The simple answer – Yes, you can cut aluminum with a scroll saw.
Being that there are a variety of tools out there available to cut aluminum, a scroll saw being one of these, it is not ideal for cutting thicker pieces of aluminum. But works nicely on thinner sheets of aluminum.
Scroll saws are designed not only for woodworking but metals too. Some of these include aluminum, cold-rolled steel, copper, bronze, and brass. Any soft metal up to 1/8 of an inch thick. However, anything thicker and you may require a different saw.
What blade is best for cutting Aluminum on a scroll saw?
It is essential to any job done right that you use the correct tools. When it comes to cutting metal, using the right blade is imperative. Having the incorrect blade installed into your scroll saw will not only make cutting your metals impossible but more importantly, will damage your blade and essentially wasting your hard-earned dollars.
Aluminum is a sturdy metal, but with the right speed, you can easily cut through it on your scroll saw.
The best blade to use on your scroll saw is a skip tooth scroll saw blade or a Jeweler’s blade. To better understand what a skip tooth saw blade is, think of a standard tooth blade. With a standard blade, the teeth are the same size and distance apart.
A skip tooth blade is very much like a standard blade but that it is missing every second tooth. Creating these larger gaps between the teeth allows the blade to stay cooler. Which is important when working with metals.
What other Blades can I use for cutting Aluminum?
Aside from the skip tooth scroll saw blade, there are two other common and recommend blades for cutting metals. These are:-
Standard: Standard blades regularly have spaces teeth and are used for cutting soft & hardwoods, particleboard, plastic, MDF, and aluminum.
Metal cutting: The metal cutting blade has additional teeth per inch and is capable of cutting harder metals like aluminum.
Jeweler’s Blade – Just as it says in the name, these blades are designed for cutting metal. They are similar to your Skip Tooth setup, but they are made with a specially hardened metal which prevents less wear and provides an overall better result
Speeding Settings for Cutting Metal
When cutting any metal on the scroll saw, patience is key. Because patience is key when scroll sawing, it is worthwhile setting up your working bench so that you can sit while scroll sawing, instead of standing.
Being comfortable during tedious work can make the experience a whole lot easier. Back to speed, metal is far less forgiving than wood when it comes to scroll sawing. But it is possible, as long as you have a light touch and are not rushing to finish the job.
When it comes to cutting metal, slow and steady wins the race. Why you might ask? The simple answer to this is because the faster the speed, the hotter the material becomes. So while working at a slow speed may take you an extra 10 minutes, but you will avoid your metal from generating too much heat which can damage your metal.
The thing to keep in mind is that most metal cutting blades are thin. So, expect to have to change blades fairly often. Even experts have this issue.
Do I have To Lubricant my Metals?
This all depends on the type of metal you are dealing with as well as the blade you are using. Softer metals, such as gold copper, and brass are easily cut without the need for an oil or lubricant.
However, harder metals such as aluminum will cut a lot easier with a lubricant. Remember, the purpose of a lubricant is to reduce friction between your blade and desired metal, as well as reducing heat generation.
When it comes to choosing the right lubricant, it all depends on the metal you are working with. It pays to visit your local hardware to have a look around and enquire. However, for harder metals, WD40 is a good choice.
Limitations When Cutting Metal with a Scroll Saw
A scroll saw is mainly used for cutting wood and very thin metals. If however, you intend on cutting a thicker sheet of metal, you will need to ensure that your blade is lubricated correctly to avoid breaking your blade and burn cuts.
If not, you will be an unnecessarily dangerous environment for yourself. Scroll saws are designed to create intricate patterns which is why they are chosen for fine work, but because of this ability, they are also delicate machines. It is better to avoid cutting thicker metals altogether when it comes to scrolling saws.
Instructions on pattern cutting with aluminum on a scroll saw
Let’s say you have a printout pattern or even a freehand pattern you want to cut your aluminum into. A nice but not absolutely necessary tip is to apply 1/8-inch plywood to either side of your aluminum. This will help prevent your aluminum from splintering and stop those metal shavings from flying around all over the place.
If you are following a pattern, turn your pattern over so that the image is facing downwards and begin spraying your chosen adhesive to the surface generously. Once the adhesive is applied, you can stick your pattern onto one side of the plywood. From here, you can begin sandwiching your aluminum between the plywood.
Once you have your plywood together, it is best to use some clear box tape and begin taping around the plywood. This will ensure there is no movement and sliding when you are cutting.
Now it is time to cut. Once you are at your scroll saw table, it is time to decide which blade you are going to want to use. As discussed above, it is best to use a Skip Tooth Scroll saw blade, as these blades are specifically designed for cutting metal.
Depending on your project, you may or may not need to make interior cuts. If you are not needing to make an interior cut, begin creating your entry hole (one exterior cut).
Turn on your scroll saw and slow down the speed considerably. This is important as skip tooth scroll saw blades are very fine and can break easily.
You can now begin cutting your pattern out. Because your aluminum is secured between two pieces of plywood, you should have no metal shavings splashing out.
Safety when Sawing Metals
- It is always important to wear a pair of safety glasses to help protect your eyes from debris that may fly out from your sawing process.
- Clamping your materials down will also provide you have greater control.
- Check your area before sawing. You want to make sure there is nothing hanging around your sewing space that should not be there.
- Do a quick double-check of your scroll saw and blades to make sure everything is in the right order. Ensure you have the correct blades installed and any supporting tools you may need.
- Avoid distractions. Try not to take calls when scroll sawing. Minor distractions can end up in a disaster.
- Use the correct lubricant if applicable.
- Metal is a lot louder to cut than working with wood, so earmuffs or plugs are a must.