Making Letters in Aluminum

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Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by tomb18 » Tue Dec 22, 2015 12:07 am

Hi I'd like to make some letters in Aluminum. Something like this:

I tried with a 30 degree 1/8" mill. Big mistake it just breaks in Aluminum. In wood it worked OK but the letters are too wide. I used Arial.
Can someone give some hints on the kind of tool that I can use, and font?
Thanks, Tom
full-emeco-aluminum-brushed_7349.jpg (51.99 KiB) Viewed 2890 times

Brian Stone
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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by Brian Stone » Tue Dec 22, 2015 12:18 am

The best tool for the job is a tapered ball-end engraving bit. Not cheap, though.

Solid Carbide Spiral CNC 2D/3D Carving Tapered and Straight Ball Nose (Conical Ball) ZrN Coated Router Bits

PreciseCarve 3&4-flute Tapered Ball-Nose Carving tools - 1/4" (0.250 in.) Shank

Suppose a straight ball-end mill can work, too, as long as you're not too rough with it.
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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by DanMc » Tue Dec 22, 2015 1:33 am

I've used a regular 1/16" ball end mill for work like that. It worked well. I used CamBam stick fonts which are single line fonts meant for engraving. They're not quite as stylish as your example but work well with a ball end. Those fonts are free and downloadable in several places.

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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by cvoinescu » Tue Dec 22, 2015 5:12 am

That is not necessarily a font -- the letters in that name may be drawn for the purpose. That said, the closest font I can find is Eurostile (and Eurostile Next). Square 721 is also a decent match,
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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by RobCee » Tue Dec 22, 2015 9:23 am

I have done quite a bit of carving on my SO2 and have found Aluminium the most difficult to achieve a good finish with. The typical sort of bit that you use successfully in wood (V-Bit) is not as good in Aluminium, simply because it doesn't evacuate the chips very well. I have found that my results have been very poor, as the metal is heated by the cutter action and smears and blobs around the letters. Some of the folks that have made custom enclosures have managed to get it working though. It appears to work better with 'traditional' styled cutters than with engraving cutters.
A lot of it depends on the grade of Aluminium you are using, too.
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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by Estlcam » Tue Dec 22, 2015 9:39 am


the tapered ball nose bits Brian mentioned are the best choice.

Font is difficult - such thin fonts are unusual on computers.
There is a true single line font in Estlcam ("Estlcam CAD") that may be interesting:
slf.png (19.89 KiB) Viewed 2848 times
Not exactly the same, especially the "m" and "c" - but can be a very thin font if used with a thin tool.

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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by xfredericox » Tue Dec 22, 2015 10:00 am

it is the eurostile font

that square 721 seems to be pretty much the same font
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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by WillAdams » Tue Dec 22, 2015 11:34 am

Bitstream’s Square 721 is their version of Eurostile.

Bitstream subcontracted w/ many font manufacturers early on to digitize their fonts, and the contract forbade resale to other vendors w/o payment or some such, but there was a loophole which Bitstream argued allowed sales for use on non-typesetting equipment or some such, so they were sold to sign shops for use w/ their specialized equipment (usually bundled w/ sign cutting software).

When the DTP revolution hit, Bitstream began selling directly. The fonts are high quality and well done (Zapf Humanist was praised in an issue of Publisher’s Weekly by Prof. Herman Zapf), but the kerning pairs and spacing may be slightly different (often optimized for display, not text use). Still have an old copy of the Bitstream 500 Font CD-ROM around somewhere.

Luc Devroye’s analogue list is still up:

The digits describe different characteristics of the font.

Of course, not all type designers were pleased, Adrian Frutiger mis liked their dating his eponymous font from its usage at Roissy Airport, rather than when it was first sold as type, thus depriving him of several years of exclusive royalties on it.
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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by heathenx » Tue Dec 22, 2015 11:51 am

I've never tried a tapered ball end mill for my engraving work. Here's one I did in stainless steel a few weeks ago. I used a 1/8" ball end mill and went down about .005". Took my daughter's fingernail polish and painted over the text and sand off after dry. Anyway, I used V-Carve to do the text which was a single path font. I engrave very slowly at about 5 ipm with passes of about .0025" deep.
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Re: Making Letters in Aluminum

Post by JeromyReno » Wed Dec 23, 2015 12:06 am

now that is perfection ^^^

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