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Cutting Aluminum Sheet/Plate

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Gone Away19/07/2010 01:36:15
829 forum posts
1 photos
I need to cut some pieces approx 16 x 11 from 1/8 thick aluminum (alloy) sheet. The sheet I'm starting with is a recycled large panel from a local surplus store. It has (non-useful) holes along each edge so I'm having to trim those too.
I'm doing this using a jigsaw (sabre saw) with a metal-cutting blade. It's sort of OK .... not terribly quick and I'll have to trim the edges on the mill even using an edge guide.
I wondered if there is a better way - in particular whether it's possible to use a tablesaw in some fashion. For the job I'm doing, straight cut edges from a tablesaw wouldn't need any further machining. I don't know whether anyone ever does cut sheet metal this way and if so how it is done safely.
russell19/07/2010 03:29:12
142 forum posts
i've not done it myself, but i have seen a demo of cutting about 3" x 12" al bar (not sure what else to call it!)  using a circular saw. The only concession i can recall to it not being wood was use of a spray lubricant, applied by hand.
I've also seen Al extrusions cut dry  with an apparently normal mitre saw. 
hope this helps....
Ian S C19/07/2010 05:24:00
7468 forum posts
230 photos
Hi Sid, I think for a staight cut, a carbide tipped circular saw would be OK. My saw is out of action at the moment, or I'd go and try it out.Ian S C
JasonB19/07/2010 07:24:39
17853 forum posts
1954 photos
1 articles
If you do use any form of circular saw blade make sure it has negative rake teeth as the usual (for wood) teeth have positive rake and will tend to draw the metal into the blade.
A bandsaw would give a straighter and neater cut than doing it freehand with a jig saw but would still need a light skim with a mill.
KWIL19/07/2010 09:20:01
3218 forum posts
63 photos
Depending upon the alloy it is possible to use an ordinary hand tenon saw for straight cuts. Do not use your cabinet makers best saw! Smooth gentle cuts with the minimum of pressure.
Niloch19/07/2010 09:26:13
371 forum posts
I'm not suggesting Mr Herbage that you go out and buy one of the following especially for the task you have in hand but, maybe for future reference, you might find these saws have amazing capabilities. 
These are available in the UK from B&Q but I believe world wide availability also exists.  I have one of their sliding mitre saws and never cease to be surprised at its capabilities, e.g. sawing through thin wall stainless steel curtain poles.

Edited By Niloch on 19/07/2010 09:35:13

Martin W19/07/2010 10:39:25
832 forum posts
29 photos
I have seen these blades advertised and wondered just how effective they were. It appears from your post that they really can be used on the harder metals with little problem. I have used my chop saw with an as supplied TCT wood blade to cut aluminium round stock up to about 2ins dia with no problem, the blade is designed with anti kick features.
For those interested in using one of the blades described by Niloch a supplier of these blades in various sizes can be found here Blades. Usual exceptions etc.
Niloch what does the swarf look like? When I cut the Ali bar using a wood/GP blade it produced blade width chippings about 0.25ins in length that were like confetti.

Edited By Martin W on 19/07/2010 11:00:53

Niloch19/07/2010 10:57:11
371 forum posts
Martin - I've never cut aluminium on my Evolution but I have cut acrylic (perspex/plexiglass) on my DeWalt chop/circular flip saw and the 'swarf' in that instance certainly looked like confetti.  I did lower the angle of attack though and had a 300mm dia. blade with about 80 TC teeth.
I happened to be in B&Q during one of the Evolution demonstrations and even the demonstrator was a little surprised that it had gone through the stainless steel curtain pole!  I wouldn't have wanted to get in the way of the very hot 'swarf'.
I bought the Evolution saw as a 'family' saw.  It resides permanently at one of my sons-in-law's houses.  So far it has helped build three garden decks, laid three oak floors etc.  Bought on a Wednesday morning at B&Q when those of us who are old enough benefit from 10% discount on top of an existing special offer it was, as they say, cheaper than chips.
Usual disclaimer by the way.
Billy Mills19/07/2010 11:05:30
377 forum posts
Hi Sid, I would own up to having used a TCT circular saw to cut Ali but the regular blades  designed for wood are far too  fierce- so even a very slow feed rate can be very hairy. Would not recomend at all unless you are very careful, expect large chips flying, full eye protection vital.
As Jason has said, a negative rake blade is what is needed,  some triple chip blades are rated for Ali ( they are very good on Perspex and some other 'difficult' plastics too) but there are also some abrasive  blades that are said  to be useable on Ali. The Evolution blade IS fantastic as a cut  almost anything blade and is great on a chop saw however Evolution say that the blade should only be used on their saws- I wonder why?
There is always the sheet metal saw- a nice new blade will finish the job  quicker than you will get a new blade and you get a bit off the waistline too.
Niloch19/07/2010 11:27:00
371 forum posts

