Cutting composite materials on the woodshop

Hi everybody!

Recently I’ve seen some members cutting different composite materials on the shop without using the proper tooling to do so.
As a recap, on the woodshop you can machine wood and engineered wood materials with almost no restrictions (some species of hardwood would have to be cut on a BYO tooling since you will be abusing them). At the same time we say acrylics, plastics and some other composite materials can be cut but you need to be using the proper tooling and applying proper criteria. On most inductions, we mention to bring a MSDS of the material to check how possible its machining is on the woodshop.
The machining of composite material that contain glass, kevlar or carbon fibers is firmly prohibited, due to it’s toxicity and the lack of proper tools and tooling to machining it on the shop (goes well beyond the scope of the woodshop)

Here's a couple of concepts and tips that you need to be aware of

  • Woodworking tools are meant to cut wood
  • When it comes to machine anything other that wood, you want to stick to tools that have carbide cutters (Table saw and router table).
  • You can get away cutting some composite materials on the bandsaw, but is not really recommended. Since its blades are hardened steel and it has a lower TPI it performs quite bad when trying to machine other materials rather than wood. You can always try, providing you are applying good criteria, but if the cut doesn’t go well you should avoid doing it.
  • Using the tooling that’s not proper for the material, while it seems that is cutting fine, could lead to damaging the tooling. An example of this is using an ATC blade on the table saw to cut other material rather than wood. If you cut harder materials, like acrylic, some plastics, and aluminium with a ATC blade you will endup damaging and chipping the tooth of the blade, making it unusable for its proper purpose.
  • TCG blades (Triple chip grind) have a better geometry, more suitable for cutting composite materials and aluminium. Because of their application, they commonly have a bigger tooth count. The afore two statements make the cut more demanding on the saw, if the saw can’t really make the cut (because is too much, or maybe the blade is blunt) you will have to push harder. This could lead to an unsafe practice and then is when you reach the point in where “You can’t cut this with the things we have”.
  • There’s other tools in the space that might be better to do what you want to do and as well tools can only do so much. If it’s not possible, sorry guys but you have to understand.
  • There’s a ban schedule for tool abuse, and whether you like it or not, it will be applied. We need to work together to keep things working and understand that the shop has a scope, and that scope is WOODworking

Final note

I really try to make everybody happy and keep the shop running optimally. These things I’ve mentioned are meant for good practice and as well to keep the shop running within the scope of the woodshop so everybody can enjoy using things that actually work. I’m running this shop with a minimum to non existent maintenance budget, so you need to understand that tooling is a consumable and we can’t afford to misuse it.
I’ll be talking to our treasurer, @Antifoo, to see if I can get the TCG blades sharpen so at least we are providing the best we can for those who want to cut composite materials.


1 Like

So just to recap we do not have appropriate blades to cut acrylic?

Do we need to provide info such as a MSDS regards working with and cutting resin?

Yes we do, that would be the tcg blade labelled acrylic. I’ll have it, including the other tcg blade, sharpen, providing cashflow allows it, so we can rule that one out.

Yes, it would be nice to have some documentation.

I did the cuts as you suggested with the TCG. I admit it is hard to cut and basically pushes it away. But did as you asked.

I’ll get some details regards the resin. The company haven’t picked up the last few time I have call, so I will make more assertive efforts to get details from them soon.