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Has anyone ever routed aluminum with a homeowner's router? I'm brainstorming how to fabricate an extension to support a seat cushion. Here is my attempt to give you a visual:



This isn't the best pic but that is the sofa bed I'm getting ready to install in my van. The cushion that is labeled folds down (toward the rear) to increase the size of the bed platform. I have an additional cushion that I can lay in behind that one to extend the bed platform even further (50"x74" total) but I either need to build a frame to support it or extend the supports pictured. My thought was to just extend those existing supports with matching square aluminum tubing with channels cut in the side to allow them to slide. The tubing would be bolted through the channels and onto those supports with wingnuts to secure them in place. The wingnuts could be loosened to allow the aluminum supports to slide in or out when needed.

I was looking around at how to machine the channels into a piece of aluminum and found bits for a standard router:



http://www.toolstoday.com/p-5801-so...inum-cutting-up-cut-down-cut-router-bits.aspx



I want to cut channels like in the 2nd pic. I'm curious if anyone has ever used a router to machine out light gauge aluminum and has any tips, comments, warnings?

I could use my drill press and do many overlapping holes to create a channel as well.

Thanks!
 

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This site sucks
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No reason a wood router won't work on aluminum. If you have a variable speed you might want to find out the best speed. Some sort of lube might also help, just do some test runs.
Remember all the shavings are now going to be metal and take the proper precautions.
 

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I see a bad moon arising
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First of all, cool product -- thanks for posting that.

My first reaction was a bit suspicious, just never having heard of using
a router to cut aluminum. From my limited work with my small milling machine,
aluminum seems to have some "sticky" tendencies (for the lack of a better
term.) Seems like it wants to grab and gum up bit more so than steel.
Seems like aluminum perfers cutting to be slower. Kind of contrary to a
25,000 RPM wood router. But that's with a milling machine bit. The bits
you pictured have a different profile than a milling machine bit, so
presumably the rules are different.

If someone told me they were going to chuck a milling machine bit into a
router and cut aluminum, I would stand way the heck back and watch
the show. :D: But, since this is a bit dedicated specifically for cutting
aluminum with a router, I guess I'd be willing to give it a shot.

You didn't mention if you were planning on using a router table (or at least
some sort of guide jig) or if you're planning on free-handing the cut.
I would suggest a table or jig would be the way to go. I think any sort of
guides and stops you can bring to bear would be helpful. My big concern
would be that the bit will "grab" the aluminum and violently throw it back
at you. Gloves, safety glasses, or full-face shield would be recommended
for your first stab at this.

And I'd start off with REAL shallow passes as first. See how it goes before
biting off more than the router and bit can chew.

And not to discourage you from trying it out -- I'm real curious to see how
it works for you -- but just as an option, do you have a metal supply shop
in town? You might shop them. We have a couple "Metal by the Foot"
shops here in KC, and they carry an amazing variety of preformed aluminum
channels. You might be able to find what you need right off the shelf.
Might even cost you less than a full piece of aluminum bar stock that you
machine most of away in the process of forming your channel.

//edit: Did a quick search and found a link to a supplier that carries
a pretty good assortment of formed aluminum channels:
http://www.brunnerent.com/Tools/Portfolio/frontend/typelist.asp?lngDisplay=0&reset=1
All sorts of interesting categories in their inventory.
Maybe something in their product line will work for you.
 

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Cutting Fluid for Aluminum

No reason a wood router won't work on aluminum. If you have a variable speed you might want to find out the best speed. Some sort of lube might also help, just do some test runs. Remember all the shavings are now going to be metal and take the proper precautions.

chip brush or oil can with kerosene - slow feed speed - high rpm
 

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Never Give up
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That gona be brutal to your endmills. The problem is in machining when your setup is not rigid you tear up tools and damage motors. Just be warned. You would be better to cut stuff with saws and grind them then using up cutters like that. But if you dont mind hurting your cutters go for it.
 

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Routing Aluminum

As an old manufacturing guy, I can tell you that SOME kinds of aluminum are very easily routed. In fact much of the machining of aluminum airframe parts is done with high speed milling spindles, and the machines are often called routers. Spindle speeds run from 25,000 RPM to 40,000 RPM. These machines are amazing to watch. Feed rates of 400 inches per minute are commonplace. The chip stream coming off would travel 40 feet if they didn't use shields.

The bad news is that the aluminum alloys used for ordinary hardware-store extrusions do NOT machine well, and you will have trouble with the aluminum sticking to the cutter and building up an awful mess that is very hard to remove. The use of a good lubricant will mitigate this somewhat. Kerosene is good, although flammable and must therefor be used with caution. At mill supply houses like Grainger or McMaster-Carr you can buy "soluble oil" which is a water-soluble cutting lubricant/coolant that is widely used for aluminum machining. Expensive - you'll have to buy a gallon at least.

Very important - use cutters with as few flutes as possible, and a low or zero helix angle. I've used single-flute routing cutters in my mill many times for aluminum work. I use soluble oil, sprayed on continuously with a re-purposed Formula 409 bottle. The coolant function is key to preventing the chips from bonding to the cutter. Soluble oil is a lot less mess to clean up. But it will spray all over while you're cutting, so do it where you can cope with the spray. Don't breath it. Wear a dust mask at least.
 

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I work with aluminum, welding and fabricating it for hockey boards. It can be routed using lots of lubricant, preferably a spray lubricant. We use stuff called Super Lube, it comes in a silver can and works well on anything that needs to be routed or drilled. There are wax lubes that work as well, the disadvantage is that you have to stop your progress and remove the material completely from the bit to apply the lube, as opposed to pulling the bit from the material and spraying into the bit.

