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Cutting Alumalite

Discussion in 'Materials' started by jimmeth411, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. jimmeth411

    jimmeth411 Member

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    Just started at a new sign shop and have to cut down a 4x8 sheet of alumalite into 2x4's. We have a fletcher titan 60, and razor blades. Owner has no other cutting tools, and is a start up, so he doesn't want to buy anything yet. anybody have any ideas on how I can cut this down? He thinks the fletcher will do it, I'm not so sure. HELP??!!!

    Edit- I know a fletcher FSC or rail saw will do this, but as I said, he doesn't want to spend the money......thinking of just spending an hour with a razor and straight edge
     
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  2. jayhawksigns

    jayhawksigns Very Active Member

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    Got out and buy a skil saw, a 2x4, and a couple clamps, you don't have to be fancy to cut down sign board. But the time spent, if its even possible, with razor blades would be a huge waste.
     
  3. wes70

    wes70 Very Active Member

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    Not sure if that model of fletcher will do it?

    I use a straight edge and skillsaw with a 60 tooth carbide blade... virtually no edge clean up!
     
  4. dsmskyline

    dsmskyline Member

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    Ive been able to cut alumalite on my Excalibur, takes a couple passes but did the job well. Probably took me maybe 5-10 minutes to cut 4- 4"x6" pieces.
     
  5. jimmeth411

    jimmeth411 Member

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    Just talked to him, going to run out and buy one today or tomorrow. Just hoping he doesn't get the cheapest saw he sees. I know he needs the tools, so does he, just doesn't want to buy them if he doesn't have to yet. Thanks guys, I appreciate the help.
     
  6. Graphics2u

    Graphics2u Very Active Member

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    I have cut alumilite manytimes with a good straight edge and new utility knife blade. takes about 6-7 passes to get through the aluminum, then I lay a 1' x 4' under the panel and let the drop piece hang above the table slightly, that way as you cut through it the cut will gradually open up.
     
  7. Pat Whatley

    Pat Whatley Major Contributor

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    Straight edge and linoleum knife
     
  8. SignManiac

    SignManiac Major Contributor

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    Your boss is an ***. He won't make it far in the sign biz if he won't invest in proper tools.
    And buying the cheapest tools will cost him more down the road. Buy good and buy once.
     
  9. artbot

    artbot Very Active Member

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    do get the cheapest circle saw they have. because it will never do the job in the end. after that, beg him for a track saw. festool and delwalt make one. festool tx55 is a really nice lightweight one. i've got the ts75. it is a beast.
     
  10. petepaz

    petepaz Major Contributor

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    i just use my circular saw with a fine tooth or metal cutting bleade and it works fine, sometimes have to just a file over the edges (for as often as i have to do that it is fine)
     
  11. threads1

    threads1 Member

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    It's time for a table saw. You'll need it for more than Alumalite.
     
  12. Mainframe

    Mainframe Active Member

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  13. bob

    bob Major Contributor

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    When cutting sheet goods all of the clamp-on saw guides, each with their own clever name, are but a pale and marginal substitute for a proper table saw or panel saw.

    If you're going to run a sign shop at a minimum you'll need a panel saw or a table saw, a table saw being less handy for sheet goods but a hell of a lot more versatile, best to have both saws, a minimum of 12" band saw, drill press, stationary disc and belt sander, a GOOD jigsaw, a good gear drive circular saw [all direct drive circular saws are junk] and perhaps a scroll saw and a cutawl.

    When you buy power tolls always buy industrial strength models like from Milwaukee, DeWalt, etc. Never, ever, buy homeowner grade tools.
     
