Plexiglass is a classic alternative to glass that shows off many advantages such as great durability and a more reduced cost. Lots of items can incorporate this material due to its lightweight features that make it more practical compared to regular glass. If you’re a fan of DIY projects, it’s safe to say that you’ve probably considered using plexiglass. Working with this material isn’t particularly hard but cutting it can require some special tools, depending on the kind of project you’re tackling.
Unless you cut the plexiglass correctly, there’s a risk of damage that should be avoided. Simple tools can be enough for most basic shaping tasks, but more complex methods need to be followed to obtain clean cuts in all circumstances. Although plexiglass offers great resistance to shattering and superior flexibility compared to glass, the material’s main weakness is the susceptibility to scratching. Let’s explore the most effective ways to cut plexiglass for DIY applications:
1. Scoring Tool
Before messing around with more laborious methods, it’s worth considering cutting plexiglass using a scoring tool. It’s a fairly straightforward technique that’s also reasonably affordable. We recommend this cutting method for thicker sheets of plexiglass in a straight line but not thicker than around 3/16″. Make sure you’re properly equipped with gloves and goggles to prevent any accidents.
For this plexiglass cutting method, it’s required to get a scoring tool designed for plexiglass or other plastic materials such as the Red Devil cutting tool. The cutter is used to lightly scratch the surface repeatedly. A metal ruler is required to establish the correct cutting line. Each pass needs to offer extra pressure on both sides of the plexiglass slab. After a bit of work, the plexiglass can simply break cleanly along the line. This is why it’s important to make use of this technique only for straight cutting projects.
2. Jig Saw
If you’re working with plexiglass sheets or slabs of various thicknesses, sawing could be a more versatile cutting method to try. For this solution, you can use various types of saws but the most recommended method involves a jig saw power tool with a special blade for cutting plexiglass. Try a professional jig saw from DeWalt and the Freud industrial-grade plexiglass cutting blade, available on Amazon.
As always, before you attempt cutting the material, remember to equip your safety gear such as goggles and gloves. If you want the cleanest cutting results when sawing, it’s also recommended to get a proper work area in your workshop. As long as you use the correct type of blade, the risk of scratching or other issues can be greatly minimized. The plexiglass should be correctly positioned so the blade begins cutting from a safe distance.
Thin sheets of plexiglass are more difficult to cut unless you have some specialized tools. If you require some more precise cutting work such as circles, sawing might not be ideal. Instead, it’s recommended to opt for a nibbler tool that relies on a biting motion. This model from Makita provides excellent value for the money if you’re not sure about choosing a performant nibbler.
Although nibblers are primarily suited for cutting through metal sheets, they also work effectively for other materials, including plexiglass. In terms of safety, it’s very important to wear protective equipment because the nibbler can easily throw around shards of plexiglass during the cutting process.
Cutting extra-thick plexiglass will usually require stronger tools such as a bandsaw. A fairly large work area is needed for this method. The bandsaw is ideal for dealing with large curves in plexiglass that’s thicker than 1″. It also works more efficiently when your project requires cutting lots of plexiglass sheets cleanly.
A bandsaw can be a great power tool for cutting plexiglass but make sure you’re extra careful with it. The blade is incredibly sharp and cuts quickly and smoothly through plexiglass. It’s strongly recommended to be methodical and avoid hurrying to ensure maximum safety.
5. Rotary Tool
When it comes to cutting ultra-thin plexiglass, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind. The fragile nature of this material makes it hard to avoid melting or chipping. It’s best to avoid sawing and try a rotary tool instead. One solid handheld model that can do a clean cutting job comes from Dremel in a complete kit that’s versatile enough for other projects as well.
To ensure the cleanest cuts possible, make sure that your plexiglass sheet is nicely fixed on the work area. It’s strongly advised to have a cutting line prepared before you attempt the cut. In terms of operating power, we recommend setting up the rotary tool to work at 10,000 RPM or more but avoid going over 15,000 RPM for the best performance.
6. Adjustable Circle Cutter
Some shapes are easier to cut compared to others. Plexiglass circles are more challenging to deal with unless you make use of a specialized tool for this job. Combine an adjustable circle cutter like this heavy-duty model on Amazon with a drill so you can cut exact circles with minimal effort.
This is a fairly inexpensive tool that’s very handy at cutting plexiglass circles. It’s not useful to cut any other shapes but you will get superior precision compared to sawing or nibbler cutting methods. Dealing with repeated circles can be a breeze with the help of this practical circle cutter solution.
7. Polishing Edges
Now that you finished cutting the plexiglass to your desired specifications, there’s only one problem left. You can’t just use the cut plexiglass piece as it is because the edges require polishing to remove that rough look. Depending on the method used for cutting plexiglass and your particular preferences, it might not be strictly required to get through the polishing process but it can certainly make a difference in terms of appearance.
A handheld power sander could be the right solution to keep the edges of your plexiglass sheets nice and smooth. Check out this model from Black+Decker that provides solid value for the cost. Alternatively, consider manual wet-sanding if you prefer a more inexpensive solution that requires some extra effort. It’s recommended to begin polishing with 120- or 180-grit sandpaper and then switch to finer grits until you’re happy with the look of the plexiglass edge. With the help of a buffing pad and a drill, you can add the finishing touches to obtain superbly polished edges.