Plexiglas is basically a plastic that looks like glass. It is a useful material that can come to good service both at home and at work, for professional or amateur repairs. It can, however, be a tricky material to work with, liable to cracking, splitting, scratching and chipping. Therefore knowing how to properly cut Plexiglas can save you much time, energy and resources. Read below for the basics in Plexiglas cutting that everyone should be familiar with.
Identifying Your Type of Plexiglas
You may be surprised to learn that over 20 types of Plexiglas are available on the market, each type with its own specific properties (different levels of rigidity, resistance to cracks and scratching, permeability of ultraviolet rays and so on).
The cutting method you will use and the tools you will employ depend to a great extent on the type of Plexiglas you are working with. For this reason, you should be familiar with the properties of your particular type of Plexiglas.
Tracing the Outlines of the Piece
Before you start cutting, you will have to measure and mark the size of the Plexiglas piece you want to cut. It is a simple procedure: Take a ruler or a measure tape, mark the distances and draw over the desired outlines with a lead pencil.
Choosing a Cutting Technique
You can cut Plexiglass with two main techniques: by hand or with a power saw.
With the first technique, the simpler of the two, your main instrument is a hand knife sharp enough to cut Plexiglas. Position the piece of Plexiglas on a softwood foundation. Hold it down with one hand and, taking the knife with the other, cut several times at the desired place. When you feel that the cut is deep enough, snap the Plexiglas in two with a single hit from the palm of your hand.
When you use the second technique with a power saw, you must determine the exact hardness and thickness of the Plexiglas and choose a saw blade accordingly. Thus you should cut softer material with a blade with fewer teeth in order to decrease the risk of chipping and even melting the plastic. Conversely you should cut harder material with a blade with a large number of teeth to prevent the material from cracking. You should process both the soft and hard types of Plexiglas slowly and with utmost concentration in order to minimize the amount of material waste.
Sanding the Edges
Regardless of the technique you have used, the cut Plexiglas pieces will have somewhat rough edges (or even some melted areas). You can smooth those flaws with some fine-grit sandpaper. Just remember to sand carefully so as to avoid causing greater damage.