Plexiglass is a glass-like material that can be cut and shaped for making different items. There are different types of saws that can be used to cut Plexiglass. However, only a few standout, including a table saw. The tool is normally used for cutting sheets of metal as well as wood, and many know what to do when it comes to cutting Plexiglass.
Our guide will help you out if you are among the category of those who do not know how to cut Plexiglass on a table saw. Acrylic is a fragile material requiring great care when cutting it. It may seem scary when using a table saw to cut Plexiglass, but with a few tool adjustments and a few changes, it should do the job well.
Below are a few tips and recommendations on how to cut Plexiglass using your table saw.
Types of Acrylic Sheets
When you want to cut Plexiglass on table saw, you will have to keep in mind that it has different types of sheets. Meaning you have to get the right blade depending on the Plexiglass sheets you intend to cut.
So why is it important? Well, as I mentioned before, Plexiglass is a fragile material.
Some types of acrylic sheets when cut on a table saw, they end up melting instead during the process. Let’s take a look at the different types of Plexiglass sheets and which types are best cut with a table saw without melting.
Polycarbonate Acrylic Sheets
These are soft but they can be cut using a table saw if and only if you take extra care while handling them. The best way to cut through them without damage is by practicing first a smaller piece to get used to the blade and see how fast the blade should be fed through the sheet.
Cast Acrylic Sheets
This type is the most common, although they are pricier. Cast acrylic sheets are hard and can easily be cut with a table saw and other power tools. They don’t melt easily either when you use the right Plexiglass saw blade.
Extruded Acrylic Sheets
Extruded acrylic sheets are softer than the others, and they easily melt when cutting with power tools like a table saw. It is advisable not to use a table saw to cut through this type of acrylic sheet. The best way to bring it down to size is by score and snap method. They can also be molded easily using heat.
How to Cut Plexiglass On A Table Saw
When cutting Plexiglass with a table saw, you will want to consider a few things before you start making cuts. Once you are sure of the type of acrylic sheet you are going to cut, then it is time to do the rest, including the following.
Before you do anything, make sure you have the right protective gear when working with a table saw. With the different dangers of cutting Plexiglass on a table saw, you will want to keep yourself safe from any injuries or accidents.
Make sure you have work gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes, respectively. It is also advisable to wear a long-sleeved shirt when dealing with a table saw because plastic shards may shoot in all directions as you make cuts.
Choose The Right Blade
We all know the main purpose of a table saw is to cut wood and sheets of metal, at least that’s what most people know.
Although the blade used to achieve this can be used to cut through Plexiglass, the end result will not be as good as that from cutting wood and metal.
You will get chipped edges, and sometimes it won’t be just the edges, it will be deep cracks on the surface of the plastic material.
So, how do you avoid that? For starters, since Plexiglass is a plastic material, you have to look for a saw blade suitable for cutting it.
Saw blades designed specifically for cutting Plexiglass tend to have 60 to 80 carbide teeth instead of 24 teeth usually used for cutting wood.
Look for a 10-inch diameter blade having carbide teeth to handle the thickness of your plastic material properly.
Once you make cuts with your table, saw blade, don’t try to correct those minor mistakes with a jigsaw. Your finished cut may have some visible edges, but you need to know that it is the best you will get.
Regardless of your jigsaw having the right settings, it will only make them worse. Therefore stick to using the right table saw blade for all the Plexiglass cuts.
Approach The Cut With The Right Speed
When cutting your Plexiglass with a table saw, make sure you approach the cut with the right speed. Do not force the material or even push it way too fast towards the blade.
While Plexiglass is straightforward to work with, it is also effortless to mess up when you don’t take extra care as you cut it.
When you want to learn how to cut Plexiglass on a table saw, you need to remember to always approach the cut with a steady and slow push into the blade.
With such an approach, you will get smooth edges after the cut. Pushing the sheet too fast will make it crack easily, or the edges will be rough and uneven.
Remember, the thinner the Plexiglass sheet you are cutting, the slower you need to push it towards the saw blade. This is because thinner Plexiglas sheets tend to vibrate a lot more than the thicker ones.
When you are cutting wood, you don’t necessarily need to apply pressure to it. However, when it comes to cutting Plexiglass, you will have to apply pressure because of the nature of the material.
Plexiglass sheets are thin in nature compared to wood, and this means they will produce more vibrations when placed on the table saw.
The vibrations can cause the plastic to shift messing up your work, and it can also lead to kickback, which is way more dangerous.
Kickback is dangerous as it can push a piece of plastic towards your face or pull your hand towards the blade. Now, if your table saw doesn’t have a flesh sensor, it will be very bad news for you as you may end up losing a hand in the process.
Therefore, when you are cutting Plexiglass using a table saw, do it while applying pressure on the material for the best results and avoid accidents. The best way to ensure safety is by using a push block.
When it comes to crosscutting acrylic sheets on a table saw, they will chip on the corners because that is where the weakest point of the sheet is found.
While it can be bad for your work, avoid it by utilizing a two-step method to make the crosscuts.
Also, avoid the chipping by starting your cut from one end and then flipping the sheet to finish off the cut coming from the opposite side.
Finish The Cut And Sand The Edges
Now finish the cut and then sand the edges because they will be a little rough. Also, since the table saw produces some heat during cuts, it may glaze the edges as well. To get smooth and even edges, sand the edges by doing the following.
- Get fine-grit waterproof sandpaper and a sanding block.
- You need to start by using the coarse grit sandpaper, and as the edges get smooth, switch to finer grit sandpaper.
- For a smoother finish, use sandpaper of 600-grit.
- Also, if you own an electric drill and a buffing pad, they can also help you achieve an incredibly smooth finish.
