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Old 09-11-2016, 09:19 PM   #1
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Cutting Aluminum

I'm about to start a repair project and looking for thoughts on the best way to cut aluminum to shape before for a large patch. Thanks!


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Old 09-11-2016, 09:24 PM   #2
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I assume you are talking about aluminum sheet. Electric Shears (nippers) if you are going to be doing a fair amount of cutting. Harbor Freight shears work good.
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Old 09-11-2016, 10:36 PM   #3
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For large thicker aluminum sheets I have used a tool called a "nibbler". It basically nibbles out uniform notches.. You just carefully guide the tool along a clear line or arc guide and it just does a clean job with minimal edge lift/distortion.. There are hand type and electric. The electric will do an amazing job...less hand effort, but huge cost
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Old 09-11-2016, 10:41 PM   #4
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Cutting Aluminum

For those with a steady hand a pneumatic cut off wheel is hard to beat.

A band saw with a narrow blade can work very well too.


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Old 09-11-2016, 10:45 PM   #5
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I used the Harbor freight electric shear on my project they work great.

I also used the hand shear and the hand nibblers for tight areas .
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Old 09-12-2016, 06:48 AM   #6
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Would a jigsaw work?
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Old 09-12-2016, 07:48 AM   #7
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be careful

Most of the suggestions you see here will leave you with an edge which won't look good and be difficult to work with to make it look good. Any...ANY....small "wobbles" and cut marks will show. Filing to an "edge" is hard. Just measure it and take it to someone who has a shear. Now, on a small patch you can get away with those other cutting tools.
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Old 09-12-2016, 08:25 AM   #8
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Careful use of a bench-mounted belt/disk sander will smooth out the edges very nicely.

Lots of good advice about tools and techniques on these forums. Also many good demonstrations on YouTube.
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Old 09-12-2016, 08:37 AM   #9
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Would a jigsaw work?
Yes, but in my experience hard to cut with a jigsaw without a lot of vibration.
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Old 09-12-2016, 09:20 AM   #10
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You can spring-clamp sheet metal (ie., aluminum) onto a piece of plywood. Keeps it from bouncing around as you cut it. Better yet, sandwich it between two pieces of clamped plywood. Variations on this procedure are many.
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Old 09-12-2016, 09:38 AM   #11
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I opened up the ceiling under a light in my Safari with a Harbor Freight pneumatic nibbler. It worked great. It does leave a rough edge, so if the edge is going to show you would have to smooth it with one of the techniques mentioned earlier here. In my case, the light covered it up, so no worries.

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Old 09-12-2016, 10:12 AM   #12
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Hilti and others make circular saw blades for cutting non-Ferrous metal as well as steel. Never used one but they look cool. I will get a blade for my Festool Kapex (chop saw) but haven't needed it yet.
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:29 AM   #13
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I have a red 10" sawblade I got at Home Depot, brand is escaping me, for non-ferrous cutting. In my tablesaw it cuts thick aluminum like buttah. It's astounding. I need to try it on the 0.032 aluminum I have.
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Old 09-12-2016, 11:18 AM   #14
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I use this
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Old 09-12-2016, 11:29 AM   #15
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I use this
Drool...

Also, for most aluminum sheet thickness that would be used on an Airstream you can score a line with a knife a few times and then it will fracture when you bend it back and forth a bit. You can get a pretty clean edge in most cases but it is really only viable for straight cuts.

Aerowood probably has some additional advice on this topic of scoring aluminum.
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Old 09-12-2016, 11:58 AM   #16
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Yes, but in my experience hard to cut with a jigsaw without a lot of vibration.

Mount the edge you are cutting very close to the edge of a bench to mitigate this.



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Old 09-12-2016, 01:30 PM   #17
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I have a red 10" sawblade I got at Home Depot, brand is escaping me, for non-ferrous cutting. In my tablesaw it cuts thick aluminum like buttah. It's astounding. I need to try it on the 0.032 aluminum I have.
I have found that a table saw will work well for straight cuts in aluminum sheet. Use a zero clearance throat insert and make sure the aluminum sheet can't slip under the fence. You can either clamp a piece of angle aluminum to the fence and run the aluminum on top of it, or run it through with a piece of scrap plywood underneath the aluminum. I find that it's also helpful to run a piece of wood on top of the aluminum with the blade set below the top surface of the wood. This helps to keep the aluminum from vibrating and reduces the number of aluminum chips being thrown back at you.
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Old 09-12-2016, 02:17 PM   #18
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Drool...

Also, for most aluminum sheet thickness that would be used on an Airstream you can score a line with a knife a few times and then it will fracture when you bend it back and forth a bit. You can get a pretty clean edge in most cases but it is really only viable for straight cuts.

Aerowood probably has some additional advice on this topic of scoring aluminum.
Well, as a matter if fact I do, I have always called it a Skin Knife. Its made from a file
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Old 09-12-2016, 02:49 PM   #19
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Ah yes, thanks for the trade secret!

That is exactly the image that was burned into my brain. Although I've successfully used the scoring method with various shaped razor blades the skin knife looked much more robust. I remember googling "skin knife" half a year ago and coming up with nothing. It's not often that a google search comes up empty handed, haha.

Any suggestions as to the shape of the modified file?
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Old 09-12-2016, 03:03 PM   #20
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Well, as a matter if fact I do, I have always called it a Skin Knife. Its made from a file
I have not heard of a skin knife before and have not used the score method on aluminum. I have used a utility knife on sheet metal and it works.
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