Dremel is a good tool for cutting many types of materials, and aluminum is one of them. A Dremel will do quick work of aluminum sheeting, aluminum pipes, and other things made of aluminum as long as it is not too thick.
Most Dremel models are powerful enough to cut through aluminum, but the less powerful models like the Dremel Stylo+ and Dremel Lite might cut slower and be less effective.
To cut aluminum with a Dremel we use metal cutting discs. It is recommended to use the Reinforced Cutting Disc #SC456, but you can also use the smaller more fragile cutting discs #409 and #420. Secure the cutting bit in the Dremel, secure the aluminum object you are cutting, start the Dremel and slowly lead the cutting bit onto the aluminum.
That was the short version on how to cut aluminum with a Dremel. The rest of this article will go into more detail on the different cutting discs, safety when cutting, and will also include a step-by-step guide on how to cut aluminum with a Dremel.
Safety When Cutting Aluminum With A Dremel Or Rotary Tool
Even though safety is not the most fun part. It is important, and we have to go through it. So let’s go through the safety before we start the cutting.
In general, cutting aluminum with a Dremel is a fairly safe activity. The Dremel has no problem cutting through aluminum, aluminum is a fairly soft metal. So cutting aluminum will feel like cutting butter if you compare it to cutting hardened steel for example.
Always keep a steady hand while cutting aluminum with the Dremel, the material can suddenly lead the cutting direction and the tool might do a little “jump” where you have little control. But as long as you keep a steady hand and pay attention to the cut you should be fine.
Safety Gear When Cutting Aluminum With A Dremel
Protective Glasses – Always use protective glasses when using the Dremel. Cutting discs can break, bits can come loose and shards of aluminum can come flying at you. Always wear safety glasses.
Dust Mask – A dust mask is very important to use when cutting with the Dremel. At a minimum, use a simple disposable dust mask and do your cutting in a well-ventilated area. Cutting can produce small aluminum dust particles, and we do not want them in our lungs.
In general, gloves and power tools do not match that well, because the gloves can get caught up in the moving parts of the tool and become a security risk. But when cutting metal with a Dremel, I personally choose to use gloves to protect my hands from sparks and hot metal. Decide what works for you.
A tool like a Dremel might still be able to do some harm if your glove gets caught up in the cutting bit. But it’s not nearly as powerful as something like an angle grinder for example.
Cutting Wheels For Cutting Aluminum With A Dremel
Reinforced Cutting Wheel #SC456
Uses #SC402 Mandrel
The reinforced cutting wheel is specifically designed for cutting many different types of metal. And since aluminum is such a soft metal, this bit will easily cut the aluminum. The reinforced cutting disc is the most reliable bit to use for cutting aluminum, it will last for a long time and it will not shatter while cutting. It is however thicker, uses a little bit longer to cut than the smaller cutting discs, and can do less detailed work.
The Smaller Cutting Wheels #409 and #420
Uses #402 Mandrel
The smaller cutting wheels are great for doing more detailed cuts in aluminum. If you need to cut some tight corners or some small pieces of material off, then these are the ones to use. They are thinner than the other cutting discs, cut faster, but are also more fragile.
Use these discs with care, the smaller cutting wheels have a tendency to shatter while running if they get put under any sideways pressure. Use proper safety gear.
Carbide Aluminum Cutting Bits
The carbide aluminum cutting burrs are also great for shaping and deburring aluminum after a cut. These burrs are not used for the actual cutting of the material.
How To Cut Aluminum With A Dremel – Step By Step
1. Choose Cutting Bit
First, you have to choose a cutting bit. If it is your first time cutting metal or aluminum with a rotary tool, I would highly recommend using the Reinforced Cutting Wheel #SC456. That is the safest and most reliable cutting disc to use.
2. Secure The Bit In The Dremel
Put the bit inside the chuck, then tighten the chuck nut while holding down the spindle lock button.
3. Secure The Aluminum To Be Cut
We need to secure the aluminum in some way. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend securing the object in a vise before starting to cut. You can also use clamps to clamp the aluminum sheet to your workbench but use some scrap wood underneath so you don’t damage your workbench.
