Plexiglass is up to 17 times stronger than glass, which is why it is such a popular DIY product. Aside from the strength, plexiglass is simple to cut to size if you know the right technique.
Cutting Plexiglass is a simple task that you can do by hand, jigsaw, table saw, or router. Each method requires distinct steps, which you may learn more about in this article.
However, there are risks involved. If you don’t know how to cut plexiglass properly, the glass can break and splinters can cause injury. Have you ever considered what substances are emitted while cutting and the dangers these particles pose?
If you want to use plexiglass in your projects, you’ll need to consider how you can cut it and which method is the best and safest for you.
When you read this article, you will not only learn how to cut plexiglass in numerous ways, but you will also learn what plexiglass is and what hazards it poses. In order to protect yourself from these threats, you will learn how to do so in this article.
- What is plexiglass made of?
- What tools do you use to cut plexiglass?
- What are the hazards of cutting plexiglass?
- How to cut plexiglass?
- How to Polish plexiglass Edges
- How to Avoid plexiglass from Cracking
- Final Thoughts on How to Cut Plexiglass
What is plexiglass made of?
Plexiglas is a kind of plastic manufactured from methyl methacrylate, which is an ester of methacrylic acid.
Polymethylmethacrylate (or PMMA for short) is the technical term for this material, although it is also known by several other names, including Perspex, Acrylite, Acrylplast, and many more.
Plexiglas, as I mentioned in the introduction, is a fantastic alternative to glass. It is, however, up to 17 times stronger, more flexible, and even more transparent than glass.
What tools do you use to cut plexiglass?
Plexiglass may be cut using a variety of tools, mostly power tools with fast-rotating sharp blades like the table saw, circular saw, jigsaw, and router.
Cutting plexiglass may be done by hand as well. It’s preferable to use a utility knife that’s very sharp for this.
The utility knife, table saw, and circular saw are ideal for straight cuts.
If you need to cut curved lines, though, I recommend using a jigsaw and a router.
You may learn about the techniques for cutting Plexiglass in each of these ways later in this article.
Plexiglass can also be cut with a laser cutter. However, because few people have this tool available, I deliberately do not go into this, but I certainly wanted to mention this.
What are the hazards of cutting plexiglass?
The first danger that I want to discuss and which will also be most noticeable visually is the breaking of the Plexiglas during cutting.
By applying pressure at the wrong time during the cutting process or in the wrong place, Plexiglas can break, and the broken pieces can fly away due to the spring force. The broken parts may have sharp edges which could cause deformation. So wear long sleeves to protect your arms, and goggles to protect your eyes.
When cutting Plexiglass with the table saw, router, circular saw, or jigsaw, dust will be released.
This dust is not toxicologically harmful and has no dangerous or toxicological effects on health. Plexiglas is classified as non-hazardous under OSHA regulations.
However, it is recommended not to inhale these particles. Therefore, always use a mouth mask when cutting.
When Plexiglas is heated, such as with laser cutting or when bending Plexiglas, vapors will be released. Although these fumes are not fatally toxic, acrylic vapor can give off unpleasant odors and irritate the skin, eyes and lungs.
If you are going to cut Plexiglas with a laser or heat it for bending, do this in a well-ventilated area, use a suitable exhaust system or preferably do this in the open air.
How to cut plexiglass?
Plexiglass can be easily cut with the tools you have at home or in your workshop. Below I discuss step by step how to cut Plexiglass with a utility knife, a table saw, a jigsaw, and a router.
Prepare your work surface
Make sure the space you’ll be working on is completely level and tidy. Damage might be caused by impurities between the surface and the Plexiglas.
When you have cleaned the surface, and it is clear of impurities, place the Plexiglas sheet on top of it. Always be sure that the entire piece of plexiglass is in contact with the work surface before you make a cut.
On both sides of the plexiglass, a protective coating of plastic foil is applied. To avoid scratching the Plexiglas, keep the foil on it during the cutting process.
Mark where you need to make a cut
Before cutting, it is important to mark clearly so that you can cut to the correct measurements.
Mark the size of your desired final piece with a tape measure. Because measurements on tape measures can sometimes differ, it is recommended to always use the same tape measure during the project you are working on.
Use a grease pencil or marker to mark the correct distance. Make the distance marks by placing short dashes.
Once the short dashes are marked, connect them with a ruler and mark a line along the path.
How to cut plexiglass by hand
Cutting plexiglass by hand will work best with thinner sheets of plexiglass.
Place your ruler along the marking line you made.
Now take a utility knife and score several times, until you have made a deep groove in the plexiglass. Depending on the thickness of the Plexiglas, you will have to score at least 10 to 15 times.
Then it is best to turn the plexiglass over and repeat the same steps.
Now comes the moment where you will make the plexiglass to size.
Place the notched line on the edge of your work surface.
Clamp the part that is on the work surface as good as possible. Make sure that the clamps do not damage the plexiglass. You can use a piece of plywood as a buffer for this.
To break the plexiglass at the point where you cut, push down the part of the plexiglass that extends beyond the work surface with downward pressure.
How to cut plexiglass with a table saw
You may use a variety of power tools to cut thicker Plexiglas sheets. In this part, I’ll show you how to use a table saw to cut Plexiglas.
Working with power tools involves risks.
Be prepared for any accidents. Make sure you have a first aid kit in your workshop. Discover how to put together a first aid kit in this article.
Although there are specific blades designed for cutting Plexiglass, any carbide-tipped blade meant for cutting wood will suffice. It’s important to inspect the quality of the saw blade’s teeth again to avoid uneven cuts. The cleaner the cut you make will be, the better condition they are in.
On the table saw, I cut my plexiglass in two ways.
