View Full Version : Cutting aluminum with chopsaw?

05-06-2004, 08:34 AM
I just bought a Sears 10" compound miter saw on the cheap (it's the type intended for wood use) and was curious if a fine-tooth carbide blade would allow me to cut 1/2" to 1" aluminum plate occasionally with it. If so, should I spray water or oil on the cut as a coolant? Any snags to look out for in doing this?


Forrest Addy
05-06-2004, 09:36 AM
Clamp both the work and the drop securely to the table and the fence before you cut.

Be careful on the start and the break-through; the exit part of the saw has an upward component that make try to snatch control away from you.

Use a blade rated for non ferrous metal cutting preferable with an ATB grind and a neutral or negative rake. An aggressive woodcutting blade might take you on a wild ride.

A little WD 40 whiffed on the blade will greatly help the cut. Don't try to saw and spray single-handed. Recruit a helper.

Hot chips will fly everywhere. Use a faceshield, long sleeves, and light gloves regardles of the weather. Saw aluminum in a tank top and shorts may redult in about 500 little second degree burns.

Thin walled stuff is particularly tricky.

Count your finger before and after. If you come up with the same number both times count your blessings.

05-06-2004, 09:48 AM
Thanks! My Dad always told me to listen closely to the voice of experience. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif I had gray hair and unfortunately he was gone before I truly learned to heed that advice. I have numerous scars from earlier "events" but still have all my digits. (Knock on wood!)

Would an abrasive cut-off wheel be better/safer? Come to think about it, they're cheaper and would cut mild steel as well.

05-06-2004, 10:24 AM
I use a cheap Delta 8" miter saw with a grinding disc for cutting thin walled steel tubing. It makes a lot of sparks and a heck of a noise. I use glasses, gloves and ear plugs. Not sure you want to "grind" through aluminum, the dust can be a flash burn hazard.

Weston Bye
05-06-2004, 11:04 AM
I use an old table saw with a carbide-tipped blade for wood. The workpiece is clamped ridgidly to the table and the blade is slowly raised up through the workpiece with the blade height adjustment. The adjustment works with a handwheel and leadscrew so I have positive control - no jumping or grabbing. I also follow ALL the advice that Forest has given above.

05-06-2004, 11:11 AM
Hearing protection. "Loud" doesn't begin to describe it....

05-06-2004, 12:29 PM
Though I have never used a chop saw for it, I routinely cut up to 1/2" aluminum plate and extrusions up to 1 1/2"x3" on a table saw without any problems. I use a 10" 80 tooth TC&F blade and a feed rate that does not overload the saw. I use "cut-ease" a wax-like stick lubricant before every cut on the saw blade before I begin cutting. Check the HP/RPM rating on the saw, the table saw that I use has a 3 HP 3475 RPM motor, so it has some a** to it. The lesser the HP the slower you will have to feed the saw to avoid over-loading. I think an abrasive cut-off wheel will leave you with less than desireable results, particularly with thicker, wider material. The wheel will load up and create tremendous amounts of heat, thus annealing the material at the cut area. The wheel will soften and displace the material, through heat generation, as opposed to cutting it. As mentioned, follow Forrest's safety suggestions, particularly the clamping part, after all, using a chop saw you can only hold one piece (drop or work) at a time.

[This message has been edited by ERBenoit (edited 05-06-2004).]

05-06-2004, 01:07 PM
Abrasive chop saws are great for cutting metal of all kinds. Separate blades are made for ferrous and non-ferrous metal, there are about $5 to $8 each although you can use one for cutting the other if only used occasionally. They cut thick walled, thin walled, hardened or soft material of any shape. The only drawbacks are that they are noisy, messy and require a 15 amp plug in all to themselves. They do have the price advantage over conventional cut off bandsaws in that you can’t chip or break teeth and the blades are cheaper than bandsaw blades. I have one that I use to cut anything I need to, but preferably outside with ear defenders on.


