Aluminum is a soft metal; even strain-hardened structural aluminum profiles can be cut by a circular saw with a carbide cutting blade. However, anyone who has tried to weld up a strict ninety-degree angle on aluminum knows that extruded aluminum coming off a chop saw is always a degree or two off. If it is cut with a band saw, the seam can have the waves of a choppy sea. If it is a large job with many sawn pieces of aluminum to put together, these inconsistent cuts can slow things down. Knowing how to cut extruded aluminum cleanly is essential.
Detailed Cutting Techniques for Aluminum Extrusion
When it comes to cutting aluminum extrusion, precision is key. Start by selecting the right metal cutting blade, which is crucial for a clean cut. For straight cuts, measure and mark your aluminum extrusion accurately, then securely clamp it to ensure stability.
Miter cuts, ideal for angled joints in aluminum extrusion, require adjusting the blade angle on your power tools, like circular saws, for precision. Compound cuts are more complex, combining two angles in one cut, and are perfect for intricate designs in aluminum cutting.
Remember, the success in cutting aluminum extrusion hinges on steady, controlled motions, whether using hand tools or power tools.
|Pro Tip: Choose the right metal cutting blade and carefully measure for precision, whether making straight, miter, or compound cuts in aluminum extrusion.
Problems in Cutting Extruded Aluminum
Cutting extruded aluminum is possible with almost any tool; however, only some tools offer the precision cuts you should aim for. Cutting with a circular saw, chop saw, or band saw can cause the following flaws in the cut.
Extruded Aluminum Cut Flaws
|Cutting metal requires the application of pressure. Too much pressure can cause the saw blade to flex, changing the direction of travel of the cut. This can result in curves in the cut. Band saws are especially prone to this cutting error, but this is due more to difficulties in stabilizing the saw.
|Flexing blades can curve in directions other than the direction of travel. This can lead to cut edges that are not perpendicular to the joint, with edges or curves across the thickness of extruded aluminum. This can throw off fitting and joining in subtle ways that are hard to compensate for.
|Chipping and burrs
|Extruded aluminum is a soft metal. This can lead to cut-away metal failing to completely separate from the extruded aluminum. This leads to chips and burrs hanging off the metal, which takes additional effort to remove.
These flaws are typically not project-ending issues. Instead, they are treated as parts of the cutting process to be dealt with. A shop assistant or helper may be asked to deburr the aluminum before sending it to the fabricator. The fabricator is expected to be able to read the piece and get the desired angle in the finished product, even if the cuts in the material are a few degrees off of true. This additional effort isn’t seen as too burdensome, at least in small jobs.
In large jobs – say cutting aluminum profiles for the windows of an entire commercial construction project – the additional effort adds up. The number of flaws created when cutting extruded aluminum can also add up. Inattention or a rush to get the job done is reasonable when someone is detailed to cut a few hundred pieces of extruded aluminum. Meeting the deadline becomes the priority, and detailed attention regarding how to cut aluminum the right way might be forgotten in the rush.
Advanced Safety and Cleanup Tips for Cutting Aluminum
Safety in metal cutting, especially when working with aluminum extrusion, is paramount. Always wear protective gear, including goggles and gloves, to safeguard against metal fragments. Use aluminum cutting blades specifically designed for the task to minimize risks.
During the cutting aluminum process, a significant amount of metal debris is generated. Implement a dust collection system to manage this, especially when using power tools. Post-cutting, it’s crucial to clean up meticulously. This involves not just sweeping away the debris but also checking and cleaning your tools, including any circular saws or hand tools used.
Proper cleanup is as important as the cutting process itself, ensuring a safe and efficient work environment.
How to Cut Extruded Aluminum Properly
The easiest way to reduce the number of flaws in cut extruded aluminum is an equipment upgrade. Purchasing a dedicated aluminum cutting circular saw blade will noticeably improve the precision and cleanliness of the cuts. Upgrading from a circular saw to a table saw or a dedicated mounted band saw can result in a similar improvement in the quality of extruded aluminum cuts. Unfortunately, this level of dedicated equipment can cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. This doesn’t make it a realistic solution for cutting extruded aluminum in large quantities. A better answer for how to cut extruded aluminum is to give the job to dedicated aluminum suppliers and precision cutting experts that already have the appropriate equipment and skilled workers to get the job done.