If you’re not used to cutting aluminum bar stock, you may not know where to start. Cutting aluminum isn’t like cutting wood—it requires different tools and techniques.
Here, we’ll discuss the challenges of cutting aluminum bar stock and how to do it safely and efficiently. We’ll also look at other options for getting aluminum bar stock cut to size if you don’t want to do it yourself.
Aluminum Cutting Challenges
Cutting aluminum bar stock can be challenging because of aluminum’s material properties. Because it is a relatively soft metal with a low melting point, the heat and friction that build up during cutting can quickly melt the aluminum, causing it to stick and accumulate on the blade. This makes cutting less effective, and if enough material builds up, the blade can stop cutting completely. Blades also love to “grab” onto aluminum, which can ruin your cut and cause injuries if the aluminum workpiece is not well-secured.
While aluminum is a softer material, it’s also abrasive, which can present additional challenges. Cutting aluminum accelerates tooth wear and reduces blade life. The cost of constantly changing blades can quickly add up when cutting aluminum. If the wrong type of blade or technique is used, teeth might break off the blade during cutting, which can be a serious safety hazard.
Aluminum is more expensive than other materials, so cutting it with care is especially important and avoiding damaging the workpiece. You don’t want to have to replace a large amount of aluminum bar stock because it was damaged during sawing. Aluminum is effortless to gouge due to its softness, so it’s important to be careful when cutting.
Tips for Cutting Aluminum Bar Stock
The keys to cutting aluminum bar stock successfully are choosing the right tools for the job and using the proper technique.
The type of saw used to cut aluminum bars is not as important as the blade type. Any type of saw will work, including:
- Circular saw
- Miter saw
- Band saw
Even a hacksaw, circular saw, or hand saw will work in a pinch, but a miter saw or band saw is much faster, safer, and more effective for cutting large amounts of aluminum bars.
Often, home machinists without access to industrial-grade sawing equipment will try to cut bar stock using an angle grinder or similar tool with a cut-off wheel. While cutting aluminum this way is possible, it is not recommended. Besides the fact that it doesn’t provide a very clean cut, thermal expansion can cause cut-off wheels to explode when cutting aluminum, potentially causing serious injuries.
The ideal blade for cutting aluminum bar stock is a non-ferrous blade made for cutting aluminum. However, standard carbide blades work well, too. If it can cut wood, it can probably cut aluminum. Even high-speed steel (HSS) tooling will get the job done, just not as well, and the metal cutting blade won’t last long. Keep in mind that although cutting aluminum doesn’t require as sharp a blade as wood, it will wear out blade edges very quickly, so you probably don’t want to use the same blade you use for wood or other uses.
Cut slowly and consistently, checking the teeth between cuts for buildup. Sticky chips are normal, but if the blade is gumming up, you’ll need to clean it and use more lubricant and a slower feed rate to keep the chips from melting.
In summary, here is some general advice for cutting aluminum bar stock:
- Hold the workpiece securely with clamps to prevent movement and grabbing.
- Cut slowly. The thicker the aluminum, the slower you have to go.
- Feed at a consistent rate.
- Keep the blade for metal cutting well-lubricated on both sides with a lubricant such as WD-40.
- Wear a face shield (not just safety glasses) to protect your eyes and face from shavings, chips, and broken blades and to prevent breathing in aluminum dust.
Aluminum Bar Stock Cut to Size and Shipped to You
Cutting aluminum bar stock yourself can be tricky if you don’t have the right experience or equipment. Fortunately, with our cut-to-order precision sawing service, you can get your desired quantity of aluminum bar in any dimensions you need without getting any new tools or struggling to learn a new technique. Just let us know what alloy and size you need, and we’ll ship precision-cut aluminum bar stock straight to your plant, shop, or home. You save time and inventory space and avoid scrap.
Aluminum is our most in-demand metal at Industrial Metal Service, and we have hundreds of thousands of pounds in stock. Our inventory includes aluminum 6061, MIC-6 and Alimex ACP 5080P tooling aluminum plate, and many other aluminum alloys. We source certified aluminum from major mills, like Kaiser, and we also offer verified aluminum remnants at heavily discounted prices.