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Old 24-06-2013, 06:04 PM   #1
Jamesbeat
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Default Nibbler?

I tend to end up making props that have a lot of aluminium sheet in them. I've made a few Star Trek TOS props which have aluminium sheet midplates, and now I'm embarking upon some Blake's 7 stuff such as the Scorpio gun and Teleport bracelet, both of which use sheet aluminium.

My usual method is to use tinsnips to rough out the shape, and then a file.
Aluminium is horrible to file

I have been looking at some simple hand nibbling tools to cut down on the amount of file work needed.

Most of the non-stupidly-priced models have maximum gauge capacities thinner than what I need, but these figures are given for steel.
Can I safely double this figure when cutting dead soft aluminium?

I either use soft aluminium or temorarily anneal harder alloys while working them. My tin snips easily chew through aluminium twice as thick as they are rated for without signs of damage, so I'm hoping it will he a similar story with hand nibblers.

Anyone have any experience with these things?
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Old 25-06-2013, 10:16 AM   #2
SteveDix
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If you're cutting aluminium, I recommend getting hold of a drill-mounted nibbler. I bought one when I was building my kit car (a Sylva Striker) which required considerable aluminium cladding. It goes through the ally like a hot knife through butter, and it's very easy to get a straight cut by clamping a straight piece of wood to the ally so you can follow it.
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Old 25-06-2013, 03:54 PM   #3
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Hi Steve,

What kind of finish do you get, could you post an image?
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Old 25-06-2013, 04:17 PM   #4
Jamesbeat
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It seems that there are two types of nibbler; one that 'chews' a continuous strip out of the material for cutting out shapes, and another that takes individual 'bites' out of the material one at a time.
The former type is available in both hand and powered versions, either powered by a drill or by air. The latter type is a hand tool.

While both would be extremely useful, I was referring to the latter type in my post above.
It looks as though it could be used to slowly and carefully trim out complicated shapes as a substitute to filing, though a small amount of filing would still be necessary to clean up the edges.

The former type looks great for cutting out the initial shape, as it does not distort the material, which is a problem when using tin snips/aviation shears, as they cause the metal to curl up and thus need careful planning to avoid bending the part you want to keep.

I think I'd like to get both eventually, but I really need the hand powered nibbler more urgently.
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Old 26-06-2013, 09:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Sci-Fi View Post
Hi Steve,

What kind of finish do you get, could you post an image?
Unfortunately I can't post any pictures of the nibbler at the moment - however I'm off back home soon and can post a couple of the nibbler and its effects, as I'm going to be cutting the belt mount for my commlock with it.

The nibbler cuts out very fine "C" shapes (depending on the size of punch installed) and so leaves a slightly irregular edge, but which is very easy to file. Depending on how fast you take the tool through the aluminium, it can be a lot more regular, meaning less filing. Larger pieces of aluminium have to be braced well to prevent the vibration shaking the whole thing and knocking you off course, and it's advisable to wear protective gloves (a vibrating piece of ally can slice you up) and goggles (as the little c-shape pieces of waste ally fly everywhere.)

More soon...
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Old 29-06-2013, 09:20 PM   #6
Jamesbeat
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Well I just got a cheap hand nibbler (the type that removes the metal a little slug at a time) from radio shack for $10.
At first, I had to apply a LOT of pressure to remove a chunk of metal, but then I found that if I just used one corner of the die and took out a smaller piece each time, it was very easy to do.
Despite the fact that it only nibbles a small piece at a time, I went through the metal pretty fast, and saved myself a great deal of filing.
If I hadn't been using it on metal almost twice the thickness it is designed for, I'm sure it would have required less pressure to punch out the maximum size piece.
I was also able to get right up to my scribe line, meaning very little filing to clean it up.
Definitely an investment, I wish I had bought one years ago!
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Old 30-06-2013, 11:10 AM   #7
thundergod
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And I popped in because I thought someone was building a model of "Nibbler" from Futurama . ( Doh! )
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Old 03-07-2013, 05:10 PM   #8
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when I was researching for my scratchbuilt Star Wars E-11 blaster I remember seeing a build by a guy, German I think, who put together a fully working all-metal replica using one of those 'nibblers' for the vast bulk of his fabrication.

They seem bloody handy to have.

Damned if I can find a link now..
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Old 18-07-2013, 02:47 PM   #9
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Default Nibbler!

Here we are, finally. Pictures of the drill-mounted nibbler.

DSCN0335.jpg

It's a Turner Enterprises drill-mounted nibbler, as bought in the early nineties. I bought it off a stand at the Stafford Kit Car Show at Bingley Hall, and I'm not sure if the firm is still going. UPDATE : from what I see, Turner Professional is an Australian company and is still going strong. Searches turn up new versions of this on Ebay.co.uk, as well as replacement parts. Bear in mind that this is a 20+ year old tool, that has had some fairly heavy usage, and it's still on its first punch.

DSCN0336.jpg
This is the front of the apparatus. The drill attaches to the hexagonal rod at the back, and you stop the thing rotating by holding the handle (otherwise it will rotate freely and hit you). The two allen screws at the front loosen the nibbler bit so you can rotate it to a particular angle, and a circlip facilitates the opening of the device for removal of the punch. It is recommended to have different punches for different materials. I've only ever used it to cut aluminium, so I never took out or replaced the punch.

DSCN0338.jpg
Closeup of the business end. Basically, a small punch slices out c-shapes of material when you push it along the metal.

More photos later when I cut a bit of aluminium.

Last edited by SteveDix; 18-07-2013 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 18-07-2013, 04:09 PM   #10
Jamesbeat
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Thanks for that. That definitely looks like a tool I'd like to have around. It looks like it would make short work of a sheet metal job.
Can you slow the thing down enough to take small individual bites out of the metal, or would the hand tool still be better for really fine work?
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Old 19-07-2013, 08:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesbeat View Post
Thanks for that. That definitely looks like a tool I'd like to have around. It looks like it would make short work of a sheet metal job.
Can you slow the thing down enough to take small individual bites out of the metal, or would the hand tool still be better for really fine work?

Depends on the drill driving it. If you have a speed control on your drill, then yes.
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Old 19-07-2013, 11:36 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveDix View Post
Here we are, finally. Pictures of the drill-mounted nibbler. More photos later when I cut a bit of aluminium.
I would be very interested to see what finish you get on the edge, especially in the thicker plates 2mm + If you could when you are cutting materials to show us pay attention to this it would be very useful to see.
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Old 27-07-2013, 03:48 PM   #13
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Default Drill-nibbler cut 1.5mm Aluminium.

In best Blue Peter tradition, here's a piece of aluminium that I cut with the drill nibbler earlier :

DSCN0343.jpg

As you can see, the nibbler leaves a small corrugated pattern where the punch removes the c-shape of metal. This is easily sanded off with a couple of rubs of a file. If I'd cut it slower, then these marks wouldn't have been that visible, as it largely depends on the speed you take the tool through the material. With aluminium, it goes through like butter. Steel has to be cut slower.
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Old 27-07-2013, 08:31 PM   #14
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I suppose you could vice or bench mount the nibbler, and run the sheet material along it too. Seems a very handy piece of kit for shaping.
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