  14. artbot

    artbot Very Active Member

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    i don't like cutting lightweight substrates on a table saw. the saw inherently is trying to throw the sheet out. a featherboard can be used but still the blades energy is going the wrong direction. a track saw pulls the track and the saw together. if i'm cutting something down that has $500 in supplies and another $1000 in labor, there's no way i'm "pulling" that substrate through a tool! insane. place it on a table and safely trim. i can even cut 2" deep poplar plus .080 aluminum mounted to it at a 45 degree angle simlutaneously, no table saw or panel saw can do that.

    putting acrylic in a table saw is a suicide mission compared to a track saw too. i print and mount my images to the acrylic (i have cross marks printed on the image) then just trim around print + acrylic. the idea of "print + substrate" is what makes the track saw better for sign making. when doing this kind of fabrication, the problem is not that the sheet needs 5/8" of an inch trimmed off the edge. the problem is with the image mounted or printed (even direct/flat bed printing the image is sometimes not fed perfectly) the sheet needs 5/8" at one end tapering to 3/4" at the other end. a table saw with its fence is not the right tool for knocking down this part. with the track saw, you just print your trim marks, mount that sucker to the substrate as decently as you can and place the track on the crosshairs. then cut. not only is the print perfect but the whole trimming issue goes by in a few minutes with no headaches. ...how about no "math" either. the stupidest help in the county can understand "put the edge of this thing, on the little black line, and cut".

    cutting veneer, formica, petg, gatorfoam, on a table saw, bad idea. track saws can cut very delicate substrates like giant scissors.

    a table saw is good for ripping pine for building backers, ripping pine for building backers... and ...uh. also ripping pine for building backers.

    also, occasionally i won't have my van and i'll need some plywood or mdf for a project. so i go to lowe's or home depot and load the material, take it to the panel saw. they guy pulls each sheet in, and saws them up. it takes forever and the cuts are inferior. the way to do this is to set all the sheets on a table three or four thick, c-clamp the corners, and cut them all at once. one issue is when ripping on a table saw, the top part falls down onto the bottom part. on a track saw the part just lays there on the table perfectly parallel. i almost lose my mind standing around for 15 minutes while the guy twists the saw and loads and unloads the pieces. all to have the edges look like the were chewed off by a wolverine. i'm used to ZERO splinters and no saw marks at all on the edge. the cut part should look like it was sanded with 200 grit. the track saw delivers a perfect cut. a panel saw is good for hacking up luan for building crates, hacking up luan for building crates, and ....hacking up luan for building crates.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2011
  15. bob

    bob Major Contributor

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    Nonsense. The blade is turning into the top of the material trying to push it down on the table not throw it back in your face. Trying to rip on a radial arm saw is where you might get a face full of material since the blade is turning backwards relative to a table saw, trying to lift the material and send it back at you.

    Assuming that you have the blade height set to 1/8'" or so higher than the material you're trying to cut a table saw with a proper blade will smoothly cut most anything you can push through it. Even acrylic.

    Compared to a proper table saw a panel saw is like an axe. The local plastics and laminate dealer here in my village cuts everything with a table saw. They wouldn't have a panel saw in the place. When I order a piece of material from them that's supposed to be X by Y it's X by Y, exactly, and it's always square.
     
  16. artbot

    artbot Very Active Member

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    i understand that. say you drop your blade to the least resistant height (the resistance upward is coming off the back of the blade). if that material get tilted upward off the front of the table which is easy to do on a very long part (7-10 feet) the blade can get under that part. i've very carefully cut coro or sintra and such on a table saw. if you screw up the piece will jump on top of the blade and spin out. use a featherboard? fine. i'm still responsible for feeding the material perfectly down the saw. such a low blade height results in a very minimal rudder effect. even if make a correction i will leave hemispherical saw marks in the part's edge. that is why the track saw leave such a perfect "side" there's no variation whatsoever on the feed. the saw runs straight. the saw has gravity on it's side. the blade of the saw turns into the saw so it is pulling the material against the track. no clamping is needed because of the physics of the forces being pulled through the part. also the depth of cut can be set and you can pretty much cut 1mm into your table so for that matter you can cut half way through .040 aluminum, try that even with a cnc router. that is how dead flat/even and straight this thing runs.

    the other day i was cutting down 9 16x60's of 1/4" birch for a project. we cut the pieces at 60" with the track saw. i planned on cutting the drops with the table saw by setting the fence at 16". figured i'd have the repeating cut and it was the way to go (actually festool makes and indexing/lateral stops attachment now for the track). then i thought... "18 rips, all perfect, no splinters, ..." i couldn't guarantee that i wasn't going to put a knick in one of the parts. so i chickened out and used the track to rip the parts. mostly because i just didn't want to see a single splinter. i've come accustomed to perfection and the table saw is too aggressive of a tool for such floppy, thin material.
     
