Acrylic sheets are quickly gaining popularity among professional builders and DIY enthusiasts due to their clarity, versatility, durability, and strength. Clear acrylic sheets offer optical clarity comparable to glass, while colored acrylic sheets come in a wide range of styles that are highly suitable for your various DIY projects.
You can use a hand, or a power saw to cut acrylic sheets, depending on your project, the thickness of the sheets, and the kind of cut you want. For sheets less than 3/16 inches thin, it’s best to use the scoring method. Laser acrylic cutting is ideal for cutting intricate shapes.
Understanding the various acrylic cutting options is vital to ensure that you complete your project without difficulty or damage. Let’s look at whether you should use a hand saw, or a power saw to cut acrylic for your project. We’ll also look at some safety tips you should keep in mind when cutting acrylic.
What Tools Do You Need to Cut Acrylic?
You don’t need highly specialized skills or heavy-duty machinery to cut an acrylic sheet. You can cut them easily with standard workshop tools like:
- Power saw or Hand saw
- Acrylic dowel or blocks
- Screw clamps
Power Saws vs. Hand Saws
Acrylic sheets are relatively easy to cut. Depending on your project, you can use either a hand or a power saw to cut an acrylic sheet.
Using a Hand Saw
Although using a hand saw to cut an acrylic sheet requires more concentration compared to electrical saws, many people prefer to work with hand saws. Using a saw with uniform teeth is also important to achieve the best results.
The various types of electrical saws that you can use for cutting acrylic include:
This method is quite common as table saws do not require much experience to operate, and the blades are very easy to find. In addition, you can stack multiple sheets together and cut them simultaneously with the help of a table saw constructed with closely spaced teeth.
Avoid using a saw with wider blades to protect the sheet from chipping. Also, blades specifically designed to cut acrylic will help you achieve better results.
You need to be extra careful when cutting acrylic, as the dimensions must be exact for a proper fitting. Cutting acrylic incorrectly can be a costly mistake. Also, make sure you use the sharpest blade possible, as it’ll ensure an even edge that’ll be easy to sand down.
The best option for cutting intricate curves and shapes is a band saw. Be very careful when choosing the feed rate and blade of the band saw to minimize the risk of chipping or melting the acrylic sheet.
This saw is best for sheets that are more than 0.472 inches thick.
A jigsaw is a small handheld tool ideal for cutting acrylic sheets into nonlinear patterns. This saw allows you to achieve excellent results by carefully cutting the edges into angular forms and curves.
It’s best to practice using this saw on a piece of acrylic before you use it for your project. Be sure to experiment with the positioning and setting of the jigsaw to get the desired results.
How to Cut Acrylic Sheets Using an Electrical Saw
Let’s look at how you can cut acrylic with a saw:
- First, use a blade specifically designed for acrylic like this one (on Amazon) to ensure a cleaner cut.
- Next, measure carefully and use a permanent marker to mark the lines where you want to cut.
- To cut straight lines, you can use a table, circular, or saber saw. To cut curves, you can use a jigsaw.
- Push the acrylic sheet steadily through the table saw at one end of your marked line. Moving the sheet too quickly will create a rougher edge, while going too slowly can melt the plastic.
- Place your acrylic sheet on two beams when using a jigsaw to cut a curved line. Then, starting from the outer edge of the acrylic, pull the jigsaw towards your body, running it along the line you marked.
- Be sure to keep an eye on the line and the blade. Pull the jigsaw in reverse and start again from the other edge if you get stuck.
How to Use a Scoring Knife
Using the scoring method is best for acrylic sheets that are relatively thin—less than 3/16 inches. The Sheet Cutting Tool we linked above (on Amazon) can be used to cut thin sheets, but also to score larger sheets. Here’s how you should go about it:
- Place the acrylic sheet on your work table.
- Measure the sheet and make a straight line using a ruler and a permanent marker.
- Use a plastic scoring blade or a utility knife to make a continuous, straight line while applying gentle, even pressure.
- Run the blade several times over this line until you make a deep groove.
- Flip over the sheet and score several times on this side as well.
- Place the sheet on your worktable so the scored portion is over the table’s edge.
- Press down on the outer edge and break the sheet in a quick motion.
How to Cut with a Laser
Lasers are used to achieve defined and complex acrylic cutting. First, connect your laser cutter to your computer once you’ve chosen a design. Then, working as a printer, the laser cutter will translate the image or the design onto your acrylic sheet.
A laser cutter is the best option for making intricate, creative, and complex shapes with acrylic.
Tips for Safe Cutting
Make sure that you take the following safety precautions before cutting acrylic:
- Wear protective gear such as glasses and gloves to protect yourself from shattered acrylic pieces.
- Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area, as the vapors from cutting acrylic sheets can irritate your respiratory system.
- Wear earplugs when using an electric saw.