Jigsaw Weekend

posted Aug 26, 2012, 7:50 PM by Andrew Stock   [ updated Aug 26, 2012, 7:50 PM ]
Well, Saturday was a bust as far as getting things done around the house... I waged a full on war with the local ant population as they attempted to claim my house for their own.  Fortunately, Sunday went much better. I decided to take on completing the left hand case wall and try and get that done this weekend. I was a little skeptical I would get it done in time, especially since I was planning on using a completely different method for cutting this case wall compared to the first one... but as it turns out, this method worked MUCH better/faster. 

Instead of using a Dremel for the entire cut, this time I figured I would teach myself how to use my jigsaw on aluminum. I started out with a scrap piece, just to get a feel for it. I used a drill to punch a hole, sprayed some WD-40 for surface lubricant, and cut a short curved line, much like what I would be doing on my case. Went well enough:

The biggest boon was that the cut was accurate AND fast... as opposed to the Dremel, which was accurate... but dog slow. For the blade, I used a 30 tooth metal saw meant for finishing work:

I also propped the metal piece I was testing up on a scrap piece of plywood, and stood that up on some blocks so that there was an air gap underneath. I then clamped all that business together:

That worked pretty well... but I could feel the wood was really slowing the jigsaw down. The blade had too many teeth I think, it definitely wasn't meant for cutting wood. The only reason I had the wood there was because the test strip of metal was only 1mm thick, so it was flimsy and bounced around a lot without some backing. Fortunately, my case is made of 3mm thick aluminum which is much more rigid, so I gave it a go without the backing, using just the metal blocks as a stand.

I started with a quick hole drilled in a corner, and started the jigsaw in that hole, cutting a gradual curved line until I met up with my intended cut line:

Using the jigsaw was SO much faster and easier than the dremel. I made the first cut above in about 30 seconds... it would have taken me 15 minutes with the dremel, and probably would have killed most of a thin-cut disk in the process. The jigsaw went through this 3mm aluminum like butter. 

The only drawback to the jigsaw vs a dremel was that the jig couldn't make sharp corners like a dremel could without making multiple passes from different angles. That, and the jigsaw had to have a pilot hole any time I wanted to start a cut. All things considered, not a very big drawback. 

Radiator vent, done! Only took me like 30 minutes. And most importantly, no dremel disks were harmed in the process. 

The best thing about the jig was that it DOMINATED when it came to strait lines. It was fast, and since the cut was already relatively strait, it really cut down on the filing time. 

For the top part, I decided to try something a little different... I taped the pattern to the spot I wanted to cut like before, but then traced it with a razor knife and removed the paper. I found that the jig had a hard time tracing over paper, and tended to toss it all over the place... which made it rather hard to use it as a tracing template. 

That ended up working out rather well, actually. Once I traced it with the knife, I removed the masking on the areas I wanted to cut out, making it very easy to just have the jigsaw follow along the edge of the masking tape. Due to the curves and funny angles, cutting out the top took around two hours... but I didn't have the fire up the dremel even once!

The workstpace is a mess, and blanketed in a snow of aluminum shards, but the cuts are done!

I took all the masking off to see what kind of damage I did... not too bad! Better than the dremel looked right after finishing cutting:

Still some wobbly lines... but these cuts took a few minutes instead of a few hours... so I consider this process a major improvement. 

Oddly, the curved areas came out cleaner than the strait lines...

But the corners... well... the corners look like a beaver cut them.  

Anyway... two hours of filing later... done!

Now you can see all the way through the case! Too bad the view won't stay that way, as the motherboard tray will block most of the left hand window:

That's all for now!

Next time... the cut in the top of the case! And maybe the front, if I finish the design?