Being a knife smith, I'm constantly looking for metal to practice on so when I do make things like damascus billets, I don't fuck it all up and waste a bunch of time and money. Here are some good places to look for free scrap.
Junk piles, junked cars and if you're brave, closed factories. It's probably trespassing, but if you can get into an old factory and don't mind the danger, its a wealth of metal bits. Cars have a lot of nice steel on them if you can get it off. Things like leaf springs make excellent knives. Another great thing for knife steel is lawn mower blades and circular saw blades if you can cut them.
thrift stores sell cheap hammers and files that can easily be made into things like small axes/tomahawks and large files or rasps can be made into neat looking knives that are basically already in shape. Just sharpen.
Dumpsters, while technically illegal to raid them, often have a lot of steel in them. In a city no one gives a shit and in my city we have scrappers that go from dumpster to dumpster picking out all the good scrap for cash. Your best bet is to take a walk and note where the construction is. Often times they will dump a ton of rebar scrap that is great for knife making practice.
Make friends with a mechanic. I have a long time mechanic friend and he is constantly coming across things. machine chains, chunks of metal, ect ect. You can get a lot from a mechanic who is simply too tired to take a bunch of shit to the scrap yard.
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This may not apply everywhere, but look for gutter companies. My boss can't be the only one who collects, separates, and scraps the various metals we work with. Old steel gutters are often fairly thick gauge steel.
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