For larger pieces, I saw along the fence. You can cut to size by simply positioning the fence at the proper distance from the saw blade, just like you would when cutting wood.
I use my crosscut sled for smaller pieces. This is a super handy and safe way of working where the saw blade can never be clamped by the material.
Take a look at the article I published on how to create a crosscut sled for your table saw if you don’t already have one. There are step-by-step instructions and free plans available there.
When cutting Plexiglass with a table saw, however, you must be careful not to overheat the blade.
The material may peel or crack as a result of this.
As a result, carefully insert the Plexiglas or take breaks to enable the saw blade to cool down.
How to cut plexiglass with a jigsaw
If you want to cut curves, a jigsaw is a perfect option, although this method can cause more splintering than if you were using a router. One trick you can use to prevent splintering is to put painter’s tape over the cut line. Be sure to use a suitable saw blade! To cut Plexiglas, it is best to use an uncoated fine-toothed jigsaw blade that is suitable for cutting metal. To be sure, you can always make a test cut in a piece of Plexiglas.
I can recommend you to use the jigsaw blade below for cutting plexiglass.
If you are looking for jigsaw blades for other tasks in your shop, check out my article, “Choosing The Perfect Jigsaw Blade In 3 Simple Steps”.
First, measure where the cutting line would be, just like you read in the preparation step.
Instead of first marking a cutting line along the entire length, use the markings to stick a painter’s tape on this place.
Now you can make the correct marking on this painter’s tape with a pencil.
Place the jigsaw blade on the edge of the marking line, turn on the jigsaw, and slowly cut the first few inches of the Plexiglas.
Let the blade cut slowly into the plexiglass to avoid burning, and always make sure you have turned off the jigsaw’s oscillating function.
How to cut plexiglass with a router
A router is a next option that allows you to cut curved lines in addition to straight cuts. The advantage that a router has over a jigsaw is that the cuts cause less splintering. Therefore, applying painter’s tape, as when cutting with a jigsaw, is not necessary.
However, there is a greater chance of being burned by the fast rotating router bit.
The best router bit to use for cutting Plexiglass is the straight router bit.
If you have a router with an adjustable speed, make sure that the speed is not too high. This will only increase the risk of burns.
Cutting with a router in Plexiglas is easy. Make sure you give the router enough time to quietly cut through the Plexiglas.
How to Polish plexiglass Edges
Regardless of which of the four cutting processes I mentioned above, you choose, the cut Plexiglas edge may not be particularly appealing. If the cut edge will be visible in your application, spend the extra time sanding and buffing away the flaws.
Wet sanding by hand typically yields the greatest results.
Start by sanding with 120 or 180 grit waterproof sandpaper. For the best and most flat outcome, always sandpaper on a hardwood or rubber sanding block.
You may use finer granules as the plexiglass becomes smoother. Sand with 600 grit sandpaper to finish.
When you’re satisfied with the edge’s appearance, polish it. Equip your electric drill with a polishing pad and polish the plexiglass edge to a beautiful sheen using a polishing compound designed for plastic.
You can easily make a sanding block yourself, just like you can see in this video how I made mine.
How to Avoid plexiglass from Cracking
As I discussed earlier in this article, plexiglass can break, making it useless for your project and potentially injuring you as well.
When cutting Plexiglass, there are simply a few simple guidelines to follow to avoid damage.
Tip 1: While cutting, try to keep the Plexiglas as cool as possible. Plexiglas will weaken and break during the cutting process if the blade of a power saw becomes too hot. If your saw blade or router bit overheats, take a break and switch it off to cool it down. You may also use water to cool the Plexiglas surface during cutting.
Tip 2: Use the right blade for the job. It’s critical to utilize a sharp blade while cutting Plexiglass, whether you’re using a hand tool or a power saw. A dull blade may struggle to cut through the material, perhaps causing rips and fractures.
Tip 3: Keep it wrapped in plastic foil. The thin coating of plastic film, as previously stated, is meant to prevent scratches. Allowing the film to remain on while you measure, mark, and cut can help protect your instruments and work surfaces from scratches. The foil will partially crack the plexiglass where you indicated it.
Final Thoughts on How to Cut Plexiglass
If you didn’t know how to cut plexiglass before starting this article, one of the approaches you’ve learned will undoubtedly come in handy. Plexiglas can be cut without a large number of machines.
Each method has advantages and disadvantages; it’s up to you to decide which method is ideal for your project.
Cutting plexiglass by hand, in my opinion, is the best way to cut plexiglass since the end product has a smooth edge. The disadvantage is that it is a time-consuming method.
If you want to go faster, power tools are advised, with the router and jigsaw having the benefit of being able to cut curved lines.
Regardless of the method you use, always be careful and wear safety glasses and a face mask, even though plexiglass appears to be a harmless material.
If you also want to drill in plexiglass, you should check out my article, “How to drill plexiglass“, to achieve the best results.
How to build your workshop on a budget?
Building a workshop may be challenging and requires a lot of trial and error.
I know this since I was there as well.
As a result of the ultimate small shop expertise that I’ve never seen anywhere else, I gained more insight into building a workshop.
That’s how I could spend my money more wisely and save big bucks.
I really suggest it to all of my fellow DIYers and creators!
YOU CAN SPEND YOUR BUDGET ONLY ONCE
Stop spending your budget on the wrong things!
Let this fantastic training guide you and start saving money today.
I already bought this personally and I have never seen anything better than this.
Limited price: $39
I hope this information on How To Cut Plexiglass was helpful, and that this blog inspires you.
Feel free to share this blog on Facebook, Pinterest, or other social media.
You can do this by using the buttons below or at the top of the blog.
It will be much appreciated.
I’m looking forward to seeing you soon in another blog or video.
Christophe, founder of Christofix.com
Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration