Plexiglass is everywhere; it is the best alternative for ordinary glass. It is used in making the simplest things, from the covering glass of your kitchen cabinet and home tables to the aircraft canopy and TV screens. It has hundreds of applications in many fields. But what we want to focus on is the use of plexiglass sheets around us, like in construction and home use.
If you are a carpenter or contractor, who deals with stuff like home decoration and improvements, then you will probably need plexiglass sheets for your daily use, and many customers like plexiglass instead of regular glass these days, so it is important for you to know how to deal with this material.
You may also read many terms that refer to the plexiglass sheets like the term “acrylic” or “Perspex”. They are all the same. There are many manufacturers around the globe but Perspex and Plexiglass are the most common ones.
Advantages of Plexiglass
Plexiglass (which is actually the common name of polymethyl methacrylate) provides many advantages like:
- Light weight
- Its impact resistance is 40 times greater than that of glass
- Long life span
- excellent UV resistance
- Flexibility in (folding, cutting to the desired shapes, etc.)
- Comes with different colors, including transparent, which can easily replace glass.
The only disadvantage that I see – and you too will encounter that – is the heat, the Plexiglass has a poor temperature resistance, the thing that we will take into consideration when cutting Plexiglass with circular saw or with any other tool.
The Plexiglas sheets have thicknesses that vary from 1 mm to 20 mm, which is why we will adapt the cutting method according to the desired thickness. The most common sheets are 2mm, 3mm and 5mm.
It is quite easy to work with that material, but still requires some precautions to create precise cuts. Therefore, here are all my tips for cutting plexiglass
Which tool should I use to cut Plexiglass?
Different tools can be used to cut plexiglasss, depending on the desired thickness and shape. I advise you to keep the protective plastic films until you finish your job, so as not to scratch the surface, or even to place adhesive tape on the cutting areas to avoid splinters (for power tools).
Cutting Plexiglass with Plexiglass Knife
- You can use your straightedge and make several passes with the knife (5 at least), each time apply bigger pressure and follow the same groove that you’ve just made.
- Do the same steps on the other side of the sheet.
- Once the sheet is scoured adequately, hold the plexiglass firmly with one hand on the worktable and move it to the sharp edge then press hard on the suspended part to break it.
- It is necessary to deburr all the edges of the cut, so that they are no longer sharp and are used without danger.
- After all, you can move the protective film.
Of course this way will not give you clean and smooth edges, but it will do for quick and simple jobs.
Cutting plexiglass with jigsaw
If you have a jigsaw in your workshop that would be great.
Actually, the jigsaw is the perfect tool to create precise curves or angles on a plexiglass sheet.
To use this tool to cut plexiglass.
Leave the protective film in place on each side of the plexiglass.
You should have the proper blade for that purpose. There are special plexiglass blades in the market that are designed especially for cutting plexiglass. It may cost you about 10 to 15 bucks for a 5-pieces pack, but it will give you smoother edges without splinters.
If you’re not familiar with jigsaws, I suggest you check out this comprehensive guide.
IMPORTANT: While using any power saw, do not stop the feeding while cutting, because this will melt the sheet. If you feel that the blade starts to come off the line that you draw for cutting, you can still release the trigger to stop your saw and start again.
The steps of using jigsaw are the same of circular saw
Cutting plexiglass with circular saw
As for me, that’s how I hit the nail on the head.
I prefer using my circular saw to cut plexiglass; it is the best tool to create straight cuts.
If you have a dimmer, that would be great and it will help you control the speed, as we don’t need a high speed to do the cut.
I will cover everything I know about cutting plexiglass with circular saw.
Heat VS Plexiglass
When you use power saws like circular saws, jigsaws or table saws, you must maintain slow and steady speed, because the friction between the blade and the plexiglass sheet will produce heat causing it to melt, also your feeding rate must not be too fast.
