Plexiglas is a clear, durable material that is frequently used as an alternative to glass. In addition to the numerous benefits that this material provides, it is fragile and susceptible to scratches and cracks. So, even if you want to drill a hole through plexiglass, you’ll have to handle it carefully when working with it.
To keep the material from splitting or melting, you’ll need to apply certain procedures. You’ll learn how to drill Plexiglass in only 5 steps in this article.
In short, the 5 steps on how to drill plexiglass are:
- Mark where you need to drill.
- Set the drill.
- Place the plexiglass plate on a flat surface.
- Drill the hole.
- Deburr or countersink.
Before I go into more detail about these procedures and where you can learn how to drill Plexiglass, I want to make sure you’re up to speed on this type of material. Only by understanding the material you are working with can you achieve the best results.
After reading this blog post, you’ll know exactly why plexiglass cracks, what equipment you’ll need, and what you can do to prevent plexiglass from cracking. Having this knowledge, you’ll have a better chance of drilling Plexiglass with great success.
- What is plexiglass?
- Can you drill through plexiglass?
- Why does plexiglass crack?
- What power tool should you use to drill plexiglass?
- Best drill bit for plexiglass
- How to prevent plexiglass from cracking when drilling?
- How To Drill Plexiglass
- How to fix cracked plexiglass
- How to cut plexiglass?
- How to drill plexiglass – conclusion
What is plexiglass?
Plexiglas is a kind of plastic made from the ester of methacrylic acid, methyl methacrylate. Polymethylmethacrylate (or PMMA for short) is the technical name for this substance, but it’s also known as Perspex, Acrylite, Acrylplast, and a variety of other names.
Plexiglass is an excellent glass alternative. It’s 17 times stronger, more flexible, and even clearer than glass.
Can you drill through plexiglass?
In short, yes, you can drill holes in plexiglass, and it’s actually not that difficult. With a custom sharp plastic drill bit and the right speed, you can drill holes of any size without cracking the plexiglass.
All the tips you need on how to drill plexiglass properly can be found in this article’s step-by-step guide.
Why does plexiglass crack?
Plexiglass, also called acrylic, is an alternative to glass. Because of its lightweight, flexibility, and because it is a weather-resistant material, it can serve many purposes. An additional advantage is that you can effortlessly reshape your Plexiglass by applying heat to them.
However, there is also a disadvantage to Plexiglass, and that is its brittleness.
Plexiglass is sensitive to scratches and runs a high risk of cracking. The force that the drill places on the plexiglass causes friction during drilling, which causes the plexiglass to expand due to the heat and crack.
A golden rule when you start drilling Plexiglass is to prevent the glass from melting. To reduce the friction of the drill, there are a few factors that you can adjust so that there will be fewer hot spots. You will discover more about it later in this article on how to drill plexiglass.
What power tool should you use to drill plexiglass?
The selection of appropriate equipment is critical to the task’s accomplishment. A good drill is crucial if you want things to go smoothly. Drilling Plexiglass may be done with both a hand-held electric drill and a drill press. I’ll go through each option briefly so you can decide which is best for you.
Electric Drill (Handheld)
With a hand drill or a cordless drill, you can drill precisely round holes in Plexiglass. Because this tool is hand-held, the danger of bursting is slightly increased. Maintaining a consistent speed while keeping the drill at a 90-degree angle might be challenging at times. Furthermore, greater pressure will be applied to one side of the drill, causing heating and the possibility of fracture. In some circumstances, though, this will be the only alternative available. In that situation, pay special attention to the drill’s speed and angle.
This is my favorite tool to use for drilling holes in Plexiglass, and I would recommend going for a drill press as well. With the drill press, the electric motor will rotate at a constant speed, which is also adjustable. Due to the built-in work surface and a fixed drill head, you are always sure that you are drilling at an angle of 90 degrees. By tilting the table of the drill press, it is also possible to drill at different angles.
Discover how to use a drill press in the article I published the other day. This article contains a lot of tips that even experienced woodworkers don’t know about.
Best drill bit for plexiglass
Not all drills will be able to make a perfect hole without cracks. It is therefore very important to choose the right drill bit. There are several options that I share with you below.
Plastic drills are the best type of drills to drill into the Plexiglass. The big difference with other drills is the shape of the tip. A tip of a plastic drill is ground differently. Standard metal drills have a 118° tip, while plastic drills have a 60° tip. A plastic drill will cut smoothly without chipping.
So do you want to drill in plexiglass with a low chance of cracks and a clean hole? Then I recommend plastic drill bits.
Standard twist drills
Not everyone has plastic drills in their workshop, and if you only need to drill one hole, you can use a standard twist drill bit as an alternative. This is one of the most common drills out there that can be used to drill holes in the Plexiglass. However, the chance of chipping and cracking is greater than if you were to use plastic drills.
You can use a countersink drill to remove the burrs on the top.
Keep in mind that you will need to drill slowly with low pressure when using this type of drill.
