Why Cut Acrylic?
Acrylic sheet plastic as we know is incredibly durable and weather resistant compared with glass and other plastics. This makes it suited to a wide range of applications. However, supply of plastic sheets generally come in rectangle or large sheet form and therefore relies on bespoke cutting in order to use it for specific applications.
Strength, clarity and its shatterproof nature are all core benefits of using acrylic sheets in your building project and one of the key aspects which make it one of the best materials to work with on home projects or construction builds, is that it can be cut using standard workshop gear. Whether you use a hand saw or a high powered cutting machine, it is a flexible material when it comes to shaping what you need.
Benefits to Cutting to Size
Different projects will have different requirements and a lot of the time you will need specific measurements and cuttings available to match. We offer bespoke cutting but should you wish to cut your sheets yourself, you should be aware of cracking, which can occur if you use any strong, machine operated tools which can cut too quickly and firmly for the plastic, causing cracks or the plastic to completely snap
Examples of projects where you may need to cut to size include:
- Shed Windows
- Carports and garage builds
- Shower panels
- Kitchen tabletops
How to Cut Acrylic Sheets
Many tradesmen will use power saws or machine-enabled equipment which gives them a accurate cut however, there is no reason why you can’t cut acrylic sheets at home, with some preparation and care.
Tools you can use include:
- Knife/box cutter
- Table saw
- Power tool cutter
Of course how and what you cut your plastic with will depend on your required shape and the thickness of the acrylic itself.
Setup is crucial, as with any cutting you perform, you will always need a stable surface and plenty of space around you so as to avoid injuries or damage. Ensure your sheet is stable and secure before cutting.
With most cuttings, you are better off scoring the plastic first to give you a guide line to work with when cutting. Use a pocket knife or Stanley knife with a very sharp edge and score firmly down your sheet using a ruler or straight edge. If the plastic is fairly thin (4mm or thinner) then this should be enough to outline where you want to cut. Score the plastic a few times back and forth and then make the cut. You should only score about 1/8th deep. You should then snap the plastic sheet with the edge of the surface underneath the scoring mark exactly. This should give a perfect cut.
How to Cut Thick Acrylic
For thicker sheets of acrylic you should use a power saw or Jigsaw for stability and safety. Trying to use a handsaw or even a knife could be dangerous on a thicker plastic sheet and most likely end up damaging or snapping the plastic incorrectly - in fact it could also cause issues with the edging and would require a lot more in terms of polishing and sanding the edges. Circular saws are also good for cutting thicker sheets as well and should give an efficient and safe result.
Using a jigsaw is popular because of the ability and ease with which to cut around corners. Curved edges are better suited to using a band saw.
When cutting plastic in particular, due to its brittle nature after cutting you may need to finish off the edges. We recommend scraping off any loose elements left over from cutting and then sanding/filing the edge down to make it as smooth as possible.
Use high grit sandpaper to sand down the edges and give them a more polished finish.
Cleaning acrylic sheets is important to maintain the finish and we recommend using soft cloths and to avoid chemical cleaning agents as this could damage the finish. Regular cleaning is vital but once the acrylic sheet is cut, give it a wipe with a damp cloth after sanding the edges down.
Laser Cutting Acrylic
Many people use laser cutting to cut their plastic sheets, rather than a jigsaw or handsaw. Acrylic plastic is heat sensitive and so certain tools used for cutting can have an impact and actually warp or damage the sheet if it’s cut too fast. Laser cutting is often used for engraving something into the material, such as with extruded acrylic and cast acrylic.
The main reason these two types are used is because extruded acrylic sheets have a higher tolerance when used for fabrication. Heating and bending can have an impact on acrylic and extruded offers more strength and malleability during fabrication. The cast acrylic offers a high quality sheet, with better clarity and resistance to solvents during fabrication. The key benefits over extruded acrylic includes surface finish and clarity and provides a better option when fabricating it when hot.
So both of these types are suitable for laser cutting and are more flexible when it comes to fabrication and production overall, whether it’s through heat bending or engraving.
What Machines Can Cut Acrylics?
There are many tools you can use to cut acrylic plastic but the most common are those used in make-shift garages or common equipment found on workbenches. Accessories include scoring which can be done by using a Stanley knife or any sharp blade and measuring is easier by using a spirit level or ruler. The cutting can be performed by using the following machinery or tools:
- High speed steel blade
- Band Saw
- Hand Saw
- Power Tool Cutter