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Unread 10-01-2008, 11:15 AM
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Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

I'm sure this has been asked before, but I did search and didn't come up with anything yet.

Anyways, I have some sheets of aluminum diamond plate (slightly used) that I need to cut that are about 1/4' thick.

Some of my cuts will be just to trim some off of the sides the whole way down the ~4x8 sheet, but other cuts will be angled so the piece looks like a rather large triangle shape.

I can lay out a wooden jig to follow (instead of just a line with a sharpie drawn on it for a bit more accuracy) but my question is, what kind of tool & blade do I need?

I want to buy a circular saw anyways, but if I used that what kind of blade would I need?

We've cut metal before on a table saw for the team but I don't have access to that until build season, & I want to get this project finished over the fall/winter time.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Unread 10-01-2008, 11:39 AM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

I would not try to use a handheld circular saw to cut metal.

A sawzall (reciprocating saw) will work if you guide it well. A sabre saw or jig saw will take a long time to cut it, but will work if you're patient.

Here is a pdf file with info on selecting blades, you'd probably want a 14 tooth, wide, short, metal cutting blade.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 11:40 AM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

whenever I cut aluminum with a circular saw or mitre saw I just go buy the absolute highest tooth count blade I can find and use that....they wear down quickly, but normally they are $20 or less so I usually get my moneys worth....if you want you can get blades that are carbide or diamond tipped which should last you longer, they are more expensive than what I am used to spending, but I am normally cutting 1/8" or 1/16" box tubing

fyi be careful when using one of these circular blades for this purpose....personally if it was me and I knew this was 1/4" I would think of something besides a circular saw to use

good luck, don't hurt yourself plz

Last edited by Stephen Kowski : 10-01-2008 at 11:43 AM.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 12:38 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

Not that you'd consider doing this, but I'd just like to remind people that cutting a half inch block of aluminum with a band saw meant for wood is a bad idea. The molten plastic that accumulates on the block is concentrated lose.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 12:46 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

A plasma cutter would be your safest and quickest way to do it. Maybe there's a weld shop in your area?
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Unread 10-01-2008, 12:57 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

What would be the best air tool to cut something like this?
I have a compressor setup, & I didn't even think of that before.

This is my first venture into cutting metal. I have more experience with wood, but as my projects get a little more complex, I may need to invest in some more metal cutting & forming tools anyways.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 01:03 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

I can't think of a good air powered tool for that, offhand....mostly they work for metals less than 1/8" thick.

Please do look around to see if you can find someone with a plasma cutter, I forgot to mention that....I have at least 3 friends who have them.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 01:08 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

Plasma cutter =P It is a hand held tool.

But cutting a strait line with a hand tool will be hard, but a sawzall would be ok.

But Plasma would be the best way, quick and easy.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 01:51 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

I've cut (and even plunge cut) 1/4" aluminum plate with a circular saw with a carbide tipped wood blade. While it worked quite well, it was VERY loud, and pretty dangerous. The carbide tips can fly off and pierce safetly glasses even. I wouldn't recommend this.

With any type of saw, you must have the worked secured, go very slowly, and wear ear muffs and a full face mask. They make circular saw blades specifically for cutting non-ferrous metals. Check McMaster.

I'll throw in another vote for the plasma cutter.
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Last edited by sanddrag : 10-01-2008 at 08:24 PM.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 02:48 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

There are circular saws that can do this. I've cut 6061 plate in excess of 1" thick with one.

BUT....

1) It was at work and the circular saw was the biggest monster i've ever seen. It was very heavy too.

2) Since I got it from the tool crib, it was already set up with a blade and I have no idea what we used.

3) It was loud enough that regular ear protection was insufficient. We used earmufs over ear plugs and that was marginal.

4) It seemed to take forever. The cutting speed was quite slow

A 1/4" sheet won't be as bad but still ... I'd be looking for a really big shear. A local metal supply place might have one that can do the job. They will probably charge a cutting fee but it will be cheaper than a saw.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 04:47 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

I have never used one but I have been curious about these: http://www.metaldevil.com/ which claim to be a special type of circular saw blade made to do just exactly what you are asking about. If you get one and it works let us all know. It seems like a pretty hand thing for a FIRST team.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 04:56 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elgin Clock View Post
What would be the best air tool to cut something like this?
I have a compressor setup, & I didn't even think of that before.

This is my first venture into cutting metal. I have more experience with wood, but as my projects get a little more complex, I may need to invest in some more metal cutting & forming tools anyways.
There's no air tool that's going to do the job. Maybe an air hacksaw, but a sawzall is way more efficient. My guess is you don't have a compressor that could keep up with continuous use of any reasonably sized air tool.

Find a company with a big shear and see if they'd do it for you.
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Unread 10-01-2008, 05:16 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

Theoretically an air grinder with a 3" wheel might work, but I would not want to do it -slow and dangerous.

A circular saw with a toothed blade is a bad idea. Use a metal-cutting "grinding wheel" type blade (I think they are called cut-off blades) for aluminum if necessary - again, this can get dangerous.

A sawzall is a good choice overall. slow, but relatively safe and efficient.

A professional would use a big shear for 1/4", but that's not exactly handheld. A Plasma cutter is a good second choice, or if curves are involved. Hard to cut straight, butwith guides and careful work it's not too bad.

For small pieces, a hacksaw is probably best.

Don
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Unread 10-01-2008, 05:21 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

We've cut large sheets of lexan and aluminum with a jig saw and a fence and it has worked very well. Tips:

1) Clamp the fence and workpiece to a table as close as possible to the edge.
2) If possible, add a second table to support the piece being cut off and clamp a fence to that also that that your jigsaw rides between two rails that keep it straight and true.
3) If your jigsaw has an orbital mode, use that (blade moves in circular forward/back path instead of only straight up and down)
4) If your jigsaw has a knob on the top that allows you to turn it for curves and it can be locked down, do so.
5) Use a metal cutting blade. If you notice your noise going up after a while and your chips and forward progress decreasing, toss it out and put in a fresh one.
6) Move at the best speed that gives you nice sized chips and doesn't stall the motor. Too slow is as bad as too fast. Experiment.
7) Use a shop-vac held by an assistant to suck up the chips and give you a clear view of your cut-line and progress.
8) Keep downward pressure on the jigsaw. You don't want it "chattering" and bouncing upward as the blade completes its downstroke.

That's all that comes to mind. Good luck!
John
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Unread 10-01-2008, 07:18 PM
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Re: Best hand tool to use to cut sheet metal (aluminum diamond plate)?

There are hand-held circular saws designed for metal cutting. They operate at lower speed than wood saws. They are used with metal cutting blades, which are different for ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

You might get away with a conventional circular saw equipped with a metal cutting blade. I would strongly recommend that you DO NOT use a carbide-tipped blade designed for wood. The carbide is brittle and the relief angles used for wood cutting result in a weaker tooth tip.

It is imperative to guide your cuts and not wiggle of jam the blade. I have a pair of goggles around here where a carbide tooth let loose and poked a hole in them. That was on a miter saw with a metal cutting blade. Do be careful.
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