Related article: What is a countersink bit? and how to use it properly)
Step drill bit
You can also use step drills when drilling into the Plexiglass. With this type of drill, you can enlarge holes to the desired diameter. It is best to start by pre-drilling the Plexiglass, preferably with a plastic drill or a twist drill.
Again, make sure the drill works at a slow speed and very little pressure is applied.
The risk of cracking remains higher when using this drill than when using plastic drills.
How to prevent plexiglass from cracking when drilling?
You never know when Plexiglass will break during drilling, so even if you’re extra cautious, you’ll need to use special strategies to avoid this. As a result, I’ve included the most crucial steps to avoid cracking while drilling Plexiglass below.
I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again since it makes a major difference: while drilling, use the least amount of pressure and the slowest pace possible to avoid melting the plexiglass due to friction.
TIP1: The first suggestion for preventing cracking is to maintain the protective foil on the sheet of plexiglass for as long as possible. This will not only protect the glass from scratches but will also help to prevent chipping.
TIP2: Make sure not to make a hole near the Plexiglass sheet’s edge, since this might cause it to shatter.
TIP3: The next trick is to always clamp the material before drilling into Plexiglass to make sure it stays in place. Before clamping, also check whether the Plexiglass is supported by the worktop over the entire surface and that there are no accumulations of dirt between the glass and the worktop. In this way, good support is always ensured, which can prevent cracks.
TIP4: To prevent the heating of the drill, you can cool the drill with liquid while drilling. You can use water or detergent for this, but oil such as WD-40 appears to be an ideal spray for this. The lubricant keeps the glass cool, prevents heat build-up, and lubricates the drill.
TIP5: One last trick is to apply painter’s tape to the Plexiglass where you will be drilling. That painter’s tape will act as a kind of protective layer.
How To Drill Plexiglass
With all the previous information in mind, you can now discover step by step how to drill Plexiglass. Please read these steps carefully and do not skip a step when you want to drill in plexiglass.
Step 1 – Mark where you want to drill
When applying painter’s tape to protect the Plexiglass, do so before marking. Use a grease marker or pencil to mark where you want to drill a hole.
Step 2 – Set the Drill
Place the drill in the chuck and plug your corded drill into a power outlet. If it is wireless, insert the battery and make sure it is fully charged. Then set the rotational speed of your drill to a slower speed to get an accurate result. A basic rule is if you want to make a larger hole size, lower the speed.
When choosing the drill, it comes down to choosing the right drill diameter. Keep in mind that plexiglass is subject to expansion or contraction due to temperature. So the hole you drill should be slightly larger than the diameter of the bolt or screw that goes through it. If you do not take this into account, the glass can break at this point if it shrinks.
Step 3 – Place the Plexiglass Plate on a flat surface
Place the Plexiglas plate on a dust-free, level surface first. Because of the stress that builds up in that area, unevenness might produce shattering or cracks in the Plexiglass. Clamps are used to hold the Plexiglass in place. To protect the Plexiglas from damage, you can use wood scraps between the clamps and the Plexiglass.
Make sure the entire area where you plan to drill is well-supported. If this is not the case, the plexiglass may shatter or crack as the drill passes through it.
Step 4 – Drilling
To avoid mistakes, practice on a piece of plexiglass before you start drilling.
This helps you to see how the end product will look while also determining the drilling speed and pressure you should employ. You may still make tweaks and attempt till you obtain the hole you desire at this stage.
Once you’ve mastered the proper practice and technique, you may begin practicing for real.
Put the bit in the middle of the mark you created. Begin gently and gradually increase the pressure while keeping an eye on the position of the drill.
Slow down the rotating speed if you see chipping or rough holes. To avoid this, spray the Plexiglass sheet with water often while drilling to keep the area cool.
Step 5 – Finish
After you have successfully drilled a hole in the Plexiglass, you can drill or deburr a countersink hole with a countersink drill. Here, too, you work slowly and under low pressure. Then you remove the dust with a wet cloth, remove the protective foil, and you can install the plexiglass.
How to fix cracked plexiglass
What if you meticulously followed all of the procedures but still have a crack in your Plexiglass? Is it necessary for you to throw away your work and start over?
It can be readily dissolved with solvent cement or plexiglass adhesive, so don’t worry. Solvent cement is a binder that softens acrylic and allows it to be welded.
Apply this solvent to the tear line in the Plexiglass and let it set for a few hours to repair it.
The plexiglass melts back together as it softens. It’s critical to wait long enough to gain the necessary strength.
How to cut plexiglass?
If, in addition to drilling plexiglass, you also need to cut plexiglass, I recommend that you read my article “How to cut plexiglass?”. You will learn step by step how to do this.
How to drill plexiglass – conclusion
In this article, you were able to discover how to drill plexiglass without cracking it.
When drilling plexiglass, it’s best to do this slowly and use the correct tools, as described in this article. So, even if you’ve never drilled plexiglass before, with the information in this article, you’ll be able to drill your first hole soon. Before you create your first hole, remember to do a test cut.
Best of luck!
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