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Cutting aluminium composite is incredibly easy using a few basic woodworking tools. If you fancy having a go with an aluminium composite project of your own or have a piece of material you need to modify then we'll try and walk you through how to get the job done.
This little graphic shows tools we've cut from Yellow ACM using our CNC machinery. Whilst shapes like this might be a bit ambitious for hand cutting the more basic shapes are easy to create.
Because of the aluminium content you might be tempted to cut ACM with a hacksaw. While this type of handsaw will work it's shape makes long cuts difficult. What you want is a standard carpenters jack saw. The blade should be not too fine and not too coarse. This type of handsaw will quickly cut through your composite. If you want to use power tools then jigsaws and circular saws can both be used with ACM. Blade choice is key here, if you use a standard coarse timber blade it will destroy it's way through your composite sheet rather than cut cleanly.
For Skil Saw type machines a mid range veneer cutting blade has worked well for us in the past. Too fine and the blade clogs on the plastic core, too coarse and it smashes the aluminium edges. For jigsaws a fine hacksaw type blade is a good choice. Again, we want to avoid anything too coarse as this won't cut your aluminium composite very cleanly.
When it comes to drilling ACM you can use almost anything; spade bits, hole saws & cutters. If you want to make normal sized holes in your aluminium composite then HSS are better than pointed wood bits. As with saw blades we're looking to avoid anything too coarse as this tends to damage ACM.
When you get a brand new sheet of aluminium composite straight from the pallet it always has edges that are silky smooth and even. Even if you are cutting ACM at home with a simple handsaw you can get the same effect quite easily.
When you cut your aluminium composite go outside your cutting line by around 3mm. This gives you a material allowance to work with. Clamp your cut ACM panel to a secure surface and simply plane the material until you've reached back to your original cut line. It might sound too easy but all you need for really smooth edges is a small smoothing plane like the one we've shown here. If it's nice and sharp a smoothing plane like this will allow you to put a sheet edge finish on your sawn cut panels.
Power planes and longer shooting planes aren't recommended for this process; aluminium composite offers little resistance so smoothing with a small plane is the best plan of attack.
This advice is based on our own experience, yours might differ.