How to Make a Box Out of Aluminum

You can use the boxes you make for personal storage.
You can use the boxes you make for personal storage. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Nearly all non-food items in modern homes are produced and built in a shop or factory. You may often take for granted wooden furniture, plastic toys and metal cookware, but it's all been subject to procedures that have evolved over the centuries. For some people, metalworking is a profession in mass-producing parts for computers or cars. For others, it is a hobby that also produces economical goods. Requiring just a few shop tools, making a box from a sheet of metal can be fun and rewarding.

Things You'll Need

  • Safety equipment (including respirator, wrap-around eye-protection, shoes, ear protection and welding leathers, if welding)
  • Ruler and marker or calipers
  • Flat pieces of sheet aluminum
  • Band saw
  • Sheet metal brake
  • Metal drill and rivets
  • Welding tools (optional)
  • Hinges and screws

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Don all of the appropriate safety gear.

Using calipers or a ruler and a marker, draw lines on the aluminum to form the outline of your box. Make sure you know what kind of box you want to make, and rule sections off appropriately. Make sure that your lines are as straight and even as possible for the highest quality, finished product. Differentiate between lines that you will cut and lines that you will bend so that you don't accidentally ruin your product during cutting. Using calipers, you can scribe light lines that will be unnoticeable on the finished product or you can use a ruler and marker for darker but more obvious lines. If you want to make a 1-by-1-by-1-foot box, you will need a square piece of aluminum measuring 3-by-3. You will draw lines 1 foot in on each side, leaving you with a square in the middle, four squares on each side and four other squares in the corners.

Adjust the safety guide on the band saw to the height of the aluminum that you are cutting. Keep all body parts away from the saw when it goes live. Turn on the saw and cut the metal along the lines that you have drawn. Go slowly, taking your time to avoid both injury and sloppy cuts.

Bend the lines that you need to bend with a sheet metal brake. A brake is a tool that uses either power or leverage to create crisp, clean, 90-degree bends in sheet metal, including aluminum.

Clamp down the sheet metal before attempting to drill through it with rivets appropriate to the grade of aluminum that you have chosen. You can easily find the best option by asking your local hardware store retailer. This step is optional, and should be done only as required by the project you are building.

Weld the sides together as an alternative to riveting. If you are going to weld, make sure that you wear full protective gear, because welding uses intense heat and sparks, which can catch clothes and hair on fire and seriously damage your eyes and skin. This gear will be in addition to or will replace that which was used originally because this gear must also protect against fire. Do not weld unless you have been appropriately trained.

Use another sheet of metal and the same tools and process to create a lid for the box. In the case of the box from above, you will need a 1-foot lid. You can also have several inches worth of siding so that the lid seals the box better. For example, you might take a square piece of aluminum measuring 1.5-by-1.5 feet, draw lines 3 inches in and cut the corners off in the same manner. At your local hardware store, you can buy hinges to weld to the back of the box, which will allow your lid to open and close. By doing this, you can create any sized box -- from a small, personal lock-box to a toolbox. This is the beauty of metalworking and aluminum; you can adapt it to your needs.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are many regional and local metalworking clubs and associations, so if you don't have shop tools of your own, you may gain access to them through these groups. Joining is also a good way to determine if this hobby is for you without spending hundreds of dollars on tools.
  • If you do not wear safety equipment during this process, you may get hurt. This point cannot be stressed enough.

References

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