TAP Article: How To Cut Plexiglass And Acrylic

Plexiglass, also known as an acrylic sheet, has quickly proven to be an incredibly durable and versatile material for use in an endless array of everyday applications. Given its sturdiness, it would only make sense you would need specialized machinery to cut plexiglass for a specific project. Nevertheless, that is not precisely true. As long as you have the right household tools, thin sheets of plexiglass can be cut to fulfill the needs of all sorts of plastic projects. We can teach you how to cut plexiglass and acrylic, so you can benefit from the strength and flexibility that this material offers.

Preparation Tips
Different cutting methods work for different situations and material thicknesses. The method by which you choose to cut your acrylic sheet will depend on how thick it is. Thick acrylic slabs are best handled by scoring. Intermediate acrylic sheets are best handled with a scroll saw. Thin acrylic sheets are best handled with a handheld rotary tool. Before you begin, we recommend leaving the protective masking material in place as long as possible to avoid marring the acrylic surface. Also, bear in the mind that it can be challenging to cut plexiglass without leaving a rough edge. You can devote some energy to smoothing the plexiglass finish if your particular project requires a clean edge.

How to Cut Plexiglass and Acrylic

[[image2,left/right]]Scoring: Strangely enough, thick acrylic sheet allows for the simplest of cutting processes. All you need to start with is a metal ruler and a TAP Acrylic Knife, preferably one with a brand-new blade. Place the ruler against the cutting line to measure and then draw the utility knife down its edge, gradually applying more pressure with each pass. Continue until you have scored a deep enough line in the plexiglass. Turn the acrylic slab over and repeat the process. Then position the plexiglass over the edge of your work surface or a sturdy table, so that the grooves you have cut are parallel to the edge. To firmly hold the side of the material to your work surface, you can use a clamp or weigh it down. Add downward pressure onto the side that is positioned over the edge until the plexiglass breaks cleanly. When working with a large piece of plexiglass, be sure to have something soft for it to land on, so it doesn’t get scratched.

[[image1,left/right]]Sawing: When working with an acrylic sheet of medium thickness, a scroll saw is undoubtedly up to the task. Scroll saws produce less heat than their counterparts, which reduces the risk of your plexiglass melting as it is cut. When working with a larger sheet or if you need extra space to work, you can also use a table saw. Be sure to use a blade that has fine teeth and at least ten teeth per inch. Don’t forget to put on all the safety essentials before you even turn your tool on, including goggles, gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt. Position the plexiglass sheet so that the blade begins at the farthest end and comes toward you. Be prepared with a spray bottle of water to spray the material if it gets too hot.

Cutting: When working with thin plexiglass, all you will need is a handheld rotary tool. Once again, you will want to position the acrylic sheet so that the section you are going to cut hangs over the edge of your work surface or table and secure it. Mark the cutting line beforehand with a pencil or pen to ensure a clean cut. With your rotary tool operating between 10,000 and 15,000 RMP, cut along the line until the portion that rests over the edge of your work surface falls from the rest of the sheet.

Check our video How To Cut Plastic Sheet for more information.

Finishing: Once you have successfully cut your plexiglass to size, you can get an attractive edge by polishing and buffing any imperfections. Regardless of which cutting method you use for your plexiglass sheet, the cut-out section will require some smoothing and polishing. You will need multiple pieces of 120 – 600 grit sandpaper that is suitable for wet-sanding, a wood or rubber sanding block, a power drill with a buffing pad attachment, and a polishing compound that is specially formulated for plastic. Soak your sandpaper in water for at least 15 minutes or even overnight, if you have the time. Start sanding with 120 grit sandpaper, working your way up through the grit levels as the edges get smoother to the touch. 600 grit sandpaper will provide the final bit of sanding your acrylic edge needs. Add the buffing attachment to the drill, apply the polishing compound to the acrylic sheet, and buff to a perfect polish for your project.

Check our video How To Polish and Repair Scratches and How To Polish and Shape Plastic for more information.

Working with acrylic sheet can be a bit intimidating if you don’t have much experience, but the possibilities are limitless when it comes to plexiglass. Now that you know how to cut plexiglass and acrylic properly with just a few common workshop tools, you can take on almost any project with complete confidence. You can stock up on cut-to-size acrylic sheets and plexiglass polishes right here at TAP Plastics. Whether you are interested in learning more about working with plastics or you would like to find out more about our plexiglass selection, please feel free to contact us for more information or further assistance.