Learning to Scrounge -
Be willing to listen to other farmers in the area! You don't have to necessarily do everything they say, or the way they say it, but at least LISTEN! You will be able to glean some valuable insight and knowledge that can be used in the future. Even the things that DIDN'T work for them might be useful! You may be able to come up with a plan to get by the "road blocks" they ran into. Keep notes! You don't have to write them down, right there, in front of them, but at least REMEMBER them so you can write them down later.
KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED!
Like I said, the first thing you need is a game plan! Now you need PATIENCE! Now that you have a direction in mind, scour the auction advertisements and flyers. Check the farm "for sale " ads. And KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN as you drive around - you may spot somethig good! Chances are,you probably won't find the EXACT piece you are looking for, but you can find ones close enough to modify. You can even find machines that you know you will never use, but learn to look at things in a different way - you may not use it in it's present incarnation, but you can rob parts, add parts, modify parts or just use the frame. I was recntly given an old 18' Alice-Chalmers Rotary Hoe. I took the four frames and used them for other implements and modified a 5' section for use with my 8N. I used other parts for other machines. Horse drawn implements can also be used for 3 point mods. Go to auctions at least 1 hour early. Take time to THINK about what some of the older stuff can be used for. Just because it appears to be a pile of scrap, it could be a gold mine! If no one bids on an item you will already be prepared to snap it up, and have an idea what to use it for! I also try to buy scrap iron. Most farmers will have a pile laying around that is a "just-in-case" pile. Most of the piles go for cheap. Check sales for scrap barn tin. I have had good luck with re-useing it. As long as it is not "rotten" then it can be reused. A coat of paint will make a world of difference! Every time I see tin laying in a fence row, I stop and ask if they are wanting to get rid of it. Most of the time I get a funny look and then a "go ahead"! One man's garbage truly can be another man's gold!
SPREAD THE WORD!
Let others know what you are looking for! No one will know what you are after unless you tell them! A neighbor recently contacted me about an old shed he had bought at and auction. He took what he wanted and told me to get what ever I needed. I found 20 - 1 x 8 boards 16 feet long, 18 - 8' 2 x 12's, and a few assorted 2 x 4's. This lumber came in real handy the next week when I built my tractor shed! Above all - DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK! Sometimes you get lucky and they want stuff just hauled away. I've even had a few things dropped off or left at the end of my driveway. If people know you "collect" things, they usually are willing the throw them your way just to be rid of them!
RUST IS BEAUTIFUL!
You need to be able to look at a pile of rusted "junk" and see the uses in it. I have brought a few things home that I only wanted a few parts off of, but I kept the whole thing, none the less. I usually remove all the useable items right away and put the rest in a scrap pile. Most of the time I take things down to the bare bones, so when it goes to the scrap pile, it stays there! I have, though, once or twice, picked a couple of things back OUT of the pile, but not very often!
FARMER'S LOVE PIE!
Be willing to trade a little labor for some junk! I recently was able to get enough barn tin to cover an area 40' x 20' (that's 800 square feet!) from a neighbor. All he wanted in return was help fixing a leaking roof in his shop. We worked for about 5 hours replacing rafters and nailers, and re-screwing tin to the roof. This builds good friendship and helps both parties involved! You can even bake a cake or pie to give to someone as a "Thank You". This will help them remember you when they spot something in a fence row, or when they are talking to the guy who owns the fence row! Be good to them and they will, most likely, be good in return!
Remember - the world is just one giant flea market! You don't have to take the price you are offered on the first go-round. If someone tells you they want, say $50 for an item, ask if they would take $30, or offer to lend a hand with something for it. It might just work! You can always tell them (cordially, of course!) that it's "a bit over what I can pay - I want it, but I can't go that much." If you can't reach a price, just be sure you haggle in a friendly manner and leave on good terms. I've had people call me to tell me "Farmer Jones down the road has one just like mine that he'll sell you for $20". It helps get your foot in the door! (Remember to thank the guy and bake him a pie!)
Items to Look for -
It won't take long for you to learn what to keep an eye out for! One of the best ways to learn is to go to auctions and WATCH. Learn what others are NOT bidding on! Instead of getting right up front, stand back a bit, and OBSERVE. Remember, you're not there to find "deals" to buy and sell for profit (that's a whole 'nother idea!). You will encounter a lot of "scrap iron" buyers at sales. These are the guys who are buying scrap for the purpose of selling it, not using it. Most of the "piles" of scrap go to these people. You may be able to latch onto a few, but generally they will bid them up to scrap iron price, or near to it. Look for the things that are not in nice, neat piles - the ones that may take a little time to separate and haul out. Larger piles of miscellaneous scrap tend to go for less. A scrap buyer wants "neat" piles he can load out in a few minutes.
After most sales, there are unwanted items that will be left behind. If you see someone dicarding something that you may need, ask the buyer if he'd mind if you take it. You may even offer him $1 for it. You just never know! I have also had good luck with "No Bid" items. Keep a mental or written note , and after the sale, offer the auctioneer $1 or even 50 cents for an item that was passed by. I have even stopped by the sale a couple of days afterwards and asked about "junk" items that were left behind. Sometimes the sellers will let you haul it away for nothing or dirt cheap. Remember that a sale for most families means a death in the family, illness, divorce, or just plain "giving it up". Be keenly aware of their feelings and thank them for their time, even if they tell you no. You could even ask them at the sale if they mind if you stopped by.
Be On The Lookout!
Here is a list of some of the things to be looking for, wether you are at an auction, or just driving around the countryside:
hinges nuts, bolts, washers any kind of brackets chain or chain parts lumber
anything made from angle iron anything made from flat iron sheet metal barn tin
telephone poles (8' or longer) wire barb wire fence materials T posts
old implements (even if they are to large) rake, baler, or combine teeth gates
pipe (especially 2") rail road spikes rail road ties eye bolts turn buckles
PVC or ABS pipe disc blades cultivator shanks square tubing large bolts
grain bins, or parts for them small sheds to be torn down and/or moved clevis pins
draw pins lynch pins hydraulic cylinders steel rod gearboxes pulleys
sprockets steel shafts nails concrete blocks screws pallets
useable light fixtures old fuse boxes cattle/hog panels woven wire flat belting
old-fashioned metal bed spring large satellite dishes electric fence posts
Learning to Scrounge -