Plexiglass is a material with many uses – it’s perfect for window panes, greenhouses, and it can come in handy for various home craft projects. Most importantly, it’s quite easy to cut it and mold it yourself. You can cut plexiglass with a range of various tools, including glass cutters, jigsaws, and circular saws. However, this might leave you wondering – which tool is the best? In this article, will explain three different methods of cutting plexiglass so you can choose for yourself.
Plexiglass is essentially a hard and clear type of plastic. It is also commonly known as acrylic glass. The most important characteristic of this material is its transparency which allows it to be used instead of real glass in many cases. In fact, according to the Sciencing website, up to 92 percent of white light goes through the layer of plexiglass which makes it as transparent as the finest real glass.
Furthermore, in some cases, acrylic sheets have some advantages compared to glass. First of all, plexiglass is much more impact-resistant than glass, but even if it breaks, it won’t shatter into millions of sharp pieces like real glass which also makes it safer. Plexiglass is also highly weather-resistant, which means it can tolerate all possible weather conditions, including variations in temperature and humidity. For this reason, it is perfect for various outdoor uses.
When you buy sheets of plexiglass to size, they will usually be covered with sheets of protective paper. Keep this paper on for as long as possible, since plexiglass is easily scratched and this will help you keep the surface intact (source: HowStuffWorks)
The simplest way to cut plexiglass by hand is the “score and snap” method. (source: WikiHow) This method works best for sheets of plastic that are not too big and not too thick. You’ll need a grease pencil or a marker, a ruler to mark where you want to cut, and a glass cutter. If you don’t have a glass cutter, you can use a box cutter.
You can do this without removing the protective paper. Actually, it’s a good idea to keep the paper on. The first step is to mark the spaces where you want to cut the sheet. For this, you can use a grease pencil or a marker. Once you are ready, take the glass cutter (or alternatively use the blunt side of the blade of a box cutter) and score the line that you have just marked.
The goal here is not to completely cut the plexiglass, but only to create a deep indent along the line. It’s best to do this on both sides of the sheet, but it’s also doable with only one side.
When you are done with this step, you just need to place the sheet of plexiglass on the edge on your table or workbench (you can use any level surface). What you’ll do is snap off the part of plexiglass that you want to cut off. The line you drew should be aligned with the edge of the table. Apply as much pressure as you can, and the piece will snap off.
With this method, you might end up with two pieces of plexiglass with rough edges. To smooth the edges, you can use a metal file, sandpaper, an electric buffer or a combination of these.
For thicker sheets of plexiglass, cutting with a circular saw might be a better option than hand cutting. It will also result in smoother edges. According to WikiHow, it’s a good decision to keep the protective paper on for this method too. You’ll need a stable workbench or table in order to do this.
To begin, clamp the sheet tightly to your working surface. The next step is to mark the area you want to cut.
When cutting plexiglass with a circular saw, don’t just do it with any blade. You’ll need to find blades that are made for cutting acrylic plastic. If the sheet is very thick, blades with carbide tips are the best option. You might also need to use a cooling agent to prevent the line of cutting from overheating.
You can make the coolant yourself by making a solution with a couple of drops of dish soap in water. Put this solution in a spray bottle and spray it on the blade as you cut. Using a coolant will also give you smoother edges in the end. You don’t have to be too slow with cutting, but keep the pace steady and not too face – the ideal pace is about four inches per second.
If you don’t have a circular saw laying around, a jigsaw will suffice. However, it getting a straight line with this method might be difficult. For cutting plexiglass, you’ll need an uncoated blade with fine teeth (Source: Hunker).
Just like with other methods, you can leave the protective paper on. The preparation steps are the same – clamp the sheet to a level surface such as a table or a workbench, and mark the line where you want to cut. One easy trick you can use to make the process less messy is sticking a piece of painters tape over the cut line. This will help prevent splintering.
Before you begin cutting, make sure to wear safety goggles as splinters from plexiglass aren’t something you want in your eyes. In fact, this can be very dangerous and you should definitely take steps to prevent it. Better safe than sorry.
Therefore, always wear safety goggles when cutting!
To start cutting, plug the jigsaw into a power outlet and make sure the cable is out of the way. Line up the jigsaw with the mark you made and keep the guide plate flat to the surface. Just like with a circular saw, don’t cut too fast, but keep a steady rhythm. That’s it! If you end up with rough edges, use sandpaper to smooth them out.
According to AC Plastics, these are the different types of acrylic sheets: