Zero Clearance Insert opinions

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 06-09-2014 07:01 PM 1155 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MrRon's profile


4711 posts in 3208 days

06-09-2014 07:01 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have been thinking about using 6061-T6 aluminum plate for a ZCI. Everything I have read about carbide tipped saw blades indicates they can cut aluminum with no problems. Steel; no way, but I think 1/4” aluminum would make a good insert. It would be important to be able to prevent the insert from rising out of the table. I might even drill and tap the saw supporting lugs so I can screw the insert down. I find that traditional ZCI’s don’t lay flat flush with the table due to warping and downward pressure when cutting pieces that are smaller than the insert plate.

10 replies so far

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2411 days

#1 posted 06-09-2014 10:12 PM

MrRon,I haven’t tried this myself but I have read that you could use a cheap carbide blade turned backward to cut aluminum,some even use spiral router bit to cut aluminum but I would personally feel more comfortable with a table saw blade installed backward.

Aluminum would make a great ZCI,I would use a slightly thinner stock and drill/tap 4 set screws to adjust the height and make it perfectly level with the table saw surface.
Good luck.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View runswithscissors's profile


2724 posts in 1989 days

#2 posted 06-09-2014 10:29 PM

Any carbide blade will do, though one with more teeth will give a smoother cut. And there’s no need to install it backwards; in fact, I fear that it might be dangerous, because AL is very sticky stuff and might break carbide teeth loose from their brazing. I find that WD40 sprayed on the blade helps to keep the chips from building up on the face of the teeth, though it doesn’t prevent it entirely. If the feeding seems to be getting harder, it’s time to stop and clean off the build up of chips, and then respray.

I always use a full face mask when sawing AL, as the chips really fly, and I’ve learned not to wear any kind of fleece, as the chips stick like burrs and are a PITA to pluck out.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View NiteWalker's profile


2736 posts in 2541 days

#3 posted 06-09-2014 10:31 PM

Cutting aluminum with a carbide tipped blade backwards will only result in having carbide saw blade teeth thrown at you. Under no circumstance should you ever cut with a sawblade backwards. Not for cutting aluminum, plexigass, whatever; it’s bad advice.

About aluminum as a zci; it’s great. If I were to do it, I’d use 1/2” aluminum sheet and rout a wide dovetail slot for replaceable hardwood inserts. Norm used one on the new yankee workshop quite a bit. I’d probably have a cnc shop do it for me though.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2411 days

#4 posted 06-09-2014 11:20 PM

Using the right blade for the job is obviously the safest practice,I have cut 1/4” thick Aluminum with walter thin cut off wheels,(ZIPCUT),the aluminum piece was firmly clamped to the edge of a work bench,and I was wearing a full face shield .

Another safe alternative as I’m sure you remember,is a hacksaw , it does take forever to cut with it though.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2037 days

#5 posted 06-09-2014 11:32 PM

I forgot the company, but I have an aluminum ZCI that accepts a wood or mdf insert. It is great. To go to all the trouble to make an alum insert, it still will wallow out or suffer that one time you need to raise the blade up. It is fully adjustable and has leveling screws, spring loaded bearings to hold it in the saw, and a safety pin. I will post a pic and brand name tomorrow when I am in the shop.

Edit: To address your other issue, the insert is easily replaceable, bonus, and small such that deflection that you mention is not an issue.

-- Who is John Galt?

View jonah's profile


1658 posts in 3263 days

#6 posted 06-10-2014 12:03 AM

Why not just buy a ZCI? I’m all for making stuff, but it seems like a losing proposition given the price (~$20 or so last time I bought one) versus the time and effort required to make one yourself.

I’ve got two from Leecraft, and they’re really quite nice. Leveling set screws, great fit, etc.

View realcowtown_eric's profile


608 posts in 1901 days

#7 posted 06-10-2014 01:27 AM

For ZCI’s, I generally cut several at once out of 1/4” baltic birch, fettle and fit them to be flush, use cabinet roller clips or nylon glass/screen clips to hold them in place, adding little shims as required. When they get worn, I can resurrect them several times by using good old bondo-that stuff sticks tenaciously.

Eric in Calgary

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View runswithscissors's profile


2724 posts in 1989 days

#8 posted 06-10-2014 07:23 AM

Should have mentioned in my earlier response that a bandsaw also cuts AL well. Use a fairly fine toothed blade, and again, lube it with WD40 to control sticking. You may have to clean the blade of chips from time to time. A woodcutting blade works fine, and it won’t hurt the blade. One observation: it’s really hard to cut very thick AL, because of the heat buildup. But 1/4” to 3/8” shouldn’t be a problem.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Bill7255's profile


427 posts in 2249 days

#9 posted 06-10-2014 08:59 AM

I have a homemade aluminum insert for dados that came with the saw I bought. My own opinion is it is a REAL PITA to get in and out of the opening. Any little nick, burr, trapped sawdust adds to the problem. MDF works, but I will stay with phenolic.

-- Bill R

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2037 days

#10 posted 06-10-2014 09:12 PM

This is the insert I was talking about, I have one and it has performed very well. Maybe the best of both worlds for you. It is a Betterley tru cut blade insert. I found it on Amazon.

-- Who is John Galt?

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