LumberJocks

Cutting Aluminum on Table Saw - Dealing with Shavings

  • Advertise with us

« back to Power Tools, Hardware and Accessories forum

Forum topic by Keith Kelly posted 01-12-2017 06:10 PM 2643 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

262 posts in 1501 days


01-12-2017 06:10 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I bought an aluminum cutting blade and have a sheet of 1/4” aluminum to slice up from time to time.

My TS is hooked up to my dust collector. I would never send metal through the DC, so I’m trying to figure out how to manage the aluminum shavings. I do not know if it’s pure aluminum or some sort of alloy, but I do know that my MagSwitch featherboard (has strong magnets) acts no different on the aluminum than on wood. My experience with aluminum is pretty limited, but it seems like cutting aluminum doesn’t produce sparks. I’m not sure if aluminum shavings result in more static electricity than wood shavings or not. My short run of PVC (6’) is wrapped in copper which is very effective at preventing me from getting zapped, but is not grounded on the inside. Maybe this is irrelevant for the little work I’m doing.

The TS is a contractor-style saw, and my DC is connected to a funnel at the bottom. So, even with the DC turned off, shavings will still get in the hose or hang out in the saw somewhere until later.

Other than sparks, I’m wondering about heat. I’d hate for hot aluminum to ignite the contents in the dust bag, but my initial (and uneducated) expectation is that the aluminum would be cooled down well before the dust bag (and would be fine enough that it wouldn’t hold enough heat).

I don’t plan on cutting lots of aluminum, but would like to find a reasonable setup for cutting maybe 5 linear feet total from time to time without any major adjustments to my DC system. Does anybody have advice on this?

Maybe I plug the DC port in the TS with a sour cream container, cut the aluminum, pull out the sour cream container containing whatever is there, and don’t worry about the remaining aluminum dust/shavings.

Am I overthinking this? What would you do?

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, http://www.SquareOneWoodworks.com


20 replies so far

View Rick_M's profile

Rick_M

10634 posts in 2218 days


#1 posted 01-12-2017 06:17 PM

Aluminum does not produce sparks. I don’t know if running it through your DC is a good idea, but you could just disconnect the hose or try your sour cream container. It does make a lot of noise when cut with a 40T blade and will dull the blade faster than wood so I would recommend buying an inexpensive fine tooth blade; or at least not using your top of the line blade.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View nakmuay's profile

nakmuay

71 posts in 1191 days


#2 posted 01-12-2017 06:37 PM

Aluminum will not magnetize as its nonferrous, (contains no Iron) this also means that it will not spark. It can produce static electricity but it doesn’t happen easily, the risk is low unless you’re cutting huge amounts.
Check your dust collectors manual, it could well be rated for aluminum.
The material/plate that your holding/cutting may get hot if you bladed is dull, but the swarf will be pretty much cold by the time it lands.
Cutting aluminum is a completely different animal than cutting steel. You wont see a big rooter tail of sparks and noise, it will be pretty uneventful. A reasonably sharp blade will cut though like butter and there wont be time for any heat/electricity to build up.

Source: I’m an Aircraft structural repair teacher

View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

262 posts in 1501 days


#3 posted 01-12-2017 06:40 PM

Thanks for the quick response.

I got a well-reviewed $20 100T blade for cutting aluminum specifically, so that should help. I’ll plug the hole and just vacuum out the TS insides with a shop vac.

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, http://www.SquareOneWoodworks.com

View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

262 posts in 1501 days


#4 posted 01-12-2017 06:49 PM

Nakmuay
Good point about the DC. I’ll look.

What type of aircraft?

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, http://www.SquareOneWoodworks.com

View Ray McGrath's profile

Ray McGrath

3 posts in 666 days


#5 posted 01-12-2017 07:44 PM

Be sure to wear a face shield, those chips sting
Ray

-- Always Learning (sometimes slowly)

View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

262 posts in 1501 days


#6 posted 01-12-2017 07:45 PM



Be sure to wear a face shield, those chips sting
Ray

- Ray McGrath

I did not think of that, and I don’t like stinging very much. Thank you for the tip.

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, http://www.SquareOneWoodworks.com

View Loren's profile

Loren

9631 posts in 3486 days


#7 posted 01-12-2017 07:56 PM

When I cut aluminum I don’t worry about
messing up my DC. I have a cyclone though,
so the aluminum doesn’t get in the impeller.

Really aluminum chips seem pretty big and
heavy to me and I think if you used a hose
set up like a plumbing trap a lot of it might
just settle there. My cyclone is kind of underpowered
and periodically when I clean out clogs in
the tube I find aluminum in there along with
whatever heavier wood scraps won’t go
all the way to the cyclone up a 6’ vertical
drop to reach a longer horizontal duct overhead.

