Justifying the StripMeister Original: A Case Study

Why buy a StripMeister Original when copper prices are down?

Summary points of article:

  • StripMeister original pays for itself in just 5 straight hours stripping romex at current copper prices
  • It makes you around $48/hour compared to manual stripping which brings in $4/hour
  • 12 times as fast as stripping by hand, or in other words, strip in 5 minutes what it takes in an hour by hand
  • Get 140% more $$$ for the same material stripped than the insulated copper wire price

Read on to to see how we precisely came to these numbers…

The scrap metal industry has recently been through a steep drop in prices for the material.  With orders from major buyers rapidly shrinking, the oversupply has forced even large, formerly profitable scrap yards to lay off workers or even close their doors.  In these hard times, men and women like you, the self-employed scrapper, are having an even more difficult time than the big recycling businesses.  You’re working harder to obtain and process more material, and then being forced to accept much lower prices for your scrap metal than you earned just a few short years ago.   This has made a lot of scrappers throw in the towel, deciding that it just isn’t possible to be their own boss and earn a nice income selling scrap metal any more.  What if it was still possible to be your own boss and make selling scrap metal worth your time again?  Would you like to make the kind of money selling scrap you did before?

Copper is King

As every scrapper knows, copper is the most valuable of the common scrap metals available, much of the material coming in the form of insulated copper wire, or ICW.

Scrappers can just sell ICW to their local yard as-is, but they don’t earn nearly the same amount they do if the insulation has been removed—typically only about one third  to one half per pound or kilogram than they would otherwise.  So a lot of scrappers turn on a bright light, get out a sharp knife, and strip the wire by hand.  To get the best price, scrappers know you have to get all of that beautiful, bright, shiny copper out of the insulation!

Manual wire stripping takes a lot of time.  Slip-ups with a knife sharp enough to do the job can be painful, and utility knife blades dull quickly and must be replaced.   The hours spent doing the job don’t pay very well at all, and a scrapper who is standing around stripping wire isn’t out finding more material to scrap and sell.   These problems are known in the business world as opportunity costs, and they cause the typical scrapper to manually strip only the most profitable, heavy gauges of wire, leaving a lot of copper in smaller gauge wire to sell as ICW for a much lower price.  The way to make your business more profitable is to lower your costs and become more efficient; everyone knows that.  But how?

Making Romex Worth Your Time

I hear you say, “A few hundred bucks is a lot of money for a wire stripping tool to do something I can do by hand!  How long will it take me to make my money back?”

In order to answer this question, let’s look at one of the most common, standard types of wire out there and examine the numbers.  I’m sure you have stripped a few feet of Romex household wire in your time, and you have some idea of how much time that takes.

Below is a thorough breakdown of the money romex brings in as:

  • Insulated Copper Wire (ICW),
  • Stripping by hand,
  • What kind of money you can make with a StripMeister

Scenario #1 – Selling as ICW (insulated copper wire)

In our first case, let’s find out what just bringing the unstripped wire to the yard would earn us.  Romex wire is classified as 52% wire at our local yard, which as of September, 2016 is worth $0.50 per pound.  Our three-foot-long piece of Romex is only worth about ten cents as ICW.

Original material: 3 feet of NM-B 14-2 Romex solid copper wire (52% wire)

Weight of Romex with insulation still on the copper: .203 pounds (.067 lbs/ft)

Value of 3ft of unstripped 52% wire at $0.50/lb: $0.10

 

Scenario #2 – Manually Stripping and Selling as #1 “bare bright” Copper

In order to determine what this wire was worth as “bare bright” or #1 copper, we removed and weighed the insulation and the three copper conductors.

Weight of insulation alone: .084 pounds

Weight of copper:  .119 pounds

Time to strip: about 2 minutes, start to finish.

As you can see, out of the original .203 pounds of the sample length of Romex, we recovered .119 pounds of bare bright copper, which is a recovery rate of just over 58 percent.   The sharp-eyed scrapper will immediately notice something: that insulated wire that the scrap yard buys as “52% wire” is really 58% wire.  Somehow, six percent of the recovery rate magically disappears when you sell it to a yard…and magically reappears in the scrap yard owner’s pocket, of course!

At our local yard, #1 bare bright copper sells for around $2.00/lb.  For our sample length, then, we would make $0.24, or about 140% more for the same material stripped than the ICW price.

But, of course, we spent about two minutes with our knife removing that insulation and turning that insulated copper wire into #1 bare bright copper.[1]

If it takes us two minutes to earn fourteen cents stripping Romex at about a foot and a half a minute, then it’s pretty easy to figure out we’re earning roughly $4.20 per hour manually stripping wire.  Prices, of course, vary, and then your earnings vary.  Depending on the wire, sometimes you earn less than a dollar an hour!

