Most table saws were originally designed to cut wood but that doesn’t mean that you can’t put them to use with some other tasks as well. If the saw you are using has enough power and the right blade, you can often accomplish more than just cutting wood.
In fact, a material like aluminum is actually probably easier to cut than some types of wood out there. Aluminum is a softer type of metal so you can rip and cut aluminum fairly easily as long as your table saw is set up to handle the task.
In this guide, we will talk about how to properly cut aluminum on your table saw.
Can My Table Saw Cut More than Wood?
While wood is the main purpose for most table saws, they actually can do a lot more than just cut wood. If you need to cut something like PVC, Plexiglas, cardboard, Styrofoam, and even some metals, your table saw is very capable.
Some table saws will have limitations, depending on the power that they have. These limitations are more likely to be noticed on harder materials. This includes hardwoods, hard metals, tile, and other similar harder objects that require more power and more care to cut properly.
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You just have to make sure that your saw is set up for the task. For some uses, you might need to change to a more appropriate blade but in some of these materials, you can actually just use your regular blade and don’t have to worry about it.
It depends on what you are doing so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the capability of the saw you are using as well as the blade.
Which Type of Aluminum?
In case you were not aware, there is more than one type of aluminum. This is something you should know before you just start cutting away as well. On your table saw, you are going to have the best success with aluminum plate metal.
Your saw can probably cut aluminum sheet metal but you will have to exercise extreme caution in doing so. Aluminum sheet metal is very thin and flimsy. A saw blade could easily rip right through that and do some damage. Not only that, but it poses a safety risk. Since it is thin and flimsy, your saw could easily kick it back or even fling the metal somewhere at a high speed.
In the case of very thin aluminum, you might be better off using some simple shears to make your cut. We recommend not cutting anything less than 7-gauge aluminum on the table saw. Even 7-gauge and 8-gauge pieces require extreme caution for safety purposes.
The thicker the aluminum here, the better the table saw is equipped to handle it in this case. As we mentioned, never try anything less than 7-gauge, and ideally, it’s better to use a minimum of 9-gauge and above.
Now, on the other side of that coin, you also want to be aware of cutting thick aluminum. This just has to do with the ability of your saw. If it has plenty of power, there won’t be a problem but definitely check the power capabilities to be sure.
If you’ve tried the saw on thick wood or hardwood, how it did with those will be a good indication of what to expect with thick aluminum as well.
Cutting aluminum on the table saw requires taking action for your safety first. Aluminum is a form of metal and it’s quite easy for metal shards to fly. There will definitely be debris that comes loose from the aluminum during the process.
The same thing happens when you cut wood right? You get shards and plenty of dust. You should expect that something similar is going to happen with aluminum but this will be metal.
You certainly don’t want to get metal in your eyes or under your clothing so it’s a good idea to be fully-prepare with safety accessories before you get started. Plan on wearing these things.
- Safety goggles
- Leather gloves
- Leather apron (optional)
- Protective ear plugs
- A push stick or tool of some sort
- Some sort of deburring tool
While aluminum can emit toxic air, OSHA does not require the use of a respirator unless you are heating or welding aluminum. You can skip the respirator but feel free to wear a mask if you are concerned about breathing in the dust remnants.
Choosing a Blade
The blade that you use needs to be an appropriate blade for the thickness of your sheet metal. The thicker the aluminum, the fewer TPI that your blade should have.
Anything over 1/4-inch thick needs a saw blade with 6 TPI. Under 1/8 of an inch is 10 TPI and then in between those, you need 8 TPI. You also just need to double check that the blade you are using will work for aluminum materials. Change out the blade if necessary.
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The Process for Cutting Aluminum with a Table Saw
Alright, let’s check out the official process to cut aluminum on the table saw. By now, you should be prepped and ready to go with the proper blade and the proper safety equipment. You should have a good idea of what aluminum is ok to cut and what is acceptable on your saw specifically.
Follow these steps to help you cut aluminum on the table saw.
- Unplug the table saw while you prep it. Make sure you have the right blade in place and change it out if needed. Remember the TPI rule we shared and just make sure the blade is suitable for cutting aluminum. It’s best to use a blade for non-ferrous metals.
- If you have paraffin wax or beeswax on hand, you can lubricate your blade slightly to give you a smoother cut overall.
- Your speed needs to be slowed down for cutting aluminum. If you are able, slow the speed down to between 750 and 1500.
- Prepare the aluminum with any necessary measurements and markings.
- Prepare yourself with all of the proper safety gear, particularly safety glasses and gloves.
- Plug the saw in and power it up.
- As you start pushing the metal towards the blade, we recommend using a push stick. You need to be very careful to stay away from the kickback area, just like you would with wood.
- Move the aluminum very slowly and allow it to make a smooth but slow cut.
- When the cut is finished, power down the saw.
To follow up, you may need to use your de-burring tool to smooth out any rough edges. Steel wool or similar material might also help with this process.
Chances are that your table saw is far more capable than you really think it is. Go ahead and put it to the test with aluminum. You can use the various tips and recommendations here to make sure you go through the cutting process right.
Don’t forget the various safety parts of this task and always make sure you are not using really thin, flimsy aluminum. Now get to work!