Any tips on how to make cutouts in aluminum? - diyAudio
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Old 13th December 2012, 02:55 PM   #1
maurycy is offline maurycy  United States
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Default Any tips on how to make cutouts in aluminum?

I have an aluminum enclosure with fairly thin walls. Any ideas how to make rectangular cutouts for VU meters? The meters would have to be mounted from behind so I assume that some sort of trim on the outside is mandatory. I just need to know how do I make fairly straight cutouts with just simple tools (dremel, saw, files, etc)?

Thanks.
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:02 PM   #2
bill_a is offline bill_a  United States
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Get a sheet metal nibbler - best hand tool ever invented for that sort of thing. If the stuff's too thick for that, then you'll just have to drill and file or get it machined.

76011B Sheet Metal Nibbler
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:04 PM   #3
Pemo is offline Pemo  Mexico
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Dremel, cutting disk, then file.
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:11 PM   #4
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Try to get a fine tooth file as wide as the hole you need, you will find it easier to get the holes square that way.

Other than that ask your local machine shop to cut it for you.

If the plate is VERY THIN you will need to support it while you are working with it. Clamping it between two pieces of wood is sufficient.
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:22 PM   #5
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Dremel cut off wheel (get the fiberglass reinforced type and wear protective eyewear!)

Drill holes in the four corners (assuming a rectangular cutout) then do the long cuts with the cut off wheel.

Clean up edges and corners with files.

A sheet metal nibbler will also work. Big holes take a lot of nibbling and I could never get a long straight clean line with a nibbler. A reinforced cut off wheel will zip right through thin aluminum.
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:27 PM   #6
maurycy is offline maurycy  United States
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Thanks for replies. Looks like dremel is the way to go. I could also try the nibbler tool but I would have to purchase it since it is not in my toolbox.

I guess, I would also need an idea for the trim around the VU meters. I thought of 1/8" aluminum bars setup as a frame and painted black to cover any imperfections. What do you guys think?
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:35 PM   #7
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Do the meters mount from the front or from the back. Fortunately, most meters mount from the front so they hide any messy hole chopping to some degree.

If they mount from the back and you can see the naked edges of the hole from the front, then you are back where you started!

In the past I made meter frames out of thin brass strips from a hobby shop, cut with snips after carefully marking 45 deg cuts with a protractor, then painted them black.

I'd love to hear other ideas! This is a necessity = mother of invention area.
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:37 PM   #8
maurycy is offline maurycy  United States
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Unfortunately, the VU meters mount from the back so I need the trim frame.
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Old 13th December 2012, 03:48 PM   #9
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Round or rectangular cut out?

Big difference in the methods.

Round is easy. Hole saw or fly cutter + drill press. Hole saws can be hand held, although the hole needs to be cleaned up. Try it on scrap first.

If ur mounting in a thin aluminum chassis, I'd NOT do that.

I'd surface mount.
BUT if you want it to look good, then ur best bet is to fabricate a "bezel" or scrounge one, buy one. Then the hole in the chassis is non-critical, use one of the methods suggested already.

But it is really difficult to make a nice looking hole by hand in a chassis, period.

You could use plastic (lexan, acrylic, etc.) to make a bezel, it works nicely and can be polished.

Wood works too. Especially closed grain woods, cherry, rosewood, ebony, maple, etc...

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Old 13th December 2012, 03:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maurycy View Post
Unfortunately, the VU meters mount from the back so I need the trim frame.
picture please?

I have *never* come across VU meters that mount from the back without some sort of added arrangement, usually a frame with a set of screw down clamps.

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