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These versatile tools can handle everything from detailed woodworking to cutting sheet metal, and now you’re wondering: can a scroll saw cut plastic?
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about cutting plastic with a scroll saw and give some extra tips for making chip-free cuts.
Can a Scroll Saw Cut Plastic?
Scroll saws are very effective at cutting plastic, and can cut a wide variety of types ranging from Acrylic and Plexiglass to Corian. Use a crown tooth blade, which has a two-way cutting action that prevents the plastic from melting behind the cut.
Because plastics are prone to chipping and melting, you’ll need to take extra care to get a smooth finish.
If you fire up a scroll saw as-is and make a cut through plexiglass, the edges would likely be a mess.
While you might be able to use a wet sander and smooth them over afterwards, why spend the extra time and energy when you can get a clean edge the first time?
How to Make Clean Cuts in Plastic With a Scroll Saw
The two main things that will mess up your cut are chipping and melting.
Chipping occurs because plastic is generally brittle and tears before it cuts, while melting happens because the saw’s blade heats up too much as you’re going.
Here are the steps you can take to minimize both:
- Use a blade designed for plastic
- Tape over your cut line
- Don’t cut too fast
- Don’t stop mid-cut
- Use a reverse-tooth blade or a crown-tooth blade, or have the best side of the workpiece facing down
- Make practice cuts to get a feel for how the material and the saw responds
- Lubricate the blade
- Make sure your saw’s settings are correct so your blade doesn’t break
Picking the Right Blade
Your blade is going to be the single most important factor that helps control chipping. It’s also going to be one of the biggest contributors to melting.
As mentioned earlier, a crown tooth blade is a right option for cutting plastic with a scroll saw.
More teeth on a blade is always going to give you a smoother cut. The downside – more teeth also means a slower and hotter cut.
Picking your blade’s tooth count becomes a balancing act between chipping and melting, trying to prevent the first without causing the second.
This is where making practice cuts comes in handy, and getting a multipack with different TPI to try.
For example, if you find that 20 TPI is causing some melting, you can back it down to 12 and see if you still like the quality of the edge.
There are seven main styles of saw blade that you can get, and each one has its own uses and advantages.
- Regular-tooth blades: These resemble jigsaw blades with no separation between teeth. While this is the traditional blade style, they have largely been replaced by more efficient and effective styles.
- Skip-tooth blades: The new standard for scroll saw blades, every other tooth on these blades are “skipped” or missing. This makes them very effective at clearing sawdust and other debris but they cut fast and rough.
- Double-tooth blades: Similar to skip-tooth blades, these skip every third tooth instead of every other. This makes them cut slower, but smoother overall.
- Reverse-tooth blades: Unlike jigsaw blades where all of the teeth are facing up or down, reverse-tooth scroll saw blades only have the last few teeth on the bottom facing the opposite direction. This helps prevent chipping on both faces of the plastic.
- Two-way cut blades: A variation of the reverse-tooth style, for every two teeth that point down one point back up. This creates an even smoother cut – but one that’s very slow.
- Crown-tooth blades: These blades have teeth facing back-to-back that cut on both the upstroke and the downstroke. The result is an extremely fine finish, even though this blade cuts the slowest.
- Spiral blades: Rather than just cutting on the front side of the blade, these cut in all directions. This makes them ideal for large workpieces or very curvy cuts, but they can be hard to control.
How can a scroll saw cut plastic cleanly? You’re going to want to use a crown-tooth blade.
The slow speed of the cut is well worth the chipping prevention, because you can play with the saw speed and the TPI to prevent melting.
Cooling the Blade
There are other steps you can take to prevent melting besides picking a good blade. Making sure your blade is lubricated with either beeswax or tool oil will go a long way, because friction is what primarily causes the blade to heat up.
If you have an air compressor handy, you can also use a continual stream of air on the blade to help keep it cool. This may not be practical depending on your workpiece and setup, so since it’s purely precautionary don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work for you.
What Materials Can You Cut With a Scroll Saw?
Scroll saws are great because they can be used for just about anything. You can use them for making fine cuts in hard and softwoods, plastics, and various kinds of metals including copper and even steel.
How Do You Cut Acrylic With a Scroll Saw?
Use a blade designed for acrylic, and make sure the saw is set to a slow speed to prevent it from heating up and melting the material. Push the workpiece steadily through the cut without forcing it, and use plenty of lubrication on the blade.
In conclusion, we hope you’re confident that the answer to can a scroll saw cut plastic is a definitive yes.
Even though plastic materials are prone to chipping and melting, with the right blade and some preventative measures you can make smooth cuts with your scroll saw.