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Routers on aluminum

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  • Routers on aluminum

    I see lots of people are using regular high speed wood routers and trim routers on their homemade cnc machines. This obviously works well for wood.

    I was wondering if anyone here uses them on plastics and aluminum, and how they handle the heat issues. Many plastics melt instantly without coolant, and aluminum will also heat, bind, or weld a bit instantly. I used coolant once on a router job, and days later it wasted the router since the water managed to rust the bearings and armature.

  • #2
    I do remember that Fine Wood Working had an article on cutting aluminum with wood working tools maybe ten years or so ago. If your local library has FW in its periodical section they may have the back issue or a micro film of it. The general line of the article was it can be done but there are certain problems to watch out for IIRC
    Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.


    • #3
      On occassion I will use a router to quarter round edges on large pieces of aluminum. I use carbide tipped, ball bearing piloted bits. I also apply cutting lubricant in the form of Cut-Ease or Tap Ease along the edge I am working. This keeps galling to a minimum. You can use with a bit of wax (i.e. candle) in lieu of the named products. Keep the router moving and hold onto it, you shouldn't have any major problems.

      I have also used a router with a 1/4" carbide straight bit to cut sections/parts of PVC from large sheets without coolant, and without problems. Again, you have to keep the router moving.
      Paying Attention Is Not That Expensive.


      • #4
        I can't speak for plastic, but I've routed quite a bit of Alum. prep with WD40 or eqiv. and take little bites. Wear gloves and eye protection. Chips come off hot and at high velocity.


        • #5
          I have routed aluminum very successfully and acurately without problems.I cut out a complete router table top including the hole in the centre worked out very well with a carbide cutter.The material was 6mm or 1/4" nominal measurements of course .I had no complaints use jigs or fences for this and take your time it works out extremelly well.Alistair
          Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


          • #6
            Hello Folks,

            My first post here, I've lurked for awhile. I enjoy the wealth of info here and can finally chime in.

            I have also used my router and carbide bits to cut aluminum. I've also used router bits in the Bridgeport with great success.

            I cut all my aluminum plate, bar, angle and pipe with my skilsaw and a carbide tipped wood blade. I've ripped one inch plate with the skilsaw like butter.

            I second the long sleeves and safety glasses. hot chips come at ya quick and plentiful.



            • #7
              I've done it too, a few times, with no problems.

              As the others have mentioned, definitely wear eye protection. A little particle of wood dust in the eye is a pain. The same size piece of aluminum is sharp edged, and can do some major damage.


              • #8
                Using routers to cut aluminum sheet metal is standard industrial practice. This is common in the aircraft industry especially. It makes a big difference what alloy is cut. Alloys such as 2024 T-3 aircraft alloy cut without burrs or trace of "gumminess". Routers are used to cut things such as window openings and many other similar jobs.
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                • #9
                  I'm not sure it's accurate but I heard long ago--in the pattern shop tht was part of my family's part-owned iron works--that one could use a machine wood working cutting tool on aluminum. They did there, saws.

                  Very likely this is not fully accurate, but saws and routers work well.


                  • #10
                    Routers and Aluminum

                    I have had a bit of experience and I strongly suggest CONTROL, CONTROL! It cost me $42.00 to learn that you have to feed a 12" chop saw SLOWLY, (and that was a bargain!) After that lesson, I have cut 1 1/2" thick cast on a 10" table saw successfully, as well as the chop saw. Routing is no problem as long as the feed is steady. I personally think that the chip-limitation bits ar safest, as they have a lot more steel supporting the carbide. That's my two cents.
                    Duffy, Gatineau, Quebec


                    • #11
                      I used to route pin guide mounts for foundy moulding match plates. Its not tough, just hang on tight and dont be a *****.


                      • #12
                        Hi spindoctor,
                        your flying car seems to be here...


                        • #13
                          Moller has been trying to get that thing off the ground since I was a kid. Not yet.

                          Last edited by Evan; 09-07-2007, 11:21 AM.
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                          • #14
                            Locksmiths and door men use routers to install locks on aluminum storefront doors all the time.
                            My advice:
                            1) use a carbide bit and lubricate it well with a stick type grease.
                            2) If you use a template jig that clamps on the piece, make a pencil line off the top and keep your eye on it-Jigs have a tendency to slip.
                            3)Go really easy with pressure on your template guide(or the bushing around the router bit). If it breaks while you're cutting, you'll mess up the work and the template.
                            4)Keep checking to make sure the bit is tight. It kind of sucks to have it fall into a door if you're doing that.