Miter saws are one of the most important tools to have in your arsenal as a woodworker. I use mine ALL of the time.
While miter saws are most often used to cut wood, they can also be used to cut other non-ferrous materials and metals.
Want to learn how to cut aluminum with a miter saw? Let’s dig in!
Can You Cut Aluminum With a Miter Saw?
Yes, you can absolutely cut aluminum with a miter saw.
Aluminum is a very soft non-ferrous metal and really isn’t much denser or harder than wood. And, since your miter saw doesn’t have a brain and won’t know the difference between what it’s cutting, there’s no reason why you can’t cut aluminum with it!
In fact, a miter saw is sometimes the best tool for cutting aluminum when you need to make accurate, precise cuts. You can even angle your saw blade when a more specialized cut is necessary.
Although you can certainly use a miter saw to cut aluminum and other soft metals, it’s important to do it the right way. After all, while aluminum is fairly soft, it is a completely different material than wood and will need to be treated as such.
How to Properly Cut Aluminum With a Miter Saw
1. Choose Your Blade
The first and most important step in using a miter saw for aluminum cutting is to choose the right blade. You should choose your blade based on the number of teeth it has and whether it’s a fine-tooth blade or one with longer, more jagged teeth.
Fine-tooth blades have teeth that are short and razor-sharp and are best for making fine, precise cuts. Coarse-cut blades have teeth that are longer, more jagged, and farther apart and are better for general wood cutting.
We’ll delve deeper into the different TYPES of blades that are good for cutting aluminum in a minute. Suffice it to say, however, that a non-ferrous metal blade with a high tooth count is superior when cutting metal.
2. Mount the Blade
Next, you’ll need to remove whatever blade is currently on your miter saw and install the new one.
To do this, unplug the saw so that there isn’t the possibility of accidentally activating it. Next, open the blade guard to remove the old blade so that you can install your special blade designed to cut aluminum.
3. Use a Clamp to Hold the Aluminum in Place
With your new blade installed and tightened, you can plug the saw back in and perform a quick test run by activating the saw. If everything is working as it should, the next step is to use table clamps to hold the aluminum tightly in place while you make your cut.
If you don’t have table clamps handy, you can also use your hand as you would if you were cutting wood. However, you should wear gloves if you use your hand, as aluminum has sharp edges that could cut you.
4. Use a Lubricant if Necessary
Whenever you’re doing any metal cutting with a miter saw, it’s important to use lubricant so that the saw doesn’t overheat. An oil-based sulpher lubricant is the best option, but you can also use water if you don’t have any lube handy. Apply the lubricant to either side of the saw blade before making your cut.
5. Wear Safety Goggles and Gloves
It’s also important to wear safety glasses and gloves whenever you cut metal with a chop saw.
Even if it’s thin aluminum, cutting metal will create sparks that you don’t want to have fly on your hands or into your eyes while you’re cutting.
I highly recommend using one of these gloves for woodworking.
6. Carefully Cut the Aluminum
With your aluminum held firmly in place and while you’re wearing protective gear, you can go ahead and make your cut. The cutting process will take slightly longer than with wood, so be patient and don’t force the blade, but apply constant light pressure.
Overall, the process of cutting aluminum is very similar to cutting wood or similar materials. The main difference is in the type of blade you should use and the fact that you might need a lubricant and safety gear.
Best Miter Saw Blade For Cutting Aluminum
Now that you have a general overview of how to cut aluminum with a circular saw, let’s look at what type of blade you should use. As I’ve mentioned, a non-ferrous metal cutting blade with plenty of teeth is the best option, but it isn’t the only one. Here are a few other great miter saw blades you can use.
Technically speaking, all saw blades that you use with a miter saw are circular blades. However, there are certain types of circular blades that are better for cutting metal than others. Choosing the right circular blade is crucial for cutting at the proper angle.
Although we’re listing wood blades as one of the first options on this list, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for cutting aluminum. In fact, using a wood blade is easily the worst option for cutting aluminum and other metals.
Wood blades tend to have a low TPI, which means they don’t have very many teeth, and the ones they do have are coarse and designed to saw through wood. As such, when you try to use a wood blade to cut aluminum, it will generate a ton of sparks and instantly dull your blade.
If you’re in a pinch and forced to use a wood blade, use one that’s as fine-toothed as possible.
Razor blades are a special type of miter saw blade that is specifically designed for cutting aluminum and other metals. As the name implies, razor blades have dozens of razor-sharp teeth that eat through metal as if it were nothing. These types of blades are also the best when extreme precision and accuracy are key.
Special Carbide Blades
The best overall blades for cutting through aluminum with a miter saw are special carbide blades. A carbide-tipped blade is one that is specially made to cut through non-ferrous metals, including aluminum. In fact, it’s so perfect for the job that “aluminum” blade is another name for a carbide blade.
Although carbide saw blades don’t necessarily have a ton of teeth, the ones they do are fine and razor-sharp. Carbide also has the ability to hold up under heavy abrasion and high temperatures, both of which are prevalent when you’re cutting aluminum.
Because carbide-tipped blades hold up better under these conditions, they stay sharper for longer and create a smoother, finer cut than other types of blades.
Sharp Cut Blades
Another type of blade designed specifically to cut aluminum and metals, sharp-cut blades are never a bad option. As their name indicates, sharp-cut blades are best for when you need sharp, precise cuts. They’re a good alternative if you don’t have access to a razor blade.
Coarse Cut Blades
As with wood blades, coarse-cut blades are one of the worst types of blades to use to cut aluminum. They have long, coarse teeth that are spread far apart and are better for cutting wood than aluminum.
Additional Tips and Tricks For Cutting Aluminum With a Miter Saw
While choosing the right blade is the number one priority when cutting aluminum with a miter saw, here are a few additional tips and tricks to keep in mind. These tips and tricks apply to other forms of metal cutting as well.
- Always, always, always wear protective gear when cutting aluminum, even if you have the perfect type of blade. All blades present the risk of sparks, and aluminum is a sharp material, so goggles, gloves, and long sleeves are a must.
- If you don’t have access to table clamps and you don’t want to use your hand to hold aluminum in place for cutting, consider using a wood backer. You can use the wood backer to firmly hold or trap aluminum in place as you’re cutting it.
- The sharper your blade is, the better it will perform at cutting aluminum. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have several blades at your disposal in case one of them gets dull.
- Even though it adds slightly more time, it’s always smart to use lubricant or cutting oil when cutting metal with a miter saw.
Here’s a great video showing a miter saw cutting aluminum.
What saw blade is best for cutting aluminum?
A non-ferrous metal cutting blade with a carbide tip is the best type of blade to use to cut aluminum.
What is the best method for cutting aluminum?
A miter saw is one of the best tools for cutting aluminum quickly and accurately. If you need to make longer cuts, you can also use a table saw with an appropriate blade. If you don’t have access to either of these power tools, you can also use hand snips that operate similarly to a pair of scissors.
Can I cut aluminum on a table saw with a wood blade?
As with a miter saw, you could technically cut through aluminum on a table saw with a wood blade. However, it will ruin the blade, create a ton of sparks, and is far from the best option.
If you’re planning to use a miter saw to cut aluminum, it’s important to do things the right way. That means choosing the right type of blade, using clamps, wearing the proper gear, and implementing a cutting oil.
If you do all this, you’ll be able to slice aluminum as if it were butter, and your blade will remain razor-sharp, even after a number of cuts.