This extruded aluminum stuff is awesome. It’s easy to cut, easy to join, doesn’t require any paint or finish, and it’s super customizable. It doesn’t look nearly as warm or inviting as wood, but it does have good structural integrity, and the nature of the manufacturing process means that virtually every piece comes out perfect. Unlike wood, there are no knots, pitch pockets, or subtle-yet-irritating-warping. For the perfectionist who enjoys ease of use, t-slotted aluminum is a good choice.
The one drawback is that it’s not cheap. It’s three to five times more expensive than wood, depending on the size and type of the extrusion, and the connectors and fasteners you choose. Since I’m using it to redo my fancy shmancy bed frame that converts into a chaise, I needed lots of expensive fasteners, and I’m out more benjamins than I’d care to admit.
I decided to buy one last big tool for this project—a miter saw. I think it’s the only type of saw that I didn’t have. I embarked on this project over a year ago thinking that I could get by with just a circular saw and a straight edge. Ha, I now own one of every kind of saw ever made. Story of my life.
Anyway, the miter saw was cheap. Like, super cheap. $60 at Harbor Freight. I went for a cheap saw because the blade is the important part. I sprung for an Oshlun aluminum cutting blade, and that thing really is magic. It cuts like a hot knife through butter, and leaves not even a tiny burr. The edges are clean. No filing necessary. Oshlun 10 inch, 100 tooth blade for aluminum and non-ferrous metals—I highly recommend it.
Armed with a cheap saw, a super fabulous blade, and a cut list, I was able to cut all the aluminum pieces in less than an hour. And because there’s no painting or finishing needed, the bed frame was ready to assemble as soon as the pieces were cut.
The assembly process was pretty darn easy. T-slotted aluminum is like Tinkertoys for grown-ups. As long as you have the right length pieces, a variety of connectors, and a vision, you can build anything. Check out the McMaster-Carr website—they’ve got all kinds of doohickeys for making all your dreams come true (the structural ones, anyway).
It’s a little early to say for sure, but I think the aluminum bed frame is going to work out much better than the wood one. I’m really digging the nice hinges, and the accuracy to which the fasteners were designed and manufactured. There’s still quite a lot of work to be done on the bed frame before it can hold a mattress, but it’ll have to wait until this next flood of design work is over. I’m not sure when that’ll be, but the potentially starving freelancer in me says that more work is always a good thing.