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How to Cut Acrylic Sheet with a Dremel

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Acrylic sheet can be cut with many different tools, but using a Dremel with the appropriate attachments can make the process fairly simple. Because of the flexible nature of acrylic sheeting, light hand tools like the Dremel can be a better option than heavier power tools.

The Dremel rotary tool can be used for quite a few different applications, so they are handy to have around the house. In addition to cutting materials from plastic to tile, they are also excellent at filing down rough edges or sharpening other tools.

Acrylic material can come in many different thicknesses. Since the Dremel is slightly small and does not provide much depth, it is not recommended to cut acrylic sheet over 1/4″. For thicker sheeting, consider using a router or bandsaw.

Tools Needed

How to Cut Acrylic Sheet

Before the actual cutting, be sure your work area is clear and you have room to move around. A work bench is recommended for this process, but any flat area that you can clamp material to should work.

Measure Material

First, start by clamping the acrylic sheet down with table clamps to prevent slipping. Any movement whether when measuring, marking, or cutting can create a situation where the end cut is not what was desired.

Using a tape measure, or a ruler if the piece is small, measure the distance of your first cut. Mark the beginning and end points with a thin marker.

Measuring tape

Using a T-square or straightedge, draw a line between the two marks. A T-square braced on the edge will help mark 90 degree lines more accurately. This line is where the cut will occur.

Set up Dremel

There are some different Dremel attachments you can use to cut acrylic. Choose based on what you already have, or your specific use case.

The 561 Multipurpose Cutting Bit can do the job on its own, but you will need a very steady hand. Attach this bit directly into the Dremel.

Dremel makes the 565 Multi-Purpose Cutting Kit, which includes a few cutting bits (including the 561) and a mount that keeps the Dremel straight up, making sure the cuts are not beveled. When making multiple cuts, we recommend this kit.

There is also Dremel’s EZ476 1 1/2-Inch EZ Lock Rotary Tool Cut-Off Wheels For Plastic. Instead of handling the Dremel straight up with the cutting bit, you use cut-off wheels with a sideways action.

For very thin acrylic or quick cuts that do not go a long distance, this may be the best choice. You will also need a mandrel to connect it to the Dremel.

If using the 561, set the Dremel speed to 6 or 8. Any lower may not cut through the acrylic, and any higher will melt the material more than cut it. The EZ476 Cut-Off Wheel can be run at full speed.

Cutting Acrylic with a Dremel

Check your mounting and reset if necessary to make sure the line that you need to cut is off the edge of the workbench. The scrap piece you are cutting off should be over the edge, since a fall when it is cut off might damage the acrylic.

Begin cutting along the line you made when preparing the acrylic sheet. Make sure the cutting attachment is cutting straight up and down, and not at an angle.

Follow the line in front of the tool instead of concentrating on the cutting edge itself, this will help to stay in a straight line. Use a smooth and slow action, since pushing harder in different spots may make the cut uneven. 

Have a spray bottle or (non-breakable) cup handy, and wet the acrylic and cutting bit on a regular basis. It may be easier to have someone else do this for you as you are cutting.

This will cool down the bit and help prevent burns and melted spots. The water will also lubricate the cutting, making it much easier to get through the material. The end result will be smoother than it would be without using water.

Continue through the entire cut. Try not to take a break in the middle and restart, this often ends up making the cut uneven.

Repeat the process for additional cuts, rechecking your marking, and changing your mounting as necessary.

Clean Up the Acrylic Sheet

The edges of the acrylic will probably have some roughness, cut material, or a touch of unevenness that you should clean up. Use fine-grit sandpaper attached to a sanding block for the cleanest edges. 

Consider leaving the acrylic clamped to the table so you have a good base to press against. You may need to flip the sheet over to clean up the other side separately.

If there are some jagged cuts outside the cutting lines, coarse sandpaper on a sanding block will probably be enough to straighten them out. If it is necessary to cut off excess material that was missed, re-mount the acrylic sheet and cut again.

Safety

While it is a small tool, the Dremel has a surprising amount of power to it, and injuries are possible. Follow basic Dremel safety every time you use it. Be sure to treat it like you would any other power tool. Eye protection should be worn since we’re cutting little bits away from material.

Protective eyewear

Check that the electric cord can reach far enough to easily work in the space that you have set up. Examine the cord rop any exposed wiring or broken down insulation. Keep the cord away from the spinning bit.

Do not plug the Dremel in until you are ready to use it. When changing bits, unplug the unit to prevent an accidental start.

Troubleshooting

If cuts are very difficult to make

  • Check the cutting attachment to make sure it is mounted correctly.
  • Check that the bit is sharp. 
  • If using a cutoff wheel, make sure it is not worn down too much.
  • If the Dremel is cordless, try replacing the battery.
  • If the material is too thick, you may need to use a different tool.

If the Dremel is melting instead of cutting the acrylic

  • Try using more water.
  • Lower the speed.

General Dremel Advice

  • Let the Dremel do the work. If you are forcing it, you will get excess melting or even scorching. This can also damage the tool.
  • Understand how to attach Dremel bits and what each bit is used for before trying to use them the first time.
  • Check bits for tightness after every long cut.
  • Cut-off wheels shrink as you use them! They are meant to do this, so don’t think you are doing anything wrong. Have a few handy so you don’t have to stop your project in the middle and run to the store.

Conclusion

Cutting the acrylic sheet with a Dremel rotary tool is easy to do, but also easy to mess up. Take your time, use slow motions, and follow the lines with a steady hand. The proper amount of preparation and familiarity with your tool is important, so spend the extra effort before cutting.