Aluminum – It Cuts Like Butta!

I’m working on a contemporary project that uses aluminum angle as its legs. I decided to taper the legs, along with another embellishment. The metal then has to be smoothed with files and sanded for a cleaner look and better feel.

Because I’m using multipurpose 6061 aluminum, I knew cutting it would be more easy than difficult. But what would be the best method to make the cuts? My first thought was to purchase a metal-cutting blade for my jigsaw. Nope! That would be way too slow, and the wavy-ass lines would mean more work further down the road. Thought #2 was to use my table saw with a metal-cutting blade. Dropping north of $40 on a blade I may use only once was not appealing whatsoever.

I can tell you that I wasn’t about to whack through metal using my regular table saw blade. Sure, I know it would do the job, but at what cost? While I was at my local Big-box store, I grabbed an inexpensive 7-1/4″-diameter, 60 tooth carbide blade. With that chucked into my table saw, I made a test cut through the aluminum – it cut like butta! OK. Maybe not like with a hot knife, but I know I’ve cut hardwoods with more blade resistance. A piece of waterfall bubinga and ebony come to mind.

What You Need to Know

To make the true cuts on my legs, I set up a tapering jig just as I would if I were cutting tiger maple. Everything worked great. But I can make a couple of recommendations. First, use eye protection. I’m not a safety police kind of guy (that’s for sure), but I’m not fooling around with small bits of metal being flung back at me. And a gloved hand makes sense, too. OK, I’m not going to get into wearing gloves at a table saw – did that, already. If you look at the photo, I have a glove on my lead hand, which is the hand that takes the peppering as the cut is made. When I get toward the end of the cut, I pull the glove hand away and steer the remaining cut with my bare hand – a small amount of peppering is what you have to absorb to work with material other than wood. Suck it up, sissy boy.

— Glen D. Huey

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2 thoughts on “Aluminum – It Cuts Like Butta!

  1. Having done this myself, I would also recommend one additional precaution:
    Clean out the saw cabinet of as much sawdust as you can before cutting metal. Hot chips and sawdust are a great way to turn your Unisaw into a Weber grill.

    1. Great point, Phil. I found that sanding the metal while smoothing the surface brings about much more heat, but caution first is the best motto in a wood shop.

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