Plexiglass is an acrylic plastic that’s a cheaper alternative to glass, and how you cut it is only a matter of the power tools you have on hand. If you only have a circular saw, then you can use that. However, if you own a table saw, it’s the easiest and most stable way to cut plexiglass.
In order to cut plexiglass with a table saw, start by measuring the area you want to cut and making the cut line. Then, put on a pair of safety glasses and move the plexiglass slowly through the saw blade. Lastly, sand the edges with fine-grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.
To prevent your plexiglass from melting while cutting, make sure you use the right blade and go slowly when making your cuts. Let’s take a closer look at what plexiglass is actually made from, what the material is normally used for, and how you can cut it with a table saw, so that you can safely cut out all the shapes you want for your DIY projects.
Is Plexiglass Actually Made From Glass?
It’s important to note that plexiglass isn’t actually made from glass. Instead, it’s a hard, transparent acrylic that’s a more cost-effective and durable alternative to glass.
Acrylic is actually a plastic that’s usually manufactured in sheets. However, there are several different types of acrylic sheets available.
Types of Plexiglass
Keep in mind that not every acrylic sheet is the same. In fact, there are a few types that you can’t cut with a table saw without significantly melting them. These are the three main types of acrylic sheets:
Cast Acrylic Sheets
Also known as plexiglass, cast acrylic sheets (on Amazon) are durable and tough, and can be easily cut with a table saw.
However, make sure you take the necessary safety precautions and use the right blade when cutting them.
Extruded Acrylic Sheets
Extruded acrylic sheets (on Amazon) aren’t as durable and hard as cast acrylic ones. They also have a lower melting point, so they should only be cut with hand tools.
Polycarbonate sheets (on Amazon) are somewhere between the other two. They’re not as durable as cast acrylic ones, but they have a higher melting point than extruded acrylic sheets.
While you can cut polycarbonate sheets with a table saw, you’ll need to use the right blade and feed method for clean cuts.
What Is Plexiglass Used for?
Plexiglass is lightweight, durable, and shatter-resistant, making it ideal for use in place of glass in nearly all situations. Due to its translucence and sturdiness, it’s commonly used for:
- Viewing panels in aquariums
Can You Use a Table Saw to Cut Plexiglass?
You can use a table saw (on Amazon) to cut plexiglass and several other acrylic materials. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to use a blade that’s specifically designed to cut through plastic and employ the right technique for clean, precise cuts.
Here are the steps you can follow for cutting plexiglass with a table saw:
Step 1: Measure Your Plexiglass
Use a tape measure to measure your plexiglass sheet before you start cutting. If you have a thin sheet, using a table saw might be counterproductive, as it may chip the plexiglass severely.
Make sure you score thinner plexiglass sheets with a utility knife and then snap them in two instead of cutting them. However, if your plexiglass is more than ¼-inch thick, then you can safely cut it with a table saw.
Step 2: Choose the Right Saw Blade
Plexiglass comes in both soft and hard types. Softer plexiglass might melt more easily, so it’s better to use a saw blade with fewer teeth per inch for less friction during the cutting process.
On the other hand, you should cut harder plexiglass sheets with a blade that has a higher teeth count to ensure minimum chipping. If you’re cutting different types of plexiglass, then make sure you make all the hard cuts together before making all the soft cuts.
This way, you’ll have to change your saw blade only once or twice. It’s best to use a carbide-tipped blade for cutting plexiglass.
Step 3: Mark the Cut Line
Measure the area you want to cut and use a dry-erase marker (on Amazon) to mark it on your plexiglass sheet.
When you set the fence on your table saw to securely hold the plexiglass sheet in place, make sure you leave some space for the thickness of your blade, so the piece doesn’t end up being too narrow. Then, lock the fence firmly into place.
Step 4: Put on a Pair of Safety Glasses
Make sure you wear safety glasses (on Amazon) whenever you use a table saw, especially when you’re cutting plexiglass. Small plastic shards can go flying into the air, and safety glasses will help prevent them from ending up in your eyes.
Step 5: Cut the Plexiglass
Switch on the table saw and feed the plexiglass slowly through the blade. If you’re cutting your plexiglass into very thin strips, then using a safety guide will help ensure your hands are a safe distance away from the blade.
Make the cut slowly. If you notice any chipping, stop cutting, turn off the saw, and replace the blade with one that has a higher teeth count. Similarly, if the plexiglass starts to melt, slow down your cutting to reduce the friction and heat.
Step 6: Sand the Edges
If you see any glazing on the edges of your final plexiglass piece, use fine grit sandpaper (on Amazon) to sand it down until it’s as clear as possible.
Make sure you also sand down the splinters, so that you have a completely smooth edge.
Table Saw vs. Jigsaw? Which Is Better?
A table saw is the easiest and most stable way to cut a piece of plexiglass, but if you don’t have access to the tool, there are several other power saws you can use as well. Keep in mind that a table saw can also be overkill in some situations, and it’s not suitable for cutting thin plexiglass sheets.
On the other hand, you can use a jigsaw (on Amazon) to cut almost all sizes of plexiglass sheets, and you can even use it to make circles, straight, or unique, irregular-shaped cuts.
However, make sure you only use a jigsaw blade that’s specifically designed for cutting plexiglass or you won’t get precise, clean cuts.
Important Safety Tips
The most important rule of working with power tools is to take all necessary safety precautions first. This is especially true when you’re using a table saw to cut a sheet of plexiglass, as shards and splinters can fly into the air and cause serious injury if you’re not wearing the right protective gear.
Here are a few important safety tips you should keep in mind when working with a table saw:
- Make sure you choose the right blade and the right table saw for the job. It’s important to double check the teeth count, blade clearance, and blade size for clean, precise cuts.
- Wear a pair of safety goggles and a safety mask. The goggles will protect your eyes from any flying shards, while the safety mask will help ensure you don’t inhale any of the dust.
- Don’t remove the protective paper film from your plexiglass sheet, as this will protect the material from scratches.
- Before you start the cutting process, make sure you’ve firmly secured the sheet against your table saw fence.
- Use a push block or stick to move your plexiglass sheet slowly through the blade. This will help protect your hands and ensure they’re a safe distance away from the blade.