How To Cut Plexiglass
Learn how to cut plexiglass. Acrylic plastic is a rigid form of plastic sold under a variety of names including plexiglass.
Acrylic plastic is a rigid form of plastic sold under a variety of names including plexiglass. These plastic sheets have been used as a building material and for many different craft purposes. Purchased in the sheet form it can be cut with any ordinary wood working tools. Plexiglass is as clear as glass and has many good qualities. Besides being clear it is easy to shape, resists sunlight and doesn't break readily. These sheets come in many different sizes and thicknesses. It can be purchased clear, tinted or colored and heated for shaping. There is a protective paper covering the sheets when you purchase it to protect the surface from scratching.
Plexiglass has been used as a substitute for glass on furniture, in picture frames, in greenhouses and for craft projects. In spite of its toughness, acrylic is easily scratched so when working with this product be sure to leave as much of the paper on the plastic as possible until the project is complete. When you are ready to remove the paper, lift one corner and pull it off the sheet. Even with the best of care this product can still get an occasional scratch during the building process. These are best removed with a commercial scratch remover. When working with plexiglass you will need to store the sheets either upright or flat so they are fully supported. This will reduce sagging.
To cut plexiglass leave the the paper on and lay the sheet to be cut on a flat, even surface. Using a yardstick and a grease pencil mark the sizes of the pieces to be cut on the paper. When this is complete use a glass cutter to score the lines. It is wise to use the yardstick as a straight edge to follow while doing this and to score the lines 5 to 10 times. When the lines are scored place the scored line on the edge of the table and apply a sharp, downward pressure until the pieces snap in two. To smooth the edges on plexiglass that is thicker than 1\8 inch, clamp the piece to a table surface and use a power saw leaving only enough overhang for the saw blade clearance. On thicker sheets of plastic you can also use a drill that is fitted with a buffer to smooth the edges. Be sure to coat the pad with either tripoli or rouge polishing compound before you buff. Finish the edges with a non-stitched disc of clean muslin or flannel and do not buff after you have seamed. Larger pieces of plexiglass can be cut using a table or power saw. Be sure it is firmly clamped down prior to cutting to keep the plastic from shifting. It is wise to use a power saw for cutting the thicker sheets of plexiglass only. Thin sheets should be cut using a glass cutter to keep them from chipping. Curved areas can be sanded or polished by using an electric drill with a small rotary tool that is specified for working with acrylic. Holes should be drilled using a portable drill or drill press that is set to low speed. Twist bits for metal work well on plexiglass but for the best results you should buy a specially ground twist bit from a plastics supplier. Be sure you only apply light pressure when drilling and support the work with a scrap of wood.
In some cases sheets of acrylic can be joined with threaded fasteners, rivets or post and screws. But in most cases they are cemented with a solvent with the most common technique being a joining of the seams by a capillary action. To do this it is necessary to remove the paper near the edges and place the pieces to be joined so the seams are horizontal. Clamp or tape the pieces together and very carefully draw a needle nose applicator along the seam as you squeeze gently to dispense the solvent evenly. Do not blot the excess solvent but instead allow it to be drawn into the joint.