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Old 23-11-2011, 05:53   #1
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A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

Last summer I installed a new Victron charger/inverter. Despite the daunting electrical system design changes required -- like re-routing all of the boat's AC power through the Victron -- I decided to do it myself because the quotes I got from marine electricians were all in the thousands (of UK Pounds!).

I was very satisfied and happy that the job only took a couple of days and everything worked perfectly.

Just one snag:

I couldn't mount the bl**dy control panel into my electrical control panel because I couldn't cut an appropriate retangular hole in the bl**dy aluminum panel.

I was amazed that I was unable to figure out how to do this simple job. I tried a jigsaw -- but I couldn't get the panel to hold still enough.

I tried a Dremel tool -- but the metal cutting disks disintegrated.

What am I doing wrong??? Do I need to clamp the panel to a sheet of thin plywood and cut through that with the jigsaw? That will be complicated, as I will have to disconnect about a hundred wires in order to take the panel all the way off. Or maybe there is some secret special jigsaw blade which makes this job easier (I was using a fine-tooth metal cutting blade)?

Grateful for any tips. I think I used to be able to do this sort of thing, but have somehow lost the skill or fogotten how to do it.
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:06   #2
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

Is the problem that the sheet is flexing while you are trying to cut, thus flexing partially with the blade and creating a godawful racket?

If it is, without seeing a pic, I guess that speed is the problem, i.e. too slow. Can you adjust the speed of the jigsaw to full speed? If no success, have a you a small angle grinder fitted with a cutting blade (4 1/2") that you can scribe a groove with to cut through?

Failing that, Plasma Cutter
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:08   #3
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

surprised a metal cutting disc is disintigrating cutting aluminum. make sure you are not using a disc that looks like a round hacksaw blade, but rather an oxide metal-cutting "zip disc." If that doesnt work, try a small but full size angle grinder with a zip disc, and a small hand-held hacksaw blade to cut out the corners.
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:09   #4
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

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Originally Posted by TassieBloke View Post
Is the problem that the sheet is flexing while you are trying to cut, thus flexing partially with the blade and creating a godawful racket?

If it is, without seeing a pic, I guess that speed is the problem, i.e. too slow. Can you adjust the speed of the jigsaw to full speed? If no success, have a you a small angle grinder fitted with a cutting blade (4 1/2") that you can scribe a groove with to cut through?

Failing that, Plasma Cutter
Yes, exactly. The sheet flexes with the jigsaw blade, creating a godawful racket, and not cutting anything. Argh! The jigsaw is a single-speed job so nothing to do with that. I do not have an angle grinder but might borrow one.
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:12   #5
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

I don't know the answer to your question - but I suggest not holding the item on your lap when using a power tool..........

Only an idiot would do that
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:17   #6
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

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I don't know the answer to your question - but I suggest not holding the item on your lap when using a power tool..........

Only an idiot would do that
ROTFLMAO!! 
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Voice of experience?
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:21   #7
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

Dockhead,
Shorebird hit it on the head. Oxide metal-cutting "zip disc." Forget the jigsaw and use the dremmel or grinder with one of these discs. I used one with a dremmel to cut stainless steel so a piece of aluminum should be like butter.

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Old 23-11-2011, 06:21   #8
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

You might want to try a sheet metal tool called a "nibbler."
the electric version is pricey (300$ish) but there is a cheaper manual one. Both are available on amazon.
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:23   #9
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

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Voice of experience?
Mebbe

(and close enough to check!)
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:25   #10
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

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Yes, exactly. The sheet flexes with the jigsaw blade, creating a godawful racket, and not cutting anything. Argh! The jigsaw is a single-speed job so nothing to do with that. I do not have an angle grinder but might borrow one.
There is a very slow way getting your hole cut. Drill many many small holes along the line of the cut as close to each other as you can....than get a slightly bigger drill bit and do it all again. If time doesn't matter that would be one way.
With a file you can clean up the opening and remove all sharp edges.
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:27   #11
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

Thin aluminium cuts well with a metal hacksaw blade.
Drill some holes in the corners (use a punch, or the drill will wander) so the blade can be started and just use the blade (not the hacksaw as at will not have a deep enough throat) with some cloth wrapped around the end (or you can get some fancy blade holders)

Use blue tape to mark a clear line and to protect the finish if you slip.

Some diesel works as a reasonable cutting agent. Use eye protection
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:28   #12
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

Try drilling as many holes as necessary and of sufficent size to eliminate most of the material. Good quality hole saws that'll work in your electric drill are relatively cheap and available. Then clean up the corners and edges with a file or your dremel. FWIW
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:30   #13
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Svdestiny.
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:30   #14
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

If I understand your post your trying to cut the panel while the wires are still connected. There are blade holders for hack saw blades that allow you to have a small hand saw with a couple of inches of the blade protruding from the end. get a couple of quality hack saw blades and the tool. Place your template and mark the panel, on the inside edge of your pattern on each corner drill an opening large enough to accomidate the blade, then by hand cut your opening.

http://www.rgrechandson.com/images/p...ade-holder.jpg
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Old 23-11-2011, 06:45   #15
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Re: A Stupid, Embarassing Question about Cutting Aluminum Sheet

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Grateful for any tips.
You may not want to buy one for just this job, but the trick way to do this is with a router with a small carbide 'flush trim' bit. You make a plywood cutout that matches the hole you want to cut clamp it to the panel wherever you want the hole, and then run the router around the edge of the cutout. And volia - a completely clean, exact to any shape, hole just where you wanted it.
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