work safely with aluminum

Anything to do with mechanical, construction etc

Postby jimliston » Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:05 pm

Tony,

Thirty-five years ago, I apprenticed in a commercial cabinet shop where we made casino fixtures and cabinets. I went on to make a career as a cabinetmaker. We often cut aluminum stock for whatever reason. I noticed in one of your pictures that the blade on your table saw is set at about 1/2 - 3/4 inch high. The safest way to cut aluminum is to set the blade to a height that will score the cut first and then raise the blade to a height that will barely cut all the way through the stock. You have better control of the stock and believe it or not, the blade will last longer and stay cooler. DO NOT attempt to cut any ferrous metal on a table saw. I know this sounds like a silly statement, but I have seen it tried. Note: "tried". The major worry is that the abrading of the metal causes sparks and guess what is always at the bottom of your table saw. Sawdust has a relatively low flash point and it makes one hell-uv-a fire. Also, I have seen so many fellas use a chop saw in just the fashion the name implies. They slam the blade into the work. Not safe at all. That goes doubly for aluminum. Let the saw blade attain maximum speed and then ease the blade into the work. Just some thoughts.

Jim
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Postby tonyj » Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:36 pm

Jim,

Thanks for the post. I hope those with practical experience like you will continue posting these types of techniques and safety tips so no one will have an unpleasant outcome.

And welcome to the forum!
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Postby jimliston » Sat Jul 12, 2008 12:20 pm

By the way, there were 35 of us in that shop, all with 10 fingers. One fellow was missing a testicle though. He was standing BEHIND the blade of a 14 in table saw when a narrow ripper fired back at him and caused him to sing a half octave higher. And, he walked a little funny. On the topic of gloves: On my first day as an apprentice, I walked into the shop with a pinkie ring, a gold chain bracelet (OK, OK, it WAS the 70's afterall) and a new pair of leather gloves in my hip pocket. The foreman told me to take off the jewelry and he threw the gloves in the scrap bin. My first safety lecture. I've never worn bling or gloves since that day.
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Postby planovet » Sat Jul 12, 2008 12:44 pm

jimliston wrote:One fellow was missing a testicle though. He was standing BEHIND the blade of a 14 in table saw when a narrow ripper fired back at him and caused him to sing a half octave higher.


OUCH! :shocked:
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Postby afreegreek » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:25 am

cutting aluminum on the table saw should be done with the proper blade. the tooth profile is called "triple chip" and it should have a 0 degree or negative 5 degree hook angle. you should also have a zero clearance insert and only use enough blade to barely cut through the stock. anything thicker than 1/8th inch should be cut in two passes or more. I've cut 1/2" plate in 4 passes with no binding at all.

a slow feed is required whether it's on a chop saw or table saw. don't push, just let the blade do the work. use your ears and let the material tell you if you're pushing too hard..

be careful, aluminum will get very hot when cut. do not wear gloves to protect yourself from the hot aluminum I use a push stick or carrier of some sort and I also give the blade and the piece a little spray with WD40 before I start to cut. another for each pass or piece.. again, a little spray!!. soaking the piece with a heavy spray will do little more than throw hot WD40 at you.

http://www.freudtools.com/p-39-thick-no ... -nbsp.aspx

freud also make a 56 tooth nonferrous blade in 7-1/4 inch size that can be had for about $30.. yes you can use a 7-1/4 inch blade in a table saw just not in a chopsaw.
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Postby halfdome, Danny » Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:22 am

Afreegeek, welcome to the form from another Cabinetmaker :shake hands: .
I see from your post you recommend a triple chip when in fact the link you refer to the blade dosen't have a triple chip but is almost identical to my blade but of a different brand. My blade has 80 teeth. I never had the need to spray WD 40 to have it slung all over my face shield.

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I wouldn't recommend a triple chip when cutting non Ferris metals, it's too aggressive. IMHO. :D Danny
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Postby afreegreek » Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:29 pm

halfdome, Danny wrote:Afreegeek, welcome to the form from another Cabinetmaker :shake hands: .
I see from your post you recommend a triple chip when in fact the link you refer to the blade dosen't have a triple chip but is almost identical to my blade but of a different brand. My blade has 80 teeth. I never had the need to spray WD 40 to have it slung all over my face shield.

Image
I wouldn't recommend a triple chip when cutting non Ferris metals, it's too aggressive. IMHO. :D Danny
thanks for the welcome! ':D' yeah, the most important thing is the 0 degree or negative degree hook to the tooth. I use the triple chip tooth for thicker stuff like 1/8" or better but use ATB for thinner stuff like metal laminates. you're right, the triple chip is a bit aggressive and leaves a ragged edge on thin stock. the WD40 just helps keep the aluminum from sticking to the blade and gumming it up. it's not really needed for cutting but it does help keep the blade clean.

