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Cutting acrylic can be done at home using a saw you may already have. If you’re wondering how to get started, read this guide to help you. Acrylic is a great material that can be utilized in various projects. It also comes in colored and transparent options.
When cutting acrylic, it is very crucial to protect the material and take some safety precautions while doing the job. Always wear protective glasses to protect your eyes from shattered pieces of acrylic. Also, it is important that you work in a well-ventilated place. Cutting this material can give offer vapors which may irritate your respiratory system.
- How to Cut Acrylic: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Step 1: Prepare the Tools Needed
- Step 2: Prepare Your Work Space
- Step 3: Cut Your Acrylic
- Step 4: Sand and Buff the Edges
How to Cut Acrylic: A Step-by-Step Guide
In this guide, we will show you how to accurately and safely cut your acrylic.
Step 1: Prepare the Tools Needed
Use this list of tools you need when cutting acrylic:
You’ll need a tool to mark the lines for your cuts. Some acrylics have a paper backing that can accept pencil marks. Others come with a film that requires a fine marker.
Aside from a marker, you will also need tape to mark the material where you want to cut. The tape also helps to prevent chipping while you’re cutting. It also may come in handy on the jigsaw’s shoe to inhibit the metal from scratching the acrylic.
This tool is necessary for you to achieve accurate measurements. It also comes in handy when you’re making lines.
You’ll also need a clamp so the material will not move as you cut. Any vibration or chattering may lead the machine’s blade tearing up the plastic as well as damaging the cut.
You will also need either a jigsaw, scoring knife, or band saw depending on the method you will be using since there are different types for every project.
Step 2: Prepare Your Work Space
After preparing all the materials, prepare your workplace. Make sure there’s enough ventilation in your area. Making use of a good dust collector even if its one you made yourself will come in handy.
Get rid of all the unnecessary things in your surroundings. You need to be able to work and move freely. Take out your dust mask and put on some gloves.
When you’re working indoors, make sure you have a good light. This allows you to clearly see the markings you’re going to cut.
Step 3: Cut Your Acrylic
There are various methods you can use when cutting acrylic. In this guide, we will show you how to cut acrylic using a jigsaw, a scoring knife, and a band saw.
How to Cut Your Acrylic Using A Jigsaw
Just like Plexiglass, a jigsaw is one of the widely used tools for cutting an acrylic sheet. It’s a handheld, small tool that cuts the material using a straight line. However, if you’re planning to cut your acrylic in non-linear fashions, this tool is not for you.
A top performing jigsaw on the market helps in achieving accurate results by simply cutting the edges into angular forms and curves. It’s highly recommended you experiment with the machine’s positioning and setting to gauge the results you desire.
When it comes to the blade, choose the one that has 10 teeth or higher, or with blades that are specially designed for cutting plastic and acrylic sheets. For finest cuts, consider using a carbide edge blade.
- Place your acrylic on a level work table or bench. Secure it with clamps to keep chattering and vibration under control.
- Measure the length of the acrylic you intend to cut, using a ruler. Mark the cut line with a marker or a grease pen.
- Cover your cut line by spearing a tape directly through it. Measure again and mark another cut line over the tape.
- Snap the plastic base of your jigsaw and insert into the right place. Before you move to the next step, put on your mask, goggles, and leather gloves.
- Put the jigsaw’s blade at the edge of your cutting line.
- Turn on your machine and cut the first few centimeters slowly.
After cutting the first centimeters, your blade will start to heat up and will glide on the material more easily. At this point, you can cut your acrylic a bit faster.
When you’re close to the end of your cutting line, make sure to grab the drooping section of the acrylic before it falls. Note, don’t place your hand near the jigsaw’s blade.
How to Cut Your Acrylic Using A Scoring Knife
The following are the steps you need to do when you opt to use this tool for cutting.
- Set the acrylic. To make the job a lot easier, set your acrylic on a level and big surface. However, you cannot use your floor because you will need an edge to break your material after cutting.
- Mark the line. Decide where you want to cut your acrylic. Measure it accurately to create a straight line. Mark the line using a grease pencil and a marker, or simply use your ruler as your guide for the blade.
- Score the cut line using a scoring blade. With your ruler as your guide, run the scoring blade along with cutting line. Try to make a continuous line with even, gentle pressure.
