Cutting Aluminium sheet with track saw

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

paulrbarnard

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
5 Mar 2017
Messages
2,371
Reaction score
2,768
Location
Shepton Mallet, UK
I need to cut some 3mm aluminium sheet. I’m intending to cut it with my track saw. I’ve got a choice of a Festool general purpose blade or a Festool fine cut blade. I’m thinking the fine cut will be the better option but what about speed? Run the saw flat out or slow it down?

If this is likely to do damage to my TS55? If so I can use my old dewalt cordless and get an aluminium specific blade from Screwfix.

What’s my best option?
 
Some of it depends on the aluminium. I presume you are using 6061 either soft or T6. Soft you will definitely want a lubricant the harder T6 you might getaway without but better with. There are cutting waxes designed for the job that you rub on the blade or along the cut line. Eg. Amazon.co.uk

7000 series alloys are harder, some approaching the strength of mild steel. If using them be careful as a jam can break off teeth. I watched a know it all manager, showing his metal finishers how to cut the machining tabs of wing parts jam a table saw wood cutting blade they were using. It threw 13 teeth and he took 3 in the shoulder. One of our first aid people drove him to the hospital to have them dug out.

I would use a metal blade and start out with the blade cutting slower. Go faster if you feel the teeth are clearing. The chips may get hot so dress accordingly.

Pete
 
You can manage without but I would recommend the ally / plastic / non wood blade - it doesn't have to be a Festool - Bosch make perfectly good ones painted blue. The tooth form is different and probably zero or negative rake.

I cut a few feet of 15mm and 10mm thick ally just a few weeks ago. No issues with the TS55, no damage either. Turn the speed down to about 3 and keep steady forward pressure on the saw.
You want to make confetti - cut real chips with every tooth pass and don't leave the teeth rubbing on the metal and generating heat. An old Metabo variable speed saw I had for many years listed speeds for various materials and my recollection was about 3 out of 6 on the dial, so I've always just dialled it down and cracked on without issues. At half speed you have reduced power but it doesn't seem to be an issue because most of us are automatically cautious cutting metal and are happy to take it easy.

Do it dry or with a dry wax at the worst and full extraction. The confetti isn't sharp but you want to get it out of the way so that the saw isn't rubbing over lots of it as it slides along the track. On the machine tools, I would use WD40 as a lube for odd aluminium jobs but I really don't want to spray the tracksaw with WD40 and have it all the way up the inside of the hose so do it dry.
 
How about picking up a used evolution saw with the multipurpose blade which are ment for alu and save the festool for best?

You can always flog it on afterwards?
 
Looks like there is more to it than I realised. Lube never occurred to me at all. The aluminium is cheap eBay sheet so not a named grade. I’m expecting soft.
I will grab a metal specific blade, some of the wax lube and run the saw at half speed or their abouts.

Thanks everyone for the input. I’m making the part out of cardboard at the moment to make sure the size is right. I cut that with the fine cut wood blade 😀

For completeness I’m making a mounting plate for an electric fan for the radiator in my Landrover. I’ve had two very expensive Allisport radiators develop pin holes so I’ve given up on them and bought a cheap replacement but it of course doesn’t have the fittings for the electric fan.

I’ll report how it goes but it’s going to be a week or two until I get a workshop slot.
 
Not sure about aluminium but I have used my tracksaw for cutting steel roofing sheets, used an old "universal" blade, maybe 24 tooth.
The trick to getting a good cut was go backwards, pulling the saw. It worked a treat.
Aluminium can be sort of grippy when cutting I would go slow and let the blade really clear all the chips out, do some practice goes.

Ollie
 
Not sure about aluminium but I have used my tracksaw for cutting steel roofing sheets, used an old "universal" blade, maybe 24 tooth.
The trick to getting a good cut was go backwards, pulling the saw. It worked a treat.
Aluminium can be sort of grippy when cutting I would go slow and let the blade really clear all the chips out, do some practice goes.