4. Mark Where You Want To Cut
Mark the area you want to cut will help you make a more accurate cut. I like to use a permanent marker to mark the aluminum. You can also use masking tape to make a cutting guide.
Since aluminum is such a soft metal, it is to undercut your mark, and then you can just shape the uneven parts with sanding bands after the cut.
5. Plug-In The Power
The aluminum is now secured, you marked your cut, and the bit is fastened. Put the power cord in the socket and get ready to start cutting.
6. Set The Dremel To 15000 RPMs
When cutting aluminum with the Dremel, we use an RPM between 10000 and 20000. We use fairly low RPMs when cutting aluminum to avoid the metal from overheating, lower RPMs will also make for a cleaner cut.
The preferable RPM will depend on the thickness of the material, what bit you are using, and what you feel is the best. 15000 RPM is a good starting speed, but also test out different speeds and see what you like the best.
7. Turn On The Dremel
Let’s get cutting. Keep a steady hand and turn on the Dremel.
8. Slowly Start Cutting
Now you can slowly lead the running Dremel bit onto the aluminum. Keep a steady hand and get a feel for how the tool cuts and works. Let the tool do the cutting and do not force the cut. The most important part now is that you get to practice and use the tool, use slow movements and try to get straight and clean cuts.
Sometimes the tool will want to wander or be steered in different directions. Try to keep a steady hand and avoid uncontrolled “jumps” as much as possible.
Uncontrolled “jumps” will happen to everyone who is cutting with a Dremel, if you just pay attention to the cut and get to know what causes the tool jumping and being steered by the aluminum then you can control it. The more you practice cutting, the less the tool will jump.
Compared to most metals, cutting aluminum will not create sparks
9. Adjust RPMs
You might find that the RPM I told you to set is not quite right for your project. Do not be afraid to increase or lower the RPMs of the tool and see how the aluminum cuts at different RPMs
10. Cut Straight Lines
There is no magic to cutting straight lines with a Dremel except keeping a steady hand. But I have a little trick you can use to help your cutting. If you can create a straight groove along with your cut with a sharp object (ex. An old Knife), that groove will help steer your cut and it will be harder to cut outside the line.
Let the bit and the tool do the cutting. Do not use excessive force and try to cut faster. Then the cut will look bad and it will wear out the bits and the tool quicker.
11. Doing Plunge Cuts
Plunge cuts are when you use the bit to cut straight into the material like the picture above. You can do plunge cuts with cutting discs. But it can be hard to do detailed cuts when doing plunge cuts. For more detailed and smaller plunge cuts, use the smaller cutting wheels.
12. After The Cut
When you are finished with cutting. The edges might be rough and aluminum debris will be hanging around the edges of the cut. Use a Dremel drum sander bit or grinding stone to remove the rough edges.
You can also use the carbide aluminum cutting bits if you have them, they are good for removing material.
Aluminum can still be very hot after cutting it, make sure it is cool before you touch it after cutting
Questions About Cutting Aluminum With A Dremel
What Is The Thickest Piece Of Aluminum You Can Cut With A Dremel?
The absolute thickest solid aluminum piece you can cut with a Dremel will be about 1.1-inch (2.8 cm) thick. The largest cutting wheels for Dremel have a radius of 3/4-inches (1.9 cm). But the bit that the disc is secured to limits the cutting radius to about 0.6-inches (1.5cm). So to cut a piece of aluminum that is 1.1 inches (2.8cm) thick you have to cut it from both sides.
What Is The Best Dremel For Cutting Aluminum?
The more powerful Dremel models are the most effective at cutting aluminum. Models like the Dremel 3000, 4000, 4300, and 8220 are all good Dremels for cutting aluminum. The best all-around Dremel for the best price is the Dremel 4000 with the Flex Shaft Attachment.
What Is The Best Dremel Attachment For Cutting Aluminum?
The absolute best Dremel attachment for cutting aluminum is the Right Angle Attachment #575. It gives you the ability to cut the aluminum from many different angles, it is also very good if you want to do more detailed cuts. It will also be a lot easier to do straight cuts.