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Cutting holes in aluminum panel for meters and switches

Discussion in 'Homebrew and Kit Projects' started by N4AEQ, Apr 30, 2018.

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  1. N4AEQ

    N4AEQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    My old greenlee set works great for round stuff but modern DVM ampmeters and other items are square. Can't find a good way to cut square/rectangle holes, have tried dremel with diamond and abrasive cut off wheels, even saw wheels but takes forever. Does anyone have a better way?
  2. KB4QAA

    KB4QAA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

  3. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    The "nibblers" work great on sheet metal. However, for thicker metal other means are necessary.

    Of course, there are square punches available. But, they are usually pretty expensive.

    With thicker materials, the old drill a series of holes just inside the outline and then use a file is usually the cheapest method but is definitely time consuming!

    Also, for sheet metal, aviation "snips" do a very good job if you are careful. In addition, also for sheet metal, especially aluminum, one can use a utility knife and a straight edge. Just keep cutting along the same line, over and over, and, eventually, you will cut through the metal. This method usually achieves the straightest edges but, depending on the thickness of the material, can also be time consuming.

    Glen, K9STH
  4. VE3WI

    VE3WI Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    My 2ยข worth:

    If you're buying a nibbler get the US-made Adel, not the $10 Asian one. The Adel is really rugged & will last forever. You can buy a replacement punch if you ever need one.

    $46 US from Aircraft Spruce (cheaper than Adel's own website). $62 CDN up here though :-(

    Dave, VE3WI
    N5DMC likes this.
  5. VK4HAT

    VK4HAT XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Drill out the corners and file square.
  6. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Any/all of the above, as appropriate.
    ammeters, too.
    KM1H likes this.
  7. KV6O

    KV6O Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have been dealing with this as well. I have nibblers, and they work - but even after a filing it looks like you "nibbled" the hole. Punches are great, and expensive. I have a current need to make some openings for an LCD display and some BNC connectors with the flat spot to keep it from turning - and that punch alone will set you back over $200....


    I have been looking at using a desktop CNC machine to mill out my holes. My library system has Maker Spaces, and hosts 3D printers, Laser cutters/etchers, and CNC machines. I have been working in Autodesk Fusion 360 to define the parts with the holes, and plan on using the libraries CNC machine (a ShopBot) to make the LCD opening and BNC holes. I am seriously considering purchasing a Shapeoko CNC to fill this need, as well as allow me to explore some new stuff. Check with your local library - maybe they have something similar.
  8. AA7QQ

    AA7QQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    After drilling hundreds of square holes (2 start holes & a jig saw with narrow depth straight toothed blade, then cleaned up with a deeper blade, to rough the square out). Then the files come out. 8 evenly spaced & in line. Not easy. It's a full day's layout, drilling, cutting, filing & fitting alll the parts on the enclosure.
    Drew it up in CAD, brought it to the local CNC shop & $300 1 time setup & $40 apiece.

    Haven't drilled a square hole since.

    KM1H likes this.
  9. W1GCI

    W1GCI Ham Member QRZ Page

    I recently used a jigsaw with a metal blade to cut an opening for a 2X16 LCD in a rather heavy aluminum panel. I think it was .062. Anyway, it came out great and didn't take very long, although I moved the panel slowly so as to not over cut the endpoints. I did have to drill one hole to feed the blade through, but jigsaws are meant to operate that way.

  10. K4DJM

    K4DJM XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've started using photo-printed front panels with plastic lamination applied over top. This hides nibbler marks. I've not tried it yet, but I think it is possible to just cut a rectangular window in the printed part and have an LCD or other display be visible through the plastic lamination.

    Holes in the overlay are as neat as you can do with an Exacto knife.

    You still need to do the metal-work, but this approach hides many sins.


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