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Old 10-03-2016, 09:12   #1
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Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

I need to mount some more equipment in one of my instrument panels, and I don't really feel like hauling it off again to the metal shop. Surely this is something I can do myself.

The alu is pretty thick -- about 3mm -- and I failed miserably last time, but now I have some new ideas:

1. Router bit on a dremel tool, maybe with the plunge router attachment, straight edge, clamps. Wouldn't this work ok?

2. Nibbler -- something like this: SODIAL(R) Gary Black Double Head Sheet Nibbler Metal Cutter Drill Attachment: Amazon.co.uk: DIY & Tools


What do you guys think? The nibbler shown in 2 attaches to a drill, and is shown in the propaganda doing EXACTLY what I propose to do.

All tips appreciated!
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Old 10-03-2016, 09:21   #2
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Dremel would strike me as being under powered and a nibbler would struggle at 3mm and would shoot off a crap load of crescent shaped punchings in the process. I'd do it more conveniently with either a jigsaw, multitool or, my favourite, a 4" grinder with 1mm cutting disc.

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Old 10-03-2016, 09:23   #3
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

I've never used a drill powered nibbler, but we do have air powered ones here at the plant, they are rarely used.
When I went to make a new instrument panel for my little airplane a regular wood working router was the ticket, used what I think is called a tracing bit? I'm no woodworker, but this bit would follow perfectly another piece of metal, so I clamped the old panel onto the top of a piece of metal and it duplicated the panel perfectly.
A nibbler is sort of hard to make go in a straight line, I almost always use either shears or what we call a Dotco here which is a three inch cut off disk attached to a die grinder.

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Old 10-03-2016, 09:25   #4
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Round hole? = Hole saw
Rectangular? Probably a sabre saw with the right blade.
Anyone know if a Roto zip will do aluminum?
Definitely wouldn't do a router, they love to grab aluminum and.... so it takes some expertise, except for rounding edges.
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Old 10-03-2016, 10:10   #5
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

I once built an aluminum instrument panel with hole saws, it is challenging doing it by hand on board, the hole saw wants to walk around a bit. being able to clamp the plate and use a drill press would give a much better result. Of course no using the cheap harbor freight hole saws would help too. If you were able to screw the plate down to a thick heavy chunk of wood, you would probably get an okay result.
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Old 10-03-2016, 10:16   #6
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Thanks for all the comments. This is reminding me of how hard it was, the first time I tried it.

I have a sabre saw, but it was unusable, even with a very fine blade, as it grabbed in the alu and ripped it out of my clamps.

Maybe if I really bolted it down on a piece of wood, and cut it together with the wood? Hmmm.
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Old 10-03-2016, 10:51   #7
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Get some scrap and experiment with it, if not too many holes and if they are straight lines and corners you can do very well with a cut off wheel in a die grinder and files, of course radius the corners to prevent cracks.
Circular holes are best done with a body punch up to 3" or so

Called a chassis punch, male and female parts, small hole put one on each side tighten bolt in center, it punches out a clean hole
This thing
http://www.chevpac.co.nz/catalogue/p...pg?w=600&h=600

Same thing, but for aircraft, makes perfect holes for aircraft instruments in instrument panels
http://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalo...clickkey=11604
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Old 10-03-2016, 10:54   #8
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Thanks for all the comments. This is reminding me of how hard it was, the first time I tried it.

I have a sabre saw, but it was unusable, even with a very fine blade, as it grabbed in the alu and ripped it out of my clamps.

Maybe if I really bolted it down on a piece of wood, and cut it together with the wood? Hmmm.
Finer blade - More TPI required as well as clamping it down.
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Old 10-03-2016, 10:57   #9
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

You also need to generously apply WD40 or some other lubricant during the cutting process regardless jig/circular/hole saw used.
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Old 10-03-2016, 11:21   #10
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

I have used a oscillating tool (fein knock off) to cut aluminum seems to go thru blades quickly but pretty easy to control. Usually use a jigsaw though.
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Old 10-03-2016, 11:51   #11
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Round hole? Hole saw definitely. With a guide bit in the center you shouldn't have too much trouble with the saw wandering. And yes, get a decent one. Might even last through more than one hole.

I had to cut some very precise, rectangular holes in thick ply. Used double sided tape to attach a guide board at the right distance from the edge I needed to cut and it came out perfect. Just went very slow when I got close to the ends. For Al I might clamp the board on.
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Old 10-03-2016, 12:00   #12
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Thanks for all the great comments.

The whole is rectangular. So I guess I'm going to give it another go with the sabre saw. Finest blade I can find, and clamp the bejeezus out of it.

We shall see!
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Old 10-03-2016, 12:06   #13
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Thanks for all the great comments.

The whole is rectangular. So I guess I'm going to give it another go with the sabre saw. Finest blade I can find, and clamp the bejeezus out of it.

We shall see!
In case you haven't encountered this, look carefully at the blades before you buy. I bought a new pack for my sabre saw and couldn't control it during the cut. Saw wanted to bounce out of the hole every stroke. Finally looked closely at the blade and the teeth were angled to cut on the down-stroke instead of the up-stroke so was pushing the saw up out of the hole.

I had never noticed the blades come with the teeth either way. Just assumed they all cut the same.

Am I the only one that didn't know this?
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Old 10-03-2016, 12:12   #14
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Thanks for all the great comments.

The whole is rectangular. So I guess I'm going to give it another go with the sabre saw. Finest blade I can find, and clamp the bejeezus out of it.

We shall see!
When you lay it out, drill a small hole at each corner. Too fine a blade is not good, clogs up. A brand new sharp blade helps, and yes if you can put the alum on a piece of plywood etc that helps too a bit.
Yes , blades come in push or pull variety. I'd use pull for aluminum. (the blade "pulls' the saw body into the work)
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Old 10-03-2016, 12:14   #15
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Re: Nibbler? Or Dremel Router? Cutting Alu Instrument Panel

Really, give a cut off wheel in your dremel a try first, this one, the big one that is fiberglass reinforced, you will be surprised how easy it is, draw the outline you want cut, cut it a tiny bit small, finish with a file. We do "skins" for aircraft every day here at the plant that way, .040 aluminum, and pretty big sheets, but use a die grinder and bigger wheel.

https://www.dremel.com/en-us/Accesso...spx?pid=456-01
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