The wood router is a portable power tool that has many functions. This may explain why it is referred to as the most versatile power tool in the workshop. There is literally dozens of projects you can do with your wood router unlike any other workshop tool. You can use a router on some materials other than wood. In this guide on use of wood router and router bits on aluminum we shall delve into details on use of the wood router on aluminum.
Can you Cut Aluminum using the Wood Router?
Yes. It is quite easy to cut aluminum using a wood router. Any normal working router with standard carbide bits can be used to cut aluminum. You require the right hearing and eye protection during this process. The cutting blades may dull off after several uses on aluminum and therefore you need router bits that are hardy and durable.
The Router and Router Bits
The ideal router bits to work on aluminum are straight bits and carbide-tipped. You need to use 3/8 inch wide cut. Do not use smaller bits since they tend to get hot and soon aluminum shavings clog up their blades then ultimately stop cutting. You will find the router very efficient when cutting corners and tight curves.
Your router should be well-supported when cutting the aluminum material and ensure it has a level base. You should also begin the routing process by first drilling a ½ inch hole near the corner so as to avoid plunging the router bit through the material.
While using the router on aluminum, the tool may at times get into some places that are hard to reach. You can use other support tools such as a grinder where possible to clear out some areas that cannot be accessed by the router.
Various factors guarantee a clean cut when working on aluminum or any other metallic material using a wood router. First off, the router speed plays a crucial role. You should use the correct speed when routing since it delivers more cuts per inch as compared to a speed that is too low. You will also get a smoother cut. Secondly, the router bits should be well-sharpened. You should use sharp bits so as to avoid posing a risk to not only yourself but also other users of the tool. Finally, use the right feed rate. This will help you get cleaner cuts.
Using High Speed Routers
You should never use high speed routers free hand. Such machines should be supported. In fact, in cases where there is good support the router bit can plunge in then bounce back with force sufficient to push router off your hands. If not well-supported, the router will keep bouncing from one side to the other. This may ultimately affect the project.
If you want to secure your fingers and your budget facilitates, it is wise to buy a variable speed router when routing aluminum. You can get one at a few hundred dollars and this will serve you well given the speed that can be regulated easily. You should also get router bits that will work perfectly with the variable speed router. The router is a perfect trimmer of edges therefore you will find it useful when straightening out edges, cutting a weld flush, or even adding a bevel.
You need a lubricant when routing aluminum with your router. It is essential to use a lubricant of any kind when routing. Some of the commonly used lubricants include Stick Wax and WD-40. You can purchase a few gallon cans from Home Depot or any other retail outlet. You will notice a big difference on your project when you use even a little lubricant especially if you are cutting multiple sheets or bar stock.
If you use dull bits to “rout out” aluminum, the work piece will kick back if you do not use a lubricant. Always ensure you keep your hands clear by using clamps and push sticks where possible. Eye protection is also a must and you can use a full face shield if possible. Also avoid being too close to the work piece when routing since the tool can send a small piece of aluminum flying and cause serious damage.
Difference between using Router on Aluminum and Wood
There is a great difference when routing wood and aluminum. These include:
- Bits: Aluminum requires hardier router bits unlike wood since fragile bits will break easily when used on aluminum. Bits also tend to dull off quite fast when used on aluminum.
- Clamping or securing the piece of work: With aluminum you need a stronger support or clamp system since it tends to push-back when being worked on. It is quite easy to rout wood and the woodworker can even do it freehand.
- Skill level: It requires some high skill and expertise to work on aluminum and may take more time for the amateur to learn unlike for wood routing which is not as complex as when routing aluminum.
- Safety: It is wise never to take chances in terms of your safety when routing aluminum since even tiny chips of aluminum can cause serious injuries. With wood protection is mandatory but it is more risky to handle aluminum with lack of proper protective gear.
Jobs you Can do on Aluminum using Router
You can “rout out” aluminum and make the following:
- Sign Letter fabrication: Aluminum is one of the best materials to use in making sign letters.
- Engraving and Contouring: Aluminum makes a perfect engraving material using a router.
- Making instruments: With the use of a CNC router you can make some instruments using aluminum. These include cups, trophies, and other aluminum accessories.
- Musical instruments: With the use of the router, aluminum is used in making customized parts of music instruments.
- Exhibits and samples: Using a router, aluminum material is used to make exhibits and samples that are used in trade shows and exhibitions.
Safety Rules to Follow when Routing Aluminum
- Better slow and sure: Never be in a hurry when routing aluminum using a wood router. Be relaxed and don not push the machine. Use a variable speed router since it is much easier to keep things in control.
- Protective gear: Eye, ear, and hand protection is mandatory when routing aluminum. You should get gloves, long sleeved shirts, and get a full face shield.
- Lubricant and coolant: You should have a lubricant and lots of coolant when working on aluminum so and to minimize the friction and cool down the heat generated.
- User manual: You should follow the manufacturer’s guide on the aluminum cutting bits to be used.
If you can make use of this guide on use of wood router and router bits on aluminum, you can make your routing process on aluminum exciting and hassle-free. Practice on new routing techniques from time to time so as to take your routing skill a notch higher.