View bobasaurus's profile

bobasaurus

3355 posts in 3022 days


#8 posted 01-12-2017 08:31 PM

The aluminum will get hot from cutting friction, I’d be worried about hot shavings igniting a pile of dust under the saw. I do cut aluminum on my miter saw after vacuuming it off, the shavings and cut piece are pretty warm afterwords.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View MrUnix's profile

MrUnix

6006 posts in 2037 days


#9 posted 01-12-2017 08:42 PM

I have cut aluminium on the table saw without incident… although I usually throw in a cheap circular saw blade that I don’t care about trashing, and I slow the motor down to about 75% of rated speed. Don’t have DC, so the chips just fall into the pile of sawdust in the bottom of the cabinet. No problems yet.

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Nubsnstubs's profile

Nubsnstubs

1207 posts in 1568 days


#10 posted 01-12-2017 09:19 PM

Aluminum can be cut with just about any carbide blade you can find. The more teeth on the blade, the more power is needed to make the cut. Less teeth, the easier on the saw.

The most important thing not mentioned is aluminum will gall any cutter used on it. That is why a lubricant or “cutting oil” is used in machine shops and by anyone with knowledge of working with aluminum. Aluminum will build up on a cutting instrument and cause a sharp cutter to act like it has lost any semblance of sharpness if not lubed. A product called “stick wax” can also be used.

If you use oil instead, when done, get some wood dust from your DC and use it to clean up the saw table…

Aluminum is not as heavy as mentioned. I don’t know if it would mess up impellers or not, but any dust collector should extract it just about as easily as wood chips.

That said, my experience comes from drilling and tapping about 2000 holes in about a week. Without the oil on the bit and tap, the job would have taken a lot more than one drill bit and tap.

Wear a hat, long sleeves and a face shield, and you’re good to go…........ Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson) www.woodturnerstools.com

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

4495 posts in 3081 days


#11 posted 01-13-2017 12:33 AM

I cut aluminum on both the table saw and on a band saw all the time. Use a blade with fewer teeth. A 40 tooth blade works fine. Don’t use a blade with high teeth count(100 tooth is too much). Blades need large gullets or aluminum will get “welded” to the blade and cutting will stop. One word of caution; aluminum chips will hit your arm like sand blasting, so wear long sleeves and of course, safety goggles. The chips will go through your DC the same as wood chips; no need to be concerned. No lubricant is needed.

View nakmuay's profile

nakmuay

71 posts in 1191 days


#12 posted 01-13-2017 01:45 AM



Nakmuay
Good point about the DC. I ll look.

What type of aircraft?

- Keith Kelly


No problem, I teach aircraft maintenance engineers at a college now

That is why a lubricant or “cutting oil” is used in machine shops and by anyone with knowledge of working with aluminum. Aluminum will build up on a cutting instrument and cause a sharp cutter to act like it has lost any semblance of sharpness if not lubed. A product called “stick wax” can also be used.

If you use oil instead, when done, get some wood dust from your DC and use it to clean up the saw table…

Wear a hat, long sleeves and a face shield, and you re good to go…........ Jerry (in Tucson)

- Nubsnstubs


Some good points sir, the only thing I’d be unsure about would be using cutting oil. Table saw aren’t really set up to retain lubricant so the only way to add it would be to pour it on as it cut, I imagine this would cause it to get sprayed every. With a direct drive contractor saw, I’d also be worried about flooding the motor.
Some other great point though.

View ocean's profile

ocean

46 posts in 671 days


#13 posted 01-13-2017 01:55 AM

The aluminum shop near me uses a plywood blade (cheap) to cut all their stock and also a wax stick to rub on the blade.

-- Bob, FL Keys

View Nubsnstubs's profile

Nubsnstubs

1207 posts in 1568 days


#14 posted 01-13-2017 02:28 AM

You wouldn’t be pouring oil on the aluminum. You use an acid brush and apply it where the cut is going to be made. Minimal oil applied will leave a relatively clean saw…..... The stick wax is in a tube like grease for a grease gun, and all you do is apply while the blade is spinning by pushing the stick into the blade. Done like this will leave a clean blade….......... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson) www.woodturnerstools.com

View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

262 posts in 1501 days


#15 posted 01-13-2017 03:39 AM

Ron, you mentioned bandsaw.

I have a 1700rpm speed setting by changing pulleys on the bandsaw. Should I do that?

Also, would I be out of my mind to use the 3/16” 4tpi blade to cut a curve? The rake is 0 degrees (which I much prefer for shaping spoons) How many linear feet should I expect to cut before having to buy a new saw blade to resume spoon making? 10?

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri, http://www.SquareOneWoodworks.com

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com