Plexiglass is a transparent petroleum-based thermoplastic that has higher impact strength than glass. It is a solid and rigid material and is generally manufactured in sheets. Plexiglass is actually a brand name for acrylic plastic sheets.
According to the report of MarketWatch, the global Acrylic Sheets Market Growth is anticipated to rise at a significant rate between 2022 and 2028. Because it is an immensely durable, transparent, lightweight, and cost-effective alternative to glass and it has near-limitless applications.
However, it is still not perfect and its biggest problem is that it scratches very quickly. Because of that, the sheets of material come covered in a thin layer of protective film.
Due to its poor scratch resistance, it is challenging to cut plexiglass and it requires patience and the right tools.
And the best way to cut plexiglass is mainly dependent on its thickness. You will be surprised to know that the thickest plexiglass sheets are actually the easiest to cut and also allow for the simplest cutting processes.
Also, if your application requires a clean and precise edge, you have to give extra time and effort to polish and shine cut edges.
Here, we have shared a detailed and easy-to-follow guide on how to cut plexiglass without cracking.
Also, if you want to know what factors you need to consider while cutting plexiglass and how to polish and shine rough edges, you will find your answer in this article.
So, let’s get started.
Factors To Consider While Cutting Plexiglass
Because of the sturdy nature of plexiglass, sometimes it requires specialized tools for cutting it. However, you can use the right household tools to cut thin Plexiglass. Here are some of the factors you need to consider while cutting plexiglass.
- Thickness: The thickness of the plexiglass sheet will determine the method you use to cut the sheet. Thick slabs are usually handled by scoring using a circular saw and jigsaw blade, while the sheet with intermediate thickness can be dealt with using a scroll saw. And for a thin layer of plexiglass, the utility knife or rotary tool is the more preferred option.
- Scoring: Thick sheets of plexiglass are generally cut by scoring. When the desired marks are made on the thicker sheets of plexiglass, you will have to groove the piece as many as 10 to 12 times or more to make deeper cuts.
- Sawing: This process is suitable for plexiglass sheets that have a medium thickness. You can use any power saw, provided you choose the right blade and also control the heat to ensure the cut pieces have a straight edge.
- Cutting: Thin plexiglass sheets can be vulnerable to melting and are very flexible. You will need handheld rotary tools to cut this type of plexiglass, not power tools. Now, position the plexiglass sheet with the piece you want to cut hanging at the edge of the working surface and cut the required portion. And let it fall from the rest of the sheet, and land on a soft surface to avoid breaking.
Cutting Different Types of Plexiglass
If you want to cut a thin sheet of plexiglass that is up to 3/16-inch thick, you should use a scoring method that is similar to a technique used to cut actual glass. However, for thicker sheets of plexiglass, you will need to cut with a power saw-it can be a circular saw, saber saw, or table saw.
1. Cut a Thin Plexiglass Sheet
First, you need to place the sheet on a flat surface and mark the line you want to cut using a yardstick and a permanent marker. The work surface should be clean and clear to avoid any marks or damage on the sheet.
Next, hold the yardstick to the marked line with one hand, and run the blunt side of the utility knife using the other hand along the yardstick to score the sheet.
Now, score repeatedly for about 10 -15 times until you have made a deep, narrow cut in the plexiglass sheet.
Then, you should turn over the plexiglass and score the other side of the sheet as well in a similar way to make deep cuts. You need to be careful while turning over the sheet to avoid bending or wrapping.
Finally, hold the scribed line to the edge of your work surface and secure the plexiglass in place with the help of a clamp.
Then, snap off the portion of the plexiglass that extends beyond the work surface with sharp downward pressure. Now, you have your desired plexiglass piece.
2. Cut a Thick Plexiglass Sheet
No matter which type of saw you choose to cut a thick plexiglass sheet, it is very important to use the right blade. There are also special blades available in the market which are designed exclusively for plexiglass.
However, any metal-cutting blade with carbide tips can do the job for you. Before choosing one blade, you need to double-check that its teeth are evenly spaced, with no rake, and have uniform height and shape.
After selecting your tool, place the plexiglass sheet properly and start the measuring and marking process.
In case of any mistake, you should rub the whole mark and redo it. Then, you should cut the sheet as you would any other material.
But, before the blade of the circular saw makes any contact with the sheet, ensure that it is rotating at full speed to get a smooth and even cut.
Also, you can use a clamp to stabilize the plexiglass sheet. There is an important factor you need to consider while cutting a thick sheet of plexiglass – If the blade overheats during cutting, the material may chip or crack.
So, you should proceed accordingly, use water-cooling or pause your work for a few minutes if needed.
Also. you need to push the cutting tool steadily and consistently to prevent the saw from jamming and ensure that you put the sheet on a level surface to avoid the cut piece from falling.
How To Cut Plexiglass Without Cracking: Step By Step Process!
Plexiglass is a tough and durable material, and it is many times stronger than glass in terms of impact strength. However, it is not unbreakable. Here, we have given some important tips which you can follow in order to cut plexiglass without cracking. Keep the following tips in mind while cutting plexiglass.