BTW, these are the blades I use to cut aluminum.. they're forrest blades and I have a large selection 'cause I cut all kinds of different materials. the two I use for aluminum are the mitre master #2 grind and #7 grind.

http://www.forrestblades.com/mitermaster.htm
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Postby sagebrush » Sat Feb 27, 2010 3:57 pm

For cutting sheet metal these are much better than ripping on a table saw. You can use a straight edge for long cuts or freehand along a marker line. It is MUCH less costly than a trip to the ER I believe HF also has these.


http://www.cpomilwaukee.com/factory-rec ... and-shears
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Postby flip18436572 » Sat Feb 27, 2010 4:08 pm

http://search.harborfreight.com/cpisear ... rd=nibbler

I have the hand nibbler and the air nibbler from them. The above link is going to HF and doing a keyword search on nibbler. I finally broke the hand nibbler and the air nibbler after many years of abuse on heavy gage metal that it is not supposed to cut. I went throught some tough steel working on some street rod projects and then building some fenders for a friends trailer. They wanted heavy steel, and I didn't have anything else to attempt to cut it with.
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Postby halfdome, Danny » Sat Feb 27, 2010 10:28 pm

sagebrush wrote:For cutting sheet metal these are much better than ripping on a table saw. You can use a straight edge for long cuts or freehand along a marker line. It is MUCH less costly than a trip to the ER I believe HF also has these.


http://www.cpomilwaukee.com/factory-rec ... and-shears

Have one that runs on air, only use it for rough cuts.
Not really impressed with nibblers.
I prefer the table saw, to cut aluminum, as it is quite accurate and safe if you take the proper safety precautions like you would with any tool.
Any tool is unsafe in inexperienced hands. :D Danny
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cutting metal with wood tools

Postby Rob55 » Sun May 02, 2010 3:11 am

Guys

Why the coarse tipped carbide blades??? Find a fine toothed cabinet blade. It doesn't even need a carbide tip for aluminum. One can actually cut galvinized sheet with the blade spinning backwards if you go slow, but loose the big teeth.

Rob

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Postby tonyj » Sun May 02, 2010 10:40 am

I am glad to see this thread re-surface from time to time with the invaluable tips everyone provides.

I found what I feel to be the safest way to handle cutting aluminum and know that it would have made my build much easier and safer. It isn't the lowest cost option, but the added utility has made my metal work much more enjoyable.

I purchased the 6-inch metal cutting bandsaw from Harbor Freight. I have used it on aluminum and on steel (cut 2x6 channel with incredible accuracy!). http://www.harborfreight.com/horizontal-vertical-metal-cutting-bandsaw-93762.html

Waiting for it to go on sale and using the frequent 20% off coupon, this saw can be bought in the 175 dollar range. There are other competitive sources for the same type saw, and I have found most reviews to be favorable except for the same comments about the flimsy stand. This saw gives me the ability to cut metal more safely and with more accuracy. I could now rip the long legs off angle without worrying that the table saw was about to kick, spit or bite pieces from my flesh. And, when using as a cutoff, you can start the cut and go do something else while the saw completes the task--like having a helper in the shop.

This is one of those tools that I have never regretted spending money on.
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Re: cutting metal with wood tools

Postby halfdome, Danny » Sun May 02, 2010 11:43 am

Rob55 wrote:Guys

One can actually cut galvinized sheet with the blade spinning backwards if you go slow, but loose the big teeth.

Rob

:shock:

Never, never mount a blade backwards, it's very unsafe and in time you will end up with an injury. :D Danny
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Cutting sheet aluminim

Postby GerryS » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:25 pm

As an aircraft home guilder, I've had a little experience with aluminum. The best method I have seen to cut sheets is not to use tin snips. They leave jagged edges, and when using them it's not a matter of how, but when you're going to have a bad day.

The tool I found that works almost as well as a shear, is a laminate cutter. Think of it as nothing more than a box knife with a hooked bled and a hard tip.

http://www.amazon.com/Plastic-Laminate- ... B003FVL956

Olfa makes the one I used. Just use a straight edge, and pull the tool towards you, scoring the surface. After a fee passes you won't need the straight edge, and the piece can be bent back and forth a couple times and you will get a clean break.

A metal file gently ran across the cut edge and you've got a quality part.
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Postby aggie79 » Tue Sep 07, 2010 4:45 pm

Using some scrap MDF, I made this jig to cut t-molding on the miter saw.

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The slot of the jig is parallel to the fence of the miter saw. The vertical leg of the t-molding is inserted into the slot.

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Align the cut mark and make the cut. (A 90-degree cut is shown, but the same jig can be used for angles.)

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Until you decide to remove it, the slot captures the t-molding and cut-off.

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