- Pull the scoring blade in your direction along the cut line. Keep in mind that getting a straight line especially in the first round is very important. This line will guide your following lines.
- Deepen your cut. Run your scoring blade through the line for a couple of times until you have a considerable groove. Flip it over and create a line beside the backside which follows the line on the other side. Score it a number of times.
- Break your acrylic. Put the line you have scored directly along the table’s edge. Use some clamps to hold the material to the table to make the process a lot easier. Press down on the outside edge in a fast motion to break the acrylic at the scored line.
How to Cut Acrylic Using A Table Saw
Cutting thicker acrylics is quite difficult. With a table saw you will be able to do this job easier than a band saw or jigsaw. In addition, you can cut multiple acrylic sheets.
Not everybody knows how to use a reliable table saw. If you’re one of them, keep reading. Here are some tips on how to cut your acrylic without getting hit in the face, chipping it, or causing cracks.
- Choose the right blade. For cutting acrylic, you should start by getting the correct table saw blade for the job. A saw blade that is designed for cutting acrylic typically comes with either 60 or 80 teeth. A 10-inch diameter blade that has a carbide-tipped teeth is enough for most acrylic projects.
- Control the speed. When cutting acrylic on a table saw don’t force the material or push it fast to the blade. Acrylic is very easy to work with. It can be easy to mess up as well, especially if the process is rushed.
- Apply pressure.There are two main reasons why you need to put more pressure when cutting acrylics than wood. The thin landscape of acrylic will cause the material to give off more vibrations. This will not only make the acrylic move, but it will cause kickback as well.
The main issue with kickback is that it can shoot a piece of acrylic to your face. It can also pull your hands towards the blade.
How to Cut Your Acrylic Using A Band Saw
Use this rough guide for better results. As the width of the acrylic increases, the total number of teeth for every inch on your blade should decrease.
When cutting acrylic with a thickness that is more than 0.472-inch, make sure to use a buttress or skip tooth blade that has a few teeth for every inch.
This blade is actually made for use with a softer material and retains its sharpness better. It gives a consistent and clean edge that only requires a bit of polishing to restore the acrylic’s transparency and shine.
Acrylic is unmasked. Avoid scratching it using cardboard. If the material is too thick, run the blade slowly as it prevents warping and melting the plastic.
How to Laser Cut Acrylic
A laser system is designed to get defined and complex cutting of acrylic. Laser cutting is one of the widely used options to cut the desired designs.
Connected to computers, laser cutters work like printers to translate the image or design on the acrylic. If you want to make creative and more intricate shapes using acrylic, this method is perhaps the best option for you.
Blur your lens a little when laser etching: Typically, lasers these days come equipped with a device that can be used to set laser focal depth properly.
Each time you laser etch or engrave acrylic, you need to focus the lens and back it off about two inches afterward. This will spread the hot part of the beam, melting the material. You will have a smoother engraving as well as less dust.
- For detail work, increase the laser etching resolution. Laser engravers, most especially the C02, can engrave insane details. These are known as the DPI or dots per inch. Bear in mind that the higher the DPI the more comprehensive the laser engraving.
- Usually, when laser engraving or etching acrylic, you will run at 600 dots per inch. If you blur the lens a little and run at this DPI, you will get cleaner engravings. However, if the detail is not essential, you can work at 300dpi.
- Flame polish the cutting edges of your acrylic. When using a laser cutter, you need to flame polish the cutting edges to obtain your desired results. Do a google search on how to flame polish acrylics so you’ll be able to make it properly.
- Keep your eyes on things. When cutting, don’t leave your acrylic and other equipment unattended. Lasers catch on fire when left unattended as these materials are combustible.
Step 4: Sand and Buff the Edges
Whether you use a band saw, jigsaw, or scoring knife, it is highly recommended that you check for large chunks that are left behind on the edge. When smoothing these out, use sandpaper.
Also, don’t forget to buff the edges. To do this, connect a buffing edge to a good corded electric drill. Using a polishing compound, rub the buffer and buff down the edge until it becomes shiny and smooth. This step will refine the edge, though it isn’t really necessary.
Bonus: There is a 6th method you can use – see how to cut your acrylic sheets with a dremel.
At first, learning how to cut acrylic is quite difficult and challenging. But with the help of this guide, you should be able to achieve your desired cuts accurately. Whatever method you choose, don’t forget to wear on your protective gears.