  17. Bly

    Bly Very Active Member

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    We cut through the top side ally with the Excalibur then let it drop and snap up.
    This leaves a fairly clean edge though we usually run a file over it so nobody cuts themselves on it.
    For large orders our supplier will deliver pre cut.
     
  18. andy

    andy Active Member

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    Bob is on the money....

    It matters not how expensive your tool nor how shiny your track.... if you do not have a nice sharp, fine set TCT blade fitted to your machine you might as well use a chainsaw.

    Kickback, splintered edges, excessive tool marks..... these are all clues that you're using entirely the wrong blade. Whenever you buy a new tool which uses a circular cutting blade you are given the cheapest option... a very coarse blade with hardly any teeth designed for hacking up fence posts and suchlike. A high quality plastics blade can easily cost £100 so it's a cost saving measure on the machine manufacturers part.

    When we had saws we always threw away the blades which came with the machines replacing them with super fine TCT ones designed for plastic & aluminium work. These blades were bought in pairs so they could be rotated for resharpening..... depending on how much throughput this could be resharpening every 3 weeks.

    The only circular saw we have left is a ratty old Skil saw fitted with a blade which instantly doubled the value of the machine... cut's acrylic like a knife through butter.

    Track saws might be good but a decent CNC router will maintain a depth of cut in this material to within 0.2mm of complete cut through.... so no, they aren't as accurate or precise as CNC machines.
     
  19. artbot

    artbot Very Active Member

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    i understand the cnc... i mean a regular crappy cnc. i'm comparing a $500 saw to say a $10,000 shopbot.

    as for cnc/router comparison. i used to lay my really sensitive parts in my cnc. i'd have a precut line in the table and i'd line my mark on my part up with the foremost cutting edge of the bit. i'd use the cnc for cutting acrylic and aluminum that had optically clear films and such mounted to them. i liked the cnc because with a straight bit i could cut away from the part and do the least trauma preventing delamination during cut. but of all things, the tracksaw does less trauma to the edge and even cuts smoother (less chatter) than the cnc. that is because the track has a plastic LDPE strip. "at" the tooth of the blade. you install it, and literally cut it off to size. so within a zillionth of an inch the blade tooth is being followed by the edge. this is the edge that goes on the cutting mark. what that strip does is prevent splintering. when cutting laminated sheets i put the mounted image facing down and the blade pulls the image toward the apart directly upward where a cnc bit pulls away, or into, depending if you are climb cutting. that's a lot of heat and a lot of material being removed compared to a narrow razor sharp cool blade. plus, when i cut, i place the part's image down on to cardboard, cutting into the cardboard. the cardboard acts as a shock absorber dispersing the vibration away from the part and along with the blade pulling into the part, i am pressing down sandwiching the mounted films between the blade guide strip and the cardboard.

    using the cnc for this is full of problems. one, targeting. either straight cutting or using targets, i've even set up lasers on my cnc, no matter what, you do spend time proofing the path. even looking for the line in the table is a pain. plus the part is not protected from vibration or cut as cool, and the edges is almost pre-planed as compared to the freshest cnc bit.

    a festool or dewalt track saw is the samurai sword of part cutting tools.
     
  20. boxerbay

    boxerbay Active Member

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    +1 for tracksaw. I see what artbot is saying. table and panel saw you can only make parallel or 90' cuts. with a tracksaw you can make any angle of a cut on the track so it is straight.
     
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