Aluminum! Education needed

I have a crazy idea to make something out of aluminum. It’s a wearable accessory that I currently can make from 1/8" wood. But I have questions!

  1. Can I just use 1/8" aluminum sheets too? I don’t want it to be so thin that it is sharp on the edges, so I figured that thick is pretty good, will be at least as light weight as the wood I use now.

  2. After cutting out the part on the xcarve, how do I finish the edges? What if I want the whole thing to be bright and shiny? Can the edges be sanded to a polish, or is that going to be ridiculous to achieve?

  3. Colors! Can I get colored aluminum that thick? I’m fine if it is just colored on one side or whatever, as long as milling doesn’t make the colored edge chip out or something.

  4. Where can I get aluminum that thick, especially colored or anodized colored aluminum?

Is this a crazy idea, or a possibility? I’d take any help or advice anyone has here.

If you can find someone local to anodize after you cut, you’ll get full coverage with color. It’s normally not that expensive, especially if they are running that color on another job.

Maybe check harbor freight for a cheap tumbler to soften the edges.

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It makes more sense to anodize after machining.
Anodizing is a surface treatment, has nothing to do with thickness of your material. You can’t do 1 side only, its always 100% coverage. Also, and this is important: it does not cover up defects. Your raw aluminium must be prepped to perfection the way you want it beforehand, or it wil show in the anodized product.

Mediablasting or chemical etching is usually done to this effect.

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As for finishing, just grab some aluminum and experiment. If I surface plane aluminum with an end mill, I usually use 150 grit, then 400 grit. After that 001 steel wool give a nice finish. Or, you can proceed to 800 and then 1000 wet sanding. Soak your wet sanding paper for a couple of hours and have a bowl of water with a little dish detergent handy. Keep wetting your sand paper and sand in one direction. Then, when you switch grits, sand perpedicular. You will ultimately achieve a shiny finish. You can always buff it after that on a buffing wheel or using a Dremel buffer. For the edges, I just sand with 150 so there are no sharp areas and the focus on the flat surfaces. Especially at .125" thick you won’t notice the edges when the surfaces are shiny. If you go to onlinemetals.com, there is a nice primer on aluminum types - some polish up better than others. Also, consider brass - it is as easy to mill and can be made very shiny. With these key fobs I just did 150, 400 and steel wool: Brass Key Fob for Oregon Resort

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Masking parts can be done for not anodizing 100%.

yeah I know but I think the OP is in over his head already.

Plus I don’t think industrial anodizing companies will jump at the opportunity…

If it helps: these guys used to be very flexible and cost-effective:

I made this Game Symbol Prop out of 1/4" aluminum I got from a local metal and welding supply house.
I got “Scrap” aluminum (left overs form cut up 12’ x 4’ sheets) sold by weight, very cheep.

The photo is of it with just some light sanding with a sanding sponge to clean it up. Later I got a buffing wheel and compound from harbor freight and buffed it to a nice shine. It also softened the edges a bit. But it did not take out all the scratches. I think wet sanding it with some 800 grit then buffing it might do the trick.

Thanks for all the tips, guys. Sounds like I should just try to get my hands on some aluminum and start playing around with it. We’ll see how it goes!

On trick I discovered for cutting thicker aluminum (1/4") try to make the cuts wider than a single bit witch if possible. I was having problems with runnout causing the bit to bind when cutting into deep channels. Switching form a outline cut to a pocket 40% wider than the bit, so it did 2 passes, make all the difference. Gantry Upgrade to C-Beam

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Yes! This helped me as well. I did not find it necessary for 1/8" however. One more thing, Online Metals does have very good deals from time to time (never when you actually need material… but still), so you can sign up to get e-mails and take advantage of 20-30% off your order. http://www.onlinemetals.com/emailsubscribe.cfm

those feeds and speeds you used are pretty sick.
What size machine and motors do you have, bc i’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to match that…

The Standard Nema 23’s with a Makita router. (I switched from the Dewalt because I was waiting for replacement motor brushes and haven’t switched back)
Steel bar stiffing mod and a coated bit.
Feed and Speed calculated using a demo of GWizzard.
The trick is the very thin cut depth. It turns out depth of cut had a really big impact on the load you are putting on the bit.

i consider 0.39 pretty deep tbh. Most DOCs for aluminium are 0.1 or 0.2 mm tops if you search around the forums with feedrates half of yours.
I do have nema 17s, but am considering switching to nema 23. But i’m hesitant…

If you are going to be doing aluminum I highly recommend it.
I did upgrade my controller so that each Y motor was on it’s own driver chip. Though I was running ok on the gshield, the Y chip was running very hot.