coops or barns with blue tarp annexes added on to protect the treasure. The main lair is actually one of the better looking structures with electricity and television. You can always find the office at a scrap yard by just looking for the scale.
If you wanted to lay a trap for a metalworker this is how you would bait the trap. Its the metalworking equivalent of peanut butter mixed with female pheromones for rats. Look at the stuff hanging from the ceiling. I can only imagine the stories behind some of the stuff there.
At Bataeff they also carry most of the typical items you would find at the local chain hardware stores. Its pretty much self service, so if you go expecting them to show you how to lay ceramic tile I think you would be very disappointed.
Some areas of the yard have a little of the military surplus feel to them. When I was a kid there were army surplus stores all over the place. Now I can only think of one so finding a little niche like this is fun. This is a great place to spent a couple of hours if you like this kind of stuff. I'm sure if your reading this that you would find something there that catches your interest.

Nearby in Petaluma there is another scrap yard of epic proportions. Its pretty well known in the area but not so much in the Oakland, Hayward, San Francisco areas. Its just far enough out of the area to be off the radar. If you have a chance to make a field trip to the north bay area make sure to stop by Maselli's in Petaluma. Be warned they close at noon on Saturday which I find pretty weak so start early. You will want to save at least three hours for Maselli's by itself. If there was a Bass pro shops of scrap yards this is it.
Need a handwheel or a big valve? At Maselli's you have your choice of several hundred. The yard area is something like five acres in size. To describe it is useless its easier to post some pictures so you can see the depth of inventory yourself.
 I was thinking about this for a bike lock. Just lock your bike to the chain if there aren't any poles around.

A good field trip would not be complete without a great lunch. We popped over to our favorite Mexican restaurant in the entire SF bay area which is saying something. We make special trips up to Petaluma for no other reason than to eat a couple of their killer tacos. If you go, go hungry and stop by Mi Pueblo. We always go to the one downtown on Kentucky street and then hit a couple of the big antique stores nearby. There is one around the corner that actually has not one, but two Curta calculators.  If you have never seen one of these and you are a mechanical instrument buff then shame on you. This is one of the best examples of tight, space constrained mechanical instrument design. It operates with the silky smooth action of the best Nikon lenses and has a similar heft and density. Anyway their not jumping off the shelves these days so your chances of holding a little piece of history in your hand is pretty good.

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