View Full Version : Woodworker Needs Help With Metalworking!

Tenderfoot Bob
07-30-2006, 11:11 AM
I am an experience woodworking hobbyist, who is trying to make a golf putter head out of aluminum stock.

When I try to use my grinding wheel (aluminum oxide) to shape the aluminum stock it loads up quickly and I stop. I've heard of exploding wheels.

When I use my woodworking drill press (14") to drill 1/8" holes one inch deep, the drill bit snaps off and the part that is lodged in the aluminum cannot be pulled out. I have lost three drill bits despite frequently withdrawing the drill bit to make sure the flutes do not get loaded up with aluminum or get overheated. Should I be using a lubricant? At what speed should I set my drill press? Mine has speeds ranging from 350 to 3500 rpm.

For what I thought would be an interesting project has become a very frustrating one. Any help would be appreciated.

Tenderfoot Bob

07-30-2006, 11:21 AM
You Dont Use Aluminum, Copper, or Brass on a Grinding wheel, thay melt into "load up" the wheel.

07-30-2006, 12:11 PM
Use a belt sander to do your shaping,belts don't load up like grinding wheels.

Drill speed,2,500-3,000 rpm,WD-40 for lubricant with a light feed pressure.Wear safty glasses.

Use "peck" drilling,apply a little pressure until you see curls come out of the drill flutes about 2" long,ease up on the feed so the curls fly off then feed it again adding WD-40 every other time.

Hope that helps.

07-30-2006, 12:19 PM
You can grind aluminum with a "flap wheel". There is also an "Aluminum Oxide for Aluminum— Bonded without any wax or rubber filler, these discs resist loading and are ideal for grinding aluminum and other soft metals." See the bottom of page 2519 of McMaster-Carr: http://www.mcmaster.com/

I've used a disc grinder with a wheel made for aluminum. It has layers of abrasive cloth bonded together. It's mildly aggressive if you apply a lot of pressure, but gives a good finish with a light touch.


07-30-2006, 01:35 PM
It also depends on what aluminum alloy you're using. Some alloys (1100 for instance) are soft and "gummy" and don't machine well at all. Others like Kennametal's "Microchip" alloy are designed for machining. 6061, perhaps the most common general-purpose alloy, isn't too bad to machine with lubricant.

07-30-2006, 09:48 PM
I have heard that you can grind Alu with a grinding wheel if you wax the wheel first with a candle first. (I have never tried it.) Gary P. Hansen

07-31-2006, 12:56 AM
I have tried it and it works to a degree. Better to have the wheel loaded with wax than with metal. It does get hot and tend to spin off though.

07-31-2006, 11:30 AM
I keep a chunk of bees wax next to the band saw just for aluminum. Load up the teeth with bees wax and the saw will cut a little faster without loading as much. Works on the grinding wheel too but then you have a wheel with wax all over it next time you use it.

Never tried candle wax. Seems like it would be a little lighter and melt out at a much lower temperature. YMMV

07-31-2006, 01:38 PM
As for the drilling, make sure you are using a quality bit. I was trying to use some bits from Woodworkers Warehouse to drill some steel brackets, and they kept breaking. I bought some machine shop drill bits, for less money, from the Links page of this web site. Under "advertisers" there is a company called Kodiak that sells industrial bits that eat through steel.

john hobdeclipe
08-04-2006, 11:18 PM
This is what NORTON has to say about it.


On the other hand, I just tried it with a silicon carbide wheel, and it loaded right up. But maybe the wheel is too fine?

Here is some more info I just found on the NORTON website. so I seem to have tried this using the wrong silicon carbide wheel.


08-06-2006, 12:10 AM
You may hate this or you may love this idea that just occured to me. For some odd reason, your problem made me think of high school shop class making a small aluminum vice base. But here is where it goes off on a tangent, we made the base from cast aluminum. If you do that then you can make your putter head pattern out of wood (or even handcarved from a soap bar or wax block). I don't care for milling, drilling, or doing much any machine operation on aluminum. I prefer steel or plastics (acetal or nylon). I've ruined 3 taps threading aluminum holes and clogged up a ball endmill several times in a single day. That really sucks.

J Tiers
08-06-2006, 12:22 AM
As noted, many aluminum alloys are grabby.

Others tend to load up the drill quickly, and that is MUCH worse with a deep hole. That is a deep hole, 8 diameters, and many alloys will tend to "sieze" teh bit.

Almost any oil is better than none, light stuff like WD will help chips get out as well as anything else, and cut the friction that may aggravate siezing.

I might suggest SLOWER drill speed, as I seem to have less trouble at slower speeds.... sometimes faster speeds gum up worse, especially dry.