As you are doing a channel, I suggest using a router table, as you'll get a much straighter groove.

Good luck!
 

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Spooky
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A normal wood router runs at a much higher RPM than a milling machine. I'd be very leery of trying to improvise like this just for safety reasons.

The normal substitute for a milling machine is a drill press. This arrangement is very well documented on the internet.
 

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It can be done. Look up the guy who wrote the book 'router woodowrking' he routes small aluminum from hardware stores to make some of his router jigs, you'll need a good router, I.e. not rears or ryobi or black and decker as their not quite sturdy enough and the bits will slide in their weaker collets.
You could also just drill a bunch of holes then dremel out between them.
You may want to rethink using aluminum though, the existing seat mounts are steel, aluminum may be strong enough for the static load but not the dynamic.
 

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It can probably be done, but for safetys sake and speed, I'd just stick with regular metal drill bits and an abrasive wheel or cone on a dremel tool. Aluminum has a tendency to grab and if you're work isn't locked down solid you're just asking to get hurt. The hardware store aluminum is usually so thin it's just going to bend and tear, you won't get a clean cut and it's dangerous without a real mill to do the job on.

Are you set on using aluminum? Why not use steel, or possibly even wood. Wood is easier to work, and steel you can weld more easily to get the shape you want assembled.
 

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Be careful with aluminum shavings (any metal shavings really). Had a sliver in my index finger years ago which my swelled up so bad my doc sent me to a specialist because he thought it might be into the tendon sheath. Never had a problem with steel. I wear gloves if working with aluminum shavings now.
 

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Believe in Yourself
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Has anyone ever routed aluminum with a homeowner's router? I'm brainstorming how to fabricate an extension to support a seat cushion. Here is my attempt to give you a visual:



This isn't the best pic but that is the sofa bed I'm getting ready to install in my van. The cushion that is labeled folds down (toward the rear) to increase the size of the bed platform. I have an additional cushion that I can lay in behind that one to extend the bed platform even further (50"x74" total) but I either need to build a frame to support it or extend the supports pictured. My thought was to just extend those existing supports with matching square aluminum tubing with channels cut in the side to allow them to slide. The tubing would be bolted through the channels and onto those supports with wingnuts to secure them in place. The wingnuts could be loosened to allow the aluminum supports to slide in or out when needed.

I was looking around at how to machine the channels into a piece of aluminum and found bits for a standard router:



http://www.toolstoday.com/p-5801-so...inum-cutting-up-cut-down-cut-router-bits.aspx



I want to cut channels like in the 2nd pic. I'm curious if anyone has ever used a router to machine out light gauge aluminum and has any tips, comments, warnings?

I could use my drill press and do many overlapping holes to create a channel as well.

Thanks!
Follow the manufacturers recommendations on their aluminum cutting bits.
Mount the piece to be routed extra solid.

Make a guide channel for the router so its supported on both sides.

Light cuts, lots of coolant/lubricant

Glove, long sleeves shirt, full face shield.

If the router has a vac attachment that will handle hot metal, use it.
IMO
 

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some strange Nordic man
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I'm quoting this because people seem to be posting the same "IT'S PROLLY POSSIBLE" stuff over and over.
As an old manufacturing guy, I can tell you that SOME kinds of aluminum are very easily routed. In fact much of the machining of aluminum airframe parts is done with high speed milling spindles, and the machines are often called routers. Spindle speeds run from 25,000 RPM to 40,000 RPM. These machines are amazing to watch. Feed rates of 400 inches per minute are commonplace. The chip stream coming off would travel 40 feet if they didn't use shields.

The bad news is that the aluminum alloys used for ordinary hardware-store extrusions do NOT machine well, and you will have trouble with the aluminum sticking to the cutter and building up an awful mess that is very hard to remove. The use of a good lubricant will mitigate this somewhat. Kerosene is good, although flammable and must therefor be used with caution. At mill supply houses like Grainger or McMaster-Carr you can buy "soluble oil" which is a water-soluble cutting lubricant/coolant that is widely used for aluminum machining. Expensive - you'll have to buy a gallon at least.

Very important - use cutters with as few flutes as possible, and a low or zero helix angle. I've used single-flute routing cutters in my mill many times for aluminum work. I use soluble oil, sprayed on continuously with a re-purposed Formula 409 bottle. The coolant function is key to preventing the chips from bonding to the cutter. Soluble oil is a lot less mess to clean up. But it will spray all over while you're cutting, so do it where you can cope with the spray. Don't breath it. Wear a dust mask at least.
[/thread]
 

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You will have absolutely no problem doing this. I prefer the waxed based lubes. High speed, and move through the material slowly.

I have years of experience cutting aluminum. I used hand held die grinders, pencil grinders, milling machines and even routers.
 

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Spooky
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Wow, there ya go. I'm a software guy by trade but somehow I just felt like the bit speed of a router was just too much for metal. I've seen milling machines running and their bits seemed to be turning much slower than a router.
 

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It is common for aircraft homebuilders to use a router to cut lighting holes in wing ribs, and also to cut the profile of a rib from a sheet of aluminum. Most of the aluminum is 2024 and 6061.
 

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Routing aluminum is a common fabrication practice. In the shop I manage we've been doing it for years. We use aluminum tap magic for lube and a carbide cutter, HSS cutters tend to load up. Also the alloys we work with is 6062 and 6063.
It's mostly used to radius corners of tubing and sloting holes in the 8020 frames we fab.
 
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