1. Keep The Plastic Film On
As we have already mentioned in this article, plexiglass usually comes with a thin, protective layer of plastic film. This film is used to prevent scratches as the material travels from manufacturer to retailer to your workshop.
You should keep that plastic film on while you measure, mark, and cut, as it will prevent scratches from your tools and work surfaces.
2. Score A Straight And Deep Line
When you are using a knife such as a box cutter for cutting plexiglass, you should ensure that you score a straight and deep line before trying to break the material at the mark.
To make a deep line, you will need to score repeatedly for about 10 -15 times.
3. Use A Sharp Blade
If you are using a hand tool or a power saw to cut plexiglass, it is very important to use a sharp blade to get the job done perfectly.
The right blade is not only important for speed, because a blunt or dull blade will fight against the material and can cause cracks and breaks. It means that an excessively rough cut edge will be produced.
4. Blade Should Be Kept Cool
As we have mentioned earlier, an overheated blade on a power saw can cause cracks and breaks in the plexiglass during the cutting process. If you keep the plastic film on the surface, it acts as a lubricant to an extent.
However, if your blade starts to overheat, pause and turn off the saw and wait for some time to let it cool. Also, you can add some amount of soapy water or oil to the plexiglass surface for additional lubrication while cutting.
How To Cut Plexiglass By Hand
This method is usually the easiest and cheapest as it does not require any power tool. You should use this method for a not too big thin layer of acrylic sheet.
Here we have given some instructions which you need to follow to cut plexiglass by hand. First, place the sheet on a flat work surface. Because the flat surface will help us to make an accurate mark.
Also, it prevents the sheets from falling off as you can balance them. If you want to make straight cuts, use a ruler and a marker to mark where you want to cut the sheet.
You should use a dry-erase marker that you can easily erase if you have made an error while marking or want to make any adjustments. Now, run along the straight lines you have made on the plexiglass sheets using a glass cutter.
You should flip the sheet and score the other side of the sheet as well to make deep cuts to ease the process of snapping. When you are done scoring, slowly move the scored part of the sheet to the edge of the work surface and let it hang.
Now, slowly and steadily apply downward pressure on the cut section and hold the unscored part on the working surface with your other hand. Then, continue to apply the pressure until it breaks off along the cutting line.
How to Polish and Shine Cut Edges
Whichever cutting method you choose, you may find that the cut edges of the plexiglass sheet do not look very attractive.
If the cut edges would be visible in your application, then you should give extra time and effort to sand and buff out the imperfections.
You will need different quantities of sandpaper of about 120 to 600 grit for wet sanding, a wood sanding block, a power drill with a buffing pad attachment, and a polishing compound for this process.
Many of us generally use a handheld power sander for this process. However manual wet-sanding usually achieves the best results.
You should start the process with 120-grit or 180-grit waterproof sandpaper with a wood or rubber sanding block. As the plexiglass becomes smoother, you need to steadily change to consecutively finer grits.
Finally, finish the process by sanding with 600-grit sandpaper. Once you are satisfied with the appearance of the cut edges, move on to the buffing process.
Outfit your electric drill with a buffing pad and apply a polishing compound that is prepared for plastic. This process will give the cut edges of the sheet a perfect, fantastic-looking polish and a pleasing appearance.
Wrap up on How To Cut Plexiglass Without Cracking
Plexiglass is not a material that is hard to work on and dealing with this interesting material could be effortless if you use the right tools and accurate methods.
If you can learn to work with this versatile and transparent material, it can open up a new universe of DIY possibilities that you can explore in many projects for years to come.
Sometimes, cutting plexiglass may become a difficult job, depending on its thickness and durability. However, it does not take long to learn how to cut plexiglass if you have some woodworking experience. And working with this material can be mastered over time by practice.
We have shared everything about how to cut plexiglass without cracking in our detailed guide. You should consider those factors mentioned here while cutting plexiglass. That is all from my side, kindly share your doubts and thoughts regarding this in the comment section.
FAQ: How To Cut Plexiglass Without Cracking
Plexiglass is mainly used in aquariums, automobile lenses, aircraft windows, police riot control vehicles, and lighthouse lenses. There are many questions related to it that come to our minds. Here we are answering some of the most relevant and commonly asked questions.
Q1. What is the best tool to cut plexiglass with?
Ans: There are many tools available for cutting plexiglass. However, you need to use the right tools and accurate methods to achieve the best results. A circular or table saw that has carbide-tipped teeth is the best tool to cut plexiglass.
Q2. Can I use a metal jigsaw blade to cut plexiglass?
Ans: You can use an uncoated fine-toothed sheet metal jigsaw blade to cut plexiglass. However, we strongly recommend you to practice first on a few scrap pieces of plexiglass to avoid any damage to your new plexiglass sheet.
Q3. Do you need a special blade to cut plexiglass?
Ans: To cut thicker sheets of plexiglass, you will need a saw. For best results, you should use a circular saw with a carbide-tipped metal-cutting blade. However, you need to make sure that the teeth of the blade are evenly spaced and the same size and shape for an even cut.