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Thread: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

  1. #1
    Senior Member Dorsal's Avatar
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    Default Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    Looking for tips on a good way to make the cutouts in the IP.
    Dorsal ~~^~~
    Series 7 - Tri-Gear
    912 ULS Warp Drive

  2. #2
    Senior Member SkyPirate's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    have you got the aluminum or the plastic panel?

    if it's aluminum the best way is a plasma cutter,..make a wood template that is 1 inch bigger then the hole you want..providing you do not make any radius's smaller then .5" (unless you can find a shop with a CNC plasma table,..then you just give the location and dimension of each hole ..they bring it up on the computer..send it to the table and poof ..instant IP) ,.make the template at least 3/4 " thick ..find your local welding shop and have them cut it out ,..unless you have a plasma cutter,..you will get clean cuts with no distortion in the material,..you might have to file out the knob recess on alt guage,etc.

    plastic,..make the template out of aluminum the same size that you want the hole, then a hot knife ,..let the knife do the work putting pressure on the knife can make it walk off your desired path ,..might have to trace it a few times ..but nice clean cuts,..then put tape on the front side of the hole and debur with light sanding
    Last edited by SkyPirate; 07-14-2009 at 09:48 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Slyfox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    hole punch, very cool. I used the heck out of mine for lightening holes, holes for the heat vents, mainly for the panel. Comes with 3 1/8 or 2 1/4. Now for the straight cuts, I use tape, make your line than tape it on the edge, than run a grinding wheel close to the edge but don't go over it. First hit the corners with a drill bit about 1/8 size than cut to the corners, done. Oh and watch the left overs, cover things, mainly the radios, can fall inside, mess everything up.
    steve
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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    I agree, the hole punch is the neatest and cleanest that I have found. I was able to install a panel mount com radio without removing the panel or even removing other instruments. A very talented man at the airport (7S9) has a punch that popped out the perfect rectangular opening for my VAL Com 760.
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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    If the panel is in place and you are just adding a hole or two, then yes, the hole punch is a clean way to do it.

    If it is a new panel, take it to a sheetmetal shop that has CNC laser cutter. I had mine done by a local shop and it cost me $35. I used Autocad to lay out all my instrument cuts, switch holes and avionics and radio cutouts. You can do this all yourself and make it look good but it is very time consuming particularly on the retangular cuts that a hole punch won't do. I started one panel by hand and actually cut all the holes with a jigsaw with a metal blade but had to hold off the finished line by a 1/16" or so then file it to the finished opening. I got real sick of filing after about the 3rd hole and called the metal shop...had a perfectly cut panel the next day.
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    Super Moderator Av8r3400's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    OR...

    You can be like the guy who built my plane and use a saber saw and a dremel sanding drum to make your panel look like an angry beaver chewed the holes in it.







    (Yes, re-doing the panel is on the list for this winter and I will probably have the local laser house cut the material...)
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    Senior Member Dave S's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    Good Afternoon,

    I still haven't figured out if my tolerance for doing stuff like this the hard way is a virtue or vice; but, the attached photo is my instrument panel where strictly low tech/knuckle bleeding procedures were used; and, I'd like to think the edges came out clean and straight anyway. Cheap, certainly not as fast as the other ways, but still can be done well.

    Crown of IP - Bandsaw and file
    Toggle Switches and circuit breakers - step drill
    Rocker switches - drill and file
    Flight Instrument holes - drill and file
    Big square holes - drill & file

    Got lucky - no broken drills or files or blades, minimal/tolerable amount of blood loss....and can be washed off the lacquer easily....


    Dave S
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    St Paul, MN
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    Senior Member Dorsal's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    Thanks for all the feedback, nice job Dave I admire your workmanship, I will probably take the rout of using the local machine shop for this.
    Dorsal ~~^~~
    Series 7 - Tri-Gear
    912 ULS Warp Drive

  9. #9
    WISDAN's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    I used a Unibit step drill to make all the smaller holes ( up to 7/8" ). I have used them for years in my trade and it produces a perfectly round hole in metal and most plastics.

  10. #10

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    Default Re: Clean straight cuts in the instrument panel

    The old fashioned way I did it on my RV was to use a "fly-cutter" in my drill press -- an adjustable hole cutter than you can pick up at Home Depot. It works fine and it's a heck of a lot cheaper that paying someone to cut it with a laser or plasma cutter. It helps to sharpen the cutter edge on your belt sander before each cut. And be sure to test the size on some scrap before you cut the real thing, and clamp it down good (and keep your fingers out of the way).

    For square holes, drill the corners, connect the holes with a saber saw, and then file to the finished size. Wrap the base of the saber saw with duct tape to keep from making marks. The way to avoid it looking like a chipmunk's work is to cut well inside of the line and file to the line. Flip it over often to see how you're doing without the line to trick your eye into thinking it's straight when it's not. Use a round file near the corners so you don't get stair steps. It's just a matter of craftsmenship.

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