Ollie
Going backwards really seems wrong in metal. Isn’t that likely to cause the saw to grab and kickback?
 
Going backwards really seems wrong in metal. Isn’t that likely to cause the saw to grab and kickback?
Oddly enough it sort of has the opposite effect. In the thin sheet the upwards cutting saw was sort of bending the edges as it forced its way in creating a messy edge in both sides of the cut.
When the blade is being moved backwards it is much less violent, I think it works so well because its almost more like milling it and clearing the bits out of the way better. The difference is night and day, cutting forwards is a sketchy mess cut backwards nice and smooth.
I used a TS55 on a rail.

I am sure someone smart could explain the physics.

Oh, what about a nibbler, they can be found for about 30 quid and go on a drill, they are very neat but take a minute to get the hang of.

Ollie
 
Paul, I did this recently (building a MFT hinge for a tracksaw). The aluminum used was 6020 extrusion as well as 6mm sheets. I used a bandsaw rather than a track saw or table saw. Aluminium is cut easily with a carbide-tipped blade, but be aware that it will create aluminium shavings and these will fly everywhere! The reason for preferring the bandsaw was that it will cut more slowly and just a little at a time = less heat, less distortion, and more control.

1677373460746.jpeg


Regards from Perth

Derek
 
Oddly enough it sort of has the opposite effect. In the thin sheet the upwards cutting saw was sort of bending the edges as it forced its way in creating a messy edge in both sides of the cut.
When the blade is being moved backwards it is much less violent, I think it works so well because its almost more like milling it and clearing the bits out of the way better. The difference is night and day, cutting forwards is a sketchy mess cut backwards nice and smooth.
I used a TS55 on a rail.

I am sure someone smart could explain the physics.

Oh, what about a nibbler, they can be found for about 30 quid and go on a drill, they are very neat but take a minute to get the hang of.

Ollie
I would certainly be interested in understanding the mechanics of cutting backwards. I will certainly give it a try.

I have a bubbler and will be using it for the cutouts in the plate. I’ve never had much luck going in a straight line with one though.
 
You should have no problems cutting ally but don't use a fine tooth blade use a more course one and when you start the cut don't stop take it through in one move and NO you do not want to cut back wards it will grab and run, spray a little WD40 on the blade first and make sure you have good eye protection as the chips get everywhere.
 
Oddly enough it sort of has the opposite effect. In the thin sheet the upwards cutting saw was sort of bending the edges as it forced its way in creating a messy edge in both sides of the cut.
When the blade is being moved backwards it is much less violent, I think it works so well because its almost more like milling it and clearing the bits out of the way better. The difference is night and day, cutting forwards is a sketchy mess cut backwards nice and smooth.
I used a TS55 on a rail.

I am sure someone smart could explain the physics.

Oh, what about a nibbler, they can be found for about 30 quid and go on a drill, they are very neat but take a minute to get the hang of.

Ollie
The swarfe produced by a nibbler is a right PITA, it embeds in the bottoms of your shoes &, if you've a wood or 'soft' floor, in that as well. How do I know???!!!
'Cos I've been there , done that, but no T shirt available!
 
If it’s only 3mm thick I wouldn’t have an issue whizzing through it with a jig saw and then clean any edges that needed it on an abrasive sheet stuck to a piece of mdf..
 
I would certainly be interested in understanding the mechanics of cutting backwards. I will certainly give it a try.

I have a bubbler and will be using it for the cutouts in the plate. I’ve never had much luck going in a straight line with one though.
Never tried it myself but can certainly see how it would work. Think about a bandsaw the blade cuts down into the work, rather than coming up through it. Same idea really. I would think you would want to set the blade for the deepest cut available so the teeth are travelling as near vertical as possible when meeting the work, that way you should avoid any tendency for it to grab and run up.
 
Maybe daft, but would a hard point handsaw handle this? If so you could cut outside and avoid the swarf problem.
 

Latest posts

Back
Top