Tips for Cutting Aluminum
Cutting Alclad by Chris Ruble (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There was a discussion on cutting Alclad without getting distortion
on the edges a while back. I would like to share my technique.
In the past, I have cut sheets with hand shears, starting about
3/8" from the line and sneeking up (narrow strips) on the last
part followed by alot of careful file work. This works well but
is time consuming.
After deciding to install single piece top skins I ordered .032
Alclad from...well I forget the name of the company...you know,
the add has the lady standing in a roll of Alclad. Anyway...they
ship the stuff in the full 48" width any length you want. I ordered
two 9' sections and planed on having them sheared locally. After
the local sheetmetal shops did a lot of grumbling and made alot
of excuses about the tolerances and my desire to not have the
material scratched I decided to make the cuts myself. I was not
looking forward to making 18' of cut on $170.00 + of material
with the handshear method.
After pondering several alternate methods I had and idea...how
about a router ( no not the kind that Cisco makes ) a wood router.
I grabbed a scrap of Alclad and clamped a straight edge to it,
installed 1/8" HSS router bit and... WOW!!! The router cuts through
.032 like butter and makes an edge that needs only light (very
light) fileing to clean up. This works so good, and is so easy
I don't know why it isn't common practice. I found that the best
edge is produced if you keep the router moving quickly (your mileage
my differ). Try this...you'll love the results! I think that this
method could be used to cut the hinge notches in the control surfaces
if a larger bit were used. I have not calculated the surface speed
of the bit yet but I would guess that a 1/4" bit will start pushing
the envelope. Perhaps a carbide bit would be needed. Also the
.016 material may need to be solidly clamped. I mentioned the
method to my father, who is a retired aircraft engineer, and he
tells me that the window holes in the L-1011 were cut with a router
in 3/8" skins! If this method is good enough for Lockheed, it's
good enough for me.
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