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Old 09-20-2016, 07:16 PM   #1
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Best way to cut a 3" hole in the airstream skin?

What's the best way to cut a 3" hole in the airstream? I'm installing a heater vent pipe, and I've nave cut the skin before.
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Old 09-20-2016, 07:28 PM   #2
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A hole cutter attached to a drill work perfectly for me. I had to replace my furnace and the new holes didn't line up with the old. Good luck!
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Old 09-20-2016, 07:44 PM   #3
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Mark very carefully. Check twice.

Use blue painters tape to cover the edges of the cut area, draw the circle with a compass onto the tape.

Check the measurements at least twice again. Don goggles and heavy gloves for personal protection.

Use a smaller hole saw, say 2" or so. Drill slowly and carefully, stop when you just cut through the outer skin to avoid snagging wires or insulation. The edges will be rough and sharp. Using gloves, clear the insulation and look for wires. Then check hole location again.

Using a nibbler or aviation snips, trim the hole to the final cut line. Use the hole saw pilot hole in the inner skin to line up and complete the other part of the hole.

Be careful and work slow. Edges of the aluminum will be sharp.


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Old 09-20-2016, 08:21 PM   #4
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Just do not use what Airstream uses, a nibbler. Unless you are skilled it it's use. Seems almost every factory cut hole in my trailer has butchered finger cutting edges. Just my opinion.
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Old 09-20-2016, 08:52 PM   #5
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I've used 24 tpi blades in a jig saw to cut larger pieces of skin, but for this I agree with rmkrum that the hole saw is a better option.
Hole saws in a hand held drill tend to chatter in aluminum and leave a very rough opening.
For a 3 inch hole I wouldn't go any bigger than a 2 1/2 inch bi-metal saw. Then I'd dress the opening with a Dremel motor tool with a high speed steel cutter to the line on the tape.

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Old 09-20-2016, 09:41 PM   #6
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Best way to cut a 3" hole in the airstream skin?

I guess I am lazy, I always try to use a hole saw that is the right size and makes a hole that needs little if any trimming.

(Try a dry run on a scrap to make sure before cutting on the trailer)


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Old 09-20-2016, 11:36 PM   #7
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Best way to cut a 3" hole in the airstream skin?

It's been my experience that hole saws in sheet metal chatter and dig in to ruin the edges. And the pilot bit can be pulled to the side sometimes.

That's why I suggest cutting smaller and trimming. bigger. Aviation tin sips are good for carefully enlarging holes without messing up the edges. A proper power shear in a drill might work, but I'd try it on scrap first. A 3" hole is kinda small radius to turn the tool.

In any case lots of blue tape to protect the shiny parts left behind.

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Old 09-21-2016, 12:17 AM   #8
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I cut 6 large (2-3/4" to 4")holes in my AS with hole saws. Many more small ones. All came out flawless. Measure many times. Use some tape and cardboard cut to desired size to visualize the hole. Go slow, small pilot hole to center the larger hole saw center drill to keep it from walking at first. Concentrate on keeping the hole saw straight so that it cuts with even force around its edges, prevents walking and uneven cutting. Assuming you have both skins to drill through. Figure out where your center will be on the inside. Then off center drill 3/4" inspection holes between the center and outer diameter in a way that the hole doesn't touch the center point or outer edge, then feel around for wires or condensate drain line. The larger hole saw will cut out around the smaller holes.
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Old 09-21-2016, 12:38 AM   #9
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Hole saw w/ hand held drill.
I've cut at least 7 holes in my trade wind.
Keep drill perpendicular to skin, keep drill speed up, push lightly.
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Old 09-21-2016, 05:11 AM   #10
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Hole saw is the way to go. I would cut the hole size i needed in the first shot. If you cut a smaller hole first you will have trouble with the larger one as the drill bit will no longer centre the saw. Buy a hole saw that is made to cut thin steel or aluminum the more teeth the better. A general purpose or wood saw will be hard to use and leave rough edges. A good quality whole saw will not be cheep. Do not force the saw, light even pressure.
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Old 09-21-2016, 07:41 AM   #11
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All above will work . Other options are get a flexible attachment for a dremel and then get there diamond wheel to make the cuts . The thin flex handle allows you to work close to surface and controll the cut easily. They also make hole saws with a diamond edge a little easier to controll . Due to usually working on someone else's trailer I tend to be a little conservative. Small hole saw first than finish with the dremel and diamond wheel.less chance of disaster.good luck.
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Old 09-21-2016, 08:33 AM   #12
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check your sizes and go slow

Don't make the hole to large. Most of those vent lines are 2 1/2 in. I'd go with a 2 1/4 inch hole saw and then finish up with a rotary file to make a tight fit so the water sealing will go well.
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Old 09-21-2016, 11:22 AM   #13
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Forget all the extra steps, just use a quality hole saw , go slow and drill that three inch hole. Not hard,not rocket science, doesn't take an apprenticeship. Test it ion a scrap piece of metal and you'll convince yourself just how easy it is.
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Old 09-21-2016, 11:34 AM   #14
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Same here

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkR View Post
Hole saw w/ hand held drill.
I've cut at least 7 holes in my trade wind.
Keep drill perpendicular to skin, keep drill speed up, push lightly.
I have cut four round holes in my vintage AS skin (shore power, water fill, and two for the furnace). I used hole saws for all four. Once the agonizing measurement process was complete, cutting the holes was relatively easy.
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