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Any tips for cutting Aluminum with a circular saw?

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  • Any tips for cutting Aluminum with a circular saw?

    I have about 20' worth of 2x4x3/16"? aluminum tube that was picked (with permission) from a scrap dumpster and I'd like to make a few ""practice projects" from it. Guy that worked for the company said it was 6061.

    It welds great, but I need to come up with a better system for cutting. I also need to make some rip cuts and my horizontal bandsaw won't do for that. I know you can use a regular circular saw to cut it, but I'm not sure what the preferred setup is.

    -Is a slow speed (worm drive Skil) saw better or will a regular 'ol circular saw do?
    -What's a good blade choice for someone on a pretty tight budget?
    -Does wax lube make much difference or should I just cut it dry?
    -Are there special abrasive wheels that I can use in my angle grinder or chopsaw that won't load up?

    I don't have much experience making dimensional Al cuts, so any tips are apppreciated.
    2007 Miller Dynasty 200 DX
    2005 Miller Passport 180

  • #2
    Nothing special, any wood working set up will do it as long as youre using a good carbide tip blade. Works on table and chop saws. Never used an abrasive blade but I think it would give an inferior cut vs carbide blade.


    • #3
      You can get away with a wood cutting blade and use a wax stick for lube. But you'll have to clean off the wax. A better way is to use a blade designed for cutting aluminum, such as this tenryu blade:



      • #4
        I use a $4 blade from Lows. Carbide tiped 7-1/4" in a worm drive and have cut 2" plate 48 inchs wide. I cut half way from one side then flip it and cut through.
        Thin stuff you just cut like wood.
        I use 30 weight oil thined with WD-40 just to keep the aluminum from sticking to the blade.

        I also use my table saw, works great.
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        • #5
          Any woodworking blade will do it. A miter saw would be the easiest, if you've got one. But here's the thing: woodworking tools don't have the same ability to clamp stock down as stuff made for metal. So be very careful about the blade grabbing the stuff -- you can lose a finger in a heartbeat. Also wear a face shield (if you've got one) and good eye protection underneath that. If you lose a carbide tip, things can get ugly.

          I use my welding gloves when I'm cutting aluminum and clamp the stuff down with a C-clamp.
          Jack Olsen
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          • #6
            I've used a jig saw in the past. With bi-metal blades you have to watch for build-up though. Pull the saw out and you see the teeth buried/covered in aluminum. Blade speed seems to make a difference.

            A good jigsaw (my favorite is the Milwaukee with a nice speed control) and you can follow any line, even a straight rip cut. The higher end jig saws have very low vibrations and tend to make very controlable cuts. A straight rip through a 2x4 is very doable. One issue, the more expensive jig saws tend to have 1.25" stroke, so you either cut both sides at once (and jig saws are bad at this because blades flex) or you get a very short blade (or cut down one you have).
            Bottom line, it might not be ideal for rip cutting a 2x4.

            Milwaukee and Dewault both make portable band saws. If you could modify one to change the angle of the guides you could rip cut if you had one of these...

            BTW, Aluminum is typically also available in U-channels (I have a pile of 1/8 thick stuff) so maybe you want to save that nice 2x4 for something else - its just that rectangular tubing is usually more expensive than channel.
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            • #7
              I just use my 7 1/4" Black and Decker saw with a carbide blade. I also use my 10" table saw and it can't tell the difference between wood and alum except the alum chips plug up my dust collector so i can't use it...Bob
              Bob Wright

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              • #8
                i had to cut aluminum production style for interstate signways. we used worm drive saws with a non ferrous metal cutting blade. lube it with aluma-cut (the tap magic stuff for aluminum) or nozzle gel. you can also use a spiral down cut router bit in a router and achieve the same results. the woodworking blades try to remove TOO much material with each tooth passing through the work and heat up too much gumming the blade and also ruining the blade. the saw will also have a real bad habit of trying to kick out of the cut. the rake and chip set on the teeth is ALOT different than that of a wood cutting blade

                your LWS should carry non-ferrous blades for a worm drive.

                nothing fancy, just a few hot glue guns for metal


                • #9
                  To keep aluminium from sticking to your blades & drill bits...

                  anytime i get to drill or cut aluminium and it wants to stisk...Varsol paint thinner seems to work wonders as a cutting lube.
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                  • #10
                    my shop teach taught us this using a 50s sears and roebuck circular saw the wax as blade lubricant works the best
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                    • #11
                      We cut a ton of aluminum at work using circular saws, using non ferrous carbide tipped blades on 7 1/4" saws. (Makita for the most part) For trimming, shaving and cutting thinner sheet I just run the blade dry, it's easier and less to clean up. For cutting thicker sections I'll use Walter cool cut. (that's what they supply and it keeps the blades from over heating proloning there life ) When you buying a blade look for one with a raker to it, straight tooth blades just do not cut as well.

                      Jig saws can work, espcially for cutting shapes, but they are much slower. There is also the problem of the reciprocating motion of the blade causing intereference, as previously mentioned.

                      If you end up using a circular saw, make sure to wear a face shield, gloves and other appropriate clothes, the aluminum chips can and will get everywhere.
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                      • #12
                        Ive been using a 60 tooth fine cut 7 1/4" circular saw blade with cutting oil and it works great.
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                        • #13
                          I have found that using wax or thinners or oils or cutting fluids just creates a clean up situation before you can weld...try using a mixture of joy soap and water if you feel you must use anything at all...We use 7 1/4 in carbide wood blades and no lubes for alum up to 3/8 1/2 inch thick...cut slow so the blades have a chance to shed the chips when cutting the thick stuff..


                          • #14
                            Worm-drive circular saw, standard cheap carbide combination blade (about $6 - $7) sold out of a box at lumberyards, about 18-25 teeth. No lube. Plywood blades tend to gum up and overheat too easily, aggressive blades with less teeth tend to loose teeth.

                            Wear heavy long-sleeved shirt, safety glasses, and a full face-shield, the chips do fly.
                            Obviously, I'm just a hack-artist, you shouldn't be listening to anything I say .....


                            • #15
                              Prolly not a good idea for 3/16 AL, but when we built our house when I was little, they would cut aluminum trim with a fine tooth blade installed backwards, doesnt leave as rough an edge