How to Cut an Acrylic Sheet with a Circular Saw

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Acrylic plastic is nothing but transparent thermoplastic, implying it is moldable beyond a certain temperature and solidifies on cooling. Knowing how to use it can be very useful, and in this article, we cover how to cut acrylic sheets with a circular saw.

How to Cut an Acrylic Sheet with a Circular Saw

Acrylic sheets are handy materials that can be used for decorative purposes. However, it cannot be cut using knives or scissors. Circular saws are most suited for this purpose.

Materials Required

  • Acrylic sheet
  • Circular saw (with proper blades)
  • Proper safety gear
  • 180 grit sandpaper and 320/360 grit sandpaper
  • Clamps for fixing the sheet
  • Measuring tape or a yardstick
  • Markers for making cutting marks

Step #1: Take Proper Safety Precautions

Precautions you must take include:

Person using a table saw to cut an acrylic sheet
  • Cutting an acrylic sheet may produce jerking effects. Wear a pair of gloves before beginning with cutting the sheet.
  • While cutting the acrylic sheet, splinters may get scattered. Therefore to protect your eyes from them, wear safety goggles while cutting the acrylic sheet.
  • Always work on a clean and dry surface. This provides greater stability to the sheet while cutting it and thus is necessary for safety.
  • Keep your feet planted on a stable, smooth, and dry surface so that you do not slip due to tremors.
  • Avoid loose-fitting clothes or jewelry and tie back long hair.
  • Never put your hand within four inches of the circular saw while cutting.

Step #2: Check Your Blade

Here’s a list of the checks you must make before using a circular blade:

  • Adjust the angle of the blade to 45 degrees to make a half-inch cut.
  • Correct misalignments between the blade and the fence.
  • If any teeth are broken or bent, make sure you replace the blade. Use blade stiffeners or high-quality blades to avoid any vibrations or quivers.
  • Use an appropriate and suitable blade of proper size and with the perfect number of teeth. A larger or lesser number of teeth can cause imperfections in the acrylic sheet.
  • The saw should offer adjustable blade clearance (height). This ensures necessary flexibility for cutting different thicknesses of the acrylic sheet.

After making these checks, make sure that you know how much acrylic sheet you want to cut. If you wish to make a quarter-inch cut, it is advisable not to use a saw but a utility knife.

How To Check If You Have The Right Blade

A study by the Atlantic Charter Insurance Company reveals that circular saws cause 10600 ER visits annually. Ensuring that you’re using the right blade will make for a safer and more convenient experience.

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A parameter called SFM is often used to measure the actual speed at which the blade is moving. SFM is measured using the formula SFM = diameter (in inches) X RPM X 0.262.

For acrylic, the SFM of the blade should be between 6000 ft/min to 14000 ft/min.

Step #3: Use Saw Blade Dampeners and Coolants

The dampeners and coolants can be very useful in reducing saw blade vibrations. They should be used during cutting acrylic sheets as it reduces noise and enhances quality.

Remove all foreign materials from the saw blade before mounting washers. A dampener should ideally be ½ to 2/3 of the diameter of the blade.

A saw blade coolant also helps to improve the quality of the cut. A large amount of heat is generated while cutting the acrylic sheet, and you can counter the degrading effects by using proper coolants.

Vortex tube cooled compressed air systems are preferred. These systems are easier to operate and require little maintenance.

Man holding a circular saw

Step #4: Cutting the Acrylic Sheet

Circular saws have many advantages, but their only problem is that they may cause scratches on the surface of the acrylic sheet. Therefore do not remove the protective covering from the sheet till the cutting process is over.

Cutting plexiglass with a circular saw differs in this, as plexi doesn’t usually come with a protective cover.

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To cut the sheet:

  • Using a measuring tape or a yardstick, take measurements on the acrylic sheet according to cuttings you want to make. Draw lines with the marker to define where you want to cut.
  • Clear the workstation properly and ensure it is not slippery. Then clamp the acrylic sheet firmly to the workstation so that it remains stable throughout the cutting process.
  • Make sure to feed the acrylic sheet evenly throughout the saw. Uneven feed rate will produce melt spots or chipping on the plastic.
  • The typical feed rate is about 100 inches to 300 inches per minute. However, some modern-day saws can allow a feed rate of up to 600 inches per minute.
  • During the cutting process, make sure to keep on applying a sufficient amount of coolant. Do not stop feeding the saw; otherwise, it may cool suddenly, causing the glass to stick to the saw.
  • Adjust the blade according to the depth of the acrylic sheet, ensuring it is not sticking out. Else a lot of energy will be lost in the form of friction in the cutting process.

During the entire cutting process, keep the acrylic sheet and the circular saw very well balanced and steady.

Step #5: Smoothen the Edges

After you finish cutting, don’t expect the edges of the sheet to be smooth. You will need to smoothen out the edges.

Before sanding the rough edges remove the protective covering. Start with sandpaper of grit 180 and then proceed to 320 or 360 as you deem fit.

Here’s a quick-yet-comprehensive video guide to cutting an acrylic sheet with a circular saw.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cutting Acrylic Dangerous?

Cutting acrylic can produce splinters and generate heat. Therefore a proper safety kit should be worn to prevent any damage or health hazard.

Can a Jigsaw be Used to Cut Acrylic?

Cutting acrylic sheets with a jigsaw can be challenging, and therefore, we recommend avoiding using them. However, if you don’t have a circular saw at hand and need to make a small cut, you can use a jigsaw as long as you’ve taken all the safety measures and positioned the acrylic correctly.

What Type of Blades are Used to Cut Acrylic?

Blades with sharp teeth are essential. We recommend using carbide-tipped blades for smooth and perfect cuts.

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Conclusion

Acrylic sheets have a distinct look to them. It is often used for decoration purposes, and therefore knowledge of handling it well can come in handy. Cutting acrylic is simple if done systematically, and this article helps you understand how to do it.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.