The Difference Between Selling ICW and #1 Copper Stripping it Manually

$4.20 per hour doesn’t tell the whole story, though.  We have to factor in what we would make if we just sold the wire as ICW without stripping it, and subtract that from our hourly rate.  In order to do that, let’s imagine that we have a length of Romex that would take us a full hour to strip by hand.  By our calculations, that Romex would be about 90 feet long.

Assuming we had 90 feet of Romex, at .067lbs/ft, we would have 6.03lbs of insulated wire.  At the 52% wire price of $0.50/lb, 90 feet of Romex would be worth about $3.00 as ICW.

Assuming that we stripped that 90 feet of Romex manually, taking a full hour, we would recover 58% of the original 6.03 pounds of insulated wire in bare bright #1 copper, or 3.5 pounds.  Multiply 3.5 pounds by the $2.00/lb that the copper will bring, and we have $7.00 worth of copper.

In other words, we put in an hour’s worth of work, and we’ve earned $4.00 more than the insulated wire would have brought us.  Note this is very close to the $4.20 rate we calculated from our three-foot long sample piece of wire.  $4.00 per hour is a slave wage.

How Fast Can We Strip the Wire Automatically with a StripMeister?

The StripMeister Original automatic stripping tool is rated to process approximately 65 feet of Romex wire per minute.  Now remember, Romex wire has an external insulation jacket, which contains two insulated conductors (one black – the ‘hot’, one white – the ‘common’) and one uninsulated conductor – the ground.

So in order to strip Romex wire completely, it takes two passes through the machine:

  1. the first to separate the three conductors, one of which that will be uninsulated, and one insulated one that will be stripped at the same time the outer jacket is being removed.
  2. The second pass then removes the insulation from the remaining insulated conductor.

At 65 feet per minute, each 90 foot length passed through the machine takes one minute and twenty three seconds, (1:23).  But first you have to adjust the machine to the size for the full sized Romex, so let’s assume that takes ten seconds. We then use our fingers to pull the three conductors and paper insulation out of the Romex’s exterior “jacket” of insulation and discard the paper and plastic.  For the sake of discussion, let’s say that takes you a full minute. After the first pass you will have to reset the machine to the smaller diameter for the remaining insulated conductor, let’s assume that also takes ten seconds.

Thus, our first pass of the original 90 feet of intact Romex takes 2 minutes, 33 seconds, and the second pass takes 1 minute, twenty three seconds, plus a final minute to pull off the insulation.  In total, we have that 90 feet of Romex stripped completely down to bare, bright #1 copper wire in 296 seconds (just shy of five minutes), as opposed to the full hour it would take us to strip the material by hand!

The speed-up here is nothing short of incredible.  We can do an hour’s worth of manual work in about five minutes with this machine.  That is 12 times faster, and remember, a good chunk of that five minutes is spent resetting the machine between pass number one and pass number two, plus manually peeling the insulation off once the machine has cut it.  If you have a longer length of wire (which you will have more time to find because of the time this machine frees up!) you can reduce the change-over and insulation peeling times per foot dramatically.  Also, in some cases it is possible to remove the cut insulation from the wire as it feeds out of the machine, which will correspond to an additional time savings!

Dollars and Sense

Let’s re-examine our calculations of how many dollars per hour we can earn stripping insulated copper wire, now that we’ve got a StripMeister Original automatic wire stripping machine speeding our processing time up incredibly.

Remember, by stripping Romex wire 100% manually, we earned $4.00 in an hour over and above what the material was worth unstripped.

With the machine, we can now do the same amount of stripping in five minutes, or roughly 12 times as fast.

Simply put, that means we’re now earning 12 times $4.00 per hour, assuming we’ve got enough wire to keep going for that long.  That’s $48.00 per hour, a difference of $44 per hour!

Suddenly, this little machine starts looking like a very good investment.  It pays for itself, using common everyday “52%” Romex wire, at a rate of $44/hour, or in about 5 hours and 26 minutes of use!

So here’s the deal, Mr. or Ms. Scrapper: you put in 5 hours and 26 minutes of your material and labor into this machine, and it pays for itself.  Then, after it’s paid off, you keep using it for years! 

There are very few capital equipment investments you can make that will return your original investment after less than five and a half hours of use.  And once the machine has paid for itself, your hourly wage for stripping wire goes from a measly $4.00 per hour up to a respectable $44 per hour.  When is the last time you got a pay raise of eleven times what you were originally making?

Suddenly, the few hundred you paid for the StripMeister Original automatic wire stripping machine starts looking like a very smart investment.

[1] Now, we will readily admit, there are scrappers who can “get into the zone” stripping wire, and can at times manually strip wire a bit faster than this, especially if there are large quantities of the same size and type wire available.  It’s hard to exactly quantify how fast, but let’s assume that for the average scrapper on an average day, with a few lengths of Romex mixed in with a couple of dozen other types of wire, that two minutes is a fair estimate for roughly three feet of Romex wire.

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