Posted by Alan Gray 1 on 19/07/2010 11:05:30:
Evolution say that the blade should only be used on their saws- I wonder why?

 Alan - am I not correct in suggesting that the r.p.m. of the Evolution machines is slower than the regular?
Our 'family' saw is not here for me to check.
Martin W19/07/2010 12:28:37
832 forum posts
29 photos
I should say that when I used my chop saw for Ali things were firmly fixed, clamped and that I was wearing all the necessary protection, high impact eye protectors, ear defenders, boiler suit with no dangly bits,  etc and took it very gently. The cut was clean with a nice surface finish with no sign of dragging or snagging and blade tips showed no sign of pick up often encountered when machining Ali without cutting fluid.
I DO NOT recommend that others follow my example as if things had gone wrong the results could have been disastrous but in mitigation I needed what was effectively large washers/spacers with reasonable accuracy in a hurry and I'm afraid that 'When the devil drives needs must' was my excuse and the blade I chose did have anti kick back features. Secondly at the time the Evolution product was not on the market at the time otherwise I would have tried their blade. Again usual disclaimers etc.
Best regards

Edited By Martin W on 19/07/2010 12:32:28

Jeff Dayman19/07/2010 14:15:31
1792 forum posts
45 photos
Hi Sid,
The jigsaw, while slow, is a pretty safe and reliable way to cut heavy aluminum sheet.
An arborite-cutting  or carbide plywood blade will likely work OK on the table saw for aluminum, but great care must be used to avoid jamming the blade. If it jams, serious injury can result. I have a friend who was badly cut and bruised when this happened and it also wrecked his saw.
A far safer way to cut the sheets would be to take them to your local Metal Supermarket and ask them to shear them for you, or to a machine shop where they can bandsaw them.
If you were closer to me here in Waterloo Ont. you could drop by here and I'd bandsaw them for you.
Gone Away19/07/2010 23:08:07
829 forum posts
1 photos
I confess that I seem to recall a similar discussion on another forum some years ago although iirc that involved sawing bar stock. The impression I came away with then was that it might be possible with a lot of if-and-buts but was at least potentially dangerous and probably best left to the more adventurous souls.
I thought I'd ask here to see whether anyone had blazed a trail in the meantime but I'm getting the same impression as before (and I'm not that adventurous). I'm also more than half way done with the jigsaw. The main thing the tablesaw method would have given me is straight, finished edges (as finished as I need them). As it is I'll have to finish them on the mill .... and some edges are longer than the table travel so I'll have to do it in stages .
Anyway, thanks to all for the inputs.
Billy Mills19/07/2010 23:47:38
377 forum posts
Hi All,
Well as Sid has admitted to having a metal bandsaw in another post, it could be that the limited throat  ( his sheets need to be 11"x16")  have stopped that.
Would agree that a nice metal cutting bandsaw is a very good and safe way of hacking sheet as the saw holds the work down on the table and you will have the top guide just above the sheet so no exposed blade. But you do need a real Industrial saw to do Sid's job.
The jigsaw might struggle a bit with 1/8" Ali- but  worth a try.
Like Niloch, don't have an Evolution to hand as I am at home,  but I think the rpm is around 2500.The interesting bit is the tooth config, it appears that the Evolution blade is about  clearance of the cut material and limiting the effective tooth feed. The finish is very good for the small number of cutting tips.
If I was Evolution I would want to sell motors with blades.  But  it would be good to know more.
Interesting that we all focus on "what power tool", the sheet metal saw is still a good tool  and handy for keeping fit, the wife is now quite good at keeping to the line. But you can run out of metal to cut.
Gone Away20/07/2010 00:51:01
829 forum posts
1 photos
Posted by Alan Gray 1 on 19/07/2010 23:47:38:
Hi All,
Well as Sid has admitted to having a metal bandsaw in another post, it could be that the limited throat  ( his sheets need to be 11"x16")  have stopped that.


