View Full Version : Cutting aluminium tube

03-28-2004, 09:16 PM

I'll be regularly cutting aluminium tube of sizes from 1.5" to 3.5", with wall thicknesses of 1/8" to 1/4". My choices are cutoff saw (chop-saw), parting-tool on lathe, or bandsaw.

My local HF store has a 14" chop-saw for $40, so I'm tempted, but will this be a good choice? Or should I really break down and spend ~$200 for a bandsaw? I'm thinking that the parting tool is a slow and expensive process (over the long term).


03-28-2004, 09:24 PM
my choice was the HF band saw you can cath them on sale for 149.00

03-28-2004, 09:46 PM
Second vote for band saw. I will be getting one in a couple of months. If the chop saw you are looking at is the metal chop saw, I have a Makita, it is good for cutting mild steel, but it heats up aluminum pretty good and actually melts it as it cuts. I've never tried it with a carbide blade, maybe that would be better, but I still am leaning towards a band saw.

03-28-2004, 10:53 PM
I cut alot of tube and solid bar. CRS, Stainless and AL. Get a bandsaw. Don't buy the cheapest HF one. I bought the cheapest Jet years ago and pitched it out the door after fighting with it all the time to get a straight cut. I went out and bought a 7x12 Jet with a 3/4" wide blade. Made all the diff. Get the widest blade you can. You will kick your self over and over again if you don't. 3/4" is the min.I have worn out over 10 blades on mine and it still will shave a 1/16" sliver off a 4" solid round of AL and have never had to adjust it. Make sure it comes with a coolent tank. Makes your blades last long. I don't even use my chop saw much anymore. Its noisy it stinks and its not very accurate compared to the bandsaw.


03-28-2004, 11:33 PM
yep - i save all my main cuts to do at school on the good 1200.00 bandsaws. Ive got a 100.00 ryobi 10" compound mitre saw and a $65carbide tipped blade i use when im working at home and jsut cant wait. ive cut alot of alluminum with the carbide blade and the ryobi. scary, to say the least. i always am glad when im done with that. if you have $$ and intend to make quality metal components, you need a bandsaw.. a basic metalworking setup can be as simple as a good bandsaw, a bench grinder, and a good drill press..

sure, a mill and lathe will enable much more complex work - however, the point is: good basic tools can allow for much more precise results.

03-29-2004, 12:09 AM
So it's a good thing I asked, huh? I bought a drill press from HF a year ago when it was on sale for $40, and it's still awesome. So, when I saw the chop saw today, I looked at the blade (~1/8" thick) and thought that thin would be better since it would be easier to cut thru the metal. So I figured that I could not go wrong for $40.

I also looked at their bandsaws and thought that it would take some setup/effort to get the blade to go thru straight without twisting.

Either way though, the ends of the tube will still get refaced on the lathe, btw.

Oh well, looks like I'll just wait until I get the $ to get a bandsaw, and perhaps hope to find a deal on a decent used one. The other issue with the bandsaw is space, so it will definitely have to wait. :-(


03-29-2004, 03:52 PM
Another issue is what kind of angles you need to cut- If you never need to do anything other than a 90, you are set.
If you ever need to do an angle, or even compound angle, the chop saw with the ATB (or triple-chip) carbide blade is great.

Clamp the work to the saw before the cut, and it is safer. And use a face-shield to protect yourself from high-speed chips.


03-29-2004, 04:51 PM
I have actually heard good reports of the grizzyl\HF\import bandsaws. the $300 one I think... I may buy one eventually, as I have a small ryobi bandsaw as well. DONOT buy the small ryobi bandsaw.. It willnot cut metal.. The blade is very lame. The saw is lame.. i coulda spent that $100 on a good cordless drill or something and been much happier in the long run. It didnt even do a decent job on small delrin pieces. lame saw, the ryobi bandsaw..

Another thing to mention: in the newest wired magazine, there is an article about someone who bought 50 old shipping containers - the big truck-size ones, and built his factory out of them.. stacked them, cut them open, etc. i guess he got it to be 9.00/sqr/ft.. aparently that is a vdry low building cost for europe where he was... If you want more info, ill get his name for you.