05-06-2004, 02:29 PM
While on the subject of noise, has anyone tried noise-cancelling headphones? Saw them demonstrated awhile back on "This Old House" and keep thinking that my hearing is worth the expense. Anyone have experience with this?

05-06-2004, 03:34 PM
Sears sells a blade for use in a table saw that is designed for cutting aluminum - - or at least they used to. I have used one in my table saw many times with good results - - but it does throw chips (hot chips). Safety glasses,face shield and long sleeves are a good idea.

I would expect that this blade would be good for a chop saw also.


05-06-2004, 04:25 PM
Thanks very much everyone for all your input! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif H/F has a 60T carbide blade for $10 that I think I'll try....very carefully!

05-06-2004, 04:49 PM
I think it would be a very good idea to use a blade designated for aluminum. They have a negative hook angle.

05-06-2004, 08:55 PM
I worked for a company that used to cut 1 inch Alum. tube all day long. We had 3 saws all runnig 10 inch ,80 tooth tripple chip carbide blades. we also used a special wax stick. Works great.

05-07-2004, 12:27 AM
I've cut 1/8" Al diamond plate w/ my model 77
skil saw; really, really loud even through my
hearing protectors. Wear serious face shield -
chips everywhere at high speed. Worked like a charm, used normal wood carbide blade w/o
problems or damage to me, saw or work.

While I worked at FMC, workers at the nearby
Ordanance division used air-powered circular
"saws" with 1/2" wide carbide milling cutters
to hog out welds in the aluminum Bradly
turrets that failed x-ray inspection... my
boss at the time told me that was the most
dangerous job building the Bradly.

- Bart

had failed

- Bart

05-07-2004, 10:12 PM
Sissys! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif I cut 2" plate with my wornout bought at Wal-mart Skilsaw,cheap carbide blade and a shot of WD before every cut,just take notice to backoff and let the saw rest when you begin to smell laquer burning http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

Chopsaw?Sure,I use a 10" Delta compound to cut aluminum angle all the time,I can miter 3x3x1/2" no sweat,all I do it clamp the long side with a pair of Visegrip tongs.

05-08-2004, 08:23 PM
Here's a picture of a little aluminum flat washer I've been wittling on http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif


05-08-2004, 08:36 PM
What's that little bobble with the black hair wrapped on it that the washer is leaning against? http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif

05-08-2004, 08:57 PM
Lincoln crackerbox welder and a OX cylinder,ya,I know crappy machine,but its what I got at home at the moment.

05-08-2004, 09:27 PM
Weirdscience has it right. Wood working carbide cutting tools work just fine on aluminum. I cut 2" and 3" thick aluminum routinely on a 10" Unisaw. Wear earplugs and safery glasses. No lube of any kind is needed when sawing. Doesn't do any good and does make a mess.

05-09-2004, 12:32 AM
weird, About you little cracker box welder. I have one in my shop I bought 30 years ago and it still has it's place along side my mig, tig and oxy rig. Got it out just last week to weld a rusty disk stand, it will weld though the messey stuff where the others won't. So don't sell your old welder to short, I plan on keeping mine.

Paul Alciatore
05-09-2004, 02:19 AM
I've cut aluminum with wood saws. All the previous cautions please. The main problem is the speed of a saw designed for wood.

The best tool for the job is the metal cutting band saw. A 4x6 import saw can be had for under $200 and it will cut in two modes: horizontal cutoff and vertical table. In the cutoff mode the 4x6 describes the capacity. And it really will cut a solid that big. Might take a little while but it will. In the vertical mode with the table attached, it will make a cut either 6" deep into a piece or longer cuts up to 6" from the left edge. For the money, you can't beat it. It's the most used tool in my shop --- well perhaps tied with the drill press. The reason it works better is the speed of the blade is much slower. This provides far better control and safety and longer blade life.

Bigger, better units are available for $500 and up.

Paul A.

Mike W
05-09-2004, 04:42 AM
Same here. The 4x6 is in a dead heat with the drill press. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif