I've got to make some jigs which will require some moderately careful
shaping of, say, 1/4" Aluminum sheet. Does anyone have experience sawing
and shaping this material with woodworking tools like carbide tipped
circular saw (table, radial arm, chop) blades and carbide router bits?
Last year some time I finally got around to making a replaceable
insert table saw insert like the one Norm (the TV one) uses:
I wrote it up as an article at WoodCentral, which you can see here:
I don't have a metalworking tool in the shop (I mean like mills and
metal lathes--I have a drill press, grinder, and lots of files).
Everything was done at the table saw, miter saw, band saw, and router
table. Note the caution in the article about generating heat. Might
not apply to your project, but it's worth taking into account.
There were some replies and dialogue which confirmed that what I did
was pretty reasonable insofar as the tools used is concerned. My
comment in the article, and one I'd repeat here, is that this kind of
project requires a little more attention and a little more skill and
experience than the average DIYer normally (heh, heh) possesses. Yours
A couple of things that were affirmed that made me feel pretty good
were my guesses as to (router) bit speed and feed rate. The Carol Reed
who replied referencing her CNC experience was formerly The Router
Lady and has published work regarding router use. That was like Roy
Underhill telling me, "nice dovetails" (which he wouldn't).
Although I've outsourced production to a CNC machine shop across town,
these were cut with a (CNC) router with a 1/4" carbide bit and worked
with woodworking tools:
and the aluminum motor mounts here were machined with the same router:
The ultralight aircraft factory next to my shop routinely cut aluminum
(and sometimes chrome-moly steel) tubing with a chop saw - although I'm
personally much more comfortable using my cheap HF horizontal band saw
for that kind of operation.
I have cut aluminum with my tablesaw and a variable speed router set on low
speed using standard wood working blades and bits. Watch out for the chips.
The chips from cutting are sharp and hot! Wear safety glasses!
All the aluminum & plastic components in this picture
) were cut with ordinary
routers and cutters and extraordinary jigs and fixtures.
Working aluminum with woodworking tools, in my case: bandsaw, drill
and routers, is relatively straight forward but not a straight forward
cross over. There is a lot of technique sensitivity and risk to work &
Routers (http://www.patwarner.com )
Don't forget the lubricant needed for any metal cutting another
metal. No lubrication with grit blades is one thing as some are meant
to be used without; but if you can get the right stuff you should
always lubricate metal if you are drilling or machining.
FWIW, we always used kerosene on aluminum when drilling because the
glass guys on big commercial jobs used it when drilling aluminum
mullions and thresholds for windows and doors.
They also used it on their carbide blades when cutting the large
extrusions for length.
I cut heavy aluminum in my oldest 10" miter saw with a 60 tooth blade
in it. This is the aluminum we use to cut the piece of angle used to
secure the feet of the posts as well as any weight bearing beam. When
I sub the installation, my sub uses paraffin, rubbing it all over the
blade, especially on the teeth every couple of cuts.
The difference? With the lubricant cuts are smoother, and the swarf
doesn't embed on you blade. Without... well that blade (unless it is
just a cut or two) will be best used on aluminum for the rest of its
Remember too, stay away from painted blades when cutting metal with
high speed cutters. The paint will melt onto your material.
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