Plexiglass is a wonderfully inexpensive and extremely durable material that can easily be used for a variety of furniture products such as picture frames and tabletops. Plexiglass can also be used as a light, cheap and shatterproof substitute for actual glass. Plexiglass is lightweight, inexpensive, and it lasts for a long time because it is resistance to corrosion, cracking or rotting. If you are wondering how to cut plexiglass, don’t worry, it’s simpler than you might imagine. Plexiglass can be easily cut into the desired shape with the right tools, the proper precautions, and accurate measurements. Thin plexiglass sheets can be scored and snapped with a utility knife or scoring tool. Thick sheets of plexiglass can to be cut with a circular saw for obtaining straight lines or a jigsaw to cut a variety of shapes out of the sheet.
How to cut plexiglass: The three methods:
Cutting Thin Plexiglass (also known as scoring and snapping)
- Place the plexiglass sheet flat on the surface you’ll be working on. Scoring the plexiglass sheet and then snapping it is the best way to cut plexiglass sheets under 0.48 cms (3/16 of an inch) of thickness. Place the sheet down flat on a table or a work station so you can measure and cut on a stable surface.
Make sure the surface is clean and clear of any objects that could impede your work or potentially mark or damage the sheet.
Use an even and stable structure that doesn’t wobble.
- Draw a line with a dry-erase marker where you want to cut the board. With the sheet laid flat on the work surface, use a ruler as a guide and draw a straight line where you want to cut the sheet. Make the line visible and be careful not to smudge the marker.
Use a dry-erase marker so you can erase it after you cut the sheet.
Tip: If you make a mistake while you’re drawing the line, erase the mark fully so you can draw it again. Use a wet cloth or paper towel to remove the marker.
- Take a utility knife and cut along the board’s marked line. Make sure the sheet is flat and stable on the surface. Apply firm pressure and use a ruler to guide your utility knife as you drag it across the line you marked to score the sheet of plexiglass. Run the knife over the line 10 or 12 times, until you’ve made a deep groove in the sheet.
In case the blade of your scoring tool is sharp enough to cut the plexiglass with ease, you can also use it to make the cuts on the plexiglass.
Ensure that the cuts on the plexiglass sheet are deep, as it will make it easier to snap it away.
- After one side is done, flip the plexiglass sheet in order to mark the opposite side. After you’ve formed a deep groove in 1 side of the plexiglass, grab the sheet by the sides and flip it over to expose the other side. To score the sheet further, cut along the same lines as the other side. Continue scoring the plexiglass until you have made deep grooves in the sheet.
Be careful when you pick up the sheet so it doesn’t bend or warp before you’re ready to snap it.
- Position the sheet so the portion that you cut is hanging over the edge. Once you’ve finished scoring the sheet, move it into a position that will make it easier for you to snap it off. Move the sheet so the portion that you plan to snap off is hanging over the edge.
Be sure the entire portion that you plan to break off is hanging over the edge of the work surface.
- Clamp the sheet in place to the surface. Use a spring or a C clamp and apply it to a part of the sheet that you don’t plan to cut. Apply the clamp so it’s attached to the sheet of plexiglass and the surface that you’re working on so the sheet doesn’t move.
Be careful not to tighten the clamp so much that it puts a dent or divot in the sheet.
- Snap the cut piece of plexiglass off the sheet. Keep the plexiglass sheet clamped on to the work surface. Then break the piece off by applying swift, downward pressure. If done properly, the plexiglass sheet will break cleanly along the grooves.
You can use 1 hand to brace the sheet while you push down on the sheet with the other hand.
In case the plexiglass sheet doesn’t break completely along the line, cut along the groove with a utility knife and break the piece off.
Cutting Straight Lines on a Thick Plexiglass Sheet with a Circular Saw
- Use a circular saw with a carbide-tipped metal-cutting blade. Sheets of plexiglass which are thicker than 0.48 cms (3/16th of an inch) require a saw for proper cutting. Make sure the teeth of the blade are evenly spaced and the same size and shape for an even cut. A carbide-tipped blade that’s designed for cutting metal is strong enough to cut the sheet without any dust or debris flying off into the air.
The fewer number of teeth on the blade will minimize the amount of dust or debris that cutting the plexiglass will produce.
Some specific plexiglass cutting blades are available on the market as well. You can pick them up from your local hardware store.
Remember, small splinters of plexiglass can fly around and cause serious damage to your eyes. Make sure that you are wearing the required eye protection while cutting the sheets of plexiglass.