03-29-2004, 08:24 PM
I thought of doing the Shipping container shop/house a few years ago. I could get 8'x40'x9'high, stainless interiors, R40 insulation for $3000 delivered. They would have come from Portland and Seattle. With the cost of scrap metal going from $60 ton to over $600 a ton I bet the price of containers has gone up.


03-29-2004, 08:42 PM
The wired article said "$1500" each for 50. but it also mentioned they were 6 years old and had damnage from saltwater. it looked like standard metal architecture though - it mentioned he did the plumbing and electrical in a modular fashion which probably lowers cost

03-29-2004, 09:09 PM
There is another alt

A cold cut saw; small and with coolant; but they are not cheap; they use a HSS blade that looks kinda like a wood 10" blade; however they rotate slower and can make angle cuts; about $3,000 was the last price I payed for one; if your making many cuts consider one

03-31-2004, 08:28 AM
I had a fabrication shop in the USVI for many years and specialized in aluminum. We used a chop saw.

Buy a quality chop saw and install the best carbide tip blade, with high tooth count, that you can afford to buy. We cut 3" schedule 40 pipe regularly and 1" square tube with .125 wall all day long.

I now have an HF bandsaw for cutting steel in my home shop. Wouldn't dream of wasting my time using it to cut aluminum.


03-31-2004, 12:00 PM
One more vote for a band saw. If you have the room and the $$, the hydraulic feed jobs that are one step above the ubiquitous $150 saws are worthwhile, but even the cheapest bandsaws are a real boon. Once adjusted, they do good work. I can't imagine using an abrasive chop saw through a 6" diia aluminum round, which a band saw will do with ease, unattended.

03-31-2004, 12:09 PM
There is also a nice "benchtop" model band saw from Lathemaster( http://www.lathemaster.com/ ) that has a favorable and extensive review from this person:

It's cost is a little more and it won't handle the really big pieces, but for a small shop it has me ready to pull out my wallet.

05-13-2004, 04:06 AM
I have a HF 14" chop saw and the HF blade bends too much to get a straight cut from aluminum or mild steel. Home Depot sells chop saw blades that are thicker and might produce a straighter cut. What do you guys think is better for chop saws to create a straight cut? Is a carbide blade or a chop saw blade better?

Also, I need to make some angled cuts on mild steel. Any tricks to clamping the piece to the chop saw? Can I simply go to a metal shop and have them make the angled cut? Will the big metal bandsaws make steep angled cuts?


05-17-2004, 01:39 PM
i use a carbide blade on my 10" compoud mitre ryobi... So scary to watch closely.. i cant help but vividly imagine the blade getting loose and getting me!

07-07-2004, 07:02 PM
If you go with a mitresaw, use a triple chip grind 80 tooth blade. I use one on my table saw and my sliding compound mitresaw. I get very accurate cuts with very little teeth marks on the end (In fact, a light filing and a maroon scotchbrite pad will give you a nice matte finish. For light steel, I use a metal chopsaw with a 14" abrasion wheel. I can cut 45 degree angles on that set up as well. If you have to cut thick steel, use a band saw with a lubricant.
Note: I'm a carpenter by trade, not a machinist. My tool choices reflect the view point of a carpenter. If I were a machinist, I would buy a bandsaw because I can use it in a machine shop

07-07-2004, 10:31 PM
If you go with a mitresaw, use a triple chip grind 80 tooth blade. I use one on my table saw and my sliding compound mitresaw.

Try to get one with a negative hook angle, too. It won't have a tendency to grab the aluminum.

07-09-2004, 06:06 PM
Here's what I did. I decided that I would go with the bandsaw, leaning towards the smaller HF units, since price really is an issue. In the meanwhile, I thought I'd just deal with parting the aluminum as needed... ack! Picked some some parting blades last week and realized that that would not be the answer. But yesterday (just yesterday), I was over at a friend's auto shop, and he had an old bandsaw that someone left him (from some part of some other deal). He sold it to me for $150. This thing is huge! I measured the blade at 116" (~38.5" between centers), and it probably weighs >300lbs. It has a hydraulic feed with an adjuster and it runs well. So I coughed up the $$$ since I thought it was a good deal.

I need to find some space for this thing, but it sits at another friend's place in the meanwhile.

Also need to find replacement blades. A local shop told me they can make them, but I guess if I find them ready-made it will be better priced. Also, any recommendations on the best # of TPI for cutting aluminium? What about steel? Any thoughts on this?