Cutting Aluminium Sheet Metal

Metal Cut To SizeCutting aluminium sheet metal is really quite simple provided you have a table saw on hand. It is used in a variety of home improvement projects such as ductwork, fencing and exterior siding. You can buy aluminium in very large sheets which allows you to cut it yourself, or you can purchase pre-cut metal. As long as your home workshop has a table saw and a normal woodcutting blade, you’re all set.

You’ll need a few other small things for safety and measurement – remember, measure twice, cut once! Get a good, reliable tape measure and a grease pencil or marker to draw on the metal. Heavy gloves are a must for handling metal and you’ll also want safety goggles and a face mask to minimise risk when cutting. Blade lubricant is advisable to minimise sparks and you’ll want a carbide tipped cutting blade on your table saw. You could also have some masking tape and a thin particle board on hand – we’ll see why in just a moment.

First measure the dimensions of your project and sketch a cut line onto the aluminium sheet. Put on your safety gear so you don’t get impacted by any metal fragments that might get kicked up during the cutting process.

Power on your table saw and, once the blade starts rotating, run a little lubricant into the teeth. You’ll need to do this for a minute or two until all of the teeth, including recesses and sides, are entirely coated. It can also be a good idea to rub some lubricant on and around the cutting line on the metal sheet.

Put the metal sheet onto the table and align the cut line with the saw blade. If the sheet is very thin aluminium it can help to put particle board underneath it to keep the cut smooth. Putting masking tape on the underside of the cutting line is also helpful for smooth edges.

Now slowly push the sheet towards the blade with both hands, being sure to apply firm pressure to both sides. If the cut is a long one, recoat the blade with lubricant regularly, at least every forty inches or so, or the cut may become jagged. Push the sheet onto the blade until about a quarter of it is left uncut, then move around the table and slowly pull the rest of the sheet through the blade. When you’re nearing the end of the sheet you may need to apply firm pressure to prevent vibrations and jitters in the cutting process. In between sheets make sure to power off the saw and completely re-lubricate the blade.

Note that if you are using a woodcutting blade you will need to cut more slowly – a smaller blade reduces cutting speed considerably so don’t try to rush it or you’ll end up with jagged edges at best and a total mess at the worst. Also be wary of saw blades, which tend to be prone to kickback and may suddenly reverse cutting direction on you. Stay slightly off to one side of the sheet as you push it through to avoid any flying shards of aluminium that may come at you.

Finally, use a fine-toothed hacksaw if you’re making small cuts or just cleaning up any rough edges, as this can save a great deal of time and filing later on.

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