- Set the sheet down on a sawhorse mark where you want to cut. Take the plexiglass sheet and secure it on the sawhorse so that it stays flat throughout the process of cutting. Use a straight edge or a ruler to mark a straight line on the sheet of plexiglass. Since this line is eventually going to serve as your guide for cutting, ensure that it is completely straight and visible.
Use a dry-erase marker so you can easily erase the markings if you need to make adjustments.
- Take the cutting guide of the saw and align it with the cutting line that you have marked on the plexiglass sheet. The circular saw will have a viewer or a slot that allows you to see where the saw is lined up. Align this guide line with the marking that you have etched on the plexiglass sheet.
Make sure the sheet is secure and doesn’t shake or move.
- Before you start cutting the sheet, ensure that the saw is running at full speed. The blade of the saw must be rotating at full speed before it makes contact with the sheet to create a smooth and even cut. Turn on the saw and allow it to rotate until it gets to its full speed.
Cutting the sheet before the saw has reached full speed could cause the teeth of the blade to snag on the sheet and create a jagged or choppy cut.
- Take the rotating saw and push it slowly and smoothly across the sheet of plexiglass. Use the cutting guide and the straight line to guide the saw through the sheet. Push the saw at a steady and consistent pace to prevent the saw from jamming.
If the saw is stuttering or catching, you may be pushing the saw too fast. Stop pushing to let the blade get back up to speed and then continue to push the blade through the sheet.
Make sure the two halves are balanced on the sawhorse so they don’t fall to the ground when you finish cutting through the sheet.
Using a Jigsaw to Cut Shapes
- To make rounded and varied shapes out of a plexiglass sheet, use a jigsaw. A jigsaw looks a lot like a bandsaw but it’s shorter and cuts in an up-and-down motion. You can use a jigsaw to make straight cuts as well as rounded cuts so it’s a good option if you need to cut a specific shape or a circular piece out of a sheet of plexiglass.
Use an uncoated blade with fine teeth to cut plexiglass.
Keep a few extra blades nearby in case you need to replace it while you’re cutting.
- Ensure that the sheet of plexiglass is placed perfectly flat and secure on the sawhorse. Use a sawhorse as a work station to hold the sheet while you cut through it. Lie the sheet so it’s secure and stable on the sawhorse.
Check to make sure the sheet doesn’t slide or wobble before you cut it.
- Mark the sheet with a dry-erase marker to guide the jigsaw. It’s very important to have a guide to follow when you’re using a jigsaw, especially if the shape you are cutting is round or irregular. A jigsaw allows you to create a specific shape, but you need to have a good marking to use as a guide. Use a dry-erase marker to create the outline of the shape you plan to cut.
A dry-erase marker makes it easier for you to erase the mark when you’re done or if you need to alter it.
Tip: If you’re cutting a design or shape, use a stencil or a round object to help mark an even line.
- To protect your eyes from stray plexiglass splinters, wear safety glasses. Jigsaws run at a very high speed and while you are using it to saw off a sheet of plexiglass, a lot of splinters and tiny particles can fly in the air. These could damage your eyes if they get in them. Before you begin sawing, put on a pair of safety glasses.
Make sure the glasses fit securely on your head so they don’t fall off while you’re sawing!
- Drill a hole to fit the jigsaw into the sheet. The jigsaw will need an opening to fit into the plexiglass sheet, so start by drilling a hole with a drill and masonry bit large enough to make a hole that the blade will fit through. If you plan to cut shape with twists and turns, drill holes through the sheet at the tightest corners of the shape. When the jigsaw blade reaches those turns, this will help it turn with considerably more ease.
If the blade of the jigsaw isn’t able to take the turns easily, it could bend the blade or even worse, break it completely. Not only will it cause financial damages, it can also damage you physically.
- Insert the saw blade into the hole and bring the blade to full speed. Fit the blade of the jigsaw into the hole you made in the sheet and turn it on. A jigsaw blade moves slower than a band saw or a circular saw, so it must be brought to full speed before you start using it to cut.
Ensure that the jigsaw blade is running at full speed while you are engaged in the process of cutting the plexiglass sheet. A blade running at lower than the highest possible speed, upon making contact with the plexiglass, can catch and bend or possibly break and damage your jigsaw.
The possibility of the blade bending, snapping and hurting you is quite real, so exercise extreme caution.
- Cut through the plexiglass sheet by pressing the jigsaw slowly through it. Ensure that the pressure is steady so that the jigsaw doesn’t bounce off the sheet and cause some damage or injury to you. Ensure that you are carefully following the guide markings and don’t make quick or abrupt turns. Slow down before making every turn. If you hear or feel the blade catching or stalling, slow down and back up to allow the blade to get back up to speed, then continue to push the saw through the properly secured sheet of plexiglass.