How to cut plexiglass sheet with a circular saw
The reason why it is about cutting with a circular saw is that that type of saws is very common and popular among technicians and construction workers. In fact, you can use a band saw, table saw or even a hand saw to cut plexiglass sheets, but I’m pretty sure you want to get a fine and clean cut for your sheets, and this can be done using circular saws.
- USE YOUR SAFETY GEAR, especially the hearing protection and the face shield because noise level gets tremendously high when cutting plexiglass. You do not want to end up with small pieces come into your eyes
Safety gear won’t cost you more than 60 dollars but they will keep you save, your eyes are more important than anything
2. Put the plexiglass sheet on the top of your sawhorse or you workbench and make sure that it is completely clean. You can use a clamp-on vises to make sure the sheet is fixed and stable.
3. Using a marker to draw the path that you want to cut on both sides of the protective film. Use ruler to be as precise as possible.
4.Leave the part to be cut to overhang freely in the air.
5. To avoid splinters flying everywhere, you can put pieces of the adhesive tape on the cutting line.
6. If you are creating straight cuts, you can put the straight piece of wood on the top of the lines that you have drawn to use it as a guide in order to create straight cuts and then use the clamps to fix it firmly.
7. Leave the protective film on the plexiglass sheet; it protects the sheet from scratch because plexiglass is vulnerable to scratch.
You can remove it by peeling one corner of that paper when you finish the entire project.
8. Before running your circular saw, it is advised to use a coolant spray on the blade if you will cut thick sheets of plexiglass to avoid the heat effect.
Thick plexiglass sheets are ½ inch and above.
9. Aim your circular saw on the plexiglass sheet and wait until it reaches its full speed (the best rpm rate for cutting plexiglass sheets is 3450 RPM and no more than that.)
10. It is very important to push the circular saw (feeding rate) within a slow and smooth motion. If you force the saw too fast, it will cause the edge to chip and damage to the sheet as large pieces of plexiglass will chip away.
- Do not force the circular saw to be too fast (which will give you chipped edges) or too slow (which will increase the heat generated on the sheet and will cause the edges to melt. The best feeding rate is 3 inches per second.
- Make sure the blade is sharp and does not have any bent or broken teeth to avoid the kickback.
- Make sure you have the information about the rake angle of the blade that you will use. The rake angle should be between 5 to 10 positive degrees.
- Don’t use a blade with teeth of uneven height because this will cause the edges to be damaged
- Make sure that the blade depth is ½ inch below the sheet.
- You can cut two or more sheets at one time but you have to stack all of them above each other and fix them firmly using the clamps. If you are planning to do this, you should use a coolant before cutting. Just create a mixture of a detergent and water and then spray it on the blade before running the circular saw.
- When cutting with the circular saw, do not stop the feeding of saw because the plexiglass will heat up and can stick to the blade.
- If you want to create curve cuts, you may use a jigsaw, it is a very good tool that enables you to create curve cuts easily and more efficient.
Best Blades for cutting plexiglass sheets
An important thing that you should take into account is the type of blade that you should use for cutting plexiglass sheets. Because heat is the enemy of Plexiglass, and choosing the wrong type of blade may get you terrible results like melting the plastic due to the overheating in the blade.
I once asked a 40-year old plexiglass contractor on how to choose the best circular saw blades for cutting plexiglass sheets smoothly and without any problems and he recommended using 10-inche, 80-tooth carbide tipped blades for the best results.
According to this important advice, I recommend using the Concord Blades ACB0725T080HP 7-1/4-Inch 80 Teeth as I am using that blade for cutting plywood and plexiglass sheets for over a year and the results are fascinating.
Plexiglass is an amazing material and there are plenty of ways that you can follow to cut plexiglass sheets. However, I prefer using the circular saw for that. Others may use their table saw or jigsaw. The concept is the same use the proper blade type and make sure you do not generate heat because it is a thermoplastic material, which means that the material can melt when subjected to specific heat, and then solidifies upon cooling.