How to Cut Acrylic Sheet

[Cover] How to Cut Acrylic Sheet

As a restless do-it-yourself enthusiast who is always striving for knowledge and seeking each day a new creative adventure, learning how to cut acrylic sheet is a must.

What Are Acrylic Sheets?

Also called acrylic glass and plexiglass, acrylic sheets are transparent thermoplastic material. It serves as a substitute for glass. Its main characteristics are attractive clarity, lightweight, weather and storm resistance, and durability- being shatterproof. They’re even bulletproof. Their temperature ranges from -30 degrees F. to 160 degrees F. most importantly, they are affordable.

There are various tools with which to cut acrylic sheets includes a knife or scriber, table, and circular saws, power saws, routers and shapers, hand saws, and saber saws.

What Are Their Different Uses?

Along with many daily home tasks for which you need acrylic sheet such as repairing window panes, acrylic sheets can be used in many projects, amongst which we list:

  • Submarine windows: Being waterproof, acrylic sheet is used in making submarine windows, allowing a perfectly clear vision through.
  • Swimming pools windows: They make perfect material for swimming pools windows, as they are flexible and UV resistant.
  • Airplane canopies: They are that transparent shield with which to envelop the cockpit. In this case, the acrylic sheet provides protection against aerodynamic drag thanks to its unwavering resistibility and toughness.
  • Aquariums: Acrylic sheets are the most widely used today by industries and companies in aquarium making projects.
  • Helmets: Acrylic made helmets have become the best choice for many people.

How to Cut Acrylic Sheets

There are various ways with which you can cut acrylic sheets, and it’s up to you to choose the method that works best for you.

How to Cut Acrylic Sheet by Hand

For a beginner who isn’t acquainted with tools, this method is easier and more practical. All you need is to grab a thin acrylic sheet, a straight edge larger than your cut, clamps, and scoring knife.

  • Straight-line cutting and clamping: Lay the acrylic on a flat surface, but not the floor. Choose where to cut, measure it, and, using a ruler, draw a straight line, then mark it and clamp the edge to the surface.
  • Scoring: Now, gently put a plastic scoring blade upon the cutting line. Scratch the line from 5 to 10 times. In so doing, you end up cutting halfway through the width of your sheet. The scoring process should not be interrupted, as this line serves as a guide to your following lines. It should, therefore, be correctly straight.
  • Run the blade over the line repeatedly, until you get a well-deepened groove. Then, reverse it and make the same exact line on the backside. Repeat the same process and make sure to score it well.
  • Breaking the sheet: Finally, place the scored line upon and in line with the edge of your table and clamp it. Press on the larger side of the sheet forcefully and quickly. Push in a downward motion until it breaks.

Recommended Scoring Knife for the Job:

Sawing

This is the most frequently implemented method, as saw blades are quite widespread and easily found. By this method, you’re able to cut many sheets simultaneously.

Acrylic sheets require a specific type of blade, as the usual one would not make a perfectly neat cut. Teeth should be evenly sized and closely placed, with little or no set. Otherwise, you may damage the plastic.

  1. The first thing to do is marking where you’re going to cut. While circular saws, table saws, and saber saws are meant for straight lines, jigsaws are made for curves cutting. To have a cleaner cut when using jigsaws, mask the cut line with a strip of painter’s tape to prevent it from cracking.
  2. Push the acrylic sheet, starting at either end of your mark. Try not to push neither too fast, nor too slow while retaining the same pace.
  3. The final step would be cutting a curved line with a jigsaw. Place the acrylic on two beams. Push the jigsaw from the outer edge towards your body along the line you made. When stuck, retreat the jigsaw and move to the other edge.
  4. Sanding: this step comes after cutting the acrylic sheet. It’s highly essential to perfect your cut.
    1. You need to buy waterproof sandpaper that’s suitable for plastic.
    1. Using a metal file, refine and soothe any undesirable chunks you want to get rid of.
    1. You also need 120 grit waterproof sandpaper to start with, then shift to a 200-grit paper, then finish with 400 grit paper (you can use 600-grit paper as well).
    1. Put the sandpaper on the water until it gets perfectly wet. Then, sand the edge.

Recommended Jigsaw for the Job:

Recommended Waterproof Sandpaper for the Job:

Drilling Through Acrylic Sheets

Here’s how to cut acrylic sheet using a power drill:

  1. To drill holes in an acrylic sheet, start with placing the acrylic upon a piece of wood as a support.
  2. Use drill bits that are made exclusively for acrylic.
  3. Clamp your sheet into a surface.
  4. check that the hole you’re going to make is not near the edge of the piece.
  5. Start drilling slowly and at a steady pace.

Recommended Power Drill for the Job:

Final Notes Regarding How to Cut Acrylic Sheet

  • Acrylic needs to be given special attention and carefulness. Don’t use any cutting tools randomly.
  • More than any other material, acrylic requires much precision when it comes to dimensions. The slightest flaw would, unfortunately, hamper its fitting into separate pieces.
  • The deeper the cut, the clearer the edge.
  • Remember to always keep the same pace and pressure while cutting. Otherwise, you’ll have an unsatisfactory result with uneven cuts.
  • If you cut too fast when using a jigsaw, you’ll cause the acrylic to melt.
  • When using a circular saw, get a sheet of rigid foam insulation as fixing support for your sheet. Lay the sheet on the rigid foam insulation and point out the line you’re going to cut. Then use the 7 ¼” plastic cutting saw.
  • When using routers: Routers make straight and curved cuts. If you opt for this method, it’s advisable that you start with the table saw and finish with the router.
  • Scoring tools are best convenient for an acrylic sheet that is less than ½ inch in size. With this method, the process requires patience as it may last a little longer. However, if you use a harder tool with this type of sheet, you risk chipping it.
  • Wear eye protection against shattered acrylic pieces.
  • Make sure that your workshop is well-ventilated, for acrylic releases vapors that may be suffocating.

If you like our guide on how to cut acrylic sheet, feel free to take a look at our articles and buying guides, in which we review various tools and machines; from professional and cheap chainsaws to laser levels and gas leaf blowers.

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