Dependant on the complexity of the shape you require, instructions for how to cut plexiglass can be quite straightforward. Plexiglas is one of the trade names for a synthetic polymer – Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA), which is generically known as acrylic glass.
Available in transparent, translucent and even opaque forms; it makes an ideal alternative to using glass in some situations being both a lightweight and low cost material. Plexiglass is quite easy to cut, but dependant on your reasons for cutting it and the frequency with which you’ll be cutting plexiglass – you might want to consider getting some specialized equipment.
Occasional Plexiglass Cutting
Providing you’ve got a good hacksaw with a fairly wide blade – that’ll do, although it might take a bit of time. The same with any cutting job for the DIY/home enthusiast the secret is always – measure twice and cut once.
Using a ruler measure out the shape you need to cut. Presuming that you need 90 degree corners, use a right-angle to check them; you can also use this to make sure any cutting lines you mark are actually at right-angles to the plexiglas edge.
Before starting to saw through the plexiglass, score along the cutting lines, to create a guiding groove for the saw to follow. Assuming you have a fairly thin piece of plexiglass to cut through, a hacksaw with its many fine teeth will be OK for the job. You could even use something like a tenon saw, but with bigger and more widely spaced teeth there’s a risk that the edges of the cut will be rougher.
However, if you’re trying to cut a sheet of plexiglass thicker than say ¼ inch, it could well be quite tough with a hacksaw. To finish off, run fine glass paper along the newly cut edges, this will not only smooth them off to give a better looking finish, but will also reduce the risk of anyone handling them cutting themselves.
Special Tools for Cutting Plexiglas
If you have a table circular saw, or even a band saw, you can buy blades designed for cutting plexiglas. If you look in your DIY store you’ll see that there are a range of saw blades available, suitable for manual and powered saws, for cutting plexiglas.
Thin plexiglas saw blades have many very fine teeth and need to operate at high speeds to reduce the risks of the cut edges being chipped.
Whereas, blades for cutting thick or hard and more rigid plexiglas sheets; tend to be more widely spaced and bigger. If possible it’s always a good idea to test a power saws plexiglass blade on a part of the plexiglas that can be sacrificed. That way you can see if the blade is likely to cause any chipping – and try a different blade before actually making the cuts you require.
Although plexiglass is highly unlikely to shatter whilst being cut, wearing goggles and gloves is always to be recommended. Unless you’re cutting a large amount of plexiglas under awkward conditions; plexiglas dust from it being cut shouldn’t be an issue.
However, you should wear appropriate work clothes when doing any DIY job and you might also want to consider wearing a protective breathing and/or face mask too.
Photo by Marlon J. Manrique, Creative Commons Attribution License