Routing Sheet Aluminum

Bartman

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Hi all,

Was talking to a friend yesterday about my new instrument panel project and he convinced me to try routing the cutout for the iPad mount. If it works I'll probably rout the instrument cutouts as well but what's the trick to making it work out without chatter or ruining the bit? I've used routers for making wood wing parts and lots of other stuff but haven't ever tried routing aluminum.

The panel is .050 aluminum, probably 6061-T4 and the bit the I ordered is 1/8".

My questions are;
Should I use a cutting oil? The pattern is 1/2" MDF so if there's going to be cutting fluid I'll have to seal the pattern with epoxy or something else.
Should I cut close to the pattern line first so the router bit will only be trimming the excess or can I plunge into the aluminum and let the bit do all of the work?
Ease it through or try to keep it moving pretty well to keep chips on the larger size?
Medium speed I'm guessing?

Thanks!
 

Joe

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I've used a 1/2" down spiral bit, dry. Biggest trouble I had was supporting the work piece.
 

Bob Turner

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Do it the easy way - get a Dremel and some of those skinny cutoff wheels. And a good pair of eye protectors.

The wheels shatter easily and are not really suited for aluminum, but you will have your rough opening done in ten minutes - less time than to set up for routing. A file, a vise, and two blocks of wood put a finished edge on the hole.

I do "end-milling" in thin aluminum (model train windows) and cutting fluid (the green stuff) is essential. No fluid means the aluminum melts, grabs the expensive cutter, and snaps it.
 

Bartman

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Thanks for the replies.

@Joe did the bit chatter at all? leave a smooth edge?

@Bob, I bought an end mill, 3/8 shank, 1/8" cutting diameter. It seemed like a good idea at the time to do the cut in two passes but with the material being .050 it probably won't be necessary. I'm thinking if I rough cut the outline and just use the end mill to rout the edge clean then it might be ok without cutting oil. opinions?
 

Joe

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With material sandwiched between the guide and a piece of plywood for support it made a nice clean cut. The bit was designed for the window cutouts into metal doors. I used it in a 1/2" router. For instrument holes I would look to borrow a knockout cutter, It is just so much easier.
 

Bartman

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Wrapped up for today, have to help my Dad tomorrow so maybe tomorrow night I'll have the first trial blank finish cut. Thanks for the replies guys.

Did the layout last night and blocked it out this morning.
20211110_095510.jpg

Routed it with a 1/2" flush cut bit.
20211110_100931.jpg20211110_160447.jpg

Clamped a piece of aluminum in the jig, traced it out and then took it out and rough cut it using a fine tooth metal bit in my jigsaw.
20211110_160504.jpg

Once it's cut, the next trick will be to bend the flanges back so the iPad mount can be bolted to the flanges and sit nice and flush with the front of the panel.

This is the mount I'm planning to use
 

Bartman

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not perfect but not bad for a first try

View attachment 4359

Was looking around the internet, apparently WD-40 is a really good cutting oil for aluminum. I'll have to give it a try because the aluminum welded itself to the bit within the first couple of inches. It was better after some tap oil was dribbled onto the sheet but WD-40 and a helper spraying a little at a time as the sheet is being cut should make it go much smoother.
 
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