work safely with aluminum

Anything to do with mechanical, construction etc

Postby Kyle1911 » Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:29 am

A word about disc sanders...I have done a lot of shaping of aluminum on my 12" disc sander, and darn near blew myself up once. If you are grinding aluminum, and then need to shape a piece of steel you MUST clean out the dust collection area of your disc sander, and clean the disc as well. I discovered the hard way, that aluminum powder is explosive. (Fireworks are made with this stuff). The sparks from grinding steel are plenty hot to ignite it, under the right circumstance. I got away with it, fat, dumb, and happy for a long time. One day it went "WOOOOF!!!" in my face. It blew the plastic guard off, where the dust collects, and gave me powder burns on my hands and stomach. Scared the h*ll outta me, and could easily have started a fire. I never even considered the possibility before it happened, but I won't be making that mistake again! Stay safe. Kyle
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Postby linuxmanxxx » Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:37 am

Sometimes picking up a simple hacksaw is the safest way and is good exercise too.
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Postby tonyj » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:27 am

linuxmanxxx wrote:Sometimes picking up a simple hacksaw is the safest way and is good exercise too.


True, and in many cases, the quickest.

But you can't believe how easy life is when you have access to a metal cutting bandsaw for cutting lots of accurately fitted pieces.
Still graced with two eyes and ten fingers (due in no small part to luck!).

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Postby Larry C » Sun Oct 02, 2011 2:07 pm

Kyle1911 wrote:A word about disc sanders...I have done a lot of shaping of aluminum on my 12" disc sander, and darn near blew myself up once. If you are grinding aluminum, and then need to shape a piece of steel you MUST clean out the dust collection area of your disc sander, and clean the disc as well. I discovered the hard way, that aluminum powder is explosive. (Fireworks are made with this stuff). The sparks from grinding steel are plenty hot to ignite it, under the right circumstance. I got away with it, fat, dumb, and happy for a long time. One day it went "WOOOOF!!!" in my face. It blew the plastic guard off, where the dust collects, and gave me powder burns on my hands and stomach. Scared the h*ll outta me, and could easily have started a fire. I never even considered the possibility before it happened, but I won't be making that mistake again! Stay safe. Kyle


Kyle, sorry to hear about the mishap. I know this can happen with Magnesium as it did recently at work, causing a fire but, I didn't know it could happen with Aluminum??
They constantly switch between Aluminum and steel on the disc/belt sander at work, and are only careful with Magnesium, which looks like Aluminum.

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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby paul.luna » Tue Jul 23, 2013 2:51 pm

I've read this thread and there's not much on sheet cutting. I was thinking about skinning my little Trailer in Aluminum. I went pricing and found for my project Aluminum is less expensive than plastic. I can also have the yard shear it to the 5'x4' that I need for the side walls. Not sure what I am going to do for the top. I have one (well 2) radius's to cut I figured I'd use Shears. but I am not sure about the top which is around 9" long by 40.25" that's going to be a long cut if I have to bring it down from 48". I might get a Harbor Freight Nibbler thing. And I have NO idea what to use as trim.
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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby jonw » Tue Jul 23, 2013 2:55 pm

For anything longer than a quick snip I use a sabre saw with a metal cutting blade.
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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby tonyj » Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:56 am

I haven't used the nibbler, but i have the hf electric shears, and it worked great for cutting long lines and the sweeping arc on the galley walls. Made great curly-cues in the process.
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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby Treeview » Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:29 am

paul.luna wrote: And I have NO idea what to use as trim.


Here's one source:

http://www.factoryrvsurplus.com/categories.php?category_id=158&per_page=36

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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby linuxmanxxx » Wed Jul 24, 2013 11:05 am

How thick is the aluminum? I used the air nibbles from Harbor freight and a trim router with laminate bit on 32.
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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby markhusbands » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:29 am

I rough trimmed my sides with a jigsaw and then flushed it up with a router on low speed. I didn't find it hard or especially dangerous.
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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby ocasioc25 » Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:47 am

Guys, I've cut aluminum and plastic siding with a regular circular saw and a bench saw. You just have to turn the blade around. That way it doesn't snag the thin material and try to pull it out of your hands. Yes, I have that happen to me. That double circular saw works good too. That's the one with one blade turning clockwise and the other turning counter clockwise. Horror Fright has them and work pretty decent. Mines just happens to be falling apart. ha ha ha ha Just be safe.

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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby Treeview » Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:53 am

Reversing the blade is an old solution but not a safe one. Even if it does work.

Better to set the blade so that the teeth just barely clear the cut. Go slow and keep a firm grip on the circle saw. If you're going to buy a HF blade get a metal cutting one and use it in the right rotation.

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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby doug hodder » Sat Aug 24, 2013 7:30 pm

I use a carbide blade in a circular saw and like mentioned, adjust it so that it just goes through the material. Don't crowd it. I've cut aluminum skin for a number of trailers from .025-.040 and never had it hang up. I've done 1/8" in both a panel saw and on the table saw, but usually put a sacrificial piece of wood over it on the table saw. If it starts to chatter it can exciting really quick without it!

When using a circular hand held saw, don't stop in the middle of a cut, when the blade starts to slow, it wants to hang/ bind and bend up material if you are a bit out of position. As long as it has power it will cut. Watch the abrasive type metal blades. they will just load up on an aluminum, they are typically made for ferrous metals. I also get a couple of sheets of styrofoam and cut with it laying on top of it. Not supporting the underneath can cause a lot of issues. Typically I get a thick sheet of foam and use it with every trailer build. It works great to support material when using a router, jig saw and circular saw.

I used the circular saw to rip up the big pieces off the coil, did the shaping with an electric shear. Fine tune the windows/door/ cutouts with a router. I've found that a reciprocating jig saw will work for a bit, but the blades tend to gall on me no matter what speed I use on them. Keep the wings on your router bit clean also.

When using a chop saw on trim, I always always back it up with a piece of wood. Especially on the 90 degree materials. I put the bend in the base of the saw first and then fill in the interior of the bend with the piece of wood. Ease the saw through it. Some pieces of sacrificial 2x2 is all it needs. The wood will give you a better grip on the material and you're less likely to have it bind kink and kick back which is not a good event to have happen. Just what I've experienced, others experiences may vary. Doug
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Re: No gloves here

Postby MontanaTeardrops » Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:22 pm

John Foote wrote:If the glove hits the blade, your hand is going in there with it.

This happened to me when I worked in a machine shop 20 years ago. I was using a big commercial drill press. My leather glove got hooked on the drill bit and it wrapped 3 of my fingers around the 1" bit as if they were made to fit the bit. That was one of the most painful injuries I have ever had, and I had 14 months to think about it before the pain ceased completely. Doc said I torn most all of the ligaments.
As far as your close call Tony, been there many times. The best thing to do if you're cutting aluminum is cough up the money for an aluminum blade, smaller teeth and made for that purpose.
Thanks for the great post, and I'm glad you weren't hurt seriously. :SG
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Re: work safely with aluminum

Postby ctstaas » Sun May 11, 2014 12:01 am

I used to cut aluminum a lot with rotating blade power tools. This old guy told me to turn the carbide tipped blade around backwards. It has always worked without incident for me. The softer the material or thinner the finer the teeth spacing with all types of saws. I think cutting plexiglass with a table saw ts scarier. I won't even pick my nose without my safety glasses on.
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