How to Cut Plexiglass in Circle
There are different ways on how to cut Plexiglass circles. Below is will show you some three effective ways you can achieve this. Start by wearing protective gear and securing the Plexiglass sheet to your workbench.
Once you are done, apply masking tape on the surface that the blade you are using will make contact with. If the backing paper on the sheet is still attached to it, then you won’t need masking tape.
Using a Forstner bit, cut as many circles as you want of up to 3 inches in diameter. The bits are very sharp, so you must be careful as they can cut through even the thickest sheets.
You can also attach a hole saw to a hand drill or even a drill press to cut out the circles.
Another method is by using a jigsaw, or a saber saw with fine-toothed blades. These saws are the best option if you want to cut large circles.
Mark a circle on the Plexiglass sheet and then go on to drill a small hole of about ¼ inch inside the perimeter. Next, you place the blade of your saw inside the hole and then begin to cut out the circle.
Other Ways of Cutting Plexiglass
Apart from using a table saw, there are other ways you can use to cut plexiglass. Some of them include the following:
1. How To Cut Plexiglass With A Jigsaw
So how do you do it? Start by applying masking tape on the area you want to cut if the backing paper is not there.
Next, select the best Plexiglass jigsaw blade suitable for cutting through Plexiglass. Mark the cut line and then attach the sheet securely to a workbench.
Wear your safety gear and then turn on the jigsaw. Wait for it to get enough speed before you feed it through the Plexiglass sheet.
Once the speed is right, place the blade at the edge of the cutting line and start making your cut.
When you feel the blade moving smoothly through the sheet, it means it has gained enough heat. You need to move a little faster at that point.
When you get to the end of the cutting line, grab the overhanging part of the sheet so that it doesn’t fall off.
2. How To Cut Plexiglass With A Router
Wear safety gear and then set up the work area. Mark the Plexiglass sheet you wish to cut with a cutting line of your choice. In case the sheet has no backing paper, apply masking tape on the cut area to avoid cracking.
Position the sheet well on the workbench and then turn on the router. Wait for it to pick up speed before you bring it down to feed through the sheet. Approach the cut with a steady and slow cut until you finish the cut.
3. How To Cut Plexiglass With A Dremel
When you want to make irregular cuts in a Plexiglass sheet, then cutting Plexiglass with a grinder can be a way to go. A dremel grinder with cutting wheels cuts through thin pieces with ease. You can cut it in the following ways.
Start by wearing protective gear and marking the sheet with a cutting line. Unplug your dremel tool and then loosen the collect to insert a 561 multi-purpose cutting bit.
Tighten the collect using a wrench and then plug the tool back into its power source.
Turn on the tool at a 6 to 8 speed before you bring it down to start cutting. Start the cut at an angle of 45 degrees to increase the blade exposure to the sheet. Make your cut to the end and then blow away any cutting materials left.
4. How To Cut Plexiglass With A Utility Knife
A utility knife is used mainly when you have very thin Plexiglass material. The knife is used to score the Plexiglass sheet along its straight edges. To get the best cut, continue passing the utility knife a few more times until the scoreline is perfect. Now, if you want to prevent snapping while scoring the Plexiglass sheet, place a towel underneath the sheet.
5. How To Cut Plexiglass Without Cracking
When you want to prevent the Plexiglass from cracking, you need to apply masking tape at the cutting area/the area of blade contact. Also, approach the cut with the right speed and pace; this will prevent the sheet from cracking and even breaking.
6. How To Cut Plexiglass Without Melting It
Plexiglass is prone to melting when the blade overheats. The heat transferred from the blade to the sheet causes the plastic to melt or warp. To avoid this, take the following precautions as you make cuts.
- Have water with you for sprinkling in case the blade heats up
- Don’t pause as you cut without turning off the blade.
- Run the saw blade at the right speed before you feed it to the Plexiglass
- Choose the right Plexiglass blade.
- Make sure the tool’s capacity can handle thick Plexiglass sheets.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Can You Cut Plexiglass With A Band Saw?
A: Yes. Plexiglass can be cut using a band saw, especially when you want to make a curved edge or an unusual shape.
When cutting a Plexiglass sheet with a band saw, its thickness will determine the teeth per inch of the band saw blade. As the thickness increases, the teeth should decrease.
As you cut your Plexiglass sheet on a band saw, make sure to place stiff bristle brushes to touch the tires which drive the band saw blade.
You can also prevent the sheet from scratching by cushioning it with cardboard and then running the saw at a slower speed in case the sheet is thick. This motion will also prevent the thick sheet from melting.
Q: Can You Cut Plexiglass With Scroll Saw?
A: A scroll saw can only be used for certain instances when it comes to cutting Plexiglass. It can only be used when you want to cut closed holes as well as sharp radii in only thin Plexiglass pieces.
They cannot be used when you want to cut multiple sheets of Plexiglass or thick sections. When using a scroll saw, you must use light feed, and the cut’s approach must be slow.
To get proper cuts with this saw, you need to clear the teeth often, and you must remove the chips once the blade stops cutting. You should also have a coolant to help cool the sheet every now and then during cuts.
Remember, scroll saw blades have a short stroke, and with this, they will not clear the chips between the teeth. Make sure the sheet is held down firmly to avoid vibrations, which can be risky.
You shouldn’t be insecure anymore when it comes to working with Plexiglass for the first time. With this guide on how to cut Plexiglass on a table saw, you should handle the task without any difficulty.
Remember always to use the right blade, speed, enough pressure, and a steady slow push towards the blade.
Although Plexiglass is prone to cracking, melting, and chipping, with the right precautions, you should be able to avoid such instances.
Always wear protective gear you handle any work on a table saw to keep you safe from any sort of accident.