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Acrylic can be a difficult material to work with – it chips and cracks easily, it’s heat-sensitive, and you often have to smooth-over rough or irregular edges. While it may seem daunting, this guide will teach you how to cut an acrylic sheet with ease using your jigsaw.
- Cutting Acrylic With a Saw
- Choosing the Right Blade
- How to Cut Acrylic Sheets with a Jigsaw
Cutting Acrylic With a Saw
You probably have other power tools and saws within reach, so you might be wondering what makes a jigsaw the right tool for the job.
For thin plexiglass sheets (less than ¼”) and acrylic light panels, it’s better to score and break off the piece you need to cut. For extra-long cuts or extra-thick plexiglass, you might also consider a skill saw or a table saw.
For moderately thick plexiglass, rounded cuts, or interior cuts, most types of jigsaws offer several unique advantages:
- They’re the preferred saw for rounded cuts
- They’re one of the only saws for interior cuts
- There’s less concern about melting the plexiglass (if used correctly)
- If you’re not cutting acrylic that often, you’ll save money with a cheaper blade
Choosing the Right Blade
If you try to grab any old jigsaw blade, you’re going to have a bad time with chipping and splintering edges. Instead, there are several key things to consider when choosing a blade.
Tooth count – the more teeth on your blade the finer the cut will be, but the hotter your blade will run. So how do you balance smooth cuts with not melting the plexiglass? Choose a blade in the 10-16 tooth range, and plan to use it at a moderate speed to avoid overheating.
Set vs Inline teeth – the number of teeth isn’t the only thing that will impact the smoothness of your cut. Blades with set teeth will tear at the acrylic, while those with inline teeth will slice through much more cleanly.
Coated vs Uncoated – Some blades come with a coat of paint on them. While this makes them look nice and you can easily tell which brand you’re using, it won’t do you any favors when cutting plexiglass. Opt for an uncoated blade.
Composition – Bi-metal blades are designed for cutting sheet metal, while TPI blades are designed for cutting PVC and other plastics. You’re likely to get good results using either, but avoid carbide-edged blades. These will cut finer but much hotter, and they aren’t necessary to get a clean cut.
How to Cut Acrylic Sheets with a Jigsaw
Now that you have the right blade, it’s time to get cutting – practice cuts, that is. Since acrylic is finicky, you’re going to want to play with the saw’s speed and your feed rate to see what works best. Most likely, it will be a moderate saw speed and a medium feed rate.
Your blade selection is going to do a lot to prevent chipping and cracking, but there’s extra steps you’ll want to take as well. To get the best cut, you’ll need the following supplies:
- Grease pen
- Painter’s tape
- Safety equipment: eye goggles, gloves, earplugs, and a mask
You have the blade, you have the supplies, and you have yourself properly protected.
Step 1: Place the plexiglass on a stable surface
You can use two sawhorses, a work bench, or any other stable surface for cutting, just make sure that you clamp the plexiglass down.
Step 2: Mark your cutting line
Using the grease pen, measure and mark the line you want to cut on the plexiglass. You’re going to make the mark on top of the protective film – don’t remove it until after your cuts are complete.
Step 3: Place the tape, and mark your line again
With the painter’s tape, cover your cutting line so that you have a margin of tape extending over either side. This will go the extra mile to prevent chipping as you’re going. Then take your grease pen and re-measure/mark your cutting line on the tape.
Step 4: Put on your safety equipment
The importance of safety gear – especially eye goggles – cannot be overstated when working with acrylic and other hard plastics. That’s not a hospital visit you want to make.
Step 5: Position the saw and turn it on
Align the shoe of the jigsaw and position the blade at one end of your cut line. Make sure the blade is not actually touching the plexiglass before you start it, and ensure your shoe is sitting flat. Turn the jigsaw on and let it come up to speed.
Step 6: Make the cut
Carefully begin the cut, taking care to keep the saw on your cutting line. Don’t force the saw through the cut or you’ll increase the odds of it overheating, but don’t go slower than you need to. Maintain a steady speed and make sure your blade isn’t getting too hot.
Step 7: Finish the cut
Keep your blade straight on the cutting line until it passes all the way through the other end of the plexiglass. If you’re using the end of a workbench, you’ll want to support the scrap piece with your free hand to prevent it from pulling on the end as it tries to fall away.
Now that your cut is complete, remove the painter’s tape and inspect the edge. You can wet-sand the plexiglass if you’d prefer a more polished finish, but if all went well then you should have a pretty smooth cut.
How to Make Interior Cuts
To make interior cuts you’re going to follow the exact same steps as above, with one key addition: you’ll need to drill a hole where you want to start the interior cut. You can use a masonry bit, just make sure that it’s large enough for your blade to fit in.
In conclusion, jigsaws are a great tool for DIY cutting acrylic sheets. Use the right blade and saw speed to prevent chipping and overheating, use safety equipment, and your plexiglass project will be well-underway. You can also cut acrylic sheets with a dremel if you prefer.