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Old 01-03-2016, 06:20 AM   #1
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1971 18' Caravel
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Question Tools for working aluminum sheets

A guy at our local flea market (Waldo, FL) is selling 4' x 10' sheets of aluminum. He couldn't tell me how thick it is, but I'd say slightly under 1/16th of an inch (say 0.05 to 0.06"). It's in excellent shape, the plastic protection sheets are still on, not bent up or anything. Being a sucker for cheap materials, I dove in and bought three sheets for $100, thinking I can put it to use for interior cabinet faces (bathroom tambour is shot and I'll probably end out replacing it) and maybe make some nice aluminum boxes to replace the awful heavy sliding drawers under my dinette . . . and still end out with material for belly patches or whatever (tin can doghouse?). Not to mention having some material to burn on beginner's mistakes.

Now that I have the stuff home, I realize I don't know the first thing about working with it. I have aviation ships, but I've never been real good about cutting a straight even line with them. Google search turns up about 15 ways to cut thin non-ferrous sheet metal.

How do others work with the stuff? I think I'll start with straight lines, and when I gain confidence, try some curved stuff.

p.s. It has arrows for the grain. Do you run the grain up? down? across? or just try to be consistent in matching grain?

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Old 01-03-2016, 07:25 AM   #2
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I suspect it is architectural grade brushed aluminum if it has a grain to it. The industrial stuff does not have plastic on it and it does not have a grain. A sheet metal break is used for bending corners and you can get a cheap one from Harbor Freight. You can cut the stuff with a skill saw or table saw with a carbide tipped blade. I know I will get some flack from that but I do it all the time and we do it all the time at NASA. You can use a hole saw for holes and a jig saw for curves but it leaves jagged edges. You can clean then up with a sander. Usually I will do a rough cut with something like a jig saw or saws all (big jigsaw) then finish cut with a circular saw of some sort with a carbide tipped blade. The experts like Aerowood and Zep might have other suggestions.


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Old 09-24-2017, 11:16 AM   #3
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Vintage Trailer Supply has an excellent article on polishing that includes characteristics of original aluminum.
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