 Yes, absolutely. My 4x6 horizontal bandsaw can turned vertically but has quite a small throat - no more than 4" parallel to the blade. It also has a very small table although that could be replaced with something bigger. In fact I could use a piece of this 1/8 sheet to make a larger table. Of course I'd need to find a way of cutting it out .... maybe use a jigsaw ... hmm, wonder if I could use a tablesaw for that ....
BTW, the jigsaw is struggling a little but it's funny. It will struggle a bit then free up and race along. I thought initially the blade was clogging but it didn't seem to be (it's a relatively coarse metal cutting blade recommended for "thick sheet"). This sheet was covered with a protective plastic film which I left on to ... well .... protect it. I think that might be the problem - the plastic sheet softening and clogging the cut. Tomorrow I'll try removing a narrow strip along the line of the cut so that I'll still protect the metal from the sole of the saw but the plastic can't interfere with the blade.

Edited By Sid Herbage on 20/07/2010 01:01:14

Jim Greethead20/07/2010 04:30:12
131 forum posts
8 photos
Yes Sid, you can cut aluminium using a carbide tipped saw used for wood. I have cut 12 mm aluminium on my saw bench using a 216mm 60T blade with 10 degree positive rake with no troubles. And I did it before I read (somewhere) that you need to use a lubricant so it was all done dry.
I also found a blade called a Diamond (brand name) Multicutter. This is a 100mm diameter carbide tipped blade for cutting aluminium, PVC and Fibreglass at up to 7000RPM. I have fitted it to the slitting saw arbor in my milling machine and used it to cut 12mm aluminium. It gives a great surface finish. And it is fast - just slow enough to let the chips clear the teeth. And it cost $15.
On saw bench, I now have another blade. It is a MetalSonic Part No MSB1602040 160mm 40T blade that will cut steel, aluminium, plastics, wood (solid, ply and MDF) even with nails in it much faster than anything else I have seen. I have used it to cut 6mm mild steel both cross cut and ripping. I have not be brave enough to fit this monster to the slitting saw arbor but would like to hear from anyone who tries it - it should work.
david kitchen 120/07/2010 07:30:53
5 forum posts
1 photos
 Hello Sid
If you are to machine the edges after, try a local sheet metal worker and ask if they can cut it on their guillotine. No stress, no danger, cheaper than a multi-tooth blade, and straight.
peter walton20/07/2010 08:56:51
82 forum posts
The evolution saws can cut metal but it appears that this is limited to thin material.
See ebay listing 370400075055 this shows a large 355 mm cut off saw speed if blade is 1450 rpm.
Another way to cut ally sheet is with a nibler, you can get attachments for drills.  These can cut with little distortion of the sheet but get some ear defenders as the noise is FAIRLY loud!
Gordon W20/07/2010 10:19:34
2011 forum posts
Interesting thread this, I'm using a cheap little jig-saw, with a fairly coarse "aluminium cutting" blade(makers description) this works fine on 1/2" aly with parafin lube, use a fence for straight lines. Some time ago I cut some plate, 1/4" I think, on a small table saw with a tipped gen. purpose wood blade, this worked well, but only with the blade hight set just over the matl. thickness, maybe the extra width of cut helped?
Ian S C20/07/2010 11:26:30
7468 forum posts
230 photos
Peter, I think you would have a problem cutting 1/8" aluminium with a drill attachment type nibbler, a heavier industrial one OK. Yes they are great, used to use an air powered on for cutting Alclad for aircraft skins, only problem is the cresent shaped chips that fly all over the place and get stuck in the soles of your shoes. A friend modified a fishing boat to a live on launch, and opened a doorway in a bulkhead(5/16" steel plate), using a nibbler, I suppose most people would use gas.Ian S C

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