Plexiglass or Poly(methyl methacrylate) is a shatter-resistant material and a viable economic alternative to glass. Plexiglass can be used in several home improvement and DIY projects. Cutting plexiglass can be challenging because it is prone to scratching. There are several varieties of plexiglass. Some are modified and more scratch-resistant than others, but care should be taken when handling and cutting plexiglass pieces. Always wear proper safety gear when using saws and power tools. When setting up or working with saws, be sure that proper safety precautions are taken at all times.
Scoring and Scribing
Not only is plexiglass prone to scratches and scuffs, the material can be challenging to cut precisely. It can chip or break off into an irregular pattern very easily. In order to prevent this from happening, be sure to score your cutting pattern before cutting. You will need a steady, solid work surface with a free edge. Use a straight-edge ruler and a good plexiglass cutting knife that has a sharp point and solid handle. Start off by cleaning the surface with a dry, scratch-free cloth. Do not use glass cleaner or abrasive cleaning materials on the plexiglass — this could damage the surface and leave behind a dull finish. Proceed to score the area you need to cut by running the cutter along your straight edge in a smooth and consistent motion. If you have a thin piece of plexiglass you may be able to break it along the edge of a table; otherwise a smooth cut from a saw blade will do the trick.
If you are looking for a straight-edge cut, a circular saw will be able to cut through most plexiglass with ease. For a 10-inch-diameter blade, be sure your saw has at least a 2 horsepower motor — this will prevent the blade from getting caught on rough pieces of material and ruining your plexiglass. As a rule of thumb, make sure the saw blades are new or have had minimal use and contain 60 carbide tipped teeth and a triple chip-tooth design. Make sure the saw blades protrude at least 1/2 inch beyond the thickness of the plexiglass. Hold the plexiglass firmly against the circular saw fence and parallel to the saw blade for a precision cut.
When you need to add a scrolling design or curved edge to your finished piece, a band saw provides the right cut. The main goal is to reduce chipped edges or pieces on the sides of the plexiglass. Make sure your band saw has at least a 36-inch throat and is able to cut at a speed of at least 7,500 feet per minute. This is a good rule of thumb for most widths of plexiglass one inch and under. Metal or bimetallic blades work best for plexiglass material. Use the guide blades on your saw table to prevent slipping. Clear away acrylic pieces as they build up in the cutting area to prevent chipping or blade runoff.
Scroll, saber, and hole saws can also be used for lightweight plexiglass cutting. These saws are designed for more precise cutting or for cutting small, detailed projects. They can be used in conjunction with other saws after a piece of plexiglass has already been trimmed or cut to size.
Plexiglass is a great option for many DIY projects including tabletops, shelves and cubes. Having the right tool for the job results in a fabulous finished project.